Interesting Histories

Continuing the clearing of some themed groups, here are some interesting histories that I’ve seen come across my feeds of late:

  • LA Theatre. Here’s a complete history of LA Theatre while standing on one foot.  OK, well, it’s not complete (there’s no mention of the LA Civic Light Opera, for example, or the other major large theatres that are no more, like the Huntington Hartford or the Shubert in Century City), but it is a great summary of the current situation with 99 seat theatres and how we got there.
  • Jewish Culinary Tradition. Here’s an article (and a discussion of a cookbook) related to a classic Jewish food tradition: pickling and preservation. A number of the recipes described sound really interesting .
  • Left Turns. If you’re like me, you get … annoyed … at the current crop of drivers that wait behind the limit line to make a left turn, and then do a sweeping arc that almost cuts off the car waiting on the cross street to turn (plus, it means one car per light). If you’re like me, you were taught to pull into the middle of the intersection, and then to do an almost 90 degree turn to go from left lane into left lane. Turns out, left turns have changed over time, and I’m old-school.
  • Old Subway Cars. When your light rail cars die, where do they go? Often, they are dumped in the ocean. Los Angeles did that with some of the Red and Yellow Cars. New York does it with its subway cars. But this isn’t pollution, and here are the pictures to prove it. Rather, it is creating reefs for oceanlife.
  • Tunnels Back In Service. An LADWP tunnel that dates back to 1915 is going back in service.The Los Angeles Daily News reports the tunnel is being refurbished to capture water runoff from the Sierras, which was inundated with snow this winter.The tunnel is part of a larger system, called the Maclay Highline, that runs from “the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in Sylmar to a group of meadows in Pacoima.” Once restored, the tunnel will carry a significant amount of water—130 acre-feet a day—to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water. (One acre-foot can supply two households with water for a year.)

As we’re talking history, here’s another interesting themed historical group, this time focused on air travel:

  • Lockheed L-1011. I remember back in the 1990s flying between LAX and IAD, when I could still occasionally get an L-1011. This was a tri-jet from Lockheed, and was nice and spacious with great overhead space. They have long since disappeared, but one recently took to the skies as part of a ferry to a museum. The refurbished plane will be used as part of a STEM teaching experience.
  • Boeing 747. The Queen of the Skies has been dethroned by someone skinnier and cheaper. The last few 747s for passenger service are coming off the line; airlines are phasing them out of the fleets. There will be a few more for freight service, but like the DC-10, they will be disappearing. The market can not really support such large loads — and the multiple engines and fuel it takes to ferry them. The Airbus A380 is facing similar problems. Airlines want at most two engines, with the planes packed to the gills.
  • Old Airports. Here’s an article on an interesting dilemma: What to do with old municipal airports, such as the one in downtown Detroit? (NYTimes article) Should they be restored for general aviation purposes, and perhaps the occasional commercial craft? Should their land be repurposed for more housing and manufacturing, as was done quite successfully with the old DEN (Denver Stapleton). Repurposing can be temping. Cities such as Detroit will soon run out of wide-open, city-owned spaces that can be offered to companies looking to build manufacturing or other commercial facilities here. A decomissioned airport can provide just the opportunity needed. But others say cities should reinvest in the airports, saying it could be an economic engine as well. (I’ll note similar questions exists for former Air Force bases as well — how is former George AFB working out, San Bernardino?) The article  notes that cities across the nation are reconsidering the value of municipal airports in the era of superjumbo jets and budget cuts. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimated the nation loses 50 public-use airports a year. Almost all are general-aviation airports, ones that cater primarily to owners of private planes, and most have operating deficits that the cities must make up for in their budgets. Detroit, for instance, faces a $1.3 million operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year for Coleman Young, which averages just 30 landings a day. The main airport for the region is Detroit Metropolitan, a Delta Air Lines hub about 20 miles west of the city limits.

