Observations Along the Road

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

Saturday Stew: From XP to Exes, from New Coins to Old History

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 22, 2014 @ 6:52 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clear out the links for the week. This has been a busy week, with a major recorganization (which was more of an org chart relocation) at work (means loads of “all-hands” meetings full of sound and fury, saying little), loads of documents to review, and loads of stuff to catch up on. As a result, I rarely got time to look at the news over lunch, and have only collected a few things that didn’t them. Let’s get to them:

  • The Death of XP. My RSS feeds are full of dire warnings about continuing to use XP after support stops on April 8. As it is, I have three XP machines at home: two that are just sitting, turned off, and one that is used solely as a print server. Still, I am thinking about replacing it, and two articles caught my eye. The first looks at 3 Linux alternatives to upgrading Windows–I’d seriously think about upgrading at least one to Linux if it can work as a print server on a Windows network. The second talks about how Microsoft is offering special deals of $100 for those upgrading from XP. With some Windows 8 machines in the $200-$300 range, this brings systems to the noise level.
  • Challenging Coins. Two interesting articles on coins this week. The first talks about the new £1 coin Britain is introducing. It will be 12-sided, and incorporate different-colored metals, for a faux gold and silver look, instead of the mostly copper blend now in circulation, and boast a high-tech anti-forgery feature used in paper money. It looks like it is complicated to make. Even more complicated is a new domed collectable coin being made by the US Mint: a domed coin commemorating baseball. Evidently, it was very hard for the mint to manufacture, and took a bit of experimenting to get right. What’s interesting here is reading the comments — there are a large number of people who do not understand that collectable coins and stamps make the government money.
  • Training For It. About a week or so, I had set aside a story about a railroad club in Orange County that had their trackage stolen, intending to send them a little something. Turns out I wasn’t the only one: the club has received thousands of dollars in donations. A nice reminder that there are a lot of good people in the world.
  • Bad Design. Here are two articles about some bad designs. The first is about a new device you can slap on a milk carton–it uses nanotechnology to indicate visually if the milk is good or bad. So what’s the problem? According to the article, “red” is good, “green” is bad. This is the opposite of how red and green are nomally used in interfaces, and I predict people will get sick from the “green is good” hardwiring. The second is about golfing: it appears that titanium clubs striking rocks can create sparks that start brush fires. Perhaps they should give golf clubs to people on Survivor.
  • Out of This World. I’ve had this article sitting for a few weeks, but nothing seems to want to pair with it. Baker is a dying town — once home to the largest thermometer in the world, it is now slowly fading into the desert. But the owner of Alien Jerky wants to change that — and one way is to build a flying saucer shaped hotel.
  • The Jewish Valley. I’m into history. I’m into Judaism. So naturally, I’m into the history of Jews in the San Fernando Valley. Many years ago, Rabbi John Sherwood and I even toyed with the idea of writing a book on the subject. So here’s an interesting article in that vein: it explores the early days of the Valley Jewish Community Center, which became the Conservative synagogue Adat Ari El. This is the synagogue that was the parent of most Conservative synagogues in the valley, just like Temple Beth Hillel was the first Reform congregation and was essentially the parent of most Reform congregations in the valley.
  • Marital Success. What makes a successful marriage? Is it your partner? It is living together before you get married to work out the problems? Is it “murder frequently, divorce never?” According to this article from Atlantic, it is being mature when you get married. An exploration of the science of cohabitation shows that the older people are when they make their long-term commitment as a couple, the more likely that couple will stay together. The study found that individuals who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 saw a 60 percent rate of divorce. Whereas individuals who waited until 23 to commit saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent. I got married when I was 25, and next year we will have been married for 30 years. As they say, you do the math.



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Evolution in Action

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 07, 2014 @ 8:23 pm PDT

userpic=caduceusToday’s lunchtime (well, I meant to post this at lunch, but the day got away from me) news chum post deals with evolution, in various forms and shapes:

  • Evolution of… a Musical. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to be seeing “Harmony“, the new Barry Manilow musical at the Ahmanson. The story of how this musical came about is quite interesting. You see, although Barry Manilow is involved with this musical (writing the music), it isn’t a pastiche of existing Manilow music. This musical goes back to when Manilow met Bruce Sussman at the 1972 BMI Musicals Workshop (before Manilow was a pop star), and it tells the the little-known true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a vaudevillian German sextet that rose to wild superstardom in the 1930s. But three of the group’s six members were Jewish, and by 1935 they had been forced to flee to the United States after the Nazis dissolved the sextet, destroyed all their albums and burned their 12 movies. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
  • Evolution of… a Meme. Slashdot is reporting on a study about the way that memes evolve on Facebook, and it turns out they evolve in a manner similar to the ways genes evolve. Specifically, memes spread, mutate and evolve in ways that are mathematically identical to genes. However, there are important differences too. The authors of the study say that understanding this process can give deep insights into the way information spreads through cultures and the way individuals change it as it spreads. BTW, in other Facebook stuff, Wired looks at our obsession with online quizzes, and even includes their popularity back in the days of Livejournal.
  • Evolution of… the Vegas Marquee. When the Las Vegas strip started in the late 1940s, marquees were nothing. There might be a signboard announcing artists and a pool along US 91. Then the Flamingo added the champagne tower, and everything took off. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was neon everywhere. But go to the strip these days, and you’ll find very little neon. What’s replaced it? Gigantic LED high-def displays. The Las Vegas Weekly has a nice article looking at this evolution.
  • Evolution of… the Coffeemaker. First, you should know that I don’t like coffee. Coffee, to me, only belongs in ice cream or covered in dark chocolate. But there are those that like it. Growing up, my mother did… and she always had a percolator. You never see those any more. They were replaced by drip coffeemakers (“Mr. Coffee”), and then French Presses (or cold brew setups like my wife uses). Nowadays, we’re all into the waste of the K-Cup and the Keurig. Keurig wants to be the HP or Canon of coffeemakers… and by that I mean they want to make you captive to their cups (think cheap printers and expensive consumables). How are they going to do this? DRM in the K-Cup, meaning the coffeemaker will only work with Keurig-produced K-cups. I think I’ll stick with loose-leaf tea, thankyouverymuch.


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Saturday Clearing O’ The Links

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 08, 2013 @ 11:25 am PDT

userpic=observationsIt’s Saturday, and you know what that means — time to clear out those links that couldn’t form into a coherent theme over the week. That doesn’t mean this are incoherent links, but … umm … perhaps we should just get to the links:

  • Theatre Stuff. This has been a busy week theatre-wise — based on some good reviews in the times and some timely discoveries, I’ve now filled out my June theatre dance card. You’ll see that in tomorrow’s review of Priscilla, but I do have a few theatre items. First is a very interesting review of Scottsboro Boys at the Ahmanson… written by a resident of Scottsboro AR. His take is very different than some. Second, I’ve become a tag at Bitter Lemons! Perhaps I should explain: Bitter Lemons is a theatre site here in Los Angeles that aggregates reviews and writeups of local shows, and then uses them to ascribe an overall “lemon” score — from sweet to bitter — on each show. They evidently like my writeups enough to include them in the meter, and I’m honored by that inclusion. I’ve even more honored that Colin, who runs the site, wrote a wonderful response to a post I did a while back regarding critics and their place. I also really liked their advice to the aspiring critic; I’ll take a number of those items to heart. A PS to the good folks at REP East: You should pay attention to this post about getting your shows in the Lemon Meter.
  • Your Net Worth. Two different posts looks at the question of what you are worth to different groups. Yes, you. First, have you ever thought about who was the most valuable patron to a casino: a pennyslot player or a blackjack player. The answer may surprise you – the pennyslot player. What about on Facebook? How much are you worth if you “like” something? Read this post, and you’ll be very hesitant about “like”-ing in the future.
  • The State of Affairs. A couple of state things. First, an interesting map that shows if you are in “dog” or a “cat” state. This is based on the percentage of pet ownership of each type. I’m in a neutral state, it seems. What I’d love to find is a map that categorized cities as “east coast” or “west coast” — and this isn’t a geographical distinction. Perhaps one day I’ll explain it, but I’ll give my two favorite examples: LA and KC are “west coast”, San Francisco and St. Louis are “east coast”.  Second, the city hall in St. Louis is slowly deteriorating, and no one is doing anything about it. It’s not that St. Louis doesn’t have city pride; it’s that they don’t associate it with their city hall.
  • Conference Concerns. I’ve been involved with the ACSAC conference for many years (in fact, training submissions are still open — you have until Monday to get something in). Thus, I’m worried whenever incidents such as the recent IRS boondoggle hit the news — it makes people start seeing conferences as frivolous. It also leads to bills such as those mentioned in this article, that would ban travel to “fun” places. Conferences can be useful and cost effective, if GSA guidelines are followed and the organizers focus on technical content and quality. As always, perception is everything. The important thing to remember is electronic interaction cannot replace face-to-face interaction, just like recommendations from Amazon cannot replace browsing at the bookstore.
  • An Interesting Kickstarter. The SCGD mailing list alerted me to an interesting Kickstarter: A group of gamers is attempting to start a Board Game Cafe in Glendale CA. I love the idea, but I’m less sure about the location — I think it would do better in Westwood (near UCLA) or Northridge (near CSUN). Still I may decide to support them. Basically, the idea is as follows: customers visit the café and for a small cover charge they get access to an extensive board game library (which often runs into hundreds of titles) as well as food and drink options from the café. There is no establishment like this in Los Angeles. There are game shops, but that’s a different atmosphere. The question is: Will it be a destination? It might — after all, they have pie. (All I know is the pie sold me — I’m a supporter. Please help them make their stretch goal so I get pie!)

Music: Folk Era Mini CD (The Kingston Trio): “Tom Dooley”

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Link Chum Stew: Some Things, from COBOL to Credit Cards, from Auditoriums to Ziplines

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 25, 2013 @ 7:03 am PDT

userpic=observationsWell, it’s Saturday and you know what that means… it is time once again to clear out the links that didn’t form into a coherent theme over the last week:

  • Some Things Never Die. For all the work being done in newer programming languages such as Java, it is either comforting… or scary… to realize that the old languages never die. I don’t know if ALGOL or APL are still in heavy use, but I know FORTRAN is (and in fact, it was recently updated, and has supported object-oriented programming since 2003). Also recently updated is COBOL for mainframes, which can now support  cloud and mobile platforms. Here’s a hint for those going into programming — everyone knows the new languages. Become an expert in the older languages (FORTRAN, COBOL), and you’ll be a rarer commodity.
  • Some Things Do. Santa Monica is looking to tear down the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and replace it with… hell, not even they know. The Santa Monica Civic is a 1960s box structure that is essentially a large multipurpose room. No one wants to do concerts there anymore, and it has been reduced to the level of hosting table-top craft shows.
  • Some Things I Don’t Want To Do. The Rio Hotel in Las Vegas is planning a new thrill ride: a zip-line ride running from the top of the tall Rio towers to the main Rio building. The attraction, dubbed the VooDoo Skyline, is expected to open in Summer 2013. Rides will start from the VooDoo Lounge, atop the Rio’s 50-story Masquerade Tower. Via the zip-line (which is 450′ in the air), guests will travel down 845 feet to the top of the 20-story Ipanema tower, reaching speeds of up to 33 mph. Riders will then make a return trip — upward through a motorized pulley system while traveling backward at 25 mph — to the starting point. The total ride covers nearly one-third of a mile and takes 1 minute and 10 seconds from start to finish. Cost is expected to be $25.
  • Some Things I Do. The LA Times has a really interesting article on a new course at UCLA: Physiological Sciences 7 – Food and Science — that looks at the chemical interactions that make our food what it is. The goal of the recent class was to do experimentation on the science behind apple pies to create an even better apple pie.
  • Some Things Technology Doesn’t Affect. An article from Kapersky on Credit Card security provides a nice discussion on the non-technology risks of credit cards. I’ve always said that people don’t understand risk — they are scared to use the Internet for a credit card, but willingly give it to a server they don’t know who takes it away for a while. This article explains some of those concerns pretty well. As for me, as long as I’m using a reputable site, I have no problem using a credit card on the net. But never a debit card.
  • Some Things Technology Does Affect. USA Today recently had an article on the tan losing its luster in Hollywood. However, one thing in the article caught my eye: “In Hollywood, technology gets some credit. When women like Blanchett started out in the industry, “it was tough,” Dougherty says. Studio lights washed out light faces and limbs, losing texture and depth — hence the desire for “everyone on set to be these neutral honey colors,” a la Jennifer Aniston. But “technology has come a long way,” Dougherty says. “Now, they can really light for these skin tones.”” In other words, tans for actresses are not out for health reasons or artificiality, but because they are no longer necessary to have faces show up on film. Those who are sufficiently old may remember odd makeup and color choices for actors specifically designed to pop on black and white film. Technology marches on.

Hmmm, maybe they did form a theme after all :-)


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Gambling It Away

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 10, 2013 @ 7:13 pm PDT

userpic=las-vegasYes, I know I’ve been back from Vegas for a few days (and have been behind on my posting). Still, it seems, I’ve got a little bit of gambling still on my mind, for the news and the RSS feeds brought me two articles related to the subject, and I hunted down a third I was thinking about:


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Some Vegas and “Along The Road” Reviews

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 07, 2013 @ 10:28 pm PDT

userpic=las-vegasWe made it back home from Las Vegas a few hours ago, and so I thought I’d post some reviews of things Vegas or along the way. I would have posted some of these this morning, but the Internet at our hotel was out (in fact, it was out for the entire nearby area — at least at McDs and Dunkin):

  • Tahiti Village Resort. This is where we stayed — we had an interval from Interval International expiring, and so we exchange it from here. It was a very nice resort, with a lovely pool (with a sand area), a lazy river (which we didn’t try), and reasonably good service. The on-site restaurants had a so-so reputation, so we didn’t try them. It was located right next to LAS, which made it very convenient for strip access without being on the strip. Drawbacks: The elevators when we went to checkout were slow, and the Internet went out this morning (neither of which were really the resort’s fault).
  • Re-Pete Bar and Grill. Last night, not wanting to go back to the strip, yet not wanting to try the resort’s restaurant, we went down the street to Re-Petes. We were glad we did, for the food was excellent. I had their house chicken, which was two chicken breasts in a pan glaze with chopped sausage over lyonnaise potatoes with fresh vegetables. It was just perfect.
  • Wynn Buffet. Breakfast today was the buffet at The Wynn, which was head and shoulders over the mediocre buffet at the Riviera or at the Fremont. I just can’t describe all the lovely little delicacies that the Wynn had out, but I really felt I got my $20 worth with the variety. This wasn’t just bacon and eggs, folks.
  • Jerky Outlet. During this trip, we saw lots of Jerky places, from the Beef Jerky Store in downtown Vegas  to Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker. These places had lots of different jerkys, but most had soy sauce in them (which is not gluten-free). As we were leaving, we tried the Jerky Outlet just S of the Premium Outlets.  They had jerky without soy sauce, both in a soft (refrigerated) and non-soft variety. A bit pricy, so we didn’t try the exotic meats, but still worth going back to.  They have both a website and a facebook page.
  • Charlie Brown Farms. As we were driving back along Route 138, we ran across Charlie Brown Farms. This is a place that seems to go on and on with all sorts of stuff — kitsch, dolls, dried fruits, fudge, candies, BBQ, walking sticks, teas. A wide variety of stuff split over a number of buildings. Given that it isn’t that far from Palmdale, we may go back one day for a longer look.


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A Tale of Three Chocolates

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 06, 2013 @ 4:55 pm PDT

userpic=cookingIf you follow my blog at all, you know I like to do things in threes. So today, as we’re still in Las Vegas, I bring you the story of three chocolates:

  • Vosges Haut Chocolate. We hit this store on the way to the Elton John concert. They had lots of tasty samples, but alas they didn’t have any of their bacon+chocolate out to try. We did, however, pick up a blood orange caramel chocolate bar. Yummy.
  • Max Brenner. This was a chocolate store plus restaurant that we hit after the concert for dessert. We ended up getting “The Spectacular Melting Chocolate S’Mores Sundae, which consisted of milk chocolate ice cream, pure vanilla creme, milk chocolate fondue, chocolate chunks, marshmallow fluff, and whipped cream, garnished with toasted marshmallow fluff and served with a white chocolate ganache, with two chocolate-covered graham cracker cookies on the side.
  • Ethel M. The third chocolate in our story is Ethel M, which we visited this afternoon for the store and the factory tour. There we picked up a 16-pc box with goodies for all: dark and milk chocolate sea-salt caramels, dark and milk chocolate raspberry satin cremes, dark chocolate lemon satin cremes, orange liqueur dark chocolates, amaretto liqueur milk chocolates, Irish cream liqueur chocolates, milk chocolate truffles, dark chocolate truffles, and cinammon truffles…. plus some pecan brittle. Oh, and Ethel Mars looks a lot like Mary See. Coincidence?

P.S.: The peppermint oil did a wonderful job of calming down my sunburn.

P.P.S.: Today we hit the Riviera Buffet for lunch. The old girl (the hotel opened in 1955) is getting sad. The food was only average (although the price was low), the buffet was empty with no line, and you had to go in the back because the escalator was under repair. Further, the casino was very quiet. It is one of the few 1950s hotels with the original building still standing (i.e., the 9-story hotel wings — the only other are the two-story wings at the Tropicana). After lunch we went across the street to Circus Circus, and it was equally quite (although with more kids thanks to the Midway). In general, the North End of the Strip is currently dead. It is being dragged down by the empty lot that was the Frontier, the partial development that was the Stardust and was to be the Echelon and will be the Resort World Las Vegas, the unfinished hulk that was the Thunderbird (oops) Silverbird (oops) El Rancho (oops) was to be the Fontainbleau, the land from the El Rancho Vegas that has never been redeveloped yet, and the closed Sahara that is transforming into the SLS Vegas. Here’s hoping that the North Strip can come back as strong as the Mid- and South Strip.

Music: Zumanity (Cirque Du Soleil): “Entree”

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Next Time… Sunblock

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 05, 2013 @ 6:28 pm PDT

userpic=don-martinI have spent today… itching.

You see, Friday I did a stupid. I took advantage of the sunny day to go down by the pool and soak up some rays, listen to a few podcasts, enjoy the pool, and people watch. I ended up soaking up a few too many rays, and my whole upper chest and legs look like a lobster (trust me, you don’t want pictures). I was OK yesterday, but today has brought on extremely intense itching as the skin is starting to heal.

So far, I have tried (topically) aloe vera gel and lotions and baths in epsom salts and lavender… neither have provided long term relief. Ibuprofin has helped a little, and I have just resorted to a Benedryl and a T3 (the pain was that bad)… and it is now down to somewhat bearable. Following some advice I found in a discussion thread, Karen is out picking up some peppermint oil to see if that will help. I’m guessing it is going to be a long night; hopefully it will calm down tomorrow for a more enjoyable last day in Las Vegas.

(Luckily, this didn’t impact today too much, as it was a down day for Karen to take her arthritis meds, and Erin to study for finals).

OK, if you insist on a picture:


If anything, this has taught me a lesson: as much as I think I don’t need it, I must put on sunblock!

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