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47% of American workers are at high risk of computerization
The more routine your work, the more likely you are to find yourself automated out of a gig. To an extent, automation can be a highly productive change (allowing people to spend time on valuable work, instead of rote chores). And for consumers it can be a win, too -- if you don't mind self-service check-out lanes, for instance, it's a way to get in and out of a store much faster. But automation isn't a panacea: As Honda has demonstrated, automation doesn't always improve manufacturing as much as the smart application of the right tools in the hands of workers who know and understand their jobs. A robot programmed once can't improve, but a conscientious and engaged human worker might.
Google offers "video quality report"
A graph without a label on the Y-axis isn't much good, really, but that's the best Google offers with its chart for comparing the video quality delivered by Internet service providers in any given area.
CBS initiates hardball with TV affiliates
They're dropping their Indianapolis affiliate for another station starting January 1st. CBS is trying to extract more money from affiliate stations, it appears, and this is a signal that they won't stick with the ones who won't pay up.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad proposes "connecting every acre" with wireless broadband
High-speed Internet access certainly can be a high-value tool for farming, and agriculture is a high-value segment of Iowa's economy
A cat, wearing a shark costume, riding a Roomba
John Deere is laying off a lot of workers
It's bad news for Iowa, where the Ankeny and Ottumwa plants are being heavily affected. The price of corn has tanked over the last year, and that's bad news for anyone selling equipment to farmers.
Super-quality satellite photos are soon coming to the market
Americans know when to blow up the old and replace with the new
An old home may look nice, but if it's outlived its usefulness, then the time has come for it to be demolished. There's nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, but people shouldn't use that nostalgia as a justification to confiscate the freedom of others via "historic preservation" tools.
BMW leaves AM radios out of new electric cars
They claim there's signal interference from the motor
Leaflets heralding a caliphate in the Middle East get distributed in London
The more ISIS/ISIL takes on the trappings of a state, the worse this situation is going to look
Chinese savers are putting trillions of dollars into trusts and "wealth-management" products
The Pope in a Soul
Pope Francis, visiting South Korea, picks a Kia Soul for his temporary Popemobile. The jokes about the Pope having a Soul are almost too obvious, but symbolic gestures like this communicate a valuable message from a person like the Pontiff.
Canadian woman stabbed with a needle in the middle of a street
One worries for the woman individually, and for the possibility that this kind of thing might be related to some kind of dry run for a bigger threat
Windows 9 could look a lot like Windows 8, but with familiar trappings revived from Windows 7
The computing market seems to be stabilizing, with laptop and desktop sales coming out of a steep decline precipitated by the arrival of tablets. Rumor has it test editions of Windows 9 could be available by October.
How the US military leadership uses social media
Generals and their peers are a lot like high priests -- they preside over a highly-structured culture with a lot of in-group language, symbols, and rituals that outsiders don't understand. How they choose to reach out to the outside when those tools become available comes without much of a textbook for guidance.
Federal Reserve faces trickiest economic stunt of all time
The amount of money pumped into the economy as a stabilizing force? Huge. The consequences for pulling that money out too quickly? Extremely painful. The damage that could be done if the money stays in too long and creates inflation? Just as awful, but drawn out in slow-motion.
Mini-bonds sell out quickly in Denver
People wanted to buy low-priced local bonds, and they sold out in a hurry. This model should be considered for lots of economic-development projects in other places -- especially those projects that are purely speculative in nature, which public officials too often get in the business of funding with other people's money.
Could the A-10 be saved by cutting the F-35?
Local police are being pulled out of Ferguson, Missouri
After the reprehensible behavior of some officers documented by a Washington Post reporter, something serious has to change.
Death of Robin Williams brings spotlight to America's crisis of suicides
Giant slide sells at Iowa State Fair for half a million dollars
But the prior owner says he was making that in profits about every two years. For the record: If you have a business that pays for itself in two years, don't sell it to the Iowa State Fair -- operators are standing by and waiting for your call.
Red-light camera corruption now faces real justice in Chicago
PR people get paid more than journalists, on average, and the gap is growing
And there are a lot more of them
Microsoft offers a much better first-person time-lapse algorithm
Enough people are running around with Go Pro cameras and other first-person video recorders that they're becoming quite the genre. But the videos can be jerky and hard to watch -- so they've figured out how to smooth the flow of the video so that it moves from perfect first-person into more of a synthesized, stabilized follower.
How the Chicago Cubs are building a winning system -- for real this time
A dream without a plan is just a wish. What's new for the Cubs system is that there's finally a plan (after a century of loveable losing). It has the best chance of working of anything the Cubs have ever tried, and if (or, Ernie Banks willing, when) it works, it will actually be a case study for business schools.
A future of work with many more robots
USDA expects Iowa to have a record-setting corn crop this year
185 bushels an acre, beating last year's 165 bushels per acre by a wide margin
Reviving a dead satellite
Buzzfeed thinks $50 million will help it move beyond stupid lists
They're good at distribution, but now they're going to try throwing a lot of ideas at a wall to see what sticks.
Washington should probably re-name its NFL team, but American Indians have much bigger problems to solve
One worries that the obsession over the "Washington Redskins" name distracts people from the terrible problems affecting American Indian communities in many parts of the country, including enormous physical and mental health crises and desperate poverty.
The Moon looks extra-bright right now
Who's in the Cabinet?
Here's a challenge, even for the well-informed and politically-engaged: Name the members of the Obama Cabinet. You might get half. There isn't enough delegation happening at the White House.
London's top cop interrupts TV interview to make arrest
"The ultimate tech guy you love to hate"
Radio show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 10, 2014
Water is literally being used as a weapon of war in Iraq
Iraq's largest dam has been captured by ISIS, and the United States is promising only very limited intervention via airstrikes. Memo to the State Department and the White House: Do not discount the possibility that this becomes a semi-permanent state of affairs, with ISIS/ISIL establishing the functions of a state. And if that takes root, then on our hands we have an enormous problem indeed. Hamas provided social services to help cement its standing with the people of the Palestinian Territories. As ISIS/ISIL starts doing the same kinds of things, then it may not matter at all how much we reject them politicially as a terrorist group -- they may end up as de facto a state as many others. And that's a grave risk. Put another way, it doesn't matter that we hate the thought that the soft-power trappings of a legitimate government are being performed by a terrorist group; if they are being performed and accepted/tolerated/endured by the people, then we are witnessing the creation of a de facto state. What's happening is an invasion and occupation, even if we don't recognize the invaders as a sovereign nation. That should set off alarms all over the place.
A third of US households are "just getting by" or "struggling" in their own self-characterization
There will always, always, always be work to do to make people better off. The most valuable thing we can do as a nation is make sure that we're setting the right systems and conditions in place to make sure that we're using market forces to make most people's lives better most of the time. One especially scary takeaway from the latest Federal Reserve research on the subject: "Almost half of adults were not actively thinking about financial planning for retirement." And by whom are they expecting to be taken care?
You don't have to be a gun advocate to appreciate that there are places where someone should be armed
And that may reasonably include hospitals, if certain kinds of people are likely to show up there. The recent experience of a totally justified self-defense shooting at a Pennsylvania hospital is a good illustration.
US labor productivity rose by 2.5% (annualized) in the second quarter
At least, that's the initial projection, though the government's figures have been subject to a lot of revision lately. Ultimately, labor productivity has to grow faster than the population if we are to experience real improvements in quality of life.
Drunk woman attempts to steal a car -- with two cops inside
Miami radio host takes a parting shot at LeBron James
And got suspended for ordering the snarky billboards in Ohio
The computer you could have gotten for $600 in 1978
4k of RAM and a cassette-tape recorder for data storage. In 2014, you could get two Asus Transformer tablets each with 1 Gb of RAM for that much, store 16 Gb, and still have $100 left over. Or you could get a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone with 2 Gb of RAM and 16 Gb of storage. Put another way: The smartphone, for the same price, offers 500,000 times as much RAM.
Interesting questions on the matter of military professionalism
We hope to recruit an officer corps full of bright, motivated people. Do we then want to hear what they think about political issues?
On getting older
Reality checks for Generation X
Netflix teases another season of "Arrested Development" in the indeterminate future
Please, please, please
Most people really are naturally good
(Video) Witness the effort by a group of people to rescue a man trapped by a train car
Babies should not sleep in beds with adults
Maybe we would still care about the missing Nigerian girls...if we focused on just one missing Nigerian girl
It's too easy to retweet a picture or use a hashtag and then forget about an issue. It's time for some of what we know about practical psychology to be brought to bear upon the issue of sustaining public attention on important issues long enough to achieve actual results.
