Observations Along the Road

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

They’ll make you a mix tape / To give you a clue.

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 21, 2015 @ 11:00 am PST

userpic=white-ipodLet’s continue the theme of using song lyrics. In Avenue Q, the characters sing of using a mixtape to send a signal. There’s a word in there that has transcended its origin: mixtape. We’ve moved far from the original notion of making a cassette with a mix of music; we’re in the brave new world of digital music. In this world, we don’t even know what music sounds like — “good enough” is good enough. Apple has given into this: they no longer have players with the capacity for lots of high-def music (I’ve bemoaned this before, and won’t bemoan it here). But mixtapes — and in particular — tapes — have given us the theme for this post (which was really keyed off the C-90 item). Cassettes came in a variety of sizes, but the most common were C-30, C-45, C-60, C-90, and if you were really brave, C-120s. So, here are some news chum items, in the sizes of cassettes:



You know I love that organic cooking…

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 20, 2015 @ 7:35 pm PST

userpic=caduceusLet’s continue the trend of using lyrics in titles, although many of us will start singing just from the title line alone. Let’s see if this helps:

You know I love that organic cooking
I always ask for more
And they call me Mr Natural
On down to the health food store
I only eat good sea salt
White sugar don’t touch my lips
And my friends is always begging me
To take them on macrobiotic trips
Yes, they are

Tonight’s collection of news chum has to do with the intertwined topics of food and medicine, including some studies that indicate that some of what we thought might be completely wrong:

