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A quarter-millennium business. The Guinness brewery is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, making it a good example of a business that has endured for many generations, helping its employees earn a living and making customers happy over the same time. And it's also worth noting that the company has been able to protect its trade secret -- the formula for its flagship brand -- for a similar length of time. If only more businesses looked like they were going to stay in business for a quarter-millennium, we'd all be better off. One start would be to plan for the long term, which has obviously been a skill lacking in many of the businessess having serious financial trouble lately.
Tiny steps in technology can mean big safety. Technology often serves us in ways we don't really recognize. For instance: Compare the dashboard of a current-model car to that of a car from thirty years ago. Today, you'll probably find just a handful of gauges -- speed, engine temperature, and gas level, usually -- and in many cars today, a "driver information center" that warns of specific problems like a low battery or low tire pressure. Three decades ago, not only was there little chance your car was able to tell you that your tires were low, you also had to monitor often dizzying arrays of dashboard gauges -- including, often, a water level -- just to keep the car running correctly. And in today's cars, you're likely to have air bags for both driver and passenger, a high-quality radio (no 8-track player!), and dual climate controls for the front seats. We might not think about these changes very often; in fact, since they usually change incrementally, we probably don't take much notice of them at all. But as they improve over time, they improve our lives and can help make us safer. Today's automatic headlights and temperature gauges (which can warn us of icing) and even ultrasonic rear-parking assistance devices all help to make a road trip today safer than the identical trip would have been 30 years ago. And, best of all, most of these improvements have come about because of competition and enterprise.
Saving languages using text messages. The lowly text message may be able to help save languages that might otherwise be lost to modernity. If the right people can be found to help program predictive text dictionaries in those lesser-used languages, then those languages may find their way into greater use in text messages, which have gone from virtually unknown here in the United States just a few years ago to more popular than voice calls last year.
Getting paid for what you gave away. The story of the man who donated a kidney to his wife and now wants compensation back (since they're getting divorced) tells us that we really need to get our act together with both legal organ donations (and the transactions they require), and with the upcoming consequences of bio-engineered organs.
Request for a favor. Could you please take a moment to vote for your favorite radio station, show, and host in the Cityview "Best of Des Moines" survey?