Observations Along the Road

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

An Inspiration For Us All – “Hidden Figures”

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jan 10, 2017 @ 9:04 pm PST

Hidden Figures (Movie)I bet you expected my first review of 2017 to be a theatre review. Alas, January is a really bad month for theatre, as the holidays are a bad time for rehearsals. There wasn’t that much of interest out there, and our first live show (Zanna Don’t) is next Saturday. So we opted instead to see the movie we had wanted to see on Christmas: Hidden Figures.

Here’s the short and sweet of it: Go see this movie. Take your daughters. Take your sons. Take your friend’s daughters. Take your friend’s sons. This is a movie that will give us the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. More importantly, this movie will give us the next generation of WOMEN and MINORITY scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Trust me, we need them. Do you know how many men it takes to equal one smart woman engineer?

Hidden Figures tells the true story of the first computers. To explain, in the 1940s and 1950s, before we had computing machines, the position of “computer” was someone who computed and did mathematical computations. The computers in this case were a collection of African-American women mathematicians at NACA, later NASA. They were the women who did the math and calculations that enabled NASA to put a man in orbit. They were the first programmers. They were the first women engineers.

I’m not going to go into the plot in great detail. That’s one advantage of a movie review over a theatre review. I will say that the performances were excellent. I will also say that this is a movie that should be accessible by anyone 10 or older. Perhaps a little bad language, but that’s about it.

I had only a few minor quibbles with the movie, the worst being that it is FORTRAN, not Fortran. But then again, the folks writing this probably weren’t born when FORTRAN was used heavily (whereas my first programming language was FORTRAN IV (WATFIV)). I also wasn’t sure about the use of the Selectric typewriter, but Wikipedia proved me wrong (it was introduced in 1961).

This movie will be shown for years to inspire women in STEM fields, and that’s a great thing.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: January starts with a Southern California Games Day, followed by Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. January 21 is open. January ends with Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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A Final Serving of News Chum Stew to Close Out 2016

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 31, 2016 @ 11:12 am PST

Observation StewIt’s the last day of the year. That means it is time to clean out the accumulated News Chum links, so I can  start 2017 fresh. It’s been a busy week, what with cleaning out the highway headlines and getting the California Highways website updated. But I’ve caught up on the RSS links (again, I highly recommend newsblur, which I switched to when Google Reader died), and I’ve got a full set of hopefully interesting articles ready to go:

