And a second helping of the same…

Observation StewWe have so much news chum stew for you this week we couldn’t fit it all in a single bowl. So here’s a second tasty helping:

  • Subways in the Water. Those of you who know Los Angeles history probably remember the pictures of the Red Cars being dumped in the ocean. New York has done the same thing, but for good purpose. The subway cars are being transformed into a new coral reef. I often wonder what archeologists of future generations — possibly non-human — will make of things like this. What stories will they invent of civilizations living underwater that just left their subway cars. Then again, I wonder similar things about the archeogists who will find a collection of human bones at the bottom of the Indian Ocean together with the remains of MH370. What stories they will tell.
  • Giving It Away. I have a wife that is a crafter. Is there a support group for us? Here are two articles of interest to those whose spouses or loved ones are yarn crafters: they address seven charities, and then an additional nine charities, that are looking for the output from yarn crafters.
  • It’s Always Christmas Time for Visa. Recently, it was announced that Costco was terminating their relationship with Amex in 2016. They just announced the replacement: a new agreement with Citibank for a Costco-branded Citibank Visa. It looks like there will be similar perks, and that the Amex accounts will be transferred to the new card. It should be an interesting transition.
  • Microsoft Free for Students. If you’re a student, this article is of interest. Microsoft wants you to have a free subscription to Office 365 for as long as you are a student (after that, you pay). What is more interesting here is the model, not the product. We are moving away from the days when you bought your software product. We’re moving to the antivirus model, with an annual license fee. Much more lucrative, and much harder to get away from. Then again, one can always use the free LibreOffice or OpenOffice.
  • Music in the Cloud. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m an iPod Classic person. I’m coming up on 36,000 songs in my iPod. I’ve heard of a 40,000 song limit, but I’m more inclined to believe it is space-based, not song count. But in the cloud, there are song count limits. That’s one reason I’ve never used iTunes Match. They have a 25,000 song limit and no way to increase it. That’s useless for me — I’d want to be able to store more songs in the cloud than I can store on my device. So I was intrigued when I learned that Google Play has a 50,000 song limit. Of course, that would still involve uploading gigs of music to Google Play, and then having to deal with data use to stream it. I think I’ll stick with my iPod until I find a non-streaming solution.
  • Another One Bites the Dust. We’re going to Vegas in April — which will permit us with one last visit to the Riviera. Alas, the Riv is closing in May, and coming down by the summer to be replaced with an extension of the convention center. This doesn’t leave much of 1950’s Vegas on the strip — all that is left are the two-story wings at the Tropicana, and they aren’t going to be long for this world. Most of the original hotels are gone in both name and building; the only one that is left has none of the original buildings. We’ve still got a bit of 1960s Vegas around, from the Circus Circus tents to the core of the International (now Westgate), but the mob era is truly dead.
  • Will He Come Back? News reports surfaced this week that Ed Snowden was willing to come back to the US if he could have a fair and impartial trial. He thinks the espionage act is outdated. What he doesn’t realize is that he can’t avoid the fact that he broke the law, even if there was a positive benefit. Look at the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” (remember “Inherit the Wind”). Gil Cates was found guilty, and rightfully so, of breaking the law of the time — even though he was speaking the truth. Snowden may have exposed abuses of the government, but that doesn’t absolve him of the fact that he broke the law by releasing classified information into the open, and that he endangered the lives of operatives and increased the risk to this country (even while alerting the country to other risks). This is an example of how you can be both wrong and right at the same time.
  • Boardgaming in Berkeley. A year or so back, I participated in the kickstarter that helped open Game Haus, a boardgaming cafe in Glendale. I don’t get over there as often as I like — primarily because their parking is horrible — but it is a great idea. So great, in fact, that a boardgaming cafe is opening in Berkeley. It should be open by late summer.
  • But Is It Better? For as long as I’ve been working in El Segundo, the 405 has been under construction. Here’s one last article, which posits that the 405 congestion relief project that just completed has been a bust. As someone who commutes the 405 daily, I’m of more of a mixed opinion — and I don’t think all the results are in yet. Note that I’m talking of perspectives of my commute window — about 6am in the morning, about 4pm in the evening. I think things are a little better in the evening, simply because I don’t see the 405 backing up as far as it did before. Before the project, the 405 was regularly backed up to LaTijera. Now it doesn’t start slowing down until National. What is worse, however, is congestion across the valley floor — which used to be wide open. I blame this more on the completion of the HOV lanes on the 5 and the construction around the 5/405 interchange. Southbound has gotten worse for some reason, and I haven’t figured that one out yet. Good thing I’m sleeping for that drive.