This is another busy weekend, so I should probably put this pot of news chum on the stove to simmer. What’s in it? A collection of articles and other items I’ve seen on the web this week that have stuck in my head. Let’s lift the lid and find out what is in this pot:
- “The Ever-Tightening Job Market for Ph.D.s“. It is graduation season. This means that metric tonnes of newly minted graduates with Bachelors, Masters, and PhDs are going to be flooding the job market, and in many professions, it will be bad for the PhDs. The linked article talks about a recent report finds that many newly minted Ph.D.s complete school after nearly 10 years of studies with significant debt and without the promise of a job. Yet few people seem to be paying attention to these findings; graduate programs are producing more Ph.D.s than ever before.
- “How Unions and Regulators Made Clothing Tags an Annoying Fact of Life“. Clothing tags. Those things at the back of your shirt that annoy you. Did you ever wonder where they came from? Wonder no more.
- “Bookstore down: Mystery and Imagination & Bookfellows in Glendale“. Another independent bookstore bites the dust: Mystery and Imagination, which was across the street from another recent closure, Brand Books. Although some independent bookstores are thriving, others are closing… and it is a sad thing. Amazon may be great for music, but it is a pain for discovering new books. It is not just bookstores that are closing: Orphaned CDs, which was around the corner in Northridge, has been put on the market, sold, and moved to Sunland.
- “Offbeat L.A.: A Cherry on Top- Fosters Freeze, the History of California’s Original Soft Serve“. I had never realized that Fosters Freeze had originated in Los Angeles, the product of an attempt to bring Dairy Queen to LA. I’ve enjoyed them over the years (particularly, the fudge dip that crunches afterwards). Interesting read.
- “Want to Make America More Inclusive? Start With Stamps“. I used to be a stamp collector. I guess I still am, although I haven’t updated the collection in years. Stamp collecting has gone out of favor as a hobby, with the advent of self-adhesive stamps (that don’t soak off), pre-printed postage, and the decline in physical mail. Stamps are interesting, and have always been a reflection of a country in its values. The linked article looks as how America and other countries demonstrate their inclusivity through the images they put on their stamps (and the people that end up collecting them).
- “Pacific Bus Museum in Fremont: showcasing a piece of Bay Area history“. I’m into transit history: be it trains, planes, automobiles or buses. I’m a member of a train museum, but I haven’t seen a similar attempt to save buses. Well, until I read this article.
- “Going to Universal Studios Hollywood with food allergies“. As a reference for those attending this year’s ACSAC — an article on dining at Universal with allergies. Alas, the picture isn’t the greatest at the present time. Disney still wins hands down in this competition.
While eating lunch, I’ve been staring at an article from Curbed LA titled “West Hollywood Refusing to Let Metro Rail Pass It By”. The gist of the article is that West Hollywood is trying to convince Metro to extend the a-buildin’ Crenshaw line northward to West Hollywood, connecting the neighborhood not only to Metro’s system, but also directly to LAX. A feasibility study is needed to determine the exact route a train line would take to WeHo, but the advocates for this proposal are hoping for a route that spans from San Vincente to Santa Monica Boulevard. The train would run completely underground, making it’s way through West Hollywood before connecting with the Red Line at Hollywood and Highland.
Here’s the map from their website:
First and foremost, haven’t they seen Volcano?
You don’t build a rail line near Cedars-Sinai
; it only will create a canal for the magma.
Seriously, it appears that whomever is proposing doesn’t understand the problems with the rail network in LA. The Expo, Green, and a-buildin’ Crenshaw line are all above ground light rail. Overhead caternary. The Red and Purple lines are underground, third rail. Yet this proposal shows the above ground line connecting with the underground line. At the present time, there’s only one place where that happens: The blue/red line connection downtown, and there the blue line is on the upper platform and doesn’t travel more than a few blocks underground. This proposal would have the Crenshaw extension traveling multiple miles underground with overhead caternary, and connecting to *existing* Purple and Red stations (or heaven forfend — new stations). Connecting to an existing station with a different power system means you need to be on a different level, making tunneling and construction even more difficult. Of course, there’s also the fact that this is geologically unstable land through oil and gas fields.
There’s also the issue of how this would cross the Santa Monica Freeway, and where it would safely go underground.
This won’t happen.
If West Hollywood wants a rail line, their better bet would be to jump on the eventual line that will run from Westwood to the San Fernando Valley under the Santa Monica Mountains. They could come off the Westwood spur, and possibly coordinate for an underground connection at Hollywood and Highland. Of course, that does mean tunneling under Beverly Hills.
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”