Observations Along the Road

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

Bigger and Better in Los Angeles

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jan 12, 2017 @ 11:56 am PST

I’m doing my best to limit myself to one political musing per day, and I’ve met my quota. So let’s turn to my city and county, Los Angeles, and see how it is on the brink of some big changes:

  • Biggest IKEA in the US. Come February, the current Ikea near the Colony Theatre is closing, and a gigantic (shall we say “yuuuuge”) IKEA is opening down the street. The store will be 456,000 square feet, nearly twice as large as the previous Burbank store, replacing a total of 19 different storage buildings. The store will also include parking for 1,700 vehicles, a childcare facility, and a 600-seat restaurant significantly larger than the dining area at the existing Burbank location. The store will display the whole range of products that Ikea has to offer. Shoppers will be issued Firhot Flare Guns upon entry, together with Gaarmaan GPS maps and whistles to call exclusive IKEA Doog robots if shoppers get lost.
  • The Chargers Return. The San Diego Chargers are coming to Los Angeles, where they will be known as the San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles. Perhaps I should say “returning”, after all, they played their first season here before giving up and heading south in more ways than one. The general reaction of most people in the city is “yawn”. Inglewood is happy, because they will have even more nights with “home” football games. I’m not sure whether they will be successful in the move. I’d wish them the same success as the Rams, but I’m trying my best not to be nasty. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are planning to run to Vegas and have a quick nuptual presided over by Elvis (who is getting a street named after him, but that will be a different post)
  • A Magical Duplication. There is an old convoluted, invitation-only, black-tie house in the Hollywood Hills called the Magic Castle, operated by the family of Milt Larsen, where it serves as the home to the Academy of Magical Arts. Evidently, an unknown side-show magician who was once on TV has indicated more slight-of-hand magicians are needed in Washington DC; as a result, the Larsen family has decided to open a second Magic Castle. The new castle will be near Santa Barbara and called the “Magic Castle Cabaret”, and will overlook a lake and nature preserve in Montecito (the property formerly housed the Casa del Sol restaurant and events center). The structure is about a fifth the size of the Hollywood castle and will feature a 50-seat theater and a lounge.
  • Ewoks in the Park. George Lucas has announced that he has finally selected where he will put his musuem of Star Wars Ephemera and randomly collected art works. Exposition Park. As if that park didn’t have enough museums and attractions with the California ScienCenter, the African American Museum, the Rose Garden, the Natural History Museum, the Space Shuttle Pavilion, plus an LAUSD elementary school, the Coliseum,  and the new LA Soccer Stadium. There’s plenty of space and parking. Right?

Can A Government Employee not be a Government Employee?

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jan 12, 2017 @ 7:56 am PST

userpic=trumpThis morning, while I was in the shower, an odd question popped into my head:

  • If President Trump or a Cabinet Head elects to take no salary, are they a government employee?

Here’s why that question occurred to me: Ethics rules, disclosure rules, conflict of interest rules, rules about accepting gifts, and all other sorts of regulations apply to government employees. But Trump is nominating millionaires and billionaires who don’t need the salary. Many of them have publicly said they will not take a salary. So does this make them exempt from all the regulations that apply to government employees? Further, note that it means they will not have taxes taken from their salaries (avoiding taxes), and their income will be primarily capital gains on investments (which is a much lower tax rate, and can be offset by losses reducing taxes even further). No salary, and income primarily from capital gains also puts them in a lower tax bracket (I think — I could be wrong there).

So, by refusing a salary, could they both avoid those pesky regulations and lower their taxes? Could this be why we are seeing so many millionaires and billionaires being nominated?

[ETA: Conclusion: (•) Salaries are defined by statute, and must be paid — then they can be subsequently donated, returned to the Treasury, etc.; (•) Volunteering for government service is not allow, so they have to accept a token of $1; (•) even if they did volunteer, there are volunteer agreements to cover ethics.]

Being Safe Online

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jan 11, 2017 @ 6:24 pm PST

As you have probably figured out by now, I accumulate articles of interest as I wander the web, and periodically collect them into themed articles.Today is no exception, and our topic for today is cybersecurity — specifically, whether anyone is safe online (or is it just an illusion), and how to really make the situation better.

