Observations Along the Road

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

Third Floor. Ladies Lingerie.

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Apr 02, 2014 @ 11:20 am PDT

userpic=young-meLA Observed is reporting that demolition was scheduled to begin yesterday on the shuttered Robinsons-May store in Beverly Hills. A later update indicated it now looks like it is delayed until summer. Whenever it goes, I’ll be sad to see it go.

The Beverly Hills Robinsons (the -May came later) was built in the day of the stand-alone department store. It was an elegant place, across from the Beverly Hilton. The modernist William Pereira and Charles Luckman design echoed the era: it was designed for the car, not the pedestrian; there was elegant afternoon dining for the ladies at the top, and floors of elegant fashion. It opened in 1952 and closed in 2004.

My memories, however, are from the late 1960s, when my grandmother worked there in the Ladies Lingerie department. I always had the belief that she got the job there through family connections with Stix, Baer, and Fuller in St. Louis, where her brother-in-law was once a buyer. I have vague memories of visiting her at the store as a yungun, and occasionally waiting for her. The store reflected her style — I always saw my grandmother as elegant and beautiful.

Nowadays, everytime I drive across Wilshire and go past the shuttered store, I think of her and smile in remembrance. The power of place.


Change of Venue

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Apr 01, 2014 @ 8:10 am PDT

userpic=don-martinI’d like to announce that ACSAC site selection has completed for 2015, and we’ve opted for the Mission Inn in Riverside. The conference itself will be held on the grounds of the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris California, about 30 miles south of Riverside.



You got me. That’s not really happening. But I had to come up with something for April Fools. In more serious news, there is a change of venue to announce. I’ve been looking at Cybersecurity opportunities, and decided that LA is not the place to be. It’s time to start exploring moving back east.

California Highway Headlines for March 2014

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Mar 31, 2014 @ 9:21 pm PDT

userpic=roadgeekingThis has been a very busy busy month, but I’ve had a few minutes to note some headlines about the highways…

