I was on vacation last week. This meant that I was out doing things — or more purposefully, not doing things — and not on the computer. There were a few articles that caught my eye… and most are worthy of some discussion:
- What’s A Matter With Kids These Days. I was really taken — and saddened — by this opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. It talked about how camp counselors these days can no longer hug our kids. It made me long for the simpler days of my childhood — when children could run around neighborhoods, and emotion could be shown. I was a camp counselor, and there were times you hugged your kids because there was that strong relationship, or they needed comforting and you were the ersatz parent substitute. But the fear of litigation and the fear of predators — and in general, the whole business of promoting fear — has made us afraid to do it, and afraid of the litigation that might result if the child tells their parents. It’s sad that our society today is like that. But, on the other hand, do I want that simpler society? On vacation, I read the book “Space” by James Michner, and it was a bit prescient in predicting the growth of religion, the growth in the people who believe that the Bible is science, and the growth of the hatred of others. Wanting simpler days is code for not wanting the complexity and difficulties science brings. Technology — either in the form of the Internet or TV reporting — has brought the predators out into the open. Whether there are more now than before is unknown, but we see them now and we talk about them more. We’re still on the fear side of the pendulum swing, but I hope the day will come when we don’t have to worry about the predators, and those who are caregivers to children can feel safe comforting them with a hug. A fist bump just doesn’t cut it.
- With Money Comes Water. California is in a bad drought. We’ve had them before, and this is likely cyclical, but the situation seems worse than before. This is likely because there is a greater awareness of groundwater depletion — in previous droughts, we just worried about the reservoir levels and assumed there was plenty of groundwater. We now know this isn’t the case; wells in East Porterville CA have already gone dry and they are living on bottled water. Further, there is the quest for oil and the use of fracking to get it — they believe it is safe, but it has contaminated ground water before. Just imagine how bad a drought would be if we couldn’t augment reservoirs with groundwater. So it is a little galling to read articles like this one: “Lifestyles of the Rich and Parched: How the Golden State’s 1 percenters are avoiding the drought.” They waste the water because they can afford to waste the water, or they pay to truck in additional water so they can continue their profligate ways. This is wrong. We hope that the people we tend to present as celebrities will also serve as role models; it is sad when they do not.
- Ah, for the Days of Bratskeller and College Books. There are many who feel that one of the factors leading to the demise of Westwood as a college town was the rebirth of the Third Street Prominade in Santa Monica (others blame it on the gang violence that overtook Westwood in the 1990s, or the outrageous rents that are charged). We forget that the Prominade was once as forlorn as Westwood. Here’s what the Prominade looked like in the 1960s and 1970s, before the days of the Gap and Santa Monica Place. Let’s hope that the community in Westwood can revitalize that community as Santa Monica did.
- Drilling Down This last article is a little less thought provoking, and a bit more referential. However, some might call it revolutionary, and others might just say I should chuck it. I fear that if I keep with these puns, someone will give me the shaft. But I make them still, because the guide is a guide to drill bits and drilling. That reminds me… I’m seeing the dentist on Friday.
OK, so I’m nowhere near Benji Franklin or Norm Rockwell. But it is Saturday, and that means it is time to bring out the “mag”… otherwise known as the stew of articles that caught my eye over this busy week:
- Jews in the South. If you get Reform Judaism magazine (as I do), you’ve seen those ads where the community of Dothan AL offers to pay Jews to move there. Ever wonder if it works? Here’s an article from the Forward that looks at the program and its successes… and failures.
- Perhaps the Older Ways are Better. If you’re like me, you dutifully rerecorded your records onto each new medium. I had a large cassette collection, which I rerecorded onto CDs. I’ve also added a large number of purchased CDs. But are CDs the best way to store things? It turns out that not all CDs last the same, and most don’t last anywhere near forever. Good thing I’ve got my music on my hard drive in a format that will never go away – MP3s
- Eating Food Right. Here’s a list of 25 foods that (supposedly) we’ve been eating the wrong way. Some of these I’ve seen before (such as the cupcake sandwich). Others are useful information for my daughter, such as using a waffle iron for pizza or hash browns. Others are cool, such as putting bacon in your cinnamon roles. I like the salad in a jar, m’self.
- Sound in a Bowl. From salad in a jar to sound in a bowl. The Hollywood Bowl, to be precise. Here’s an interesting article on the job of the sound technicians at the Hollywood Bowl. Most people don’t think about the sound designers … and that’s how they would like it.
- Tracking You. Perhaps you’ve heard that Google is tracking every move. Here’s another one: The new Corvette tracks everything that a valet driver does in the car. Now when you hand over your keys, you can know if they are going on a joyride. Let’s add one more to the tracking: DirecTV and Dish are teaming up to send political ads to just your television.
- I Don’t Recall. Speaking about vehicles, the government has released a useful new tool. Enter your VIN, find out if there are any recalls for your car.
- It Adds Up. Ever wonder about those partially used bars of soap from your hotel visits? Think they go to waste? Nope. Hotels recycle them to make new bars of soap for the homeless.
- Unknown Features. Here’s a useful list of the top 14 hidden features in Windows, iOS, and Android. I particularly like Win-X on Windows. I’ll have to explore developer mode on Android (of course, they don’t mention the most useful feature that is non-obvious: how to do cut and paste on Android). Since we’re talking computer stuff, here are 26 favorite fonts you can get for free (such as the Disney font).
- You Go Girl. And lastly, some good news. Women are dominating science and math at Cal State Northridge.
It’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clean out the links. This week is comparatively sparse compared to last week, the result of a busy week at work combined with the news cycle being dominated by celebrity deaths (the shock of Robin Williams, which overshadowed Lauren Bacall’s death the next day, just like Michael Jackson overshadowed Farrah Fawcett Majors) and police actions (with people acting surprised that racism exists in America… alas, it goes hand-in-hand with similar attitudes towards religion and sexual orientation — America isn’t perfect folks — it is our job to make it better). In any case, here are a few, perhaps less controversial, subjects that managed to catch my eye:
- Is There A Movie on This Flight? On a recent 737 cross-country to Baltimore, I noticed that there were no longer shared movie screens. Instead, there were individual seat back TVs, and although there were more entertainment options, none were free if you were in coach. Gee, just like the old days of the 1970s (when you had to pay for movies). But I was lucky — we had seat-back TVs. Here’s why, more and more, your airplane just might not have seat-back entertainment.
- Just Like a Fingerprint. Digital is dull and boring. The studios hate the fact that every digital copy of a song is unchanged from the original. That’s every different than the old days. Here’s an interesting article that notes how every audit recording of a vinyl record is different. This makes sense — turntables have variations in speed, there are different needles with different audio pickups, scratches and noise accumulate at different points. We don’t love analog media for the quality; we love it for the imperfections. Just like we love people.
- That Is Something I Will Never Do. Mental floss explores what it is like to be the person who repairs the antennas at the top of skyscrapers. Excuse me while I cower on the floor for a bit.
- Quilters in Powerful Places. My wife is a quilter. This is a dangerous thing, because it just adds to her fabric stash. This weeks’ news brought word of another quilter: Gloria Molina of the LA County Board of Supervisors. She’s part of the East Los Angeles Stitchers, TELAS for short, a group that Molina and a few friends founded three years ago to share their love of quilting with a larger, particularly Latina audience.
- How They Work. Here’s an article I’m linking simply because I want to read it: How modern browsers work.
- A History in Signs. At the Caltrans building downtown, there is evidently a display of Los Angeles street signs over time. Cool.
- Vegas Items. Two interesting items about Las Vegas. First, another piece of old Vegas is shutting down: the KOA campground at Circus-Circus. This goes back to the 1960s and the first post-Sarno owner of C-C. As for opening up, next week the new SLS opens up on the site of the Sahara (1952). One thing it will feature is very see-through bathrooms. At least that is better than what you will find in Berlin.
- Problematic Patch Tuesday. It appears as if a few updates in the last patch Tuesday were problematic. So far, I haven’t seen the problem on my Toshiba laptops (but I was worried); then again, I seem not to have the font registry entries that could be problematic. Still, you might want to read about the problems; you might even want to read the Knowledge Base article and uninstall those patches.
It’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clean out the links. This has been a busy week: I finished my year-long analysis of the 800-53 controls at work; our daughter returned from her summer on the East Coast; and there was the usual MoTAS work. I collected a number of links, but forgot to send them all back to me on Friday, so I couldn’t theme them as I wanted to. Oh well. I still think there are some really taste nuggets in here:
- And Ode to Tom, and Tom, and Jess. Back when I was really young, I wrote a poem about the TV news scene at the time. It started as follows:
Tom Snyder‘s here on NBC
Bob Hale’s the weatherman
ABC’s got Joe Benti
5′s got George Putnam
An ode to Tom & Tom & Jess
Jerry and Utley
Walter, Barney, Clete, & John
More we do not need
Well, one of those names just passed away: Jess Marlow, who was a fixture on the local news scene — on KNBC, KNXT (now KCBS), and KCET. Here are some moving tributes.
- Designing It Right. One of the podcasts I’ve gotten into of late (thanks to a recommended Kickstarter) is 99% Invisible, which looks at hidden design issues. This article is right down their alley: An article on the design of signage for bathrooms, and the question of how do you design a sign that accomodates gender non-conformists best. There was a second article I saw on Friday, but forgot to send the link home. But the question raised here is similar to the issues surrounding design of the handicapped symbol. Wait… (rummages around). I found the article. It was an article from Vox on how casinos specifically are designed to get you to play more, and this includes how slot machines are programmed. It reminded me of a 99% Invisible story earlier in the week about how the Atlanta airport was deliberately designed with wayfaring indicators to speed you in the right direction.
- Matadors in the News. Two articles this week highlighted some interesting Matadors. I don’t mean the type that deal with bulls (although they likely deal with bullshit); rather, I’m referring to students at Cal State Northridge. In the first, a CSUN grad student did her Master’s History Thesis on the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster, uncovering the names of all the victims. Really interesting work. In the second, ACSA (the organization that sponsors ACSAC; I’m the secretary of ACSA), CRA-W, and HP announced the winners of this year’s Scholarship for Woman Studying Information Security, and both of the California winners were from the California State University system, not UC. One of was from CSUN; the other from CalPoly SLO. I took a little time Friday to talk to the CSUN winner (she’s an intern where I work), and we both agree: CSUN needs a stronger cybersecurity program.
- Food for … umm… Food. A few interesting food related articles. In the first, NPR highlighted a growing need in food banks: a gluten-free section where GF items can be segregated. In the second, it was pointed out how many of our dark leafy greens are actually the same plant: kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kohlrabi, mustard. Just as we breed dogs for various traits but they are all the same species, so has Brassica oleracea been bred for various traits. The last was more of a local item about a good Argentinian dive in Van Nuys.
- The Times They are a Changing. In this item, I’m not referring to the App from Footlights — which I currently find to be pointless*. Rather, changes in times are forcing companies to change. Technology is particularly forcing change. This week, P&G announced it is downsizing its portfolio of brands. Here’s an interesting analysis of why. In short, brands proliferated because more brands equaled more shelf space. But as we’ve moved to the technological marketplace, shelf space is meaningless. More brands make your product harder to differentiate in search, and to promote on social networks. And thus: brand consolidation. Another example is the upcoming death of Radio Shack. Technology stores are hard put to keep up with the Internet; increasingly, they are just showrooms for stuff ordered online — and that doesn’t pay the rent.
- And the Rest. Two additional items of interest. First, a history of the dark rides at Disneyland, which concentrates most on Haunted Mansion. The second comes from this week’s DEFCON — an article on the vulnerability of our traffic control systems.
*: OK, addressing the item from Footlights. I understand the desire for an app, but I’m not seeing what’s unique here. I learn about my theatre from Goldstar and LA Stage Tix (and I’d love a Goldstar Android app — they only have iOS). Bitter-Lemons will eventually come out with a rating app (I participated in the Kickstarter). So why do I need an app to see what LA Theatre is around. What I need is an app that combines Amazon and Foursquare — looking at my theatre history and what I have liked or dislikes, and recommending particular shows in an upcoming time frame that will be of interest to me. That’s the app I want.
It’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clean out the accumulated links. I tried to theme these, but I kept coming back to things I always theme about: history, changes, interesting stories, and such. So I thought I would just share them all in one post, with commentary. Here goes…
- This American Life: Behind the Scenes. I’ve written before about how podcasts save my sanity when commuting. One of the many I enjoy is “This American Life”. Here’s an interesting “How I Work” segment on Ira Glass, the man behind TAL and how he builds the show.
- Denim: Behind the Scenes. Here’s another “behind the scenes” — this time, we’re looking at those jeans you are wearing… and wearing out. You probably haven’t thought about what goes into denim repair: where jeans fail, how they are fixed, and the impact of our throwaway culture on the simple notion of repairing worn out things. Nowadays, it is cheaper to throw something out and replace it, adding to the landfill and wasting manufacturing energy, as opposed to fixing it. But is money the whole side of the equation?
- Costa Concordia: End of the Line. The Costa Concordia — that cruise ship that grounded off an Italian city when the captain said “look at me!” — has finally been towed to the scrapper. So what is going to happen to the ship now? That’s the interesting part. The first items to be removed will be passengers’ luggage and personal effects that are still stuck on board. Just imagine — this stuff has been sitting for almost 2 years. Of what is left, more than 80% of the Concordia will be recycled or reused, including copper wiring, plumbing pipes, kitchens and some of the plastic room fittings that can be repaired. The remaining 50,000 tons of steel will be melted down and sold at the market price to be used to make construction girders, cars and even other ships.
