Observations Along the Road

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

Saturday Stew: A Little Bit of Everything

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 30, 2016 @ 8:58 am PST

Observation StewNote: In case you missed my posts earlier this week, I had one with a collection of articles related to why I decided to support Hillary Clinton; a collection of articles related to food and diet; and a summary of the shows that I’m planning to see at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival. But now it is Saturday, and I’m staring at the list of links I’ve accumulated over the week… and realizing there’s not a coherent theme buried in there.  You know what that means — it is time to make News Chum Stew!

 

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Link Chum Stew: What’s In The Pot This Week, Johnny?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Apr 17, 2016 @ 3:05 pm PST

Observation StewThis afternoon, I’ve been spending some time cleaning up. What’s this? A list of links? Let’s write about them before they go stale and rotten (like the plums on the dining room table):

  • Dancing Around Politics. If you’ve been around LA at all of late, you’ve probably been handed a flyer for the Shen Yun dance troupe, who have been performing at halls across the city. You’ve probably never heard of them. The LA Times had an interesting article on who they really are and who is backing them: they are a touring dance troupe founded in New York by practitioners of Falun Gong, the spiritual practice banned by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999. The party calls it a cult; Falun Gong says the Chinese government is trying to eradicate thousands of years of culture and tradition and that its repression of Shen Yun shows an intolerance of freedom of expression and religion. Indisputably, the dance company — marking its 10th anniversary — has become a cultural phenomenon. That fits with what my wife called the show: religious indoctrination.  As the article noted: “Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that the bright costumes and spinning dancers are meant to convey a message. “The Falun Gong has a very well organized, managed and elaborate program of public relations, and Shen Yun is part of that,” said James Tong, a UCLA professor, expert in Chinese politics and author of a book about the Communist Party and Falun Gong. When audiences see Shen Yun, “people want to know more about the Falun Gong.””
  • Digital Last Wills. Here’s a good reminder article from LastPass about Digital Wills. As they note in the article: “When preparing a will, many of us focus on our monetary and physical assets. But what about social media accounts? Or email addresses? Or the myriad of online accounts we use to manage our lives, every day? Making a “digital will” that includes passwords and other important digital details will go a long way in helping those who need to settle your affairs, or in helping you if you need to settle the affairs of others.” It is an important concern: I know I do my banking via Quicken… would my wife be able to easy pick that up. To inform all those whom I’m friends with online of what is happening with me? To pass off my highway pages somewhere? To handle other online financial accounts?
  • Upgrading Your Smartphone the Smart Way. Here’s an interesting article on how cell phone companies get you yet again: the upgrade fees if you buy a phone through them. With some, it is cheaper to buy your phone elsewhere, and then just bring it in and have it activated. Useful information to know.
  • Fighting Blisters. One of the scourges of walking as exercise are blisters. They are the reason I’ve switched to Injinji Toe Socks and Vibram Five Fingers. Too bad I didn’t know about this: there is evidently an easy way to combat blisters: use of surgical paper tape. I’ll have to give it a try one day, especially when the plantars fasciitis is acting up and I need shoes with padding and arch support.
  • Women in Cybersecurity. As you know, I’m part of ACSA, the sponsoring group behind SWSIS — the schoarship for women studying information security. Here’s a profile about one of our first recipients. I met Jill when she came out to ACSAC; I wish I had known this about her.
  • High Fidelity. Yesterday was Record Store day, and alas I missed it. But then again, I have enough records for this month. The iPod is at just under 38,000 songs. But here’s a good guide, for Record Store Day, about getting the right equipment to play your records. As for me, I have two turntables (Technics and Sansui), a good JVC amplifier with a phono curve, which feeds into my soundcard and the Roxio tools for recording to MP3 or WAV.
  • Free, as in Free Gigs. How would you like 2GB of free days for a month or two? Evidently, Verizon has a promotion where if you use Android Pay at three retailers, they’ll give you and extra 2GB for two months. The giveaway is part of a promotion that encourages people to start using Android Pay, which is essentially the Android version of mobile payments. Any Verizon customer with a postpaid plan who has an Android Pay-compatible phone will get 1GB of free data the next time they use Google’s mobile payment platform. Use it another two times, for a total of three separate purchases, and Verizon will throw in another gigabyte of free data.Once you’ve got the data freebie, Verizon says you’ll be able to use it across two billing cycles. The offer ends on June 14.
  • Mulholland Drive. Lastly, here’s a fascinating history article on Mulholland Drive: its origins and first plans. If you happen to be inspired to drive all of Mulholland — including the dirt portion across the top of the Santa Monicas, keep your eye out for a watch. I lost it there sometime in high school :-).

 

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Week End News Chum: Threading a Connection

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 16, 2016 @ 8:56 am PST

Observation StewFor some, this is the start of a 3 day weekend; for others, just the normal weekend craziness. Whichever it is, it’s been a busy week. I’ve been accumulating a lot of articles of interest, but none of them have themed into groups of three, or proved to be the start of a single-subject rant. So let’s toss them into the crock-pot of discussion, and see if we can at least come up with a thread to connect each to the next:

Lastly, I’m sure you think I’m crazy in the head for trying to thread all these disparate articles together. Speaking of crazy in the head: how’s this for a headline: “Doctors dismissed his pain as migraines. Then they said he had 24 hours to live.” Did that get your attention? It got mine. The connected article was about something I mentioned last week: undetected subdural hematomas. Scary.

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News Chum Unwrapped: Will It Be Coal or Crystal?

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

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 PST

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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Chum Locally: Southern California News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 04, 2015 @ 9:59 am PST

userpic=los-angelesThis collection of news chum (perhaps the ultimate for this trip, or the penultimate) all relates to Southern California:

ETA: Some sad news:

 

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Unintended Consequences

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 04, 2015 @ 9:14 am PST

userpic=im-with-stupidThe process of clearing out the accumulated links continues, although I’m getting close to caught up. This groupa-three deals with some unintended consequences:

  • Unintended Consequences of High Definition. Bloomberg has an interesting article about how the growth of high-definition video has made the prop master’s job harder. Simply put: the detail now visible means that props have to be stunningly believable, although that can create problems with things like realistic fake money. Wood has to look like wood, not plastic. Words on printed items need to be sensical. Logos of products need to be believable. What used to be visibility to a 2″ circle is now down to a ⅛” circle. Dust, dirt, and paint chips are visible.
  • Unintended Consequences of Answering Your Phone. Have you ever gotten a phone call, answered it, and … nothing. NPR explains how this simple act of answering your phone can be the start of phone fraud. This is how fraudsters determine there is a human on the other end and the number is a valid number. From there, it escalates…
  • Unintended Consequences of Conserving Water. The LA Times has an article about how all the water saving during the drought is creating a big problem. Sanitation districts are yanking tree roots out of manholes and stepping up maintenance on their pipes to prevent corrosion and the spread of odors. And when people use less potable water, officials say, there’s less wastewater available to recycle. Water suppliers, meanwhile, say the dramatic decrease in consumption has created multimillion-dollar revenue shortfalls. Shorter showers, more efficient toilets and other reductions in indoor water usage have meant less wastewater flowing through sewer pipes, sanitation officials say. With less flow to flush the solids down the system, those solids are collecting and can eventually damage pipes. [I’ll note there are similar problems with power districts as people move to self-generated solar: suddenly, they don’t have the revenue to pay for all their power plants.]

 

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Things That Are Going Away… But Maybe Not

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 02, 2015 @ 9:35 am PST

userpic=zombieAnd the process of cleaning out the links continues…. this collection brings together a number of stories about things that are going away… but then again:

  • Maui Potato Chips. As I’m on the island of Maui right now, let’s start with something that I’m craving, that used to be easy to find, but now is very difficult to find: The Original Maui Kettle Cook’d Potato Chips. When I was out here 30 years ago, they were everywhere (and you used to ship them back to the mainland). Today? You’re lucky to find a small bag for $7.99 in a few stores. They’ve been replaced by a knockoff chip from the state of Washington. Washington?!?!? But if you know where to look, they are still available. (but of course, I can’t eat them — I’m watching my weight and blood pressure 🙁 )
  • Renaissance Costumes. I’ve written before about how  the theatrical landscape in Southern California is changing due to the machinations of AEA. Many theatres have retrenched in various ways, and this is now starting to have ripple effects. AJS Costumes, a large theatrical and renaissance costumer, has started a GoFundMe to help them survive the ripple. As they write: “As you may or may not be aware, the live theater scene in Los Angeles has been going through an upheaval for the past several months.  Changes in the local 99-seat theater community are causing many theater companies to be very conservative in selecting their projects.  To avoid collapse, many theater companies are doing smaller productions, with less costume design needed, and fewer period plays. The rental business and costume design services of AJS Costumes has slowed to a trickle. This downturn has been sudden.  It has been unforeseen.  It has been devastating.   Despite this crisis, we are continuing to serve our clientele and assure you that all outstanding orders are being fulfilled.   But in order to survive, we must explore and secure new income options for our shop.”
  • Verizon Contract Plans. You may have heard that Verizon was getting rid of subsidized phone plans. That’s actually not true — it is only true for new customers. Old customers — as long as you keep renewing or have phones on the old plan — you can keep it.
  • iPod Classics. Well, they aren’t going away. You can even do as I’m thinking of doing and put in a SSD. But, alas, Apple is declaring them obsolete as of Labor Day. I’m sure you can still get them repaired, although some parts may be harder to get.

 

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