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April 18, 2015

Computers and the Internet EU complaint about Google and antitrust violations
The European Commission says Google has abused its power by putting its shopping results above those of organic search results. They're also pursuing Google over the dominance of the Android operating system on mobile phones. If you ever wondered why Google seems eager to get into some far-fetched things, it's because they know that if this case were to succeed, it could severely crimp their profits from search-related advertising...which is the company's dominant source of income. Google's public response to the case includes examples of things Google has tried that are laggards in their markets (like Google Travel) and an argument that people spend most of their time on apps rather than search engines when using smartphones. The EU case may be frivolous, but some of Google's retorts are spurious.

Business and Finance Bloomberg terminal network had a huge crash
They claim it wasn't the result of a cyberattack, but it sure doesn't look pretty for the company to have a long blackout

Broadcasting You can't pick channels one-by-one yet
But Verizon is reportedly plannin to offer genre-based "channel packs" that would let subscribers bundle channels in groups that they're willing to pay for. Disney protests, as it would, since channel bundling is a huge deal to the companies that own the channels.

Computers and the Internet Again, "net neutrality" isn't the panacaea some make it out to be
Facebook is trying to get people to use Internet.org in developing countries with slow Internet access. The related app offers free services from a selected list, stripped-down so that they use minimal data. But now some Indian companies are rebelling, arguing that the app favors a small number of options, which in effect is like offering preferential access to some services over others. Their protest is made on the basis that preferential access is contrary to the idea of "net neutrality", and thus ought to be rejected. So are people better off without access at all, or with access to a limited number of services for free? Will a competitive market fill the vacuum without a kick-start like Internet.org? Don't overlook the fact that Facebook's level of market saturation in the rich world is such that they can't really grow at high speeds unless they get access to the world's less-Internet-connected populations.

Science and Technology Japanese bullet train hits 366 mph in test run
It's a magnetic-levitation train, so friction losses are at a minimum. They're reportedly going for 372 mph next week.

Computers and the Internet Google, find my phone
If you're logged into a Google account, have the Google app loaded on your phone, and have location access turned on, typing "find my phone" into the search bar will trigger a location process that shows the phone on a map and can also be used to ring the phone, in case you've lost it somewhere. Of course, location data can be a battery-killer and a potential security hazard, so caveat emptor. In a bench test, the results were close (giving a search radius of about an acre, with the phone actually about 100' outside the perimeter shown, on a claimed accuracy of 30 meters.

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - April 18, 2015

April 17, 2015

Computers and the Internet Starting April 21st, Google wants websites to be mobile-friendly
Those that don't automatically convert to make things easier to use on mobile phones will be penalized on the search engine. About a quarter to a third of searching is now done from mobile phones, so it's no surprise that they've decided to accommodate...but the rules for making sites mobile-friendly are inconsistent, and the tools can be prohibitively expensive. Form matters, yes, but so does content. There are millions of legacy pages on the Internet that simply aren't going to be converted to any mobile-friendly design, and that's going to end up causing some good content to get buried.

Computers and the Internet Russian cybercriminals try getting to the White House via goofball YouTube interviewers
Presumably under the assumption that those who got close enough to the White House to interview the President may also be close enough to interact with people who have sensitive computer accounts. Just another example of social-engineering attacks on the rise.

Computers and the Internet Researchers can pick out a troll with 80% accuracy in just five posts
It turns out that groups (including discussion groups online) develop their own internal linquistic styles, and those who are out to pick a stupid fight tend to rebel against the community style. That makes them surprisingly easy to pick out by an algorithm -- but moderation is still probably best handled by a human being.

Aviation News The case for airplanes without pilots
Rogue or suicidal pilots are an extreme rarity, but fatigue, distractions, and other crew resource management problems are the predominant causes of crashes (70% in the 1970s; probably a similar frequency today). Take human error out of the equation (perhaps by using computers to do most of the flying, with a human in the cockpit as a decider-of-last-resort), and we may all be a lot safer.

Threats and Hazards Australian police take out a prospective terrorist attack
They think a WWI memorial ceremony was the intended target

The United States of America Where to find shale oil and gas

April 16, 2015

Computers and the Internet Iran is ramping up cyberattacks
Cyberwarfare is a tremendous tool for asymmetric warfare -- it doesn't cost much to conduct, but it can cause your opponent to expend unfathomable resources in defense

Computers and the Internet EU goes after Google for anti-trust violations
Google really needs to figure out if it wants to try to cement itself as the online equivalent of a regulated public utility or whether it wants to fight these battles forever -- or at least until someone else eclipses them

News Half a million people are trying to escape Libya for Europe
Not all of them are good people (any group of 500,000 probably contains about 5,000 sociopaths), but most are perfectly innocent and just trying to do the best they can for their families. Doing something reasonable to accommodate those trying to escape awful conditions is a burden for the civilized world, but also a moral obligation. Imagine having the misfortune of being born into a culture now being attacked by ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh.

Threats and Hazards Identity theft related to online tax filings "has just exploded"
It's probably a cost of doing business generally, but people also do things that put themselves at unnecessary risk. Sharing too much personal information on social media is one such error.

Humor and Good News The juror is excused
Chief Justice John Roberts got called for jury duty. Unsurprisingly, he wasn't selected. It's a good thing; he's used to decisions involving nine votes, not twelve.

April 15, 2015

Computers and the Internet Nokia is buying Bell Labs
Bell Labs, previously a branch of the AT&T telephone monopoly, became part of the spinoff Lucent Technologies, which merged with Alcatel of France in the early 2000s, and the combined Alcatel-Lucent is now being merged into Nokia. Nokia, notably, sold its consumer-phone business to Microsoft back in April 2014. Microsoft has continued to sell the former Nokia line now under the "Microsoft Lumia" name, though the legacy "Nokia" name survives as well. (Of note: They had some fun on April Fool's Day, teasing the launch of MS-DOS Mobile.) Regardless, the acquisition of Bell Labs, among the many other parts of Alcatel-Lucent, is intended to enhance Nokia's sharpened niche in network backend technology, "location-based technology", and high-end research and development. It's been a bold change of course for the company that at one time was the dominant handset maker.

Business and Finance Shale oil production expected to drop by 57,000 barrels in May
If the EIA's forecast is correct, that would be the first month-over-month decrease in production since 2013. Prices are in the tank, and there's a glut of oil in storage waiting for refinement, so nobody should be surprised that the well owners are cutting back on production.

Computers and the Internet Companies face a huge risk in trying to be cross-culturally clever
Apple's digital assistant Siri is famously clever and sometimes cheeky in her American iteration. But it's being suggested that the Russian version is either uncomfortably coy or possibly even downright homophobic in Russian, suggesting that the very words "gay" and "lesbian" were rude and potentially offensive. Apple seems to have reprogrammed Siri quickly upon discovering the quirk (which, of course, could have been a deliberate bug planted by a contractor) -- or if you're suspicious of the company, you may think it deliberate. Russian law, of course, is very unfriendly towards homosexuality, and the inherent conflict between trying to satisfy lots of local cultural norms all over the world and trying to deliver products that act and behave in a human-like manner is an enormous challenge. Much like the difficulty that Google will almost certainly have with curating "kid-friendly" content on YouTube, anytime a neutral corporation tries to make money and in the process has to make cultural judgments, it's going to be especially tough for technology companies -- which by nature tend to have technocratic attitudes and a general indifference to sensitive feelings.