EU class-action lawsuit against Facebook
It's over privacy concerns; what else is new?
What might save the new Gannett is that it'll be debt-free
Isolating all of the print-publishing assets of the company in a new spinoff isn't really a great way to ensure the health of that spinoff, but at least they aren't going to burden it with a debt load. Newspapers can do well enough -- even in times of declining advertising revenues -- as long as they aren't saddled with a big debt burden.
Who owns the copyright when a monkey takes a selfie with your camera?
Keep them! You can keep them!
Vintage (1976) newspaper ad from the Chicago Tribune: "You get Nick and Warren Lattof with every car at Lattof Chevrolet!" Worth the click to see why buyers of the time should have caveat emptor.
The White House needs more delegation on national-security tasks
They're trying too hard to centralize decision-making, and that's causing big decisions to go un-made
Omaha is getting 1-gigabit Internet service city-wide
Iowa's Regents universities are paying as much as $450 an hour for work under an "efficiency review"
A whale of a consulting gig if you can get it
"What we've seen is a five- to sevenfold increase in injury rates in youth sports"
A surgeon who has made a career of repairing professional athletes wants parents to bring it down a notch on their kids -- most aren't ever going pro, anyway
Two hurricanes are headed for Hawaii
They might not be at hurricane strength by the time they arrive
No more Fox chase for Time Warner
Rupert Murdoch is calling off the pursuit. Meanwhile, Gannett is spinning off its print-publishing assets.
Planned merger of Sprint and T-Mobile falls through
Radio show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 3, 2014
Five ways to tell if you're in an organization that's prepared for the future
USB firmware can be made to carry malware
And it's incredibly hard to detect. May be time to stop sharing flash drives, with or without a good virus scan.
Corn crops look great, demand is flat, and prices are in the toilet
Chicago's automatic red-light enforcement finally gets serious scrutiny
The Chicago Tribune found that the system had a bunch of apparent flaws, and now the city is hiring an outside auditor to review the anomalies. But the bottom line is that nobody should be surprised that there were problems with a system that gave a private company the financial incentive to ticket people on behalf of the city, which itself is in dire financial straits itself and could use any possible source of new revenues it can find.
Indianola gives a laptop to every high school student
The district calls it a "1:1 digital learning environment"
FCC criticizes Verizon for throttling wireless users with unlimited data
What to do (or not) about the F-35
The brutally-honest cover letter
Self-piloted cars are coming to the UK
What became of the top companies in the first Fortune 500
Success is never perpetually assured
Apple is laying off employees at newly-acquired Beats
Facebook is kicking all of its users onto Messenger
They want people to use a standalone app for chatting, rather than the built-in service previously used inside Facebook
When the police are called in to dispatch a penguin
That this story even makes the news is a good sign that troubles aren't nearly what they could be in the Quad Cities
DMX rides a slingshot
(Video - language not appropriate for some audiences)
Amazon wants to sweeten deal on new Fire phone with a free year of Prime
NCAA makes a token effort to track students who may have been concussed
Frank Caliendo...in Morgan Freeman's voice...reading LeBron James's words
Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 27, 2014
Plagiarism on Buzzfeed? The shock!
And here we all used to trust Buzzfeed for its penetrating analysis and copious footnotes. The site has always been fluff posted as clickbait, and that's fine enough -- but it's never really been an authoritative source on anything, so we shouldn't be surprised when it falls short of high standards.
Good intentions, complicated execution
Chicago tries not to stack poor people in awful public-housing tenements like they used to, so they've turned to voucher programs. And, in an acknowledgement of reality, they've also seen that it's important to get people away from crime and low opportunity if they are to break out of cycles of poverty. But it's hard not to be taken aback a bit when hearing that some vouchers are being used for rents as high as $3,000 a month. Each individual step in the decision process appears to make sense, but the result sounds crazy.
Does it matter how much a politician gives to charity?
If so, why? And how much is enough?
With Iraq in disarray, who owns the oil?
President Obama calls businesses "corporate deserters" for using international mergers of convenience
A number of American companies have used (or considered) mergers with foreign companies as a strategy for reducing their tax burdens. The President finds this an appealing subject on which to score political points by talking vaguely about things like "economic patriotism" instead of actually fixing the problem, which is that America has the highest official corporate tax rate in the world. This official rate isn't the one that gets paid -- the effective rate is lower because so many companies chase loopholes, credits, tax breaks, and other exceptions in order to reduce the actual amount paid. The international mergers of which the President speaks are just an especially visible method of tax avoidance. ■ It's not really a matter of patriotism (or un-patriotism) -- it's that the companies are behaving rationally (trying to reduce their tax rates) within the boundaries of a tax system that is completely irrational. But actually fixing the problem rather than grandstanding would require the President to stop capitalizing on anti-capital rhetoric, and he's not about to do that. He's not a Communist, but he and his team are terribly anti-capital. ■ The payoff (in political terms) is quick and easy -- it whips up voter enthusiasm against "fat cats" and "big corporations" -- while the consequences are hard to see. But the consequences are real: Every corporation is owned, in the end, by individual people. If the profits of the corporation are taxed directly at the corporate level, and again at the individual level when paid out as dividends -- both times at high rates -- then people are going to make other decisions. ■ Anything short of a 100% tax rate won't halt investment completely, but high rates have at least some effect that discourages investment at the margins. Investment, in turn, is what keeps businesses afloat, and that keeps people employed. Nevermind, though, because the explanation is far less viscerally satisfying to some members of the left wing than villifying those who have accumulated capital and blaming them for what goes wrong.
"Now Americans and Europeans have definitive proof of what motivates a Soviet-style post-Soviet dictator"
A very compelling argument on the nature of our relationship with Putin's Russia -- less Cold War 2, more Mafia-versus-Feds
Johnson County (Iowa) deliberately legalizes driverless cars
The home of Iowa City and the University of Iowa wants to become a test site
But how will they agree on the temperature?
Dubai plans to build an entirely climate-controlled city
Three cheers for innovation prizes
A group including Google and others is offering a million dollars for someone to build a better power inverter. Prizes for defined outcomes are probably the most efficient way to get really interesting public (and sometimes non-public) goods developed.
"Since October, more than 57,000 children have arrived by themselves"
That's the population of a fair-sized American city like West Des Moines. It is significant but it also shouldn't overwhelm our capacity to respond in a humane manner. Bloomberg reports that they'll have to wait an average of 587 days for a court hearing -- which is anything but swift justice. ■ We really have to think through this situation: The level of desperation that parents would have to feel to send their minor children on a trip from Central America through Mexico and through a heavily-guarded border, entirely in the "care" of human traffickers suggests that the situation in their homelands is terrible. Americans don't even send their kids unsupervised to the park without facing charges of neglect. The disparity is troubling -- we're talking about thousands of children under the age of 12, as well as teenagers (and we shouldn't forget that America doesn't even recognize its own teenagers as being mature enough to do thousands of things that fall far short of traveling across an entire country to try to cross a border illegally.) ■ It's worth bearing in mind that "America", in the minds of the parents who try to send their children here, must be so much better than home that it's worth the enormous risk and the inconceivable heartbreak of those children leaving home. That should give us some pause to consider just how fortunate we are to be here. ■ We clearly need to revise our immigration strategy. That people would want so badly to be here -- and that we don't have a system that welcomes more of them through planned, deliberate, and legal means -- tells us that it has to be fixed. There's plenty of room in America (ever been to one of our many places home to only one person per square mile?) -- we just need to put the right system in place for accepting more immigrants in a humane and sustainable manner.
Well, that's embarrassing: US Senator from Montana plagiarized his master's thesis
And not when he was a kid, either
Yet another high rating for Des Moines
Forbes says it's the #2 city for business and careers in America. Lincoln (Neb.) is 6th, and Omaha is in the top 25.
Radio shownotes: Wise Guys - July 19, 2014
Radio shownotes: Brian Gongol Show - July 20, 2014
Cultural and political issues notwithstanding, the Mideast isn't going to be a peaceful place if the economics aren't fixed. There's always instability wherever lots of young men are unemployed.
Big tax breaks lure Sealed Air Corp. to North Carolina
New Jersey will lose a bunch of white-collar jobs over the deal. And did the nation gain anything as a whole? Nope. It's a net loss to the public when states battle each other like this.
Chicago drivers could get refunds for unwarranted tickets from red-light cameras
One-paragraph book review: "Influence" by Robert Cialdini
Pilger (Neb.) tornado hit cattle feedlots, too
An estimated 300 cattle were killed, and lots of buildings and equipment were destroyed, too. The damage to grain bins is visible from the nearby highway.
Helen Mirren uses the Royal Canadian Air Force fitness plan (circa 1950-something)
Ebola is back
Almost 1,000 people have gotten it (in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone), and the majority are now dead. This is a very serious problem.
"No wonder the government can't find needles in the haystack -- it keeps storing irrelevant hay"
The same government that can lose all kinds of e-mails from high-level IRS officials somehow manages to keep incredible amounts of data on airline passengers
Cisco wireless routers need updates to prevent crooks from breaking in
Beating cancer is going to take a lot of genetic research
Salk Institute scientists think they've found a gene that signals a cell to stop moving...and when that gene is turned off, it permits the cell to move freely -- which is what causes cancer metastasis.
Even computer companies aren't immune to layoffs
Microsoft is laying off 18,000 people over the next year. Some think the company's internal announcement could have used a little more direct language.
"South Park" cuts a deal with Hulu
There's no better draw than great content. But great content is hard to create.
Wait -- is the Weather Channel getting back to science?
Their new show "Weather Geeks" is being spun as a show for the real science fiends out there. It's to be hosted by a university professor.
Self-driving cars are coming, and it's time to consider the implications
One writer came up with a list of 17 things that could change. There are undoubtedly many, many more.
Weird Al Yankovic: "Word Crimes"
(Video) One of his best pieces of work, and that's saying something
Chicago Tribune puts most of its archives online
Everything from 1847 to 1991 is now available.
How the Obama Administration tracks sentiment on Twitter
A staffer is assigned to carefully track what press corps reporters are saying in addition to their conventionally published reports
Iowa data centers play a central role in Microsoft's cloud-computing strategy
They're big investments in equipment with a small impact on the labor market, which is exactly the kind of thing a company like Microsoft is wise to invest in.
The continued saga of the Midwest's skilled-worker shortage
A dispatch from Omaha
Amazon to try dragging FAA into the drone era
Smartphone memories don't really get fully wiped
Yellowstone is an active seismic area
And a hot spot is melting an asphalt road. We ignore the hazards beneath the magnificent national park at our own peril.
New neighbors don't like Iowa City drum circle
Someone call Eric Cartman, hippie exterminator
More machines means fewer low-skill jobs
It's an ongoing development (one that's been underway for generations), but we only tend to notice it when there are periodic down-cycles in the economy...and we've recently been through one of those. The challenge is to think and act upon ways to accommodate the inevitable during the up-cycle, when we have the available surplus resources to invest.
Wrigley Field slated for half-billion-dollar renovation
New bullpens, more signs
Interesting: UPS uses a lot more rail freight than you might expect
New "Homestar Runner" material is on the way
Your relationship with Facebook is not one of equals
Neil DeGrasse Tyson: I'm not worried about the kids
(Video) In an unscripted moment, the public face of astronomy points out that it's adults who have the stupid beliefs, not kids
The Federal Reserve is cutting off its bond-buying program in October
At least, that's the current plan. That may be a rather abrupt stop for a lot of people who aren't expecting it.
2014 reading list -- a mid-year progress update
Tornado warnings mean take cover immediately
Some people in Grundy County barely escaped serious injury because they didn't have time to fully react. Related: Public tornado shelters may be on the verge of becoming a widespread thing.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune to lose a lot of staff veterans in ownership change
Meanwhile, speculation has it that News Corp. is looking at buying the Tribune newspapers.
The legend of the "tavern" sandwich
How many direct subordinates is too many?
Chicago needs to get its act together
An absurdly violent holiday weekend should have people saying that enough is enough
Uber's effect on the market for New York City taxi medallions
The Panama Canal may just get a competitor in Nicaragua
Ideology divides the House from the Senate
Of course, the practice of catering to interest groups is neither new nor avoidable, but its results may cause us to need to push the "reset" button
Target Field rolls out self-service beer stations
Just one more amony many small signs that the era of low-skill jobs for humans is over
Google's take on artificial intelligence
Video of the tornado in Newton
Train derailment lands 737 fuselages in a river
A Kickstarter campaign for a bowl of potato salad
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