Friday News Chum: Bad Food, Drive by Wire, Flying Saucers, Newsweek, and Maps

Well, it’s Friday*, and you know that that means… time to clear out the links. This has been a quiet week for news, other than the debate (and I’m a bit disappointed that no one has commented on my debate post that addressed what I wished the candidates would have said — I know, it was probably “TL;DR”, but still…). Still, I was able to find a few articles of miscellaneous interest:
(*: I know, it’s not lunch, but it’s a vacation day… so deal)

  • What’s For Dinner. An interesting blog in the LA Weekly takes a look at the Top 5 Things Restaurants Should Never Serve. These are not trends that have worn out their welcome. They are things that should never have happened in the first place. Number 1 on the list: Truffle Oil on Food. Quoth the article:

    “It has an acrid flavor that tastes like a synthetic, ramped-up version of the real thing and also kind of like someone poured mushroomy chemical all over your food. It’s a cop-out of the highest order as well: a way to make food seem sexy without actually doing anything to that food to make it taste better. It’s the fake boobs of food.”

  • Drive By Wire. One of the advances in airplane technology that had many people scared a few years ago was fly-by-wire. This was why many people would never fly Airbus at later model Boeing. Basically, fly-by-wire removes the physical connection between the driver and the wheels. Well, folks, it is coming to cars. According to an article on Nissan moving to driverless cars, they have developed two new technologies. The first is a system that will automatically steer the car away from another vehicle or a pedestrian crossing into its path if it detects the driver’s failure to do so. The car uses sensors not only to see the incoming object, but also to make sure the lane your car will swerve into is clear. That capability isn’t ready for prime-time yet. The other system. Quoth the article:

    “To give the autonomous steering system complete and immediate control of the car’s steering, the mechanical linkage between the steering wheel itself and the front wheels needed to be removed and replaced with an all-electric system. This setup reads your inputs via the steering wheel and transmits them to the front wheels electronically, thus making the steering more immediate to your commands. Essentially, the only connection between your hands and the front wheels are wires and computers (don’t worry, Nissan says the system has plenty of redundancies built in).”

  • Mars Attacks. Now, I found it funny that this article was on Fox News, home of paranoid conspiracy theories and paranoid conspirators.  Basically, a government report has been unearthed that shows the US government attempted to build flying saucers. Well, actually, they contracted with the Canadians to build them, and they weren’t flying saucers but VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) devices, but they looked like flying saucers. Specifically, the disk-shaped craft (complete with an ejector seat and “ram jet” power) was designed to reach a top speed of Mach 4 and reach a ceiling of more than 100,000 feet, according to the “Project 1794, Final Development Summary Report”, dated 1956. The reported noted that the device didn’t work as hoped, wobbling uncontrollably (and you know that the US goverment just hated the Wobblies). Of course, Fox News just had to note:

    “After all, the Air Force dubbed it Project 1794 — rearrange those numbers and you’ll get 1947, the year of the Roswell incident.”

  • The End of an Era. Yesterday, the news was abuzz with the fact that Newsweek was ending its run as a printed magazine. This makes me a bit sad. I started subscribing to Newsweek back when I was in high school (as my dad subscribed to Time), and I maintained the subscription until two years ago. At that point, I dropped the subscription in favor of my Time subscription, because Newsweek had gone from being a weekly newsmagazine to a collection of in-depth, dated articles. So, although sad, I’m not surprised at all. Newsweek isn’t what it once was. LA Observed opines that Newsweek should have just been put out of its misery, quoting a Reuters article:

    “Instead, Newsweek is going to have to suffer a painful and lingering death. There’s no way that first-rate journalists are going to have any particular desire to write for this doomed and little-read publication, especially if their work is stuck behind a paywall. At the margin, it will certainly be better to work for the Beast than for Newsweek: the supposedly “premium” arm will in reality be the bit which smells like old age and irrelevance. It’s not going to work. So, really. Why even bother?”

  • Maps. I Must Have Maps. It appears that a large cache of folding and wall maps have just been donated to the LA Library. We’re talking on the order of tens of thousands of maps, if not more. The detailed article on the find describes some of what was there: There’s a 1956 pictorial map of Lubbock, Texas. A 1942 Jack Renie Street Guide of Los Angeles. Four of the first Thomas Bros. guides from 1946. An atlas-sized 1918 National Map Co.’s “Official Paved Road” guide to the United States.  The acquisition will give the city library one of the country’s top five library map archives, behind the Library of Congress and public libraries in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. Cataloging and organizing the maps will take as long as a year. The collection will take up about 600 feet of shelving. Here’s a description of what they found when they stepped into the house:

    “Stashed everywhere in the 948-square-foot tear-down were maps. Tens of thousands of maps. Fold-out street maps were stuffed in file cabinets, crammed into cardboard boxes, lined up on closet shelves and jammed into old dairy crates. Wall-size roll-up maps once familiar to schoolchildren were stacked in corners. Old globes were lined in rows atop bookshelves also filled with maps and atlases. A giant plastic topographical map of the United States covered a bathroom wall and bookcases displaying Thomas Bros. map books and other street guides lined a small den. […] Volunteer Peter Hauge was startled when he moved an old stereo. “Look at this!” he shouted. “He gutted the insides of the stereo of its electronic components and used the box to store more street maps. The front of the stereo still has the knobs.” After that, Hauge said he made a point to inspect the home’s washer and dryer and its refrigerator and oven for more stored maps, but found none.”

Music: Abbey Road (The Beatles): “Something”