Observations Along the Road

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

Chum for a Sunday Afternoon: Drums, Drives, Drugs, Dust, Dresses and More

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 15, 2016 @ 3:08 pm PDT

Observation StewI’ve been on travel for my daughter’s graduation, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to write about the articles I’ve seen. I’ve got two themed collections of chum that I’ll write up after last night’s theatre review (not sure when I’ll post them). But first, here’s the stuff that wouldn’t theme, but that caught my eye:

  • Bang. Bang. Bang. Anyone who has attended Drum Corps, or likely even seen a band will recognize this name: Remo. The news in recent weeks included an obituary of the man behind the name: Remo Belli, who invented the synthetic drum head. Before Remo, drums were animal skins, highly variable. As the obituary notes: “Belli was a young professional drummer in the 1950s, backing singer Anita O’Day and others, when he grew frustrated with the limitations of animal-skin drumheads, which could wilt or expand depending on the weather. In 1957, he and his collaborators perfected and began marketing one of the first artificial drumheads made of a resilient polyester film manufactured under various brand names, including Mylar, made by DuPont. He dubbed that first product the Weather King, a signal that it was durable no matter the atmospheric conditions of the gig, unlike finicky cow-skin drums.” Since then, his product has become the standard.
  • Long Commute. This article caught my eye because it deals with Las Vegas and teachers. Specifically, there is a group of teachers who live in Las Vegas, and commute daily to teach in the small community of Baker, at the gateway to Death Valley. Why? Pay, of course. The starting salary for teachers in Baker is $44,000. In Las Vegas it’s $34,000, though it will be $40,000 next year after a new contract takes effect. At the same time teacher shortages are ravaging America’s cities, however, rural schools have arguably been hit hardest. Teacher turnover is high, and many small towns are finding it hard to attract teachers. While many are attracted to Baker because of the pay, they stay because the work is satisfying, the way teaching should be but often isn’t in large urban school districts. Class sizes are extremely small: compared with the 30-50 in the large school districts, we’re talking 4-10.
  • Hacking the Brain for Fun… and to Relieve Pain. In our life, pain is a constant. My wife deals with arthritis; I deal with migraines. What do you think we would do for a good solution for the pain? Here’s an intriguing direction: A group is playing with a non-chemical solution that involves hacking the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve starts in the brainstem, just behind the ears. It travels down each side of the neck, across the chest and down through the abdomen. ‘Vagus’ is Latin for ‘wandering’ and indeed this bundle of nerve fibres roves through the body, networking the brain with the stomach and digestive tract, the lungs, heart, spleen, intestines, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in speech, eye contact, facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices. It is made of thousands and thousands of fibres and 80 per cent of them are sensory, meaning that the vagus nerve reports back to your brain what is going on in your organs. Research shows that a high vagal tone (strength of your vagus response) makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation. Said inflammation has been connected with arthritis and migraines. This article talks about using an implant to stimulate the vagus nerve to reduce pain. Fascinating.
  • Pain and Empathy. Chemical painkillers  can be insidious. For example, we all believe Tylenol (acetaminophen, paracetamol in the UK) is safe; safer than aspirin or other NSAIDs. But there have been numerous reports that even the slight overdose can cause serious liver damage, and slight overdoses are easy because it is in so many products because it is believed to be safe. Here’s another danger from Tylenol: In research published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University describe the results of two experiments they conducted involving more than 200 college students. Their conclusion: Acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in the United States, can reduce a person’s capacity to empathize with another person’s pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional. In fact, I’m on it right now (just took two Excedrin). Ask me if I care ;-).
