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May 22, 2015

Threats and Hazards The cities likeliest to be hit by terrorist attacks
Almost none of them are in Europe or North America -- perhaps a reminder that "safety" is a relative concept, and that perceptions are not always reality

Computers and the Internet Facebook encourages people to "check-in" as "safe" after a disaster, but...
...there are probably better ways of communicating your status to those who need to know it after an event like a major earthquake or something similar. A simple Facebook status click may give the wrong impression about what's really "safe".

Business and Finance Buffett: A better EITC beats a higher minimum wage

Threats and Hazards Industrial espionage is serious and goes deep
The chair of the Temple University physics department is charged with trying to steal industrial secrets for China

Computers and the Internet Apple might want to deliver local TV programming



May 21, 2015

Business and Finance Are people finally putting collegiate compensation in perspective?
Legislators in Illinois are figuring out that their college presidents are getting perks that are out of touch with reality. ESPN has noticed that Charlie Weiss is being paid more money to not coach the Notre Dame football team than the current coach is being paid. And the Omaha World-Herald has done the math and calculates that Bo Pelini has a $737-an-hour job as the fired football coach at the University of Nebraska.

Business and Finance What real-estate bubble?
Towers being built all around Central Park in New York City are going ever-higher at ever-higher prices. Money is cheap and markets outside the United States aren't wildly attractive -- that's making speculation a little too attractive.

Business and Finance World incomes are getting a lot better on the low end

News Ricketts family buys three more Wrigleyville rooftops

News Your name in a different generation
A clever use of Social Security name data



May 20, 2015

Computers and the Internet Some signals point to Apple building its own search engine

Business and Finance Why do estimates of Social Security's solvency keep getting worse?
Blame systemic bias in the way the agency has been conducting its forecasts. Underestimating costs, overestimating income. It's a serious problem.

Threats and Hazards China's building islands in the South China Sea
600 miles from the actual China itself, they're nothing more than naked territorial grabs

Broadcasting "[T]hat you can laugh at yourself or point to your own ignorance...almost gives you a license to be glib"
The meaner cultural effects of David Letterman

Business and Finance Minimum wage in LA goes to $15 an hour by 2020
Pegging the minimum wage to inflation is one thing. Dramatic increases in minimum wage rates are likely to have long-term effects that stunt the future earnings of those starting from the low end of the skill level.



May 19, 2015

Computers and the Internet Uber hires talent away from Google
But not technical talent -- political talent.

Business and Finance $50 million in incentives and no jobs to show for it
There may be no alternative but for Congress to step in and stop states from fighting one another with economic-development incentives. Building infrastructure and keeping a healthy environment for regulations and taxation? That's good competition. Unaccountable, no-recourse subsidies and tax breaks for the politically-connected? That's another.

Humor and Good News A worthy review of "Hyperbole and a Half"

Health When markets fail, government can play a role
Making antibiotics doesn't really pay very well, and they tend to lose effictiveness over time. States may be able to step in and do something to solve the market failure by offering prizes for those who develop new antibiotics and buying the rights to their use to ensure a profit to the makers.

Threats and Hazards That pesky Monroe Doctrine
The US hasn't spent enough time winning enough friends in Latin America, and China's been interested in filling that void



May 18, 2015

Computers and the Internet Technology and the law don't always travel in tandem
And the State Department's situation with a certain former Secretary and her e-mails is a pretty good example

Iowa Half of Iowa and ISU grads leave Iowa
And 85% of UNI grads stay. Lots of the grads from the other schools boomerang later, and residency after graduation isn't the only thing that matters. But it should be noted and considered when it's budget time.

Computers and the Internet CenturyLink says some Des Moines business customers will get gigabit Internet access
Cedar Falls, Omaha, and Kansas City are all getting broader options for gigabit service

Weather and Disasters The National Weather Service is cleaning up its forecast icons

Humor and Good News "That'll show the government."


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May 17, 2015

Threats and Hazards Forecast: Russia will get more territorially aggressive this summer
Putin's hands may be tied in a vicious cycle

News The Clintons have made $25 million giving speeches since the start of last year
Nice work, if you can find it

Science and Technology Google says its self-driving cars have been in crashes, but none of their own fault
The sooner we can get humans out of the driver's seat, the better. We are what cause accidents.

