Well, it’s Saturday, and you know what that means — a tasty news chum stew of the leftovers that couldn’t make a coherent dish during the week:
OK, so it’s a skimpy stew.
This has been a busy week between work, headaches, our daughter being home, and planning for a new phone (acquired yesterday). Still, a few articles caught my eye, and some of them even themed. In particular, this set of items, all dealing with things we’ve seen in the past:
- School Troubles. Here are two articles about problems at high schools, both of which I don’t think we should be seeing these days, In the first article, parents are protesting (and school boards are thus nervous about) potential problems and stereotypes in high-school theatre productions, and thus they are cancelling them. The example given deals with Thoroughly Modern Millie, which does have a stereotypical 1920s plot line about about Asian white slavers. There are other examples given in the article, from Fiddler‘s portrayal of Orthodox Jews to West Side Story‘s portrayal of Puerto Ricans. I don’t understand why we must insist that every show from the past must be updated to meet today’s standards of correctness; I believe we should use the discussion of these shows to highlight how we mis-thought in the past. (The Smothers Brothers had a great routine on this called “Controversial Material” on the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” album, which is, alas, out of print). The second article is an opinion piece in today’s LA Times that states that middle- and high-school girls shouldn’t wear leggings because it distracts the boys. Excuse me. This sounds like the attitude of many Orthodox religions that think we need to cover up the women to protect the men from themselves. I believe we need to teach people to behave properly to other people, no matter how they are dressed.
- 7 out of 7 Critics. Taco Bell has introduced a new breakfast menu, and to advertise it, they are getting men named Ronald McDonald to endorse it. But this isn’t anything new. Back in 1961, the musical “Subways are for Sleeping” opened to negative reviews. Before those reviews could be printed, David Merrick, the producer, rounded up 7 men in the New York area with the same names as the critics, wined and dined them and treated them to the show, and each gave a rave review. Merrick published (or attempted to publish) this in the papers, showing how the critics loved it (with a small picture of each). The show still failed, but the trick has gone down in advertising infamy. Looks like Taco Bell is trying to do the same thing.
- Nobody Expects The …. We all know that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Would you expect it a second time? Spain hopes not. To bolster their standing in the EU and to “right the wrongs”, there is now a government proposal that would offer descendants of Spanish Jews citizenship and welcome them back to the land that drove out their ancestors. Up to 3.5 million Jews worldwide trace their lineage to Spain, although it’s not clear how or when their forebears made their way there in the first place. However, exactly what the Spanish government would consider sufficient proof of Spanish heritage — and what is producible so many centuries later — is not yet clear.
It’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clear out the links for the week. This has been a busy week, with a major recorganization (which was more of an org chart relocation) at work (means loads of “all-hands” meetings full of sound and fury, saying little), loads of documents to review, and loads of stuff to catch up on. As a result, I rarely got time to look at the news over lunch, and have only collected a few things that didn’t them. Let’s get to them:
- The Death of XP. My RSS feeds are full of dire warnings about continuing to use XP after support stops on April 8. As it is, I have three XP machines at home: two that are just sitting, turned off, and one that is used solely as a print server. Still, I am thinking about replacing it, and two articles caught my eye. The first looks at 3 Linux alternatives to upgrading Windows–I’d seriously think about upgrading at least one to Linux if it can work as a print server on a Windows network. The second talks about how Microsoft is offering special deals of $100 for those upgrading from XP. With some Windows 8 machines in the $200-$300 range, this brings systems to the noise level.
- Challenging Coins. Two interesting articles on coins this week. The first talks about the new £1 coin Britain is introducing. It will be 12-sided, and incorporate different-colored metals, for a faux gold and silver look, instead of the mostly copper blend now in circulation, and boast a high-tech anti-forgery feature used in paper money. It looks like it is complicated to make. Even more complicated is a new domed collectable coin being made by the US Mint: a domed coin commemorating baseball. Evidently, it was very hard for the mint to manufacture, and took a bit of experimenting to get right. What’s interesting here is reading the comments — there are a large number of people who do not understand that collectable coins and stamps make the government money.
- Training For It. About a week or so, I had set aside a story about a railroad club in Orange County that had their trackage stolen, intending to send them a little something. Turns out I wasn’t the only one: the club has received thousands of dollars in donations. A nice reminder that there are a lot of good people in the world.