Food, Medicine, and Science

Today’s lunchtime news chum post brings you three interesting recent reports related to food and medicine:

  • Artificial Sweeteners. Obesity is a growing problem in the world — although the issue should really be not the size, but the health of the individual. For the longest time, people believed that “diet” products were (a) good for you, and (b) helped you either lose or not gain weight. Increasingly, we’re believing and discovering otherwise. Specifically, a recent analysis of data from 37 studies has shown that artificial sweeteners are associated with weight gain and heart problems. After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude that there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight. And observational data suggest that the people who regularly consume these sweeteners are also more likely to develop future health problems, though those studies can’t say those problems are caused by the sweeteners.  In other words, if you are going to have something sweet, have the real sugar.
  • Carbohydrates. If you have tried to lose weight, you know how it is. Those carbs call to you. Here’s an explanation of why it is so hard to cut carbs. The answer is: Insulin. It directly links what we eat to the accumulation of excess fat and that, in turn, is tied to the foods we crave and the hunger we experience. It’s been known since the 1960s that insulin signals fat cells to accumulate fat, while telling the other cells in our body to burn carbohydrates for fuel. By this thinking these carbohydrates are uniquely fattening. As insulin levels after meals are determined largely by the carbohydrates we eat — particularly easily digestible grains and starches, known as high glycemic index carbohydrates, as well as sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup — diets based on this approach specifically target these carbohydrates. If we don’t want to stay fat or get fatter, we don’t eat them. This effect of insulin on fat and carbohydrate metabolism offers an explanation for why these same carbohydrates, are typically the foods we crave most; why a little “slip,” as addiction specialists would call it, could so easily lead to a binge.Elevate insulin levels even a little, and the body switches over from burning fat for fuel to burning carbohydrates, by necessity. In other words: The more insulin you release, the more you crave carbs.
  • Expiration Dates. We’ve all been taught to throw away stuff that is expired. Food, medicine, grandparents. If it is expired, throw it away. But it turns out, that’s really bad advice and a waste of money. Food dates rarely are true expiration dates: most are “best by” dates and the food remains perfectly fine and nutritional, and for some, the printed date can be overtaken by poor handling. A study recently released shows that medicine expiration dates are also meaningless. A cache of medicine was recently found in a hospital from the late 1960s, and it was tested for efficacy. Of the 14 drugs, 12 were as potent as when they were manufactured.  Both of these findings point to needed better rules on “expiration dates” to avoid waste and early unnecessary disposal; it also should teach you to use your common sense. Look and smell before using. You may discover it is still good.



Chum Stew: Interesting Links and News You Can Uze … and a bit more

Observation StewI’m home today with a cold, and I have loads of interesting news chum links that have no coherent theme, so let’s just get them out there (h/t to Andrew Ducker for a few of these). Oh, and with each, you’ll get a little bit more.:


Let Me Explain It To You

Continuing to clear the news chum, here are some interesting “explanations” I’ve found of late:



Interesting History

Now that the Fringe Fest is past, it is time to start clearing out the news chum (if I could just do that with the 70 backed up podcasts!). This first batch all provide some interesting histories:

  • Knitting as an Espionage Tool. This is an older article — I’ve been holding onto it for about a month. It tells the interesting story of spies that used knitting as an information hiding technique. Whether women knitted codes into fabric or used stereotypes of knitting women as a cover, there’s a history between knitting and espionage. When knitters used knitting to encode messages, the message was a form of steganography, a way to hide a message physically (which includes, for example, hiding morse code somewhere on a postcard, or digitally disguising one image within another). If the message must be low-tech, knitting is great for this; every knitted garment is made of different combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a “v”, and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump. By making a specific combination of knits and purls in a predetermined pattern, spies could pass on a custom piece of fabric and read the secret message, buried in the innocent warmth of a scarf or hat.
  • Mr. Cellophane. In a previous post, I cited an article about the transformative nature of the elevator on society. Here’s another transformative item: cellophane. It changed the way we buy food by allowing clear packaging. Cellophane packaging let food vendors manipulate the appearance of foods by controlling the amount of moisture and oxygen that touched a product, thus preventing discoloration. In turn, it led to the rise of the self-service store. In a similar vein is plastic. We often think of gasoline and cars when we look at the impact of oil, but there’s an even bigger impact in oil-based plastic. Just imagine a world where there is no plastic. No plastic for food, gloves, medical equipment, insulation, packaging. It’s scary.
  • Hawaiian Pizza. It seems simple doesn’t it: Canadian Bacon and Pineapple on a pizza. It’s heresy to some. But someone had to come up with the idea, and here’s the story of the invention of said pizza. You have tiki culture to thank. According to Atlas Obscura, the rise of tiki culture, as troops returning from the South Pacific after serving in World War II, and the influence of American Chinese food were crucial to inspiring the creator, who sought to unite the sweet and the savory — a mission that ended in him dumping a can of pineapple on a pizza pie.
  • Yellow Cars. When you think of trolley cars and Los Angeles, I’m sure you think of the Red Cars — the cars made famous in Roger Rabbit — the cars that a “conspiracy” supposedly killed (truth: that’s an urban legend). But the Red Cars weren’t the only system. Here’s an article on LA’s narrow-gauge Yellow Car system. As opposed to the interurban Pacific Electric, the Los Angeles Railway provided quick, local service in downtown L.A. and nearby communities. For decades, the Yellow Cars’ bells rang as far west as La Brea Avenue and as far north as Eagle Rock, and the trolleys serviced neighborhoods from East Los Angeles to Hawthorne. Though their reach was shorter than that of the fabled Red Cars, the Yellow Cars carried roughly twice as many riders—at its peak in 1924, the Los Angeles Railway served 255.6 million passengers, and the Pacific Electric only 100.9 million.
  • Beauty Remains. Yes, this is SFW. Here’s an interesting little bit of history, wherein Playboy cover girls recreate their iconic covers 30 or more so years on. Guess what? A beautiful woman remains beautiful.
  • Boyle Heights. Lastly, there is currently an exhibition in the Boyle Heights neighborhood celebrating its Jewish history. I’ve been learning this history of late, and it is really fascinating — and it shows the impact of Yiddishists and Workers Movements on the Jewish Community of LA.