  • Livejournal Moves its Servers to Russia. The Russians haven’t only interfered in the US elections and been sanctioned for it (more on that in my second post for today). Long ago, the Russian entity SUP purchased Livejournal from SixApart. In fact, supposedly the Russian word for blog is Livejournal. But the servers for the American Livejournal have long been on American soil, under American rules. Not any more: Livejournal has moved their servers to Russia, and already Russia is interfering with free speech. I’ve been with Livejournal since I started blogging back in 2004; I’ve got a permanent account there. I’ve been there through the original ownership, the days of SixApart and Vox Media, and the SUP ownership. About 4-5 years ago, I got fed up with their DDOS attacks and moved my blog over to WordPress, self-hosted on cahighways.org. I also created a Dreamwidth account with the same username as LJ (cahwyguy), and set things up so my posts auto-crosspost to Dreamwidth, and thence to LJ. I also imported all my posts from LJ to this blog, although some were protected and comments didn’t come through. Most of the friends I’ve had from LJ days have been refriended on Facebook. Long story short (TL;DR): LJ is now my tertiary site; I still read and comment there, but main posts are here. Those still reading this there are welcome to friend me over on Dreamwidth (user: cahwyguy) or on Facebook (again, user cahwyguy).
  • Fiddler on the Roof Announces Tour. Continuing the trend of starting with some updates, about a week ago I did some predictions about the upcoming touring season of Broadway shows. Since I wrote that, Fiddler has confirmed their tour. I predicted that Fiddler would go to the Ahmanson; as the Pantages shared the news from Playbill, it could end up there. I’m interested in this tour primarily because this version’s Motel, Adam Kantor, did Yiddishkeyt with my daughter.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas. As we’re on the penultimate day of Chanukah, and still within the 12 days of Christmas (and we still have annoying Christmas car commercials on TV), this article is still of interest: The story behind the most annoying Christmas Carol: The 12 Days of Christmas. For someone who doesn’t like Christmas Carols (for the record, my favorite is still Peter Paul and Mary’s Christmas Dinner), I found the background fascinating.
  • Solar Power – It’s Everywhere. Another thing currently on my mind is solar power, as we’re about to embark on a re-roofing and solar installation here (a consequence of extremely high DWP bills ($1500 and $1200 from July/August and September/October) and wanting to get it done before Trump guts everything). So this article about how Solar Power is getting cheaper caught my eye. To my eye, solar is now a no-brainer even if you don’t believe in climate change: it helps us get off of imported oil, and ensures our domestic reserves will be there in the future when we need them (as there is no dispute that petroleum is a limited resource). More importantly, cutting edge solar is now cheaper than Natural Gas, as least for large power producers. Alas, home solar has not gotten significantly cheaper, although presumably it will pay out in utility savings (especially in the hot San Fernando Valley).
  • Historical Notes. Two articles related to history caught my eye. The first has to do with Air Force Space Command, and particularly a new website that captures that history. I know one of the folks on that website, Warren Pearce; he seems to view me as a “greybeard” in relation to AFSPC (although I’m more of a CBG – Chubby Bearded Guy). I’m not really a greybeard in the true sense (although my first task when I got to my current employer was doing the security certification of then Lt. Pearce’s facility in the Springs — which I still remember because our finding was the lack of plastic sheeting in case the sprinklers went off), although I know quite a few from my SDC days. The second looks at the history of the Shopping Mall, and how the designer came to regret it. The mall — in its original sense of a square building, with the stores turned inwards surrounded by parking and a non-descript exterior — is dying, to be replaced by urban streetscapes such as the Rick Caruso specials or Big Box stores that harken back to the shopping main streets of old. What’s old is new again. Speaking of that, remember the site in Carson that was going to be the home of the LA Raiders. It’s becoming a shopping outlet mall.
  • Annoying Things. Here’s another pair of interest, dealing with annoying things. The first article looks at those annoying notifications of “Facebook Live” events from your friends — and provides information on how to turn them off. The second is more significant, and worth saving as a reference: what to do if you are hit by ransomware. Of course, the first thing to do is make sure you have backups, not network connected, to save your ass. The page, however, provides information on how you might be able to decrypt your disk, and not pay the ransom. Related to that is a third potentially useful link: How to use the Microsoft System File Checker to restore potentially corrupted system files.
  •  Food News. Two food related items. The first has to do with a Russian-Armenian restaurant in North Hills that sounds interesting enough to try. The second deals with the death of yet another deli: Carnegie Deli in NYC has served its last Pastrami Sandwich, although an outpost remains in Las Vegas.  I’ll also note that Cables Coffee Shop in Woodland Hills has Closed.
  • Android Phone Information. Did you get a new phone for the holidays? Is it Android? If so, here are two articles for you. The first talks about what you should do to get rid of your old Android phone. The second talks about how to transfer stuff to your new Android phone.
  • Supersonic Flight Possibly Returning. We’re getting near the end, folks. Here’s an interesting article on why we lost commercial supersonic flight, and the way it may return. The answer is: It may not be for everyone, and it will remain very expensive.
  • The Specialist. Lastly, one of the podcasts I listen to is “The Specialist”, which talks about odd jobs. Here’s one for the specialist: the guy who replaces the light bulbs in the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. I’m sure he didn’t go to college with that career in mind.

And with that, we’ve cleaned out the 2016 News Chum. I’m planning one more political post to close out the year, and then it is on to 2017. May your new year be a good one, filled with fewer deaths of people close to you or celebrities you care about, and may all your news chum stews be filled with tasty morsels of delight, as opposed to pieces of sinew (as we got with the 2016 election, but that’s the next post).

