As I continue to clear out the collected links from the week, here are a few stories where I have a bit more to say on the articles:
- Income and Public Schools. Scott Turner called my attention to this article, which notes that, for the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families. This is very troubling to me. Back when I went to public school (in the 1960s and 1970s), pretty much everyone sent their children to LA Unified — unless you were very very rich. Hollywood stars sent their kids to LAUSD (especially in the Palisades). Middle-class white folks in the valley sent their kids. Schools were a place where you could meet people from all groups, and learn that we were all — just people. You learned that everyone could be smart, and you made friends across the lines. In the 1980s as busing started, there “white flight” from the schools, and I believe that the findings in this article are a direct descendant of that. One of the best ways of breaking the privilege lines is bringing people together. You want to know where kids learn the notion of privilege — it is when the middle and high income are separated in their private schools (which are much more homogenized, just like milk from the store and white bread from the store). This is where income inequality takes us, and it is a bad thing.
- Blog Comments. Hadass Evitar pointed me to this: An article on why blog comments are being pulled. Now I haven’t pulled comments from my blogs, but I do understand the dearth of comments and the spam. Over on the WordPress side, it seems the only comments I get these days are spam, which are deleted. In fact, I even did a whole post directed at the spammers. But I do want comments, and I miss the old days on LiveJournal where people would comment and we’d have discussions. Comments provided me a way to judge whether people were reading my blog; I really don’t want to resort to Google Analytics. Of course, here’s where I ask you to comment: what do you think? Have you stopped commenting on blogs? Why? Is it because of the trolls, the lack of community, or do new mechanisms make it much much harder. Should blogs get rid of comments, and just share the article on Facebook where the comments do occur?
- Antisemitism in Europe. I forget who led me to the just-posted piece on Mrs. Wolowitz, but I started exploring the source, and found this recent piece by Dr. Deborah Lipstadt (one of my instructors when I was at UCLA, but that’s another story, nevermind, anyway) on Hypocracy after the Paris Attacks. The article essentially points out that the outrage is that journalists were attacked; the fact that they were Jews was secondary, and often other antisemitic attacks in France go on with rarely the outrage. In fact, antisemitic attacks go on regularly across Europe, and there is little outrage. Just think about this quote from her article: «European Jews have been under attack for more than a decade. But there were no marches after Halimi’s death, the Brussels murders, and numerous other incidents. There were some protests after Toulouse, most likely due to the general horror at a killer deliberately targeting children, but nothing on the scale of this past week. Many French Jews felt that those protests were quite muted, given the horror of the event. More troubling, nowhere have I heard an acknowledgement that Europeans have failed to take seriously these attacks on Jews. Instead, people have explained away the attacks by suggesting they’re a response to Israel’s actions in the Middle East. That argument telegraphs the message that, while killing Jews was wrong, it was understandable.» Even in the US, attitudes like this persist. We get up in arms about the privilege issues regarding blacks and other minorities, yet turn a blind eye as the Christian majority slowly attacks those who are non-Christian. We need to speak up — worldwide — that belief is like sexual orientation — a personal thing that people have the right to just be. People observing a religion should not be attacking others because of their religions, and people should be free to follow their faith. We must speak up when the right to do so is attacked, especially in countries that claim to have religious freedom.
As I was preparing to clean the link list, I discovered that I have far too many for a single post. Here’s the first chunk, grouped together because they are all about specific people, or at least use specific people as their starting points.
- Ayn Rand. We all know Ayn Rand — patron saint of libertarians, former resident of Northridge. But can you imagine what it was like to have her as a relative. Here’s a story about Ayn Rand’s niece, and what happened she asked to borrow $25 from Ayn for a dress. She offers to do so, with some very strict repayment conditions and loads of guilt. An interesting read.
- Sarah Brightman. You probably remember Sarah — ex wife of Andrew Lloyd Weber, star of Phantom of the Opera. Guess what’s she’s doing in October? You probably didn’t guess: Going to the Space Station for 10 days. The internationally acclaimed singer and actress paid approximately $52 million for the round-trip ride aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule.The 54-year-old Brightman will be the first professional singer to ever visit the orbital outpost.
- Zoey Tur. Those who have lived in Los Angeles a long time probably remember the name Bob Tur. He was a TV news helocopter pilot who covered major stories. He was also transgender, and finally came to the realization a few years ago. He just got back from sex reassignment surgery in Thailand. This is his story, and it makes for a fascinating read. Stories like this really help those of us not dealing with this to understand those going through it better, and I think it might provide some encouragement to others. Well written piece.
- Gene Spafford. Those of us on the Internet a long time know Gene from all his work on Usenet; some of us know Gene better because we work with him in the security community. Gene recently had some interesting medical issues. I found this particularly interesting as it concerns issues for folks over 50 (and I turn 55, if you can believe it, next week). If you’ve ever wondered why your doctor asks you about issues with your vision closing down light a curtain, this explains it.
- Mrs. Wolowitz. Carol Ann Susi passed away recently. She played the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz on Big Bang Theory, and her death was — in many ways — the death of a stereotype. The Jewish Mother is essentially gone from our TV screens. I’m not talking about mothers who are Jewish (although there are fewer Jewish characters on TV; they are all doing podcasts). Rather, I’m talking about the stereotypical Jewish Mother — the meddling, screaming, overprotective, “eat eat eat” image that goes back to Molly Goldberg and continued through numerous sitcoms. What’s replaced her? According to the article, the Tiger Mom, and gives as an example the mom character in the new Fresh Off The Boat.
Later today… more links!
It’s a rainy Saturday, and…. wait…. it’s Saturday. No need to be bored anymore! I can clean out my collection of links and let you know about some interesting things. That should kill, of, half an hour or so….
- Bess Meyerson. Earlier this week, it was reported that Bess Meyerson passed away. Bess Meyerson, for those unaware, was the first (and only) Jewish Miss America. Here’s an interesting article discussing the significance of that fact; in particular, how she refused to change to meet the demands of the Miss America organization.
- New Antibiotics. A growing concern in the medical world is antibiotic resistance. This week brought some good news: There may be a new antibiotic on the horizon. Using soil from a grassy field in Maine and a miniaturized diffusion chamber, scientists have cultivated a microbe that could help tame the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. When tricked into growing in a lab, the microbe makes a compound that kills strains of tuberculosis, MRSA and other deadly pathogens that are immune to even the most powerful drugs. Tests in mice showed that the newfound molecule is exquisitely active against some very hard-to-deal-with bugs. Specifically, a previously uncultured bacterium, Eleftheria terrae, is able to make teixobactin, a new antibiotic for which there is no detectable resistance. Experts said the discovery could lead to a new class of antibiotics for the first time in decades.
- “Into the Woods” and AIDS. Here’s a take on “Into the Woods” I’ve never seen before: “Into the Woods” as an AIDS parable. I’m not 100% sure I buy it.
- Exotic Animal Meat. Here’s an article about a Southern California man who raises and sells exotic animal meat. Nothing illegal or endangered; it’s all legal. But if you want some zebra, lion, alligator, alpaca, antelope, armadillo, bear, beaver, bison, bobcat, coyote, camel, suck, emu, elk, reindeer, rattlesnake, or raccoon meat, he’s your man.
- Blacks and Jews. Blacks and Jews have long worked together for civil rights. However, recent movies have airbrushed out the Jewish contributions. Here’s an article on how that distortion affects the new movie “Selma”.
- Depression and Inflammation. Love and Marriage. They go together, according to Sinatra. Something else that goes together is inflammation (especially in those dealing with RA). Here’s an interesting article that explores the connection between the two. What’s most interesting is the conclusion: treat the inflammation to help the depression.
- Web Site Popularity. If I mentioned Lycos or Alta-Vista, would you know what I’m talking about. Possibly not. Here’s an article that looks at the changes in the most popular websites year by year since 1996.
There. That should keep you busy.
While eating my lunch today, I was looking at my collecting links when a theme popped out at me (with at least 3 items): Replacement. All of these items have to do with some entity passing away, and pondering the effect of its replacement. Let’s jump in….
