Gongol.com Archives: December 2021

Brian Gongol

December 22, 2021

Threats and Hazards Why should we care?

Reporters from Reuters say they observed first-hand as security guards and workers dismantled a statue at the University of Hong Kong. But not just any statue: A piece of art called the "Pillar of Shame", erected to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. It's not a matter of changing aesthetic tastes; it's an exercise of power by the increasingly controlling authority of the Communist Party 1,200 miles away in Beijing. ■ Russia has around 100,000 troops menacing Ukraine -- including some in places that Russia took from Ukraine in 2014. Ukrainians are practicing for guerrilla warfare to protect their homeland and turning to the US for help as they anticipate being attacked with the tools of cyberwarfare. ■ The 2.7 million people of Lithuania are weathering diplomatic and economic aggressions from the government of China, which is retaliating for Lithuania's decision to treat Taiwan as more than a subsidiary state. ■ One might wonder why Americans should care about any of these developments, as none of them affect any large number of Americans directly. We have our own political fights, our own domestic worries, and our own health to worry about. ■ We ought to care, at the most high-minded level, because the ills that befall our fellow human beings are a part of the state of humanity. For every American, there are another 23 people on Earth. Stuck in a lifeboat with room for 24, one ought to have concern for the welfare of all the rest -- and Earth is a pretty tiny lifeboat in the vast sea of space. ■ But we also ought to care because we have leverage. Like a county sheriff or the captain of a football team, we're capable of rallying others toward worthy goals -- and others expect us, as a country, to be more aware than most. Vast diplomatic and intelligence networks are supposed to be useful that way, and it is no small thing that America possesses the overwhelming first class in tools like aircraft carriers. ■ If all that mattered were what happened within the walls of a tiny city-state, that might be one thing. But we value the freedoms to think and speak, to come and go, to trade and invest, all of which combine to have made America a vast intellectual and economic powerhouse. But like a potluck dinner, things get better when more people show up and bring more to the table. ■ Deep down, most Americans know we're extraordinarily fortunate -- it's an incredible prize to have won the Rawlsian lottery and have made it to America, whether by birth or by choice. But a small cost of that good fortune is that we have a higher duty than that of the average Earthling to be aware of the injustices of the world and the trampling of freedoms. And while we shouldn't always step in with guns blazing, we can't risk our silence becoming thunderous. Our choice to engage with the world doesn't always require our weapons -- but it does demand that we see the plight of others, and for them to know we are watching.

Weather and Disasters Extra tornadoes found from December 15th

The National Weather Service counted a total of 42 tornadoes in Iowa on December 15th, which didn't just set the record for a single day in December, but the record for any single day in Iowa history. The storms themselves were moving fast, so it didn't take much rotational velocity to push the winds past EF-2 criteria in many cases as the squall line zipped through. Thanks to improving technology and training, forecasters could see the situation coming.

Computers and the Internet Test your own products, computer programmers

Tools like two-factor authentication are a wonderful improvement upon the plague of passwords. "2FA" makes it harder for malicious actors to break into the accounts upon which most people rely. But the people who program those experiences into devices, applications, and websites really have to make sure that the tighter security experience integrates seamlessly and doesn't wreck the user experience. For instance, it takes six clicks to get to the 2FA code generator inside the Twitter app. And the same kind of security speed bumps interfere with the basic desktop operation of the chat function that Google has tried to integrate directly into Gmail. Anything that expands the perimeter of greater user security ought to be appealing to the user to actually put into ordinary use. That means those tools need to be easy to use and non-disruptive.

News Widen the gate and open the doors

The United States has missed out on a whole lot of immigration over the last half-decade, and there's no good reason to let that persist

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