Computers and the Internet Discover is rolling out "chip" cards
Intriguingly, they avoid calling it by the "EMV" name -- for Europay/Mastercard/Visa. These cards are a step towards (but not a silver bullet for) better transactional security.

Broadcasting Corporate universities
Companies that have a serious commitment to and method of developing human capital are going to have a durable competitive advantage in the marketplace. What's interesting is that many of them are turning away from the conventional academy in order to get there.



May 16, 2015

Business and Finance Every boom is followed by a bust
A ton of money is flowing into skyscraper real estate in New York City right now. It's fueled by a combination of low interest rates, low returns on alternative investments (like bonds), a strong stock market (creating a wealth effect with concentrated effects near Wall Street), and a poor economic environment around the world (which makes foreign investors over-eager to put money into projects in the US). It cannot and will not last forever.

Science and Technology Automatic speed control wasn't working just before Amtrak crash
The more use we can make of computer augmentation of human control in transportation (cars, trains, and aircraft alike), the better. It's expensive and difficult to implement, but we have to think through the cost-benefit analysis with a bias towards implementation.

Iowa How does a community-college newspaper get into a dispute that escalates to serious First Amendment issues?

News Not the way to protest your innocence
A company founded and run by a family now standing accused of trying to smuggle weapons to the Middle East is protesting that their e-mails contain "privileged" attorney-client communications. While potentially true, that surely doesn't make them look innocent.

Humor and Good News "Junk playgrounds"
Seems like a strong antidote to helicopter-style parenting

Business and Finance President Obama earned $130,000 in book royalties last year
Former President Clinton seems to be doing better giving speeches, but the residuals off a couple of books sure aren't hurting

News A few tips for better presentations
Nothing especially ground-breaking, but given the culturally inculcated phobia of public speaking, perhaps these tips will help

The United States of America The 2016 Presidential cattle call begins in earnest
Eleven announced or prospective candidates showed up to give speeches in Des Moines

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - May 16, 2015



May 15, 2015

Threats and Hazards A third of Russians fear a US invasion

Threats and Hazards Penn State's engineering school targeted by Chinese state-backed hackers

Science and Technology "The principle of transparency is the same regardless of what technology officials choose to use"
Omaha World-Herald gets backing from the office of the Nebraska attorney general, saying that the paper should get to see work-related text messages sent to the personal cell phone of the mayor of Omaha

The United States of America How we got to a 162-game baseball season

Humor and Good News Someone at The Onion loves Photoshop a little too much
The Supreme Court didn't need to heed the catcalls to "take it off"


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May 14, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google's self-driving cars -- some accidents, but the company says not their fault
Ultimately, the totally self-driving car is still too far-out for many people to accept. We'll get there, though, as long as there is a transition during which computers take over more and more of the driving in the interest of enhancing driver and passenger safety. We should do our best to reach a goal of taking humans out of the driving equation entirely as soon as possible (since human error and fallibility is the leading cause of accidents), but it's going to take a little time.

Aviation News Drone group formally activated at Des Moines Air National Guard wing

Business and Finance Wall Street traders think the Federal Reserve is bluffing about raising interest rates
At least, any time this year. And with the Producer Price Index down for the month of April, one almost has to wonder whether the traders are right.

Computers and the Internet Facebook picks nine publishers for quick-loading news articles
Stories from the New York Times, BBC, NBC, The Atlantic, and others will load about ten times faster than those from other sites because they'll be pre-loaded on the mobile app (starting with the iOS, then showing up on Android later). Of course, that may only make the publishers involved more dependent upon Facebook than before, and that ought to make them nervous. But maybe not any more nervous than those publishers who had special deals with AOL and CompuServe back in the day...perhaps?

Broadcasting The subtle politics of B-roll
The State Department and the Pentagon are asking reporters not to use B-roll footage of ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh that shows the terrorists at strength. And, if they value the classical liberal values that the terrorists are fighting against, the journalists probably shouldn't use that footage anyway. But journalists should also be perpetually resistant to any kind of pressure from the government to frame things in a manner the government desires. It's a tough case: The wrong people are asking for the right thing.



