It’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.
Well, 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
Yes, 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:
- But Its Only a Penny. If you recall, while in Vegas I wrote that all the coin slot machines seem to have gone away (meaning the minimum is a $1 bill), but they all were denominated as “1 cent” machines. I found a good discussion of the tricks behind this — and there are many. For example, most have minimum bets for each line, making the true “price” of a bet between 25c and 40c. Then they encourage you to bet multiple lines, each requiring the minimum bet. Further, to keep you playing, the payoffs aren’t always multiples of the bet, meaning you’ve always got credits to use (and these aren’t coins in the tray — they are credits on the screen you must redeem). In other words, rarely can you bet just 1c on 1 line , and they are pulling every trick in the book to keep you there until you have no credits.
- But Those Aren’t All The Tricks. Boing-Boing had even more information on slot philosophy, with a short documentary on all the tricks the slot software designers do to entice you to play and to keep you playing. Well worth watching — I’ll look for these tricks the next time I’m in Las Vegas.
- Playing The Ponies… Not. My grandfather used to love to play the horses. He wouldn’t do it that often, but he did love to watch the horse races on TV. Today, news came out that one of the granddaddy of racetracks in Southern California is closing down: Hollywood Park has indicated there will be no more meets once the currently scheduled set is over, and the park will soon be torn down to be replaced by a housing development. This just leaves Santa Anita and Del Mar as Southern California racetracks.
We 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.
If 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”
I 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!