  • Motorists on the 118 Freeway notice this smile marker. Steve Apostolof had a frown on his face as he drove past Happy Face Hill. The hillside features a 150-foot-wide smiley face that was created in 1998 by a man armed with a weed-whacker and a sprayer of herbicide. Since then, it has become something of a curiosity piece that welcomes motorists on the 118 Freeway to Simi Valley. But in the January dusk, Apostolof couldn’t see Happy Face Hill, let alone its enormous grin.
  • Highway 101 widening project jumps financial hurdle. The Sonoma County Transportation Authority on Monday approved $4.5 million to buy land to widen Highway 101 to six lanes through Petaluma, but it will be at least three years, and perhaps longer, before there is a remedy to the bottleneck that has plagued commuters for years.
  • Devils Slide Trail almost ready for unveiling. The views on Highway 1 at Devils Slide were spectacular, but to admire them while driving was to blow a kiss at death. From the time the twisting coastal artery opened in 1937 until its closure last year, cars plunged with disturbing frequency into the surf several hundred feet below. So the opportunity to savor the vista is a welcome change, said Jon Zilber, one of two dozen volunteers who have gotten a sneak peek at the abandoned roadway’s reincarnation: the Devils Slide Trail.
  • How to Pull California Traffic Count Data for State Highways. I was working on a custom data request for a new business owner who was considering a particular location for a new venture. This owner wanted California traffic count data for the highway near the potential location. Here’s how I got traffic count data for this California state highway.
  • CityDig: Before the 405 Was Paved. Today a river of concrete passes through Sepulveda Canyon, one of the three main portals between the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Basin. But in 1934 that mighty river—the 405 freeway—was only a modest stream, a winding, unpaved road that snaked through the Santa Monica Mountains.
  • First toll lanes in Contra Costa to be installed along I-680 in San Ramon Valley. The long slog for commuters traveling from Walnut Creek to San Ramon could get shorter — for a price. The first toll lanes in Contra Costa County are expected to open there on Interstate 680 by mid-2016, said John Goodwin, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman. The $45 million project, which is in the design stage, will create 23 miles of FasTrak express lanes that will allow solo drivers to pay to use carpool lanes — as long as its traffic is moving at least 45 mph. Construction is expected to begin at the start of 2015.
  • They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways. …it’s possible that all the dire warnings and clever pranks obscured a more troubling possibility: that Carmageddon had already come to pass decades ago, in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, when Los Angeles scarred its landscapes, split its communities, and displaced a quarter-million people to build its 527-mile freeway system.
  • Construction Underway on I-5 in South Orange County. Drivers have started to see construction activity ramping up on the San Diego Freeway (I-5) in South Orange County as crews began work on a $249-million traffic-relief project last week. The I-5 South County Improvement Project will add a carpool lane in both directions between San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente as well as rebuild the Avenida Pico interchange in San Clemente.
  • Northwest 138 Corridor. The Northwest 138 Corridor project will expand on the previous North County combined Highway Corridor Study which was completed in 2004 to develop a multi-modal transportation plan for the northern portion of Los Angeles County to address both short and long-term needs for a variety of trip purposes and goods movement. To accommodate the potential for both population and economic growth in the future, recommendations were made to improve this portion of SR-138.
  • Devil’s Slide, once hellish, opens Thursday as heavenly trail. Until its retirement about a year ago, the treacherous stretch of Highway 1 known as Devil’s Slide was a white-knuckle ride, a dizzying drive where motorists nervously kept their eyes on the road, resisting the temptation to glance at the Pacific Ocean hundreds of feet below. But since the twin-bore Devil’s Slide Tunnel opened last March, the old bluff-top highway has been transformed into a place to relax, slow down and enjoy the spectacular view. On Thursday, the Devil’s Slide Trail, a 1.3-mile path for hikers, cyclists and horseback riders, opens to the public.
  • Autry’s ‘Route 66′ exhibition looks for its funding kicks online. The Autry National Center of the American West is hoping lots of people will get their kicks by giving money online to help fund its coming exhibition “Route 66: The Road and the Romance.” The Autry, which will open the show June 8, joins the likes of the Louvre and the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian art museums in using a “crowdfunding” site to lasso donations. The Autry can appeal to people who otherwise might not know of the L.A. museum’s existence but are fans of Route 66 and its manifestations in pop culture.
  • Caltrans to pay $12.7 million extra to put Bay Bridge demolition back on schedule. Caltrans says it will put the $300 million demolition of the old Bay Bridge east span back on schedule by paying $12.7 million for extra labor and equipment. The three- to five-year-long demolition project fell several months behind schedule out the starting gate when Caltrans reallocated labor and resources to open the $6.4 billion new east span as soon as possible. It opened Sept. 2 after years of delays and cost overruns.
  • Roundabout is latest in downtown Roseville makeover. Within a matter of weeks, work should get started on the city of Roseville’s next phase of overall downtown improvement, though this one may take drivers some getting used to. By the end of the year, a two-lane roundabout is planned to be in place where Washington Boulevard meets Oak Street, a $3.02 million construction project. (h/t Joel W.)
  • Caltrans Seeking Solution for Water-Logged Castillo Street Underpass. An estimated 20,000 vehicles a day pass through the Castillo Street interchange under and near Highway 101, an area that is consistently plagued by standing water and pavement problems. Now, the agency that owns the interchange is working on a solution, albeit a temporary one, that it hopes will help solve the road’s issues. The underpass was built in 1960, but damage from an earthquake in the area in 1971 created large cracks in the slabs of concrete that make up the roadway, said David Beard, project manager for Caltrans, which owns that section of road.
  • Risky Berkeley intersection to be fixed in roundabout way. The intersection at the west end of Gilman Street in Berkeley is daunting to even the most confident of drivers. Eight lanes of traffic lead onto and off of busy Interstate 80; four different frontage roads converge on the interchange; Gilman Street runs right through the middle of it all; and the Bay Trail, which runs just west of the intersection, leaves bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate the dangerous roadway, which is often populated with frustrated drivers and is only governed by a handful of stop signs.

Your Are What’s On Your Phone

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 30, 2014 @ 9:15 pm PDT

userpic=verizonYesterday, I asked people to suggest some of their favorite apps on their phones. Although few fave answered directly on the blog, I have gotten responses on  Livejournal, Google+, and on Facebook. The responses have been telling, less in providing useful app suggestions, and more in showing how one’s phone reflects one personality and lifestyle.

There are people who use their phones as a media center. These folks suggested apps such as Kindle, Netflix, Pandora, and such.  This is much less important to me — my media center is my iPod Classic, which holds all my music. I’d rather not use precious bandwidth for streaming media.

Others use the phone as a tool. These folks were suggesting apps such as rulers, levels, calculators. They were also suggesting apps such as terminal emulators to give ssh access, or (apropos for where I work) satellite monitors.

Still others use the phone as a tool in a different sense — learning about the environment. These folks included traffic apps, apps to provide social connections, and even earthquake monitoring.

One might even wonder whether the collection of apps on one phones is a signature for an individual…


Saturday Stew: Mixing it Up

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 29, 2014 @ 7:01 pm PDT

Observation StewWell, 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.

Looking for a Few Good …

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 29, 2014 @ 6:51 pm PDT

userpic=verizon Thursday evening, I entered the modern world and got a smartphone, a Motorola Moto X. I’ve figured out a few apps I want (the Caltrans Quickmap app, Waze, a QR code reader, and apps from our credit unions). Still, I’d like some recommendations. What are your “must have” apps for the Droid ecosystem? One note: no bandwidth hogs, and I’m not interested in games. I don’t plan on streaming music — that’s why I have an iPod Classic!

Some additional security questions:

  • Do you encrypt your phone? (I see pros and cons)
  • Do you run a mobile virus scanner, such as Avast Mobile Security? Is this unnecessary given the Motorola capabilities?
  • Have you enabled the remote administration features for lost devices? According to Motorola, this allows you to find your device instantly when you’ve misplaced it. You can also lock and wipe your device remotely, and have it display a message asking for its safe return. To do this, however, you need to activate the device administrator?


Problems From The Past

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 28, 2014 @ 11:38 am PDT

userpic=headlinesThis 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:


STEM and Cybersecurity Education – A Monday Lunchtime Rant

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Mar 24, 2014 @ 11:39 am PDT

userpic=cardboard-safeYesterday, my RSS feeds highlighted a provocative article: “STEM Stinks for Cybersecurity” (Forbes Magazine). In this article, the author argues that we don’t need more people with university degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics — what we need is more people with Vocational Training (he calls it VoTech) who are familiar with the security tools and know how to run the security tools. I think this position misunderstands both STEM and Cybersecurity.

Let’s start with STEM. The author seems to believe that the emphasis on STEM is at the university level — that we only want STEM degrees. That’s wrong and misguided. Emphasizing STEM is important much earlier — from the first days of education to the end of high school. We need to be raising students that are unafraid — who perhaps even love — science, engineering, math, and technology. The ability to understand these disciplines is key to having adults who think critically, and who can recognize pseudo-science when they see it (and thus, believe neither the creationists nor the climate-change-denouncers). Being familiar with these disciplines is also key if you are going to exist in the modern world, where technology is everywhere (and technical terms are everywhere). They are particularly important even if you are going into VoTech — just because you are working with tools doesn’t mean you don’t apply scientific principles or use mathematics. In fact, most CNC tool programmers use mathematics regularly. Familiarity with technology is required in almost every field today — even the soft fields are making extensive use of technology.

Let’s now turn to the question of whether VoTech is sufficient for Cybersecurity. I’ll start by saying that I have no problem with encouraging vocational technology — I think it was a disaster when shop classes were removed from schools, and I’ll support vocational training. Having trained machinists and technicians and repair support is vital to the success of most operations (and it should go without saying that all need to be familiar with STEM). But with respect to Cybersecurity, my opinion differs.

Technicians trained in using tools are only as good as the tools they use. While this is fine in manufacturing, it’s not in Cybersecurity. Cybersecurity tools can only find what they are programmed to find — which are signatures of yesterday’s attack. VoTech Cybersecurity experts, as a result, can typically only find what the best of their tools find. Perhaps, as they gain lots of experience, they will be able to go outside of that box and identify additional attacks. The basic trainee won’t; our systems won’t have time to wait.

Cybersecurity requires individuals who are familiar with technology, systems, mathematics, engineering… and can think critically, and can present their thoughts and findings (which is where the arts come in, and why you see a movement from STEM to STEAM). Successful cybersecurity is much more than running vulnerability scans. It is getting in with the engineering team from day 0 — identifying the security requirements and how they trade off other engineering and mission requirements. These are skills you learn in engineering courses and software and system design courses, not vocational training. It is being able to recognize results and findings that just seem off, and having the ability to track down the root cause (and not just the symptom of the day). The ability to recognize that “this doesn’t smell right” is a critical thinking skill; I don’t believe a VoTech trainee will have that without significant experience. Successful cybersecurity is being able to assess your findings in the context of the larger system, mission, and business picture — a perspective that someone who is only familiar with tools will not have. Successful cybersecurity is looking at all aspects of the system from the low hardware up through the design layers, from operational procedures and processes to suppliers. An emphasis on tools alone does not give that ability. Lastly, cybersecurity requires individuals that can think out of the box, because that’s what the adversaries do. Stopping the script kiddies is easy; VoTech can easily catch the low-lying fruit. The real threat comes from the determined adversary, and they don’t do what you (or your tools) expect.

Don’t get me wrong — technicians are important. If that is the highest level of skill you can obtain, and you’ve had that K-12 STEM/STEAM education, go for it. Some people work best with their hands. But if you can go on and get that STEM/STEAM degree, you will be much more successful and much more useful in the field (plus, you’ll earn significantly more over your lifetime — enough, perhaps, to pay off your student loans :-)).