News Sad: Dogs are getting a serious flu bug
It's spreading among canines in the Midwest

Business and Finance How to succeed in life by really trying
Charlie Munger: "[A]ll I was capable of doing in life was thinking pretty hard about trying to get the right answer, and then acting on it."

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April 14, 2015

Threats and Hazards Estonian president asks for some NATO troops
He's worried that his country -- with a population about the same size as Nebraska's -- wouldn't stand a chance if Russia tries to invade. And Russia's been doing plenty to make the Baltic states nervous -- including flying too close to American airplanes in the region.

News April is Iowa's "Distracted Driving Awareness Month"
Too much focus is put on the specific problem of texting-while-driving, at the expense of attention to the broader issue of distracted driving. Some people can't handle a ham sandwich while driving, and it's a mistake to focus our laws specifically on a particular technology or item (like cell phones), rather than on the broader problem of driving with limited concentration.

News The case for body cameras from the father of an innocent civilian killed by American police
There is undoubtedly an affirmative case to be made for police to wear body cameras, but they're no cure-all. There are significant questions that should be considered about issues like the release of video recordings under Freedom of Information Act claims, the protection of sources who may have a reasonable fear of retaliation, and the need to consider the interests of people like innocent children and adult domestic-abuse victims who may be deeply concerned or troubled by the prospect of having their words recorded. But the cameras shouldn't be dismissed out-of-hand, either -- especially not when there's strong evidence that some domestic police officers have strayed far from their mission to preserve the peace.

Aviation News French company sells anti-drone drone
They claim it can track down the person controlling a suspicious drone within a decent-sized radius in about a minute. Drones have enormous potential for both personal and commercial use, ranging from amusing videography to valuable surveillance over crops and sensitive facilities. But the problem is that they're really too small to show up on conventional radar, and thus they can't really be tracked by large-scale methods...thus, they are also very difficult to defend against. It may simply be that the only way to fight fire is with fire (or drones, in this case). The technology can't be held back forever, so we have to figure out how to accommodate it and how to protect ourselves against the bad.

Computers and the Internet Startup company that watches apps for bad behavior estimated at $1 billion market price

April 13, 2015

Science and Technology "Graduating engineers would rather work for high-tech startups and near big cities"
Hiring isn't just about money. It's also about things like the agglomeration effect -- that people want to be near fertile sources of other opportunities, in case what they're starting with doesn't work out

Computers and the Internet One strategy for avoiding workload-management-by-inbox
Schedule on- and off-periods for email access during the day, and use the designated off-periods to do other things without interruption.

News Forgetting what China did with the Beijing Olympics might allow them to get the 2022 Games, too
A million people in Beijing had their homes demolished to make way for the games

Business and Finance What Japanese businesses are learning about selling to the elderly
Japan's demographics are such that the country is a bit ahead of the curve on having a large population of older people. An interesting point: Boston Consulting Group says that people over age 65 account for 40% of personal consumption in Japan.

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April 10, 2015

The United States of America President Obama promises less "meddling" in Latin America
What's worrisome is that he may be inadvertently telegraphing less engagement with Latin America. We need quite the opposite -- much, much more engagement with our neighbors in this hemisphere.

Computers and the Internet How we email
According to a Yahoo Labs review of their customer data, people basically behave as though there is a defined volume of time to be filled with email, and no more -- so the more you receive, the shorter and less often (proportionally) you respond. Unsurprisingly, people are much more terse when replying from mobile phones than from larger computers. And reply time is a predictable function of age -- the younger the person, the faster the reply.

Health Genes, not TV watching, have the biggest effect on making people antisocial
That doesn't mean it's a good idea to plunk kids in front of the television indefinitely, but it certainly does highlight that even things like our behavioral personalities are outside our deliberate, willful control

Threats and Hazards Nordic countries agree to statement of solidarity with Baltic countries
Russia has all of them nervous, and with good cause

Computers and the Internet Will cyberdefense get its own branch of the military?
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter: "There may come a time when that makes sense". The idea of consolidating efforts could be attractive, if it means more focus and higher levels of expertise. But there's also a case to be made that we're better off with multiple systems playing cyber-defense, each potentially overlapping the others. It may appear wasteful, but it might also be the only way to have confidence we're really capturing all of the threats.

Computers and the Internet Apple opens up pre-orders for Apple Watch
It will be released April 24th. $349 for the cheapest Sport edition, $549 to over $1,000 for the main edition, and $10,000-plus for the completely ridiculous high-end version. Early reviewers seem troubled most by the apps.

Business and Finance GE is dumping its real-estate and finance division
How in the blazes does that make sense? De-diversifying and spinning off a unit that (due to interest rates) should be at a low point? All of the enthusiasm for the announcement seems to overlook the obvious. The time to sell off your real estate and lending portfolio would be when prices were at peaks. They are not.

News Washington Post executive editor: Print newspapering isn't going to remain around for long
"The forces at work donít care about how we prefer to do our jobs, how easily we adjust to change, how much we have to learn. They donít care about any extra workload. This transformation is going to happen no matter what."

Broadcasting Apple and HBO launch their streaming-only service

Weather and Disasters Photos of the terrible tornado in Illinois

Computers and the Internet Main feature of Ello v2 appears to be giant pictures

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April 9, 2015

Health The future of routine blood testing and health surveillance
Mark Cuban has argued that those who can afford it ought to get routine blood tests to perform surveillance on their health. He points to examples of its usefulness, and he's dead right.

Computers and the Internet Russia likely behind attacks on White House computer networks
CNN reports on the implications, and eWeek backs up the likelihood

Computers and the Internet Turkey overreacts to bad social-media use by blocking Facebook and Twitter
It's stomach-churning that people published images of a prosecutor who was taken hostage. But bad taste doesn't justify censorship. It's just an excuse used by bad governments.

Computers and the Internet JP Morgan turns to computer algorithms to predict human misbehavior
If it's decision-enhancing, great. But it's dangerous to turn over the thinking to machines.

Computers and the Internet The utter mayhem of wide-open TLDs
The explosion in top-level domains is going to make brand protection ever more difficult for companies doing anything that even remotely touches the Internet. It's going to be nothing but a bonanza for the registrars, who are going to rent-seek like there's no tomorrow. It was a mistake to open the floodgates like this.

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

April 8, 2015

Business and Finance Early warning: American teenagers aren't working
Unemployment among teens ages 16 to 19 is at 17.5%, compared to a sub-6% rate for the population at large. Causes may include large numbers of adults occupying low-skill jobs, high levels of automation displacing low-skilled work, and/or pressure for higher minimum wages. Effects could very well include higher rates of violence and crime in the short run, and lower life-cycle earnings in the long run.

Threats and Hazards Murder charge follows police shooting
Meaningful civilian oversight of "peace officers" needs to make a real comeback. One can't possibly fathom what would justify the escalation of violence on display in the South Carolina incident, nor the apparent failure by the responding police officers to render aid.

Business and Finance China stock markets have an average P/E ratio of 220
Clinically insane

Broadcasting No more "loser Rob Lowe" commercials from DirecTV

News Someone please tell Rahm Emanuel to fix Chicago's budget, now that he's been re-elected

April 7, 2015

News The evolution from "yoke mate" to "soul mate"
A partial explanation for much-later marriage

Threats and Hazards The "heckler's veto" on speech

Health Mark Cuban advocates routine blood tests and tracking
He's absolutely right, and the naysayers are only right about nitpicking the details. The need for better health surveillance and maintenance (as opposed to fixing things that have already gone wrong) is urgent. We have the tools to do it, and the resources to do it better and cheaper are on the way.