Chum to Chew On

The last few weeks have been busy, what with getting the highway page updates done, planning for the Fringe Festival, and assorted craziness at home. The chum has been accumulating, so let’s start clearing it out. This first batch is all food related — a common theme, if you hadn’t noticed:

  • Defining a Sandwich. A few months ago, the Sporkful podcast introduced the debate of whether a hot dog is a sandwich.  That opened the question of what makes a sandwich a sandwich, and is our opener to this batch of chum. First, there is the sandwich alignment chart, rating your view of sandwiches on two dimensions: structure and ingredients.  I tend to go for radical sandwich anarchy, but I don’t know how well that plays in this administration. Of course, you could instead turn to the law, and look at the five ways the law defines a sandwich. This can have big tax ramifications when sandwiches are taxed differently than other foods. For example, California considers hot dogs to be sandwiches. So would New York — anything on a bread like product is a sandwich. But the USDA is stricter: two slices of bread are required.
  • Do You Like It Hard. Sandwiches, of course, bring us to tacos. Here, the question is not not whether tacos are sandwiches, but whether hard-shell tacos are real tacos or a gringo aberration. The New York Times tries to make the case for hard shell tacos: Do they have their place? Are they just folded tostadas? Something to appeal to the middle-of-the-road? Something to bring the family together? All I know is that there are times a good hard-shell taco is what I want.
  • Ringing a Bell. Tacos and Mexican food bring us to the fruit that I dread: the bell pepper. Can’t stand the taste. The aroma. The indigestion it causes. So, naturally, an infographic on the chemistry of bell peppers caught my attention. It looks at the compounds behind the colors (as well as some pepper aroma chemistry) – and finds that peppers have some extraordinary chemistry to thank for some of their hues. Peppers start off green, which unsurprisingly is due to the presence of chlorophyll pigments. These are vital for photosynthesis in plants, and actually come in two subtly different forms, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. As the pepper ripens, these chlorophyll pigments start to decompose, and other types of pigments start to take their place. All of the different colours of peppers that follow green are due to the presence of carotenoid pigments.
  • Making a Mold. Leave your peppers in the refrigerator too long, and you end up with mold. Have you ever wondered about the different molds you see on food? Why can you cut off some, but not others? Are any safe to eat? Here’s an interesting science article on all the different molds you see on your food, including those black specs on your apples or grapes.
  • Doughnut Boxes. If you live in Southern California, you’re familiar with pink doughnut boxes. But why does SoCal have pink doughnut boxes? The answer: Cambodian Doughnut Shops. According to lore, a Cambodian doughnut shop owner asked a local supply shop some four decades ago if there were any cheaper boxes available other than the standard white cardboard. So the company found leftover pink cardboard stock and formed a 9-by-9-by-4-inch container with four semicircle flaps to fold together. To this day, people in the business refer to the box as the “9-9-4.”
  • Valley Food. One big problem in Los Angeles is that people often look down on the San Fernando Valley. All these lists of restaurants that EaterLA loves to put out just have a few token valley dines, and rarely off of Ventura Blvd. That’s what makes this  list of 12 valley favorites so interesting. Most I would agree with, but I would eschew Hogly-Woglys for Mom’s at Vanowen and Hazeltine. I’d also eschew anything at the Village at Topanga: I’m sorry, but the modern take on a mall is far too new for anything to be a favorite.  EaterLA’s contribution to this is their list of 25 essential cheap eats in LA. I love cheap eats — I started la.eats back in the early Usenet days to talk about cheap dive restaurants, of which the first was the original Versailles in Venice. Of course, Eater  only lists 3 places in the valley; one of which is on the first list as well (Saj). I will have to try their chicken place in Northridge. Of course, Mom’s belongs on the cheap eats as well.



