Observations Along the Road

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

Los Angeles: Going, Going, Gone

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 17, 2016 @ 8:07 am PDT

userpic=van-nuysThis collection of news chum has coalesced around the theme of Los Angeles — in particular, some well-known (or somewhat well-known) Los Angeles landmarks that are either gone or seemingly threatened… or coming back in different incarnations.

 

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Some Tasty Afternoon Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 10, 2016 @ 4:20 pm PDT

Observation StewNow that the highway pages are done, and the water heater is repaired, I can start some stew cooking on the stove. Loads of interesting articles in here. I’ll group them the best I can.

Things Dying and Dead, But Then Again….

  • The iPod Classic. Nine years ago, Apple introduced the iPod Classic. Last week, they introduced the iPhone 7. The iPod Classic had 160GB in a spinning hard disk, for $349. The iPhone 7 can have 256GB for almost $850. Is this the replacement for the Classic, finally? Or, is it still better to get a 7th Gen iPod Classic off eBay, or from that drawer you’ve been hiding it in, and replace the hard disk with a Tarkan board, some solid state memory (I put in 512GB), and keep the classic. Going the Tarkan route is less than $400, and gives you more memory for about the same cost. Oh, and it gives you a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, so you needn’t pay for adapters or lost AirPods. Then again, the headphone companies don’t care. They’ve got product to sell you.
  • The Colony Theatre. Oh, the poor Colony. We thought you would survive. Now you’re having to rent out your space just to stay alive. And your poor subscribers: We’re left holding the tickets for shows that we will never see (literally — there’s no way I’m gonna see Patty Duke in Mrs. Lincoln — both are dead). Will the Colony come back? At this point, I’m highly skeptical. What they need is new artistic direction, a new board, and a new way of thinking about things. Their collapse shows the perils of keeping the same leadership for far too long.
  • The Advertising Jingle. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the advertising jingle is dead. Who killed it? Cover artists and the licensing of modified lyrics, that’s what. Those are more easily recognizable. So, our hats are off to you, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, “Like a good neighbor”, and “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz”. We’re just left with the Empire Carpeting jingle.

Los Angeles Development

Sensitivity and Culture

  • Tiki Bars. Here’s an interesting question: If you were going to add a third arm to your body, where would you add it? Whoops, wrong question. Try this: Are Tiki Bars offensive to Polynesians? NPR endeavored to figure that out. It is hard to know: Tiki bars are about as close to something really Polynesian as the Chinese Food you got downtown in the 1950s and 1960s was to real Chinese food.
  • Napalm Girl. The furor yesterday was over Facebook and “Napalm Girl” — the famous photo of the napalmed Vietnamese girl. First it was taken down. Facebook banned it. Then they reversed themselves. It makes me think about a debate that occurred many many years ago when that photo was first published: Should photos like this be published? When does news value override sensitivity? These questions are still relevant today.

And the Rest…

 

 

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Los Angeles News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 9:42 am PDT

userpic=valley-los_angelesBefore I start writing up this week’s Fringe shows, let me clear out a bit of news chum. Here are a bunch of articles, all related to Los Angeles (the city I love) and its environs:

 

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A Dinner Costs How Much?!?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 12, 2015 @ 2:40 pm PDT

userpic=acsacFriday, the ACSAC conference ended for 2015. This year (and next year), the conference was in Los Angeles at the beautiful Universal City/Los Angeles Hilton; this meant that on top of my usual Training Chair hat, I was Local Arrangements Chair. That means I was the coordinator for the event: assigning the rooms, picking the dinner entertainment (more on that in the next post), and selecting all the menus. When I first saw the hotel menus, I was shocked at the prices: lunch prices between $40 and $50; and dinner prices even higher. In fact, when I got the end of day survey for the first day at the hotel, I had trouble answering the question: was this a good value for the price? How can you judge, when gallons of coffee are so expensive.

But as the week went on, I grew to understand the prices are so high. In many ways, this is the same reason that the prices are so high in well established and fancy restaurants. And, no, the reason is not “because they can”. The reason is service.