April 4, 2015

Computers and the Internet Netflix just arrived in Australia, and it's slowing the entire Aussie Internet
One ISP there says Netflix is using 15% of its bandwidth

Computers and the Internet Bill Gates's letter to Microsoft employees on the company's 40th anniversary
Whatever else you might think about Microsoft, for it to have lasted 40 years is pretty remarkable for a technology company.

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - April 4, 2015

April 3, 2015

Computers and the Internet Ello announces a redesign

Business and Finance An argument for blowing a resource bonanza
Not that it's correct to do so, but an interesting case

Business and Finance Walmart wants less ad spending by its vendors

Business and Finance The shadow Federal funds rate

News Russia's going to professionalize its military

April 2, 2015

News Nobody buys single copies of the newspaper anymore

Business and Finance McDonald's to pay $1 above minimum wage in some stores starting July 1

March 28, 2015

Computers and the Internet Secretary Hillary Clinton's email dispute drags on
House Republicans say she deleted her entire e-mail server and that doing so could have compromised any investigation involving messages that were not officially turned over -- something like half of the messages supposedly received. The letter from her lawyer says "there are no hdr22@clintonemail.com e-mails from Secretary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State on the server for any review." Regardless of what was legally required or not, nuking an old e-mail server after being asked for records that were on it is exactly the kind of thing someone would do if they were trying to hide something.

Business and Finance The majority of people don't pay exclusive attention to conference calls
Perhaps because they tend to be poorly-organized, poorly-run, and too long. Though Harvard Business Review's analysis also says 47% of people have gone to the bathroom while on conference calls. Just because we have the technology to "get everyone together to talk about things" doesn't mean it's the most efficient use of everyone's time.

Computers and the Internet Taylor Swift reserves www.taylorswift.porn
Probably not a bad idea from a reputational-control standpoint, and for $99, a low-risk proposition anyway. Though one wonders about the potential for the administrators of the new top-level domains (TLDs) to conduct some soft extortion against the famous and semi-famous.

Computers and the Internet Apple users in UK will get to sue Google for privacy breach
For a nine-month period in 2011/2012, Google appears to have gotten around privacy settings on the Safari browser. The company says it didn't even use the data, so no harm was done. A British court says that doesn't stop the users from suing. It's all a question of cookie tracking, which is basically how most customization and tracking on the Internet still get done. But when people say they don't want to be tracked, they really don't want to be tracked.

Science and Technology A lever-powered wheelchair

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - March 27, 2015

March 27, 2015

Threats and Hazards Saudi Arabia won't say it's not building a nuclear weapon
Meanwhile, the United States is cooperating openly with Iraq and perhaps tacitly with Iran, to conduct airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh and Yemen is descending into civil war as Saudi Arabia enters the fray with airstrikes of its own.

Business and Finance "If you find it puzzling, your brain is working correctly."
Charlie Munger on today's interest rates

Aviation News The Germanwings plane crash looks deliberate
Appropriately or not, a lot of the media speculation has turned to suggesting it was the result of depression. The facts still aren't known to us all, so speculation is inappropriate. But the subject itself is worth discussion: Nobody is embarrassed by "dental illness" -- most of us just go to the dentist as a matter of routine, and some people have more filings than others. Nobody wants cavities, but nobody avoids going in for regular cleanings because there isn't a pointless stigma about going to the dentist. The same philosophy should apply to mental wellness. Some people need prescriptions or therapy that others do not, but we should all go in for regular screenings and checkups. That would be a healthy standard for society to adopt, and it may be the only way to effectively de-stigmatize mental-health issues, which is a highly desirable social goal.

Business and Finance Where the Amazon distribution centers are
It's easy to see why the company turned in favor of Internet sales-tax collection; they already have a physical presence in so many states that it's hardly going to cost them more in administrative expenses -- but it might impose a burden on their competitors

Weather and Disasters The tornado-free parts of the United States, illustrated

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

March 26, 2015

Threats and Hazards Don't feed the trolls
The Al Qaeda offshoot that's wrecking parts of Syria and Iraq has declared a threat against specific members of the US military. Some have responded to the threat with their own bombast. While we definitely shouldn't be cowed by despicable acts and sub-human behavior, it's also rarely good practice to feed Internet trolls.

Business and Finance A sign that money is too cheap
A 77-story apartment tower is being planned for Queens. 77 stories? That could only remotely happen under conditions of easy money. Too-easy money.

Computers and the Internet Health care goes online...but not without hiccups and headaches
Some health-related information is being put online due to government mandate; other information is going there just because that's where everything is going anyway. But for a variety of reasons, the security isn't what it could be, and that's putting us at risk of what the Washington Post calls "the year of the health care attack".

Computers and the Internet Who uses which social media?
Facebook is pretty balanced across all age groups, but Snapchat definitely is not

Computers and the Internet Twitter introduces "Periscope" for live video streams
Right on the heels of a rival application called Meerkat

March 25, 2015

Computers and the Internet Twitter softly rolls out options to block offensive posts
The forced immediacy of everything on Twitter makes it hazardous turf for risk of offense

Business and Finance How much are 78 million customer records worth?
Depending on what a court decides in the Radio Shack bankruptcy case, possibly quite a lot. One might ask "Who cares?" about records on your battery and bulb purchases from ten years ago. But what if another company -- more prominent, or perhaps more effective at getting your personal data -- were to go belly-up? Nothing guarantees that Facebook or Google will last forever.

Computers and the Internet Legal contests begin over FCC "net neutrality" rules
More than half a decade ago, groups like the EFF warned of the risk of "regulatory capture" -- that an FCC with more power would become a tool of vested interests. There's also the risk of corrosive mission creep.

Computers and the Internet Fraud on Apple Pay
Ease of setup may make it too easy to use for theft. One analyst thinks an astonishing 6% of Apple Pay transactions use stolen credit cards.

Computers and the Internet Computer infection via favicon
The tiny icons that identify individual websites inside many browsers can be compromised

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March 24, 2015

Computers and the Internet Apple thinks it can beat Google Glass at its own game

Computers and the Internet Facebook updates its "community standards"
Less will be allowed, ultimately, and that's probably unavoidable. Facebook has too much to lose from laissez-faire. But policing content that is offensive in some places but not in others is an exercise in being hated.

Aviation News State Farm will test drones for inspecting storm damage

Computers and the Internet USDA to subsidize replacement of broadband connections

Computers and the Internet
Facebook doesn't want to post your links anymore
They're aggressively trying to get news sources to publish directly on their platform

March 20, 2015

Threats and Hazards Terrorist attack in Tunisia was carried out by Al Qaeda/ISIL
Two language checks: First, we shouldn't allow internal divisions among terrorist groups to determine what we call them. The group variously known as ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh is a splinter group of Al Qaeda, and we shouldn't dilute our attention to the hazard by diluting the name we apply to it. Second, we should reject the common phraseology "takes responsibility for" when talking about terror attacks. Civilized people "take responsibility". Barbarians just crave your fear.