Tea Time 2017

As I’m down to my last tin of tea, other than my large tin of Iranian Ceylon, it is time to do another tea order. My last order was in July 2015, so it has almost been 2 years. Again, the bulk of the order is from Upton Tea (who has great varietals), except for one tea that they are out of. Here’s what I’m ordering this time (as before, teas shown with 🍵 are new this year; ☕ indicates repeats from 2015; ☕☕ indicates repeats from 2013; ☕☕☕ repeats from 2012):

  1. TD06: Orthodox BOP Darjeeling.  🍵 The best value in Darjeeling tea. Broken leaf Darjeeling is often overlooked, either because the price is so reasonable or because too much value is placed on a more stylish leaf. This flavorful BOP blend offers a great cup at a very attractive price. $8.25/125g.
  2. TD50: No.1 Tippy Orthodox GFOP Darjeeling. ☕☕ An exceptional golden tip Darjeeling blend. We first introduced this tea in 1990 and it continues to be our most popular Darjeeling. $9.75/125g.
  3. TA20: Tippy Orthodox FBOP Assam. 🍵 A uniform, broken-leaf tea with bold character and strong, malty flavor. This tea is a great choice for breakfast and throughout the day. $6.50/100g.
  4. TA27: Halmari CTC BOP. 🍵 A bold CTC style tea with rich flavor. The dark liquor will readily take milk. Especially suited as a bracing morning tea. $6.25/125g.
  5. TP12: Premium China Keemun. ☕☕ Often called the burgundy of China teas, this North China Congou is rich, flavorful and appropriate for any time of day. We offer this as our basic Keemun, although it is in the middle range of the standard series. $6.50/125g.
  6. ZG20: First Grade Gunpowder Green. ☕☕☕ Superior grade of green tea in the style of gunpowder teas (tightly rolled tea leaves resembling gunpowder pellets). $5.75/125g.
  7. ZG14: Young Hyson Imperial Organic.☕ This organic tea has the bold flavor of a high-fired tea, yet it has a pleasing smoothness with delicate sweetness. The thin, well-twisted leaves produce a liquor with a pale green color. This is a very popular style of China green tea with a bolder leaf. $6.00/100g.
  8. ZM44: Osmanthus Oolong Se Chung. 🍵 Se Chung Oolong, naturally scented with osmanthus flowers. The flavorful, aromatic cup has a full body, with hints of ripe fruit. The finish is sweet and lingering. $7.60/125g
  9. TB49: Darjeeling-Ceylon Iced Tea Blend. ☕☕☕ Half whole-leaf Darjeeling and half OP Ceylon. A great hot tea as well! The brewing information provided is for making an iced tea concentrate. $7.00/125g.
  10. TB15: Java Blend. ☕☕ A rich breakfast blend especially suited for those who enjoy a powerful cup in the morning. This also is a great choice for iced tea. Java teas are never expensive, so you get the best produced for a few cents a cup. $5.75/125g.
  11. TK12: Rukeri Estate Rwanda BOP Organic 🍵 The cup has a full flavor and aroma, with a medium body. May be enjoyed plain, but it is strong enough to accommodate a touch of milk. Longer steepings yield a robust cup with notes of rose and peppery hints. At briefer steepings, the liquor is sweeter and more delicate. $6.50/125g.
  12. TC05: Ceylon BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe). ☕☕ A choice blend of regional Ceylons. [Note: Both TN05 ☕ and TN10 🍵 were out of stock]. $6.00/125g.
  13. TC88: St. James Estate BOP. 🍵 This broken-leaf tea yields an aromatic, bright-coppery cup. The full-bodied liquor is pleasantly pungent and is accentuated with mellow wintergreen notes. $6.00/125g
  14. TB02: Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend. ☕ A tribute to the famous London tea auctions, our Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend is a blend of two classic British teas: a brisk Ceylon and a thick, malty Assam. The result is a flavorful mixture which lends itself to the addition of milk. $6.50/125g.
  15. TB05: Mincing Lane Breakfast Blend. ☕☕☕ For this blend, we paired a hearty Assam with a smooth and flavorful Yunnan, for a cup that is highly enjoyable. The invigorating liquor has a full mouth feel, subtle spicy notes, and a lingering aftertaste. While milk is recommended, it is enjoyable plain. $8.75/125g.
  16. TB14: Scottish Breakfast Blend. ☕☕ Blended to appeal to those who favor an eye-opening experience in the morning, this tea yields a cup with a round, full flavor, malty notes, and brisk character. A perfect choice to start the day. $6.25/125g.
  17. TB30: Kensington Breakfast Blend. 🍵 A bit lighter than our River Shannon Blend, this English Breakfast style tea is a rich blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Keemun. Best with milk. $7.00/125g
  18. TB75: Baker Street Afternoon Blend. ☕☕ A bit of Lapsang Souchong is blended with Keemun and Darjeeling, yielding a mildly smoky tea. Perfect for an afternoon uplift. Another special (whole-leaf) blend from our London source of fine teas. $8.25/125g.
  19. TB86: Richmond Park Blend. ☕ A mellow, whole-leaf blend of Keemun, Ceylon, and Darjeeling. An exceptional tea which is smooth enough for drinking plain, and sturdy enough to take milk or lemon. From our London blender. $8.25/125g.
  20. TE85: Creme Caramel. ☕☕ Pieces of caramel are added to a black tea from Sri Lanka to create a delicious blend with a mild, creamy aroma and sweet caramel flavor. Enjoyable on cold days, and throughout the seasons. This is a bolder leaf version of our former TE86.This product contains dairy. $6.25/125g.