  • Foreign Actors. In recent weeks, a big question has been whether Russia hacked the US — particularly, the DNC and RNC. Donald Trump, in his news conference today, finally admitted that it was likely Russia did, but that other countries could as well. What is the basis for the belief that Russia was behind things? Brian Krebs, in an article written before the CIA report was released, has a very good analysis. Krebs notes, “It probably doesn’t matter how many indicators of compromise and digital fingerprints the Obama administration releases on this incident: Chances are decent that if you asked a panel of security experts a year from now whether the march of time and additional data points released or leaked in the interim have influenced their opinion, you’ll find them just as evenly divided as they are today.” This is because providing strong attribution is difficult, short of your hacker being stupid, just because of the nature of Internet communications. The article points out that there are specific breadcrumbs that lead to the conclusion, and notes why the public has become skeptical. Of everything. I suggest you read that analysis, and then think about it in light of the BBC disclosure that there are unconfirmed reports that Russia has something on Trump. Ask yourself: If the Russians hacked the DNC, why did they want Trump to win (this is not to say they manipulated the election to do so)? Could it be that they didn’t need to worry about him for other reasons?
  • Data Breaches. Brian also has a really good article on data breeches, and in particular, some immutable truths about such breaches. He explains them in more detail in the article, but here they are in a nutshell: “(•) If you connect it to the Internet, someone will try to hack it. (•) If what you put on the Internet has value, someone will invest time and effort to steal it. (•) Even if what is stolen does not have immediate value to the thief, he can easily find buyers for it. (•) The price he secures for it will almost certainly be a tiny slice of its true worth to the victim. (•) Organizations and individuals unwilling to spend a small fraction of what those assets are worth to secure them against cybercrooks can expect to eventually be relieved of said assets.” First, think about this with respect to the above. Both the DNC and RNC had servers on the Internet. Were they hacked? Most certainly. What was that information worth? Ask Hillary Clinton. Now, you deal with banks and businesses that put your information on the Internet. Now think about the truisms above.  Which organizations should you deal with? How much do they value your information?
  • Online Shopping. Dovetailing with all of this is an article from my web hosting service, Webhost, on what to be aware of when you shop online. They, too, go into a bit of detail, but their tips boil down to: (•) Shop online at home (or on a secure connection); (•) Make sure you have text, email, and/or phone security alerts set up with your financial institutions; (•) Always look for HTTPS when shopping; (•) If you’re shopping through a retailer’s mobile app, make sure it is an official version with a reputable company or developer behind it; (•) Use the ‘too good to be true’ rule and trust your gut. I’d add to this the adage to stay in a well-lit well populated part of the Internet. By that I mean: use companies that have a reputation to uphold — they are more likely to do things right.
  • Solving the Problem. The underlying problem for all of the above is that we are using a system that was never meant to be secure. That’s right: the basic and original protocols didn’t think about security because they believed everyone was trustworthy. The corollary to this is: if you want a secure system, you must engineer the security in from the start. Related to this, NIST has just announce a system security engineering website, based on their work with NIST SP 800-160. I’ve been doing a lot of close work with 800-160, and am working on gaining a deep understanding on it, and well as how all of the related processes (assessment, acquisition, and lifecycle) can work together. But 800-160 is a good start.



Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jan 11, 2017 @ 12:06 pm PST

They say that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Sometimes, however, consistency is not foolish; in fact, it should be a priority of a conclave of little minds. Specifically, consistency should be the hallmark of Congress. The behavior and beliefs of a party should be consistent. The ethics and behavior that is demanded of the President and his executive officers should be the same independent of the party of the President — or of Congress. Further, the electorate should be demanding this consistency, because otherwise, they are wasting taxpayer money doing investigations of one official that they wouldn’t pay for another. To put it another way, we shouldn’t be paying for partisan witch hunts. So I’m dismayed with what I’m seeing from our new Congress. Here are some examples:

Going back to the days of Ronald Reagan, one consistent thing about the GOP is that they are concerned about deficits. Hell, they’ve shut down the government because they didn’t want to increase deficits or the debt ceiling. They have been constantly harping on the Democrats because they feel their actions would increase the deficit, and have passed laws requiring that any new spending be covered by revenue. So why is the GOP suddenly abandoning this mantra, wanting to keep the expensive parts of the Affordable Care Act while remove the parts that pay for them?

