Observations Along the Road

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

Love Has Driven Me Sane | “Two Gentlemen of Verona” @ FPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 29, 2017 @ 3:33 pm PDT

Two Gentlemen of Verona - The Musical (FPAC)If you were to ask me what my absolute favorite musical was — that is, the one musical that was guaranteed to leave me happy and feeling good upon hearing the score — it would be the 1972 Tony-award winning Two Gentlemen of Verona written by William Shakespeare, adapted by John Guare and Mel Shapiro, with lyrics by John Guare and music by Galt MacDermot, originally presented by the New York Shakespeare Festival (now the Public Theatre). I saw it back in 1973 when I was just 13 at the Ahmanson, with Jonelle Allen, Clifton Davis (FB), Stockard Channing, and Larry Kert, and much of the original NY cast (including a young Katey Sagal). I hadn’t seen it since — aside from one production in Central Park in 2005, I can’t recall hearing of it being revived. I certainly can’t recall it being produced in Los Angeles since the original. So when my RSS feed from Goldstar alerted me to the fact that a theatre company I had never heard of — the Foothill Performing Arts Council (FB) — was producing the show and we were in the middle weekend of a three weekend production, the question was not “if”, but whether I could fit it in. After all, next weekend I already had two shows (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and On The Twentieth Century), and I already had a show on Saturday night of this weekend. Luckily, the show was nearby in San Fernando, so I got tickets for last night. Even though I had a slight headache, I’m very glad that I did. It was a delight to see my favorite show again, and as always, it left me very happy and with a smile on my face. I wish more companies would remember this show: it is sheer fun, multicultural, with a diverse cast great for schools, wonderful dance, pretty milkmaids, and a dog. It will live you loving it, and loving love.

If you aren’t familiar with Two Gentlemen of Verona, here’s the quick summary: TGOV is considered to be Shakespeare’s first play, and falls into the comedy category, because everyone falls in love at the end (as opposed to tragedies, where everyone dies). Valentine and Proteus are best friends. Proteus is infatuated with Julia, a local girl in Verona; Valentine scoffs at love and wants adventure in the big city, Milan. Valentine, with his servant Speed, heads off to Milan, while Proteus, helped by his servant Launce, courts Julia (and her servent Lucetta). But soon Proteus’s father sends him off to Milan, leaving Julia behind (and pregnant). She and Lucette dress up as men so they can travel to Milan and tell Proteus. In Milan, however, Valentine has found love in the form of Sylvia, the daughter of the Emperor of Milan. However, the Emperor has send Sylvia’s love, Eglamour, off to war, while arranging a marriage for Sylvia to a rich fool, Thurio. Sylvia detests Thurio, and enlists Valentine to save her. Proteus, who by now has forgotten Julia and is also smitten by Sylvia, learns of the plot and tells the Duke, who promptly sends Valentine off to war. Proteus then enlists two young men, Sebastian (nee Julia) and Cesario (nee Lucetta), to help court Sylvia. Eglamour returns to kidnap Sylvia, and everyone then joins in the hunt for Sylvia. Proteus discovers the lovers in the forest, but so does Valentine, and a sword fight ensues. When the dust has cleared, Proteus has discovered Sebastian’s reality and condition, and ends up marrying her. Eglamour is gone, and Valentine gets Sylvia. Thurio gets Lucetta, and Launce finds that a milkmaid from the field is better than a dog. Cupid is happy.

Two Gentlemen of Verona @ FPAC - CastThe musical version takes this story and just has fun with it. In an era of lily-white shows and lily-white casting, this show (like Hair before it) was gloriously multicultural. In the original cast, Proteus and Julia were Hispanic; Sylvia, Valentine, and the Duke were Black; Speed and Eglamour were Asian, Launce was old-Jewish, and Thurio and Lucetta were white. The casting of this production was similarly multicultural, although the hispanic emphasis of the leads was a bit less (the only place it made a difference was in the pronunciation, and truthfully, only people that had memorized the cast album like me would have noticed).

Under the direction of Timothy Jon Borquez (FB) (who seems to have been similarly enamored of this show), the action  was constant. He seemed to be emphasizing the fun of the production; there were few performers that had “painted on” faces — their happiness with this show was infectious to the audience. The direction brought out the playfulness in the characters — and this show is all about play. It is also worth noting that the material Borquez was working with — that is, his cast — were mostly younger actors (nary a resume on Backstage or Actors Access). They weren’t at the level of “fresh-outs” from high school, but they also weren’t seasoned Broadway professionals. Most are still theatre students. Broadly, there was a need for a bit more power in the voices. The raw talent overall was great and there was excellent vocal quality that shown through (as noted below) — just a bit more reach to the back of the auditorium was needed.

The best friends at the heart of this show were Proteus and Valentine, played by Steven Brogan (FB) and Jared Grimble (FB), respectively. Brogan had fun with Proteus (as the pictures show), really getting into the character. He had a wonderful voice that occasionally could use a little extra strength, but overall was a joy to listen to. He was great in numbers like “Symphony” and “What Does a Lover Pack?”, but needed a bit more anger behind “Calla Lily Lady”. We’ve seen Brogan before, it turns out, in the CSUN production of Bat Boy, The Musical. As Valentine, Grimble was similar: fun with the acting, believable in his character, and a remarkable voice. He was no Clifton Davis (but who is), but brought a wonderful style to numbers like “Love’s Revenge” and “Mansion”.

The object d’amour in Verona was Julia, played by Sarah Borquez (FB), and her servent, Lucetta, played by Hope English/FB. We may have seen Borquez before; her name comes up as being in a production of Into The Woods we saw at Nobel Middle School, but the years don’t fit the credits. In any case, Borquez was a strong performer and had a lovely singing voice. She just needs a bit more anger behind the loveliness in numbers like “I Am Not Interested in Love” and “What a Nice Idea”. English also had a great voice which astounded during “Land of Betrayal”.

Sylvia was portrayed by Beth Redwood/FB). Redwood had a strong voice from the opening number, and continued with that strength throughout the show. She also danced wonderfully, and captured the nature of Sylvia well. Her only weakness was costuming, which could have used a tad more support.

Proteus’ and Valentine’s servants, Launce and Speed, were portrayed by Wayne Remington/FB and Erin Arredondo/FB, respectively. Remington gets the slightly larger role here, getting to mug with the dog Gio (playing Crab), singing “Pearls”, and, at the end, getting to sing “Milkmaid”. Arredondo’s Speed mostly is a foil for Launce, but gets to join him in “Hot Lover”. Both appeared to be having quite a bit of fun with this production, which is always infectious.

The Duke of Milan was played by Dan White (FB). White’s role is mostly bombast, but he portrays that well and with joy. He gets one standout song: “Bring The Boys Back Home” (which is clearly a commentary on Nixon and the Vietnam War), which he handles with aplomb.

On the more comic ends of the spectrum are Cody Williams (FB) as Thurio and Mary Zastrow (FB) as Cupid. Williams captures the foolish and foppish nature of Thurio well, and brings that foolishness to the singing, especially in the song “Thurio’s Samba”. I was afraid they might need to censor the song, given the refrain (Boom-Chicka-Chicka, But-Fucka-Wucka-Wucka Cock-waka-waka Puss-wussy-wussy Wow) and the little ones in the audience, but they just slightly muddied the words and it went right over their heads. Zastrow was having the time of her life as Cupid. This isn’t a large singing role except for a few operatic numbers played for the humor, but as Cupid herself she got to mug away and just play.

Rounding out the named characters was Edgar Cardoso/FB‘s Eglamour. Cardoso played Eglamour more as fashion model/Fabio-ish, which is a little bit different than I remember the portrayl. He handled the number “Eglamour” well.

The ensemble consisted of Audrey Byer (FB), Cynthia Cordon/FB, Kasey Furginson/FB, Corazon Montanio (FB), Shannon Nail/FB, John Redwood/FB, Jackie Sanders/FB, Priscilla Nathalie Soltero/FB, Sienna Wescott/FB, and Van McDuff (FB) (who was omitted from the bios).  All were strong, having fun, and a joy to watch.

Music was provided by an off-stage band under the direction of Alex Borquez/FB. The band consisted of Alex Borquez/FB on Guitar, Bass, Drums, Percussion; Edgar Cardoso/FB on Keyboards (which is why there were no keyboards while he was on stage); Zachary Borquez/FB on Brass; Michael Fandetti/FB on Reeds; Desiree’ Deasy (FB) on Violin I and II (hows that again? four hands, two chins, you say); Rebecca Yeh (FB) on Cello, and Mairin Deasy on Viola.

The choreography was by Lindsey Lorenz (FB), assisted by Bella Briscoe (FB). It was all over the place, which means that it covered the stage well :-). Seriously, the dancing worked reasonably well. Nothing too complicated, but good enough that the ensemble numbers were fun to watch.

Turning to the technical side. No credits were provided for the traditional disciplines: set design, prop design, sound design, lighting design, fight choreography, and such. The presumption is that some came from the master-of-all-hats, the director, Timothy Jon Borquez (FB). In any case: the set was simple: some risers, some flats (behind-which the ensemble resided when off-stage), some vine-al and vinyl decoration. Enough to give a vague sense of place. There were various props, such as a bike, a boat, a trunk. I think here is where the limited budget of this production showed; I remember the stage show having much more in this area. Sound design was good, although a bit muffled and over-mic-ed in the beginning. The bird sounds were nice. Lighting was a different problem. The basic lights were good, but there needs to be better coordination between the actors and the lighting placement, especially the follow-spots and the follow-movers. Often actors were quite literally left in the dark. The fight choreography in Act II was reasonable but could have used with a dash more swash in the buckle. Costumes, designed by Yessica Armenta/FB (Costume Coordinator), presumably, were, well, Ren-Faire-ish which is what you expect as the RenFaire was set in roughly that time. There were a few faux paux: Sylvia’s hose line was visible, there were a few crotch buttons undone, and the more busty could use a bit more support so they didn’t bust out. But these were minor and didn’t distract from the story. Grace Gaither/FB was the stage manager, and Bianca Armenta/FB was the house manager.

Two Gentlemen of Verona – The Musical continues at the Foothill Performing Arts Council (FPAC) (FB) through August 6. A limited number of tickets are available through Goldstar; otherwise, tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets. Performances take place at the ArTES Theatre (FB) at the Cesar E. Chavez Academies (FB), 1001 Arroyo Street, San Fernando, 91340. Although the cast is a young and less seasoned, being primarily local theatre students, they have a large amount of raw talent. This talent, combined with their enthusiasm and good singing voices and the joyous nature of this little produced show, make this a joy to watch.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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:

The last weekend of July proper brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts with Brian Setzer at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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.

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Travel and Transit Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 26, 2017 @ 8:40 pm PDT

Continuing to clear out some articles, here’s some travel and transit related articles:

 

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Generations and Growing Up

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 26, 2017 @ 7:29 pm PDT

This news chum post has coalesced around the theme of generations, generational changes, and growing up:

  • Dealing With The Stuff. Actually, the title of this article says it all: “Boomer parents: ‘One day, this will all be yours.’ Grown children: ‘Noooo!’“. Basically, dealing with our parent’s stuff. They collect it. It has meaning to them. They leave it to us. We have no idea what to do with it. We keep some, donate the rest, and accumulate stuff with meaning to us. Which we then leave to our children. Which they don’t want.
  • The Casserole. Quite likely, some of that stuff is Pyrex baking casseroles. Compared to modern kitchen items, vintage Pyrex — which is heavy, increasingly expensive and not dishwasher safe — doesn’t seem immediately practical. Yet people remain obsessed with the old Pyrex — not just to look at but to actually use. And they collect it. And this article is about their collecting it.
  • Working Online. For the younger generation, there is the belief that they can be the next “You Tube” star with their video log, or with their written fashion or makeup blogs. Think again. Most fail.
  • Man-Boys. No, I’m not talking about Peter Pan again. Rather, the spoiled white men who never seem to grow up. Here’s an interesting opinion piece on the subject (from the NY Times), exploring why society allows them to get away with it (cough, Trump, cough), and how that ability is denied to non-whites.
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Magic Motown / Scintillating Soul

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 23, 2017 @ 10:59 am PDT

Muse/ique Soul/Town Motown/MiracleWe don’t always see theatre. Sometimes, we see concerts. Some of our favorites are the ones produced by Muse/ique (FB), a “counter-culture” orchestra out of Pasadena under the artistic direction of Rachael Worby (FB). Each year they pick a theme — in 2014 it was Break/Through about breakthrough performance; in 2015 it was Bernstein; last year it was Gershwin. They then explore the theme from all sorts of angles. This year the theme was Motown/Miracle, and the exploration was of the soul, of soul music (and particularly the Motown / girl group style), of the soul of the artist. The special guest performer was Darlene Love (FB), a significant Los Angeles background presence on many of the soul music hits (not always credited to her). I was actually familiar with Love from the cast album of her 1985 Broadway show, Leader of the Pack. The evening was not just a celebration of the soul music style — as produced from the recording centers in Los Angeles, New York, and the true Motown, Detroit; it was a celebration of the power in the backup singers and artists backing the promoted names. Also supporting Love on a number of songs was Milton Vann (FB), together with the background trio of Melodye Perry (FB), Vee Nelson (FB), and Kenna Ramsey (FB).

The songs performed during the show were as follows (♥ indicates Darlene Love performances; ♦ indicates Milton Vann lead):

  1. Medley: I’ll Be There / My Girl / Heard It On The Grapevine / Love Machine
  2. A Change Is Gonna Come ♦  Tribute to Sam Cooke.
  3. Lean on Me ♥ Written by Bill Withers
  4. Among The Believers ♥ Written by Steve Van Zandt
  5. Night Closing In ♥ Written by Bruce Springsteen
  6. Forbidden Love ♥ Written by Elvis Costello
  7. Wait Till My Bobby Comes Home ♥
  8. Today, I Met The Boy I’m Gonna Marry ♥
  9. He’s a Rebel ♥
  10. Do Do Run Run – Backup singers a-capella
  11. The Boy I Love ♥
  12. Do Do Run Run ♥
  13. Marvelous ♥
  14. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Demonstration of James Jamerson‘s bass stylings by Mike Valerio
  15. You’re All I Need To Get By ♥
  16. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough ♥
  17. His Eye Is On The Sparrow ♥
  18. River Deep, Mountain High ♥

As is common with the shows, by the end, the audience was dancing in the aisles (well, on the side of the lawn). This was one of the best Muse/ique performances that we have seen: great music, a lovely evening.

I do, however, have my usual complaint. There was no program. In particular, we didn’t get a list of the orchestra and backup singers, let alone the production team. I have requested this information from Muse/ique; they updated the show page to provide most of it. In particular, that page lists all the composers and orchestrators (although it does not match them to the pieces performed)

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of VIOLIN I – Ana Landauer (FB), Marisa Sorajja, Radu Pieptea (FB), Kathleen Sloan (FB), Loránd Lokuszta (FB), Marisa Kuney (FB) / VIOLIN II – Maia Jasper (FB), Neel Hammond, Grace Oh (FB), Anna Kostyuchek (FB) / VIOLA – Shawn Mann (FB), Rodney Wirtz (FB), Caroline Buckman (FB) / CELLO – Charlie Tyler (FB), Ginger Murphy (FB), Joo Lee (FB) / BASS – Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE – Angela Weigand (FB), Sal Lozano / OBOE – Michele Forrest (FB) / CLARINET – Stuart Clark (FB), Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON – William May (FB), Adam Havrilla (FB) / HORN – Steve Becknell (FB), Nathan Campbell / TRUMPET – Rob Schaer (FB) / TROMBONE – Steve Suminsky (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TIMPANI – Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION – Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET – Ted Atkatz (FB) / KEYBOARD – Alan Steinberger (FB) / GUITAR – Andrew Synowiec (FB)

There were no production credits provided.

In the 2017 “Summer of Sound”, there is one more production: Glow/Town, on August 26,  featuring Savion Glover (FB) and, from the Hamilton tour, Joshua Henry (FB). Tickets are available from the Muse/ique website; discount tickets may be available from Goldstar. I find the Festival Seating just fine: general admission tables and chairs to see the show, and you bring your own picnic to enjoy. A perfect summer evening. Summer events take on the lawn in front of the Beckmann Auditorium at CalTech in Pasadena.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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:

The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts with Brian Setzer at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast (you can contribute to the production here). The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a hold for Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), and HOLDs for Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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.

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Interesting Histories

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 22, 2017 @ 7:47 am PDT

Continuing the clearing of some themed groups, here are some interesting histories that I’ve seen come across my feeds of late:

  • LA Theatre. Here’s a complete history of LA Theatre while standing on one foot.  OK, well, it’s not complete (there’s no mention of the LA Civic Light Opera, for example, or the other major large theatres that are no more, like the Huntington Hartford or the Shubert in Century City), but it is a great summary of the current situation with 99 seat theatres and how we got there.
  • Jewish Culinary Tradition. Here’s an article (and a discussion of a cookbook) related to a classic Jewish food tradition: pickling and preservation. A number of the recipes described sound really interesting .
  • Left Turns. If you’re like me, you get … annoyed … at the current crop of drivers that wait behind the limit line to make a left turn, and then do a sweeping arc that almost cuts off the car waiting on the cross street to turn (plus, it means one car per light). If you’re like me, you were taught to pull into the middle of the intersection, and then to do an almost 90 degree turn to go from left lane into left lane. Turns out, left turns have changed over time, and I’m old-school.
  • Old Subway Cars. When your light rail cars die, where do they go? Often, they are dumped in the ocean. Los Angeles did that with some of the Red and Yellow Cars. New York does it with its subway cars. But this isn’t pollution, and here are the pictures to prove it. Rather, it is creating reefs for oceanlife.
  • Tunnels Back In Service. An LADWP tunnel that dates back to 1915 is going back in service.The Los Angeles Daily News reports the tunnel is being refurbished to capture water runoff from the Sierras, which was inundated with snow this winter.The tunnel is part of a larger system, called the Maclay Highline, that runs from “the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in Sylmar to a group of meadows in Pacoima.” Once restored, the tunnel will carry a significant amount of water—130 acre-feet a day—to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water. (One acre-foot can supply two households with water for a year.)

As we’re talking history, here’s another interesting themed historical group, this time focused on air travel:

  • Lockheed L-1011. I remember back in the 1990s flying between LAX and IAD, when I could still occasionally get an L-1011. This was a tri-jet from Lockheed, and was nice and spacious with great overhead space. They have long since disappeared, but one recently took to the skies as part of a ferry to a museum. The refurbished plane will be used as part of a STEM teaching experience.
  • Boeing 747. The Queen of the Skies has been dethroned by someone skinnier and cheaper. The last few 747s for passenger service are coming off the line; airlines are phasing them out of the fleets. There will be a few more for freight service, but like the DC-10, they will be disappearing. The market can not really support such large loads — and the multiple engines and fuel it takes to ferry them. The Airbus A380 is facing similar problems. Airlines want at most two engines, with the planes packed to the gills.
  • Old Airports. Here’s an article on an interesting dilemma: What to do with old municipal airports, such as the one in downtown Detroit? (NYTimes article) Should they be restored for general aviation purposes, and perhaps the occasional commercial craft? Should their land be repurposed for more housing and manufacturing, as was done quite successfully with the old DEN (Denver Stapleton). Repurposing can be temping. Cities such as Detroit will soon run out of wide-open, city-owned spaces that can be offered to companies looking to build manufacturing or other commercial facilities here. A decomissioned airport can provide just the opportunity needed. But others say cities should reinvest in the airports, saying it could be an economic engine as well. (I’ll note similar questions exists for former Air Force bases as well — how is former George AFB working out, San Bernardino?) The article  notes that cities across the nation are reconsidering the value of municipal airports in the era of superjumbo jets and budget cuts. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimated the nation loses 50 public-use airports a year. Almost all are general-aviation airports, ones that cater primarily to owners of private planes, and most have operating deficits that the cities must make up for in their budgets. Detroit, for instance, faces a $1.3 million operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year for Coleman Young, which averages just 30 landings a day. The main airport for the region is Detroit Metropolitan, a Delta Air Lines hub about 20 miles west of the city limits.
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Technology for the Win

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 22, 2017 @ 7:15 am PDT

Here are three interesting uses of technology that I’ve seen come across my various feeds lately:

  • Cats without the Litterbox. Do you love cats for the relaxing purr, but hate cleaning litter boxes? Are you allergic to cats but still find the sound relaxing. Problem solved. The Internet has a cat, and it is ready and willing to purr just for you.
  • Travel Tips. I regularly bemoan the fact that kids these days can’t read maps. They are addicted to their GPS and navigation apps. But here’s a cool navigation thing for when you don’t have real experience: Google Maps will now tell you the best time to leave to avoid traffic to your destination.
  • Finding Counterfeits. People who operate pawn shops have a big problem: counterfeits. They have no control over their supply chain (no SCRM here), so that Gucci handbag that was brought in might not be the real thing. Luckily, technology helps. There’s now an app/camera combination that can examine a handbag (or other products) to determine their authenticity. Entrupy’s microscopic camera device is used in conjunction with the Entrupy app on a Apple device to take images of handbags, its seams, its inner fabric and any serial number or date code in the bag. Artificial intelligence algorithms analyze the images to determine authenticity, and results are received in real time. Entrupy backs up the authentication service with a financial guarantee. If a bag is deemed to be authentic and later is discovered to be fake, Entrupy will cover any financial loss. Entrupy plans to enter the shoe authentication sector next. Shoes such as Air Jordans, Yeezys and others can fetch hundreds to thousands of dollars on the resale market.
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Food, Medicine, and Science

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jul 21, 2017 @ 11:25 am PDT

Today’s lunchtime news chum post brings you three interesting recent reports related to food and medicine:

  • Artificial Sweeteners. Obesity is a growing problem in the world — although the issue should really be not the size, but the health of the individual. For the longest time, people believed that “diet” products were (a) good for you, and (b) helped you either lose or not gain weight. Increasingly, we’re believing and discovering otherwise. Specifically, a recent analysis of data from 37 studies has shown that artificial sweeteners are associated with weight gain and heart problems. After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude that there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight. And observational data suggest that the people who regularly consume these sweeteners are also more likely to develop future health problems, though those studies can’t say those problems are caused by the sweeteners.  In other words, if you are going to have something sweet, have the real sugar.
  • Carbohydrates. If you have tried to lose weight, you know how it is. Those carbs call to you. Here’s an explanation of why it is so hard to cut carbs. The answer is: Insulin. It directly links what we eat to the accumulation of excess fat and that, in turn, is tied to the foods we crave and the hunger we experience. It’s been known since the 1960s that insulin signals fat cells to accumulate fat, while telling the other cells in our body to burn carbohydrates for fuel. By this thinking these carbohydrates are uniquely fattening. As insulin levels after meals are determined largely by the carbohydrates we eat — particularly easily digestible grains and starches, known as high glycemic index carbohydrates, as well as sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup — diets based on this approach specifically target these carbohydrates. If we don’t want to stay fat or get fatter, we don’t eat them. This effect of insulin on fat and carbohydrate metabolism offers an explanation for why these same carbohydrates, are typically the foods we crave most; why a little “slip,” as addiction specialists would call it, could so easily lead to a binge.Elevate insulin levels even a little, and the body switches over from burning fat for fuel to burning carbohydrates, by necessity. In other words: The more insulin you release, the more you crave carbs.
  • Expiration Dates. We’ve all been taught to throw away stuff that is expired. Food, medicine, grandparents. If it is expired, throw it away. But it turns out, that’s really bad advice and a waste of money. Food dates rarely are true expiration dates: most are “best by” dates and the food remains perfectly fine and nutritional, and for some, the printed date can be overtaken by poor handling. A study recently released shows that medicine expiration dates are also meaningless. A cache of medicine was recently found in a hospital from the late 1960s, and it was tested for efficacy. Of the 14 drugs, 12 were as potent as when they were manufactured.  Both of these findings point to needed better rules on “expiration dates” to avoid waste and early unnecessary disposal; it also should teach you to use your common sense. Look and smell before using. You may discover it is still good.

 

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A Secure Companion

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 19, 2017 @ 11:48 am PDT

This is a companion lunchtime post to my previous one. Whereas that post focused on government-related areas, this posts shares some cybersecurity items of broader interest:

  • Two Factor Authentication. The Verge has an interesting opinion piece on why two-factor authentication has failed us. We have a mix of approaches, some still depending on SMS even though there are significant weaknesses there. As they say: “Nearly all major web services now provide some form of two-factor authentication, but they vary greatly in how well they protect accounts. Dedicated hackers have little problem bypassing through the weaker implementations, either by intercepting codes or exploiting account-recovery systems. We talk about two-factor like aspirin — a uniform, all-purpose fix that’s straightforward to apply — but the reality is far more complex. The general framework still offers meaningful protection, but it’s time to be honest about its limits. In 2017, just having two-factor is no longer enough.”
  • Backup Software. One of the best solutions for security — and a key protection against ransomware — is having backups. But Windows backup software is often hit or miss. Here’s a good review of various packages from PC World. I’ve been using an older version of their top-rated software for a few years now: I’m on Acronis True Image 2015. It backs up to the cloud without a subscription. Their newer stuff seems to have some different models, and I haven’t decided (a) if I want to upgrade, and (b) if I want to go with their subscription approach. I’ll also note that I’ve used the Paragon backup (an older version). What I didn’t like was that it grabbed every partition on the system, and did really bad space management such that your backups would fill a drive.
  • Family Passwords. This week, Lastpass announced a new service: A family password manager. As they write: “Enter LastPass Families, where you can store everything from bank accounts to passports to credit cards. Your details are secure, organized the way you want, and easily shared with your spouse, kids, in-laws, and more. You can even give access to others in the event of an emergency. The family manager can quickly add and remove members to the account, making it easy to get everyone up and running.” I still need to figure out if this service (or how this service) is an improvement over multiple Lastpass accounts. They also indicate that there is a fee for the service beyond Lastpass Premium, but if I have multiple family members with LP Premium, can things somehow be combined into one account that takes into account what has been paid. Perhaps they’ll answer this post.
  • Alice and Bob. I’ve always joked that when I hear the names Alice and Bob, my eyes glaze over for the crypto discussion that follows. But why Alice and Bob? What is their history? This article answers that question. It details the major events in the “lives” of Alice and Bob, from their birth in 1978 onwards.
  • Erasing Data. Here’s a pretty good summary of how to erase data from both magnetic and solid state drives. File it away; it may prove useful.
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