- Imperial Terminal: End of the Line. When I was growing up, there was a charter air line terminal on the southern side of LAX called the Imperial Terminal. This is where charters on no-name airlines would start. The Imperial Terminal eventually closed and became the Flight Path Museum, which I’ve been intending to see for years. Now the Flight Path Museum’s days may be numbered — a proposal to relocate it has been included in the operation bids for The Proud Bird.
- Vinyl Records: A Comeback. As you know I love music — in any form, cassette, CD, LP, digital. I regularly record from vinyl and have a large vinyl collection. Here’s an interesting article on the realities behind vinyl’s comback: how artists are asking for different forms of records, and why the infrastructure can’t keep up. It also demonstrates how today’s generation does not understand how vinyl is produced.
- Becoming Someone Else. Have you ever wanted to create a different persona online? It is harder than you think. Here’s an article that goes into the trials and tribulations of inventing a new person online.
- Water Water Everywhere. Those of us in Los Angeles have been engrossed this week in the saga of the broken pipe in LA. It too a long time to shut down, and this article explains why. But water flows where it wants to, and at one point, it flowed through UCLA. Here’s an article on the rivers of UCLA — I remember in steam tunnel days exploring the gigantic space under the Dickson Bridge. Lastly, I’ll note that state water restrictions have gone into effect.
- The Doctor is In. Here’s an interesting article on a new service called HealthTap, which provides an online service to give direct access to a doctor at a low cost. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a service like this; our health plan at work is offering something called LiveHealthOnline, which is a similar service. I think this is great — not just for me, but for my daughter at UC Berkeley. She always seems to need a doctor when the urgent cares are closed, and this is a cost effective approach that allows her to see one.
- Try to Remember. Here are some last things, posted mostly so I remember them. First, “Batboy: The Musical” is coming to CSUN. I must get tickets. Secondly, here’s a list of all the “OK, Google, Now” commands. Try “Who’s on first?” Thirdly, here are some supposedly good cheap fountain pens.
- Don’t Be a Dummy. And lastly, don’t be a dummy. If you are, you might end up at North Hollywood Toyota.
It’s Saturday — time for some tasty news chum stew. Today’s stew, which is almost a specifically flavored post, provides some information on things you see, and things you don’t (including things you once saw):
- Hidden Things on the iPhone. Two articles touching on the same subject: Apple has installed some hidden packet sniffing technology on the iPhone, although Apple says the services are “diagnostic” in nature. The problem is, of course, that hackers very often figure out how to exploit these “diagnostic” services for their own purposes. Tsk, tsk, Apple.
- The Pastoral Life. We often don’t think about what our preachers and religious leaders get paid. For all the mega-leaders at mega-churches, there are ten times or more leaders at smaller churches, at much smaller salaries. This article explores the vanishing middle-class clergy, and how more and more pastors must turn to second or third jobs to make ends meet. Although the article is couched towards Christianity, it is true in Judaism as well — dues are down, and more congregations have part time rabbis and cantors.
- What Is It Really Like. We’ve all seen the image: the scantily clad girl pops out of the cake at the party. Here’s an interesting article that looks at that situation, only from the point of view of the girl in the cake. Life, it seems, isn’t as sweet for her.
- High Five, No Jive. We’ve all given someone the high five. Do you know where it started? Here’s an article on the inventor of the “high five” — who was also one of the first openly gay baseball players — and paid the price.
- I’ll Have What She’s Having. Wendy’s has had some memorable commercials, from Clara Peller and “Where’s the Beef?” to the commercials starring the founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas. The latest commercials start a cute redhead who is intimated to be “Wendy”. So who is that girl?
- Third Floor, Ladies Lingerie. This week, the Robinsons in Beverly Hills was demolished. My grandmother once worked there, so I have a sentimental spot in my heart for the building. Here’s a look back at what Robinsons was.
I’m currently reading a very interesting book called “Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water” by Marc Reisner. It is very timely reading, given the drought that we’re currently facing in California. The book explores much of the relationship of the American West and water, especially the power, politics, and idiocy behind many Bureau of Reclamation projects and Army Corps of Engineer projects — such as the Central Arizona Project, the Teton Dam, or the proposed Narrows Dam — that are not economically viable and often built in unstable areas. There are two chapters devoted to California: one explores the story of William Mulholland and the first Los Angeles Aqueduct (here are some interesting maps related to that), the second explores the history of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. Other chapters touch on some Army Corps projects that helped large farmers in the San Joaquin valley, the story of obtaining water from the Colorado, and the more surprising story of how they wanted to get more water for the Colorado / Central Valley from the Feather, Eel, Klamath, and even the Columbia river. What’s missing in the book is any discussion of San Francisco and its water, and the battle over Hetch Hetchy. It is a glaring omission.
In any case, this book has gotten me thinking about water, and a number of articles this week have emphasized that thinking. It’s also got me looking at many government projects a bit more cynically — when you understand some of the political battles behind them, you can see the waste. This is independent of party: both conservatives and liberals, Repubs and Democrats, have fought for water project boondoggles. Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Dwight Eisenhower tried to cut them, but never succeeded.
So here are some articles on water, with commentary:
- Once It’s Gone, It’s Gone. One of topics repeatedly mentioned in Cadillac Desert is how areas in the west have been over-pumping the ground water (similar to how we are over-pumping oil). We’ve been drastically drawing down a slow-to-replenish resource, and don’t have the water projects to replace it (and don’t get me started on how we’re contaminating the aquifers through fracking). A number of articles are bringing this fact home: the Las Vegas Sun has an article on how the groundwater loss in the Southwest is shocking: “Groundwater losses from the Colorado River basin appear massive enough to challenge long-term water supplies for the seven states and parts of Mexico that it serves” [combine this with the fact that more water from the Colorado River has been promised to the states along its path than flows through the river in a normal year]. The LA Times is reporting that farmers are having to drill deeper to find groundwater for wells. This indicates that the aquifer is getting low. The AAAS Science Magazine is reporting that the Western US states are using groundwater at an alarming rate: “A new study shows that ground water in the [Colorado River] basin is being depleted six times faster than surface water. The groundwater losses, which take thousands of years to be recharged naturally, point to the unsustainability of exploding population centers and water-intensive agriculture in the basin, which includes most of Arizona and parts of Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming.” Yes, droughts are cyclical; but global climate change, combined with our misuse of what water resources we have, are making this one even scarier.
- A Crappy Situation. Think about your personal water usage. Outside of irrigating your landscaping, where is most of your water used? The answer, of course, is the bathroom. One of the articles I saw this week was on why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design. There are a number of interesting points in the article. Thanks to the modern bathroom, the average water use per person went quickly from three gallons of water per person to 30 and perhaps as much as 100 gallons per person. Further, we’re doing silly things like storing medicine, open toothbrushes, and glasses in an environment where fecal bacteria are being flung around. That’s less of a problem if you’re the only person using your bathroom; more of a problem if it shared.
- Go Jump in a (Concrete) Lake. Our house, alas, has a swimming pool. I don’t want it, but we liked the rest of the house. So here’s an interesting question: What uses more water — a swimming pool or the landscaping that replaces it? If a lawn is going it, quite likely the pool is water smarter (other than the fill, which is one-time). The pool only loses water due to evaporation; you pour water on the lawn regularly. It does make me think seriously about getting a pool cover to control evaporation, however. I just hate to think of the leaves that would accumulate on top of it.
It’s Saturday, and time to clear out the accumulated links for the week. This has been a busy week with travel and the move of my mother-in-law, so I didn’t even have the time to theme what I had.
- Don’t Bring This To The Airport. Here’s a Swiss Army Knife in a handy credit-card shape. It contains a sharp blade, an even sharper pair of scissors, a file, a tweezers, a toothpick, and a pen.
- It Makes Me Sick. You’ve probably heard that if you work at your computer too long, you’ll get sick. Here’s another data point. It appears that iPads and similar devices are giving people rashes because of the nickel in their cases.
- Making Students Sick. Last week was the deadline for SHIP waivers — waivers that tell UC Berkeley that your student already has health insurance and you don’t want to pay for university provided insurance. They’ve made the process more confusing this year, more students are having to file appeals, and more appeals are being denied. There is no reason that a student who has coverage that meets the rules of the ACA shouldn’t be good enough for SHIP, but perhaps they get money for each student covered.
- Parking Confusion. Here’s a proposal for a redesigned parking sign that eliminates all confusion. I like it. Perhaps we should ask 99% Invisible to look into parking signs.
- Napalm Girl and Photographer Man. When I was growing up, one article I clipped and saved was “Should this photo have been posted”, which looked into the ethics of posting controversial photos such as the girl running from napalm in Vietnam. Here’s an interesting article on the man who took that photo.
- Ghost Airports. I find the notion of abandoned airports fascinating. I still remember when Denver shut down Stapleton and opened their new airport, and how quickly Stapleton disappeared. Here’s an interesting photo essay about the old Athens airport, which shut down in 2001 and is still standing.