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Weekend Chum Stew: Food, Fiddler, Fonts, &c

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jan 31, 2016 @ 2:39 pm PST

Observation StewYesterday was a crazy day, and I didn’t get the news chum stew on the stove. Today is chilly and rainy, so I’ve made an extra big pot:

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To Boldly Go

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 20, 2014 @ 6:49 am PST

userpic=star_trekSpace, the final frontier. Here are three articles related to exploration of space, and those that boldly go…

  • No, The One That Isn’t A Witch. When I read the headline of this article, I did a double take. Margret Hamilton — the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939’s Wizard of OZ — worked on the Apollo project? But no, that wasn’t the case. This Margaret Hamilton was much more important — she was the lead software engineer on Project Apollo. Hamilton was 31 when the Apollo 11 lunar module landed on the moon, running her code; in fact, it was able to land at all only because she designed the software robustly enough to handle buffer overflows and cycle-stealing. We need to remember these unsung women who have been out in the forefront, and keep reminding the students of the day that women can succeed in engineering and scientific fields.
  • Keep Coming Back. When I was a teen, we were regularly going to the moon. That stopped with Apollo 17. Here’s an article that presents the real story of Apollo 17, and why we didn’t go back to the moon. What changed? A public that was increasingly fiscally wary. Spending in space was something that could be done, but with far more fiscal constraints than ever before, limiting NASA to research and scientific missions in the coming years. Such programs included the development of the Skylab program in 1973, and the Space Shuttle program, as well as a number of robotic probes and satellites.
  • Looking Inward. NASA, at least from what you normally hear from the news, has been outwardly focused — that is, we’ve been paying lots of attention to Mars. But there’s another planet that is close to us: Venus. There hasn’t been much exploration of Venus due to the heat and pressure — unlike Mars, there’s no change of landing people and exploring. But why land? A new NASA study has proposed an approach to investigating Venus, including inflatable airships, that could serve as good experimentation for future Mars missions. This would be really neat to see.

 

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Designs of the Past, the Needs of Today

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jul 23, 2013 @ 11:22 am PST

userpic=cardboard-safeToday’s lunchtime collection of news chum brings together three stories about product designs from the past:

 

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Saturday Links: Themes That Didn’t Quite Make It

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 15, 2013 @ 7:47 am PST

userpic=cahwys-licenseToday’s clearin’ of the links is dedicated to So Cal Games Day 54, which I’ll be heading off to later. The links this week just didn’t want to theme, so posts never quite came together. Here’s what accumulated:

Music: SMASH – The Complete Season Two (Music From the TV Series) (Katharine McPhee, Jeremy Jordan): “Rewrite This Story”

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Friday News Chum: Redistricting, Fonts, Liddsville, Dogs, Lawns, Apollo 11, Stomach Flu, and Postage

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jan 25, 2013 @ 11:17 am PST

userpic=headlinesWell, it’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means — time to clear out the accumulated links that couldn’t be formed into a coherent theme. Well, at least I couldn’t figure out a theme. Perhaps you can:

  • Impacts of Redistricting. Let’s start with a couple of aspects of redistricting. First, in California, the state senate districts have staggered elections and terms (just like the real senate). This means when redistricting occurs, there is a short period where some people might have two state senate representatives and others might not have a state senate representative at all. The state senate has just addressed the quirk, assigning senators to those areas that ended up without representation. If you are wondering how this happens, The no-senator areas, known as deferrals, stem from the interplay of the Senate’s election schedule and redistricting. One-half of Senate seats are up for election every two years and the 2011 remap moved some residents from odd-numbered districts scheduled to be on the ballot in 2012 to even-numbered districts on the ballot in 2014. The result is that those areas have no senator for two years. Here’s another redistricting issue: Redistricting in many states results in gerrymandering, where districts are created to have majorities in one party or another. The Republicans in Virginia and a number other “swing” blue states are attempting to take advantage of this by allocating electoral votes to the winner of the district. It’s one thing to allocate proportionally based on total state voting, but doing it by congressional district allows the gerrymandering effect to predominate, disenfranchising those in the minority in the district.
  • Readability. Let’s move away from politics. You’re reading this post on your computer, in a serif or non-serif font, depending on your preference. Mine’s serifed. We’ve always believed that serifed fonts were more readable because the serifs helped move your eye along the line. Guess what? Serifed fonts may not be more readable. Ariel or Lucida Sans for the win!
  • It Won’t Be The Same Without Charles Nelson Reilly. Those of us who grew up in the 1970s will remember Lidsville, a Sid and Marty Krofft series about talking hats. It may even live in that scary memory place with the Bugaloos, the Banana Splits, and H.N.R. Puffnstuff. Well, this article will really cause you to flip your lid. Alan Menken, composer of such shows as Little Shop of HorrorsBeauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and many others, is working on a live-action movie version of Liddsville (as well as a musical episode of The Neighbors). Dreamworks is producing.
  • Turning Wolves into Dogs. There has been a lot of debate of how the wolf was domesticated and became man’s best friend, the dog. A story in the Washington Post posits that it was moving to a diet of grains and potatoes that did it. A team of Swedish researchers compared the genomes of wolves and dogs and found that a big difference is dogs’ ability to easily digest starch. On their way from pack-hunting carnivore to fireside companion, dogs learned to desire — or at least live on — wheat, rice, barley, corn and potatoes. As it turns out, the same thing happened to humans as they came out of the forest, invented agriculture and settled into diets rich in grains. Co-evolution at work!
  • A Concrete Jungle. Los Angeles has been referred to as a concrete jungle. San Francisco, on the other hand, has a problem with concrete lawns. Specifically, under San Francisco city law, at least 20 percent of a front yard must consist of permeable surfaces with vegetation, mostly to allow for proper drainage and to keep the neighborhood looking green. Homes can be reviewed for compliance every time an owner does construction on the driveway or property. However, this is ignored more in the breach, and now the paved-over lawns in San Francisco are creating environmental concerns due to excessive drainage.
  • Learning from the Past. Another thing that those of us from the 1970s will remember is the Apollo Program and the launches to the moon. Bet’cha thought it was dead. Well, not quite. NASA has started testing a vintage F-1 series engine from the Saturn V.  The hope is that it could become a template for a new generation of motors incorporating parts of its design. Those of us who live in the San Fernando Valley remember well the roar of those engines — they were built in Canoga Park and tested in Chatsworth!
  • Getting Sick of It All. I’m sure you have all heard the exhortations about the Influenza going around the country, and you have gotten your flu shot (except those of you who don’t believe in vaccines — but that’s a different debate). There’s another “flu” going around (with “flu” in quotes since it really isn’t a flu), and this one doesn’t have a vaccine: There’s an epidemic of norovirus, a/k/a “stomach flu”, going around. It’s a pretty strong variant (from Australia, where they make things stronger). This variant causes nausea, forceful vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, accounted for 58% of outbreaks of norovirus nationally. Norovirus typically begins very suddenly and lasts one to three days. Most people recover without treatment, but some require rehydration with liquids or intravenous fluids. The disease is most severe in the elderly and can also hit young children hard. Norovirus is extremely contagious. The best protection is vigilant hand washing with soap and water. If surfaces may have been contaminated, the CDC recommends disinfecting them with a diluted bleach solution made of five to 25 tablespoons of household bleach to a gallon of water.
  • Stamping It Out. And lastly, first-class postage is going to 46¢ on Sunday, with postcards going to 33¢. I’m sure most of you are unfamiliar with postage and postage stamps, as you have never written an actual letter or paid a bill by mail. You see, people once communicated not via email, but by putting pieces of paper in an envelope, affixing a money-equivalent to the envelope, and giving it to someone to take to the recipient. Seriously, even those of us that use postage stamps forget the price of postage these days, as most first class stamps are “forever” stamps. So pick up some forever stamps now, before the price goes up. Those dollars you save might buy you a cup of coffee. I emphasize the “might”, given Starbucks’ prices. You’ll do better at McDonalds!

 

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Friday News Chum: Iranian Jews, Homework, 7-11, and Shuttle Moves

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Oct 12, 2012 @ 11:35 am PST

Well, it’s Friday at lunch time (well, it’s really Thursday night, but let’s do like they did at the debate and play “let’s pretend”). It’s time to clear out the remaining accumulated links…

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