  • Oil Me Up. Oil Me Down. For years, what has been the mantra: Vegetable oil good. Butter bad. Grapeseed oil good for high heat. Olive oil best raw. Oh, and never never never go for that palm or coconut oil. Turns out, what we know about cooking with oils may be completely wrong. Based on some recent studies, scientists are now warning against the dangers of frying food in sunflower oil and corn oil over claims they release toxic chemicals linked to cancer. These leading scientists are now recommending food be fried in olive oil, coconut oil, butter or even lard.  Scientists found that heating up vegetable oils led to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease and dementia. This goes along with some other research that is showing that whole milk may be much better for you than low-fat or skim.
  • GMO Salmon Safe. This week, the FDA approved consumption of genetically modified salmon. Now, I love salmon as much as the next guy, but even this gave me pause. Do I want to eat it? Turns out, genetically modified salmon appears actually to be safe to eat. The article goes through a number of the fears, including the complaint that it endangers consumers’ “personal health,” that it “could cause human allergies,” and that it’s been approved based on “insufficient safety testing.” In the case of GE plants, these scary what-if arguments are unfalsifiable, based on speculation about chemical properties and ever-expanding demands for longer study periods and bigger samples. The GE salmon was initially submitted for FDA approval 20 years ago. The agency declared it safe in 2010 and then spent another five years reviewing objections. Thursday’s statement says the FDA has concluded that the salmon is “safe to eat” and is “as nutritious as food from other non-GE Atlantic salmon.” It also says the genetic change is “safe for the fish itself.” There are loads of links in the Slate article, so decide for yourself.
  • Overweight Bad? Here’s another study of interest that shows that being moderately overweight may not be as bad for your health as once thought. I’ll emphasize moderately. Being overweight is now believed to help protect patients with an increasingly long list of medical problems, including pneumonia, burns, stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease. Researchers who have tried to show that the paradox is based on faulty data or reasoning have largely come up short. And while scientists do not yet agree on what the paradox means for health, most accept the evidence behind it. “It’s been shown consistently enough in different disease states,” says Gregg Fonarow, a cardiology researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. They aren’t sure why.  My thoughts: it isn’t being overweight — it is really that we’re miscalculating what a healthy weight is. In fact, it could very well be that, just as in the next item, what is a healthy over- or under-weight value may vary by the individual.
  • Diets are Individualistic.  It turns out that what may be the best diet for one may not be the best diet for another. Researchers Eran Elinav and Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science have just published the results of a large, comprehensive study in the journal Cell that found people can metabolize the exact same foods in very different ways. What this means is that a healthy diet for one person may not be healthy for another person. Rather than recommend a cookie-cutter solution to weight problems, the researchers say, doctors could be more effective by recommending a personalized nutrition plan to a patient, based on the way that patient metabolizes certain foods.  Again, this doesn’t surprise me: obesity and health is increasingly being shown to be dependent on  our individual gut biome, which we’ve been systematically destroying.
  • Bed May Be Bad. We start to move away from the food a bit now. Here’s an article on a study that sleeping in (as you do on the weekends) may be bad for you. Disruptions to routine sleeping patterns can increase the danger for developing metabolic diseases for example diabetes and heart disease, according to a brand new study. New research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrates that societal jetlag as basic as getting up late may also be bad for health. Social jetlag refers to a mismatch between an individual ‘s socially-imposed sleep program and their natural circadian rhythm. Researchers said societal jetlag is understood to relate to obesity and other cardiovascular conditions, yet the connection to healthy individuals is fresh. Doesn’t surprise me at all: I tend to get less migraines if I keep my sleep cycle regular.
  • Potential New Migraine Preventative. Scientists may have finally come up with an effective migraine preventative. This is wonderful news. We’ve started to have drugs that can stop an attack in progress. Prevention? We’ve adapted blood pressure drugs (which I use), depression medications, epilepsy meds, and even Botox to try to prevent them. It doesn’t always work (I know I go through periods where I’ve got light migraines almost every other day). However, neurologists believe they have identified a hypersensitive nerve system that triggers the pain and are in the final stages of testing medicines that soothe its overly active cells. These are the first ever drugs specifically designed to prevent the crippling headaches before they start, and they could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year. If they deliver on the promise they have shown in studies conducted so far, which have involved around 1,300 patients, millions of headaches may never happen. The work focuses on the trigeminal nerve system, long known to be the brain’s primary pain pathway. Studies in animals indicated that in branches of the nerve that exit from the back of the brain and wrap around various parts of the face and head, overactive cells would respond to typically benign lights, sounds and smells by releasing chemicals that transmit pain signals and cause migraine. The heightened sensitivity of these cells may be inherited; 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of the disorder. This makes sense to me: when my migraines started, I could touch near my nose and feel it around to the back of my neck — in other words, the trigeminal nerve was over-sensitive.
  • Addressing Blood Pressure. Another concern of mine is blood pressure. I’m on a combination of meds to get it down, but I’m still routinely in the 140-130/90-80 range, and they now want a target of under 120/80. Here’s a great article I ran across on other things to do to lower blood pressure. I’m trying to lose weight and exercise, but it is hard when you’re getting home at 5:30p and want to have dinner by 8pm.
  • The Brain GPS. I’ve always said that everyone is experts in remembering something, and my particular expertise is spatial and temporal. I can remember the layout of rooms I haven’t been in for 20 years. I have maps in my head and innately know where I am (except in the twisty maze of roads near John Wayne Airport). I invariably come back in the kitchen when there is just 10 seconds on the timer. Turns out: there is a brain GPS, and it helps with our memories. A recent animal study found that special brain cells that track an animal’s location also can track time and distance. This could explain how rat and human brains are able to organize memories according to where and when an event occurred. The cells, called grid cells, appear to be “laying down the sequence of space and time that provide a framework for events that are unfolding,” says Howard Eichenbaum, an author of the study and director of the Center for Memory and Brain at Boston University.

Going back to the song, have you figured it out yet. Perhaps some more will help:

Oh, but at night I stake out my strong box
That I keep under lock and key
And I take it off to my closet
Where nobody else can see
I open that door so slowly
Take a peek up north and south
Then I pull out a Hostess Twinkie
And I pop it in my mouth
Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me

Speaking of Junk Food, how about a run for the border. In this case, I’m talking a specific Taco Bell, “Numero Uno”, which was saved from demolition and moved last night from Downey to Irvine. That is south of the border. Well, at least south of the Orange Curtain.

