Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'news-chum'

Solving Problems

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 14, 2014 @ 11:24 am PDT

userpic=mad-scientistThis belated lunchtime news chum post looks at some recent (or at least new to me) articles about solving problems:

  • The Engineer Shortage. You hear everyone say there is a shortage of engineers, and we need fewer liberal arts majors and artists, and more technicians. Well that’s just wrong thinking. The world needs its artists as well.
  • Migraines. Headaches are a pain. I know. I get them. So I read with interest how the FDA has approved a TENS-headband to reduce the frequency of migraines. The device uses a self-adhesive electrode to apply electrical current to the skin, which can be felt as a tingling sensation. The current stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for facial sensations and has been linked to migraines. I do know that, at least for my headaches, one measure is the sensitivity of that nerve — I can just lightly touch the area where the top of my nose meets my eye socket, and if I’m headachy, it is much more sensitive. I’d be willing to give this device a try.
  • A Privilege to Pee. San Francisco is addressing a big problem at one of their parks with the pPod, which has no relation to the iPod. The pPod is a custom-made, open-air urinal that San Francisco is installing at Dolores Park to help deal with the hordes of male hipster inebriants that descend on the popular Mission spot on weekends. It is a 7-foot-tall, semi-cylinder mesh screen surrounding a concrete pad and drain that empties into the sewer system. The pPod will be open at the back for easy wheelchair access – with no doors or locks.



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Evolution in Action

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 07, 2014 @ 8:23 pm PDT

userpic=caduceusToday’s lunchtime (well, I meant to post this at lunch, but the day got away from me) news chum post deals with evolution, in various forms and shapes:

  • Evolution of… a Musical. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to be seeing “Harmony“, the new Barry Manilow musical at the Ahmanson. The story of how this musical came about is quite interesting. You see, although Barry Manilow is involved with this musical (writing the music), it isn’t a pastiche of existing Manilow music. This musical goes back to when Manilow met Bruce Sussman at the 1972 BMI Musicals Workshop (before Manilow was a pop star), and it tells the the little-known true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a vaudevillian German sextet that rose to wild superstardom in the 1930s. But three of the group’s six members were Jewish, and by 1935 they had been forced to flee to the United States after the Nazis dissolved the sextet, destroyed all their albums and burned their 12 movies. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
  • Evolution of… a Meme. Slashdot is reporting on a study about the way that memes evolve on Facebook, and it turns out they evolve in a manner similar to the ways genes evolve. Specifically, memes spread, mutate and evolve in ways that are mathematically identical to genes. However, there are important differences too. The authors of the study say that understanding this process can give deep insights into the way information spreads through cultures and the way individuals change it as it spreads. BTW, in other Facebook stuff, Wired looks at our obsession with online quizzes, and even includes their popularity back in the days of Livejournal.
  • Evolution of… the Vegas Marquee. When the Las Vegas strip started in the late 1940s, marquees were nothing. There might be a signboard announcing artists and a pool along US 91. Then the Flamingo added the champagne tower, and everything took off. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was neon everywhere. But go to the strip these days, and you’ll find very little neon. What’s replaced it? Gigantic LED high-def displays. The Las Vegas Weekly has a nice article looking at this evolution.
  • Evolution of… the Coffeemaker. First, you should know that I don’t like coffee. Coffee, to me, only belongs in ice cream or covered in dark chocolate. But there are those that like it. Growing up, my mother did… and she always had a percolator. You never see those any more. They were replaced by drip coffeemakers (“Mr. Coffee”), and then French Presses (or cold brew setups like my wife uses). Nowadays, we’re all into the waste of the K-Cup and the Keurig. Keurig wants to be the HP or Canon of coffeemakers… and by that I mean they want to make you captive to their cups (think cheap printers and expensive consumables). How are they going to do this? DRM in the K-Cup, meaning the coffeemaker will only work with Keurig-produced K-cups. I think I’ll stick with loose-leaf tea, thankyouverymuch.


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The Good, The Bad, the Scary, and the Really Scary

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Mar 04, 2014 @ 12:16 pm PDT

userpic=stressedToday’s lunchtime news chum brings together the makings of an Italian Western: the good, the bad, and the ugly….