- Bad Design. Here are two articles about some bad designs. The first is about a new device you can slap on a milk carton–it uses nanotechnology to indicate visually if the milk is good or bad. So what’s the problem? According to the article, “red” is good, “green” is bad. This is the opposite of how red and green are nomally used in interfaces, and I predict people will get sick from the “green is good” hardwiring. The second is about golfing: it appears that titanium clubs striking rocks can create sparks that start brush fires. Perhaps they should give golf clubs to people on Survivor.
- Out of This World. I’ve had this article sitting for a few weeks, but nothing seems to want to pair with it. Baker is a dying town — once home to the largest thermometer in the world, it is now slowly fading into the desert. But the owner of Alien Jerky wants to change that — and one way is to build a flying saucer shaped hotel.
- The Jewish Valley. I’m into history. I’m into Judaism. So naturally, I’m into the history of Jews in the San Fernando Valley. Many years ago, Rabbi John Sherwood and I even toyed with the idea of writing a book on the subject. So here’s an interesting article in that vein: it explores the early days of the Valley Jewish Community Center, which became the Conservative synagogue Adat Ari El. This is the synagogue that was the parent of most Conservative synagogues in the valley, just like Temple Beth Hillel was the first Reform congregation and was essentially the parent of most Reform congregations in the valley.
- Marital Success. What makes a successful marriage? Is it your partner? It is living together before you get married to work out the problems? Is it “murder frequently, divorce never?” According to this article from Atlantic, it is being mature when you get married. An exploration of the science of cohabitation shows that the older people are when they make their long-term commitment as a couple, the more likely that couple will stay together. The study found that individuals who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 saw a 60 percent rate of divorce. Whereas individuals who waited until 23 to commit saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent. I got married when I was 25, and next year we will have been married for 30 years. As they say, you do the math.
Here’s another belated lunchtime post (can you tell I’m clearing out a backlog). This time, the subject is selling and marketing:
- Working In Retail. Have you ever thought that those folks selling you stuff at the retail level had it easy? Well, that’s not the case. Here are two exposes on the subject. The first was brought to my attention when we visited Portland OR and someone suggested Voodoo Donuts. Evidently, VD is not the nicest place to work. The second I discovered this week — it is the story of a former journalist who got caught in some downsizing, and ended up working retail. He discovered that life at the retail level was nasty, and a place where you were always under suspicion for theft of goods or time. This makes me very glad I’ve never worked retail.
- Working as a Telemarketer. We all get them — the calls from the telemarketer just as you’re sitting down to dinner or about to watch your favorite program. Ever wonder how to get rid of them. Here’s the answer — from a former telemarketer. Very interesting reading.
- Corporate Comings and Goings. Some interesting corporate changes of late. The battle between Jos A Banks and Mens Wearhouse has finally ended: Mens Wearhouse is purchasing Jos A Banks, and Banks is giving up purchasing Eddie Bauer. I’m not sure what to think about this. I liked Banks when I shopped there, but their stuff was expensive. Never shopped Mens Warehouse. In the supermarket arena, Vons / Safeway has been purchased by Albertsons. We no longer shop at the majors (give us TJs, Fresh & Easy, or an ethnic chain), but we were never impressed by Albertsons. It will be interesting to see what they do with Vons. Lastly, Quiznos has filed Chapter 11, and the franchisees are none too happy about it. I’ve never been a Quiznos fan — I’ve always gone to Togos first, with Subway as the distinct second choice (and I’ve never tried Jersey Mikes). However, it doesn’t surprise me — the few times I’ve tried Quiznos, I haven’t been impressed.
This belated lunchtime news chum post looks at some recent (or at least new to me) articles about solving problems:
- The Engineer Shortage. You hear everyone say there is a shortage of engineers, and we need fewer liberal arts majors and artists, and more technicians. Well that’s just wrong thinking. The world needs its artists as well.
- Migraines. Headaches are a pain. I know. I get them. So I read with interest how the FDA has approved a TENS-headband to reduce the frequency of migraines. The device uses a self-adhesive electrode to apply electrical current to the skin, which can be felt as a tingling sensation. The current stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for facial sensations and has been linked to migraines. I do know that, at least for my headaches, one measure is the sensitivity of that nerve — I can just lightly touch the area where the top of my nose meets my eye socket, and if I’m headachy, it is much more sensitive. I’d be willing to give this device a try.
