Today’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…
- Subway Maps. I’m sure you’ve seen them by now — the various abstract subway maps that cities develop to try to explain their subway systems. Some work, some don’t. Here’s a good explanation of why designers can’t really stop redesigning them.
- I Know Where You Are. One thing modern computerization and GPS has given us is the ability to know where a subway car is on the track, permitting a countdown clock to show you when it will arrive. Well, except in New York City. The New York City Subway system does not have countdown clocks… because it has no idea where its trains actually are.
- Traffic on the 5s. Growing up in Los Angeles, you become dependent on the traffic reports. KNX 1070 had them on the 5s. KWFB, when it was doing news, had them on the 9s. They were essential for navigation. But today? The presence of traffic apps such as Waze and Google Maps had made over-the-air traffic reports less of a market factor, and they are starting to disappear. Of course, this doesn’t answer the question about using the phone when driving…
- Sure, We Have a Plan… Traffic in LA is horrendous, and recent research has shown that widening highways is not the answer. How do we improve things? Well, the Libertarian Research Foundation has a plan. They say bikes and buses are not the solution to traffic congestion—making more room for cars is. They have proposed a $700-billion plan to build an extensive network of new tunnels and expressways that they say would help free up some of the city’s most congested areas of traffic. The plan includes things like a 710-extension tunnel, a tunnel under downtown LA (just imagine the unexpected utility relocation costs there!), a tunnel under the Santa Monica Mountains, a tunnel under the Santa Susanna Mountains between LA and Palmdale… you get the idea.
- Looking back. Last week, I mentioned the AA Legacy Liveries. Here are photos of more airlines in liveries of older carriers.
Continuing the process of cleaning out the accumulated links, as themed link three-sets form like hurricanes in the Central Pacific…. This collection all relates to upcoming theatre productions that don’t leave me with a good anticipatory feeling:
- Jordanian Adaptation of Oliver!. Lionel Bart’s musical, Oliver!, is a well known adaptation of Charles Dicken’s “Oliver Twist“. One of the more problematic features of Oliver Twist (a story I happen to like) is the potentially antisemitic portray of Fagin, the old man who runs the gang of thieves. The musical version made a distinct attempt to tone down the antisemitism (especially when it came to Broadway — if you contrast the original version from the West End). So naturally, hearing that this show will be done in an Arab country — an area where antisemitism isn’t only common but encouraged — doesn’t bode well. Adding to the fear is the following note from the article: “Working with a local community center in the Jordanian capital, the story has been updated to a modern Arab city.” Let’s see: Lovable Jewish merchants running a gang of thieves in a modern Arab city. What could possibly go wrong?
- K-Pop Adaption of In The Heights. Lin Manual Miranda’s musical In The Heights, was a hit when it reached Broadway in 2008. It brought a hispanic flavor to inner-city hip-hop with a language that theatre hasn’t seen before. Theatremania is reporting that the show is soon to open in Seoul Korea, with some footage already available. The musical will play the Blue Square Samsung Card Hall in Hannam-dong beginning September 4, with a cast led by several K-pop stars including Key of SHINee and Jang Dong-woo of INFINITE sharing the role of Usnavi. Mixing K-Pop stars and hip-hop. What could possibly go wrong?
- I Can’t Hear You. There are loads and loads of shows planning to open on Broadway., from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s School of Rock to a musical version of American Psycho. But the mind boggles when it hears about another production planning for the Great White Way: The SpongeBox SquarePants Musical. Yup, and no, this isn’t a kids theatre show. Nickelodeon will make its Broadway debut as a producer on the musical, with a score provided by a mixture of classic and contemporary rockers. The full list of composers was announced Aug. 31: Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of the band Aerosmith, Tony winner Cyndi Lauper, They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, Dirty Projectors, The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, and T.I., with an additional song by David Bowie and additional lyrics by Jonathan Coulton. The plot is as follows: “The end is near. Only one sponge can save the day. But he’s going to need help from some of the greatest songwriters in rock and pop music history.” Again, what could possibly go wrong?
