Well, 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 Horrors, Beauty 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!
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…
- Iranian Jews. As we’re talking politics: Iran has been in the news of late. The Jewish Journal has a nice article on the history of the Jewish community in Iran — its ups and its downs — which is being highlighted in a new exhibit.
- The Dog Did What? We’ve all heard the line: The dog ate my homework. The line was even used by the Obama camp when discussing Romney’s refusal to go on with Linda Ellerbee to talk to kids about running for President. But have you ever wondered where that line came from? Wonder no more. Slate explores whether the dog really did eat the homework.
- New at 7-11. This week was the convention of convenience store operators in Vegas. So what new is coming to 7-11? How about Energy Chocolate… Non-stick gum that washes away with soap and water… vegan condoms… portable breathalyzers… bacon jerkey… or caffeinated ice cream.
- Corporate Logos. If you know me, you know corporate logos fascinate me. I still have a box of articles back from when the NBC Peacock was replaced by the “N”… and the peacock’s eventual return. So naturally, I have to tell you that “Wendys” is updating their logo, dropping the “old fashioned” tag (all Wendy’s logos over the years). Will it up their business? Probably not. After all, I doubt Ebay’s logo change has made much of a difference. As we’re talking marketing, white and black are now the most popular car colors, and Zacky Farms (one of the major chicken producers in California) has filed for bankruptcy. I remember the days when, in California, you would only eat chicken from Zacky or Foster Farms.
- Moving the Shuttle. Today, Endeavor moves to the ScienCenter. It is amazing how involved the move is. From massive steel plates to protect streets, having to use dollies to cross the freeway, a ballet of raising and lowering power, raising and lowering streets, moves inches from buildings, and having to zig-zag the shuttle to avoid trees. Supervisor Zev has a bit more information (especially about Caltrans requirements), and they have to use special mats to get it across the lawn at the ScienCenter.
Sunday morning… everyone else in the house is asleep, so I thought I would share a few articles I discovered yesterday:
- Space Shuttle Final Flight. You’ve probably seen this, but they’ve announced the route for the final flight of the space shuttle. The itinerary starts on 9/17 with flyovers of its former Florida home. Continuing west, Endeavour will make low flyovers of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly plant near New Orleans. As Endeavour approaches the Texas coast, it will fly over Houston, Galveston and Clearlake. The 747 carrying Endeavour will touch down at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center. At sunrise on 9/19, Endeavour will depart Houston and refuel in El Paso at Biggs Army Airfield. The next low flyovers at 1,500-feet will take place over White Sands Tests Facility in New Mexico and the Dryden Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. After the Edwards flyover, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, SCA, will land at Dryden. On 9/20, the shuttle will overfly Northern California, passing nearAmes Research Center outside San Francisco. It will make numerous flyovers of landmarks, NASA says, in multiple cities including San Francisco and Sacramento.The final flyovers will take place over Los Angeles before landing at LAX around 11 a.m. Pacific time. I’m sure we’ll all be out to watch it from the Circle A parking lot. On 10/12, the shuttle will depart again, this time using surface streets (Westchester Parkway, Sepulveda Eastway, Manchester, Crenshaw, MLK Blvd) to get to the California ScienCenter. Over 400 trees are being cut down to clear the route for the shuttle’s wingspan.
- Hi, Stan. One of my favorite books is “How the States Got Their Shapes“. I read it again over vacation, and learning the history behind the various boundaries is fascinating. So naturally I loved a recent Mental Floss that explored why so many countries end in “-stan”. The proto-indo-european root root, stā-, or “stand,” found its way into many words in the language’s various descendants. The Russian -stan means “settlement,” and other Slavic languages use it to mean “apartment” or “state.” In English, the root was borrowed to make “stand,” “state,” “stay” and other words. The ancient Indo-Iranian peoples — descendants of Proto-Indo-Europeans who moved east and south from the Eurasian steppe – used it to mean “place” or “place of.” It’s this meaning that’s used for the names of the modern -stan countries, which got it through linguistic descent (Urdu and Pashto, the respective official languages of Pakistan and Afghanistan, both descend from the Indo-Iranian language), or by adopting it (the former Soviet -stan countries have historically been mostly ethnically Turkic and speak languages from the Turkic family). Thus, a country such as “Afghanistan” means “Land of the Afghans”. Cool.
- Impact of Yelp. With my daughter at UCB, naturally I’ve added the Daily Cal to my reading list. Last week there was a very interesting research report on the impact of Yelp on restaurants. Specifically, the research found that when you move up half a star, your probability of being sold out goes up by roughly 20 percent. Moving up from a 3 to a 3.5 star rating gives restaurants between a 20 and 40 percent chance of being sold out at peak hours, while moving up from a 3.5 to 4-star rating gives restaurants a 40 to 60 percent chance of being sold out. I’d be curious to see a similar impact of ratings on items at sale at Amazon, and on Amazon Marketplace sellers. I’d expect to see similar impacts.
- Las Vegas History. One of my hobbies is the history of Las Vegas (and other areas with lots of development in the 40s and 50s). So naturally I found the article about the El Cortez Hotel seeking a historic designation interesting. Most hotels in Vegas (especially on the strip) want to get rid of their history. You’ll find very little of 1950s Vegas left on the strip: there is the original building at the heart of the Riviera, and the Circus area at Circus Circus. I’m not sure how much of the original building is left at Ceasars, but the rest of the original strip is either gone (El Rancho Vegas, Last Frontier, Dunes, Hacienda, Desert Inn, Sands, Thunderbird), due to come down (Sahara), or had the original portions remodelled away (Flamingo, Tropicana, Caesars). The El Cortez downtown has done none of that. Original walls, original signs, original everything.
- Porn Changes. One of the people I read on FB posted a link to an interesting article from Time Magazine in 2005 that explored how porn has changed since the 1970s. It talked about the history of the porn movie, and how the early films at least had pretenses of being real movies with real stores… just more sex. Eventually, that trend died away, and we were left with the straight-to-Internet garbage of today. An interesting analysis, and one that begs an alternate history where the skin flick and mainstream movies merged, and it was violence in movies that died out and went underground.
- A Political Closing Note. As you know, I’ve been following the election this year. One of my favorite sites is electoral-vote.com; if you don’t read it… you should. I’ve also got Facebook friends who post good political links. For example, Stephen Greenwald posted a link to a great piece on why it is so important that Our Side must win and the Wrong Side must absolutely lose. One of my favorites on FB is Gene Spafford (who, as he wrote, is looking to be put on a pedestal… he’s hoping that one day his plinth will come). Gene posted a link recently to his blog, where he wrote about all you need to know for this Presidental year. Well worth reading… and worth asking yourselves why the Republicans didn’t trot out a former president to recommend their candidate.
Yesterday, an interesting “star trek” was announced: the trek of the orbiter Endeavor from LAX to the California ScienCenter. There have been a number of articles written (LA Times, Curbed LA, Daily Breeze, and of course, the California ScienCenter site itself). These articles provide lots of interesting details on the route and some of the incredible logistics that will be involved:
- The shuttle will fly across the country on the back of a specially modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, arriving at LAX (weather permitting) on September 20, 2012. This should be neat; we will probably be able to see the landing from our offices here at Circle A ranch.
- Once at LAX, the shuttle will be prepared for transport. Once there are assurances that wind conditions are below 10 mph, a pair of cranes and a giant sling will be used to lift the 170,000-pound orbiter off the NASA 747. NASA’s 747 plane will be backed out while an overland transporter rolls under the shuttle. From there, the Endeavour will be moved to a hangar provided by United Airlines, where crews will prepare the shuttle for the drive across LA. This includes installation of a final – yet arduous – haul through Los Angeles and Inglewood. This will include installation of a transponder so that the Shuttle can use the express lanes on the Harbor Freeway (just kidding).
- The transportation of the shuttle itself won’t be easy, as it is 78 feet long and 58 feet high! The route from LAX to the museumwill be along city streets. The shuttle will leave LAX, take Westchester Parkway and LaTijera to Manchester, go along Manchester to Crenshaw, up Crenshaw to MLK Blvd, and thence to the California SciencCenter. This includes a bridge over I-405 that was probably not constructed to handle the weight of a shuttle (the shuttle weighs 165000 lbs when empty, but will be engine-less but have the transport trailer… so we’re still talking between 70-85 tons!). The city streets along the way probably can’t handle the weight too well either. It also includes numerous power poles and trees and such. One article notes that crews will need to remove 212 traffic signals and lights and move overhead utility lines so that the massive shuttle can slowly maneuver through the streets of Westchester, Inglewood and Hyde Park before it finally arrives at the museum. Trees will be pruned back or even uprooted. Power lines will be raised. Every tree removed along the route will eventually be replaced with two trees in an attempt to minimize impacts on surrounding communities.
- The shuttle will move over two days: October 12-13, weather permitting. Along the way, the shuttle will arrive at Inglewood City Hall for an official launch ceremony on the morning of October 13. After that, it’ll go to Martin Luther King and Crenshaw Boulevards for a celebration produced and directed by Debbie Allen.
- At its top speed, the giant mobile transporters carrying the shuttle will travel about 2 mph along the city streets. But there are some points along the route where Endeavour will have less than a foot of clearance on either side! The drivers better drive straight!
- Once it arrives at the California ScienCenter, it will be housed in a temporary exhibit — open to the public Oct. 30 — until construction on a new Air and Space Center is complete. According to the CTC, “The public will be able to view the shuttle in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion at the Science Center while the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, a new addition to the Science Center, is being built. When completed, Endeavour will be the centerpiece of this new building, envisioned as part of the Science Center’s 25-year master plan”. No word if they’ll need to move it again at that time! In case you are curious, costs for the move and construction of the temporary and new exhibits will total about $200 million. The money will come entirely from donations.
- Note that the shuttle is considerably lighter than the recent move of the “Levitated Mass” boulder. The 340-ton boulder sat atop a massive truck that crept 105 miles from Riverside County to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art during a 12-day journey. The shuttle is only 80-ton, so with the trailer, at worst, it is probably half the weight of the boulder. That really puts things in perspective. Where the shuttle tops the boulder is sheer size, at 78 feet long and 58 feet high compared to the boulder’s 21½ feet height and length. Here’s some more perspective. A story in a building is roughly 10 feet, so moving the shuttle means moving a 5-6 story building (when you add in the transport). A block is roughly 660 feet, so moving the shuttle means moving a 5½ story building that is 1/8 block long, including making 90° turns. Quite a challenge.
Well, it’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means: time to clean out the accumulated News Chum links:
- Financial Robbers and Barons. Let’s start with a few financial items. Verizon Wireless is completely overhauling their phone plans. This is of interest to me, as we’re currently with Verizon on a 700 family share plan with unlimited text, but only my daughter’s phone has a data plan. We’ve occasionally thought about getting smart phones, but three separate data plans would be too pricey. So if this plan allows sharing of data across a family, it might be reasonable. Next, science has done some analysis, and it turns out that robbing banks isn’t worth the effort for the amount of money you get and the risk you take (this is also why low-level drug dealing isn’t worth it). So what type of robbery is worth it? Well, cell phone data plans, for one , as well as skimming a little off the top, as credit card companies do. Perhaps this is why there is now a Karl Marx MasterCard. Planet Money is running a contest to come up with a tag line, such as “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. For everything else, there’s MarxCard”.
- Of Historical Interest. A number of history-related items of interest. This year is the bicentennial of the War of 1812 … and the US doesn’t care much about it. Canada, on the other hand, does. Next, if I was to ask you about the first space shuttle, you might think “Enterprise” (which was just moved to NYC) or “Explorer” (the one just moved in Houston). But you would be wrong: the first was a full-size marketing markup made by Rockwell, which is just about to be put on display in Downey. Lastly, today is the anniversary of the opening of the Cahuenga Pass Freeway, better known today as the Hollywood Freeway. Four lanes in each direction, with mass transit in the center. Today, the freeway has more lanes, and less mass transit above but more below.
- Where In The World. Two geographic items. First, how would you like to visit Tokelau. It would take some effort. But if you’ve ever used a URL ending in .tk, you’ve used their domain, for they have a large web presence. How do they make their money? By quickly placing ads on expired or lightly used domain names. Next, an interesting article on a fellow who hand-draws maps to Los Angeles communities.
- Coming to Stage. A few reports on projects on stage or in development. Susan Stroman is going to direct and choreograph a musical version of Bullets Over Broadway, which is going to use period music. Craig Lucas and Christopher Wheeldon Developing An American in Paris for Broadway, with the predictable Gershwin score. And most interesting, Simon Stephens has evidently developed a stage (non-musical, whew) version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which is evidently going to be broadcast in the UK.
