Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'news-chum'

It’s What’s For Dinner: Mixed-Up News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jan 10, 2016 @ 5:30 pm PDT

Observation StewFinally, it is time for the main dish: A hearty news chum stew made up of items that I just couldn’t form up into a coherent (or even incoherent) post. I’ll note the first three are roughly science related:

  • Things That Go Bump in the … Ouch. The title is worrisome enough on its own: “How A Simple Bump Can Cause An Insidious Brain Injury“. The concern here is a kind of brain injury that’s very insidious — a subdural hematoma. These don’t occur with falling off a ladder, slipping and bash your head on the ice, or playing football. Basically — and this can be a problem as you get older — you bump your head. You get a small brain bleed, but below the dura that lines the brain. The bleed creates a very low-pressure ribbon of blood that’s layering on top of the surface of the brain. As that blood starts to pool over days or weeks, it irritates the brain cells. And if the pool’s big enough, it presses on the brain and damages it, much like a tumor. Ouch.
  • It’s better than Progenitorivox. Asprin is indeed a miracle drug, when taken daily. Not only can it help your heart, but it can lower your risk of prostate disease. Men with prostate cancer had almost a 40% lower risk of dying of the disease if they were taking aspirin for cardiovascular protection, a large cohort study showed.
  • At Last My Row Is Complete Again. Those of you with real periodic tables of wood, time to get out your engraving router. The last row of the periodic table has been filled: the final four elements are confirmed. Needless to say, you won’t be able to keep the samples for long. That’s how it goes.
  • Clearing Out the Stash. Lots of useful info here for knitters and crocheters. Here is a list of 10 charities looking for yarn projects, and in that list are links to about 15 more. There’s also Operation Gratitude, which is looking for knitted scarfs for soldiers. Now, go forth and clean out that sewing room. Your non-crafting partners will thank you.
  • High Fashion Religious Scarfs. A couple of related items here. First, Dolce & Gabbana have launched a line of high-fashion hijabs and abaysas (Islamic head scarves). This is actually a big deal, as the purchasing power of this market is high, and this is an untapped area of fashion. In a different religious area, H&M has marketed a scarf that looks very much like a tallit.  This is a bit more in bad taste (although I must admit we once did find a fancy tallit in a thrift store — National Council of Jewish Women, in fact — that was labeled as a scarf). It is so problematic that they have pulled it from sale in Israel.  Just imagine the next conversation: Hey, boss: I’ve got this great idea for a new hat for women.
  • Tongue Tied. Moving from the Hebrew to the Yiddish: Here is a set of Yiddish Tongue Twisters. My favorite? “Schmoozing in the shtetl with a schmutzy sheitel is a shande.”
  • Ikea Games. Mental Floss had a neat article on secrets of Ikea. One is that there are multiple quick routes through the store, both for safety reasons and stocking reasons, and they’re open to the public. But they’re not advertised, so you’ll need a keen eye for secret passageways. Often they take the form of unmarked service doors. But they change them fairly frequently because customers get familiar with the shortcuts and know how to zip through. They change the shortcuts to force people to go around the long way again.
  • Getting a Lyft. I’ve been hearing more and more about Lyft and Uber. I’ve never used them. In LA, Lyft has just been authorized to pick up at LAX. Here’s a report on what it is like to use Lyft at LAX.
  • Ride the Red Cars. It is appropriate that I’m wearing an Orange Empire shirt as I type this. Here’s a retrospective on the decline of the Pacific Electric in Los Angeles. Alas, as usual, the comments go off the rail into conspiracy theories and partisan politics (yes, the removal of PE is Obama’s fault. Right.). Further, no one mentions they are still running at OERM.
  • There are Beans, and there are Beans. The inventor of Jelly Bellies is jonesing for a comeback. His next idea: caffeinated coffee jelly beans. Now that his non-compete has passed, the founder and his business partners have launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $10,000 to launch their Original Coffee House Beans, which will come in flavors such as hot cocoa and peppermint, chai tea, coffee and doughnuts and caffe macchiato. Sounds interesting. Sugar and caffeine in one little pill. Who needs an energy drink.

 

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Media NewsChum: 6 Passings, 3 Arrivals

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jan 10, 2016 @ 7:43 am PDT

userpic=masters-voiceHere is the second bunch of themed news chum for the weekend — consider this your mixed salad before the stew. Articles in this group cover multiple media types: stage, TV, and radio.

  • Passings No. 1: Elizabeth Swados. Broadway composer Elizabeth Swados has passed away. The headlines all cite her show Runaways (which I’ve heard but never seen), but I recall her for her show Doonsebury. The show has a number of great songs, including “Just a House”, “It’s the Right Time to be Rich”, and “Another Memorable Meal”. I doubt it will ever be revived, as kids today don’t remember the early days of the strip.
  • Passings No. 2: Wayne Rodgers. Just before the end of the year, original M*A*S*H TV star Wayne Rodgers passed away. Here’s a remembrance from his co-star, Alan Alda.
  • Passings No. 3: Sheldon Epps. No, Sheldon hasn’t died. However, he is stepping down as Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse. For a long time, we were subscribers at the Playhouse. Were there there in the Susan Dietz era; we were there when Sheldon came in; and we left during the bankruptcy. I didn’t always like Sheldon’s programming — especially his habit of TBA shows in a season. But he had more hits than misses, and he did a great job of raising the visibility of the playhouse during his tenure. Even more importantly, he did try and bring diversity to the traditionally mono-cultured Pasadena.
  • Passings No. 4: KFWB 980. “Give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.” Hasn’t been that way for a while, since KFWB gave up the news baton to KNX and went talk… and then sports talk. KFWB has been sold, and will be becoming an ethnic station.  While this is bad news for the Clippers, it is also a significant passing in the LA Radio community.
  • Passings No. 5: Allegiance. Sad to say, the new George Takei musical Allegiance has posted its closing notice. This is after 113 performances, which is definitely not hit territory, or even recap-costs territory. However, the musical did make a significant political statement (which is good), and is going on tour (even better).
  • Passings No. 6/Arrival No. 1: Beatles Music. This is, in a sense, a coming and going. The going relates to a very interesting article about the convoluted path of how the Beatles lost control of their music catalog to Michael Jackson. As usual, some wrong decisions early on in their career from which they could never recover. It shows the importance for artists to pay attention to what you sign. On the other side, the Beatles have just arrived on streaming music services. For me, that’s a big “Whoops” (as in “Don’t Care”). I’ve got *all* their music on my iPod, of which 95% was recorded from the original vinyl.
  • Arrival No. 2: Hamilton. It has been announced that the hit musical Hamilton will be going on tour. There will be longer tour engagements in Chi-town, LA, and SF. The big question in LA is where? Given the Ahmanson’s schedule and size, I don’t see a long sit-down show going there (although it is the best venue). The likely place is the Pantages, but I’m not sure they would want a *long* sit down (but they’ve done it for Wicked).  It would be great if it could go into the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion — the hall was partially built for the LACLO, but theatre hasn’t been there in ages. Another possibility is a theatre on Broadway — I recall hearing that they want to get back into the show-biz.
  • Arrival No. 3: Galavant. The mini-TV musical Galavant has returned. If you watched the first two episodes last week, you’ve discovered they’ve gone very meta. They probably won’t survive, but they sure are fun to have around.

 

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CyberNewsChum: Windows, Facebook, and the Internet of Things

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 09, 2016 @ 11:16 am PDT

userpic=cyborgIt’s been a busy week both at work and at home. Articles have been accumulating, but there are a few theme groupings to get out of the way before we get into the stew. So, for an appetizer, here’s a collection of interesting articles dealing with computer related news chum:

  • Microsoft Continues the Push to Win10. Microsoft is continuing its push to get everyone to upgrade to Windows 10 (ref: “I Think I’ll Wait to Wash the Windows“). The latest salvo is a warning from Microsoft that Windows 7 is unsafe. What do they mean by that? Here’s the answer, from the horses, umm, mouth:

    Speaking to Windows Weekly, Microsoft Marketing chief Chris Capossela explained that users who choose Windows 7 do so “at your own risk, at your own peril” and he revealed Microsoft has concerns about its future software and hardware compatibility, security and more. “We do worry when people are running an operating system that’s 10 years old that the next printer they buy isn’t going to work well, or they buy a new game, they buy Fallout 4, a very popular game, and it doesn’t work on a bunch of older machines,” Capossela stated.

    The real meaning came out in his next sentence, where he stressed it is “so incredibly important to try to end the fragmentation of the Windows install base” and to get users to a “safer place”. Translation: They want everyone on Windows 10 so they can control the ecosystem and have that captive market like Apple has.

  • When You Need to Upgrade Windows. There is a time that you really must upgrade your windows: If you are running the original Windows 8, not Windows 8.1.  If you don’t upgrade original Windows 8 to 8.1 or 10, security patches stop this week. Security patches are critical. The problem is that Microsoft doesn’t make the upgrade easy, hiding it in the Windows Store. Here’s how to install the Windows 8.1 upgrade. To help you more, here’s a tutorial.
  • Deprecating Old Internet Explorer. Here’s another push to get you to upgrade: Microsoft has stopped support of older versions of IE except the latest for each supported OS. Beginning next Tuesday, January 12, Microsoft will officially retire Internet Explorer versions 8, 9, and 10 for most Windows operating systems, according to a Microsoft support page. Internet Explorer 11 will be the only officially supported version of the browser for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. The only exception will be Windows Vista users, who will stick with Internet Explorer 9. Vista’s mainstream support ended more than a year before IE11 rolled out. The unpopular OS is almost up for retirement anyway. It reaches the end of its extended support phase in April 2017. After that, Vista will be unsupported just like Windows XP.
  • Lastpass Upgrade. This week, Lastpass announced an upgrade to Version 4.0. Even though Password Managers have some risk, I still recommend them. They move you to using longer and more complex passwords, but store them in such a way that they can’t be easily exploited. There are visual candy upgrades, but the most important thing is a new feature: Emergency Access. This lets users designate trusted family, friends or colleagues to have access to their password vault in the case of an emergency. They’ve also improved the Sharing Center. The new LastPass Sharing Center is one central location that allows users to easily manage and share passwords in a secure, encrypted way. Whether partners need to share logins for the mortgage and paying bills, or aging parents need to share important logins with their family, the Sharing Center keeps the passwords in sync for everyone. Users can manage who has access to shared accounts and have the option to remove access at any point.  Alas, I’m still waiting for them to update my Firefox plug in.
  • Facebook News Feed. Here’s a really interesting, but long, article on how the Facebook news feed algorithm works and how you can manipulate it. I still miss the days of Livejournal, where I could easily catch up chronologically with what all my friends were doing. I can see Facebook’s problem with doing that as the number of status updates and shares, combined with the number of friends, has grown exponentially. Really an interesting read.
  • Internet of Things. Do you really need that connected refrigerator? Here are two great articles that make clear the cybersecurity risks of the Internet of Things.

    The first talks about how as the IoT grows, security is being left in the dust. It is like the early days of the Internet. At its fundamental level, the Internet of Things (IoT) are devices that connect to the internet. They can be anything from data-guzzling devices that monitor your physical activity, smart thermostats that monitor the outside air and adjust your home temperature accordingly, or appliances that can think on their own and order groceries while you’re at work. The problem: all too often, device manufacturers have the same problem: they’re thinking too much about the product, and not enough about security. Once an adversary gets a toehold in your network onto an IoT device, it can then exploit its trusted access to do things even more nefarious.

    Like what, you ask. Here’s where the second article comes into play. Consider ransomware in the IoT. Since anything with a computer for a brain and an Internet connection is vulnerable to a virus, hackers with lofty ambitions can go after a wide range of devices. Conjure up that laundry list of “Internet of Things” gadgets: smartphones, fitness bands, smartwatches, fridges and ovens, smart locks, thermostats. Imagine your phone refusing to work when you need it, your refrigerator threatening to defrost your food, your house refusing to heat or cool, your smart locks refusing to let you into your house… or letting someone else in. As opposed to disabling attacks, the ransomware attack threat is only going to continue to grow… especially as it can lie latent until triggered.

 

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A New Years Stew: Buildings, Books, and Booms; Music, Medicine, and Mattel

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 02, 2016 @ 1:00 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s the first weekend of the new year, and as is traditional, it’s time to clear out the accumulated news chum from the week — the chum that couldn’t be used to create a coherent themed chum post of 3 or more articles. So let’s see what is in this week’s stew:

  • Saved! The first news chum item was to be about where I live now, but that became its own article. So let’s talk about where I used to live: North Hills.  At the corner of Devonshire and Sepulveda is a shopping center we used to frequent (especially when Hughes was still there). Today, the Hughes Ralphs has closed, and so has Mission Hills Bowl, and rumors are circulating about redevelopment of the center. This week, some good news came out of this: the bulk of the center appears to be saved, and the Mission Hills Bowl building will remain.  The Googie designed Bowling Alley by LA architect Martin Stern Jr. will be saved as part of a new commercial development that will include a mix of retail, restaurants, medical office, gym, warehouse, and bank uses spread over one and two story buildings.
  • Booking It. When Borders and Barnes and Noble took off, the prediction was that they would kill the small bookstore. They almost did, but the bookstores hung on. Now Borders is gone, and B&N is on the ropes, being killed by Amazon. What is still surviving? The small independent used bookstore. In fact, used bookstores are making a comeback. The reason isn’t surprising, when you think about it. It costs more to ship used books than to just sell them locally. Here’s the quote that BoingBoing used from the original article: “Used bookstores, with their quintessential quirkiness, eclectic inventory and cheap prices, find themselves in the catbird seat as the pendulum eases back toward print. In many cities, that’s a de facto position: They’re the only book outlets left… And it’s a business with good economics. Used bookstores can beat Amazon and other online booksellers on price, offering shoppers both a browsing experience and a money-saving one. Also, profit margins on used books are better than new ones — so good that many indies are adding used sections.”
  • Travelling? Good News and Bad News. Traveling in the new year? You need to watch out if you live in Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, Minnesota or American Samoa. Your state is bumping into (or has gone past) the RealID deadline, and your state IDs may not be acceptable to TSA or the DOD. About the only good news here is that California got granted an exemption. I have no idea what this means: in particular, it could mean that everyone in the state needs to be issued a new ID. Ouch!
  • New Album from Paul Stookey. As you have likely figured out, I love folk music… and my first love was Peter, Paul, and Mary. Thank’s to Noel Paul’s Facebook account, I just learned that Noel Paul Stookey issued a new album in September 2015. I’ve already grabbed my copy, it is it like one of his recent concerts (i.e., very good).
  • Going Boom. Here’s a fun article: The history of the Toy Chemistry Set. What started out as a kit for the academic world became something to encourage men to become scientists (why would women care about chemistry), and then got neutered as society became worried about safety and homemade bombs.
  • More Problems from Inflammation. The inflamatory response is turning out to be the culprit is more and more problems. We’ve seen articles in the past linking it to arthritis and migraines. Here’s an article showing the link between depression and inflammation. Quite an interesting read, and it shows why we might not need to monkey with brain chemicals to address depression.
  • Deaths of Note. We’ve had a number of notable deaths at the end of the year, such as Wayne Rodgers and Natalie Cole. Here’s one you may have missed: Ruby Cavanaugh, namesake of Ruby’s Diners.
  • Sign of the Times? Mattel, owners of the American Girl line of dolls, has introduced a diabetic kit for their dolls, allowing girls with diabetes to have a doll that is just like them. While I applaud the production of the kit, what does it say about the prevalence of diabetes in our society that this needs to be a thing?

 

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Don’t Be A Boob

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jan 01, 2016 @ 5:52 pm PDT

userpic=blushingLet’s start the year right: let’s start with a news chum. Further, not just any news chum, but a subject sure to titillate. A chum that touches upon some of the issues of discrimination, diversity, and boundaries that I opine will be large in 2016.

Before I do, however, a word of introduction: I call these posts “news chum”, because I expect (or hope) for them to be like chum in shark-infested waters. Follow the links. Read the articles. Then comment with your opinion. Let’s get some discussion going. Perhaps these three articles will bloody the water some.

In any case, back to boobs:

  • The Impact of Boobs. LA Magazine is trying to draw attention to itself by rerunning some classic articles.  One of the most interesting is from 2002: an article from an editor who donned fake boobs to see how society treated her differently. A fascinating read (called “California or Bust”), she had some industry people construct a device that took her from an A cup to a D cup… and then watched for the reactions. They were, of course, predictable. To quote the article: “I’ve spent my whole life pretending breasts don’t matter. Part of me still wants to believe it’s true. I can make all the arguments, which basically come down to this: Women should be valued for their selves, not their shelves. Still, I have to admit, at the moment the breasts I’m toting feel like more than mere flesh. They feel like the source of all power.” Interesting read.
  • When is a Boob a Boob? I’ll note up front that the answer is not: “When they are elected to Congress?”. The question is a serious one, raised by a transgender fellow who is in the process of transitioning. He has been taking topless pictures of himself, and asking the question: When is the precise magical moment when the line is crossed and Facebook or Instagram considers the photo obscene? It really is a hard question. I’ve seen some theatre shows of late where men have been on stage topless, but they have had such sufficient quantity of man boob, you weren’t sure what you were seeing (or whether you wanted to see it). But that is publicly acceptable? Yet there will be some point in this fellow’s transition where what was previously acceptable no longer is. To me, it highlights this artificial distinction and prudery (that you, Mr. and Ms. Puritan) that exists in America. Truthfully, there should be no distinction.
  • Boobs and Bathrooms. The prudery in society is hitting the equality discussion large. And it is hitting us in the bathroom. Specifically, the bathroom is being used as the argument to shoot down equal rights in various areas. We’ve all seen this in action: We can’t legislate equality for transgenders: we’ll have men putting on dresses to go into the woman’s bathrooms. Yeah, right. As if people wander around the bathrooms naked (dressing rooms are potentially different matters). They forget the answer is simple: single user stalls, and single user dressing spaces.

All of these boil down to the same issue: an unspoken belief that men cannot control themselves. Large breasts serve as a benefit in plastic Hollywood because of the sexism of the male patriarchy in charge. Breasts cannot be visible on Facebook or Instagram because men will find them obscene or they will incite men into sexual acts (I don’t think I’ve women making the argument that seeing the breast of another women will incite sexual desire). We can’t have equality because that will imply mixed sex in bathrooms, and men will use it to spy on nekked women (hmmm, has that happened in the co-ed bathrooms in colleges?).

So, yes, this first news chum post of the year does boil down to its title: Don’t be a boob. Control yourself.

P.S.: Related to this, we have the whole question of Bill Cosby. My opinion on the subject is summarized by an image I saw on Facebook:  “He said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, …” But I’m still conflicted. On the one hand, we have Cosby as a womanizer (that is clear). On the other hand, we have the legacy of humor he provided: from wonderful non-sexist albums such as Wonderfulness to 200 MPH to the messages that came across on the Cosby show. How can we balance the disgust from one against the good of the other? In other areas, we’ve been able to separate the artistic legacy from the sexual misdeeds of the creator (Woody Allen, Michael Jackson) and in others we haven’t (Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle). Will we be able to separate here?

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News Chum Unwrapped: Will It Be Coal or Crystal?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 25, 2015 @ 8:49 am PDT

userpic=chanukah-christmasTo all those who celebrate this day in the non-traditional way: The Merriest of Christmases to you. To all those that celebrate in the traditional way: I hope your movie is entertaining and your Chinese food delicious and MSG-free. Why look? What has 🎅 Santa left under the virtual tree? It looks like a collection of boxes of news chum! Let’s unwrap them and see what we’ve got. I wonder if any of them are for me?

  • 🎁 To: Porter Ranch Residents. I live in Northridge, just down the hill from Porter Ranch. The situation up there is a mess: it is bad for the homeowners, it is bad for the businesses in the area, it is bad for our property values, and it will be bad for all the customers of The Gas Company, who will have to foot the bill for this stupidity for years and years to come. For those that live in Porter Ranch, here are two things of interest: the first is a collection of resources from the Mayor’s office, the second is a commitment from SoCalGas that they will relocate residents faster.
  • 🎁 To: Map Collectors. Here’s a collection of 25 of the best Los Angeles maps. It is hard to pick a favorite on the list. I like the map of former streetcar routes, but I think one of the most useful ones compares the size of Los Angeles to other major cities. Most people don’t understand the sheer size of LA, and the distinct difference in density. The change in property values from 2004 to 2014 is also scary: our zip shows a -24%. Mind you, we bought in the top of the market in 2005 😒 . Of course, my favorite map isn’t on the list; my favorite is the one done by my daughter that maps Yiddish books to where they were published in Southern California.
  • 🎁 To: Those From the Midwest. EaterLA recently announced a present for those from the midwest, or those (like me) who have fond memories of visiting the midwest: it appears there is now a full-sized Steak and Shake now open in Burbank. I wonder if this will entice my dear friend Linda in St. Louis to come out for a visit :-). We’ll have to try it next time we’re in the area.
  • 🎁 To: Honda CR-V Owners. Sigh, like us. Honda has extended the air-bag recall to a wider range of CR-Vs. Luckily, we live in a low humidity area, and most of the problems are the result of humidity. That’s perhaps why repairs are so slow out here: I’m still waiting to hear from Toyota on the availability of my repair; the passenger airbag in my wife’s CR-V was repaired in April ’15, and the driver’s airbag in October ’14.
  • 🎁 To: Those Concerned About Government Waste. We’re all aware the government procures supercomputers. We’re probably also aware that those computers get replaced every few years to stay current, maintainable, and at the cutting edge to give our Nation the lead we should have. So what happens to the old computers that were so expensive to procure. The answer will not make you happy. Most are “put out with the trash”; that is, they are disposed. The most efficient, secure and financially feasible way to do it is by using a computer wood chipper, provided by contractors who specialize in IT asset disposition. This is true especially for the supercomputers with high-level security data. Some are repurposed, but the process isn’t easy. The first possibility is to try and trade in the supercomputer on a replacement with the contractor. Trade-ins are sometimes possible, and repurposing is sometimes possible. The third strategy, if the first two aren’t feasible, is to put the old supercomputer through the General Services Administration’s clearinghouse for distributing unused government property. But even though they are cheap, the new owner must come and get it, get it out of where it is, and possibly contract to remove and reinstall.
  • 🎁 To: Those That Like Android. We all know that Windows is trying to have one operating system to rule them all: Windows 10 on the range from the desktop to the phone. What about a phone operating system on the desktop. How well does Android work with a keyboard and mouse? The answer is “Not good, but better than you would think.” The biggest affordance Android makes for a desktop OS is that it supports a keyboard and mouse. Any Android device can pair with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and if you want to go the wired route, just about any phone can plug in a mouse and keyboard via a USB OTG cable and a USB hub. But from there…
  • 🎁 To: Las Vegas Lovers. Here’s an interesting collection of recommended books about Las Vegas. I’ve only heard of one of these. My list of Vegas books is over on the highway pages.
  • 🎁 To: Those Interested in Food Safety. Tumeric has recently been in the news for a number of reasons. In addition to its use in Indian food, and turning everything yellow, it has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties. Tumeric Tea can provide great relief from arthritis problems. Here’s another use: it is being infused into kitchen surfaces to make them safer. Using nanotechnology, the researchers developed a way to bind curcumin (a tumeric compound) to metal and glass; essentially they used tiny bubbles (nanovesicles) to enclose a curcumin compound. The coated surfaces kill microbes—including E. coli—and prevent food from spoiling without imparting turmeric flavor into the food.
  • 🎁 To: Food Waste or Waist Worriers. Being a member of the “clean plate club” (common in my generation) has been a terrible thing for my waistline, especially in these days of gigantic portions. But I also hate the notion of throwing away food. This is why I found this list of 12 things to keep food from going to waist or waste interesting. In addition to liking this being a list without a load of click-through screens, I like the following two tips: “Buying in bulk doesn’t save money if you end up throwing half of it away. When you don’t have a plan for how and when you will use a sale item, it’s more likely to go to waste, erasing any savings.” and “Shop for how you actually cook and eat, not for how you fantasize about eating. Exotic or otherwise aspirational purchases often go to waste.”
  • 🎁 To: Font Lovers. Back when I started using computers, you were lucky to have 5 different fonts (but then again, I only had 2 on the Selectric). Now there are thousands. But that’s less true if you are writing in Chinese. It is extremely difficult to create a Chinese font. This article discusses how hard it is. Just consider this: The default set for English-language fonts contains about 230 glyphs. A font that covers all of the Latin scripts—that’s over 100 languages plus extra symbols—contains 840 glyphs. The simplified version of Chinese, used primarily in mainland China, requires nearly 7,000 glyphs. For traditional Chinese, used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the number of glyphs is 13,053.
  • 🎁 To: Yiddish Lovers. Last week, I kvelled about my daughter being written up in the JWeekly in the Bay Area for her presentation at the Magnes about her Findery Mapping work. She just wrote an article for a Yiddish Journal about her experiences this summer.
  • 🎁 To: Board Gamers (Especially those who visit Las Vegas). One of my favorite places in LA (which, alas, I don’t get to as frequently as I like because they have poor parking) is Game Haus Cafe. This is a coffee shop with a large collection of board games. For those that go to Vegas, here’s some great news: There’s a similar shop in Las Vegas! Meepleville Board Game Cafe (FB) at 4704 W. Sahara Ave. The owner has more than 10,000 games in his collection. Meepleville will charge $5 for all-day play Monday to Thursday and $10 Friday to Sunday. They are open 10am – midnight Monday – Thursday. 10am – 1am Friday and Saturday. 10am to 8pm on Sunday, starting in January 2016. This is a must visit next time I’m in Vegas; it ranks up there with the National Pinball Hall of Fame.
  • 🎁 To: Those With Large Record Collections. Those of us who have large collections of anything have the worry of about how our kids will dispose of it. This is especially true for records. The blog “Easily Mused” captures this well (and luckily, it provides a solution):

    “Even now, as the icy finger of Death gently tap tap taps on your shoulder, you can not help but smile as you gaze lovingly at your vinyl record collection which you have so diligently curated. Each gleaming scratchless platter is as close to perfection as the day it was manufactured, a testament to your love for and dedication to the recorded arts.

    Say, have you stopped to consider what will become of this treasure trove after you have departed this mortal realm? Many people such as yourself have bequeathed their records to a close friend or family member, receiving sincere assurances that said records will be treasured, cared for, and passed down to each succeeding generation. Alas, nothing could be further from the truth.

    The painful reality is, you will scarcely even have begun your eternal slumber before the sweaty and possibly jelly-stained fingers of your son or nephew will begin carelessly rifling through your precious vinyl stockpile. “What’s this crap?” he will exclaim. “Who the fuck is Buddy Rich?”

    Your beneficiary, having failed to discern the inestimable cultural value of your collection, will then proceed to recklessly hoist your record crates into the back of his freakishly oversized pickup truck, drop them off orphan-style at the front door of the nearest thrift store and peel away, bobbing his head zombie-like to the rhythm of the latest gangsta rap hit.

    Soon, your prized possessions will be unceremoniously dumped on the floor underneath three shelves that contain hardcover books no one will buy for even a quarter, like Jimmie Walker’s autobiography, Dyn-O-Mite!  or any Jackie Collins novel after Hollywood Wives. They will swiftly be procured by an eagle-eyed entrepeneur who talks like a sophisticated music aficionado, but is really only interested in the crinkly tones produced by shuffling big stacks of cash.

    Through his Ebay store, he will sell your cherished records for exorbitant prices and then send them, one by one, to every corner of the globe. Your ghost self will watch helplessly as your Basie goes to Boise, and your Miles goes to Milan. You will then spend the rest of eternity wandering about aimless and confused, trying but endlessly failing to remember the tune of one goddamn song.”

    Luckily, they provide a solution.

 

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Going, Going, Gone: Remembrances of Eras Gone Past

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 24, 2015 @ 9:33 am PDT

userpic=tombstonesThis is another in my ongoing series of news chum posts about things that are going away. In doing this, I’ve come to realize another connection between the items: they are emblematic of an era that has also passed:

  • The 747. Production of the Boeing 747 — an iconic jetliner of the 1970s and 1980s — is slowing and may soon die. Right now, the fate of continued production is in the hands of a Moscow firm: specifically, a Russian freight company that promises to buy 18 over the next few years. If that pledge falls through, and finding financing won’t be easy, Boeing faces a tough choice: End production and take a financial hit, or try to limp along until a cargo rebound yields more sales. For now, Boeing’s backlog is enough to keep building 747s only through mid-2017. Boeing would really like to keep production limping along at least under Congress orders a new Air Force 1: the current AF1 is a 747-200 that is over 20 years old. What’s killing the 747? On the passenger side, it is size: most routes are not economical for the capacity of the plane. Overall, it is pure economics: a four-engine plane guzzles a lot more expensive jet fuel than a two-engine plane. Both of these work to kill the demand. The death of the 747 is the death of an era: the era when flying was glamorous, of piano bars and lounges in the sky. We’re left with an Air Bus.
  • The Vegas Showgirl. The MGM Grand in Vegas has posted a closing date for Jubilee, the last hotel-produced Vegas-showgirl spectacular. At one time, the Vegas showgirl was in every hotel. Hotels produced their own entertainment, and each show featured long-leggy girls, often topless, in a very Vegas-styled entertainment. Today, most shows are four-walled: the hotel rents the room to the promoter, who handles everything else. This results in very different entertainment than in the 1960s-1980s. Jubilee was a relic from that era, and — like the 747 — was no longer economical or the draw.
  • The Physical Camera Store. Bel Air Camera in Westwood has closed as of yesterday. At one time, camera stores were everywhere. There were at least three that I recall in Westwood, all feeding off the neighboring community and college kids with cameras. Now there are none (just like there are no more record stores in Westwood, when once there were at least 3). This, again, is the passing of two eras. The first is the continued decline of Westwood as a college town for UCLA; it is not what it was when Star Wars first premiered at the AVCO. The second is the passing of the film camera. What was once expensive photographic equipment is almost worthless — I know I have expensive film cameras and lenses from my dad that I’m not sure I could give away. We’ve gone to digital, and thus all the infrastructure devoted to lenses, lens effects, developing, mounting, etc. has all been rendered, if not obsolete, than rarely used.
  • LA Chinatown. A few months back, I wrote about the reopening of Empress Pavillion, a long-time dim-sum palace in Chinatown. While it was closed, the business had to shift to Monterey Park — which is where the Chinese community had moved as well. A move, by the way, similar to the migration of Jews from Boyle Heights to the Westside. This week confirms that shift: that Chinatown is perhaps in name only, and is more of a tourist Chinatown than a true home for that culture. The confirmation: Empress Pavillion has closed again as a restaurant and will only be used for banquets and events. Chinatown — your era has passed.
  • Curvy Women. Some of us are old enough to remember the days of the pin-up calendar. Think LeRoy Neiman, and the nudes he would draw for Playboy. An article this week reminds us of one pin-up heroine that has been forgotten: Hilda. Hilda was the creation of illustrator Duane Bryers. She was one of pin-up art’s best kept secrets: voluptuous in all the right places, a little clumsy but not at all shy about her figure. I actually think she’s a lot sexier than the stick-figures society is obsessed with today.
  • Soviet Era Buildings.  This one is just creepy. Here’s a collection of photos of abandoned Soviet era buildings. They are reflective of an era and of an artistic style that has (thankfully) all but disappeared.

 

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Understanding Diversity

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 24, 2015 @ 8:17 am PDT

userpic=twogentlemenPrologue. As I’ve noted before, I listen to a lot of podcasts. Perhaps too many, as it takes a lot of work to keep current; this is partially because there is such a resurgence in the number of really good podcasts. I’m learning about more and more everyday, and there just isn’t time to listen to the podcasts that sound interesting. Now I’m “old-school” on my podcast listening: I actually download them daily to an actual iPod, as opposed to using streaming data to listen to them on a mobile platform. I find that I can only listen to spoken-word podcasts in certain environments (primarily those where I’m not consciously using the “reading” portion of my brain): driving, shopping, working out, walking. Further, I can’t just sit back and listen — if I do that, I’ll fall asleep (which I blame on conditioning from the vanpool). As a result, I’m regularly backed up on podcasts; my typical backlog is on the order of 15 podcasts, not counting Woodsongs.

Boy, I’m starting to feel like Ira Glass opening an episode of This American Life (one of the podcasts I listen to).

So the other day, I’m shopping at Trader Joes and listening to a recent episode of the Startup podcast. Startup was the first podcast from Gimlet Media, and originally told the story of the startup of Gimlet. It has gone on to look at other startups, such as DatingRing, but it occasionally tells Gimlet’s story. Right now, they are doing a half-season on Gimlet, and the latest show tackled the question of Diversity.

I strongly urge you to give it a listen. This episode explores the level of diversity of Gimlet Media. Although they have made an effort for male/female balance, they are working to correct a significant white/people of color balance. The episode explores why that divide exists, how diversity begets more diversity, and why the question of diversity is more than skin deep. That’s meant to be literal: for there are questions of diversity across religion, orientation, political spectrum, etc. Alex Bloomberg of Gimlet rightly points out why diversity is so important: it enables them to tell a better story that exposes all sides of an issue.

This post consists of three acts (no, that’s not right). Well, there are three articles that came across my feeds this week that illustrate this so well.

Act I: Dating Apps. The first was a post by Ferrett Steinmetz over on LJ (you do remember LJ, right). It explores a new dating app: this time it is one developed by women for women. Dating is similar to porn, in that what women want and need in the experience is often drastically different than men, and yet it is mostly a male-centric industry that is producing the product. This results in an inherent bias in the product towards the male point of view. Nowhere is it clearer than this dating app: whereas men want to see the widest variety of women, the women only care about those men who are somewhat local, who are congruent on interests, and who have a mutual interest in them. In fact, it restricts the profiles that you can see to those where there is a mutual match of criteria. This is a clear example of what a different perspective can bring, and why that perspective is so important.

Act II: Wearing the Hijab. The second was an article in the Washington Post, which was subsequently echoed by other outlets such as NPR. The article looked at the recent movement to support Muslim women by wearing head scarves as a show of solidarity. The problem? No one asked Muslim women what they thought about this. Modern Muslim women haven’t adopted the headscarf out of choice or even out of religious reasons; it has been forced upon them by the male-dominated atmosphere of Islam. They would prefer an approach that actually encouraged Islam to liberalize its attitude towards woman, instead of reminding them of their second class citizen status. It is as if society said they wanted to support Jews by dressing in long black frock coats, growing long beards, and wearing tzittzit and kippot. So where did the headscarf notion come from? People who did not understand the Islamic culture, but “meant well.”

Act III: The Theatre. Broadway Bullet, Episode 608, was specifically focused on women’s voices and diversity in the theatre. Again, this is an issue I’ve brought up many a times — as recent as last week, in fact. In order to draw audiences to the theatre, we need to have diversity in the writing of the shows. We need diversity in the casting so that what is on stage reflects what is (or what should be) in the audience. We need diversity in the back and front of house production and creative positions as well. This diversity ensures we hear the voices we need to hear. But far too often, theatre go for what is safe, and that is shows often by white men aimed towards the white mindset.

Post-Logue. These are just three examples, and show why diversity is so important, and is so much more than tokenism. It is a change of attitude, a desire to bring not only diverse people but diverse viewpoints to issues. These articles — and it is emphasized in the Startup Podcast — show how these diverse viewpoints can improve the end product, often by coming at issues from a very different place and experience.

P.S.: You’re probably wondering why I chose the userpic. Two Gentlemen of Verona — at least the  musical version from the New York Shakespeare Festival — was one of the first productions that emphasized diversity and color-blind casting. It wasn’t a bunch of white men spouting Shakespeare.

P.P.S.: So what podcasts do I listen to? Here’s the current subscription list: The Allusionist, BackStory, Broadway Bullet, The Ensemblist, Freakonomics; Gastropod; Invisibilia; Irish and Celtic Music Podcast; LA Observed; Opening the Curtain; The Moth; NPR Technology; Planet Money; The Producers Perspective; Quirks and Quarks; Reply All; Science Friday; The Specialist; Startup; Theater People; This American Life; Wait, Wait, Dont’ Tell Me; The Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour; and 99% Invisible. There are quite a few more I’d love to add to the list, but I just don’t have the time. [ETA: Over the weekend, I added Surprisingly Awesome and Answer Me This.]

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