- Streit’s Matzah. When I was growing up and Pesach came around, we would buy these 5 lb bundles of matzah, usually Manaschevitz or Streits. Today, it is mostly Israeli matzah (at least in the markets I frequent). Our global economy has made it cheaper to make Matzah elsewhere and ship, I suppose. This week’s news brought the issue upfront, when the Forward reported on the closing of the last major matzah factory on the Lower East Side. Streit’s was faced with increased foreign competition, and the increased value of real estate in NYC. They’ve sold the land to a developer, and hope to reopen somewhere else. The Forward also has an analysis of why this closure is so significant: it reflects yet another nail in the coffin of the lower east side’s Jewish nature. Just as in Los Angeles, NYC is facing the movement of the Jews out of traditionally Jewish areas.
- Los Angeles Times. It is not only New York that is seeing iconic structures facing redevelopment. Tribune Media just announced they will be redeveloping the historic Los Angeles Times building in downtown LA. They don’t give many details, other than “The Times Mirror Square master plan promises to deliver a compelling urban project that includes the restoration of important buildings and the construction of complementary new buildings around a new Metro rail station directly connected to four of the region’s major rail lines”. This seems to imply they will keep the historic buildings, but the form is unclear. One wonders if the Herald Examiner will outlive the LA Times, at least in terms of buildings. LA Observed has some interesting observations on the redevelopment.
- Supermarket Transformations. A little article in the Simi Valley Acorn caught my eye: Supermarket Chain to acquire Vons, Albertsons. Investigating the article further, I discovered that Albertsons (which, if you follow these things, was the parent to Lucky (in Southern California)) and Safeway (parent to Vons) are merging. As part of the conditions of merger, they were required to divest a large number of stores; 146 of which are going to the Pacific Northwest chain Haggen. As a result, stores will be changing all over, with quite a few in Ventura County and Santa Clarita. Here’s a complete list of Vons/Safeway and Albertsons stores that are changing. Haggen will be a culture shock for Vons/Albertsons shoppers. Vons, Safeway, and Albertsons are traditional supermarkets. Here are some descriptions of Haggens that I found: Haggen stores are similar to Whole Foods when it comes to products and are “small enough to be very nimble and responsive to each store’s customers”. Offering local products is at the heart of the company. The chain has been committed to local sourcing, investing in the communities we serve, and providing genuine service and homemade quality. Contrast this with the beheamoth that is Safeway, and you can see the culture shock. Regulatory approvals are pending, but things could change in the next 6 months. The only valley store that is changing looks to be the Vons in Woodland Hills and Albertsons in Tujunga and Burbank.
- Dead Malls. Some things just die and linger on. A great example are dead malls. Retailing is changing, and the large indoor shopping space anchored by department stores is fading away, primarily because department stores are fading away. There are loads of these beached whales out there, and the NY Times did an article looking at the economics of dead malls. If you have one near you, given current trends, it will either become a big box destination, mixed use (residential/shops), an office building, or a parking lot.
It’s the first Saturday of 2015, and you know what that means: It’s time for the first news chum of 2015. Here are some articles that I found of interest over the last week:
- Alright. Draw. Police departments across the US have been in the news of late because of how they treat minorities and other citizens. Here’s an interesting article along that vein: Recently, a mentee of Ralph Backshi (i.e., a cartoonist) found herself arrested and under detection in the Los Angeles County jail system. So she did what any good cartoonist would do: she drew about the situation whenever she could. It makes a fascinating commentary on how we treat those arrested — even before they go to trial.
- A Generational Mark. As the year ended, some generational figures passed away. For some, the marker was Christine Cavanaugh, the voice of Chuckie on Rugrats. My daughter grew up on Rugrats, so this is a generational mark. For others, it was Donna Douglas, the actor who played Ellie Mae on The Beverly Hillbillies. For me, Douglas’ passing raises a different question: Are there other actresses today whose claim to fame was a nine-season sitcom from 30 years ago who would be as fondly remembered?
- Something In The Music. A few musical items of note. The first is something that boggles the mind: Mac Sabbath – A Black Sabbath cover band that performs dressed as characters from McDonaldland. Yes, you read that right: Ronald McDonald, the Hamburgler, Grimace playing hard rock. The next is the death of Little Jimmy Dickens, the oldest member of the Grand Old Opry. What caught my eye here is the following line in the obit: “He is credited with introducing rhinestone suits to country music around 1950, taking a suggestion from Los Angeles clothing designer Nudie.” Wow. Lastly, we have the death of the piano store. In the days before recorded music, every house — if they wanted music — had a piano. Recorded music came in, and pianos became (a) more expensive, and (b) replaceable with cheap keyboards. The result: no one buys new pianos anymore.
- Killing Autoplay Videos. In the most useful tip of the week category: How to Stop Autoplay Videos. This has made my news browsing so much faster and easier.
- Reform Judaism and Russian Jews. Here’s an interesting Judaism related articles: it appears that one group that is rapidly flocking to Reform Judaism are Russian Jews. I remember when German Jews came into Reform and changed the religion in various ways; it will be interesting to see the changes this brings.
- Intellectual Property Disputes. It appears an intellectual property dispute may hit Yosemite. Specifically, Delaware North, the company that operates all the lodging and concessions in Yosemite, is stating that it will take all the trademarked placenames such as Ahwanee and Curry Villiage with them if they don’t win the contract, unless the US Government ponies up $51 million dollars. Observers think this is a form of poison pill threat as the National Park Service is putting the contracts out to bid. Veiled threat, or are we going to see major changes in names at Yosemite. Speaking of history, here’s an article on the Arroyo Seco Parkway at 70.
It’s the last Saturday of the year, and thus this is the last serving of News Chum Stew for 2014. Let’s hope it is somewhat tasty:
- The Podcast Renaissance. I’ve written before about the rebirth of podcasts, exemplified by Serial. Here’s another article in the same vein. I like this article because it gives some insight as to why podcasts are seeing a rebirth, especially when you don’t see “pods” anymore. The answer is that the podcast is basically the radio version of VOD — you don’t have to listen to the talk radio stations with all their commercials — you can listen to well-produced material, streamed to your car either directly or from your phone (no downloading required), when you want. I think this should be a wake-up call to the previous generation podcasts, such as Born Ready (a Bay-Area theatre podcast) — you need to up your game and produce something that sounds better; two guys sitting around a microphone chatting on a subject doesn’t fly these days.
- How Chicken Changed The World. Little things have big impacts. We often realize this, but then don’t think about the little things. Consider the humble chicken. According to one man, Chicken has powered human civilization. It has not only provided a cheap (cheep) and easy protein source, but had medicinal uses, and helped build communities.
- The Death of Voice Mail. If you’re like me, you hate voice mail. You would rather send an email or a text than sit and listen to backed up voice mail. Slashdot has some interesting commentary on an article about Coca-Cola disconnecting the voicemail at its headquarters. It views this as yet another salvo in the war against voicemail, which is rapidly being won.
- Pronounciation Errors that Shaped English. If you like history or language, you’ll enjoy this link (which I think came from Andrew Ducker): 8 ways that pronounciation errors shaped the English language.
- Christmas Lights for Celiac Research. Slashdot recently reported that this year is the last year of Alex’s Internet Controlled Christmas Lights for Celiac Research. Now, to me, the interesting fact here is not the Internet control — in this era of computer-connected everything, Christmas lights aren’t that far fetched — but that this was for Celiac research and I never heard of it.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I like to do things in threes. So this is my third news chum post of the day; this one collecting all those articles from the week that didn’t theme into groups of three or more:
- A Shitty Product. There is truth in advertising after all. On Black Friday, the folks behind Cards Against Humanity advertised bullshit for sale, and over 30,000 people bought it thinking it might be additional cards. Nope, 30,000 people really bought a box of shit. What’s even funnier is that it is selling for inflated prices on eBay. If that’s not a commentary on society, I’m not sure what is.
- And Speaking of Shit, Here’s Annie. By now, hopefully you’re read the reviews and are staying away from that controversial movie that has killed a major character. I’m not talking about “The Interview“, but rather the remake of “Annie”. Almost every review I’ve read demonstrates why this remake and update is bad. Here’s one approach I liked: this article compares the soundtrack of the movie with the original cast album. Reminds me of that Fame remake of a few years ago, which also had a universally hated soundtrack. Some movies do not need to be remade.
- Securing Your Home Router. During ACSAC, I posted an article related to security that gave good advice on what to do if you lost your 2nd-factor authentication device. Here’s another useful article: Seven Steps to Securing Your Home Router.
