This has been another busy week, and so I haven’t had the time to post my usual news chum. Still, I have collected some for you, and as I’m working from home this morning, let me share an early morning collection dealing with death and technology; that is: dying technology, and technology that kills.
- Killer Software. We’ve all heard about the sudden acceleration problem that Toyota has. Officially, Toyota stated the problem was floor maps. However, Toyota recently was involved in a trial in Oklahoma, and this trial unveiled a different source of the problem. This Slashdot article provides a number of links with more information. In short: ‘Although Toyota had performed a stack analysis, Barr concluded the automaker had completely botched it. Toyota missed some of the calls made via pointer, missed stack usage by library and assembly functions (about 350 in total), and missed RTOS use during task switching. They also failed to perform run-time stack monitoring.’ In other words, “it’s the software, stupid.”
- Technology That Doesn’t Die. Some technology doesn’t kill, but it does refuse to die. Here’s an ARS article on a number of “zombie” technologies that refuse to die. A number of these I use regularly, such as copper land lines, Ethernet, and postage and stamps. Some I still use infrequently, such as Fax lines. Others I still sympathize with. An interesting read.
- Technology That Is Dying (1). Some technology and ideas are dying. The LA Times has two articles touching on that subject. The first looks at how the Boeing 747 — the first wide-body extended range plane — is finally starting into its death spiral as a popular platform for airlines. The B747 replaced the B707, the first jet, and has been around since the 1960s. What’s killing the B747 is twofold: (1) four engines and a heavy fuselage == bad fuel economy; (2) a large number of seats makes it hard to make flying it profitable except on specialized routes.
- Technology That Is Dying (2). The second LA Times article looks at the death of the personal office: CBRE and other companies are experimenting with the untethered office, where you use any desk and put your stuff in a locker at the end of the day. Personally, I don’t think I’d like it — I have too much stuff I would need to deal with, and where would I keep my collection of teas.
Well, it’s Saturday at lunchtime and you know what that means… time to clear out the interesting bookmarks that didn’t quite fit into any theme during the week:
- Where Did He Go, George? One of the most interesting maps in one of my highway books looks at people’s perceptions of one-hour away, two-hours away, etc. from their home in terms of transit times. Especially interesting was how it changed over time. NPR has published a similar map: this time, looking at the travel times and distances of one-dollar bills, courtesy of “Where’s George?” What’s fascinating about this is it shows — at least with cash — who we do business with and who they do business with. It is interesting how it clumps the country into various business regions. The article also includes a similar map for phone connections.
- Improving Flight Efficiency. We’re all worried about miles per gallon. My car, on the highway, gets about 33 and I’m happy. What would you think if you had a vehicle that got ½ mile per gallon, and you had a technology that got it to ¾ mpg. You would think: gee, I’m in the airplane industry, because that’s what commercial jets get. BTW, that’s a good number when you convert it to passenger miles per gallon, just like when you deal with accident statistics for aircraft. In any case, National Geographic has a really interesting article on incoming technologies that would increase fuel efficiencies in aircraft. It will be interesting to see if any of these come to fruition, but I’m betting something will. The game of increasing fares has some natural limit before the traveling public rebels — the only answer to ensure profitability is to reduce costs, and a primary culprit is fuel.
- The Great American Trailer Park. Recently, I’ve been dealing with a senior who we’ve just convinced to move into senior living. After only a few weeks, we’re already seeing an improvement in her attitude and demeanor. Close communities are important for the elderly. But not all seniors want to go into senior apartments — they need to be in a community, but also fiercely want their independence. Pacific Standard has an interesting article on one such solution: Trailer Parks for the Elderly. It profiles a trailer park in Pismo Beach that has become a thriving senior community where everyone looks after everyone else. It explores the problems with trailer park living, but also explores the benefits in an interesting manner.
- Inking the Deal. Shortly after our daughter turned 18, she got a tattoo. We weren’t that enthused about it, although we understand why she got the tattoo that she did (in memory of our dear friend Lauren U, who was like a second mother to her). President Obama has a similar problem: his daughters are interested in tattoos. His solution: “What we’ve said to the girls is, ‘If you guys ever decide you’re going to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo. In the same place. And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo.” It is certainly one way to slow down the impulse. So, Erin, if you are reading this…. should we make the same deal?
P.S.: If you’re in the San Fernando Valley tonight and like wine… (and are not going to the REP fundraiser (tickets))… there will be a Wine Tasting at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge at 7:00pm. $40 at the door, if space is available ($20 non-drinkers).
Music: Songs of Peacemakers, Protestors and Potheads (The Yardbirds): “Shapes Of Things”
Today’s news chum brings together three articles all related to history and old things:
I’m home sick today. Why, you ask? Because I did a stupid, tripping in the parking lot at temple yesterday and doing a faceplant. I’m home while my swollen knee recovers. But my sick day shouldn’t be your loss, so here are some articles on museum pieces, potential museum pieces, or things that might be found in a museum:
- Old Automobiles. The OC Register has a nice article on the future of the Petersen Automotive Museum at Wilshire and Fairfax. It seems there is new leadership at the Petersen, and they want to give the museum some love and drastically improve the exterior and interior exhibits. I’m looking forward to this; the Petersen has always been a neat museum.
- A 747 In Your Garage. While I was burning vinyl to MP3 this weekend, one of the songs I burned was Tom Paxton’s “I Lost My Heart on a 747″. It seems someone else lost their heart, for a Redondo Beach man is recreating a Pan-Am 747 interior in a warehouse in the City of Industry. He’s going so far as to get retired Pan-Am stewardesses to fully complete the illusion. Cool.
- Jewish Delis. The Los Angeles Times has proclaimed the Jewish Deli to be a museum piece. They are claiming that delis are out of style and too expensive. While I’ll agree that they haven’t been rediscovered by the foodies yet, the really good ones are still going strong. The ones that are dying are the marginal ones, and the ones people think of as just sandwich shops. In what I think is a related article, the VC Star is talking about the growth of Mediterranean grocers in Ventura County. This could just be a reflection of the changes in Judaism — just as Sephardi pronounciation has replaced Ashkenazi pronounciation, the Eastern European tradition and generation (exemplified by the traditional deli) has been supplanted by the Israeli and Middle-Eastern generation, thus increasing the need for Mediterranean grocers.
- Amish Computers. Planet Money has a short article on one of the booths at the Amish Trade Show: a booth selling computers to the Amish. The argument is that these computers do not connect to the Internet, have no video, and no music. I’m guessing they don’t need patches that much either, as there isn’t much of a risk (yeah, right, just as the folks that believed they had isolated systems). More significantly, they are offering M$ applications, which are increasingly requiring the Internet. This should be interesting. Of course, the real question is: Why not just sell them all those 286 PCs that just run MS DOS. Those should have the basic business apps they want with no connectivity?
Music: Live In Australia, 1959 (Frank Sinatra & Red Norvo Quintet): “One For My Baby”
Merger mania is back. Today’s lunchtime news chum concerns some mergers that are in the news, as well as some other business news primarily focused on ways to bring in the green:
- If You See Your Waitress Here, Send Her Over With a Beer. The “mainstream” beer world is devolving, with everything distilling down to two major brewers who make most of the beer in the world (which personally isn’t a big deal for me, as I don’t drink beer). My favorite blog, Planet Money, has a wonderful thing they call a Beer Map: for any country, who makes the swill you drink (Two Giant Brewers, 210 Brands).
- A Clip Joint. So Office Depot and OfficeMax are merging. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it probably isn’t that great for prices. Neither has ever been great in the fancy pen department. Of course, some cities are happy about it. Good example: St. Louis, which has no Staples stores, might get some to give Office MaxDepot some competition.
- An American Conglomeration. Tom Paxton once sung about the horrible baggage service of Republic Airlines. Republic was formed by the merger of North Central and Southern, and then merged with Hughes Airwest. This then merged with Northwest Orient to form Northwest, which then merged into Delta (which itself was the merger of Delta and Western). Then again, there is United Airlines, which is the merger of United and Continental, where Continental absorbed the old People Express and Texas International, and United absorbed most of Pan Am. Well these two Frankenstein monsters now have a third beast to contend with: American (which in the past had absorbed AirCal, Reno Air, and TWA) is merging with US Airways (which itself was the merger of Allegheny, Lake Central, Mohawk, Trump Shuttle, Piedmont, America West, US Airways, Pacific Southwest Airways) to form an even bigger American. Here’s how American and US Airways joined. I should note that coming up forth is the combination of Southwest and AirTran, which to my knowledge haven’t swallowed anything else.
And as we’re talking about business, here are a few more business related items to clear out the bookmarks:
- Flyaway Expanding… and Raising Fares. Yet another Flyaway bus line is being added to get people to LAX because the light rail doesn’t go there. This time, the bus will be running from the Expo Line La Brea Station starting in the Spring (at a price of $6, moving up to $7). More importantly to me, the article noted that one-way fares between Van Nuys bus terminal and LAX will rise to $8 July 2. The increase is expected to reduce an annual deficit of $531,000 for operating and maintaining the Van Nuys terminal to $168,000.
- Paying to Play. We’re all used to it. The hours and hours of previews before a movie. (That’s one nice thing about live theatre — no previews to sit through!). That may be changing, as a number of theatres are either charging to run the previews, or are limiting the number that can be run for free. I’m curious whether this means there will be less previews. The theatres need to be looking less for revenue and more for what will draw patrons in (as Michael Jonathan noted in a blog post I noted yesterday); their problem is that the movies they advertise might not even be running in their theatre, or certainly not exclusively in their theatre.
- In Bed With Martha Stewart. It appears Macys and Pennys are sparring over the queen of domestic advice, Martha Stewart. Yup, the two retailers are arguing over who has the sole right to see the convicted women’s branded stuff. Neither is asking, however, whether people actually care about the name in the first place.
- Customers Demand More Fees. Caesars Entertainment has announced that they are going to start charging resort fees in all of their Las Vegas properties. Specifically, Caesars will begin adding fees ranging from $10-$25 on March 1 that will provide package coverage for amenities including Wi-Fi, local calls and fitness centers. Caesars operates nine hotels in Las Vegas, including Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, Bally’s, the Flamingo, the Quad, Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood on the Strip. Why are they doing this? According to Caesars, it is something guests asked for. Specifically, Caesars indicated guests asked for a pckage fee, as opposed to what Caesars did in the past: charging separately for such amenities.
Saturday, while doing a daddy-daughter day, my daughter took me to her favorite used bookstore, Bargain Books in Van Nuys. There I found a copy of the first edition of “747 – The Story of the Boeing Super Jet“. I’ve been reading the book since then, and finding the history of the development of today’s modern jets fascinating. One clear fact that comes through in the story is how development for military and other government uses has clear benefit for the commercial side (a fact that many who decry government spending seem to forget — the technological leads often become very fruitful when reapplied). This is certainly clear in the Boeing story. Initial commercial plane development was driven by the Postal Service (in a similar way that the Census drove development of computers). Later attempts and successes on military programs led to the development of planes such as the 247, the 377, and the 707. Each was a leap forward in technology (as was the 747).
I mention this because I’ve been seeing a number of articles today on hypersonic flight. Today there will be a key test of a hypersonic flying system by the military–specifically, today will see the launch of the unmanned experimental aircraft X-51A WaveRider. The test will take the aircraft — attached to a B-52 bomber’s wing (also made by Boeing… in the era of the 707!) — from Edwards AFB to about 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu. From there, its high-speed journey at Mach 6 is expected to last only 300 seconds, but that’s twice as long as it’s ever gone at that speed.
Supersonic and hypersonic flight has been fraught with problems. We all know the problems that doomed the Concorde (the only commercial SST; the Boeing 2407 never was commercial): high fuel costs, high operating costs due to limited passenger capacity, pollution, noise. The hypersonic approaches are working to overcome at least some of those problems. I’ve seen some articles that discuss bi-plane approaches for SST/HST travel that significantly limit noise; the double-wings cancel out the shock wave and improve fuel usage. There are also airframe stress problems (especially due to the temperature extremes), and of course the cost is commercially prohibitive.
Still, we need to keep working on the technology. The need to fly at stratospheric levels pushed development of pressurized cabins, building on the supercharging developed for engines. The development of jets and new wing shapes — as well as challenges to carry more passsengers and more cargo led to larger jet planes. Perhaps the SST/HST development will finally push the development of effective, efficient, and safe engines and airflow surfaces. I’m curious to see how this test goes.
ETA: Alas, the test failed even before the hypersonic engines were started.
Today’s news chum brings a few stories related to travel:
- Overdependence on Technology. A story that is near and dear to my heart: Why maps are better than GPS. Of course, I already knew that.
- Airport History. If you know me, you know I enjoy history. That’s one reason I love this “LA as Subject” piece with some nice photos of early LAX. I particularly like the penultimate photo, which is looking south at the Interim Air Terminal. You can see what is now the Northrop Grumman facility in the background.
- Who Killed the Concorde? A really nice find of two articles from /. on the death of the Concorde. The second link is particularly interesting, for it provide such interesting facts as “Concorde used as much fuel taxiing to the end of a runway as a Ryanair-size Boeing 737 flying from London to Amsterdam.” or ” the friction of air flowing over the wings also caused the airframe to expand by 23cm (9 inches) during flight, and its steel and copper wiring had to be hung loose, like overhead wires on railway tracks rather than fixed to the fuselage because they expanded and stretched at different rates.” Cool.
- Travelling On. Something I’ll be facing in a few weeks: Helping Mom and Dad to Let Go When Your Kid Goes to College. Although I’ve jokingly said we’re dropping her off at UCB and then heading to Palm Springs to celebrate, in reality we’ll miss her and worry about her.
P.S.: I know at least one friend will appreciate this: 14 Creative Divorce Cakes.
Well, it’s Friday at lunch, and that means it is time to clean out the accumulated links that never quite formed into a theme:
- And The Plan Is… Let’s get some politics out of the way first. One of my big problems with the GOP of late is that their position seems to be solely what they are against, not what they are for. The LA Times captures this well in an article that discusses how the GOP focus regarding “Obamacare” is the repeal, and they have taken no actions — even actions they promised — towards finding a better solution. This was evidenced this week with the 33rd vote in the house to repeal the act, with knowledge aforethought that it would never pass the senate, let alone be signed. I think the GOP would have a lot more respect if they would work to modify the act into something better, as opposed to just tossing it out whole-cloth with no replacement.
- Whither the Resume? CNN has an interesting article on the potential death of the resume. Their basic question is this: In this era where our job history is easily available via LinkedIn or even Facebook, why have a resume at all? Work history can be easily found out.
- Broken Meters. Gov. Brown just recently signed a bill making it legal to park at broken parking meters. It takes effect January 1, 2013. But there’s a catch. Cities can create superseding rules… and it is expected that Los Angeles will be one of those cities.
- Side Effects of Heat. As you know, it has been hot. You had it in the east; we’re getting it in the west right now. It has been up into the 120s in Las Vegas. Heat has an interesting side effect: it makes air thinner, and thus it is harder for planes to take off. Luckily, the Las Vegas airport is one of the few engineered specifically for hot weather. Specifically, McCarran International Airport has two built-in advantages that help pilots deal with extreme heat: an exceptionally long runway and one that goes downhill just enough — 1.1 degree over its 14,505-foot-length — to help jets reach takeoff speed.
- Sequencing the Banana. Bananas are an interesting fruit. The best bananas are sterile, propagated by shoot. The majority of the bananas consumed are a single variety — the cavendish — because others do not travel as well or look as good. This has made bananas very susceptable to disease and hard to improve. Thus, it is significant news that they have sequenced the genes of the banana. No, not the cavendish, but something close enough that they might be able to use the information to improve the banana. In related news, did you ever wonder why people slip on banana peels?
- Pinning it Down. Lastly, an interesting article that explores the Apple iPod Dock Connector: why the shuffle uses a 4 pin connector; why that doesn’t work for most iPods (which have 30 pin connectors), and why there might be a 19-pin connector in the future.
- Compensating for Nick. CNN is reporting on how DirecTV is compensating for the loss of the Viacom channels. Supposedly, according to DirecTV’s facebook page, “to thank you for your patience until Viacom channels are returned, all eight Encore Channels (including Encore Family) will be made available to all customers thru July 31st”. Further, the article notes that some subscribers have gotten discounts on their subscriptions for multiple months due to the loss.
Music: Raisin (1973 Original Broadway Cast): It’s a Deal