P.S.: I can’t resist adding a non-theatre item that also strikes fear in my heart. In Los Angeles, Metrolink has indicated they are purchasing some state-of-the-art locomotives to replace their well worn engines. These Tier 4 locomotives are powerful, fuel-efficient vehicles designed to slash potentially harmful releases of nitrogen oxide and fine particles of diesel exhaust. They also have never been used in passenger service — and heavy service — before. Metrolink officials say the Tier 4 engines have up to 1,700 more horsepower, use less fuel, have longer service lives and are more reliable than rebuilt engines. However, Paul Dyson, president of the Rail Passenger Assn. of California, was concerned the new engines could have “plenty of teething problems” as they go into service, as they are so new they don’t have any service history for passenger use. Some Tier 4 engines are being tested for freight service at Union Pacific Corp. and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., two of the nation’s largest carriers. Lena Kent, a spokesperson for BNSF, said the railroad’s prototypes have “experienced operating issues,” but she declined to elaborate.
Here’s where I get worried. McCarthy, Metrolink’s deputy chief, disagreed with Dyson, saying all Tier 4 components have been tested successfully. “We are not concerned,” he added. “It’s a tried-and-true locomotive.” This reminds me of the High Assurance Brake Job; in particular, the process people. They may never have done a brake job before, but: “Well, no, but we’ve done other mechanic-type work before, and our processes are designed to be adaptable to all situations. We’ve got processes for making sure bolts and stuff are loosened and then tightened later. We’ve got processes to check that we don’t have left over parts when we’re done with the job. We got processes for…”
They’ve never run the locomotive in passenger service before, but all the components have been tested successfully. What could possibly go wrong?
P.P.S.: If you haven’t read the High Assurance Brake Job, you really must. It’s a classic (PDF).
Continuing to clear out the links… here’s a collection of news chum all being related by the theme of travel or travelling:
Ah, the weekend after Thanksgiving. Time to sit down to a hearty bowl of Turkey Stew, with nice chucks of news:
- Smelling The Subway. This is a real interesting article (and quite likely of interest to Andrew Ducker and those in the UK). A fellow who has synaesthesia, a neurological condition which prompts an involuntary reaction to sensory experiences, tastes things that he hears. In particular, place names provoke real tastes and intense cravings for particular foods. Using this knowledge, he has made a “taste map” of the London Underground. For example, to this fellow, Tottenham Court Road provokes a particularly strong taste of a sausage and egg breakfast, whilst nearby Bond Street prompts the less appealing tang of hairspray. Among the flavors that appear on the map are apple pie, bubble and squeak, HP sauce, purple grapes, chicken soup and soft boiled egg. Others include sweets such as love hearts, poppets, soft wine gums and jelly tots. Obscure flavors include coal dust, putrid meat, burnt rubber, wet wool, pencil eraser, fuzzy felt and dried blood.
- Shel Silverstein. One of my favorite warped authors is Shel Silverstein. His kids stuff is great; his adult stuff is even better. He was also an accomplished songwriter, penning many folk and comedy songs. Here’s an interesting article on the unlikely way he rose to fame. Here’s a hint: Whenever you read his children’s stuff, look for the hidden subversive adult message.
- I’m Bored. Many of us, I’m sure, get bored. But most of us don’t make it their job to boredom. Luckily, there are researchers that do. Did you know, for example, that there are five types of boredom … one more than researchers expected? (Well, you did if you were bored enough to listen to Wait Wait). The types of boredom that they expected were: (1) Indifferent boredom, a relaxing and slightly positive type of boredom that “reflected a general indifference to, and withdrawal from, the external world”; (2)Calibrating boredom, the slightly unpleasant state of having wandering thoughts and “a general openness to behaviors aimed at changing the situation”; (3) Searching boredom, the kind that makes you feel restless and leaves you “actively seeking out specific ways of minimizing feelings of boredom”; and (4) Reactant boredom, which is so bad that it prompts sufferers “to leave the boredom-inducing situation and avoid those responsible for this situation (e.g., teachers).” What they discovered was a fifth type of boredom: Apathetic boredom. I’d go on, but I’m sure you’re bored by now.
- Next on Wait Wait. Do you ever see scientific studies, and go “That’ll be on Wait Wait”. Here’s one for Wait Wait: Sexual frustration decreases lifespan — at least in flies. Specifically, the chemical attractant wafting from a female fruit fly shortened the lifespan of male flies when the femme fatale didn’t deliver on the signal’s promise, according to a new study.
- Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning. I’m a morning person. In fact, I often get up just shortly before my alarm goes off. Turns out, there’s a reason why. It’s due to having a very accurate body clock. The body happens to love predictability. Your body is most efficient when there’s a routine to follow. So if you hit the hay the same time each night and awake the same time each morning, your body locks that behavior in. The implication of this, of course, is that having constantly changing bedtimes and waking times puts stress on your body. That’s one of the reasons that, for me, sleeping me means sleeping until 530am.
- Good News for Steve Stepanek. Dr. Steve Stepanek is one of the folks I work with regularly at CSUN, as he is head of the Computer Science Liaison Council. The Daily Sundial is reporting that Steve just got elected to the CSU Board of Trustees. That’s great news — they’ve got a great educator, an engineer, and a computer scientist (as well as a train aficionado) as a member.
- Eating the Brain. One last science related item: Scientists have discovered an overlooked type of brain cell that may be responsible for learning. What it does is prune connections (essentially, eating them) in the brain, permitting new connections (and thus new learning) to be recorded. This could carry important implications for the battle against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for psychiatric disorders, and for the nagging loss of memory that comes with aging.
It’s Saturday. It’s lunchtime. It’s 105.7°F in the shade on the back porch. You know what that means — it is time to fry us up (on the sidewalk, ‘natch) some tasty News Chum, using those links we saved earlier in the week. Better eat it quick, before it spoils in the heat:
- Turnabout Is Fair Play. I have no idea if this is true, but wouldn’t it be great if it was? According to the Dayton Daily News, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner introduced SB 307, which requires men to visit a sex therapist, undergo a cardiac stress test, and get their sexual partner to sign a notarized affidavit confirming impotency in order to get a prescription for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. The bill also requires men who take the drugs to be continually “tested for heart problems, receive counseling about possible side effects and receive information about “pursuing celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.”” This is in response to a Republican house bill that would ban abortion if the fetus has a heartbeat, which is about six weeks after conception. Personally, I think a better bill (and a better parallel) would be a bill that require a man proven to be the father, or the state if no father is identified, to support a child if the mother signs an affidavit that she would have aborted it if the law had permitted. After all, if a life is so valuable, then it is equally valuable after it is born, if not more so.
- Duck, Duck, Goose. I used to be a stamp collector, before it became to expensive to keep the collection up to date. Thus I found this NYT article on Duck Stamps interesting, both for the rewards that go to the artists, as well as how this became a successful self-supporting program. Duck stamps are perhaps a more collectable stamp, as there are much fewer of them issued.
- In The Tunnels. Speaking of New York, Wired has some dramatic pictures of NY Subway tunnels as they are being constructed. They are from the official photographer of the New York City subway system.
- Back Pain. If you are like me, you are (a) getting older, and (b) dealing with back pain. Here’s an interesting article that claims that 40% of back pain is bacterial and can be addressed with antibiotics. Would be an interesting theory, especially as we’ve discovered bacteria to be behind a number of other odd problems.
- Conspiracy Theories. Here’s an interesting article that went around much of the net last week on why conspiracy theories refuse to die. Basically, the answer is that they cannot be disproven, because if someone believes in conspiracies, they will believe in a conspiracy to fake any evidence of the theory’s falseness.
- Berkeley v. UCLA. A few weeks ago, I linked to an article in the Daily Sundial about CSUN comparing itself to Berkeley. Here’s an article about Berkeley comparing itself to UCLA. UCLA wins in a number of areas, but (of course) Berkeley considers itself better.
Music: Memories (Barbra Streisand): “My Heart Belongs To Me”
Today’s lunchtime “News to Chew On”™ deals with relics. No, I’m not talking about the US Postal Service, which has decided to stop Saturday delivery in August. Rather, I’m talking about architectural relics:
- Las Vegas. By the time you read this, the sun will have set on Bill’s Casino and Gambling Hall, which was formerly known as the Barbary Coast… and which was the Desert Villa [Note: link requires IE or Chrome] before that. When the property reopens next year, what had become a Strip antique will be a boutique hotel with new hotel rooms, a refurbished casino, a second-story restaurant, a rooftop pool and nightclub, … and yet another name. In other Las Vegas relic news, the International hotel, which became the Las Vegas Hilton, which became the LVH (so they didn’t have to change the monogram) has just become affiliated with the boutique Leo brand within Red Lion. This will serve them well, because everyone thinks of the Red Lion brand when they think of Las Vegas. Right? [And as a P.S. regarding Las Vegas: We’re actually going to Vegas at the end of April for a week’s vacation. I’ll get to look for Las Vegas relics (so I do plan to visit the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum, and we’re all going to see a different type of relic: Elton John in concert!]
- Nike Missile Launching Sites. Most people don’t remember it, but Los Angeles was once ringed with a bunch of Nike ABM sites. The LA Daily News has an article on the site closest to my house: the Oat Mountain station in Chatsworth, which has been taken over by vandals and taggers. Actually, this was quite an interesting read… and it makes me want to explore the former site in the hills above Encino that has been preserved as an interpretive park.
- Transportation Relics. The Infrastructurist had a number of articles on its RSS feed today related to transportation relics (although, for some reason, I’m not seeing the pictures). This includes an article on abandoned subway stations around the world (including the abandoned Subway tunnel in Los Angeles) and 11 destroyed train stations. Speaking of train stations, KCET had a recent article on the destroyed train stations of Los Angeles. Lastly, the Infrastructurist had an article about how tearing down a freeway can help a city. Alas, the article they link to for San Francisco includes a link to my site… or at least to where my site was back in the 1990s when it was on Pacificnet. [ETA: Looks like the Infrastructurist posts were an RSS hiccup from 2009, meaning that many of the links to images are broken. That explains why they weren’t showing up–not that my work firewall was blocking them ]
Today’s collection of lunchtime news chum brings together a number of articles all connected through a great city and great country, in fact, a Great Britain….
- Underground Anniversary. As this is the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, there are loads and loads of articles being written about the service. One in particular caught my eye (not surprisingly): An article from The Atlantic on how the London Underground map has changed over the years. But wait, there’s more! Two additional things. First, the Underground is well known for its escalators. Escalators are a plague for many an underground railway, so here’s an article about all the work BART is doing to maintain its escalators. Secondly, given my love of maps, you know I can’t stop at one. Here’s a neat map of the San Fernando Valley from 1924. Note what is there… and what isn’t.
- Good British Food. EaterLA alerted me to an article in the Burger Business blog that asked the question, “What is a Pub Burger?” After all, more and more restaurants are trying to attract patrons by serving burgers supposedly similar to those sold in English pubs. So what are they? The conclusion. Pub burgers are… trendy. I actually chuckled at the one comment, “I don’t know why you would want to copy English pub burgers, as on the whole they are cheap, overcooked rubbish.” But wait, there’s more! The same EaterLA post also alerted me to a fascinating article about a restaurant that serves burgers: A tell-all from a Hooters waitress about what it is really like working there.
- It’s More Complicated… A hat tip to Andrew Ducker for this one… A very interesting article on all the implications of the proposed change to royal succession in Britain to permit the eldest daughter to assume the throne before a younger son. There are profound and far reaching changes, including the ability to marry Catholics and changes to some of England’s oldest laws. But wait, there’s more! In another story about needing to change an old law to reflect modern times, an 1872 law in California will likely be changed because it only recognizes rape for married women. According to this law, as interpreted by the judge, if a man impersonates a husband and rapes the wife, it is legally rape, but if they aren’t married and he is impersonating the boyfriend, it isn’t.
By now, everyone knows that the fiscal cliff has been averted, and a compromise bill passed. What you probably don’t know is everything that was in the bill. It is your usual mix of good and bad, but there is some good news for those of us that commute via shared rides (buspools, vanpools): the commuter tax benefit has been restored. According to LA Metro:
As part of the fiscal cliff legislation adopted by the Senate and House yesterday, a provision was included that will extend (through December 31, 2013) the increase in the monthly exclusion for employer-provided transit and vanpool benefits from $125 to $240. By increasing the monthly exclusion for transit and vanpool participants, the benefit now matches those provided for employer-provided parking benefits.
Further, according to the American Public Transportation Association:
Under the new “fiscal cliff” legislation passed by Congress this week, the parity between public transit and parking benefits are now up to $240 a month and are retroactive from January 1, 2012. This will expire on December 31, 2013.
This is a significant jump, and drastically reduces commuting costs. I have no idea whether “the ranch” will provide the retroactive side of the benefits; I could see that as an accounting nightmare.
There were also improved benefits for those that used Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): “Also included in the fiscal cliff legislation was a provision to extend, for one year, the CNG tax credit. In addition to being extended through December 31, 2013, the CNG tax credit language included in the final bill provides for the tax credits to be retroactive for 2012.” This is of significant benefit to public transit agencies.