  • The Good. Know a woman interested in Information Security? Then point her to the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS), sponsored by ACSA, CRA-W, and HP. In fact, HP has just made a sizable donation to support this scholarship.
  • The Bad. Carl Kasell is retiring from “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!“. Evidently, he will be Announcer and Judge Emeritus, and occasionally show up and still record voice mail messages for winners. I wonder if Legendary Announcer Bill Kurtis will take over; he’s filled in for Carl enough.
  • The Scary. Here’s an unspeakable fear for you: What if a big rig carrying your mail went up in flames on the highway? Hyptothetical? Nope, it just happened. Think of those bills you paid… that will never get the check, ruining your credit rating. Think of those bills you thought you would receive… and thus will never pay. Tax returns. Amazon shipments. All gone, and you’ll never know. MWahahah.
  • The Really Scary. As scary as that last one was, how about this: One in ten Americans thinks HTML is a sexually-transmitted disease. Expect to see this one on Wait-Wait, but it really highlights how little people understand about technology. Other findings of the same study: 27% identified “gigabyte” as an insect commonly found in South America;42% said they believed a “motherboard” was “the deck of a cruise ship”;23% thought an “MP3″ was a “Star Wars” robot; 18% believed “Blu-ray” was a marine animal; and 15% believed “software” is comfortable clothing. Oh, and just think, these people are voting in elections, commenting on news articles, and (ummm) watching “Honey Boo Boo”.


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Going Away

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 28, 2014 @ 11:29 am PDT

userpic=southparkThis has been a busy week, what with getting back from Portland, doing more site visits in LA, reviewing a lot of documents, and the retirement festivities for a long-time department member here at the ranch. But I did accumulate a few items, all having to do with retirement and things going away:

  • Up, Up, and Away. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m interested in transportation. So, naturally, I found this article about the retirement of the last DC-10 and DC-9 in passenger service fascinating. I actually see DC-10s on a regular basis — as our van exits the 105 to drop off our Boeing folks, we pass right by the FedEx dock where they are loading DC-10 freighters.
  • Giving an Arm and a Leg. When my daughter was little, I was felled by “stupid dad syndrome”. I was sitting on some monkey bars at Northridge Park watching her play, slipped, and came down full force with my leg on the iron bar. It was tightly swollen and purple (but not broken), and I remember words like “compartment syndrome”. Shortly after that accident, I had to travel — on that bum leg — to Boston to give a briefing for a project I couldn’t get out of. After reading this article about former CNN anchor Miles O’Brien, I realize how lucky I was. O’Brien had a similar compartment problem — for him, on his arm — and they ended up having to amputate.
  • Shelving It Away. Ikea is discontinuing its most popular bookshelf, the Expedit. This is causing an uproar amongst Expedit users. However, it is not really dead — it is just being redesigned slightly to save some wood and some manufacturing costs. Still, this redesign announcement is considered a bungle by some, and the old shelving (Expedit) won’t match completely with the new (Kallax).
  • What Evil Lurks… If you grew up in Los Angeles, you couldn’t avoid the commercials for Adee Plumbing (“Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of your plumbing? Adee-Do”) or Jack Stephan Plumbing (“Jack Stephanovich?”). The man behind that company, the real Jack Stephan, just died. My favorite part of this obituary is his tombstone: “The name plate he chose for his crypt at Inglewood Park Cemetery reads in extra-large letters: “IT’S JACK STEPHAN!!!””
  • They’re Not Dead, They’re Just in Perris. Finally a picture of red cars and yellow cars waiting to be crushed :-(.


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News Chum Stew: A Tasty Thread

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 22, 2014 @ 7:17 am PDT

Observation StewJust because I’m in Portland doesn’t mean I can’t prepare you some tasty news chum stew for breakfast. Let’s dig in, before you all decide to abandon me for Voodoo Donuts… luckily, I’ve been able to come up with a thread for this — no overall theme, only a connection between each article and the next…