- And Lastly… an interesting article on Yau-Man from Survivor, who evidently works in the bowels of the Chemistry Dept at UC Berkeley as the chief technology officer for the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry.
Music: When I Need You (Roger Whittaker): A Weekend in New England
A couple of interesting articles today regarding the space shuttle.
- Space Shuttle Enterprise… is being moved by barge from JFK Airport in New York to its final destination, the Intrepid Museum. Today, after shipping out from JFK, Enterprise will make its way toward New York Harbor by traveling along the shore of Queens and Brooklyn. The planned route will bring Enterprise by the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, slip by Coney Island, and then pass under the Verrazano Bridge before pulling into a temporary dock in New Jersey’s Port Elizabeth. On Tuesday, the shuttle will finish the journey by leaving Port Elizabeth, passing the Statue of Liberty, floating up the Hudson River by the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower, and arriving at the Intrepid museum.
- Space Shuttle Explorer (a/k/a Space Shuttle Replica). This is moving in Houston. The replica will take an early-morning trip from its dock at Clear Lake to the Space Center Houston by way of the area’s NASA Parkway and NASA 1 Bypass. The space shuttle replica was previously on display in Cape Canaveral, Fla., at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the welcome center for the nearby Kennedy Space Center spaceport that served as the homeport for NASA’s space shuttle fleet for 30 years. Florida will be getting Atlantis.
- Space Shuttle Endeavor. This is the interesting one. Endeavour is being prepared for its cross-country trip to Los Angeles, where it will be delivered to the California Science Center for public display. Once it arrives, it will face an interesting problem: how to get from LAX to the California ScienCenter near Exposition Park, where it will be housed. A report has been provided to the City Council detailing how hard this task will be: “…after being flown to Los Angeles International Airport, the shuttle will travel roughly ten miles on city streets to its new home at the California Science Center. To be transported on its belly, the shuttle will exceed five stories high and boast a wingspan of 78 feet. Detailed planning and coordination will be required to find an appropriate route that will avoid freeway overpasses and identify streets that are both wide enough and strong enough to support the Endeavour. It will be necessary for City crews to temporarily relocate overhead wires, street signs and traffic control devices to allow the shuttle to move safely through city streets. Additionally, traffic officers will need to be deployed at various locations along the route to assist motorists where traffic signal equipment has been removed.” For reference, your normal lane width is between 10-12 feet, so 78 feet means you’ll need a six to eight lane wide street for the entire route, with no places where the roadway goes under something (and remember, the route will have to cross I-405 at some point), and the ability to move something about 52 feet high… and any bridge you use needs to be able to support the load. Now remember the route will likely need to move across some of the more densely populated places in LA (Inglewood, South Central) to end up near USC. I wouldn’t want to be the space planner for that move.
Continuing our trend of a themeless lunchtime news chum week, here are a few articles to ponder over as you eat your healthy salad:
- Dealing With Clutter. It’s always nice to see the ranch get a nice article in the press… and we got one this week with an article on how we are researching the clutter that is in space, and how we’re trying to do something about it. Quite an interesting read. Bill Ailor, the fellow mentioned in the article, used to have the office across from our department. One of the nicest–and sharpest–folks you could ever meet.
- Space Cases. Gingrich the Newt has pledged to establish a moon colony during his presidency. Now, much as I love space and space exploration, this just seems off in this era of constrained budgets. Even if he could convince a private company to do it, what is in it for them? I believe there are international treaties regarding mineral rights on the moon. Now, I’m not claiming Obama is perfect, but the opposition can’t seem to find a credible candidate that is clearly capable of winning on a national level. I’ve already seen an article comparing Romney to Thomas Dewey, and we all remember how he won in 1948 against a president everyone thought was going to lose.
- Hidden in Plain Sight. Speaking of Presidents… did you know that the grandson’s of our 10th president, John Tyler, are still alive. Not great-great-grandsons. Not great-grandsons. But President Tyler’s grandsons. Did you also know that there is an ornate movie theatre hidden above a bodega in the East Village in NYC (look at the pictures-they’re neat!). And did you know that just like In-N-Out hands out bible verses with its soft drinks, Alaska Airlines hands out prayer cards with its meal trays (although it is stopping the practice).
Music: The Great Works of Vivaldi (Hanseatic Baroque Orchestra): The Four Seasons: Autumn