Business and Finance Government is the leading employment sector in ten states and DC
Food for thought

Health Failure to care for sick veterans is a national shame
It's probably time for us to stop using the phrase "mental illness" (which tends to connote something negative that is to be avoided) and instead talk openly about "mental wellness" as something positive to which we ought to deliberately commit resources like money and attention. At a level that is probably subconscious, the terminology "mental illness" perpetuates the stigma we have unwisely attached to it. It becomes something unpleasant-sounding, so culturally we are inclined to avoid it. But if we were to talk about a positive commitment to mental wellness, it would probably help to open the public conversation such that we would think of it as an affirmative state of well-being which we as a culture should be committed to preserving (or creating, as the case may be) for everyone. We all exist in various states of mental wellness, and improving that state for every person is a positive, affirmative goal. It's much too easy to think of "mental illness" as something that someone else has -- it's impossible to reject the notion that we are all in some state of "mental wellness." And words do matter, particularly on sensitive topics. Making them less sensitive by bringing them out of the shadows is something worthwhile to consider.

Threats and Hazards Yemen fails into civil war
When the president has to flee an air raid on his residence, things are pretty messed up. And the deaths of scores of people at two mosques is another stomach-churning development.

News US DOT infographic shows why it matters where you choose to live
The amount of lost time and added expense faced by people who choose to live in places where congestion and traffic are terrible really boggles the mind

News One-time prosecutor apologizes for erroneous death-penalty conviction
Fortunately, the innocent convict has been freed -- after decades of wrongful incarceration

March 19, 2015

Business and Finance The surging value of the US dollar
Reversed slightly by the Federal Reserve's discussion this week, the surging value of the dollar has to have made it more appealing for Americans to look at buying European companies with large volumes of dollar-denominated earnings. In other words, Warren Buffett really must be shopping hard for European companies to buy. The buying power of the dollar is just too great to ignore right now.

Business and Finance Italy re-enters competition for silk fabrics
On a related note, one could learn much of what one needs to know about labor economics by studying the history of textile manufacturing in New England

Health Surveillance saves lives from loss to cancer

Computers and the Internet Apple's entry into Internet TV service

Business and Finance A profile of US household debt

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March 18, 2015

Computers and the Internet "Dot-com" addresses obsolete? Don't be preposterous.
Even with a broadening array of alternative top-level domains, it's a laughable conclusion...800 numbers are still far more recognizable than 888 or 877. Anything ".com" is more definitive than the alternative in any other TLD.

News Vladimir Putin returns to the public view
10 days of radio silence sure looks suspicious

Computers and the Internet Multi-billion-dollar tech startups aren't "valued", they're speculated-upon

Computers and the Internet Iowa communities want more (Internet) fiber

Threats and Hazards How an Omaha company lost millions to social engineering

March 14, 2015

News Future earnings depend on the type of college degree, not the pedigree of the institution
Take that, overpriced snob schools

News One-paragraph book review: "Thinking, Fast and Slow"

March 13, 2015

Computers and the Internet FCC releases its rules on "net neutrality"
Central to the new rules: No blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. Those sound lovely in theory, but there's going to be trouble in the nuances. And the "no throttling" rule is going to cause serious heartburn as demand for bandwidth keeps increasing and supply fails to keep up.

Computers and the Internet Secretary Clinton's email-sorting process was a rudimentary search
No, nobody went through and hand-checked them. They just used a name and keyword search to go through 60,000 emails. Anyone who's had to find a lost email knows that's an impossibly inadequate way to ensure the Clinton team found everything that matters.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft may be having some luck with its push to cloud-computing services
Their challenge appears to be getting customers who start on the service to stick with it and really put it to good use. While on the surface it might appear that customers who pay but don't use are a dream source of cost-free revenue, the truth is that Microsoft and its competitors really want customers to get attached to the products, since the more they entrench their operations in a cloud service, the harder it becomes to leave.

Computers and the Internet Latest Patch Tuesday gave some users heartburn
Some of the updates seem to be causing hiccups on some computers, and some of those problems may be echoes of a previous attempt at the same patch. And the set of updates was a big one, with or without installation troubles.

News Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #18
Omaha man suffers injuries after trying to break up a fight among girls -- who then turned on him

March 12, 2015

Computers and the Internet New York Times questions Google's future
Notes the analysis: "Growth in Google's primary business, search advertising, has flattened out at about 20 percent a year for the last few years." They also note the company really hasn't diversified its income beyond search advertising, despite herculean efforts and massive spending.

Broadcasting AccuWeather television channel displaces Weather Channel on Verizon FiOS
The AccuWeather service is stripped down to the bare essentials and is intended as a substitute for glancing at a smartphone screen. They're calling it "all weather, all the time". The Weather Channel's migration to lots of scripted programming may have made sense as a means of capturing long-form viewers, but it hurt the channel's reputation for meteorology.

Humor and Good News Joe Maddon wants his Cubs to focus on the fundamentals
There's much to be excited about -- power hits are already showing up big-time in spring training -- but fundamentals, executed consistently, win championships.

Business and Finance The war between Uber and the taxis
Big companies own many of the nation's cab companies, so there's a concentrated cost to them if deregulation takes hold. Des Moines just adopted new regulations that will permit Uber to coexist alongside the incumbent taxi and limo services. The rules aren't quite laissez-faire, but they no longer protect rent-seeking by the cab companies. At first look, the regulations appear to strike a very sensible balance.

Science and Technology Computer modeling meets construction management to make bridge-analysis tool
Professors at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln are trying to get Federal authorities interested in their 3D modeling tool. Data is no good unless it turns into something actionable.

March 11, 2015

Science and Technology China builds a 57-story skyscraper in 19 days
Prefabricated blocks are being fused together on-site

Business and Finance A strong dollar versus the euro means happy shopping for US companies
...as long as they can stomach buying companies with euro-denominated earnings that will be depressed for a while

Computers and the Internet Yahoo layoffs trickle down even to Omaha
A couple of dozen customer-service reps were cut in Omaha, as part of nationwide cuts that coincide with the company's 20th anniversary. The layoffs appear to be happening in a slow trickle.

Computers and the Internet The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are now digital-first publications
When the biggest newspapers in the country consider their print editions secondary to their electronic ones, the tide has definitely shifted

Computers and the Internet Horrible, awful, soulless trolls impersonate a victim of the Sandy Hook murders
Shutting down the scourge of cybertrolls is tough to do -- most only feed off the fight, and revel in showing off the skills that make them hard to stop. Unfortunately, about 1% of people are sociopathic, and it's hard to shut down their access to the Internet without abridging free-speech rights for everyone. That doesn't mean we shouldn't shun, ostracize, and block the creeps out of our worlds.

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March 10, 2015

Threats and Hazards Putin admits being behind the Crimea takeover stunt
Let's not call it "coming clean" -- just admitting responsibility

Science and Technology Getting kids into engineering via robotics

Business and Finance Upcoming generations might find their inheritances surprisingly small

Weather and Disasters Daylight Saving Time is stupid and should be eliminated

March 9, 2015

Threats and Hazards Iraq/Syria terrorists are destroying ancient heritage sites
These are not civilized people, and civilization needs to defend itself from them

Business and Finance Don't believe forecasts promising big returns from publicly-subsidized hotel and entertainment projects
The forecasts are too easily skewed to deliver the results the client appears to want, and there's practically no accountability later on

Aviation News A year later, no evidence that the crew deliberately crashed MH370

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March 8, 2015

Broadcasting $17 billion moves from stocks into bonds thus far in 2015
Stocks are at not-cheap prices right now, but long-term investing in bonds is a terrible idea under present conditions

Threats and Hazards Canadian man faces charges for refusing to turn over smartphone password

Business and Finance High-fee money managers ought to become an endangered species

Aviation News What the candidates said at the Iowa Ag Summit

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 8, 2015

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

March 7, 2015

Computers and the Internet Server farms are today's economic-development grand prize
It's also a growing signal of corporate extra-nationalism

Science and Technology A truly silly argument against self-piloted cars
A story in "Wired" points to extraordinary dash-cam videos as some kind of dismissive evidence against autonomous cars. Yes, the extraordinary happens, and there's no way to program a computer to anticipate a truck full of cows tipping over. But most accidents are not the faults of extraordinary circumstances, but of failure to deal with the routine. With 90 people dying every day on the roads of the US, you can't say there are 90 extreme events taking place. More likely, there are 89 perfectly ordinary events that go bad, and the leading cause of those events is human error.

Computers and the Internet Should the Secretary of State really be using a personal email address for diplomatic purposes?

News No clear lane ahead for ride-sharing services in Nebraska

Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - March 7, 2015

March 6, 2015

Computers and the Internet Java now adds "bloatware" to Macintosh computers
They've been trying to force-feed Ask.com onto Windows computers for a long time already

Computers and the Internet You should have your own domain name, but keep official accounts for official business
If Hillary Clinton had given out her home mailing address instead of using her office as Secretary of State, that would have looked odd and unprofessional. Same thing applies to the decision to use a personal e-mail address rather than a state.gov account.

Business and Finance Apple is to join the Dow Jones Industrial Average
The DJIA is anachronistic and totally out of date. Why do we even bother to mention it ever?

Aviation News CNN gets FAA approval to use drones for TV footage

Computers and the Internet Three crooks, one billion stolen e-mail addresses

March 5, 2015

Computers and the Internet Twitter continues begging for users
Now with embeddable video

Computers and the Internet A skeptic reacts to Apple's coming smartwatch

Computers and the Internet How C-SPAN delivers noteworthy information without resorting to clickbait

Computers and the Internet Google Plus gets third boss in less than a year

Computers and the Internet Tech-related business is still a boys' club

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February 28, 2015

Computers and the Internet The FCC's version of "net neutrality"
Companies will be prohibited from favoring some traffic over others, and basically will serve to regulate Internet access like a public utility, like landline telephone service. The problem is that most places don't have a lot of options for broadband Internet access right now, so we pay too much and get far too little speed compared to what's offered in other rich countries. And some of the incumbent providers have been bullies, creeps, and just all-out jerks to their customers. Lots of people really, really hate Comcast and Time Warner. But the hazard here is that the regulation that people want to impose on those companies (perhaps to prevent them from misbehaving) may also have the effect of entrenching the interests of those companies that are already large. That's usually the outcome of additional regulation -- to further consolidate the interests of the incumbents, even if they bristle at the regulation itself. And they're definitely not happy -- Verizon posted a protest message in Morse code (with a translation that looks like a 1950s typewritten memo, fretting about the FCC's move to "adopt 300-plus pages of broad and open-ended regulatory arcana". And that's the problem: Some sort of rulemaking power may have been necessary to prevent anticompetitive abuses by Internet service providers, given that there are so few of them today. But the sledgehammer approach adopted by the divided FCC commissioners (who voted 3-2) is very likely to make it hard for new entrants to get into the business and introduce the competition that consumers really want after all.

Science and Technology Google is putting $300 million into a fund to build residential solar power
It's part of a $750 million fund being spun up by a company called SolarCity that provides solar power as a service rather than a homeowner investment. Google gets tax breaks and good publicity out of the deal. This follows an $848 million investment in solar power by Apple earlier this month. Considering that energy is one of the very top expenses for companies like Apple and Google, it's no surprise they're actively interested in the market. That, and it's difficult for both companies to find other ways to invest internally for good returns. The successes of the past for both companies are exactly zero guarantee of future profits.

Computers and the Internet Hedge-fund manager is starting a unit to be run by artificial intelligence
Bloomberg says that Bridgewater Associates will use trading algorithms run by computers that are supposed to learn and evolve. It's smart to create and follow rational guidelines (or rules, or in a computing sense, codes) -- but it's also important to have human comprehension about why those rules are in place and when it makes sense to override them. There's a reason we say "the exception that proves the rule". Artificial intelligence may be helpful at identifying opportunity and could certainly be used as an enhancement for lots of decisions (including financial ones, just like it can enhance medical and engineering decisions), but this kind of gambit tends to get out of hand quickly in the financial world. LTCM collapsed while being run by some of the smartest people in money.

Health Fixing some colorblindness with special glasses

Science and Technology American Meteorological Society deserves credit for consistency of principles
The group is criticizing the efforts of a Democratic member of Congress to witch-hunt some university researchers who have been prominent skeptics about climate change. The group, while predominantly composed of people who tend to believe that humans have played at least some role in causing climate change, is standing on the principle that political witch-hunts have a "chilling" effect on research. Good for them. It's easy to say we would stand up for the rights of those with whom we disagree; it's another thing to actually do it.

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - February 28, 2015
Streaming live on WHORadio.com at 1:00 Central Time

Computers and the Internet Good reason to hold your applause on the FCC's net-neutrality ruling
The Omaha World-Herald puts it well: "Few will know the real costs of net neutrality rules until the FCC makes public the more than 300-page regulation that it passed without releasing the document first to the public."

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February 27, 2015

Business and Finance Berkshire Hathaway at 50 years under current management
The widely-read annual shareholder letter from Berkshire Hathaway will be released tomorrow morning, and this one is attracting unusual interest because it will be larger and longer than usual, owing to its significance as an anniversary edition. Some speculation as to its contents: ■ Warren Buffett will discuss the type of shareholder he likes. Over its first 50 years, the company's patient, low-turnover shareholder base was a huge benefit to the company. It didn't hurt that Buffett himself controlled, directly or by significant personal influence, enough votes to keep the company doing what he thought was best for the long-term, rather than for a quarterly report. As his shares are converted to less-influential Class B shares and turned over to charity, the voting power of the remaining Class A shareholders will become proportionally greater -- and he undoubtedly hopes they will remain a solid voting bloc in favor of long-term principles. But now that Berkshire is part of the broad S&P 500 index, it has more institutional shareholders than ever, and they categorically fail to show the same kind of long-term vision that individual Berkshire shareholders used to have. The change in the culture of ownership is one of the biggest threats -- probably the biggest of all -- to Berkshire's next 50 years. ■ Charlie Munger will ponder the merit and virtues of the next generation of managers. He quite likely worries a lot about the risk of future generations of managers lacking the kinds of virtues and rationality that he so publicly espouses on behalf of the company and the culture at large. More so than Buffett, Munger tends to worry about the dark side of human nature and its tendency to do things like hoarding the perquisites of office. Munger will almost undoubtedly discuss how hard (and vitally important) it will be to recruit and keep managers who live up to exceptional moral standards. This will undoubtedly be extra-difficult in light of Berkshire's size: The larger it gets, the more likely it is to turn to the professional managerial class rather than the owner/operator/proprietor/entrepreneur class who have historically dominated Berkshire's management roster. ■ Breakup speculation is hilariously wrong. Some analysts, apparently incapable of seeing the most obvious things right in front of them, think the company may drift over time towards a breakup from its conglomerate status. It's a ridiculous guess for two reasons: First, the obvious evidence, which includes the use of the Berkshire parent company name over the company's media holdings, real-estate enterprise, automotive dealerships, and energy companies. (A company planning a spinoff of those interests or any others wouldn't double-down on the use of the brand name like never before.) Second, the considerable benefit the company gains from its position as a buyer of choice for sellers who don't want their heirloom businesses to be broken up or sold off. That reputation gets Berkshire deals that it wouldn't get otherwise, and whatever costs it pays by holding on to lesser-performing subsidiaries for "too long" by Wall Street standards, it makes up many times over by burnishing the company's reputation and standing as a buyer. ■ The cost of capital weighs heavily on the present, but that won't last. The company's low cost of capital (driven mainly by float developed by its insurance subsidiaries), historically a huge advantage, hasn't been much help over the last several years as the Federal Reserve has pushed borrowing prices to near-zero. That's been compounded by the fact that terrible markets for investments like bonds have pushed lots of capital into stock markets and private-equity investments, which has made it more expensive than usual for Berkshire to find good deals on common stocks and whole companies to buy. But that won't last forever -- rates will someday go up, and Berkshire's huge capacity to generate cash (now from operating subsidiaries in addition to the insurance float) will at some point in the foreseeable future become a huge advantage again. Anyone who barks about wanting a big dividend from the cash-rich Berkshire isn't seeing the long-term future -- that cash may not be doing much today, but the time will come again in the course of another boom/bust cycle when the company will be able to put huge amounts of money to work for eye-popping returns.