May 13, 2015

News Estonia practices largest war games ever
The tiny NATO member has reason to be alarmed about Russia

Threats and Hazards Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #19
Someone fired a gun inside a Megabus from Chicago to Minneapolis and other passengers had to subdue him. You simply don't always have time to call the police. Related: A student at the University of Iowa photographed women with the tools they carry to protect themselves.

News Secretary Clinton's hostile relationship with the press

Science and Technology Consumer Reports names ten cars likely to last for 200,000 miles
Every one of them is a Toyota or a Honda

Threats and Hazards The little tyrant
North Korea's defense chief has been murdered by the state. Speculation abounds that a coup had been plotted.



May 12, 2015

Business and Finance Moody's declares Chicago's credit rating is junk
Public-sector pensions are an enormous liability nationwide -- they just happen to show up in certain hot spots

Threats and Hazards Downward pressure on oil prices might trigger confiscation by the Russian government
When kleptocracy takes over, it's hard to see a peaceful way out

News Cedar Rapids family busted for trying to ship arms to the Middle East
More than 150 guns were seized

Business and Finance Bo Pelini is getting $737 an hour not to coach Nebraska football
Heads he wins, tails Nebraska loses

Computers and the Internet Why Verizon wants to buy AOL
It's a matter of online video ad revenues. The deal is for $4.4 billion.



May 11, 2015

Business and Finance The economy as we know it, May 2015 edition

Computers and the Internet Omaha residential customers to get 1-gigabit Internet service by next year
At $99 a month, it's more costly than most Internet service. But it's also orders of magnitude faster. Cox Communications is trying the same in Phoenix and Las Vegas, so Omahans are privileged.

Business and Finance Some producers are willing to take big chances that oil prices are coming back
If persistent and widespread, that makes for a pretty short bust

Weather and Disasters Aerial photos of the Lake City tornado damage

Threats and Hazards Man faces 15 years in prison for hurting 7-week-old baby
There has to be something better we can do to protect the defenseless innocent.



May 9, 2015

Health Two roles for supercomputing in health care
First, they can be used to accelerate the pace of DNA sequencing, for patients and (when applicable) their illnesses. Second, they can be used to analyze the available information on a patient's condition and cross-reference it against the state of the art in medical research to recommend a course of treatment. ■ Computer-augmented decision-making is the way of the future, if we're smart about it. But "augmented" or "enhanced" is the key here: Computers shouldn't be put in charge of making all of the decisions, particularly because it is at the margin where big errors are made, and computers aren't yet prepared to handle that on their own. Take, for instance, the apparent labeling of an Al Jazeera journalist as a terrorist by the NSA. He met certain trigger criteria for labeling...probably because he was interviewing figures in terrorist groups for the news. The behavior of a journalist interviewing terrorists might easily look like the behavior of a terrorist, but they're two wildly different things.

Business and Finance McDonald's as a wildly successful educational institution
People learn "soft skills" from entry-level jobs like the ones most commonly associated with McDonald's. And if we make it too hard for people to get those jobs (as by raising the minimum wage too aggressively), we price people out of that "school" and make it harder for them to get into the workforce successfully. ■ Related: Notes from the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting

Science and Technology Swatch is getting into smartwatches
The CEO says they're going to introduce a battery next year that could power a smartwatch for months at a time

Computers and the Internet There won't be a Windows 11
"Windows will be delivered as a service", starting with Windows 10, and will be updated on a rolling basis

Humor and Good News Honest interpretations of job titles

Humor and Good News A poem for the republicans of the world on the arrival of a royal baby


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May 8, 2015

Agriculture The avian influenza outbreak is huge
The USDA says we're at 30 million affected birds (almost entirely chickens and turkeys). That's meant a kill total so large that it's getting hard to figure out where to put all of the carcasses. The good news, if there is any, may be that the authorities don't see a big risk to humans from the outbreak. But a state of emergency has been declared in Iowa anyway.

Computers and the Internet Do big personalities survive without big media brand names?
Bill Simmons of "Grantland" fame is leaving ESPN. Will he decide to put up his own shingle or go with another big brand in sports?

Computers and the Internet Yes, there are more than just white guys in technology
A conference called "Big Omaha" appears to have successfully broadened its appeal and its roster of presenters beyond the class of people most widely represented in tech. Sounds like it took some deliberate effort, but it also sounds like it was worth doing.

