The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio
Brian Gongol

Ten things a first-time visitor to Des Moines ought to see:
  1. The State Capitol building
  2. The Botanical Center
  3. Gray's Lake
  4. The Des Moines Art Center
  5. The Science Center of Iowa
  6. Valley Junction
  7. The Clive Greenbelt trail (or any of the connecting trails around the metro)
  8. An Iowa Cubs game
  9. The Iowa State Historical Museum
  10. Water Works Park
Other parts of Iowa have some magnificent features, too -- like the gorgeous Woodbury County courthouse, for instance. We can maintain our Iowa-style modesty without completely forgetting to tell people about the great things to see and do here.

Even though we've known that another huge earthquake is likely along the New Madrid fault, little seems to have sunk in until this past week's minor quake. Woefully little has been done to prepare for the inevitable disaster in places like St. Louis or Memphis, both of which will probably experience severe damage in the event of another big quake there. This week's relatively small earthquake should be a reminder that we in the Midwest aren't immune to those events...and we here in Des Moines should especially be concerned about the impact a major quake would have on St. Louis -- since many people from there would likely try to evacuate to here, just like people fleeing Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans and headed to places like Dallas and Atlanta. This is not the first time we've made mention of the issue.

Coincidentally, new research says a massive earthquake is 99.7% likely to happen in California in the next 30 years. Again, are we sure that enough has been done to prepare to ensure a minimum loss of life and a rapid recovery?

An experience in South Carolina this week led to an encounter with cheese grits/mac-and-cheese bake that clearly must've been intended to usher business to the nearest cardiac unit of the hospital. And it wasn't even a trip to a Waffle House.

On a related note: Some people have taken a lot of effort to map the accents of Iowa.

What a strange month for airlines: Aloha, ATA, and Frontier have all declared bankruptcy. High fuel costs and high labor costs have helped create the problems, which makes it seem strange that Delta and Northwest think that merging will help them contain those costs. It seems more likely that a merger will only drive those costs higher. By the way, a map of the major US airline hubs illustrates how the major US airlines have staked different territories all over the country.

Technology has made us very good at producing more food than ever before -- consider some of the remarkable developments that have earned the World Food Prize over the last few years. Technology has also aided in making food preparation a quick and easy process -- something you can observe just by walking through the frozen-meal section of any grocery store. But we don't seem to have applied much technology to the question of preserving food on a massive scale. Sure, we can store perishables like meat and fruit for longer than ever before, but we still have to apply lots of refrigeration, which requires lots of energy.

If this seems like an esoteric kind of thing to ponder, think about the consequences. The Biblical proverb about seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine probably wasn't a literal historical event. But in 1815, a real historical event -- the eruption of the Tambora volcano -- created so much atmospheric pollution that the following year became known as the Year Without a Summer. It demolished food production all over the world, but especially in North America and Europe -- far from the volcano's site in what is now Indonesia.

So the question is: Why, in 2008, do we do little or nothing to ensure that we have durable food supplies that could carry us through a similar year? Virtually nobody keeps enough food around the house to last even a month or two -- much less enough to last for a year or two. With the state of technology as it is -- and with virtually everyone in the developed world relying completely upon grocery stores to supply our ongoing food needs -- you'd think we could put a little more effort into making an investment in the ultimate security blanket: Ensuring that we can safely and reliably store enough food to last through a year or two of climatological disaster. World food stockpiles are barely enough to last a few weeks.

Sure, we've figured out how to make astronaut ice cream...but how hard should it really be to help the rest of us safely store some food away in case of a real disaster -- especially since it's one that we know has actually happened in the past? I'm not talking about the meal in a pill from the flying-car future...just better ways of storing food for the very long term.

You can't make money without spending some: Even Google is learning that.

Tulsa is learning the hard way about spending ourselves into poverty.

Ford's not really changing its logo. Few really long-term successful companies do. (Not that Ford hasn't had some problems of its own -- just none that would be fixed by changing their logo.)

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