Computers and the Internet US government intelligence review says cyberattack is a bigger threat than terrorism
And it calls out Russia as a particular source of trouble, both from state action and from "unspecified" aggressors. Falling oil prices play a part.

Computers and the Internet Google unveils 225-page plan for Mountain View headquarters
They propose lots of public access to spaces in and around their campus, which would also include buildings designed to transform and re-shape themselves with the help of robotics. Some of the structures would be encased in a flexible glass-like skin.

February 26, 2015

Threats and Hazards "NATO and Russia hold rival military exercises on Estonian border"
That's a headline that had better wake up the planet

Threats and Hazards Manipulations of power and privilege
At least on the surface, it appears that United Airlines may have put a route into place just to please the chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has supervisory power over the three major airports in greater New York City. It may be a far lesser kind of extension of privilege to the politically powerful than the apparent plunder of Yemen by its former president for an estimated $60 billion, but both situations derive from the common thread that people will seek power and luxuries, and they'll do it whether the economic system involved is free-market, socialist, communist, or otherwise. It is purely naive to imagine that capitalism is somehow specially susceptible to abuse or that government power isn't always and everywhere at risk of abuse as a tool for enhancing the lifestyles of the politically powerful. In general, the more powerful the government and its ability to regulate, the more likely (and larger) the abuses will be.

Threats and Hazards The Guardian claims Chicago Police have a "black site" for detentions that exceed legal standards

Computers and the Internet Chinese online services could be at grave risk
The government is enforcing a policy requiring people to use their real names on social networks, which is a tricky thing to ask in a place where the government doesn't take kindly to dissent

News Violent crime is one of Omaha's biggest troubles right now
It's not an especially violent city by any means, but there has been a lot of highly visible violence in recent memory. It's worth asking whether the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Omaha metro is almost entirely under the same municipal government; Des Moines, comparable by almost every measure, seems to have less violent crime -- and it's at least possible that the difference could in part be due to the fact that the Des Moines metro consists of dozens of communities, each of which has a different police force and set of community priorities. It's much harder to differentiate efforts to respond to different problems when everything is under the same municipal government.

February 25, 2015

Computers and the Internet Pebble rolls out new color e-watch -- with a microphone
Dick Tracy, here we come. It's going to retail for $199, but they're offering several thousand via Kickstarter for less than that.

Iowa Some students will get into the U of I law school without taking LSATs
From an outside perspective, it looks like a sensible evolution -- why impose a costly testing regime on people whose qualifications are obviously sound? Next step: Making law school (and other programs) more accessible for people who don't feel like dropping everything and enrolling in a residential program for multiple years. We have the technology to do it, just not the will.

News Report claims that US and British intelligence agencies hacked the company selling 30% of the worlds SIM cards
That would give them a way to snoop on phone calls and text messages sent via phones using those compromised cards

Broadcasting Reality TV isn't very real
So says a former "Biggest Loser" participant, who thinks the show is contributing to lots of bad decisions among viewers who mistake the fiction for reality

News Chicago mayoral race goes to round two
Money doesn't inevitably win elections -- Rahm Emanuel had a much bigger war chest than his opponents, but still couldn't get 50% of the vote. Now it goes to a runoff.

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February 24, 2015

Threats and Hazards 90 Americans are killed on the road every day
In a rational world, we would be more eager to do something about that than we are to be frightened by word of a terrorist threat against shopping malls. One is a known fact, killing a known number of people, and something which we could be doing more to solve. The other is a threat -- a scary one, yes, but at this stage only a possibility. We need to be rational about the things that get us worked up, otherwise terrorists succeed in disrupting our lives and harming us by just saying wild things, without necessarily doing anything at all. That is the very definition of asymmetry in warfare.

Computers and the Internet What's wrong with the Superfish vulnerability on Lenovo computers
It (a) changed the search results people got from sources like Google, but more significantly, it (b) made Internet browsers incapable of the kind of secure communication they need to be useful

Computers and the Internet YouTube for Kids
Parental controls (like a timer and search settings) and bigger buttons (for fat little fingers) are part of the deal, and Google says its scope is "narrowed to focus on content that is appropriate for the whole family". What will be interesting is to watch the inevitable back-and-forth that Google has to play now that it is playing the role of content curator: Someone's going to complain that their content is family-friendly but not recognized as such. Someone else will complain that Google's standards for family-friendliness aren't stringent enough. Someone else will complain that Google is trying to impose some set of unwanted values on families (it'll probably come from showing something like same-sex parenting couples on the "family-friendly" channel, but never doubt the capacity of people to take offense.) Some will think Google's standards are too bold and others will find them too restrictive. It's not really a winning situation for Google to enter -- not when other companies (especially Disney) have owned the notion of "family friendliness" in the psychological space for decades. They'll probably come to regret not outsourcing the curation of content to others, even if the app is a success -- which it quite well may be.

Threats and Hazards China is not our buddy
The people are certainly as good and fine as they are anywhere else in the world, but the government is not

News New regulations mean home water heaters are about to get much bigger

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February 23, 2015

News China doesn't have to be a foe, but don't imagine it's a friend

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February 22, 2015

Science and Technology Robotic exoskeletons are already helping paralyzed people to walk

Computers and the Internet Lenovo engages in torturous doublespeak about their spyware scandal
Sure...of course you added adware to computers to "enhance the user experience". Because consumers definitely want that kind of CPU drag.