Business and Finance The skills employers really want
Everyone's familiar with the idea of a skills gap -- the difference between what employers want and what prospective employees are bringing to the table. Here are some of the skills that the business world is desperately seeking.

News UK elects 20-year-old to Parliament
She's the youngest since 1667


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May 7, 2015

Science and Technology Self-driving semi trucks are a reality
But it could take another ten years for them to hit the highways. Nevada has favorable rules for self-piloted cars, so this demonstration probably won't be the last. In the long run, self-driving trucks make utter sense: The trucking companies have a huge financial incentive to gain efficiency, reduce risks, and reduce costs. Other groups that will be key to the adoption of autonomous vehicles: Outside sales forces with large territories to cover, and the elderly and physically disabled. ■ One important caveat: The acceptance and adoption of self-piloted vehicles depends upon them being seen as iterative improvements in the safety of human driving, rather than as a replacement for it (even if that's the logical ultimate goal). We humans have established a very high baseline for the number of casualties we accept due to road travel when a human is behind the wheel. Americans tolerate more than 32,000 road deaths a year, or about 90 a day. That number has declined a lot since the 1990s (probably because the vehicles themselves are increasingly safe for the people inside), since the number of crashes hasn't really changed much in that time. But if 90 people were to die every day due to plane crashes, the public would lose its mind -- because our baseline expectations for air-travel deaths is near zero. It follows that with our baseline expectation for deaths involving autonomous vehicles on the roadways also at or near zero, the public will lose its mind if it sees people dying in self-driving cars, no matter the logic for their implementation. A frightened public is primed to do a lot of stupid things, like banning self-piloted cars. Acceptance hinges on autonomous technology being perceived as a tool that reduces the number of crashes by making human driving safer, not as a separate category of travel altogether. Of course, that may require acknowledging that human drivers are pretty unsafe for a lot of reasons. ■ Flashback: "The first mass audiences for self-piloted vehicles will probably be the trucking industry..." (2012) ■ Also: Savings from self-driving cars (2010)

Business and Finance Mountain View city council rejects Google's crazy campus plan
LinkedIn gets the bulk of the property in question instead. Google isn't happy about the decision, which the city council tried to spin as an attempt at ensuring economic diversity (Google already owns a lot of Mountain View). At first glance, it sounds like the city has a heavy-handed role in planning, which is generally undesirable. But, assuming the power is adequately restrained from abuse, they're probably right to be skeptical of depending too heavily upon a single employer. Google's plans went beyond ambitious and tripped over into silliness.

Broadcasting David Letterman thinks viral videos signal it's time for him to go

Computers and the Internet IBM's Watson: First it won Jeopardy, and now it invents recipes
Natural-language processing of thousands of recipes from Bon Appetit gives Watson a starting point to invent new recipes altogether

News The Brown Institute is closing its Twin Cities campus
The college for broadcasters is moving to online-only instruction


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May 6, 2015

Business and Finance Federal Reserve chair thinks stocks are overpriced
Price is what you pay, and value is what you get

The United States of America Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder won't run for President in 2016
But it would be good for @onetoughnerd to stay close to the national spotlight

Health Better greeting cards for cancer patients

Health Chinese researchers may be prepared to create genetically-modified people

News A whole lot of lost Mark Twain writing has been discovered
What's going to happen centuries from today when historians discover all of the things that missed digitization?



May 5, 2015

Business and Finance Comparisons of international costs of labor
For obvious reasons, the manufacturing sector is interested in the cost of labor, particularly across borders. It turns out that Norway and Luxembourg get more bang for their buck (in terms of GDP per hour worked) than the United States. Everyone else trails behind (though Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden all hold their own.

Computers and the Internet Do emojis really improve communication?
Like sign language, they can convey a lot of emotion effectively in a way that's hard to do with words. But they're also easily misunderstood, and that's the shortcoming of communication that deliberately avoids words.

Weather and Disasters Tornado warning, party of 6
The National Weather Service now publishes impact statistics along with their polygonal warning areas for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. One warning today affects an estimated population of 6.

Science and Technology Tesla moves into power packs

Business and Finance A fascinating study of Henry Singleton at Teledyne



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