When you go to almost any restaurant, the bulk of the cost of your meal is not the food costs. Food costs, right now, are relatively low. Delivery costs to your location are higher, but even those aren’t the bulk of the cost due to the volume being shipped. The most significant factor in the cost of a meal out is the labor. In fact, the labor is so expensive they increase the size of the portion so you don’t feel guilty paying that price. [And, of course, we’ve all be taught to clear our plates and not waste food, and so you have one reason behind the growth in obesity. In fact, there might be an interesting statistical study in the correlation between the cost of labor, portion size, and obesity in society.]

In a hotel — especially in a hotel that focuses on service such as a ★★★★ hotel — that cost is magnified more so. Everywhere I turned around at the HUC (Hilton Universal City) there was someone from Banquets making sure that all our needs were met, someone from IT making sure the A/V was right, someone from … you get the idea. Who pays for that service? It isn’t room rental — often room rental is gratis if you make a particular number of room nights and a minimum food and beverage. In fact, the answer is in that sentence: it is in the room rates, and the food and beverage costs. A certain amount of labor can be absorbed by the room rates, but the hotel also must be competitive. The bulk of the labor is captured in the F&B costs.

So, let’s go back to the question: is it a good value? We had only compliments on the quality of the food, and the quantity was almost too much (must remember that for next year). Most importantly, there were no complaints about service or the meeting rooms. The hotel staff was there whenever we needed them, often going above and beyond (with no additional charges). So, looking back in retrospect, I think it was a reasonably good value.

(Of course, that still didn’t mean I didn’t wince a little signing the final event orders. Who wouldn’t? But I also now better understood why I was paying what I was paying).

By the way, this is something that the great unwashed public — and even Congress — doesn’t understand. We’ve all read of the DOD acquiring toilet seats that cost $200 each, when they are $10 at the hardware store. We get incensed about the price, without knowing that they have unique manufacturing requirements that prohibit volume manufacturing, that they have documentation and maintenance requirements for their lifetime, and that they have the overhead of the administrative employees at the corporation that manufactures them, which has much lower volume to spread that overhead across when compared to a bulk manufacturer. Similarly, we hear stories of conferences with the $15 muffin or the $45 rubber chicken, and think the government is wasting money. It isn’t: that money goes to all the people employed by the hotel, providing all the service, and spending that money in the community. Yes, there are some conferences with boondoggles, but most food costs are not the boondoggles. Now you understand.

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And take a tip from La Belle France: “Viva la difference!”

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 22, 2015 @ 8:00 pm PDT

Observation StewLet’s end this week of news chum posts with song lyrics in the title with a very apropos song for a “news chum stew” post: Pete Seeger’s All Mixed Up. The point of the song is a timely lesson for all of those who profess hatred or refuse to permit in refuges:

There were no red-headed Irishmen
Before the Vikings landed in Ireland
How many Romans had dark curly hair
Before they brought slaves from Africa?
No race of man is completely pure,
Nor is anyone’s mind, that’s for sure
The winds mix the dust of every land,
And so will woman and man.

And now, on with the stew:

 

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Food News: Pastrami, Mexican Kosher Ice Cream, and Green Poop

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Oct 10, 2015 @ 7:29 am PDT

userpic=levysThis is a busy weekend, including the Granada Hills Street Fair (which I’m leaving for shortly). But first, a number of news chum articles about food:

 

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Some Tasty Items: Gluten Free, Cottage Cheese, Fruits, and Cheap Eats

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 19, 2015 @ 2:42 pm PDT

userpic=cookingIn the last day or two, I’ve been talking heavily about chum and stew. Hungry yet? Perhaps these food related items will whet your appetite:

  • Gluten Free Fads. As you know, I’m interested in the gluten free diet craze because my wife is celiac and has to each gluten free for medical reason. Over the last two weeks, a few articles caught my eye related to this. The first is an article from the BBC talking about the fad. The title is horrible, but the points are good: you should really only go gluten-free if you medically have to.  Gluten-free food isn’t necessarily healthier; sometimes it is worse. Further, those who don’t really have sensitivities can muck up a restaurant’s idea of what is GF for those that will get really sick when they slip up. The second is an article about a pill that will supposedly make it safe for celiacs to eat gluten. My attitude on this is: let someone other than my wife test it (translated as: the risk that it won’t work is just too great). In many ways, I’m not sure this is a problem that needs pharmacological solution:  the GF diet works, and those that follow it don’t miss much. The benefits of eating gluten aren’t that great, and the cost of the pill will surely outweigh any costs of special food. Lastly is a link to a purported gluten-free B&B in the area.
  • You Gotta Have Culture. Let’s move from what my wife eats to what I eat. Cottage cheese. Every day on my salad at lunch. You used to see cottage cheese everywhere. Today, it’s yogurt, yogurt, yogurt. But cottage cheese is wonderful — and not only with fruit. I like it mixed into almost anything — it adds a wonderful sweet cheesy flavor. NPR explores how that upstart yogurt got ahead of cottage cheese.
  • Fruit News You Can Use. Earlier in July, I had a news chum that talked about what fruits you should refrigerate, and which ones you shouldn’t. Here’s some more useful fruit news: how to know when the fruit you are getting at the market is ripe. This is always useful information, especially for melons and such.
  • Dining in the Valley. One last food related item: a list of 10 San Fernando Valley cheap eats.  We’ve eaten at some of these (and some are favorites), such as Lum Ka-Naad (near our house), Bun Me, and Les Sisters. Others we’ll need to try.

 

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A Day Late and a Dollar… Saturday Stew on Sunday

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 03, 2015 @ 4:15 pm PDT

Observation StewThe smell of stew cooking in the crockpot reminded me I need to post a stew of my own; with vacation and such, it’s been a few weeks. So let’s clear out those links…

  • Burger Continental is Gone. We discovered this as we returned home from the Ren Faire a few weeks ago: BC has closed their doors. No more can Adrian, their long-time waiter (and one of the owners, from what I’ve heard) flirt with my wife. They were a reliable dinner when we were going to the Pasadena Playhouse. I’ll miss them.
  • Airline Safety, Take 1: Fitting In The Butts. As we all know, airlines are squeezing passengers closer and closer together, both through thinner seats and decreased pitch. The big problem: That may not be safe. A consumer advisory group has asked DOT to look into the matter.
  • Airline Safety, Take 2: Reading the Signs. An interesting airline risk has just come to light — significant if you are flying Boeing 787s. It appears there is a software glitch that could cause power units (APUs) to go into failsafe mode after running continuously for more than 8 months. Specifically, if all four APUs were started at the same time, and run for 248.55 hours… they shut down. 248.55 just happens to be the point where a signed 32-bit integer holding time in hundreths of a second overflows and goes negative. No problem: That age old advice still works: “Have you tried turning it off, and back on again?”
  • Cleaning Out the Stash. One of the problem when your parents die is cleaning out what they left at the house. That problem turns weird when you discover their adult stash — i.e., their porn collection. Yes, your parents think about sex — who do you think made you the horndog you are? Yes, I’m looking at you. Luckily, there is an adult bookstore in London that will take that porn off of your, umm, hands.
  • Ah, Catherine the Great. As you probably remember, I loved Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds. Therefore, it is with sad news that I report the passing of Mrs. Steve Allen, better known as Jayne Meadows, who started in numerous episodes. She made it to 95 and had a good life. I thank her for her contributions.
  • Security and Maturity. Here’s an interesting metric: Brian Krebs on measuring a company’s security maturity level.
  • Damn. Yesterday was National Naked Gardening Day. Here’s an interesting article on a garden rework in Beverlywood that not only saves water, but grows vegetables. For future reference…
  • Where to Go For Dinner. Another “for future reference”: Here’s a listing of 20 recommended places to eat in the Valley. We’ve actually been to about 2/3s of these.
  • But What Will I Watch in Hawaii. I don’t know what you did when you visited Hawaii in your college years, but I…. programmed. I have fond memories of listening to the Jerry Lewis Telethon (back in the late 1970s, mind you) and programming for the UCLA Computer Club. Today’s children will have to find something else to do: MDA has cancelled the Labor Day Telethon. I’ll note that it had really gone downhill without Jerry Lewis and the folks he drew in, and MDA parted ways with him a few years ago.

That’s your stew for this Sunday. Now go work out….

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