  • It’s a Gas — Porter Ranch Causes . One group I do emphasize with are all the folks in Porter Ranch, the community next to where we leave. Not only did they have to deal with the Aliso Canyon gas leak for numerous months, being relocated and such, but they are still having problems even after the leak was sealed. They have now figured out why. Los Angeles County Public Health Department officials say its test of dust in Porter Ranch homes turned up the presence of metals, including barium, that could have caused the kinds of health symptoms some residents have reported experiencing even after the big gas leak was plugged. County officials said there appeared to be  a pattern — or fingerprint — of metals to which all of the homes were exposed. Those metals were barium, vanadium, manganese, lead, strontium and aluminum. The county health official said the barium was in the form of a salt known as barium sulfate, which is not radioactive. It was found at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, which is in the Santa Susana Mountains directly north of Porter Ranch homes. Barium sulfate is added to the fluids that are used in the course of oil well drilling. As I said when the leak first started, this is going to be a clusterf*ck of tremendous proportions — unfortunately, one that will affect our synagogue and many friends and neighbors.
  • Taking Offense at Everything. There are more folks these days that are just finding any hint of skin or sex offensive. We’ve all seen the bathroom wars, where a subgroup of men either believe that men will just choose to dress as a lady to go into a ladies restroom to attack women, or that some woman dressed as a man will go into the mens room and see their shortcomings. Here’s another one: a female weather reporter wearing a beautiful black beaded dress on-air was handed a grey cardigan because some viewers complained they could see her bare arms. This didn’t happen in some backwater area either — this was in Los Angeles folks. Geez, get a life folks. If something offends you, change the channel. If you can’t control your urges, that’s your problem. ETA: Then again, perhaps it was all a joke. Perhaps. ETA#2: Yes, it was a joke.
  • Cell Phones and Theatres. Here’s a very nice piece on Broadway vs. Cell Phones. It explains why they are such a problem. First, taking pictures is making copies of a copyrighted design (yes, the show and all the design elements are copyrighted, and represents significant artistic work). Second, the light these devices emit can distract the performers on the stage, and can distract and disturb other audience members. Thirdly, if they  make noise, the noise can do the same: distract and endanger performers, and disturb the audience. Power them off, or silence them and put them in airplane mode. Why the latter? The signals sometimes interfere with wireless microphones.
  • Replacing Ikea. In Burbank, California, Ikea is moving down the street to an even larger facility. So what is going to happen to the existing facility? What will happen to the dying mall next to it. A report this week gave the answer. Crown Realty is proposing to build a six-story, mixed-use project with 765 apartments and about 40,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of the current Ikea space. They also envision converting the site into a community gathering area where an outdoor ice rink could be built and a farmers market could be held. As for the neighboring mall, one of the major proposed changes will be redesigning the entryway at San Fernando and Magnolia boulevards. A section of the second-floor roof will be removed to create an open-space feel and an escalator will be installed to allow pedestrians to get to the upper level from the street. Other amenities — such as the food court, children’s play area and elevators — will be moved around to create a better flow and atmosphere in the mall.
  • Yiddish in Poland. Lastly, in honor of my daughter’s graduation, here is a map of the Hebrew and Yiddish language frequency in Poland based on the Polish Census of 1931. Those of you who know her will understand.

 

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The Sharks Are In Vegas, Baby

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 16, 2016 @ 8:04 am PDT

userpic=las-vegasThe sharks are in Vegas, and they’re looking for chum. News chum, that is. Let’s give them some:

  • Riviera Sign Down. One fascinating this article had to do with the Riveria sign — specifically, the one that was on the big glass wraparound at the southern end of the resort on the strip. The sign was taken down this week to go to a collector in Reno, who plans to restore and make the sign operational. But that wasn’t what I found fascinating. Rather, there was a very interesting comment in the VitalVegas blog about the sign: “Don’t know if anyone noticed, but the Riviera sign here actually was superimposed over the existing outline of the previous Splash sign that was on the side of this building when the show was shut down.” The image to the right should show this:rivsign
  • Doubling Down, Literally. Speaking of the Riviera, the funding has been approved to take the old dame down. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved paying $42 million to the contractor that will bring the Riviera buildings down in June and August. Officials say separate implosions are necessary because of the large size the Riviera, which closed last May after the authority purchased it to expand its convention space. Before the implosions of the Riviera’s Monte Carlo and Monaco hotel towers, crews are expected to tear down other buildings, such as parking garages and the property’s convention center, although it’s not clear when that will happen. Once all of the Riviera buildings have come down and the site is cleaned up, the authority plans for the land to become outdoor exhibit space. That needs to be done by early 2017 so a major trade show can use the land. Outdoor exhibit space. What a waste, and what bad news for the north end of the strip.
  • Lagoon on the Strip. Just a bit south of the Riviera, news comes out regarding the old Desert Inn property, now the Wynn and the Encore. This property had a large golf course just off strip — one of its prides. That’s partially going away. Steve Wynn has proposed expanding on to the golf course,with a 1,000-room expansion centered around a 38-acre lagoon that would host water skiing, paddle boarding and parasailing by day and fireworks displays at night. The project, tentatively called Wynn Paradise Park, would cost about $1.5 billion to build and open in 2020 if work begins later this year as planned. Now, what is interesting about this proposal is that it will save water over the golf course. You read that right: The proposed 38-acre lagoon project would actually use less water than the 18-hole golf course that currently sits east of the Strip resort. Uri Man, CEO of Crystal Lagoons US Corp. of Coral Gables, Florida, said that a 7- to 10-acre lagoon would use 30 times less water than a typical golf course and 50 percent less water than a park of the same size. Further, this water isn’t coming from Lake Mead. For Wynn Paradise Park, the company owns the water rights under the golf course, grandfathered in from the Desert Inn Golf Course that once stood on the property, and would use water from wells on the property.
  • A Rebirth to the West. I’ll believe this one when I see it: Yet another developer is promising to give the Moulin Rouge a rebirth. For those unfamiliar, the MR was a casino on the west side of Vegas that was best known for driving the other casinos in Vegas to integrate. Opened on May 24, 1955, the Moulin Rouge was the first racially integrated hotel-casino in Las Vegas. It drew customers but, apparently, not enough money to satisfy its creditors. Closed after an October 1955 bankruptcy, the casino opened sporadically under different owners over the next few years, and was best known for being the site where the March 1960 agreement to desegregate the city’s casinos was announced. It operated in a diminished capacity for years, ultimately becoming a short-term residential motel. A series of fires destroyed anything salvageable of the original structure, leading to a more or less empty space—and a blank slate. There have been numerous attempts to revive it over the 50 years of decline. Now, a new investor group wants to resurrect the casino and hotel, provide a resource center and museum to both help and preserve the history of the surrounding Westside neighborhood. In addition, a planned nonprofit, Moulin Rouge Cares, will reach out to the Westside. Groundbreaking is set for May 24, but experience says that the Fountainbleu will be completed before we see a new Moulin Rouge.

 

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Weekend News Chum to Fill your Loving Cup

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 14, 2016 @ 8:42 am PDT

Observation Stew’tis the weekend, and that means it is time to clear out the accumulated links that didn’t them… well, at least those I remembered to send back home from work. In the spirit of the day, feel free to share these stories with your sweetie.

 

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News Chum Unwrapped: Will It Be Coal or Crystal?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 25, 2015 @ 8:49 am PDT

userpic=chanukah-christmasTo all those who celebrate this day in the non-traditional way: The Merriest of Christmases to you. To all those that celebrate in the traditional way: I hope your movie is entertaining and your Chinese food delicious and MSG-free. Why look? What has 🎅 Santa left under the virtual tree? It looks like a collection of boxes of news chum! Let’s unwrap them and see what we’ve got. I wonder if any of them are for me?

  • 🎁 To: Porter Ranch Residents. I live in Northridge, just down the hill from Porter Ranch. The situation up there is a mess: it is bad for the homeowners, it is bad for the businesses in the area, it is bad for our property values, and it will be bad for all the customers of The Gas Company, who will have to foot the bill for this stupidity for years and years to come. For those that live in Porter Ranch, here are two things of interest: the first is a collection of resources from the Mayor’s office, the second is a commitment from SoCalGas that they will relocate residents faster.
  • 🎁 To: Map Collectors. Here’s a collection of 25 of the best Los Angeles maps. It is hard to pick a favorite on the list. I like the map of former streetcar routes, but I think one of the most useful ones compares the size of Los Angeles to other major cities. Most people don’t understand the sheer size of LA, and the distinct difference in density. The change in property values from 2004 to 2014 is also scary: our zip shows a -24%. Mind you, we bought in the top of the market in 2005 😒 . Of course, my favorite map isn’t on the list; my favorite is the one done by my daughter that maps Yiddish books to where they were published in Southern California.
  • 🎁 To: Those From the Midwest. EaterLA recently announced a present for those from the midwest, or those (like me) who have fond memories of visiting the midwest: it appears there is now a full-sized Steak and Shake now open in Burbank. I wonder if this will entice my dear friend Linda in St. Louis to come out for a visit :-). We’ll have to try it next time we’re in the area.
  • 🎁 To: Honda CR-V Owners. Sigh, like us. Honda has extended the air-bag recall to a wider range of CR-Vs. Luckily, we live in a low humidity area, and most of the problems are the result of humidity. That’s perhaps why repairs are so slow out here: I’m still waiting to hear from Toyota on the availability of my repair; the passenger airbag in my wife’s CR-V was repaired in April ’15, and the driver’s airbag in October ’14.
  • 🎁 To: Those Concerned About Government Waste. We’re all aware the government procures supercomputers. We’re probably also aware that those computers get replaced every few years to stay current, maintainable, and at the cutting edge to give our Nation the lead we should have. So what happens to the old computers that were so expensive to procure. The answer will not make you happy. Most are “put out with the trash”; that is, they are disposed. The most efficient, secure and financially feasible way to do it is by using a computer wood chipper, provided by contractors who specialize in IT asset disposition. This is true especially for the supercomputers with high-level security data. Some are repurposed, but the process isn’t easy. The first possibility is to try and trade in the supercomputer on a replacement with the contractor. Trade-ins are sometimes possible, and repurposing is sometimes possible. The third strategy, if the first two aren’t feasible, is to put the old supercomputer through the General Services Administration’s clearinghouse for distributing unused government property. But even though they are cheap, the new owner must come and get it, get it out of where it is, and possibly contract to remove and reinstall.
  • 🎁 To: Those That Like Android. We all know that Windows is trying to have one operating system to rule them all: Windows 10 on the range from the desktop to the phone. What about a phone operating system on the desktop. How well does Android work with a keyboard and mouse? The answer is “Not good, but better than you would think.” The biggest affordance Android makes for a desktop OS is that it supports a keyboard and mouse. Any Android device can pair with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and if you want to go the wired route, just about any phone can plug in a mouse and keyboard via a USB OTG cable and a USB hub. But from there…
  • 🎁 To: Las Vegas Lovers. Here’s an interesting collection of recommended books about Las Vegas. I’ve only heard of one of these. My list of Vegas books is over on the highway pages.
  • 🎁 To: Those Interested in Food Safety. Tumeric has recently been in the news for a number of reasons. In addition to its use in Indian food, and turning everything yellow, it has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties. Tumeric Tea can provide great relief from arthritis problems. Here’s another use: it is being infused into kitchen surfaces to make them safer. Using nanotechnology, the researchers developed a way to bind curcumin (a tumeric compound) to metal and glass; essentially they used tiny bubbles (nanovesicles) to enclose a curcumin compound. The coated surfaces kill microbes—including E. coli—and prevent food from spoiling without imparting turmeric flavor into the food.
  • 🎁 To: Food Waste or Waist Worriers. Being a member of the “clean plate club” (common in my generation) has been a terrible thing for my waistline, especially in these days of gigantic portions. But I also hate the notion of throwing away food. This is why I found this list of 12 things to keep food from going to waist or waste interesting. In addition to liking this being a list without a load of click-through screens, I like the following two tips: “Buying in bulk doesn’t save money if you end up throwing half of it away. When you don’t have a plan for how and when you will use a sale item, it’s more likely to go to waste, erasing any savings.” and “Shop for how you actually cook and eat, not for how you fantasize about eating. Exotic or otherwise aspirational purchases often go to waste.”
  • 🎁 To: Font Lovers. Back when I started using computers, you were lucky to have 5 different fonts (but then again, I only had 2 on the Selectric). Now there are thousands. But that’s less true if you are writing in Chinese. It is extremely difficult to create a Chinese font. This article discusses how hard it is. Just consider this: The default set for English-language fonts contains about 230 glyphs. A font that covers all of the Latin scripts—that’s over 100 languages plus extra symbols—contains 840 glyphs. The simplified version of Chinese, used primarily in mainland China, requires nearly 7,000 glyphs. For traditional Chinese, used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the number of glyphs is 13,053.
  • 🎁 To: Yiddish Lovers. Last week, I kvelled about my daughter being written up in the JWeekly in the Bay Area for her presentation at the Magnes about her Findery Mapping work. She just wrote an article for a Yiddish Journal about her experiences this summer.
  • 🎁 To: Board Gamers (Especially those who visit Las Vegas). One of my favorite places in LA (which, alas, I don’t get to as frequently as I like because they have poor parking) is Game Haus Cafe. This is a coffee shop with a large collection of board games. For those that go to Vegas, here’s some great news: There’s a similar shop in Las Vegas! Meepleville Board Game Cafe (FB) at 4704 W. Sahara Ave. The owner has more than 10,000 games in his collection. Meepleville will charge $5 for all-day play Monday to Thursday and $10 Friday to Sunday. They are open 10am – midnight Monday – Thursday. 10am – 1am Friday and Saturday. 10am to 8pm on Sunday, starting in January 2016. This is a must visit next time I’m in Vegas; it ranks up there with the National Pinball Hall of Fame.
  • 🎁 To: Those With Large Record Collections. Those of us who have large collections of anything have the worry of about how our kids will dispose of it. This is especially true for records. The blog “Easily Mused” captures this well (and luckily, it provides a solution):

    “Even now, as the icy finger of Death gently tap tap taps on your shoulder, you can not help but smile as you gaze lovingly at your vinyl record collection which you have so diligently curated. Each gleaming scratchless platter is as close to perfection as the day it was manufactured, a testament to your love for and dedication to the recorded arts.

    Say, have you stopped to consider what will become of this treasure trove after you have departed this mortal realm? Many people such as yourself have bequeathed their records to a close friend or family member, receiving sincere assurances that said records will be treasured, cared for, and passed down to each succeeding generation. Alas, nothing could be further from the truth.

    The painful reality is, you will scarcely even have begun your eternal slumber before the sweaty and possibly jelly-stained fingers of your son or nephew will begin carelessly rifling through your precious vinyl stockpile. “What’s this crap?” he will exclaim. “Who the fuck is Buddy Rich?”

    Your beneficiary, having failed to discern the inestimable cultural value of your collection, will then proceed to recklessly hoist your record crates into the back of his freakishly oversized pickup truck, drop them off orphan-style at the front door of the nearest thrift store and peel away, bobbing his head zombie-like to the rhythm of the latest gangsta rap hit.

    Soon, your prized possessions will be unceremoniously dumped on the floor underneath three shelves that contain hardcover books no one will buy for even a quarter, like Jimmie Walker’s autobiography, Dyn-O-Mite!  or any Jackie Collins novel after Hollywood Wives. They will swiftly be procured by an eagle-eyed entrepeneur who talks like a sophisticated music aficionado, but is really only interested in the crinkly tones produced by shuffling big stacks of cash.

    Through his Ebay store, he will sell your cherished records for exorbitant prices and then send them, one by one, to every corner of the globe. Your ghost self will watch helplessly as your Basie goes to Boise, and your Miles goes to Milan. You will then spend the rest of eternity wandering about aimless and confused, trying but endlessly failing to remember the tune of one goddamn song.”

    Luckily, they provide a solution.

 

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Swabbing the Rest of the Deck

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 19, 2015 @ 3:51 pm PDT

userpic=pirateNow, mates, time to swab the rest of the deck. The cookee said that he couldn’t use these tasty chunks in the stew — they just didn’t blend right. He says we should throw them overboard:

Music: Ghost Brothers Of Darkland County (2010 Studio Cast):Brotherly Love” (Ryan Bingham and Will Dailey)

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Life as a Theme Park

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Sep 01, 2015 @ 8:23 pm PDT

userpic=eticketAs we continue the process of cleaning out the links, today’s three-theme brings together articles related to current and former theme parks, although the term is used loosely:

 

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Saturday Stew: 10, 512, H20, 2, 0, and 0219

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 06, 2015 @ 10:48 pm PDT

Observation StewWell, it’s late Saturday night, and I’m home from my first Fringe show. That writeup will be tomorrow morning — tonight, it’s time to clear out the links so we can make some news chum stew. Are you hungry yet?

  • Windows 10 is Coming. Quick, get a Dixie Cup. OK, so it’s an old joke and in bad taste. But we’re talking Windows here. Seriously, if you have a Windows 7 or Windows 8 system, you might see a new little icon so you can sign up to get the latest and greatest Windows when it is released on July 29. You’ll have a year to upgrade for free. So I’ve got a collection of articles that I found of interest on the upgrade. First and foremost, there are a number of features that will not work or will be removed when (if) you upgrade. Second, here’s an article on what to expect when the upgrade happens. Supposedly, you’ll need to do a clean install. What I haven’t seen yet is how well the upgrade process works for an in-place system, or seen a good list of what other older software will not work. My advice: You’ll have until July 2016 to request the upgrade. I’d suggest waiting a good two months and letting everyone else be the guinea pig.
  • Apple, are you listening? Having talked about Microsoft, let’s now talk about Apple. This week brought the news that Microdia will be selling a 512GB micro-SD card for around $1000 (and you can expect the price to go down as others start manufacturing, plus there are reminders that the extra-capacity SDXC format allows for up to 2TB cards. OK, Apple, here’s your challenge. Do you want to win back all the people that loved the iPod Classic for their music? Do you want to prevent these folks from migrating to any of the other large capacity players? Here’s a simple answer: sell an iPod Touch that can take a micro-SD card up to 2TB. Not only can folks store their music, they have room for loads of apps, and loads of photos (they will be grabbed by photographers). Think of all the money you can make backing that up to the cloud.
  • Water Water Everywhere. Here are three articles related to water. The first explores how to find the control room for the Bellagio fountains. There are loads of facts in the article; my favorite was the following: “The water they use for the fountains is a self-sustained source that used to be used for the old Dunes golf course before they took it down.”  I had read in another book on Vegas that Wynn bought the land for the Bellagio because it had its own springs. Speaking of piping water, when you hear Budweiser, what do you think of? I know, watered-down beer. Did you know in emergencies that AB doesn’t add the beer (of course, how would you know?). Seriously, those of us in LA know that AB canned water during the big earthquake. Well, with the recent damage in Texas, they switched to canning water as well. Lastly, I found a real good collection of stories at the Times on drought gardening.
  • A-One. A-Two. If you are security aware, you turn on two-factor authentication whereever you can. But how do you do it? Here’s an article with information on turning on two-factor authentication on over 100 sites. In particular, it links to a step-by-step guide to turning on two-factor authentication.
  • Illusions in the Air. Here’s an interesting (well, to me) discussion of Avatar Airlines, an airline that is too good to be true. Just like the recently panned (and rightfully so) Bitter Lemons Imperative (plus one, two, three), here’s an idea that might have sounded good on a surface read, but when you dig deeper, it is fraught with problems. This really goes to show why you need to think an idea out thoroughly before you put it on the net. [I didn’t earlier today, and learned my lesson]
  • A Burnin’ Issue. OK, Grammar Geeks. Here’s one for you (h/t Andrew D): Which unicode character should represent the apostrophe? The answer is easy to get wrong, as the Unicode committee did. They chose ’ (U+2019), which is RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK (as opposed to ‘ (single quote)), as opposed to ʼ (U+02BC), which is MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE. Why is this significant? The former creates a word boundary; the latter does not. Now you know why your capitalization routine changes it’s to It’S.

 

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The Week’s News, in a Tasty Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 23, 2015 @ 3:12 pm PDT

userpic=lougrantAnother week has come and gone, which means I have another week’s worth of links to share. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest. Let’s do this one old-style:

 

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