- Things to Look At. Sometimes my links are interesting articles. Other times, they are reminders of things I want to look at. Here are two in that camp. The first is an interesting Chinese knockoff of the Parker 51 fountain pen. Like the ’51, this does not take cartridges. At just over $5, it is cheap enough to be worth trying, especially with all the bottle ink I have. The second article relates to UC Berkeley — they are changing the SHIP requirements yet again, and this time they should be easier to fit with most private insurance policies. This is a good thing — last year’s SHIP waiver was a royal pain. The new requirements are supposedly streamlined, less restrictive, and will be consistent across the UC system.
- The Changing Face of Judaism. Here’s an interesting opinion piece about how Chabad is changing the face of American Judaism. I remember Chabad in the 1970s, where they were presenting a very positive face of Orthodoxy. Far from the original “cult of Schneerson”, the article notes how Chabad is changing the equation: One – the work Chabad does on campuses has an impact on the way Jewish youngsters think about the movement for the rest of their Jewish lives. Two – the younger generation of post denominational tendencies doesn’t have the instinctive organizational objection to Chabad (ultra-Orthodox, black hat, etc.), and hence is much more willing to participate in Chabad activities without thinking too much about ideological differences. An interesting thought piece.
- Passings of Note. A few passings of note. The first is Rabbi Harold Schulweiss of Valley Beth Shalom, one of those seminal rabbis of Southern California who left a world-wide impact. The second is the Lanterman Center in Pomona, a place that did remarkable work with the developmentally disabled, providing with a home and stability. The article indicates it has outsurvived its purpose. I hope that is true.
- Not Again. I snarfed this article intending to write a soapbox piece, but it never quite came together: Jeb Bush to explore a presidential run. One of the reasons I voted for Obama was that I wanted to break the “Clinton/Bush” cycle. We had gone from Bush to Clinton to Bush, and I felt that Clinton would prove to continue the cycle of divisiveness. Alas, President Obama didn’t solve the problem — much of the country wasn’t mature enough to accept a black president. Thus, this news about Jeb Bush disturbs me greatly — the country does not need another Bush/Clinton battle. We need a candidate that can calm things down and perhaps get the parties working together — and I don’t see such a candidate on either side. (and yes, alas, that does mean that we probably need at least 4 years under a white male — much of this country hasn’t reached the maturity to accept a woman in charge, much as we progressives may believe it)
- That Bites. Here’s a question you likely haven’t thought about: Why is dental insurance so shitty when compared to medical insurance? Why do we treat our teeth different than other parts of our body? Why isn’t dentistry just another medical specialty? This article explores the question, and explains why dentistry is a 2nd class citizen.
As I keep looking at the accumulated News Chum articles for today, I keep discovering groupa-three themes. So here are three articles related to how familiar things came to be:
- The Accuracy of Google Maps. We’ve all grown to depend on the accuracy of Google maps. I know that, for me, they’ve supplanted that trusted old Thomas Brothers mapbook, currently published by the venerable map maker, Rand McNalley. But why are Google Maps so accurate. Here’s an article the looks at the operation beneath Google maps. The article explores how the Google Maps team assembles their maps and refines them with a combination of algorithms and meticulous manual labor—an effort they call Ground Truth. The project launched in 2008, but it was mostly kept under wraps until just a couple years ago. It continues to grow, now covering 51 countries, and algorithms are playing a bigger role in extracting information from satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery.
- The Cubicle. One of my favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible, which looks at design aspects of things we never think about. For example, a recent episode looked at the design of those inflatable dancing men you see at oil change shops. Here’s an article I found that would be right up 99%’s alley: it looks at the history of the cubicle. Although we now see the cubicle as the representation of faceless office work, it was actually designed to give the worker freedom: it was supposed to be a flexible space that could adapt, and replace the endless desks of the bullpen. The article also looks at the origins of a number of other aspects of the office: the skyscraper, the filing cabinet, the open office, and the standing desk.
- The Shitpic. Those of us who are, ahem, old, remember the viral article of generation: that photocopied cartoon that had grown fuzzy but kept being circulated. Viral images were always copies of copies, just as urban legends came from friends of friends. But digital copies were supposed to be perfect, an exact duplicate of the original. That’s changed. The degrading viral picture has returned — the shitpic — as people spread images by taking screenshots of low resolution items instead of copying from the source. Here’s the detailed story of the rise of the shitpic.