A number of teas that I wanted — TF25/Wild Cherry 🍵, TF90/Vanilla ☕, TE45/Midsummer Dream ☕☕, and TE21/Monk’s Blend ☕☕☕ — were unavailable. I’ll find another source for those. Additionally, I ordered the following for my wife:

  1. TC64: Victorian Brew BOP1. 🍵 This uniquely named Ceylon offering produces a liquor that has a mildly spicy, sweet aroma with citrus hints. The flavor is rich and smooth with notes of honey and biscuit as well as a hint of cherry. The lingering finish has refreshing citrus-like hints. $6.80/100g
  2. TE13: Chocolate Earl Grey. 🍵 A premium black tea combining the popular tastes of bergamot and chocolate with a hint of lemon. Decorated with flower petals and lemon peel for a delightful presentation.This product contains soy.
  3. TE94: Mélange de Chamonix. ☕☕ Fine India tea is blended with cocoa, cardamom, and a hint of cinnamon to produce a balanced and warming cup. A delicate treat for any chocolate or tea lover. $10.75/125g.
  4. TE90: Christmas Tea; Mélange Noël. 🍵. A blend of black tea with cloves, vanilla and cardamom. Decorated with citrus peel, rose petals and almond pieces.This product contains tree nuts (almonds). $7.25/125g.

Again, we had some out of stocks: TE35/Hearthside Chai Tea.

For the missing teas, I searched around and found Pittsburgh Tea, from where I ordered:

  1. Monk’s Blend Tea loose tea. Medium bodied and flavoury with piquant Ceylon character. Blended with natural flavor oils of vanilla and grenadine, which impart a smooth and unique heavenly flavor. $6.99/.25 lb
  2. Vanilla Black Tea. Black tea, Calendula & Sunflower petals, and Natural flavors. $6.99/.25 lb.
  3. Cherry Black Tea. This premium Ceylon tea flavored with summer cherries is treat for any Chekhov fans musing in their cherry orchard. Lovely candied cherry aroma, juicy flavor and slightly dry finish. If you’ve never read Chekhov, it doesn’t have a happy ending. If you’d never tried our Cherry Black tea, it’ll make up for it. $6.99/.25 lb.

Hopefully, Pittsburgh Tea is just temporary and the needed items will come back into stock at Upton. For reference, here are some links to even older tea orders: 2012 (Franklin Tea (which, alas, closed in 2015), Stash Tea, Upton Tea), 2011 (Franklin Tea, Stash Tea), 2010 (Special Teas (which was owned by, and later merged into, Teavana, and of course Teavana was later purchased by Starbucks), Stash Tea, Franklin Tea), 2009 (Stash Tea), 2008 (Franklin Tea, Stash Tea, Surfas, Lupicia, Teavana), 2007 (Stash Tea), 2006 #2 (Stash Tea), 2006 #1 (Stash Tea, Adagio Tea), and 2004 (Stash Tea).



Mostly Pesach

Some more clearing out of the news chum. This collection is mostly Pesach (Passover) Related, with a few articles at the end that are more peripheral: