Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'news-chum'

Transformational Transportation

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 14, 2017 @ 7:35 pm PDT

Today’s news chum collection is united by the common theme of transportation: either the article deals with modes of transportation, or places impacted by transportation:

  • The Bus. Think about transportation museums that you know. There are loads of airplane museums. Train museums are quite common. Automobile museums you also see. But bus collections? Rare. About as rare as boardgames about Interstates. Here’s an article about a vintage bus graveyard in Fontana, CA, that may be in trouble. The owner has long wished to found a nonprofit museum dedicated to the history of the American motor coach, and his 122 buses represent a dream long deferred — a dream that could abruptly end, due to the fact that the city of Fontana has annexed the property that he rents to store the buses. he has been given two weeks to move (and the article was published in mid-May, so time may be up already). If he doesn’t get a stay of execution or a new, multi-acre lot (and significant funds to move the buses), many of these historic treasures will be destined for the scrapyard. [Note: I did some searching, but I could not find out what happened on this.]
  • The Elevator. Sometimes the most commonplace objects are the most transformational. Consider the elevator, or as the Brit’s call it, the lift. This humble movable box that goes up and down changed the shape of our cities. It changed the nature of the value of the uppermost rooms of a building, it made increased density possible in our cities, and it transformed how we use space in our cities.
  • The Motel. The impact of the automobile is significant. It transformed the humble inn or downtown hotel into the motel — a building expressly designed for the motoring public where the driver could park next to their room. The world’s first motel was in San Luis Obispo on US 101. Left to decay, the first motel is now going to be rebuilt. All that remains of the Motel Inn is a crumbling façade and an office building. The property on the north end of Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo has sat shuttered and dilapidated since the 1990s. In 1925, the Milestone Mo-Tel, as it was originally called, became the first motel in the world.Now, a team of local developers is working to restore the motel to it’s former glory.
  • The Vanpool. Solo driving can be tiring. Consider the transformational value of the vanpool and ride-sharing on how one gets to work. I know this personally: I vanpool every day. I put less miles on my car, have lower insurance, use less gas, and get reimbursed for my vanpooling costs (so I commute for free). A sweet deal. But I’m not the only one. Here’s a piece from a lawyer who commuted to Century City who decided that ride-sharing was much better. PS: If you live in the north valley, and commute to El Segundo, drop me a note if you might be interested in joining our vanpool.
  • The Mall. One of the greatest impacts of the automobile was in how we shop. No more wandering that quaint collection of stores downtown. We could go to the mall. That indoor collection of store after store surrounded by free parking, anchored by multiple department stores. Well, the department stores are going bankrupt, the small stores in the mall are dying, and everything is being killed off by Amazon. People still go shopping, but for the experience in outdoor shopping villages. As for the mall? Perhaps we can transform it into something better. But perhaps not. We shall see.
  • Signage. Transportation has also transformed how we sign things. We have to design signage to be universally understandable, at a high speed, by many cultures. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t (I have yet to see a well designed “no right turn on red” sign). 99% Invisible presents one such quandry: how would you redesign the “lane ends, merge left” sign? The old version of the sign features two lines running parallel at the bottom with one angling in toward the top. This design can be mirrored to indicate a merge from either the left or the right. It is hard to tell, though, whether the lines represent lanes or their borders — if lanes, then it looks like two routes coming closer together (not merging). The existence of text-only supplements (“LANE ENDS MERGE LEFT”) also suggests a graphic-only approach can be baffling. How would you improve it?



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Get ‘Yer Culture Here

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jun 09, 2017 @ 11:56 am PDT

As I walk into work, there are signs noting that June is a month where they are emphasizing a culture of safety. So here is a collection of news chum articles intended to keep you safe. If not safe, then perhaps healthy. If not healthy, then hopefully not in pain. And if you are in pain, remember that they eventually move out and live on their own.

  • Wheelchairs and Airplanes. In many ways, our current airplane culture is a poor way to travel. We’re all aware of how much of a pain it is for able-bodied passengers. Just imagine how much worse it is for those who must be in wheelchairs: enduring transfers to narrow chairs, dealing with narrow aisles and seats, and all sorts of other indignities. Wouldn’t it be much nicer if they could take their chair onto the plane and simply lock it in place? There’s a group, All Wheels Up, working to achieve just that goal.
  • Dealing with Chronic Pain. Here’s a report on a device that will supposedly help with chronic pain. It looks, to all intents and purposes, to be a form of TENS device. I’ve had such a device (Cephaly) suggested for my migraines and I’m considering it, and this might help my wife with various joint pain. Has anyone tried it?
  • Allergies and Antihistimines. Via Compound Interest, here’s a full graphic on how antihistamines and other treatments work to help allergies.  Understanding how medicines work chemically is a key to using the right medicine at the right time, in the right way.
  • Dealing with Hives. When one sees topical (skin) hives, one often thinks they are an allergic reaction that that oral steroids will help. A new study says: perhaps not. Despite standard use for the itching associated with urticaria (commonly known as hives), prednisone (a steroid) offered no additional relief to emergency patients suffering from hives than a placebo did, according to a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel-group study published online. What works? Antihistamines.
  • Drug Prices. We’re all aware of spiraling drug prices, and are sure of the common culprit: drug companies. Yet even their tricks to make their drugs affordable raise prices. Consider the question: You can get a generic drug for which you have a copay of $10, or a more expensive brand-name drug which, with copay assist from the drug company, brings your cost to $5. Which do you get? Most people think with their pocketbooks, and go for the $5. But this ends up costing insurers much more, as they pay their share of the much higher brand price. California is working on a bill to prohibit this: make it so that co-pay assist is not permitted on drugs that have equivalent generics. What is unclear is what will happen to co-pay assist when the equivalent drug isn’t available, and the drug company wants to cover something with supposedly similar indications for treatment (e.g., you are on a branded specialty drug, but the company only wants to cover a generic for that condition).
  • MALM. Lastly, if you have any of the various shapes and sizes of the Ikea MALM dressers, Ikea has a recall on because of supposed tipping dangers. We have two: one is in a closet so I’m not worried about it, and I believe I’ve already anchored the other. But if you have one of these, you should make sure they are anchored.



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Chum to Chew On

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 07, 2017 @ 8:05 pm PDT

The last few weeks have been busy, what with getting the highway page updates done, planning for the Fringe Festival, and assorted craziness at home. The chum has been accumulating, so let’s start clearing it out. This first batch is all food related — a common theme, if you hadn’t noticed:

  • Defining a Sandwich. A few months ago, the Sporkful podcast introduced the debate of whether a hot dog is a sandwich.  That opened the question of what makes a sandwich a sandwich, and is our opener to this batch of chum. First, there is the sandwich alignment chart, rating your view of sandwiches on two dimensions: structure and ingredients.  I tend to go for radical sandwich anarchy, but I don’t know how well that plays in this administration. Of course, you could instead turn to the law, and look at the five ways the law defines a sandwich. This can have big tax ramifications when sandwiches are taxed differently than other foods. For example, California considers hot dogs to be sandwiches. So would New York — anything on a bread like product is a sandwich. But the USDA is stricter: two slices of bread are required.
  • Do You Like It Hard. Sandwiches, of course, bring us to tacos. Here, the question is not not whether tacos are sandwiches, but whether hard-shell tacos are real tacos or a gringo aberration. The New York Times tries to make the case for hard shell tacos: Do they have their place? Are they just folded tostadas? Something to appeal to the middle-of-the-road? Something to bring the family together? All I know is that there are times a good hard-shell taco is what I want.
  • Ringing a Bell. Tacos and Mexican food bring us to the fruit that I dread: the bell pepper. Can’t stand the taste. The aroma. The indigestion it causes. So, naturally, an infographic on the chemistry of bell peppers caught my attention. It looks at the compounds behind the colors (as well as some pepper aroma chemistry) – and finds that peppers have some extraordinary chemistry to thank for some of their hues. Peppers start off green, which unsurprisingly is due to the presence of chlorophyll pigments. These are vital for photosynthesis in plants, and actually come in two subtly different forms, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. As the pepper ripens, these chlorophyll pigments start to decompose, and other types of pigments start to take their place. All of the different colours of peppers that follow green are due to the presence of carotenoid pigments.
  • Making a Mold. Leave your peppers in the refrigerator too long, and you end up with mold. Have you ever wondered about the different molds you see on food? Why can you cut off some, but not others? Are any safe to eat? Here’s an interesting science article on all the different molds you see on your food, including those black specs on your apples or grapes.
  • Doughnut Boxes. If you live in Southern California, you’re familiar with pink doughnut boxes. But why does SoCal have pink doughnut boxes? The answer: Cambodian Doughnut Shops. According to lore, a Cambodian doughnut shop owner asked a local supply shop some four decades ago if there were any cheaper boxes available other than the standard white cardboard. So the company found leftover pink cardboard stock and formed a 9-by-9-by-4-inch container with four semicircle flaps to fold together. To this day, people in the business refer to the box as the “9-9-4.”
  • Valley Food. One big problem in Los Angeles is that people often look down on the San Fernando Valley. All these lists of restaurants that EaterLA loves to put out just have a few token valley dines, and rarely off of Ventura Blvd. That’s what makes this  list of 12 valley favorites so interesting. Most I would agree with, but I would eschew Hogly-Woglys for Mom’s at Vanowen and Hazeltine. I’d also eschew anything at the Village at Topanga: I’m sorry, but the modern take on a mall is far too new for anything to be a favorite.  EaterLA’s contribution to this is their list of 25 essential cheap eats in LA. I love cheap eats — I started la.eats back in the early Usenet days to talk about cheap dive restaurants, of which the first was the original Versailles in Venice. Of course, Eater  only lists 3 places in the valley; one of which is on the first list as well (Saj). I will have to try their chicken place in Northridge. Of course, Mom’s belongs on the cheap eats as well.



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Two, Four, Six, Eight, …

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 26, 2017 @ 12:05 pm PDT

Here is some recently collected news chum, linked by a numerical progression:



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New From The Old

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 16, 2017 @ 6:19 pm PDT

Today’s news chum post brings you five stories of new coming from the old:

  • North Hollywood. Emerging from the surface parking lot that just turned into a paid parking lot will be a new mixed use development. The plan would include 1,500 units of housing, 150,000 square feet of retail, and 450,000 square feet of offices (and 5,400 parking spaces). The project will be spread across a complex of new buildings centered around the intersection of Lankershim and Chandler. Plans also include a public plaza and a new entrance to the North Hollywood station, located beneath South Chandler on the western side of Lankershim (explaining the long empty stub on the S end of the North Hollywood station).
  • Masonic Lodge / Marciano Museum. The long shuttered Masonic Lodge on Wilshire (where once gigantic Lodge 42, my dad’s lodge, once met) is about to be reborn as the Marciano Art Museum. Here’s everything you need to know about it. The museum will be free and open to the public from Thursday through Saturday. Wednesdays will be reserved for school groups, and the museum will provide transportation reimbursements for all L.A. County public school visits. Advanced ticket reservations are required, and can be reserved online by setting up a free account (which takes less than 30 seconds) on their website.
  • Macy’s Woodland Hills / Woodland Hills Post Office. The long-standing post office in Woodland Hills on Clarendon (right next to where my father-in-law’s accounting office was) is closing. But don’t fear, Woodland Hills. They are moving — for perhaps 18 months — into the shuttered Macy’s at the Promenade Mall. Also facing closure and relocation are the Reseda and Northridge post offices.
  • Orange Grove Bistro / Hyatt Place. CSUN is getting a hotel. They are building it where the Orange Grove Bistro is now, and it will provide not only rooms for parents and visiting scholars, but a full-service restaurant and meeting rooms. This will be useful for campus, but I fear the traffic.
  • TWA Flight Center / Hotel. Moving out of LA for a moment, the unique long-shuttered TWA flight center at JFK Airport is becoming a hotel. Nearly 14 years after its closure—the TWA terminal finally found a new purpose. According to plans by JetBlue and a hotel developer, the original head house will be transformed into an airport hotel, consisting of 505 new guest rooms while maintaining many of the airport’s original icons, including the Lisbon Lounge and the Paris Café.



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Obsolescence, Revivals, and Transitions

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 12, 2017 @ 11:08 am PDT

While planning for the various theatrical adventures over the summer, I’ve also been collecting news chum. This lunchtime collection is tied together by a common theme: obsolecence, revivals, and transitions. Every article is about one or more of those three things:

  • Cassettes. By now, most of us have gotten rid of our cassette walkmans, and would be hard-pressed to find a cassette player. Elbow has come up with a fascinating minimalist cassette player: While it grabs the cassette’s spools in its elbow arms, the hinge sits against the exposed magnetic tape. A knob on the device allows you to control playback. It comes with a small magnetic clip, allowing you to attach it to your clothes, or a bag, as well as a 3.5mm audio output, allowing you to connect your earphones, or a speaker to it. It also includes a MiniUSB port, not just for charging the Elbow, but also for allowing you to digitally extract audio from a cassette tape to your PC.
  • Bluetooth Audio. If you’re an old fart like me, you’re likely using an audio device that doesn’t support bluetooth in a world of bluetooth speakers. What to do? iClever is a small bluetooth transmitter/receiver that solves the problems. It allows one to convert any audio-producing device with a 3.5mm output into a bluetooth transmitter, and to convert any speaker/headphones with a 3.5mm connector into a bluetooth receiver. I’m going to need to remember this.
  • The MP3. NPR is reporting that the MP3 is dead — specifically, the license for the technology is no longer being issued. The article claims the replacement is the AAC (.m4a). I’m still generating MP3 (although I could switch to M4A), and Amazon only sells MP3s so I somewhat doubt this. Are any digital players no longer proving an MP3 translating CODEC. That will be the death of the MP3, not licensing rules.
  • Churches/Synagogues. In the musical 70, Girls, 70, the question is asked: What do zoos do with elephants when they die? Where do the elephants go? A similar question might be asked of a church or a synagogue: when they close, where does their stuff go? I ran into two articles address this question: the first looked at finding a new life for Jewish religious objects when a congregation closes; the second asked where does the pipe organ go when a church closes. Of course, technology isn’t all bad: I found an article on how technology can help carry on Jewish traditions.
  • School Libraries. An interesting article I found explores whether school libraries are on the path to extinction. After all, library staff is expensive, and today’s students don’t research in books. But libraries are an important tool in teaching children to read and think, and funding for libraries boils down to a wealth/class issue: Parents with the means can find the funds to support libraries, so their student have them an do better. Parents without depend on the district, and the district has other priorities. We’ve seen this many times in things like art education and field trips. The article explores how LA Unified is trying to change things.
  • Hollywood Archives. We all think technology is a boon, but is it really. It used to be easy to preserve films: get good cellulose and store it right. Now? The storage media changes ever few years, everything has to be retranslated, and not everything can be saved. This is creating a gigantic headache for the studios, and means that film isn’t the long-term media we thought it was. We have human art that survived 5000 years. When we look at our civilization in 5000 years, what of our art will still be available?

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Theatrical Planning News

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 06, 2017 @ 5:13 pm PDT

My last post dealt with some season announcements I was mailed. Here is some other theatrical news I’ve seen of late:

  • Allegiance. The George Takei musical Allegiance is coming to Los Angeles. I say George Takei, but he really didn’t write it: The show music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Kuo, Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione. It was inspired, however by Takei.  It is coming to the East West Theatre: “Allegiance” is scheduled to run from Feb. 21 to April 1, 2018, at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.
  • Spamilton. Perhaps you couldn’t get — or couldn’t afford — tickets to Hamilton. Don’t worry. You can go to Spamilton instead. Spamilton is starting its National Tour at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Nov. 5 through Dec. 31. Tickets will be $25 to $75, subject to change. Single tickets are not on sale yet.
  • A Noise Within. Pasadena’s A Noise Within has announced their 2017-2018 season. A lot of classics and good shows, but nothing that is strongly enticing to me. But it might interest you. The season is: A Tail of Two Cities; The Madwoman of Chaillot; Mrs. Warren’s Profession; A Christmas Carol; Henry V; A Raisin in the Sun; and Noises Off.
  • The Tour List. Two shows that got shut out of major — or any — Tony glory have announced tours: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Anastasia. These are both shows that would expect to show up in the Pantages 2018-2019 season.

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It’s All How You Look at It

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Apr 24, 2017 @ 11:46 am PDT

As I’ve gotten older, my eyesight has deteriorated to the point I need glasses. When you wear glasses, you become acutely aware how the lens you see something through affects how you look at that object. This lunchtime post brings together a few articles and topics, all about how the lens you view through changes your perception:

  • Our View of the World. Most of us have our idea of the spatial relationships of the world from the Mercator Projection map, which goes back to 1589. This map was designed for navagators, and it was important to get where the countries were in relation to each other.  Size and proportion, less so.  Realize that any map is a projection, taking a portion or the entirety of a spherical surface, and making it flat. The distortions may be minor when this is done for a city, increase as you move from a state to the country, and are magnified for the world. The Mercator is a particularly bad projection. As Wikipedia notes: “It became the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course, known as rhumb lines or loxodromes, as straight segments that conserve the angles with the meridians. Although the linear scale is equal in all directions around any point, thus preserving the angles and the shapes of small objects (which makes the projection conformal), the Mercator projection distorts the size of objects as the latitude increases from the Equator to the poles, where the scale becomes infinite. So, for example, landmasses such as Greenland and Antarctica appear much larger than they actually are relative to land masses near the equator, such as Central Africa.” This also means that the size of *white* areas — Europe, Russia, America — are enlarged and the size of non-white areas are smaller. This can influence one’s understanding of power dynamics, and so some alternate projections have come in the news to address this. In Boston, they are using the Peters Projection, which stretches out the world in order to give each continent a proportionally accurate amount of room. On the Peters, Canada—so huge on the Mercator—shrinks to its proper size, while Africa, which the Mercator shows shrunk and jammed beneath a too-large Europe, stretches out. In Japan, a design competition has brought us the AuthaGraph Map, where continents curve upward like a smile. Africa and the Americas look like they swapped places, longitude and latitude are no longer a tidy grid, and proportions of continents and bodies of water are retained. All of these cause discomfort for Euro-centra or America-centric — really, white centric — for they emphasize the reality of the smallness of Europe and America.
  • Transit Maps. No article here, but a similar distortion of view comes from transit maps. Transit maps are often drawn stylized, showing stations in relationship to each other, but with a grid that may not accurately reflect the distance between stations, or how stations relate to the geography of the city. This can often result in travelers believing a distance is walkable when it isn’t.
  • The Meaning of Art. We tend to believe that the meaning of an artwork is independent from where that artwork is located. But that’s not always true. Consider the “Fearless Girl” statue in NYC. This statue — which was part of an advertising campaign — was placed in proximity to the private artwork “Charging Bull”. This bothered the artist behind bull as it changed the meaning of his piece… and the location was specifically chosen by the “girl” artist because of the meaning the bull gives. But, as the article points out, replace the bull with a group of immigrant families, and the meaning completely changed. “Girl” is a piece that gains meaning from its surroundings.
  • Men’s Magazines. The LA Times recently had an article on the attempted rebirth/resurgence of Penthouse Magazine. But what caught my eye was one exchange: «“I don’t wish the bunny ill,” Holland said. “But I’ve seen it make bad decisions for so long.” She cited Playboy’s decision two years ago to stop running nude photos in its magazine, only to reverse that decision earlier this year. “We are defined by Playboy and Playboy is defined by us,” she said. “I respect iconic brands.”» Penthouse is defined by Playboy. Playboy was borderline acceptable; Penthouse when across the line to raunchy, and Huster went to the strip club around the corner. A fascinating definition, but quite common. Look at Conservative Judaism. Rarely is it defined for what it is, but that it is somewhere in the middle between Orthodox and Reform. Again, we are defined by what is around us.

Can you think of additional examples?


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