When President Obama submitted cabinet nominations, then minority leader McConnell insisted on a set of requirements for each candidate. These requirements included appropriate vetting, submission of appropriate paperwork, elimination of conflicts of interest, and so forth. Yet now McConnell is seemingly abandoning those principles — for what purpose. Why should our cabinet officials be any less ethical?

For past Presidents, there has been a custom for them to put there assets in such a trust that it wouldn’t influence their actions. If that didn’t happen, Congress would make a fuss. Yet they seem to be rolling over and letting President-Elect Trump retain the conflicts under some light promises. Would they have let Obama or Clinton get away with this?

Imagine there were unverified claims of Russia having compromising information on President Obama — oh, like there were unverified claims about Benghazi or emails. Or there were claims about Russia interfering with the election to influence it in favor of Obama or Bill Clinton. Wouldn’t Congress be hopping to investigate that? Yet there is no move afoot from Congress to do so? Why wouldn’t they investigate this?

With any of these claims, the question should be simple: If this was a Republican Congress with a Democratic President — such as Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, would Congress act this way? If the answer is “no”, then why is it acceptable to act this way for President-Elect Trump?

Congress’ responsibility is to be a check on the President and the Executive Branch of the government. They certainly did so during the administrations of Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Why are they rolling over and giving in to President Trump (who many did not support until it looked like he would win)?

President Trump has promised to do many good things for segments of this country that have not benefited from the economic recovery or the actions of the Obama administration. I understand that. From listening to the conservative side, I’ve learned what we missed — that agendas were promulgated that helped some without helping others. That the notion of “Social Justice” has drastically different meanings throughout the country. I also understand that new leadership is coming in that plans to address those deficiencies.  But these things must be done legally and within the constraints of law, and our President must set the ethical example for the country with respect to leadership.

An Inspiration For Us All – “Hidden Figures”

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jan 10, 2017 @ 9:04 pm PST

Hidden Figures (Movie)I bet you expected my first review of 2017 to be a theatre review. Alas, January is a really bad month for theatre, as the holidays are a bad time for rehearsals. There wasn’t that much of interest out there, and our first live show (Zanna Don’t) is next Saturday. So we opted instead to see the movie we had wanted to see on Christmas: Hidden Figures.

Here’s the short and sweet of it: Go see this movie. Take your daughters. Take your sons. Take your friend’s daughters. Take your friend’s sons. This is a movie that will give us the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. More importantly, this movie will give us the next generation of WOMEN and MINORITY scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Trust me, we need them. Do you know how many men it takes to equal one smart woman engineer?

Hidden Figures tells the true story of the first computers. To explain, in the 1940s and 1950s, before we had computing machines, the position of “computer” was someone who computed and did mathematical computations. The computers in this case were a collection of African-American women mathematicians at NACA, later NASA. They were the women who did the math and calculations that enabled NASA to put a man in orbit. They were the first programmers. They were the first women engineers.

I’m not going to go into the plot in great detail. That’s one advantage of a movie review over a theatre review. I will say that the performances were excellent. I will also say that this is a movie that should be accessible by anyone 10 or older. Perhaps a little bad language, but that’s about it.

I had only a few minor quibbles with the movie, the worst being that it is FORTRAN, not Fortran. But then again, the folks writing this probably weren’t born when FORTRAN was used heavily (whereas my first programming language was FORTRAN IV (WATFIV)). I also wasn’t sure about the use of the Selectric typewriter, but Wikipedia proved me wrong (it was introduced in 1961).

This movie will be shown for years to inspire women in STEM fields, and that’s a great thing.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: January starts with a Southern California Games Day, followed by Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. January 21 is open. January ends with Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

The Cost of Doing Business

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jan 10, 2017 @ 11:40 am PST

I just received an email from AT&T/DirecTV that said:

Your February 2017 DIRECTV bill will include a Federal Cost Recovery Charge of $0.67. This charge is included on your bill to recover fees paid to the FCC in 2016 and 2017 for providing DIRECTV service (subscriber fee and earth station and satellite fees). The FCC does not require AT&T or DIRECTV to collect this fee or surcharge from its customers.

