Observations Along the Road

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

Looking everywhere, going nowhere

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

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



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Mama, mama, forget your pies

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 12, 2015 @ 7:14 pm PST

userpic=tombstonesIf you can’t figure out why this post is named what it is, you’ll have to read to the end. If you get the connection, I’ve just created an earworm. In any case, this post is a requiem for some things that are nearly or dearly departed:

Oh, right, the title of the post. Take a listen:

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Shticks of One and Half a Dozen of the Other: Saturday Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Oct 24, 2015 @ 11:06 am PST

userpic=schmuckThis has been the second very busy week in a row. I’ve accumulated a number of articles, but there are no coherent things, but lots of things I want to comment upon. So let’s get started with this news chum collection:

🏥  Sexism in the Emergency Room. The Atlantic had a fascinating article that I certainly believe: Doctors Tend To Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously. It is sad to think that this type of sexism still exists in the medical profession, but it does. There are fewer research projects to see the effect of medicine on women, and often a woman’s complaint is dismissed as hysteria (and by the way, if you don’t know the origin of that word, you should — it’s relevant). In this article, a woman almost dies because the doctors don’t believe her complaint about serious pain.

💏 Contributions of the Yiddish Theatre. As my daughter is busily studying Yiddish at UC Berkeley, news about Yiddish tends to catch my eye. Here’s an article about how the first lesbian kiss on stage was in a Yiddish theatre production. Specifically, the 1923 English-language production of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, at the Apollo Theater on 223 West 42nd Street, presented the first same-sex kiss in the history of Broadway, leading to the entire cast’s being arrested on obscenity charges. Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman’s Indecent, having its world premiere at the Yale Rep in New Haven this month, is a delightful, unexpected, and surprising play about Asch’s play.

🎭 To Review Community Theatre? An article in the On Stage Blog has prompted some interesting discussion. Its question: Should theatre reviewers review community theatre, and if they do, should they give an honest assessment? A fascinating question: after all, these are not professional actors, so should we hold them to the same quality standards? They are often true amateurs, and the directors are equally amateurs. Personally, I tend to agree with the VC On Stage Blog: I review honestly, but try more to couch my review as constructive criticism (how to improve, instead of “Bob stunck”).

🏊 A Hole in the Ground, Filled with Water. With the current drought, there’s more an more interest in demolishing pools. It’s an interesting question, and one that I’ve thought seriously about. Pools can add to the value of a house, and in general a pool actually uses less water than a lawn. But they can leak easily — I’m pretty sure our pool has a leak somewhere in the piping deep underground that feeds the pump (I have to add water weekly). But the cost of removing the pool can be quite high — multiple thousands of dollars to remove the decking, break up the shell, etc. If it costs only an extra $50 to add water per month, it is cheaper to add water. Never an easy question.

💳 American Express in Trouble. Here’s a fascinating article about the woes of American Express: Specifically, the loss of their US contract with Costco is a big deal, no matter what they say. Amex no longer has the prestige it once had, and its higher fees often make people less likely to accept it. They can hang on, but they may be going the way of Diners Club over time.

💊 The Cost of Generics. By now, our insurance companies have drummed it into our heads: Buy generics, it is cheaper. But as we’ve read in the news, the cost of generics is actually rising, often thanks to greedy manufacturers. Who is that hurting? Small pharmacies, who are finding that their insurance reimbursements do not cover the cost of the generics. This means, due to insurance contracts, they often lose money on generics. Welcome to screwed up health care in America.

🔯 Holocaust Revisionism. This week, we had an interesting example of Holocaust Revisionism… from an Israeli leader, who proclaimed that Hitler didn’t want to kill the Jews — it was an Arab idea. Dr. Deborah Lipstadt — who was my professor for a number of Jewish Studies courses at UCLA including ones on Zionism and Antisemitism — wrote a very good rebuttal and analysis of Netanyahu’s statement. (if that link doesn’t work, go here, and then click on the article). As Dr. Lipstadt noted: “Netanyahu, however, did not paint [the Grand Mufti] as a supporter of this genocide. He credited him with coming up with the idea. There is a vast difference between the two. Historians continue to debate who originated the idea of the Final Solution. No serious historian, however, has ever laid the decision at the feet of the mufti. These are scary days in Israel. Arabs, some of whom have been incited to act by religious and political leaders, have stabbed, hacked, and stoned Jews. Others have mowed them down with cars. This inexcusable barbarism does not, however, legitimate rewriting of the past.”

🍕 Feeding the Addiction. I really try to avoid becoming an addict. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I am addicted to Afrin, but that’s a different story. This week I learned I really am an addict. So, here’s goes. My name is Daniel, and I’m addicted to Cheese.  Yup, a new study has shown that Cheese Addiction is real. Cheese happens to be especially addictive because of an ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins that play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element. The LA Times drilled down even deeper into the study, and concluded: So the decision to call cheese crack is entirely yours. And if the University of Michigan study makes you feel better about eating a quesadilla for lunch and half a cheese board before dinner, so be it.

🍷 Liquid Refreshment Andrew Ducker over on LJ alerted me to this article, which is related to a different type of food addiction. Yes, there are people who feel better after drinking blood, but no they are not vampires. The article is an interesting study of sanguinarians  — real life “vampires” and their communities.

💥 I Feel The Earth Move. Everyone started to run scared in LA after an article from NASA saying the chance of a major earthquake in the San Gabriel Valley is 99.9% in the next two years. But then again, Dr. Lucy Jones disputes the findings.  Specifically, a yet unpublished study from seismologists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab predicted with 99.9 percent certainty that we’d get a 5.0 quake sometime within the next couple years. They were 35 percent certain that it would be even bigger, registering at 6.0 or worse. However, Dr. Lucy “Earthquake Lady” Jones, a seismologist who works with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on earthquake preparedness, noted that the claim that it’s such a high probability is made in a paper by one individual group of researchers, and the paper doesn’t document how they came up with that number so it’s impossible for us to even evaluate whether or not the statement has any validity, because they didn’t say why. She also noted this is not an official NASA claim, and pointed out that a lot of us might not even be able to feel a 5.0 quake. What’s more likely? Dr. Jones says a more likely figure is a 2 percent chance of SoCal getting a big quake—7.5 or greater—each year. But there is a certainty that eventually be a big one, so it also helps to be prepared.

💺 The First Jumbo Jets. Airline Reporter had an interesting exploration of Delta Air Lines and their first jumbo jets: the 747-100s. Delta ended up settling on the DC-10s and L-1011s, and of course, now uses different jumbos. The article provides a great insight on why airlines order what, and what happens to an aircraft after it is no longer needed.

🍏 They’re back. Yay. Pippins are back in markets. Get them while you can.

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At Last, The Stew: Tasty Links in a Simmering Sauce

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Oct 17, 2015 @ 3:30 pm PST

Observation StewAnd finally, some tasty news chum stew, which has been simmering in the bookmarks for a couple of weeks:


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Death, Dying, and Resurrection

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Oct 13, 2015 @ 6:53 pm PST

userpic=tombstonesRecently, the newsfeeds have brought stories of death, dying, and resurrection. None of this is particularly in the religious sense, but it is all interesting in a secular way:

The Dead

  • The Army Green Service Uniform. Those who have worked with the DOD know how to read uniforms: blue for the Air Force, green for the Army. Those days are numbered: The Army Green Service uniform is going away. Specifically, as of Oct. 1, the “Green Class As” are no longer permitted for wear. From 1902 through World War II soldiers wore an olive and/or khaki/tan combination of some sort. But then the Army wanted a sharp, classic and dignified look to distinguish soldiers in a postwar era. Enter the Army Green Uniform in 1954. The dark green color (“shade 44”) was a throwback to the distinctive color for rifle units back in Revolutionary times, and was recommended to the Army by scientists and fashion experts. What is replacing it? Would you believe “Army Blue”? The new ASU’s blue color represents a nod to the first century-plus of the Army, from the Revolution to the Civil War and Spanish American War. The blues became standard issue in 2010 and from there quickly became the most popular service uniform.
  • The Card Catalog. The last manufacturer of cards for the card catalog drawers has decided to stop making the cards. The library cooperative, which created the world’s first shared, online catalog system back in 1971, allowed libraries to order custom-printed cards that could then be put in their own analog cataloging systems. Now, according to the cooperative, it’s time to lay a “largely symbolic” system that’s well past its prime to rest. Cross off another learned skill from your youth you no longer need.
  • Tap Cards. Specifically, expired TAP cards. TAP (Transit Access Pass) is the system used in Southern California for paying for transit. Stored value is loaded on a card, and used on a bus or train. So far, so good. The problem is: those cards expire, and that expiration date is not printed on the card. You can only discover it when you register the card in the system. Further, there are no easy ways (other than calling customer service) to transfer the stored value off of an expired card. The potential windfall accrues to Metro.  According to LA Weekly, It’s estimated that expired TAP money adds up to a whopping $2.7 million. Metro says that about half of those expired Tap balances will be transferred by customers to new cards, leaving the transit agency with $1.3 million dollars in unclaimed money.
  • Your Pilot. Recently, the news was filled with reports about a flight that had its pilot die mid-flight. Although it sounds scary, it really isn’t a problem. After all, there are multiple qualified pilots on every flight.  But that’s not why the extra pilot is there. Commercial flying has always been a team effort, and the main reason for having two pilots is because the business of flying a plane is difficult and often complicated. Contrary to what everybody seems to think, planes do not “fly themselves,” and even a two-pilot cockpit often becomes a surprisingly busy place.
  • US Airways. On Friday, the last US Airways flight will touch down in Philadelphia. This will mark the end of an airlines that included carriers with such well-known reputations as Alleghany, Piedmont, USAir, America West, and of course, PSA.  In fact, it reunites PSA with the remains of AirCal (which American swallowed) and Reno Air.

The Dying

The Resurrection

  • Reel to Reel Tape. We’ve all heard about the rebirth of vinyl. Next up: Reel to reel tapes. I had a small reel-to-reel when I was young, and made tapes of music before I got into cassettes. But we’re not talking the 3″ reels. We’re taking professional quality tape. Further… the verdict is in: tape sounds better than vinyl. Period. Not the cassette tapes of Walkman era, of course. Not those 8-track bricks from the land of shag carpet supervans either. That crude tech is an insult to tape, the same way Velveeta is an insult to cheddar. The real vinyl killer turns out to be reel-to-reel tape. Played on unwieldy machines that conjure visions of ABSCAM sting operations and Boogie Nights bachelor pads, R2R tape is the latest retro-trend for hi-fi geeks and design fetishists who curate their living rooms like a MoMA exhibit.  (yes, that is pasted from the linked article)
  • Georgia’s Stone Mountain. If you recall, during the recent confederate flag kerfuffle, there were calls to destroy the images of confederate generals carved into Stone Mountain. That didn’t fly, but there is the next best thing: Adding Martin Luther King Jr. to Stone Mountain. Georgia officials decided Sunday to erect a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the site of a Confederate memorial on Stone Mountain, Ga. There was mixed reaction. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association, with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s approval, plans to build a tower with a replica of the Liberty Bell just beyond the carvings of Confederate heroes Gen. Robert E. Lee, President Jefferson Davis, and Gen. Stonewall Jackson to celebrate Mr. King’s reference to the site in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech: “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”
  • Perl. Many of you know that I’m Perl’s Paternal Godparent and the first user of Perl (Larry, Mark, and I all carpooled together to SDC when it was written).  After many years, Larry has just unveiled Perl 6. I guess that means I may need to learn it. I still pretty much just use Perl 4 or Perl 5.


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They’ve Outlived Their Usefullness… Maybe

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 19, 2015 @ 2:47 pm PST

userpic=pirateWe’re continuing to swab the deck of this pesky news chum. This time, we’re making some things that might be of retirement age walk the plank. Let’s see if they sink or swim:

  • The Boeing 747. One of the books I keep rereading from the early 1970s deals with the birth of the Boeing 747. After 45 years, the old lady of aviation (of the current “models” in heavy use, only the 737 is older) may be ready to retire. It’s engineering is from the past: people are astonished when they see the analogue instruments. The flight controls are all dependent on old-fashioned mechanical linkages. A 747 captain once explained that, if hydraulic assistance on the control yoke is lost, you can still put your feet on the instrument panel, give a big tug and wrench the plane about the sky. You cannot do that on a solid-state Airbus. Airline economics have also changed: International flights can now avoid the big hubs and go directly on long, thin routes between secondary cities. The first generation of high-bypass turbofans made the original 747-100 possible, but it was only ever economical when fully loaded, its efficiency tumbling disproportionately as seats were left empty. In the 45 years since its first flight, engine reliability has so dramatically improved there is no need for four thirsty engines. In any case, the fundamental appeal of the original 747 was its range rather than its capacity. Boeing’s own efficient long-range modern twinjets, the 777 and 787 have made it redundant. And the A380 makes it look crude.
  • Quicken. If you are like me, you probably have years and years of data in Quicken. I think I started using it back in 1994, perhaps even a bit earlier, with a version running on MS-DOS. Well the markets have changed, and you and I are dinosaurs. All the cool kids use online money management, and Intuit (born of Quicken) has put Quicken on the market. Intuit has decided to focus on its small business and tax software, represented by QuickBooks and TurboTax, respectively — both have strong cloud- and subscription-based businesses — and is ditching Quicken because, as a strictly desktop product, it has neither.  Some predict Quicken to be dead in two years. After all, the three units Intuit plans to sell — Quicken, QuickBase and Demandforce — accounted for less than 6% of the firm’s fiscal 2015 revenue, and just 2% of its net income during the same period. For the last 12 months, Quicken contributed just $51 million to the company’s total revenue of nearly $4.2 billion.  They want a buyer that will keep the brand up. It will be interesting to see. I still use Quicken — and their long-retired Medical Insurance Tracking software — and it would be a pain to transition that data (and the data does not belong online).
  • Vinyl Records. On the other hand, vinyl records (which were written off for dead), are seeing a comeback. The NY Times reports that the business of record pressing is now experiencing so many orders they cannot keep up (warning: autoplay video). The problem: how to capitalize on the popularity of vinyl records when the machines that make them are decades old, and often require delicate and expensive maintenance. The few dozen plants around the world that press the records have strained to keep up with the exploding demand, resulting in long delays and other production problems. It is now common for plants to take up to six months to turn around a vinyl order. Still, vinyl is a niche market, albeit a valuable one.

Music: The Slightly Fabulous Limelighters: “Aravah, Aravah” (The Limeliters )

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On The Move: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Aug 31, 2015 @ 9:46 am PST

userpic=travelContinuing to clear out the links… here’s a collection of news chum all being related by the theme of travel or travelling:


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Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:28 pm PST

userpic=psa-smileThis is a busy busy time, and the chum is accumulating. To whittle it down a little, here are some articles related to things that fly:


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