February 21, 2015

News Greece convinces rest of Europe to stretch out the financial aid package
They otherwise would have run out of money next month

Science and Technology What changes minds about tough subjects

Humor and Good News Build your own highway sign
One guy did it in Los Angeles -- and got away with it

Business and Finance Asian stock markets suffer the curse of analysts
The problem with many analysts is that they don't know anything useful -- but they're profoundly certain that they do

Computers and the Internet How Etsy irritated its core craft-producer community

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - February 21, 2015

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February 20, 2015

Computers and the Internet Government surveillance means that basically nothing is private online
Spy games are even more pervasive than just about anyone has wanted to acknowledge

Business and Finance Why don't we know more about how to increase productivity?
Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen asks a question that more economists should be asking. More of them should be talking about productivity and its essential role in economic well-being.

Computers and the Internet Apple wants to be building cars by 2020
But a former GM CEO says to find another line of work; cars just aren't a great line of business to be in

News Huge Dubai skyscraper fire
A related question: When and how are old skyscrapers supposed to come down?

Threats and Hazards What happens if Russia turns more aggressive against the Baltic states?
The possibilities are highly alarming

February 19, 2015

Science and Technology Group wants to install a robotic grocery store in Des Moines
Automation continues to improve the quality of life for many people -- even while it threatens job opportunities for some. It's just like free trade: On balance, very good for most of society, but with concentrated costs for some. We're smart enough and wealthy enough to figure out how to accommodate.

Science and Technology More STEM majors, please -- with liberal-arts training
It's a simple economic proposition: two majors are better than one

Computers and the Internet Lenovo PCs were sold with "Superfish" adware preloaded at the factory
It's the kind of breach of trust for which the company should pay a stiff price in the marketplace

Business and Finance Walmart promises widespread pay increases

Computers and the Internet JP Morgan doesn't trust government security protection anymore
It's a symptom of what some futurists have called the post-state era: Private-sector organizations deciding that the work they used to depend upon government to do is now too important to be entrusted to government

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

February 18, 2015

Business and Finance Quick observations on American business
Companies are reporting their results from 2014 overall, and The Economist notes that the American economy remains head-and-shoulders above the rest of the world right now, but energy companies are suffering from low petroleum prices and other companies are running dangerous risks from technological change.

Computers and the Internet Chicago allows Uber to ride, with lots of added requirements
The city is imposing lots of regulations in the name of public safety, and will conduct "real-time audits" with off-duty police officers

Threats and Hazards Libya as a gateway for terrorism to enter Europe

Aviation News A space launch to protect civilization
Some of the existential risks we face justify insurance-like behavior

Aviation News Yes, KLM tries to return missing items to passengers
...but they don't have an adorable dog to do it

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February 17, 2015

News Debate over property taxes in Omaha highlights the state of fraternal groups
America used to have a lot more fraternal groups, and a lot more people who were members of them. It's worth considering whether something has been lost in their decline, and if there's a way to revive the movement.

Computers and the Internet Crooks take $1 billion from banks in a two-year plot
The "Carbanak" criminal group hit banks around the world, using a variety of techniques, including hacking ATMs to spew out cash and fooling bank employees into clicking on compromised links

Threats and Hazards An update on the scourge of ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh

Humor and Good News Alternative recipies using Nutella

February 13, 2015

Threats and Hazards Thousands risk their lives to flee as terrorists move in
One can only hope that Westerners stay alert and sympathetic to the plight, even though the names involved are Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Boko Haram. If they were Germany, Poland, Denmark, and Al Qaeda, we most certainly would.

Computers and the Internet Vint Cerf: "[W]e stand to lose an awful lot of our history" because people rely on digital records
His opinion on this matters because he's one of the original architects of the Internet and is the "Chief Internet Evangelist" at Google. Because of hazards like bit rot and the tendency of old file standards and programs to become obsolete, he says the digital records we keep may prove to be far worse than the printed copies we used to keep as a matter of course.

News Post-firebombing Dresden photos merged with life 70 years later

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February 12, 2015

Business and Finance Apple's growth rate is limited by its large size
But don't call that the "law of large numbers"

Science and Technology A hotel staffed mostly by robots
They're building it in Japan

Broadcasting Think twice about piling on Brian Williams
There's lots of armchair psychoanalysis being conducted on the NBC News anchor, and he may or may not be the villain that people like Maureen Dowd make him out to be. But when it comes to matters of memory, we should all be cautious: Human memory is pliable, flimsy, fallible, and subject to all kinds of error and manipulation. Nothing should ever be taken on just an eyewitness report. Whether it's on television, in a courtroom, or just in conversation, if you can't find corroborating evidence, you should discount the value of anything you're told by at least 90%. Don't trust eyewitnesses -- only evidence really matters.

Broadcasting Don't lament Jimmy Fallon -- Johnny Carson isn't coming back
A TV critic finds Fallon unfunny. And that he may or may not be; there's no use disputing matters of taste. But if people expect another Johnny Carson, they will never be satisfied -- Carson was a product of a time that is irreversibly gone. He honed his broadcasting skills on the radio first, and then migrated into television -- and there's simply not enough of a farm system left in radio to produce that kind of talent, nor the stomach for experimentation on local television for an entertainer like Carson to be duplicated.

Humor and Good News A satirical take on the five habits of highly successful people

Agriculture When copyright law meets tractor maintenance

February 11, 2015

News Sources are for the birds?
The business pressures on news media have gotten to be such that editor of one newspaper (the Bakersfield Californian) has instructed staff to produce stories based really more the interest of producing something -- whatever it might be -- rather than what appears most newsworthy. This story would be so much less disturbing if it said "Everyone needs to spend one hour on a fresh short-form story each day, on or off your beat. Make it quick, interesting, and newsworthy." The memo as reported by Jim Romenesko just sounds like, "Hey, we heard about this thing called Up-Buzz-Click-Worthy, and we want you to do that instead of reporting."

Computers and the Internet Twitter says it was asked by governments for user data 40% more often in late 2014
For years, futurists have predicted that some businesses would become rivals to governments, and while many of them hinted that large multi-national corporations would be the subjects, it's actually turned out to be tech companies like Twitter and Google and Facebook that have had the most visible run-ins with government officials. It's hard to blend the interests of those companies with the demands of governments.

Computers and the Internet Americans are about to get European-style credit cards
Magnetic stripes are to be replaced by chips. It's going to take some time for people to get used to the change, and it's going to cost money to get the new readers installed.

News Ten tips for journalists
And with a reasonably open mind, many of the same suggestions apply to other fields as well

Iowa Iowa legislators will consider a 75-mph speed limit

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February 10, 2015

Business and Finance Des Moines officials propose a new ordinance to accommodate Uber
At first glance, it appears to be a responsive step in the right direction towards recognizing the reality of demand for ride-sharing services and the need for public safety. Most cities with any kind of regulation on for-hire transportation are going to have to come up with a new set of rules, probably much closer to the laissez-faire model of Uber and Lyft than to the heavily-regulated cartel model for cab services. But it really can't be a total free-for-all without serious consequences for public safety and the potential for discrimination. The transparency and accountability driven by the Uber two-way feedback model probably beats the capacity of any metropolitan government to regulate the quality of cab drivers. But there are also some conditions (like insurance requirements) that may reflect a legitimate public interest in health and safety. The key is to ensure that the regulations that are imposed are there in service of legitimate public interest, not solely for the purpose of restraining competition.

Computers and the Internet What is there to fear about smartwatches in schools?
Certainly there's a knee-jerk reaction against any form of communication technology that could potentially be used to facilitate cheating. But tests aren't really the ultimate objective of schooling, are they? And if they aren't, shouldn't the emphasis really be on the teaching and learning, with matters of how the tests are administered only a secondary issue?

