This 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.
Today’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”.
This 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 :-(.
Just 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.
Today’s news chum brings together a collection of articles of historical interest, from taxes to time capsules, from food to food places…
Today’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.
Whereas 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?
- Milking It. This is a groupatwo having to deal with milk and diet. (1) The first deals with the diet aspects — much as we think we know the foods that make us fat and the foods that don’t, we keep learning things that turn that understanding on its ear. For the longest time we thought it was simply calories, and low-cal food was in. We saw that didn’t necessarily solve the problem. Next we looked at low-fat and low-carb, and getting rid of animal fat. Here’s a survey that confounds that: it appears that full-fat dairy products help you lose weight better than low-fat dairy products. (2) The second item deals with milk itself — particularly breast milk. It appears that the chemical composition of breast milk differs based on whether the child is a boy or a girl. This actually dovetails with a segment that was on a recent Quirks and Quarks that cows produce more milk for daughters than for sons. This emphasizes the notion that breast is best — and more importantly, your mom’s breast is best for you. Producing a one-size fits all formula just doesn’t work.
- Where The Money Is. This is a groupatwo that looks at where the money is. (1) The first item looks at Las Vegas casinos and where they make their money on table games. What’s interesting here is that they make a lot of money on table games — more than would be expected by just looking at the odds on the games. That’s because the odds are calculated on people playing the games in a perfect manner, and people rarely do. Translation: Not only does the house have an advantage, but unless you’re perfect, they have a greater advantage than you think. (2) The second item looks at the changing market for collectable American cars from the 50s and 60s. It appears that such cars are going down in value — boomers are less interested and millenials couldn’t care less. The translation here is not to depend on things you collect for your retirement nest egg (ask anyone who collected Beanie Babies). I’ve seen this with stamp collecting — once a popular hobby, you now don’t see it anywhere, and most collections aren’t worth all that much (I know mine isn’t, and there’s not much interest in my dad’s first day covers).
- Everything is Connected. This is a groupatwo dealing with connections. (1) The first item looks at the weird weather this year, and showing that it is all connected to the ridge of high pressure off the California coast, which has started changes in the jet stream that has created snow in the south, rain in Britain, and warmth in Sochi. (2) The second looks at the impact of all the chemicals we use, and how many we thought were safe may be leading to the growth in autism. Yup, it’s not vaccines at all; it is plastics and pesticides. Humans often get risk identification wrong, as this shows. So perhaps GMOs are safe?
- Great Bones. This last groupatwo looks at the underpinnings of some things here in LA. (1) The first item looks at a massive concrete pour here in Los Angeles — a continuous 20 hour pour with more than 2,000 truckloads of concrete, each of which must be delivered freshly made. This is all to build the foundation of the new Wilshire Grand, which will end up as the tallest building W of the Mississippi. Fascinating pour, especially when you look at the cooling issues. (2) The second item is a look at the Burbank Studios, and their history as the NBC Color City complex. I’ve actually been to the studios — I was there to see a taping of Flip Wilson, as well as the 2nd incarnation of Laugh-In. I’ve also been to CBS to see Cher filming. In any case, I love history like this.
- Security. I’ve grown more and more impressed with the work Brian Krebs does — and he’s the source for the last groupatwo. In the first article, Brian continues his in-depth study of the Target Breach — this time looking at how email was involved. What’s interesting here is how the metadata on innocuous files provided information that was later used on the attack. The second article is a bit more intriguing — it explores how some denial of service attacks are created by exploiting a flaw in the Network Time Protocol.
- Looking for Love. And a last singlet for flavoring. For Valentines Day, LA Metro introduced speed dating on the Red Line. So how did it go? Pretty good, according to the LA Times. I wonder what this says about our city?