Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'news-chum'

Chum for a Sunday Afternoon: Drums, Drives, Drugs, Dust, Dresses and More

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 15, 2016 @ 3:08 pm PDT

Observation StewI’ve been on travel for my daughter’s graduation, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to write about the articles I’ve seen. I’ve got two themed collections of chum that I’ll write up after last night’s theatre review (not sure when I’ll post them). But first, here’s the stuff that wouldn’t theme, but that caught my eye:

  • Bang. Bang. Bang. Anyone who has attended Drum Corps, or likely even seen a band will recognize this name: Remo. The news in recent weeks included an obituary of the man behind the name: Remo Belli, who invented the synthetic drum head. Before Remo, drums were animal skins, highly variable. As the obituary notes: “Belli was a young professional drummer in the 1950s, backing singer Anita O’Day and others, when he grew frustrated with the limitations of animal-skin drumheads, which could wilt or expand depending on the weather. In 1957, he and his collaborators perfected and began marketing one of the first artificial drumheads made of a resilient polyester film manufactured under various brand names, including Mylar, made by DuPont. He dubbed that first product the Weather King, a signal that it was durable no matter the atmospheric conditions of the gig, unlike finicky cow-skin drums.” Since then, his product has become the standard.
  • Long Commute. This article caught my eye because it deals with Las Vegas and teachers. Specifically, there is a group of teachers who live in Las Vegas, and commute daily to teach in the small community of Baker, at the gateway to Death Valley. Why? Pay, of course. The starting salary for teachers in Baker is $44,000. In Las Vegas it’s $34,000, though it will be $40,000 next year after a new contract takes effect. At the same time teacher shortages are ravaging America’s cities, however, rural schools have arguably been hit hardest. Teacher turnover is high, and many small towns are finding it hard to attract teachers. While many are attracted to Baker because of the pay, they stay because the work is satisfying, the way teaching should be but often isn’t in large urban school districts. Class sizes are extremely small: compared with the 30-50 in the large school districts, we’re talking 4-10.
  • Hacking the Brain for Fun… and to Relieve Pain. In our life, pain is a constant. My wife deals with arthritis; I deal with migraines. What do you think we would do for a good solution for the pain? Here’s an intriguing direction: A group is playing with a non-chemical solution that involves hacking the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve starts in the brainstem, just behind the ears. It travels down each side of the neck, across the chest and down through the abdomen. ‘Vagus’ is Latin for ‘wandering’ and indeed this bundle of nerve fibres roves through the body, networking the brain with the stomach and digestive tract, the lungs, heart, spleen, intestines, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in speech, eye contact, facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices. It is made of thousands and thousands of fibres and 80 per cent of them are sensory, meaning that the vagus nerve reports back to your brain what is going on in your organs. Research shows that a high vagal tone (strength of your vagus response) makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation. Said inflammation has been connected with arthritis and migraines. This article talks about using an implant to stimulate the vagus nerve to reduce pain. Fascinating.
  • Pain and Empathy. Chemical painkillers  can be insidious. For example, we all believe Tylenol (acetaminophen, paracetamol in the UK) is safe; safer than aspirin or other NSAIDs. But there have been numerous reports that even the slight overdose can cause serious liver damage, and slight overdoses are easy because it is in so many products because it is believed to be safe. Here’s another danger from Tylenol: In research published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University describe the results of two experiments they conducted involving more than 200 college students. Their conclusion: Acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in the United States, can reduce a person’s capacity to empathize with another person’s pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional. In fact, I’m on it right now (just took two Excedrin). Ask me if I care ;-).
  • It’s a Gas — Porter Ranch Causes . One group I do emphasize with are all the folks in Porter Ranch, the community next to where we leave. Not only did they have to deal with the Aliso Canyon gas leak for numerous months, being relocated and such, but they are still having problems even after the leak was sealed. They have now figured out why. Los Angeles County Public Health Department officials say its test of dust in Porter Ranch homes turned up the presence of metals, including barium, that could have caused the kinds of health symptoms some residents have reported experiencing even after the big gas leak was plugged. County officials said there appeared to be  a pattern — or fingerprint — of metals to which all of the homes were exposed. Those metals were barium, vanadium, manganese, lead, strontium and aluminum. The county health official said the barium was in the form of a salt known as barium sulfate, which is not radioactive. It was found at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, which is in the Santa Susana Mountains directly north of Porter Ranch homes. Barium sulfate is added to the fluids that are used in the course of oil well drilling. As I said when the leak first started, this is going to be a clusterf*ck of tremendous proportions — unfortunately, one that will affect our synagogue and many friends and neighbors.
  • Taking Offense at Everything. There are more folks these days that are just finding any hint of skin or sex offensive. We’ve all seen the bathroom wars, where a subgroup of men either believe that men will just choose to dress as a lady to go into a ladies restroom to attack women, or that some woman dressed as a man will go into the mens room and see their shortcomings. Here’s another one: a female weather reporter wearing a beautiful black beaded dress on-air was handed a grey cardigan because some viewers complained they could see her bare arms. This didn’t happen in some backwater area either — this was in Los Angeles folks. Geez, get a life folks. If something offends you, change the channel. If you can’t control your urges, that’s your problem. ETA: Then again, perhaps it was all a joke. Perhaps. ETA#2: Yes, it was a joke.
  • Cell Phones and Theatres. Here’s a very nice piece on Broadway vs. Cell Phones. It explains why they are such a problem. First, taking pictures is making copies of a copyrighted design (yes, the show and all the design elements are copyrighted, and represents significant artistic work). Second, the light these devices emit can distract the performers on the stage, and can distract and disturb other audience members. Thirdly, if they  make noise, the noise can do the same: distract and endanger performers, and disturb the audience. Power them off, or silence them and put them in airplane mode. Why the latter? The signals sometimes interfere with wireless microphones.
  • Replacing Ikea. In Burbank, California, Ikea is moving down the street to an even larger facility. So what is going to happen to the existing facility? What will happen to the dying mall next to it. A report this week gave the answer. Crown Realty is proposing to build a six-story, mixed-use project with 765 apartments and about 40,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of the current Ikea space. They also envision converting the site into a community gathering area where an outdoor ice rink could be built and a farmers market could be held. As for the neighboring mall, one of the major proposed changes will be redesigning the entryway at San Fernando and Magnolia boulevards. A section of the second-floor roof will be removed to create an open-space feel and an escalator will be installed to allow pedestrians to get to the upper level from the street. Other amenities — such as the food court, children’s play area and elevators — will be moved around to create a better flow and atmosphere in the mall.
  • Yiddish in Poland. Lastly, in honor of my daughter’s graduation, here is a map of the Hebrew and Yiddish language frequency in Poland based on the Polish Census of 1931. Those of you who know her will understand.

 

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Design Considerations

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 06, 2016 @ 9:24 pm PDT

userpic=clutterContinuing to clear out the accumulated links… Here are three interesting articles all having to do with design. Tomorrow, you’ll get a chum post on computer stuff, followed by some tasty stew:

  • Making Cities Hostile. Cities are increasingly becoming more hostile to the homeless and downtrodden. You see it if you know where to look. As the linked article notes, historically, landowners and city planners have kept sections of the population at bay by incorporating defensive design features into the architecture: spiked fences; barbed wire; a castle moat. In the 21st century, however, overt deterrents like these have given way to subtler features aimed at exerting social control, and keeping unwanted groups out. Hostile architecture, also known as defensive architecture, exists on a spectrum. At one end are the overt design features that are obvious to anyone walking by—like spikes and fences. At the other end, says Petty, are the design elements in which “the hostile function is often embedded under a socially palatable function.” A prime example is street furniture, particularly public benches. Think of all those strips that establish seats: they also make it impossible for someone to sleep there. The article goes into more detail.
  • Bowling Alleys. We all remember the bowling alleys. Greasy coffee shops. Bright lights. Ugly shirts. Bowling leagues. That’s all changing. There is a movement afoot to transform bowling alleys into the-sexy. The renovations have preserved many elements of the classic midcentury designs of these sites, but ultimately left them with a more sleek and modern vibe. Flatscreens and projectors are everywhere, not only displaying goofy animations after a strike or gutterball, but broadcasting sports or TV shows. The lights are dimmed and the lanes are illuminated under a black light that makes the balls and pins glow. It makes for a clubby atmosphere meant to appeal to younger and more casual bowlers.
  • Oakland Tribune Tower. Here’s an interesting article on how the Oakland Tribune tower was repaired and rescued. There are some really vertigo inducing photos in the mix.

 

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What is Truth?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 06, 2016 @ 9:04 pm PDT

userpic=don-martinWhat is truth? How do we tell black from white? Here are a collection of stories where the truth may not be what you read:

 

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Saturday Stew: A Little Bit of Everything

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 30, 2016 @ 8:58 am PDT

Observation StewNote: In case you missed my posts earlier this week, I had one with a collection of articles related to why I decided to support Hillary Clinton; a collection of articles related to food and diet; and a summary of the shows that I’m planning to see at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival. But now it is Saturday, and I’m staring at the list of links I’ve accumulated over the week… and realizing there’s not a coherent theme buried in there.  You know what that means — it is time to make News Chum Stew!

 

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For Your Seder Discussion: Kosher L’Pesach News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 23, 2016 @ 9:44 am PDT

Observation StewFirst and foremost: to those who observe: May you have a happy Pesach (Passover). May your seder move you in ways that matzah never will. Here’s some accumulated news chum for the week for your Pesach discussions. I promise you they’ve only been thickened with potato starch:

  • Seders for Christians. If you are like me, you probably we brought up on the belief that Jesus’ Last Supper was a Passover seder. After all, it was a meal with a large group, and Passover occurs around the time of Easter, right? But then again, I’m Jewish. What do I know? But we all should have been suspicious of the “Take this bread” comment.  But as a result of this misbelief, Christian groups have been holding their own seders to remember the Last Supper, and Jews have often invited Christian friends to their seders. The Coffee Shop Rabbi has a nice informative piece that sets the record straight: To Christian Friends Coming to Seder. Well worth reading.
  • Expect to See This on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”: Do you ever read an article online and go: “We’ll see this on Wait Wait?” Here’s an article destined for the show; I could easily see this in the “Bluff the Listener Game”. It is a story about the next advance in the Internet of Things. Here’s the quote describing the item from Slashdot: “Do you worry that your significant other is having mid-day romps in your bedroom while you’re stuck at work banging out TPS reports? There’s an app for that, and a smart mattress with built-in sensors to detect when between-the-sheet activities are taking place, with or without your participation. It’s part of what a mattress company in Spain is calling its “lover detection system.” You can’t make this stuff up. Or maybe you can. You might seriously question whether or not the so-called Smarttress from Durmet is a real thing or an attempt at a viral marketing stunt. By all accounts, it certainly looks real. There are two dozen ultrasonic sensors embedded in the springs of the mattress. These tell-all sensors detect the speed and intensity of motion, how long the mattress has been active, and the history of encounters. That data is used to create a 3D map in real time, which you can view on your mobile device with an app for either iOS or Android devices.
  • Expect to See This on “Planet Money”: Then again, there are those articles that you know will show up on Planet Money from NPR, especially after they have already done a podcast on the subject. Hot on the heels of that podcast, which was about how Argentina racked up great debt, and then refused to pay it leaving bondholders in the lurch. Most eventually settled for pennies on the dollar (or whatever the Argentinian equivalent is). Today brings news that, in order to get the black mark of bond default off their record, Argentina is paying off the remaining bondholders in full. So, two questions: (1) If you were a bondholder who settled for bubkis, how would you feel? (2) Given this history, would you lend this money country, or invest in a pension fund that does?
  • Diversity and Hollywood. In the recent past, I’ve highlighted some very interesting podcasts that have increase my understanding of diversity, including some excellent episodes of both Startup and of Reply All. Here’s another interesting question on diversity: Why does Hollywood keep casting whites in Asian roles? Performance art (theatre, movies, TV) clearly has a diversity problem: both on-stage/before-the-camera and in the unseen creative and production roles. If this country is truly a melting pot, then our creative results should reflect that. But here’s a question as a result: As a result of this, one culture’s expression may become popular with all. How does one balance broad acceptance with cultural approbation? For example, I saw a friend posting about a Color Vibe run. I saw it, and instantly thought of the Holi Hindu color festival. Think about the first item in this chum, about Christians picking up the Seder custom. Cultural approbation? It even occurs at the Seder: look how the idea of the Orange on the Seder Plate was adopted and changed by the male majority.
  • Cybersecurity Chum. Here are a few cybersecurity items to scare you:
  • Development Chum. Two development related articles: Boyle Heights — a community in Los Angeles that was home to the first synagogue and has a vibrant hispanic life — is battling the attempts to gentrify the community and change its nature. If it happened to DTLA (excuse me, Downtown Los Angeles), it can happen to you. Up in the Bay Area, there has been more success: although the area around the original Mel’s Drive In is being converted to housing, Mel’s will remain.
  • Behind the Scenes. Two interesting articles that take us behind the scenes. The first looks at the dying life of the film projectionist in the UK. The second takes us behind the scenes of Medieval Times, the faux knights-and-damsels pageant. Both are extremely interesting reads.
  • Drugs and Brains. Our last article is something I’ve reported on before: how common allergy drugs can create problems for the brain. This is of particular concern: I”m a regular user of benedryl, and have other drugs that affect the head but help the migraines.

 

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Link Chum Stew: What’s In The Pot This Week, Johnny?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Apr 17, 2016 @ 3:05 pm PDT

Observation StewThis afternoon, I’ve been spending some time cleaning up. What’s this? A list of links? Let’s write about them before they go stale and rotten (like the plums on the dining room table):

  • Dancing Around Politics. If you’ve been around LA at all of late, you’ve probably been handed a flyer for the Shen Yun dance troupe, who have been performing at halls across the city. You’ve probably never heard of them. The LA Times had an interesting article on who they really are and who is backing them: they are a touring dance troupe founded in New York by practitioners of Falun Gong, the spiritual practice banned by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999. The party calls it a cult; Falun Gong says the Chinese government is trying to eradicate thousands of years of culture and tradition and that its repression of Shen Yun shows an intolerance of freedom of expression and religion. Indisputably, the dance company — marking its 10th anniversary — has become a cultural phenomenon. That fits with what my wife called the show: religious indoctrination.  As the article noted: “Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that the bright costumes and spinning dancers are meant to convey a message. “The Falun Gong has a very well organized, managed and elaborate program of public relations, and Shen Yun is part of that,” said James Tong, a UCLA professor, expert in Chinese politics and author of a book about the Communist Party and Falun Gong. When audiences see Shen Yun, “people want to know more about the Falun Gong.””
  • Digital Last Wills. Here’s a good reminder article from LastPass about Digital Wills. As they note in the article: “When preparing a will, many of us focus on our monetary and physical assets. But what about social media accounts? Or email addresses? Or the myriad of online accounts we use to manage our lives, every day? Making a “digital will” that includes passwords and other important digital details will go a long way in helping those who need to settle your affairs, or in helping you if you need to settle the affairs of others.” It is an important concern: I know I do my banking via Quicken… would my wife be able to easy pick that up. To inform all those whom I’m friends with online of what is happening with me? To pass off my highway pages somewhere? To handle other online financial accounts?
  • Upgrading Your Smartphone the Smart Way. Here’s an interesting article on how cell phone companies get you yet again: the upgrade fees if you buy a phone through them. With some, it is cheaper to buy your phone elsewhere, and then just bring it in and have it activated. Useful information to know.
  • Fighting Blisters. One of the scourges of walking as exercise are blisters. They are the reason I’ve switched to Injinji Toe Socks and Vibram Five Fingers. Too bad I didn’t know about this: there is evidently an easy way to combat blisters: use of surgical paper tape. I’ll have to give it a try one day, especially when the plantars fasciitis is acting up and I need shoes with padding and arch support.
  • Women in Cybersecurity. As you know, I’m part of ACSA, the sponsoring group behind SWSIS — the schoarship for women studying information security. Here’s a profile about one of our first recipients. I met Jill when she came out to ACSAC; I wish I had known this about her.
  • High Fidelity. Yesterday was Record Store day, and alas I missed it. But then again, I have enough records for this month. The iPod is at just under 38,000 songs. But here’s a good guide, for Record Store Day, about getting the right equipment to play your records. As for me, I have two turntables (Technics and Sansui), a good JVC amplifier with a phono curve, which feeds into my soundcard and the Roxio tools for recording to MP3 or WAV.
  • Free, as in Free Gigs. How would you like 2GB of free days for a month or two? Evidently, Verizon has a promotion where if you use Android Pay at three retailers, they’ll give you and extra 2GB for two months. The giveaway is part of a promotion that encourages people to start using Android Pay, which is essentially the Android version of mobile payments. Any Verizon customer with a postpaid plan who has an Android Pay-compatible phone will get 1GB of free data the next time they use Google’s mobile payment platform. Use it another two times, for a total of three separate purchases, and Verizon will throw in another gigabyte of free data.Once you’ve got the data freebie, Verizon says you’ll be able to use it across two billing cycles. The offer ends on June 14.
  • Mulholland Drive. Lastly, here’s a fascinating history article on Mulholland Drive: its origins and first plans. If you happen to be inspired to drive all of Mulholland — including the dirt portion across the top of the Santa Monicas, keep your eye out for a watch. I lost it there sometime in high school :-).

 

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Jewish Reponsibilities to the Community

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 16, 2016 @ 8:17 am PDT

userpic=tallitYesterday, there was a very interesting article in the LA Times concerning the need for a park in Koreatown. Quoting from the beginning of that article:

The people of Koreatown were on the brink of getting something urban planners and psychologists said Los Angeles’ most densely packed neighborhood desperately needed: A public outdoor space for respite in a booming urban corridor increasingly smothered in concrete and glass.

Now, five years later, a 346-unit luxury apartment building dubbed the Pearl on Wilshire is taking root where Koreatown Central Park was slated to go. It will have a dog wash, yoga room, putting green and spa, but not so much as a park bench for public use.

And as heavy equipment roars and beeps at the once-vacant lot at Wilshire and Hobart boulevards, people familiar with the abandoned project are left to wonder: Who’s to blame for letting a park die in this neighborhood where residents have about one-hundredth of the park space as the average Angeleno citywide?

Most people read this and moved on. Me? My eyes stopped on the phrase “the once-vacant lot at Wilshire and Hobart boulevards”. I grew up at Wilshire Blvd Temple (WBT). WBT is located on Wilshire Blvd, between Hobart and Harvard. Next to it to the east is a major catholic church. Wilshire, in fact, now owns all the land betwen Hobart and Harvard, between Wilshire and Sixth, and operates an outreach and support center for the community on the Sixth Street end.

Here’s my question: What is the Jewish obligation in this issue? Should WBT (and its neighbor, St. Basil’s) be speaking up for the park. Should they have been lobbying for the park. Going back to when I attended Wilshire in the 1970s and 1980s, that land was vacant. Should Wilshire have tried to purchase it for the community? How does one balance the responsibility to your community of faith with the responsibility to the community at large?

I’m not sure I know the answer, and I’m not sure they could have made a difference. But I thought the question was an interesting one.

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The Sharks Are In Vegas, Baby

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 16, 2016 @ 8:04 am PDT

userpic=las-vegasThe sharks are in Vegas, and they’re looking for chum. News chum, that is. Let’s give them some:

  • Riviera Sign Down. One fascinating this article had to do with the Riveria sign — specifically, the one that was on the big glass wraparound at the southern end of the resort on the strip. The sign was taken down this week to go to a collector in Reno, who plans to restore and make the sign operational. But that wasn’t what I found fascinating. Rather, there was a very interesting comment in the VitalVegas blog about the sign: “Don’t know if anyone noticed, but the Riviera sign here actually was superimposed over the existing outline of the previous Splash sign that was on the side of this building when the show was shut down.” The image to the right should show this:rivsign
  • Doubling Down, Literally. Speaking of the Riviera, the funding has been approved to take the old dame down. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved paying $42 million to the contractor that will bring the Riviera buildings down in June and August. Officials say separate implosions are necessary because of the large size the Riviera, which closed last May after the authority purchased it to expand its convention space. Before the implosions of the Riviera’s Monte Carlo and Monaco hotel towers, crews are expected to tear down other buildings, such as parking garages and the property’s convention center, although it’s not clear when that will happen. Once all of the Riviera buildings have come down and the site is cleaned up, the authority plans for the land to become outdoor exhibit space. That needs to be done by early 2017 so a major trade show can use the land. Outdoor exhibit space. What a waste, and what bad news for the north end of the strip.
  • Lagoon on the Strip. Just a bit south of the Riviera, news comes out regarding the old Desert Inn property, now the Wynn and the Encore. This property had a large golf course just off strip — one of its prides. That’s partially going away. Steve Wynn has proposed expanding on to the golf course,with a 1,000-room expansion centered around a 38-acre lagoon that would host water skiing, paddle boarding and parasailing by day and fireworks displays at night. The project, tentatively called Wynn Paradise Park, would cost about $1.5 billion to build and open in 2020 if work begins later this year as planned. Now, what is interesting about this proposal is that it will save water over the golf course. You read that right: The proposed 38-acre lagoon project would actually use less water than the 18-hole golf course that currently sits east of the Strip resort. Uri Man, CEO of Crystal Lagoons US Corp. of Coral Gables, Florida, said that a 7- to 10-acre lagoon would use 30 times less water than a typical golf course and 50 percent less water than a park of the same size. Further, this water isn’t coming from Lake Mead. For Wynn Paradise Park, the company owns the water rights under the golf course, grandfathered in from the Desert Inn Golf Course that once stood on the property, and would use water from wells on the property.
  • A Rebirth to the West. I’ll believe this one when I see it: Yet another developer is promising to give the Moulin Rouge a rebirth. For those unfamiliar, the MR was a casino on the west side of Vegas that was best known for driving the other casinos in Vegas to integrate. Opened on May 24, 1955, the Moulin Rouge was the first racially integrated hotel-casino in Las Vegas. It drew customers but, apparently, not enough money to satisfy its creditors. Closed after an October 1955 bankruptcy, the casino opened sporadically under different owners over the next few years, and was best known for being the site where the March 1960 agreement to desegregate the city’s casinos was announced. It operated in a diminished capacity for years, ultimately becoming a short-term residential motel. A series of fires destroyed anything salvageable of the original structure, leading to a more or less empty space—and a blank slate. There have been numerous attempts to revive it over the 50 years of decline. Now, a new investor group wants to resurrect the casino and hotel, provide a resource center and museum to both help and preserve the history of the surrounding Westside neighborhood. In addition, a planned nonprofit, Moulin Rouge Cares, will reach out to the Westside. Groundbreaking is set for May 24, but experience says that the Fountainbleu will be completed before we see a new Moulin Rouge.

 

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