  • Twisted in a Pretzel. Before NPR wrote about it on Friday, the LA Business Journal was writing about the invention of the Peanut Butter filled pretzel (which is where I saw it), how a company named Maxim’s pioneered the product 26 years ago, and how TJs picked it up and sold it. The crunchy snack became a major part of Maxim’s business, and Maxim oversaw the production by companies such as ConAgra. Then TJs decided to cut out the middleman… The point of the article being that even companies we perceive as “nice and good” are, at their heart, businesses.
  • Put a Ring on It. Perhaps you saw, a few weeks ago, the video showing how the entire engagement ring custom was designed by DeBeers to sell diamonds. Here’s another bit of news from the jewelry industry. Kay Jewelers is being bought by Signet, the owner of Zales. Signet operates 1,400 U.S. stores, including its higher end Jared chain. Zale has about 800 Zales and Gordon’s Jewelers stores, as well as 630 Piercing Pagoda mall kiosks. In Canada, Zale operates the successful Peoples Jewellers chain. The net translation of this: most of the jewelers you see in malls are all owned by the same parent company. As always: support local business; buy from a local jeweler.
  • All Generics Are Not Equal. Knowing from where you buy is important. In the US, when you buy brand name medicine, you know what you are getting and who made it, but you pay a big price for that knowledge. If you buy generic, you save money — but are you getting the equivalent? The answer… not always. In particular, it appears that medicines manufactured in India are creating safety concerns. This one actually hit home: my wife has one medicine that used to be brand-name only that has finally gone generic. Our 90-supplier recently sent us the generic. My wife checked with her doctor, and the first batch was fine — it was made in England. He told her he only wanted her to take medicines made in first-world countries. The second batch — from India. We had to coordinate getting it returned and replaced.
  • How We Look at the World. The mention of first-world and third-world makes one think about how we view the world. Here’s a question for you: Have you ever thought about why North is always at the top of a map? Al-Jazeera America did. What’s interesting is looking at the alternate maps — your bearings are totally off. By the way, having N at the top is a recent invention; N has been at the top only for about the last 500 years.
  • Whose on Top. It’s always a battle to determine who should be at the top of the heap. Alas, such a battle is happening over Casey Kasem — the DJ who used to be ubiquitous on the radio. Kasem’s children from his first marriage are battling over the right to visit their father. Who are they battling? Jean Kasem, his current wife. Jean, if you recall, played Nick Tortelli’s wife on Cheers. Note that this isn’t a battle over money — only the right to visit their father.
  • Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Speaking of mothers and fathers, Mark Evanier writes of a recently released collection of Allan Sherman’s early parody material. For those of us who remember who Allan Sherman was, this is of great interest. Mark notes: “But let me warn you of two things. One is that some of the 13 songs on this CD are kinda short. The whole thing runs around 34 minutes. And the other thing is that the audio quality is not wonderful. If you go to this page to order (and I’m not suggesting you not, especially if you’re a big Sherman fan), play a few samples so you can hear the quality of the recordings you’ll be getting.” Still, new Sherman music is quite tempting.


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Looking to the Past

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Feb 19, 2014 @ 6:08 pm PDT

userpic=headlinesToday’s news chum brings together a collection of articles of historical interest, from taxes to time capsules, from food to food places…


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It’s What The Internet Is For…

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 18, 2014 @ 8:49 pm PDT

userpic=tortuga-heuvosToday’s news chum post brings together a collection of articles about what pervades the Internet, but about which no one talks: porn. Maybe its astrological, but there have been a bunch of interesting articles of late (which I read for the articles): [I'll note that all the top-level links in the post are SFW, although the articles themselves may link to NSFW stuff]

  • Making It Pay. We’ve all heard that porn is at the forefront of all Internet innovations. That may be true, but porn is suffering from the same problem as digital music: People are asking themselves …. why should I pay for it when I can get it for free (and there is lots of free porn out there, at sites that subsist from advertising). So, as NPR reports, the porn industry is trying to come up with new ways to get people to pay… and the primary way is to make it interactive where people can make online requests. The interesting aspect here (to me) is a problem the porn industry has: they can’t mine “big data” because people don’t want to leave tracks — they browse in private mode, they don’t like to use credit cards… and there’s not that big of a market to buy the data.
  • Who’s Making It. When you look at the actors who make porn, there are two camps: professionals and amateurs. Despite what you may be led to believe, most people don’t want to see “manufactured” (artificially enhanced) actors — they want to see actors that look like them, with imperfections and flaws. So who is uploading the amateur stuff? Huffington Post reports on a survey with the answers: One porn site discovered that almost one-third of homemade sex tapes submitted between July and December 2013 were created not in sexually liberal coastal cities, as one might imagine, but in the Bible Belt. Furthermore, 56.9 percent of videos were submitted by women. The states with the highest number of submissions were California (20.6 percent) and Pennsylvania (11.8 percent), but 10.8 percent of submissions came from Florida and 6.9 percent from Texas. Other Bible Belt states contributing submissions included North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Kentucky. Perhaps this is because “religious” cities watch as much porn as non-religious cities. Yup, some folks do mine big data from visitors to porn sites.
  • Why They Do It? Perhaps you’re thinking that all these folks visiting the sites are the lonely single guys out there (how come Avenue Q is coming to mind again). But you might be surprised again. A recent survey quoted by the Huffington Post shows the people who watch more porn have more sex. The article has a nice infographic with the results of the survey.

And with that, I’ll leave you to your late night reading…

P.S.: Trying to figure out the icon? This will explain it.

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A Hearty Stew, With Lots of Nuggets of Interest

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 15, 2014 @ 6:06 am PDT

Observation StewWhereas last week’s stew was thin and barely filling, this week’s is quite hearty. Although I had trouble finding groups of three articles to link with a theme, I had bunches of groupatwos with interesting subjects. So in this week’s stew you’ll find mini-themes on milk, money, connections, bones, security, plus some other random stuff for flavoring. Shall we begin?


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