- A Privilege to Pee. San Francisco is addressing a big problem at one of their parks with the pPod, which has no relation to the iPod. The pPod is a custom-made, open-air urinal that San Francisco is installing at Dolores Park to help deal with the hordes of male hipster inebriants that descend on the popular Mission spot on weekends. It is a 7-foot-tall, semi-cylinder mesh screen surrounding a concrete pad and drain that empties into the sewer system. The pPod will be open at the back for easy wheelchair access – with no doors or locks.
Today’s lunchtime news chum brings together the makings of an Italian Western: the good, the bad, and the ugly….
- The Good. Know a woman interested in Information Security? Then point her to the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS), sponsored by ACSA, CRA-W, and HP. In fact, HP has just made a sizable donation to support this scholarship.
- The Bad. Carl Kasell is retiring from “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!“. Evidently, he will be Announcer and Judge Emeritus, and occasionally show up and still record voice mail messages for winners. I wonder if Legendary Announcer Bill Kurtis will take over; he’s filled in for Carl enough.
- The Scary. Here’s an unspeakable fear for you: What if a big rig carrying your mail went up in flames on the highway? Hyptothetical? Nope, it just happened. Think of those bills you paid… that will never get the check, ruining your credit rating. Think of those bills you thought you would receive… and thus will never pay. Tax returns. Amazon shipments. All gone, and you’ll never know. MWahahah.
- The Really Scary. As scary as that last one was, how about this: One in ten Americans thinks HTML is a sexually-transmitted disease. Expect to see this one on Wait-Wait, but it really highlights how little people understand about technology. Other findings of the same study: 27% identified “gigabyte” as an insect commonly found in South America;42% said they believed a “motherboard” was “the deck of a cruise ship”;23% thought an “MP3″ was a “Star Wars” robot; 18% believed “Blu-ray” was a marine animal; and 15% believed “software” is comfortable clothing. Oh, and just think, these people are voting in elections, commenting on news articles, and (ummm) watching “Honey Boo Boo”.
This has been a busy week, what with getting back from Portland, doing more site visits in LA, reviewing a lot of documents, and the retirement festivities for a long-time department member here at the ranch. But I did accumulate a few items, all having to do with retirement and things going away:
- Up, Up, and Away. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m interested in transportation. So, naturally, I found this article about the retirement of the last DC-10 and DC-9 in passenger service fascinating. I actually see DC-10s on a regular basis — as our van exits the 105 to drop off our Boeing folks, we pass right by the FedEx dock where they are loading DC-10 freighters.
- Giving an Arm and a Leg. When my daughter was little, I was felled by “stupid dad syndrome”. I was sitting on some monkey bars at Northridge Park watching her play, slipped, and came down full force with my leg on the iron bar. It was tightly swollen and purple (but not broken), and I remember words like “compartment syndrome”. Shortly after that accident, I had to travel — on that bum leg — to Boston to give a briefing for a project I couldn’t get out of. After reading this article about former CNN anchor Miles O’Brien, I realize how lucky I was. O’Brien had a similar compartment problem — for him, on his arm — and they ended up having to amputate.
- Shelving It Away. Ikea is discontinuing its most popular bookshelf, the Expedit. This is causing an uproar amongst Expedit users. However, it is not really dead — it is just being redesigned slightly to save some wood and some manufacturing costs. Still, this redesign announcement is considered a bungle by some, and the old shelving (Expedit) won’t match completely with the new (Kallax).
- What Evil Lurks… If you grew up in Los Angeles, you couldn’t avoid the commercials for Adee Plumbing (“Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of your plumbing? Adee-Do”) or Jack Stephan Plumbing (“Jack Stephanovich?”). The man behind that company, the real Jack Stephan, just died. My favorite part of this obituary is his tombstone: “The name plate he chose for his crypt at Inglewood Park Cemetery reads in extra-large letters: “IT’S JACK STEPHAN!!!””
- They’re Not Dead, They’re Just in Perris. Finally a picture of red cars and yellow cars waiting to be crushed :-(.