It’s Saturday and it’s late, but hey — I’ve been at a Bat Mitzvah and fighting a migraine, so give me some slack. So here’s some news chum stew that’s been simmering on the stove for a while:
This has been another busy week, what with trying to get the truth out about the kerfluffle at the REP in Santa Clarita (#IStandWithTheREP), my daughter Erin being in town getting ready to go off to a summer Yiddish program back east, installing and setting up a new password manager, and loads of stuff at work. Still, I grabbed a few articles of interest:
Yesterday morning, while putting on my shoes, my lower back slipped out of whack again. This, of course, has put a kink into day. So while I work up the gumption to move, here are some news articles from the week. All of these deal with different ways of seeing things.
- What If I Sailed West? Quite a few years ago, I posted a link to a site that asked the question: Where would you get if you dug a hole straight through the middle of the earth? The answer, for most places, is “in the middle of the water” somewhere (most of the US ends up in the Indian ocean). Here’s a map that answers a different question: Suppose you were at the beach and swum in a straight line across the ocean — where would you end up? Unlike digging, the answer for most place is someone interesting (only rarely do you end up on the same continent you left). Further, there are few spaces where it is a complete circle of water.
- And They’re Watching “I Love Lucy”. You’ve heard, of course, that our TV broadcasts have been going out into space? But how far? Here’s a map that shows what star systems are watching what. Aldebaran is about to watch the first Emmy awards, while Acrturus is up to “The Facts of Life” and Formalhaut is watching “The Arsenio Hall Show” (the first one, not the one just cancelled). But of course, they are always watching “I Love Lucy” somewhere.
- Hiding in Plain Sight. Army Times is reporting that the Army has chosen a new camouflage pattern. This replaces the unpopular Universal Camouflage Pattern; supposedly, the service has elected Scorpion W2 as its next Army combat uniform camo, a pattern born out of Army Natick labs. According to Army Times, the new pattern will serve as the service’s primary camo pattern, but Army uniform leaders have said they envision a “family” of patterns with a dark jungle-woodland variant and a lighter pattern for desert environs. The main camouflage pattern would be worn in garrison, and the others would go to deploying troops. Why a new pattern? The problem is that the services have seen an explosion in the number of camo patterns, and Congress is reining them in.
- Empty Freeways. This week the new HOV lane on the 405 has been open, and the change has been dramatic — what had been an 85 minute ride home on good days has been, on average, 15-20 minutes shorter. The freeway has been free-flowing at Wilshire, which is something I’ve never seen. Here are some pictures from even earlier times — when freeways were first opened and were empty. So where did the traffic go? Most likely to LAX — as they are doing a major construction project there over the summer. Want the skinny? Here’s the LAWA page with updates.
- Something for Nothing. Two hacks in the news: one bad, one good. For those of us with WordPress sites — either self-hosted (as this blog is) or on wordpress.com (where tasnorthridge-motas.org is): it appears WordPress leaves cookies that make it easier to hijack an account. Hopefully, a patch will fix this soon. For those using Windows XP: it appears you can tell the registry to lie that you are XP Embedded… and still get updates. Of course, you do this at your own risk.
It’s Sunday again, and … what’s this? No stew on Saturday? We must remedy this, with this hastily thrown together pot of material collected during what was, again, a very busy week and an even busier weekend:
- It’s Too Big. Here’s a call from a congressional candidate in Los Angeles to break up LA Unified. What’s interesting here is how he wants to do it: His bill would make school districts with more than 100,000 students ineligible for federal aid. This would affect almost every major city school district, and result in lots of wasted money as many of the supporting school services — payroll, human resources, legal, and such… as well as school boards — get duplicated. The larger question, perhaps, is how much of LA Unified’s problem is LA Unified. After all, there are schools within the district that are excellent (many of them charters, such as Granada Hills or Pacific Palisades). There are lower performing schools, but these tend to be in lower performing neighborhoods. Often, the district’s hands are tied by state and federal requirements, as well as their own procedures. Breaking up the district doesn’t solve those problems. Decentralization (where appropriate) and local empowerment (when appropriate) does.
- It’s Everywhere. One little snippet in the latest from Donald Sterling was not emphasized in the news — where he repeated Jewish stereotypes. You might have thought or hoped antisemitism would be dead … but you would be wrong. A new ADL survey shows that pnly 54 percent of people polled globally are aware of the Holocaust — and an alarming 32 percent of them believe the mass genocide of Jews was a myth or has been greatly exaggerated. The survey found that 26 percent — more than one in four — of the 53,100 adults surveyed are “deeply infected” with anti-Semitic attitudes. Nine percent of Americans surveyed harbor at least six of the 11 anti-Semitic views. About 31 percent of respondents believe Jews “are more loyal to Israel” than the U.S.
- It’s Scary. Antisemitism is really scary. The Disney comedy Frozen, edited into a horror movie trailer, is less so. Still, it is a great example of how the Frozen mania is continuing unabated. I think the last Disney film that got this deep into the social context was The Lion King.
- It’s Dying. When they came out, CDs were touted as the perfect music medium. Crystal clear digital reproduction (as opposed to those scratchy vinyl records or tapes that wore out and broke), and they would last forever. Guess what? That was all a lie — CDs are degrading at an alarming rate. I have a large CD collection (and a large LP collection, and a large digital only collection … my iPod just crossed the 34,000 song mark). Of these, only the LPs have a long life — they degrade by scratches and stuff. All the tapes I made of records are long gone, and I rarely pull out the physical CDs anymore. Will they be there as backups, or will only the professionally made ones be readable. This, friends, is why people stick with analog data in the form of vinyl and paper.
- It’s Dead. The death of the Fountainbleu in Las Vegas is closer: the construction crane has been removed. It is now less likely that this 80% finished mega-hotel will ever be completed. More than likely, it will be an expensive scrap recovery project, with loads of material destined for landfills. What a waste. How much dead landfill space in Las Vegas is taken up by the remains of hotels?
- It’s, uhh, I forget. There might be some good news for those of you taking antidepressants. It turns out that certain antidepressants — particularly Celexa — is good a combatting memory loss. This may help combat Altzheimers Disease.
- It’s Back. Lastly, those in the Bay Area can rest assured in the safety of the Bay Bridge. Sure, the bridge might fall down in an earthquake due to newly discovered flaws. But the protective troll is back, protecting drivers from his barely visible perch.
You know you want to take your mother to dinner. But what will you talk about? Here’s a bunch of news chum stew items, accumulated over the last two weeks (I’ve been busy, what can I say) that might just do:
- Size Matters. Here’s a great discussion topic for your mom… or for “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. A recent study has shown that, the larger your penis, the greater the likelihood that your wife will cheat on you. In particular, according to this study, every one inch longer penis increased the likelihood of women being involved in extra-marital partnership by almost one-and-half times. I think I’ll leave the subject at that and go on to the next subject…
- Got Gas? Here’s some more useful information. Remember “Beans Beans They’re Good for the Heart”. Well, it turns out that lots of gas is a sign of a healthy biome in your gut. This reminds me of a joke from Jason Alexander. It seems there was this long married couple whose sex life was in the dumps (see item #1). The wife went to a sex counselor, who suggested they try 69. She came home and explained it to her husband. They got in bed and in the position…. and she ripped a good one. After the air had cleared, they tried it again… and she ripped another one. They were about to try it again when the husband said, “you think I’m going to do this 67 more times, you’re crazy”.
- It’s the Place To Be. Yup, that Farm Living is the life for me. If this makes you think of Green Acres, you’re not along. There are plans for a Broadway stage play adaptation of the hicksville TV show originally starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. The rights to the property were acquired by director Richard L. Bare, who was one of the most prolific helmers on the original series, and by producer Phillip Goldfine through his production company Hollywood Media Bridge.
- Cramming It In. Sony is working on new technology that will cram 3,700 blue-rays into a single cassette tape. Actually, that’s a little misleading — we’re not talking here about a C-60 or a C-90, but a specially designed cartridge. Still, the technology is intriguing: a whopping 148 GB per square inch, meaning a cassette could hold 185 TB of data. Sony uses a vacuum-forming technique called sputter deposition to create a layer of magnetic crystals by shooting argon ions at a polymer film substrate. The crystals, measuring just 7.7 nanometers on average, pack together more densely than any other previous method. The result is that three Blu-Rays’ worth of data can fit on one square inch of Sony’s new wonder-tape.
- A Touching Story. Here’s a very touching story about a late night encounter in a supermarket, told by Mark Evanier.
- Anything But Starbucks. A touching obituary for Herman Hyman, founder of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf chain. This chain, which roasts its beans in Ventura County, started in a small store on San Vicente Blvd in Brentwood in the 1970s. I think, in fact, that it started not far from my first condo.
- Buildings Up, Buildings Down. Two interesting buildings in the news. First, the plans have been announced for the former furniture store space across from the Pasadena Playhouse. Should be an interesting project; it will be interesting to see how it changes the character of that area. In Las Vegas news, approval has been given to finally take down the Harmon. If you aren’t familiar with the Harmon, it is the oval blue-glass coated skyscraper next to the Aria and Vdara, across from Planet Hollywood and the Cosmopolitan. It was built wrong and is unstable, but they can’t implode it because it is too close to other stuff. They have to take it down piece by piece. Now if only they could do something with the Fountainbleau, which is an even bigger eyesore on the N end of the strip (where the Thunderbird once was).
This has been an even busier week than usual — I’ve barely had time to keep up with my RSS feeds and skim the LA Times. So I’ve only got a few items for you this week:
- Not Tonight, Dear, I have a headache. In a scientific survey destined to end up on “Wait Wait”, scientists have shown that headaches impact a woman’s sexual desire much more than they impact the desire of men. Specifically, new research has shown that for female mice, bodily pain puts a serious damper on sexual desire, but pain-reduction can help restore libido squelched by physical discomfort. However, for men, the desire to have sex wasn’t dampened even if you kick them in the nuts. But is this really news?
- It’s your shul on line 1… Here’s an article that every synagogue (and probably church) board member should read: What if your synagogue called and didn’t ask for money? The answer, not surprisingly, is that people are much more receptive. This goes to what a number of URJ leaders are saying these days: focus on building the relationship, and not getting the donations. When the relationship is strong, the donations will show up. Will temple boards listen, however, and pay this more than lip service?
- Connections. Every week the Jewish Journal highlights a holocaust survivor (and I’ll note that this weekend is Yom Hashoah). This week, it was Frank Schiller. I’m not sure if I ever met Frank, but I did go to both camp and temple with Frank’s children, Gary and Vicky. Haven’t seen them in years, but I’d love to get back in touch.
- La Mirada Season. Lastly, the La Mirada Theatre has announced their 2014-2015 season. It consists of “Good People“, “Late Nite Catechism Las Vegas: Sister Rolls the Dice“, “Billy Elliot” (the musical), a musical version of “Pride and Prejudice“, “Mary Poppins” (the musical), two special events (“Dancing with a Twist” and an Amy Grant concert), and the musical “Carrie“. Of these, “Carrie” is unique enough to get me to travel down to La Mirada. Already blocking it off on my calendar.
This has been a busy busy week — even busier than my normal busy weeks. I’ve only had a little time to read the news, and even less time to comment on it. Further, nothing has completed a threefer or better theme. So let’s clear out the stack and make a little stew, shall we?
- It’ll Soon Be Over. According to reports, Metro and Caltrans plan to all-but-finish the 405 HOV lane project through the Sepulveda pass in May. “All-But” means that there will still be landscaping, and I’m guessing just a little retaining wall work to do — but all lanes will be open. I’ll believe it when I see it — the 405 has been under-construction since I started work at Aerospace — first completing the I-105 interchange, then adding the HOV lanes through west LA, then the HOV lanes in the valley, then the HOV lane southbound through the pass. Hopefully it will make the drive easier for the van.
- Los Angeles History. While we’re talking the 405 and history, let’s talk a little about places the freeways touch. From the 405 go N (W) on US 101, and you reach Woodland Hills. The history of that community, and the scoundrel that created it, is quite interesting. A true flim-flam man. While in Woodland Hills, you’ll see a number of LAUSD campuses that are closed and decaying. Luckily, not for much longer — LAUSD is finalizing plans to have long-closed campuses taken over by charter schools, including El Camino Charter HS.
- Food News. A couple of food items. The first looks at Tilapia, a white-fish that is growing in popularity. The problem is that it might not be that great for you (but it is still better than any red meat). The second notes that you might be able to get bigger muscles by eating green tomatoes. Not fried, of course.
- Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo. The LA Times had an interesting article on the backstory of Yasiel Puig, a star of the LA Dodgers (you know, the team you can’t watch on TV). There were rumors Puig was smuggled out of Cuba by members of a Mexican drug cartel. There were rumors he still owed the smugglers money, and that his life could be in jeopardy. There was talk about Puig being essentially owned by a Miami businessman with a criminal record who hired those smugglers in exchange for 20% of the ballplayer’s future earnings. I read this, and the story in the musical Damn Yankees popped into my head. Young Joe Hardy also just showed up from nowhere, and then all these rumors surfaced about his connection with criminals. I wonder if Puig will disappear after hitting the winning run when the Dodgers make the playoffs?
- Let’s Go Shopping. A few commerce related items. The woman’s retailer “Coldwater Creek” is going bankrupt, and is holding a major liquidation sale starting on Mothers Day. That may be of interest to those who can fit into Coldwater Creek’s stuff. Secondly, information on about 3 mln credit and debit cards have been stolen from the retailer Michaels. This is a big deal — much bigger on the consumer side than anything leaked by Heartbleed. Keep an eye on your statements folks, especially if you live with a person who loves crafting.
- Pasadena Playhouse, Sigh. The Pasadena Playhouse has announced their next season. In a word, “sigh”. I so want them to succeed, but Sheldon just doesn’t know how to pick a good season. They start with a rework of Kiss Me Kate (a musical that needs no rework) to put it in the context of the African-American theatre of the 1900-1925 period. Why? They also have Stop Kiss, Pygmalian, and Two for the Seesaw (the comic play that was the source of the musical Seesaw), plus a TBA play. Nothing that would attract me. This seems to be the year for long established companies to have completely uninteresting seasons.
In the Talmud, there is a learned Rabbi who opines that groupatwos are to be considered Chametz during Passover. Luckily, this week was so busy I accumulated a bunch of groupatwos. So let’s get that feather and that candle and get them out of the links list before Passover starts Monday night:
- What You Don’t See. This groupatwo has been sticking in my mind. I have a friend who is very sensitive to privilege and racism issues. She often sees subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) concerns where I (who arguably, have been raised with privilege) see none. A few weeks ago, she highlighted an issue that has stuck in my head as an example of this subtle issue — today I took the time to find the articles again. The concern is discussed well in this article about photography and brown skin, and that was driven somewhat by this article. The issue is that film sensitivity and color sensitivity was calibrated using particular white models, and the constrast designs work best for white skin. Photographing — at least in film days — black models (and especially, black and white models together) resulted in poor photographs. Hence, what did most fashion photographers use? Truly a fascinating example of subtle racism. Was it unintended? That’s probably a different debate.
- What You Wear. Two articles from last week about what people wear. The first talked about a defendent in a courtroom, who took the stand and attended the proceedings in sloppy untucked clothing. The message this sent the jury increased the odds of conviction. The second is also courtroom based — this time about a judge who admonished the female attorneys for wearing clothes that were too revealing (and in particular, they distracted him). So what is proper courtroom attire, and how much does freedom of expression come into play?
- Breaking Away. Two articles about countries breaking away. In the first, the concern is Quebec, and how the charge for Quebec separatism is nearly dead. In the second, the article is about England and the different reactions to independence movements in Scotland vs. Ireland. England would seemingly be happy if the two Irelands reunited and remained separate, but Scotland should stay part of Great Britain. The article explains why.
- Visitor Attractions. Two articles on visitor attractions. The first deals with Buellton California, and discusses a museum of Petroliana — old gas station stuff — that I must visit. The second deals with newly announced expansion plans for Universal Studios — hopefully, I can get ACSAC near there in 2015 and 2016, and these will draw in a bunch of attendees.
- Two Singlets. Two single stories a groupatwo makes. In the first, it looks like TNT is bringing back the Librarian franchise as a series — with Noah Wyle, Jane Curtain, and Bob Newhart! The second talks about a new minimally invasive procedure for chronic sinusitis that sounds very interesting.