Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Good Food, Bad Food, Healthy Food, Not

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 25, 2017 @ 9:39 am PST

Let’s move away from the Trump posts for a bit, to something else that might make us feel good, or make us sick. Food. Glorious Food. Hot Sausage and Mustard. I’d go on, but I’d walk into a copyright lawsuit…

  • Getting Glazed. I have a friend of mine who posts this incredible porn on Facebook, uhh, I mean food porn of these incredible meals that he and his daughter prepare. One such meal was a maple-glazed salmon. So when I saw this recipe for a Maple-Dijon Glaze for Salmon, I just had to save it for future reference.
  • Turning Yellow. Turmeric is an amazing substance. It can have incredible anti-inflammatory effects, and can bring significant relief for arthritis sufferers (by the way, so can cactus, especially tuna roja juice). So when I saw that the LA Times had a whole article devoted to Turmeric, again, I had to save it for future reference.
  • Buttering You Up. When it comes to fats, the choice is wide and varied, and we often don’t pick the best. Olive oil is wonderful, but butter can add a great flavor to things. Did you ever wonder who first came up with the idea for butter? NPR did, and they recently posted a very interesting history of butter.
  • UnGlutenAted. There are those who avoid gluten out as the fad-diet-of-the-week, and those who are gluten-free for other, more serious reasons. Here’s a fascinating article on the completion of a first phase 1b trial of Nexvax2, a biologic drug designed to protect celiac sufferers from the effects of exposure to gluten and the gastrointestinal symptoms that can result such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. The big idea behind this drug is to use a trio of three peptides as an immunotherapy that it hopes will encourage the T cells involved in the inflammatory reaction in celiac disease to become tolerant to gluten. After a first course to induce tolerance, the company hopes that it can be maintained by periodic re-injection with the vaccine.
  • Allergic to Meat. The  other day, we listened to a fascinating episode of The Sporkful, a podcast not for foodies, but for eaters. The episode we listened to was about a woman who loved meat, but suddenly was deathly allergic to it. The culprit was a sudden allergy to a sugar that was found in all animal products, and what triggered that allergy was even more fascinating. Well worth listening to.
  • Allergic to Modern Society. In a larger sense, however, we may increasingly be dealing with allergies and reactions to modern society. Spending large amounts of time indoors under artificial light and staring at computer screens has helped produce a “myopia epidemic” with as many as 90 per cent of people in some parts of the world needing glasses. Industrial food production has also turned primates’ taste for sugar — which evolved to persuade us to gorge on healthy fruit when it was ripe — into one of the main causes of the soaring rates of obesity in the Western world. And our sense of smell is under attack from air pollution, producing an array of different effects, including depression and anxiety.  In addition to what is discussed in the article, I’ll opine that many more problems (I believe) arise from the damage we’ve done to our internal biomes through germ-o-phobia and overuse of antibiotics, and that this eventually will be discovered to be responsible for many of our immunity-compromised diseases, food sensitivity, obesity, addiction, and yes, even the increase in autism spectrum disorder and similar issues (i.e., not vaccines).


Offensive People: They Make America Stronger

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 25, 2017 @ 7:09 am PST

Back in early 2016, while the movie about her libel trial was in production, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt participated in a debate at Oxford University about whether the act of Holocaust Denial — that is, saying that the Holocaust never happened — should be against the law. You might find it surprising that her position was that it SHOULD NOT be criminalized. Her reasons? Here is what she said: “I am convinced that freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom for offensive people to be offensive.  We who are offended by them, must accept that, as a cost of living in a free society.”

Read that again: “Freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom for offensive people to be offensive.” This bedrock principle of America is why the ACLU defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie. It is why Breitbart News is an important part of the landscape, but it is also why left-learning and neutral news sites are also an important part of the landscape. Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of the Press, are cornerstones of what makes America great, of what keeps American politicians accountable to the American people, and ultimately, what keeps the people at the top of the national power structure.

It is something that Donald Trump has forgotten. In a post yesterday on Facebook, Trump wrote that he is fulfilling the promise of promoting “our values”. And what are these values? He talks about allegiance to America. He says, “We all salute the same American Flag. And we are all made equal by the same Almighty God”. But he does not mention the Constitution — the ultimate, founding definition of American Values. Values that, for America, take priority over the Bible. This is no small testimony to the wisdom and foresight of the Founding Fathers. Unlike the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution contains no reference to God.

Offensive people being offensive. We see this every day in the era of Trump. Yet it is something that Trump does not want to see. It was manipulation of the media and fake news that created the outrage against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Agenda that cemented his election — and it was something that he supported, used, and encouraged. Now that he is in office, this manipulative news is the only news he wants to see. More importantly, it is the only news he wants THE PEOPLE to see. He wants to suppress investigative journalism into what his administration is really doing, and is arguing that such media is “fake news”, the product of “illegal leaks”. He is going so far as to publicly attack journalists as “enemies of the people” (such an ominous phase) and to bar selected news outfits — including not only American media but the BBC and the Guardian — from meetings with the Press Secretary. There has only been one time where, in my memory, an American President has been this hostile to the media. Most Americans won’t remember it; I wasn’t barely in my teens when it happened. It was when President Nixon attempted to cover up his direct involvement in the Watergate Breakin.

What is President Trump trying to hide? What is he trying to divert and distract us from seeing? It could be his collusion with Russia over the election, although Congressman Darryl Issa (R-California) is working to get a special prosecutor to investigate just that. More importantly, however, it could be to divert our attention from the fact that the President is actively working to dismantle the American Government.

That’s right: His advisor Steve Bannon said so directly: Bannon framed much of Trump’s agenda with the phrase, “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president says have stymied economic growth and infringed upon U.S. sovereignty. But in doing so, he is also deconstructing the system that ensures equality and non-discrmination under the law; that ensures safe food, water, and drugs; that ensures a clean environment in which to live; that ensures that our leaders are ethical, honest, and working for the people. In doing so, he is building a system where reporting government abuse of the Constitution and violation of the law is viewed as a problem for the government, not whistleblowing protecting the people.

Pretty offensive, right?

But just as in America it is vital that we have the ability to hear the offensive lies that President Trump and his supporters promote, it is vital that President Trump, and his supporters, and all the American people hear the offensive truth that the media investigates, sees, and reports. This reporting comes not only from American media sources such as the television networks, the major city papers, and long-time journalist outlets, but from the foreign media such as the BBC.

Occasionally being offended is the price we pay for living in the freest society on the planet. Those who work against such offense are working against American values.

In a few weeks, Jews all over the world will be celebrating Purim. It is an interesting holiday. It is not in the Torah at all; it is defined in a story called the Megillah, which you know as the Book of Esther. The story is remarkable because it makes no mention of God — just like the Constitution. It tells the story of an advisor to the King that hated the Jews, and wanted to see them all destroyed to make him, and his values, more powerful. Sound familiar? It is also the story of how a man of the people and from the people spoke truth to power, and not only saved his people but restored the nation to their values. Speaking truth to power — even when it is uncomfortable to do so, even when there is significant risk in doing so — that is what our Free Press does.

It is what men such as Hamen — the real enemies of our people — hate and despise and want to suppress, for speaking truth to power will deprive them of their power.

Now think about this: Who is the power that has the President, his advisors, and the GOP leadership shaking in their boots? Who is the power to whom the Press is speaking? The People. It is the People — you and me and Democrats and Republicans and Independents — who have the power to vote their asses out of power, to remove the power of their party and ideas at the state and local level. It is we the People that have the power to replace them with people from all across the political spectrum — liberals to conservatives, non-religious to religious — who respect and treasure the Constitution, and who realize that in our system of government, it is finding the point of compromise that is key, and compromise only comes from all sides both talking and listening.

All of this, just from putting up with offensive people.

Is Trump Really Reflecting Conservative Values?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 24, 2017 @ 11:15 am PST

userpic=divided-nationAccording to the LA Times, President Trump is conquering conservatives at CPAC. They state that his dominance at the forum, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is hard to miss. Even those who do not agree with all of Trump’s ideas seemed pleased with the excitement in the halls of the waterfront convention center outside Washington. And they believed he was winning over the conservative movement, even if Trump has historically low popularity ratings with the wider public.

So, here’s my question: Do Conservatives really believe that:

  1. We should deny anyone the right to an attorney and the ability to defend themselves when faced with deportation?
  2. We should permit public officials to personally profit — beyond their legal salaries — from their public office?
  3. We should permit states to have the right to dictate where people can go to the bathroom, but not what they can do recreationally, even when the people have voted to permit a particular behavior?
  4. The right to practice my religion can interfere with your right to practice your religion (and vice-versa)?
  5. The government has the right to impose one religion’s beliefs on someone else?
  6. The government should take away rights and privileges that have been granted to US citizens?
  7. The government should not treat all people equally, and ensure freedom from discrimination based on skin color, sex, religion, or any other factor that has been used to discriminate?
  8. The government does not have an interest in ensuring the citizens of the United States have clean air to breath, clean water to drink, and clean soil in which to grow crops?
  9. The government does not have in interest in ensuring that medicine distributed in the US is safe and effective, and that food is safe to eat?
  10. Use of nuclear energy should be permitted everywhere, without suitable oversight?
  11. When Federal tax dollars are distributed to educational institutions, that those funds must be used within the bounds of what is legal under the Constitution?
  12. The government does not have an interest to ensure that workers are safe, get paid on time, and are not taken advantage of by large employers?
  13. The government does not have an interest in ensuring infrastructure and public spaces exist that benefits the nation, and that might not be profitably operated by a private concern?
  14. The individual states should not work together for their mutual benefit?
  15. A free press is the enemy of the people, and we should restrict the press to only agree with the government?
  16. Some people are inferior to other people?
  17. People cannot speak out when they disagree with what the government is doing?
  18. Standards for ethics and integral behavior are different depending on the political party of a public servant?
  19. It is acceptable for a foreign government to provide things of financial value to actually or potentially influence the behavior of a public servant?
  20. Is it reasonable to allow anonymous whistleblowers of government abuse, as long as facts are confirmed independently before any prosecution?

If you believe in one or more of these, please let me know which ones and a strong rationale of why you hold that opinion.

Thoughts on a Theatre Season: The Ahmanson Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 23, 2017 @ 8:04 am PST

Just before Christmas 2016, I attempted to predict what shows would be presented in the next Pantages and Ahmanson seasons. At the beginning of February, the Pantages made their announcement about their 2017-2018 season (or at least what is left of it after Hamilton presents), and I gave my thoughts on it and assessed my predictions. Today, the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) gave a rough announcement of their season (with more details in the Playbill version), so let’s see what I think and how I did.

☛ 🎱 ☚

Back in December, I summarized the shows that I thought were going on tour based on the announcements that I had seen, and I predicted the following:

There are numerous other shows currently coming to Broadway that I expect to tour, but I think they would be 2018-2019 at best. So how do I predict the seasons to work out? Here are my predictions:

  • Ahmanson 2017-2018 Season: Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, The Humans, Something Rotten, Waitress, and possibly the Fiddler revival, Allegiance, or a pre-Broadway musical.
  • Pantages 2017-2018 Season: Disney’s Aladdin, School of Rock, Love Never Dies, Bright Star, Matilda, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Color Purple, and possibly On Your Feet.

☛ 🎱 ☚

So how did I do? The Pantages announced a six show season. Five of the six were on my Pantages list, one was on my Ahmanson list: Aladdin, School of Rock, Love Never Dies, The Color Purple, On Your Feet, and Waitress. So lets see how I did for the Ahmanson, based on what the Times has as their announcement:

  • Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. September 15 – October 1, 2017.  An American premiere. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale that was adapted into the 1948 film and best picture Oscar nominee of the same name, “The Red Shoes” will be Bourne’s ninth project to come to the Ahmanson. Not on my list at all. I’m not a big ballet fan, nor a fan of Matthew Bourne.
  • Bright Star. October 11–November 19, 2017.  The folksy Steve Martin and Edie Brickell musical. I predicted this for the Pantages, but it balances Waitress which I predicted for the Ahmanson. This is something I want to see.
  • Something Rotten! November 21–December 31, 2017. The witty, giddy backstage crowd-pleaser set in Shakespeare’s time earned 10 Tony nominations in 2015, including best musical. Predicted for the Ahmanson. This is something I want to see.
  • Soft Power. May 3–June 10, 2018. A world premiere David Henry Hwang that work takes the form of a Chinese musical about present-day America. Originally commissioned for the Mark Taper Forum. Jeanine Tesori will join the creative team for this production, which starts as a contemporary play and time-shifts into a musical 100 years in the future.  I predicted a pre-Broadway musical. This may be it. Unsure based on the subject, but Tesori’s involvement makes it interesting.
  • The Humans. June 19–July 29, 2018. Stephen Karam’s one-act that won four Tony Awards last year including best play. I correctly predicted this for the Ahmanson. Not sure yet if I want to see it.

One production will be announced later (obviously, in the January 1, 2018 through April 30, 2018 time period, although that period could easily support two shows — so why it is dark for so long is unknown and uncharacteristic of the Ahmanson. I am disappointed that the Ahmanson is not mounting Allegiance, but perhaps they are in negotiation for the TBA slot. Spring Awakening is less likely for that slot, given it was at the Wallis Annenberg just before Broadway.


Observing Fandom

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Feb 22, 2017 @ 9:04 pm PST

Driving home from picking up the vanpool van this evening, I decided to listen to a short podcast: the Ensemblist Unedited episode on BroadwayCon.*  Listening to it, I realized that I’m not a fanboy.
*: No, I can’t link to it directly. They are theatre people; they don’t know how to make their webpage such that one can link to a specific episode. Update: You can get the individual episode links from http://theensemblist.podbean.com — not obvious, but at least its something.

Perhaps I should clarify. I know many folks that love (or should I say, luuv) their fandoms. They obsess. They know every word, every lyric, every character, the smallest minutae. They cosplay. They go to conventions for their fandoms. This could be science fiction, comics, theatre, TV, you name it.

I understand their obsession. I just don’t get obsession. It is the same way that I view myself as a professional audience. Just as I can’t inhabit characters, I can’t obsession about things. That doesn’t mean I don’t know them well (although I typically don’t read or see shows multiple times with the same cast). I just don’t fall as deeply for them. I think that goes for the rest of my life as well: I’m not strongly outwardly emotional — I’m quietly emotional.

To those of you that get so into fandoms. Enjoy. I’ll just be over here on the side. Watching.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Papers

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 21, 2017 @ 7:48 pm PST

userpic=trumpToday, President Trump put a new “tougher” immigration policy in place, and our country became a less safe place for citizens and non-citizens alike. The reason why is best captured in the subtitle of a Vox post on the policy: “Almost everyone in the US without papers is now a priority for deportation.”

As you read about the new policies, I want you to ask yourself, if you are a legal US citizen, either naturalized or by birth, whether you carry papers with you at all times proving your citizenship? A drivers license is not sufficient — drivers licenses can be forged, and some states issue licenses to non-citizens. Drivers licenses are also issued to legal residents.

So, if under the new rules, an ICE officer thinks you look like an illegal immigrant, for whatever reasons, and you have anything on your record — a parking ticket — they can deport you first and ask questions later. They will not give you access to a judge or a way to prove your citizenship (even though that amendment has been ruled by the Supreme Court as applicable to anyone in the US, citizen or not).

Another problem is the tactics that ICE uses. Did you know that they can impersonate local law enforcement to entice people in — they do not have to identify as ICE until after they have taken people into custody?

Not that I’m not arguing that people should be permitted to be in this country illegally. Employers should be following immigration laws and only hiring legal immigrants, and those who don’t should be penalized (and that includes picking up undocumented laborers at Home Depot). But the Government must respect the constitution, and must respect the rights of citizens. It must not profile based on religion or skin color. It must be humane in how it treats people, and respect people as people. It must also use a risk management approach: recognizing it is impossible to identify and deport everyone, prioritize the efforts on those committing crimes, and prioritize that effort on those committing violent crimes.

This is not an easy issue — if it was, we would have resolved it by now. But the approach being taken here is just wrong and needs to be rethought.


Useful Security Site

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 21, 2017 @ 7:00 pm PST

Password. The security mechanism we love to hate. Or hate to love. Or grudgingly tolerate. In any case, if you use passwords, you know you are encourage to (a) enable dual factor authentication whenever and where ever possible; (b) use the strongest passwords possible; and (c) use a unique password on every site. For (b) and (c), the easiest way to do this is to use a password manager (I use Lastpass), and have it generate strong passwords for sites (I have it generate long pronounceable passwords, and then modify them with digits and special characters). That still, of course, means you need a strong password for the password manager.

Many years ago, in the days of Dockmaster, there was a generator that would generate strong, prounceable passwords. For a few years I used those, then I went to grabbing words from various places and combining them to create master passwords. Yesterday, I found another solution. Here is a site that generates nonsense words based on a frequency list of phonemes as they occur in legitimate English words.  You should be able to get strong master passwords by combining words and making permutations to add special characters, digits, capitalization, etc.

Here is an example of some generated words: minating ocrates exishering hophish diuraggramely tilized middly apissong moratierencess antinumeted fances vaultanewns gunfins ineake snaphypong misplake quarout hightfulus ansprubblet midweir objecta steton lishep ratinessy mententes.

Hopefully, you’ll find this useful.

The Message He Sends

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Feb 20, 2017 @ 4:00 pm PST

I’ve been sitting around this afternoon wondering what I might post. I didn’t have enough random news chum, and I wrote up the show from yesterday. Then I saw a headline and a rant welled up that touches on a number of things from this weekend. The headline?

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

University City, MO, is a suburb of St. Louis. It is actually where my mother grew up; we have relatives buried in a different Jewish cemetery in the city. This is on a day when we’ve yet another round of threatened (at least, we hope they are only threats) bombings of Jewish Community Centers around the country.

Presidents are supposed to lead; to represent American values. One value is the right to practice your religion. This, after all, is why homophobic Christian bakers insist they can’t bake a cake for a homosexual, right? Trump wants to defend that right. This, after all, is why Christian-owned Hobby Lobby wants to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives, even for workers whose religion permits them to use contraception? Trump wants to defend that right.

So where is Trump on this issue? Where is he insisting that antisemitism is un-American?


He gets questions at a press conference asking for a statement on increased antisemitism in America, and he responds that he has Jews in his family — how can he be antisemitic? Remember the days of “But I have a black friend?”

Further, he wants to ban people from entering this country — excuse me, be suspicious of them — just because of their religion, Muslim. But he wants to permit extra Christians to come in from those countries. His Secretary of Education wants Federal Tax Dollars — my Federal Tax Dollars — to flow to Christian religious schools and out of the public school system.

We all know you set an example and send messages by what you say. President Trump has demonstrated that aptly, by trusting opinion pieces on Fox News over fact from government agencies, by claiming that science is an opinion, and that independent journalism is un-American. We know these messages are bullshit, but they have been said over and over and over and have become a conspiracy theory. We all know that Conspiracy Theories can’t be disproved, and a large segment of the country now believes the conspiracy and will not be convinced otherwise. (And why should they: we’ve lost the ability to teach critical thinking)

But you also set an example by what you don’t say, and what you do without saying it? President Trump, by not condemning attacks on individuals and institutions based on religion, is condoning it. President Trump, by instituting a Muslim ban — excuse me, extreme Muslim vetting — is condoning religious discrimination. He is letting fear rule the country, just as fear kept Jews from safety during World War II, just as fear put Japanese in internment camps at the same time. By not saying anything, he is demonstrating the worst of America.

Further, those in rural areas are eating it up. Remember, much of rural America is heavily Christian. They may never have met a Jew or Muslim in person, and their only knowledge is from TV shows, movies, and the news. Jews tend to live in larger cities, because of the nature of Jewish worship and practice. Muslims are often the same — in areas with sufficient population to support a mosque. How likely is that in a city under 25,000. So these people believe what they are told: if TV says they are bad, then they must be bad. Ask yourself: how does our media portray minority religions? Now think about what we must do to battle that impression, and why it is even more important for our President to stand up and be Presidential, to say: This is not America. America respects all religions: all religions are welcome here, and no religion, including “no religion”, is favored by the Government.

Mr. Trump: Again, you are failing to lead. If you can’t do the job, resign and let someone who can do it.

[ETA: Finally, on 2/21, he condemned the threats against the JCCs and antisemitism.]

P.S.: Presidents are also supposed to work to support all states and all the people in the country, even those that may oppose him. That’s part of the job; no President is universally loved (not even Reagan). So what has Mr. Trump done to California? He cut the allocated funding for Caltrain to electrify. This makes it more expensive to run the trains, increases operating costs, retains older equipment decreasing ridership, and keeps us tied to polluting fuel. All because he doesn’t like a state. Watch out, other urban areas. You might be next (while he lines his personal pockets every time he goes down to Mar-a-Lago).