Hows that again‽‽

Not that $0.67 is a large amount, but why isn’t this included in the cost of doing business, just like the launch cost for the satellites, the ground leases for the tracking stations, the pay of the support engineers and technicians, the amortization of the service trucks. Those aren’t broken out in your bill. This isn’t a mandated FCC surcharge. So don’t pretend it is by saying “Federal Cost”. Eat the cost, until you do one of your regular rate increases that your love so much. Loads of little fake fees hides the real cost of your services, and just annoys the customers.

We return you to your regularly scheduled idiocy.

What Have We Become?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jan 08, 2017 @ 7:17 am PST

I want to start this post by pointing out that I am not a Trump suppporter. My posts over the last year should have made this clear: I do not support the man, I did not vote for him, and I sincerely wish the election had gone a different way. I also note that it is sad I must make that particular point in so much of what I say.

But that said.

What have we become?

I mean, seriously, what have we become?

I was reading through Facebook this morning, and across my various groups and pages I’m seeing the following:

  • “Rosie O’Donnell tweets “F*CK U” to Paul Ryan – Internet explodes in laughter.
  • “Michelle Obama, we thank you for the inspiration you’ve been. We’re going to need it as we get through this crazy time in our world – not just our country…”
  • Office of Government Ethics – Donald Trump nominees not properly vetted
  • Keith Olbermann Finally Says What Nobody Else Will Say About Trump. Keith Olbermann is willing to go all the way to take a stand against our country’s unconscionable choice for 45th President where others haven’t.
  • The Most Extreme Party Coalition Since the Civil War
  • A Nobel Economist Just Compared Trump To Hitler
  • Let’s Impeach Him Now: The Case for Preparing for the End of Trump’s Presidency Before It Even Begins
    The president-elect has already committed criminal offenses. Democrats can’t let them slide.
  • “We have to throw everything at this. This man is slightly unhinged,” Michael Moore said of the president-elect.
  • Breitbart Just Got Caught–And Slammed–For Making Up A ‘News’ Story
  • Why we need to fight Trump, every inch of the way!

These are just some of the headlines – the one I could cut and paste. The visual memes are similar. I am sure, that if you are liberal as I am, that you have seen similar things on your news feed.

Here’s the problem: Change references to Trump to references to Obama, references to Obama to references to someone like Reagan, references to right-wing media to the New York Times, and references to Democrats to Republicans.  Now go back in time two years. Wouldn’t you think you were reading one of the pages from the right-wing, rabid anti-Obama foamers that we made so much fun of? That we looked on as part of the problem?

Much as this may be fun and laugh inducing, we do not win if we adopt the tactics of those we hated. Utilizing hyperbole at every chance, fighting and impeding the work of government at every get-go, demonizing at every opportunity. This only increases partisanship, makes it harder to move forward and have effective government, and makes us seem as idiotic as the Republican anti-Obama folk did during the Obama administration. It is the way children act, and aren’t we better than that?

But, you insist, I hate this President. I can’t stand him personally, or anything he and his party stands for.

I hear you. But hear yourself. They were saying the same thing about Obama. That’s not how we move forward and break the cycle.

Much as we may hate it and find it hard to do, we need to treat the President-elect as we wanted (and we want, for the next two weeks) the other side to treat Obama during his Presidency. Not to unquestioningly agree or roll over, but to respect the office even if you disagree with the man. Not to object to everything, but to pick the worthwhile battles. Not to blanket block and obstruct, but to follow the laws and insist that the other side does.

It is hard to do. I so want to make fun of Trump and his administration — it is such an easy target. But am I an adult, or am I a child? Am I behaving like those whom I abhorred?

Someone has to be adult enough to break out out of this cycle we’ve been in since Bill Clinton was first elected. Our current incoming President makes it so hard, but I can guarantee that the rabid Republicans said the same thing just prior to Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

I don’t know the answer, but behaving like those we thought were childish is not it.

P.S.: Over on the Facebook comments on this, a friend referenced Jim Wright’s Stonekettle Station: Resolutions. It says something similar, and my reactions was “Yes, Yes, Yes.”. Read it. Follow it. Live it.

Tips and Tricks

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 07, 2017 @ 8:34 am PST

Now that the holidays are over, you’re likely a mess. There is wax all over your Chanukiah, your feet are killing you, and your counters are a mess. There’s just too much friction to be comfortable, and your networks are incredibly slow. Relax. I’m with California Highways, and I’m here to help: