Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'news-chum'

No Pork In This Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 21, 2015 @ 4:17 pm PDT

userpic=schmuckThis has been a busy busy week, and I haven’t collected much chum. However, I do have two articles of interest, both related to Judaism:

  • Where Are The Non-Orthodox Rabbis? This is an interesting article from the Forward looking at the shrinking class size of non-Orthodox denominational rabbinic schools. It also discusses the growth of the non-denominated rabbinic schools. Note that I’m not saying Orthodox rabbinic schools — rather, these are schools that accept a wide variety of practice from the rabbinic students, and teach Judaism — not a particular movement. This reflects a change that is happening in non-Orthodox Judaism as a whole — the movements and traditional synagogues are having trouble attracting members, whereas institutions that are just Jewish and just accepting are growing as they are seen as a form of “authentic” Judaism. Orthodoxy is growing, but as usual it is set apart a bit. Chabad is that odd beast, straddling the middle — accepted by those looking for “authentic” Judaism, but not quite seen as the unaccepting traditional Orthodoxy. This actually reflects Chabad’s approach of being accepting first and foremost.
  • Are Jews Responsible for Antisemitism? Note that I’m not asking the question myself — rather, it was asked this week in response to the attacks in Copenhagen. The question itself is insulting — it is the equivalent of asking a rape victim if they were responsible for their rape because of how they dressed or behaved. People need to learn that hatred towards any class is unacceptable, and violence towards any class is unacceptable. No one “asks for it”. This is true whether that class is based on sex (mysogyny and violence against women), sexual preference (violence towards gays), gender identification, race, or religion (and that includes that other form of Anti-semitism (this time with the hyphen) — violence against Muslims just because they are Muslim). This is a fight and a concern about which we all must be aware.



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Saturday News Chum: Deaths, Mergers, Departures, Health, and Foreign Aid

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 14, 2015 @ 10:14 am PDT

userpic=lougrantFinally, it’s Saturday. This has been a busy week — I’ve been accumulating articles, but haven’t had time during the week to post them. Before we jump into the stew, Happy Valentine’s Day to those that observe. What are we doing? We’re going to a wonderful organic Shabu Shabu restaurant we’ve discovered, and then seeing a musical story about the Loch Ness monster. And you?

  • Deaths in the News. A few major deaths have happened in the last couple of days that are quite noteworthy — primarily because these are people about which no one says anything bad. Really good people are rare to come by, and we’ve lost three. The first is Stan Chambers, long-time newscaster at KTLA — and by long, I mean 63 years! This is someone beloved in the news industry, a fixture in Los Angeles, who just reported the story and the facts. Forget your Brian Williams and Dan Rathers — this was the real deal, a reporter to look up to. The second is Gary Owens, a long-time radio and TV personality in Los Angeles. Again, this is someone who everyone looked up to, who helped loads of people with their careers, and of whom no one said anything bad. The third is Florence Sackheim, a long time member at Temple Beth Torah — again, this is someone who was there for everyone else, and whom no one had anything bad to say about.
  • Corporate Mergers. There are a number of corporate mergers of interest. Two weeks ago. Staples made an offer to buy Office Depot Office Max. This is a major consolidation in the office supply industry, and I think it is a bad thing. Loads of stores will close, loads of employees will lose jobs, and prices will rise without two equivalent competitors. Where are the regulators. In a similar consolidation, this week Expedia made an offer to by Orbitz. Expedia already owns Travelocity, so this is a major consolidation in the online travel booking industry. Again, I think this is a bad idea, although there’s a little less of a problem here in that the two services were about the same on price.
  • Going Away. Last week, the news was focused on Radio Shack going away. This week brings news of some other going-aways. First, Costco is celebrating Valentine’s Day by breaking up with American Express.  Well, the breakup will happen in 2016. AmEx has already been hammered as this brings them a lot of business; I know it is the only reason we have a non-corporate Amex card. Costco is reportedly near a deal with a new issuer; it is unclear whether accounts will be transferred, or reapplication will be necessary. In another going-away, the rumors are increasing that the Riviera Hotel may soon be closed and demolished. This makes me sad — there’s not much of 1950’s Vegas left on the strip — some two-story wings at the Tropicana and the original 9-story 1955 Riviera are about it. When the Riviera goes, so goes the history. However, the plan makes sense: the place has become a dump and cannot compete with the newer hotels; it is on the slow end of the strip next to a dead partially completed hotel, across the street from Circus-Circus and… not much else, as Echelon/Genting World is still under construction as well. Supposedly, the Riv is being bought by the Las Vegas Convention Bureau, who want to extend the Convention Center’s reach up from Paradise Blvd to LV Blvd, between Convention Center and Riveria Blvd. Not much is there — the parking lot that was the Landmark, a Dennys, a Walgreens, the Riv, and a 3-story apartment complex and some small businesses. I think we can kiss the Riv — and it’s history — goodbye.
  • Nose and Throat. A week or so ago, on This American Life, I heard a segment on a annoying condition (for some) called Vocal Fry. I’d never heard of it, or could even notice it — so luckily, Mental Floss had a nice article on Vocal Fry.  Now that I know what it is… I still don’t get why people are annoyed. People’s voices are their voices. Get over it. In another interesting article, Vox had a nice exploration of mucus. I actually found this interesting, as I have continual sinus trouble (and I’m also one of those addicted to Afrin).
  • You Know How Foolishly Generous Those Americans Are. So said Stan Freberg in United States of America, and many people believe America gives too much Foreign Aid. However, those beliefs don’t correspond with the facts — and American really doesn’t give that much foreign aid. In fact, less than 1 percent of the $4 trillion federal budget goes to foreign aid. The largest portion of the money goes to health: a third of the U.S. foreign aid budget in 2014, or more than $5.3 billion. The next two biggest portions go toward economic development and humanitarian assistance. Small sums of aid support democratic elections in other countries. A tiny portion goes to protect forests in countries where logging is destroying natural habitats. Some aid funds programs that train local law enforcement to combat drug trafficking. (But no foreign aid goes directly toward another country’s military.) Proof again that most people wouldn’t know the facts if they bit them in the …
  • Dealing with Death. One problem when you die is that you can’t update your Facebook anymore. Fear not. Facebook will soon let you appoint a digital heir.  This is actually a good thing, as  there are more and more memorial Facebook pages, and it would be nice to know they are memorials (so you don’t keep wishing them a happy birthday).
  • Used Bookstores in LA. LAist attempted to do a list of the 10 best used bookstores in LA. Used bookstores are great, and we have lost some significant ones in the last year — both Cliffs and Brand Bookstore are gone. But LAist missed some great ones — in particular, Bargain Books in Van Nuys, and Books 5150 in Chatsworth. But this is no surprise — all those Los Angeles lists are done by westsiders who forget that the valley exists.
  • Women and Work. Last week’s Backstory was on women and work.  As part of this, they did a special segment on women in computing.  Well worth listening to, and something we should encourage. The segment gives me the opportunity to pimp for a project of ACSA: the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security.


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Saturday News Chum: Retirees, Dues, Ethnic Markets, Death, and More

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 07, 2015 @ 7:37 am PDT

userpic=observationsIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clear out the links. I’m doing it a little earlier than usual today, as I’ve got a Bat Mitzvah service at 9 AM and the party afterwards that will take up much of the day:

  • What is this word, “Retirement?”. This article is here because it has some interesting things to say about my place of employment. It is about “boomerang” workers: people who retire, and then come back to the company to continue working on a part-time basis. This is something vitally important at the ranch: we depend on the corporate memory and deep skills of these workers; newbies don’t often break the depth of experience and familiarity with lessons learned required. I should note that the ranch was also ancillarily (if that’s a work) related to another article in the news: an article about a firebombing in Manhattan Beach. The mom in that family is our general counsel. I am appalled that in this day and age incidents like this happen; I am grateful that her family is safe.
  • Doing Away with Dues. One big distinction between synagogues and churches has always been how they are funded. Churches are truly faith based: they rely on big donors and “pass the plate” weekly — there are no membership dues. Synagogues have traditionally been dues based, which resulted in their being treated as fee for service. A few congregations are experimenting with doing away with that, and moving to a “pay what you want model”. It is unknown whether it will work — we’re in our second year of trying it with our men’s organization at TAS. This builds on the earlier question of what synagogues can learn from megachurches.
  • Mexican Markets. Alas, the secret is out. Shopping at ethnic markets is where it is at. Here’s an interesting article looking at the 5 things you learn shopping at Mexican markets. I’ll say that they are true — I regularly like to shop at the two Asian markets near us, and we love to get our tea at some of the Russian and Armenian markets. We rarely shop at the majors (SuperValu == Vons == Safeway == Albertsons, Kroger == Ralphs) anymore.
  • Restaurants and Death. Here’s an article that I found interesting: What happens when a restaurant dies? I’ve never quite understood the restaurant business: how you estimate food, how you deal with the waste, how you optimize cooking times, and such. This article explores what happens when a restaurant closes: the impact on employees, where all the equipment goes, where all the food goes.
  • Guys and Dolls 2. If you recall, when I posted on the Colony season, I mentioned they were doing a new Frank Loesser musical based on the Damon Runyon stories. Here are more details on that show courtesy of Playbill. It’s not quite a sequel; it is set in the same universe but uses other short stories by Runyon in a series of scenes. It also recycles other Loesser music as well as songs cut from Guys and Dolls.
  • Losing Weight. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been struggling with weight. Although I don’t formally diet, I try to stay away from junk. I try to exercise, but time often doesn’t permit it; plus when I do, I don’t see much loss. As you get older, the weight gain is stubborn. Here’s an interesting article about a new pill under development. It tricks your body into thinking you’ve eaten, and thus adjust your metabolism to burn the bad fat and transform it into the good kind. It will be interesting to see if this pans out in studies.
  • iPod Alternatives Update. Just a quickie one here. The Pono Player is out. The opinion on it is meh. The reality is that most people are satisfied with MP3s and can’t hear the difference. I’m more concerned about the criticisms of the Pono’s form factor and interface. After all, the Pono allows one to go up to 192GB of storage.  I’m not sure it is worth the interface problems. Please, Apple, please: come out with an iPod Touch or equivalent with significant storage or support for microSD memory cards. You’ll get back the iPod Classic market if you have that Touch with 256GB.
  • Anthem Hack. I’ve been watching the news on this with interest, primarily because I’m an Anthem subscriber. As with any of these hacks, there’s not much I can do about it other than watch and wait — how corporations protect our data is often beyond our control. I did note a couple of articles of interest. The first provides a bit more detail, and demonstrates how this was a targeted attack against Anthem. I’m sure there was social engineering involved as well. These are the hardest types of attacks to prevent. I think a big fallout of this will be calls to encrypt the data at rest, forgetting the fact that you have to decrypt the data if you are going to operate on it, and it is at this point that data is vulnerable. The second attempts to say how to protect yourself, but IMHO gets much wrong: Anthem has indicated they didn’t go after medical data, meaning they didn’t go after website accounts or patient records or stuff like that. The advice that she gives are generally useful and good to do; they are just unrelated to Anthem. Her first advice is most useful — enacting a credit freeze. However, if you do it now you have to pay for it. Anthem is determining who was affected, and if you were, they will pay for the monitoring and freeze. I’d rather let them pay for it (as long as they don’t raise rates to cover it, but I’ve got a feeling that they have insurance in place to cover it).


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Saturday News Chum Stew: A Quilt of Churches, Stores, Rail, History, and E-Tickets

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 31, 2015 @ 7:56 am PDT

userpic=lougrantIt’s Saturday, meaning it is time to share and comment upon some interesting links that crossed my path. So, while you enjoy your morning tea (coffee? — it only belongs in ice cream or covered in dark chocolate), here are somethings to think about:

  • That’s a Crazy Quilt. Many many years ago, a football player by the name of Rosie Greer (I wonder if anyone remembers him anymore) made the news because he did needlepoint. Male fabric artists tend to be fewer, but bring an interested aesthetic to the craft. Here’s an interesting article about male quilters (of which I know a few). What do I mean by different? One fellow made a “quilt” consisting of interlinking blocks of concrete, stone and ceramics that are meant to be walked and danced on rather than slept under. One is 19 by 22 feet and made from six tons of concrete and 500 dinner plates cut into 4,000 pieces. There’s even a “crazy quilt” made from the scraps of his concrete projects. The exhibition that this article is discussing might be of interest to my wife (who is also a quilter).
  • The Megachurch. Two articles about megachurches. The first concerns the First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, now better known as Shepherd of the Hills. Shepherd has a megachurch in Porter Ranch, across from the center with Walmart, Ralphs, and other Big Boxes. They have just broken ground on a $35 million, 58,600-square foot building, featuring a 3,500 seat auditorium that will be used for worship services and community events, will feature a café with a stage for live music, a bookstore and a large outdoor veranda with seating, fire pits, a waterfall, a fountain and environmental art. It will also boast a tower that will give visitors a panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley. This is a church that is growing. Meanwhile, to the east, is my congregation: Temple Ahavat Shalom. We’re smaller, and facing the challenge of membership (as are many Jewish congregations). An interesting piece in the Forward opines that it is time for the Jewish Megachurch. The notion is that congregations need to take a page from what the evangelicals do. This is not saying a change of belief, but how we express that belief, how we relate to other people, and how we turn Judaism from rote ritual to something enthused with joy and authentic energy.
  • Commuter Rail in Los Angeles. Those are likely two words you never thought went together (“Commuter Rail” and “Los Angeles”). But they do. The 351-mile rail corridor that runs along the coast between San Diego, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo is the second-busiest intercity route in the nation.Its annual passenger load of 7.4 million is surpassed only by that of the northeast corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C., which handles more than 11.4 million a year. The LA Times recently wrote about the little known agency that keeps that corridor running smoothly: the LOSSAN RCA. Trains that run on this corridor include Metrolink, the Pacific Surfliner, the Coaster, and Amtrack cross country trains (Coast Starlight) and loads of freight. The article notes that LOSSAN will be taking over management of the Surfliner from Amtrak.
  • Preserving for Posterity. Two articles related to preserving information for posterity. The first relates to Google’s abdication of its original mission: to make information uniformly accessible. Google has been slowly let letting its archival projects die: Google Groups (originally the DejaNews archive — remember that?), Google Books, and much more. Luckily, the Internet Archive Project has been picking them up. For anyone with an interest in history, we can be thankful that the Archive is there, and can shake our fist at Google for giving up on saving history. The second relates to the fact that history takes space, and the off-campus library facility at UC Berkeley needs room. This facility provides the off-site archive not only for the libraries at Berkeley, but for all the Northern California UC campuses as well as other organizations.
  • A Cascade in Woodland Hills. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the closure of the two Macy’s at the Westfield Topanga Promenade (leaving that mall with no anchor stores). It noted that Westfield of Borg wasn’t worried (even though they are building a new shopping connector between the Promenade and its sibling, Topanga Plaza, to the north). They’re experts on repurposing lost anchors. Well Westfield now has its hands full, as Sears has announced they are closing their Topanga Plaza store. While I don’t think this complex will become a dead mall,  there are only so many theatres that can go in, and all the other big boxes have existing stores in the area. This should put Westfield to the test.
  • Restaurants in Los Angeles. A number of interesting stories about restaurants in LA, as this is Restaurant Week in LA. The first looks at 26 Classic Restaurants in Los Angeles.  I’ve been to some of these, can’t afford others. I’m thinking Musso and Franks would be good for the Conference Committee dinner.  Mark Evanier has also chimed in with his thoughts on those restaurants. The week has also brought out an article about the original locations of many of LA’s iconic fast food restaurants, as well as an article mentioning the origins of our nearby deli (one of the best in LA).
  • Air Force One. “Get off my damn plane”. Ah, what a fun movie. But I digress. The USAF has announced the aircraft that will replace the existing Air Force One: The Boeing 747-8 — the newest craft in the 747 line and a frame that Boeing has been having difficulty selling. It’s a four engine craft and has great range; perhaps the 787 frame was too new. The actual replacement is a few years out, as they still need to bid on the outfitting. Next up: What to do about the aging Air Force Two, which is 757-based and has no real equivalent US-built replacement these days.
  • An e-Ticket. The last is a quick quip that made me feel old. In an article about a collection of Disneyland original memorabilia being sold was this: “And that glass E-ticket sign is one of only two made. It’s estimated to go for $15,000 to $20,000. (The E  here doesn’t refer to electronic tickets; it signified a coupon for the most popular, top-tier rides at Disneyland.)”. Sigh. To think we’re in a generation where an eTicket is something very distinct from the E Ticket of old. Who among you reading this has no idea what an E Ticket means in relation to Disneyland, and think of an E ticket as something you store on your mobile device?


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Saturday Stew: Mostly Twofers

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 24, 2015 @ 11:10 am PDT

userpic=observationsIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clean the links. This week’s collection of links is a bunch of twofers, with a few singlets. Here goes…

Lastly, a twofer solely because it consists of two singlets [ETA: Well, make that three]:


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Afternoon Stew: Lots of Stuff in the Mix

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 17, 2015 @ 4:12 pm PDT

Observation StewFinally, after a before meal appetizer or two, here is the remainder of the link chum stew. Even though we’ve reduced the mix a little, there are still some tasty tidbits:


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Mmm. And a Little Bit More….

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 17, 2015 @ 9:55 am PDT

userpic=lougrantAs 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.


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People. People Who Love People.

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 17, 2015 @ 7:55 am PDT

userpic=observationsAs 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!

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