Gongol.com Archives: October 2023

Brian Gongol

October 1, 2023

Humor and Good News Name your glue sticks

A teacher shares clever advice: "Giving my classroom gluesticks human names has been revolutionary. Does a student care if a glue stick goes missing? No! Do they care if DEREK the glue stick has not been returned? ABSOLUTELY. It's like a manhunt until Derek has been returned to his rightful spot." ■ The advice works on adults, too. Giving things humane names activates the brain into thinking about them in a much more sophisticated way. Always name equipment like it's a ship being christened to go to sea: Nobody cares about Hull 9838345, but they do take an interest in the "Wonder of the Seas". ■ What works for ships makes sense in industrial and commercial applications, too: Everything from computer routers to heavy industrial co-bots needs to be given some kind of serial or identification number. But smart management and maintenance calls for giving those things memorable names, too, so that they can enlist our attention and imagination. Both are important to good operations and maintenance. ■ The same logic calls for giving every creek, pond, and stream an identifiable name -- and putting labels on them. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, for instance, has been installing signs to identify streams in an effort to motivate the public to care more about source-water protection for drinking supplies. ■ It may be hard to prove how well naming works, given that the problem of source-water pollution is predominantly about non-point sources (that is, pollution caused by runoff from lots of places, rather than a single obvious source); the best hope with non-point-source pollution is that heightened public awareness will lead to increased individual efforts to curtail the pollution. ■ But there is so much work to be done, and the effort required is so trivial, that it seems absurd we haven't named more of our waters already. In Pennsylvania alone, it is said that 56,000 of the state's 64,000 streams are unnamed. Minnesota's mythical "10,000 lakes" (the official count is actually 11,842) includes hundreds without any official names on record. ■ Names matter. And just as turning a run-of-the-mill glue stick into "Derek" gives children a reason to look for the ones that go missing, so too does giving things humane names turn them into things adults can care about, too.

Computers and the Internet West Des Moines, Iowa: Supercomputing hub

Microsoft has been doing much of its AI development at a campus in Central Iowa. The capital investment is huge and the work being done is titanic in scale, but the company only claims 377 data center employees in the entire state.

News On dictatorial wannabes

In his valedictory address, the outgoing chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't do much to conceal a swipe at the former President who has recently gone after him in appalling ways. ■ General Mark Milley used his platform to declare, "We don't take an oath to a king, or a queen, or to a tyrant or a dictator, and we don't take an oath to a wannabe dictator. We don't take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we're willing to die to protect it." ■ All of this is true, and all of it ought to be painfully unremarkable. Yet it makes news because those values have been assaulted and cannot be taken for granted. Unfortunately, though, there is an asymmetry involved: The ex-President whose words and behavior have threatened Gen. Milley and others is treated as such a deviant from the mainstream that people have argued for years whether he is to be taken "seriously or literally". ■ In rising to one's own defense and asserting principles, though, it is almost impossible for anyone else to avoid sounding overtly political -- which is a hazard that we should generally want both active and recently-retired military officers to avoid, out of respect for healthy civil/military relations. It's a terrible, no-win situation.

News Russia raises conscription age

The country's war of aggression against Ukraine is costly in countless ways, including the ongoing waste of many thousands of lives

Weather and Disasters Parts of New York City get 6" of rain

In a single storm event, on an urbanized geography? It's a recipe for disaster.

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