The United States of America American stereotypes about the regions of America
Midwesterners are "self-reliant". Westerners are "uninhibited".

Health Most people dream in color

Computers and the Internet Microsoft's Patch Tuesday for February includes three "critical" updates

February 9, 2015

News New Illinois governor issues executive order to block "fair share" payments to state employee unions
Bruce Rauner has wasted little time in going on the offensive. Given the state of Illinois' finances, some shock and awe on a lot of fronts is likely in order.

News The war in Ukraine: Displaced off the front pages, but still very real

Humor and Good News Anti-vaccination arguments applied to the brakes on a car

Computers and the Internet Charge website commenters and leave the articles for free
A stroke of genius, really

Computers and the Internet Federal law doesn't require encryption of medical data

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February 8, 2015

Threats and Hazards Human-rights group claims 210,000 people are dead due to Syria's civil war
If true, that's a shocking number, and not befitting the 21st Century

News China's buttering up Latin America
While international engagement isn't a zero-sum game (for instance, the individual states within the United States are better off because all 50 interrelate with one another), the United States has been ignoring Latin America far too often and too much for too long and we're going to regret the consequences of letting others fill the vacuum of engagement

Business and Finance Nebraska's 2.9% unemployment rate comes with its own troubles
That rate is so low that it's hard to find enough qualified talent

The United States of America Nobody notices German-Americans anymore
That's because their immigrant heritage has been mostly subsumed into the culture as a whole. It's an observation we should note for interactions with today's immigrant populations, too: Sooner or later, nobody really cares where your family came from. We all become Americans together.

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - February 8, 2015

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February 7, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - February 7, 2015

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

February 6, 2015

Health The case for making some vaccinations compulsory
You're not allowed to carry a bag of anthrax spores through a mall. The dangerous (and even deadly) externalities of highly-contagious airborne infections trump the perceived direct cost to personal liberty.

Computers and the Internet Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, and Charlotte are getting Google Fiber
They're new to the Google Fiber list, but San Jose, Portland (OR), Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio are all in line to get it next. Austin, Kansas City, and Provo already have it. Google's not the only supplier of gigabit-speed Internet access, but it's probably the highest-profile.

Computers and the Internet Who's your buddy?
Snapchat has historically told users who their "best friends" (most-frequently-used contacts) were, and posted those results publicly. Now it won't. Unsurprisingly, some users are complaining.

Computers and the Internet Gawker stunt hits new lows in tastelessness
They manipulated a marketing algorithm used by Coke to hijack a Twitter feed to post portions of "Mein Kampf" as ASCII pictures. Tasteless, childish, and shameful. It crosses the line beyond mischief, and is yet another example why "just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should." What good did the stunt do?

Computers and the Internet Android version 5.1 is showing up -- in Indonesia

Health Requirements of medical recordkeeping have doctors hiring "scribes" to follow them around
Certainly not the worst way to divide up the labor, assuming the records have to be kept in the first place

Computers and the Internet Is Google suffering from brain drain?
CNBC posits the question after several of the company's highest-level employees have departed. But it's probably overstating the case to call it "brain drain" as though the situation is any different from the natural order of things: A small, young Google is inevitably hot and moves fast. A mature, leviathan Google may still be very good at what it does and might even manage to remain somewhat nimble, but there's just not going to be as much there to stoke the fire in the belly for people who want to be in the spotlight of what's new, rather than inside the machinery of what's the incumbent.

Threats and Hazards The horrible things being done in the Middle East shouldn't be called "medieval"
The enemies of liberty and of the individual have a choice and it has nothing to do with the time in which they live. It never has. We always have the choice to turn away from stupidity and brutality, and humans always have.

February 5, 2015

Business and Finance Amazon as a white knight for Radio Shack?
It's rumored that the online retailer may be out to snap up part or all of the long-term retailer. Amazon has already stepped deep into the territory of having to collect sales taxes, thanks to the number of distribution centers it's developed. A physical showcase presence may not be the worst thing to happen to the company.

Threats and Hazards Young men with nothing useful to do are a very common cause of trouble
While unemployed young men in poor places are often the cause of criminal violence, rich young men who inherited everything can also be a plague

Computers and the Internet Twitter: No huge profits yet, but would you like some new features?
Lose half a billion dollars in the first nine months of 2014, and people might be curious where you're heading

Business and Finance Labor productivity dropped by 1.8% in the fourth quarter of 2014
A step back is costly. To recover, we'll have to increase productivity by more than 1.8% just to get back up to even.

Business and Finance "Cards Against Humanity" meets a branding exercise

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February 4, 2015

Computers and the Internet "Net neutrality" isn't a silver bullet
The Cedar Falls Utilities, for instance, which is already delivering gigabit-speed broadband access to the Iowa college town, isn't on board with the FCC's plan to regulate Internet service like a utility...and with good reason. There are strong arguments on both sides of the issue. One certainty is that regulation has the strong potential to entrench the positions of the large providers who are already big.

Computers and the Internet Twitter and Google are going back into partnership
And that's going to bring Twitter updates into the Google search index once more, later this year

Socialism Doesn't Work Things can't get much worse in Venezuela
The question now is whether the opposition will get a chance to fix it

Computers and the Internet People are often the weak link in the security chain
Imposters using social-engineering techniques stole lots of money from an Omaha company

News Questions raised about Harper Lee's new book
There are circumstances that suggest it may not have been a clear-minded, uncoerced decision

February 3, 2015

Business and Finance The world has challenges, but we're getting better at solving them
The bad news gets the headlines, but the good news is voluminous

Computers and the Internet Syrian rebels trapped by cyber honeypot scheme
People are often the weakest link in computer security

Threats and Hazards Another Chinese crackdown against the Internet
People in China sometimes use VPN services to get around the government's "Great Firewall". So now the government is trying to block the VPNs.

Computers and the Internet Raspberry Pi 2 is revealed
It's a $35 kit containing the innards of a computer -- no monitor, keyboard, or SD card slot, but with a quad-core CPU and a gigabyte of RAM.

Threats and Hazards Authoritarianism is back in Russia

February 2, 2015

Weather and Disasters Latest blizzard is Chicago's 6th-worst

News Crankiniess doesn't suit libertarians
(Video) Sen. Rand Paul got rude and touchy in a CNBC interview. That's not what sells the libertarian philosophy he so loudly professes.

News Debunking the myth of the Nordic socialist "utopia"

Recent history...

January 26 to February 1, 2015
January 19 to January 25, 2015
January 12 to January 18, 2015
January 5 to January 11, 2015
January 1 to January 4, 2015
December 28 to December 31, 2014
December 21 to December 27, 2014
December 14 to December 20, 2014
December 7 to December 13, 2014
November 30 to December 6, 2014
November 23 to November 29, 2014
November 16 to November 22, 2014
November 9 to November 15, 2014
November 2 to November 8, 2014
October 26 to November 1, 2014
October 19 to October 25, 2014
October 12 to October 18, 2014
October 5 to October 11, 2014
September 28 to October 4, 2014

Third quarter 2014
Second quarter 2014
First quarter 2014

Fourth quarter 2013
Third quarter 2013
Second quarter 2013
First quarter 2013

Fourth quarter 2012
Third quarter 2012
Second quarter 2012
First quarter 2012


Archives (2001 to present)

Comments or questions? Contact Brian Gongol