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…



--- *** ---

A Matter of Perception / Why People Who See the World Differently are Wrong – A Lunchtime Post

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 10, 2015 @ 11:51 am PST

userpic=aughhIn a recent discussion in response to my Facebook post on Starbucks Red Cups, a very rationale friend of mine wondered by people became religious fundamentalists. I responded back that I didn’t know, but noted back “Well, lots of people have beliefs. But some people have beliefs that can be challenged or modified, and some are so convinced that they are correct that they won’t accept any evidence that contradicts their beliefs.”. While reading through my RSS feeds over lunch, an article came across with the intriguing title “Why you often believe people who see the world differently are wrong“. The article, which appears to be a transcription from a podcast I need to explore, explores what shapes our perception that we see the world as it truly is, free from bias or the limitations of our senses (which is termed “naive realism”). Naive realism leads us to believe we arrived at our opinions, political or otherwise, after careful, rational analysis through unmediated thoughts and perceptions. In other words, we think we have been mainlining pure reality for years, and our intense study of the bare facts is what has naturally led to our conclusions. As such, we can’t understand why others don’t think the same way. In fact, on most emotionally charged issues, there is no objective perspective that a brain can take, despite the fact all the people on each side of any debate believe their side is the one rooted in reality.

Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

…since you believe you are in the really-real, true reality, you also believe that you have been extremely careful and devoted to sticking to the facts and thus are free from bias and impervious to persuasion. Anyone else who has read the things you have read or seen the things you have seen will naturally see things your way, given that they’ve pondered the matter as thoughtfully as you have. Therefore, you assume, anyone who disagrees with your political opinions probably just doesn’t have all the facts yet. If they had, they’d already be seeing the world like you do. This is why you continue to ineffectually copy and paste links from all our most trusted sources when arguing your points with those who seem misguided, crazy, uninformed, and just plain wrong. The problem is, this is exactly what the other side thinks will work on you.


When confronted with people who disagree with your estimations of reality, even after you’ve pushed a bunch of facts in their faces, you tend to assume there must be a rational explanation for why they think and feel the way they do. Usually, that explanation is that the other side is either lazy or stupid or corrupted by some nefarious information-scrambling entity like cable news, a blowhard pundit, a charming pastor, or a lack thereof. Since this is where we often end up, they say what usually happens is that our “repeated attempts at dialogue with those on the ‘other side’ of a contentious issue make us aware that they rarely yield to our attempts at enlightenment; nor do they yield to the efforts of articulate, fair-minded spokespersons who share our views.” In other words, it’s naive to think evidence presented from the sources you trust will sway your opponents because when they do the same, it never sways you.

This is something I see happen continually on Facebook and other discussion forums. It is a very important thing to understand, and in many ways, it explains arguments with both fundamentalists and Republicans quite well :-) . I will have to go listen to the full podcast.

P.S.: Mental Floss has published an article on NPR’s new Podcast finder, earbud.fm. What’s interesting about this is that is it curated: the editors don’t just list good podcasts, but they recommend specific episodes as entry points for that podcast (and often, that’s not the first episode). I’d say I need to explore it, but I’ve already got more podcasts coming in than I have time to listen to. There’s loads of good stuff out there.

--- *** ---

Saturday News Chum Stew: It’s On The Radio

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 06, 2014 @ 2:58 pm PST

userpic=masters-voiceToday’s weekly news chum stew leads off with a few items related to radio and items on the radio…. and goes rapidly downhill from there:

  • Living By The Clock. This is an article from a few weeks ago, but it’s still interesting: On November 18th, NPR changed their news magazine clocks. Now you probably have no idea what this means. The clocks are the second-by-second scheduling of what happens when during the newsmagazines, including newscasts, music beds and funding credits. They also affect when stations can insert their own local content. In announcing the date for implementing the clocks, NPR also said that it will not impose limits on stations’ ability to replace newsmagazine segments with programming from other producers. That proposal had prompted criticism from station programmers, who argued for control over programming choices, and producers, whose programs would be excluded under the rule. This directly relates to the next article: some of those producers are podcast producers, whose segments are often included in NPR news magazines (and thus, it brings them in money).
  • The Podcast Is The In-Thing. If you listen to podcasts (as I do), you know we’re in a new era of podcasts. The “This American Life” podcast has spun off a new #1 podcast, “Serial“. Roman Mars, of 99% Invisible (who was very concerned about the above clock change) used his Kickstarter success to create Radiotopia, and expanded it with this year’s Kickstarter to add new shows. Producer Alex Bloomberg left Planet Money to found a new podcast company, Gimlet Media, and is documenting the process in a new podcast. The Verge has an interesting article on this phenomena: “The New Radio Star: Welcome to the Podcast Age“. Never mind the fact that the “pod” has been discontinued, and no one really “casts” anymore. That’s like saying television is confined to networks over the air.
  • You Can Get Anything You Want. Traditions are funny thing. Who would think a TV show would span a tradition that revolves around a pole? Here’s another one for you: A tradition of listening to a particular song on Thanksgiving, simply because the event described in the song happened on Thanksgiving. This latter one, of course, is referring to Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant”. Here’s an interesting article about Arlo looking back on the song, which turned 50 this year.
  • Shaming and Discrimination is Never Acceptable. The events in Ferguson and in New York have finally started to make people aware about White Privilege, and being aware is the first step to doing something about the problem. But there’s another type of privilege people aren’t talking about: Thin Privilege. Our society is biased towards the thin — all it takes is one airplane ride or sitting at a booth in a restaurant to realize that. Thin Privilege can also be life threatening. Here’s an interesting article that explores that aspect of fat hatred: the particular fact that the auto industry refuses to make large-sized crash dummies, and so crashes are more likely to be fatal to the obese than the thin.
  • Fighting Antisemitism. Here’s an interesting Indiegogo project: Yaakov Kirschen of Dry Bones is fundraising to turn Dry Bones into an antisemitism fighting engine. If you’re not familiar with Dry Bones, look here. I haven’t yet decided if this is an effect tool in the fight, or an attempt by Yaakov to obtain steady funding (after the success of his Dry Bones Haggadah). Still, anything that fights is a good thing.
  • Your Username is Invalid. We’ve all been taught in security that you shouldn’t give away information in the login error message, and so you don’t indicate whether it was the user name or the password is bad. But here’s an article that points out that such care doesn’t buy you anything. It’s an interesting point of view.
  • Should I Upgrade? For years, I’ve been using Paint Shop Pro. I’m currently on the last JASC version, Paint Shop Pro 9. PCWorld has a very interesting review of the current Corel Paint Shop Pro X7,  and I’m debating upgrading. Thoughts?


--- *** ---

You’ve Been Warned

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 09, 2014 @ 8:17 pm PST

userpic=theatre2Here’s another collection of news chum, this time warning you of dire consequences. You’ve been warned…

  • You Think The Last Recession Left You Underwater. We’re all hearing about climate change and the melting of the polar icecaps. Here’s a dramatic example of what’s to come: Here’s what LA would look like when the polar icecaps melt. All I can say is that I’m glad I live in the valley. We’ll survive and be what remains of Los Angeles. This is an example of how things change. Here’s another example: a comparison mapping of Los Angeles 100 years ago and now.
  • They’re Back. Think a black cat is scary. How about a whole room of them, preferably dark, in a central part of a city, filled with a lot of people, all of whom have paid a lot to get in there. That’s right. The musical “Cats” is returning to London. Here’s what’s even scarier:

    The Associated Press reports that Lloyd Webber will re-conceive the character of Rum Tum Tugger as a rapping street cat. “I’ve come to the conclusion that … maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap,” he said, referencing poet T.S. Eliot.

  • Watch What You Say. Our closing warning comes from the good folks at NPR, in a warning about social media posts:

    We acknowledge that nothing on the Web is truly private. Even on purely recreational or cultural sites and even if what we’re doing is personal and not identified as coming from someone at NPR, we understand that what we say and do could still reflect on NPR. So we do nothing that could undermine our credibility with the public, damage NPR’s standing as an impartial source of news, or otherwise jeopardize NPR’s reputation. In other words, we don’t behave any differently than we would in any public setting or on an NPR broadcast.

NPR’s words are good advice — one far too many of us forget. What we do and say on the nets can undermine our credibility — be it something still we pass on, that picture we post. If you wouldn’t say it in public, don’t say it on the web.

--- *** ---

News Chum Stew: A Tasty Thread

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 22, 2014 @ 7:17 am PST

Observation StewJust because I’m in Portland doesn’t mean I can’t prepare you some tasty news chum stew for breakfast. Let’s dig in, before you all decide to abandon me for Voodoo Donuts… luckily, I’ve been able to come up with a thread for this — no overall theme, only a connection between each article and the next…

  • Twisted in a Pretzel. Before NPR wrote about it on Friday, the LA Business Journal was writing about the invention of the Peanut Butter filled pretzel (which is where I saw it), how a company named Maxim’s pioneered the product 26 years ago, and how TJs picked it up and sold it. The crunchy snack became a major part of Maxim’s business, and Maxim oversaw the production by companies such as ConAgra. Then TJs decided to cut out the middleman… The point of the article being that even companies we perceive as “nice and good” are, at their heart, businesses.
  • Put a Ring on It. Perhaps you saw, a few weeks ago, the video showing how the entire engagement ring custom was designed by DeBeers to sell diamonds. Here’s another bit of news from the jewelry industry. Kay Jewelers is being bought by Signet, the owner of Zales. Signet operates 1,400 U.S. stores, including its higher end Jared chain. Zale has about 800 Zales and Gordon’s Jewelers stores, as well as 630 Piercing Pagoda mall kiosks. In Canada, Zale operates the successful Peoples Jewellers chain. The net translation of this: most of the jewelers you see in malls are all owned by the same parent company. As always: support local business; buy from a local jeweler.
  • All Generics Are Not Equal. Knowing from where you buy is important. In the US, when you buy brand name medicine, you know what you are getting and who made it, but you pay a big price for that knowledge. If you buy generic, you save money — but are you getting the equivalent? The answer… not always. In particular, it appears that medicines manufactured in India are creating safety concerns. This one actually hit home: my wife has one medicine that used to be brand-name only that has finally gone generic. Our 90-supplier recently sent us the generic. My wife checked with her doctor, and the first batch was fine — it was made in England. He told her he only wanted her to take medicines made in first-world countries. The second batch — from India. We had to coordinate getting it returned and replaced.
  • How We Look at the World. The mention of first-world and third-world makes one think about how we view the world. Here’s a question for you: Have you ever thought about why North is always at the top of a map? Al-Jazeera America did. What’s interesting is looking at the alternate maps — your bearings are totally off. By the way, having N at the top is a recent invention; N has been at the top only for about the last 500 years.
  • Whose on Top. It’s always a battle to determine who should be at the top of the heap. Alas, such a battle is happening over Casey Kasem — the DJ who used to be ubiquitous on the radio. Kasem’s children from his first marriage are battling over the right to visit their father. Who are they battling? Jean Kasem, his current wife. Jean, if you recall, played Nick Tortelli’s wife on Cheers. Note that this isn’t a battle over money — only the right to visit their father.
  • Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Speaking of mothers and fathers, Mark Evanier writes of a recently released collection of Allan Sherman’s early parody material. For those of us who remember who Allan Sherman was, this is of great interest. Mark notes: “But let me warn you of two things. One is that some of the 13 songs on this CD are kinda short. The whole thing runs around 34 minutes. And the other thing is that the audio quality is not wonderful. If you go to this page to order (and I’m not suggesting you not, especially if you’re a big Sherman fan), play a few samples so you can hear the quality of the recordings you’ll be getting.” Still, new Sherman music is quite tempting.


--- *** ---

Saturday News Chum Stew, If Your Pipes Can Take It

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 13, 2013 @ 5:28 am PST

Observation StewAfter my wonderful plumbing experience yesterday, my mind cannot make sense — or find a theme — in this collection of news articles. I’ll leave it to you to find the theme, or determine whether these items need to be tossed into the garbage disposal and washed away. Let’s just hope they don’t clog your pipes…


--- *** ---

Entertainment Chum: Grand Park, Dr Demento, Surviving Risk, and Bad Reviews

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 01, 2013 @ 9:25 am PST

userpic=televisionToday’s news chum brings you three articles all related to media and music, in some form:

  • A Grand Park. Last Sunday, we took Metro to the Ahmanson. When we got out downtown, there was this wonderful party going on in the new Grand Park.  There were people enjoying themselves to free music, kids rocking out on their dad’s shoulders. There were food trucks and kids playing in fountains. Only later did I find out what it was: Sunday Sessions at Grand Park. I must say that it was delightful, and it was really neat to see my city doing this.
  • Dr. Demento. Growing up, I regularly listened to Dr. Demento on KMET (followed by Flo’ and Eddie by the Fireside). The Daily News has a nice article on what the good doctor is doing today. It discusses the death of novelty records, and the ability to do anything “novel” on radio today. The doctor, not surprisingly, has moved to internet broadcasts. He’s using a paid subscription model, and I’m not sure novelty records would be enough to entice me.
  • Surviving Games. Here’s an interesting idea: Someone is bringing together reality TV stars from Survivor and Big Brother… to play boardgames. The notion, developed by a former Survivor player turned podcaster, is to take some of the top players and pit them against each other. This could be entertaining…. but the game they have chosen is Risk (bleh). To my eyes, it would be much more interesting to bring these people together and have them play Diplomacy. Watching these players take their skills at strategy and negotiation (as well as alliances) could be quite entertaining. I’ve always viewed Survivor as a real life version of that game. But Risk? That’s just dice rolling.
  • Bad Reviews. I’ve written in the past how bad reviews can be entertaining. Given that we have a new M. Night Shyamalan movie, expect to be entertained — not by the movie, but by the reviews. The LA Times says, of “After Earth”: “There is no small irony that this sci-fi action adventure is about surviving a serious crash. The scorched earth left behind by “After Earth” is sure to leave a scar on everyone involved.”. It gets better. How about: “Speaking of overkill, flashbacks, thousands of them, become things to be feared as much as any space alien.” Or perhaps “As Gen. Cypher Raige, Smith has never seemed stiffer, like Patton without the personality. It’s as if his Ranger suit were two sizes too small and he’s trying to just deal with it.” The reviews conclusion? “If you’re still wondering whether “After Earth” is a disaster, the question is not if, but how big?” If you were thinking that’s just one review, here’s what the Atlantic has to say: “So I feel it’s incumbent on me to note that with his latest offering, After Earth,the writer-director seems to have arrested his precipitous decline. This movie is no worse than his last two.”

--- *** ---

Written and Spoken Media

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 24, 2013 @ 11:19 am PST

userpic=booksThis collection of news chum brings together a collection of articles related to media of various forms:

  • “This is NPR”. Looking for a new job? Here’s one for you: you can be the announcer who reads the sponsors and says “This is NPR” at the end of Public Radio programs.
  • Paperback Writer. QANTAS airlines is commissioning paperback books. Specifically, they are commissioning books designed to take a single flight to read. Though the books for short flights are meant to be read continuously, for long flights, they are factoring in the thought that passengers will most likely put their book down for food and naps. The target audience for the campaign is Qantas’ Platinum Flyers, who tend to skew male. A range of popular airport genres including thrillers, crime and nonfiction are included, with titles such as “City of Evil” and “Australian Tragic.”
  • Feeding the Trolls. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I find reading comments on news articles infuriating because of the trolls. Here’s an interesting article where one fellow got fed up sufficiently that he went and interviewed the troll.  What I found interesting was that the troll was just like you and I, and he was doing it just because he found it fun.
  • Cutting Up Paper. Last weekend was the congregational meeting at our synagogue. The outgoing president was presented a beautiful papercut by the husband of one of our Rabbis (the official title is “Mr. Lucky”, derivered from something the now ex-husband of one of our favorite rabbis said when asked what you call the husband of a rabbi — his response… “Lucky”). Isaac, the artist, posted a picture of the papercut on the website along with an explanation. I particularly like how he used cut-up synagogue promotional material.

Bonus Media Item: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” – The Spoiler FAQ. I hadn’t had a strong urge to see this picture, even though I grew up with Star Trek and loved the franchise. Reading this, I think I’ll wait until it is on the small screen.

--- *** ---