Wearing Snakeskin Boots like Billy Ray Cyrus, Totin’ my Norton Antivirus…

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 19, 2015 @ 8:05 pm PST

userpic=cardboard-safeFigured I’d continue with my song lyrics. I’m sure no-one knows where that lyrics is from, but you can hear a snippet here. Today’s news chum post has to do with computers, and in particular, cybersecurity and its impacts. Well, with one exception.

But online I don’t drive in a shy way, in my big rig on the Information Superhighway….

Looking everywhere, going nowhere

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 18, 2015 @ 11:56 am PST

userpic=travelToday’s news chum post continues the trend of using a song lyric in the title. Does anyone recognize the song? If you figure it out (or cheat), I’ll note that even thought the line fits the post, the overall song doesn’t really. In any case, today’s post — focused on going nowhere — is about transportation in the news. Transportation, in fact, that may get us nowhere fast. Here are a few transportation articles I’ve corrected, while I eat my lunch…


The eastern world it is exploding…

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 17, 2015 @ 5:48 pm PST

userpic=war-not-healthyThe other day, I started and ended a post with a song; a post that was a requiem for a number of things that we’ve lost. Here are some more recent losses of interest… beginning with a very timely song:

The eastern world it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war but whats that gun you’re totin’?
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave
Take a look around you boy, it’s bound to scare you boy

And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Yeah my blood’s so mad feels like coagulating
I’m sitting here just contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth it knows no regulation
Handful of senators don’t pass legislation
And marches alone can’t bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’

And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Many of you will remember the version of that song performed by the Turtle (a group from Westchester HS). The song was written by P.F. Sloan, who recently passed away. Sloan also wrote another song that encapsulated the era, especially if you watched “The Prisoner”: “Secret Agent Man”.


 The second death of note is Carol Doda.  Next to Gypsy Rose Lee, Doda is one of the most famous strippers out there. Quoting the obituary: «“San Francisco history is made up of characters, and Carol certainly was one of those,” said Charlotte Shultz, chief of protocol for San Francisco. “She changed Broadway and made news around the world. People said, ‘Only in San Francisco,’ and we didn’t mind people saying that.”» Doda created the first topless dancing act of widespread note in America. So many customers packed her club that Doda spent $1,500 to boost her bust size from 34B to 44DD through silicone injection, which was then a new technique. It was painful, she said, but the results were very popular. Doda said she never suffered health complications. At the height of her fame, Doda’s breasts were dubbed “the New Twin Peaks of San Francisco.” At one point they were insured for $1.5 million with Lloyd’s of London.


The last death of note is Gene Amdahl. You might not recognize the name now, but Amdahl was the architect of the IBM/360 and IBM/370 series of computers; he later went on to create his own company making IBM mainframe knockoffs.  My encounter with Amdahl — the company, not the man — was when I was team leader for the Amdahl UTS/MLS B1 Unix effort back in the 1990s.

A Los Angeles Trio… mmmmm, and a little bit more

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Nov 16, 2015 @ 7:21 pm PST

userpic=los-angelesI’m going to try clearing off my news chum links the old way for a while: a post a day. Today’s post groups together three links about Los Angeles:


Dashing Daesh

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Nov 16, 2015 @ 7:11 pm PST

userpic=camelsBefore I go and do another news chum post to start clearing the links, a few thoughts that hit me over lunch while I was reading the news and seeing all the articles about how bombing Daesh is the answer to the terrorism (why do I use Daesh? Read this).

Simply put, the notion that we can bomb Daesh off the map and have the terrorism stop is so World War II. It comes from a mentality of nation states waging war, and more importantly, nation states that can stop the war when they surrender and admit defeat. We really haven’t had a war like that since World War II or the Korean Conflict, and perhaps Vietnam.

It is clearly not the case in the “War on Terrorism”. Terrorism is distributed, with cells throughout the world. We saw this after 9/11. You clean up one area, and the problem moves to another. You get rid of one acknowledged leader (Osama Bin Laden), and another pops up.

Suppose — just suppose — that we carpetbombed Daesh out of Iraq and Syria. Sheet of glass, however you want to do it. Conventional. Nuclear. Would that stop the terrorism threat from Daesh?

Nope. They’ve got sympathizers around the world. New leaders will pop up. New cells will vow revenge. There will be retaliatory attacks and the problem will go on.

There are those who will say the problem is Islam. It isn’t. Most Muslims are peace loving. The problem is fundamentalism, and fundamentalism combined with (to put it bluntly) brain-washing. Militant fundamentalism is a problem whether it is Islam militant fundamentalists from Daesh, Christian militant fundamentalists in America (or on the crusades), or Jewish militant fundamentalists in the occupied territories.

So how do we address this problem. First, we think about how to do it right. Simple retaliatory strikes are not the answer; in fact, it may aggravate the situation. Strikes that speak the language they understand would help (read “From Beirut to Jerusalem” to understand what I’m saying). Strikes that don’t walk into the PR game they are playing would also help. Everytime we do a carpetbombing strike and kill civilians as collateral damage, we give Daesh ammunition to recruit. Weeding out militant fundamental throughout the world would be a good start.

I think the real answer is to see this is a long game. Militant fundamentalism often arises out of class struggle; rarely do you see the militant fundamentalists being part of the 1%; instead, they are near the bottom of the 99%. If we can raise the standard of living, improve education, improve critical thinking, empower men and women (especially) to excel; if we can make it so that no one needs to fight for the underclass because there is no underclass — then we can create a world where the terrorism is no longer needed.

Now to go write the news chum.

Yiddish on the Brain / שטאָלץ פאָטער

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 15, 2015 @ 9:31 pm PST

userpic=levysThis has been a busy weekend, but I did want to at least start working down the collected articles. This post can be filed under the category of “Proud Father”, as it all has to do with Yiddish — my daughter’s speciality.

  • Pop Up Exhibition. I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the news that the Magnes Library in Berkeley is doing a pop-up exhibition of my daughter’s research on Weds, December 2, from 12p to 1p. As the Magnes wrote: “ Through her knowledge of Yiddish she helped to create a flagship Digital Humanities project focusing on Yiddish books printed in California, held at The Magnes . Erin catalogued almost 100 volumes, and digitized title pages. By using the online platform, Findery as part of the Digital Programs of The Magnes, she subsequently created a literary map of Yiddish Los Angeles, which allows scholars to see that city’s hidden Yiddish heritage in a new light.” If you would like to see her Findery work, click here.
  • Wearing It On Your Tush. Would you like to wear Yiddish. The Forward had a neat article on the rise of cheeky Yiddish wear. Quoting the Forward: “As a recent profile in The Guardian explains, the Unkosher Market line is perfect for that “self-deprecating Jewish hipster of mid-level means” in your life.” My daughter, I’m sure, wouldn’t like it — first, because I’m not sure she likes hipsters :-), and more importantly, she really thinks Yiddish is too beautiful and too significant a language to be reduced to the words we make fun of.
  • So How Do I Learn Yiddish. Long ago, I promised my daughter I wouldn’t link to her tumblr. But recently she got that question — what are good Yiddish resources — so I’m going to cut and paste her response:

ay i don’t want to overwhelm you with things so here just a few things to get you started with…

1. yiddishpop is a great online language learning program and a very good starting place

2. once you get comfortable reading yiddish, reading the yiddish daily forward online is a great way to practice reading. if you dont know a word, click on it twice and a definition will pop up.

3. the world of yiddish online dictionaries. the best place to go is verterbukh which is a searchable online version of the beinfeld bochner dictionary, which is the most comprehensive. it’s not free, unless you can get it through a library which you’re a member of. or you can pay. another good place to look is this dictionary

4. here’s a useful link dump of yiddish resources from the university of kentucky

zol zayn mit mazel un zayt gezunt khevre!

Yiddish-English Dictionary:

Learning Yiddish:

Yiddish Books as PDF:

Yiddish Newspapers:

Yiddish Poetry: