Headlines About California Highways – January 2018

Ah, a new year. But what a start, with floods in Montecito on top of the recent fires. Let’s look at the headlines, shall we?

  • SR 67 tunnel would potentially connect trails throughout county. A vision hatched nearly three years ago to create an interconnected trail system that stretches across much of the county is inching ahead with a recent vote of the Poway City Council. Officials agreed to fund the creation of designs for a pedestrian tunnel that would be built beneath state Route 67 just north of the intersection of Poway Road and the highway. The designs, which will cost the city $22,000, with half that amount being reimbursed by the county, would then be submitted as part of a state grant application.
  • Sacramento Road Sign in Ocean City to be Updated. For a westbound driver on U.S. Route 50 departing Ocean City, it’s a long road ahead, according to a green highway sign than hangs near the Harry Kelley Bridge. But the cross-country trip to California may not be as long as the sign indicates.
  • The Harse Beauty and Banality of the 110-105 Interchange. The 110-105 interchange holds a unique place in the psyche of Los Angeles. I’ve always called it The Cathedral, because it feels like you’re inside one when you’re driving under the towering, chapel-like crests of the ramps connecting the highways. The sounds of speeding engines in trucks and cars amplify against the network of massive concrete pillars sustaining the bridges, so it almost sounds like voices singing from a hymnal.
  • Golden Gate Bridge gets security upgrade in past year. The Golden Gate Bridge this year has undergone a tightening of security, prompted by terrorism, suicides and two interlopers who made their way to the top of the span in the dead of night.
  • Caltrans: Rising Waters From Climate Change Will Endanger Bay Area Freeways. A new Caltrans study released Wednesday revealed the havoc rising water levels in the San Francisco Bay caused by climate change could create on Bay Area roadways. It is the first of 12 studies Caltrans will conduct — one for each of its regions — as the transportation agency begins to plan for the future impact of climate change

Read More …

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Thoughts on a Theatre Season: Pantages 2018-2019

This morning, the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2018/2019 season. My predictions were pretty damn close. Here’s what I was predicting, from my last review post:

Speaking of show mixes: The Ahmanson has added Ain’t Too Proud, a musical on the Temptations, to their 2018/2019 season, and they still have two shows to announce (see the end of the paragraph). It is looking even more likely that we’ll add that subscription, if we can get the cheap seats. As for the Pantages, they announce on Tuesday. As I wrote in my Aladdin writeup: We already know that Dear Even HansenCome From AwayFalsettos, and The Play That Goes Wrong will be going to the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). What does that leave for the Pantages, as they don’t produce their own. Here are my guesses: BandstandAnastasia, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are highly likely; so is the Miss Saigon revival. So would Groundhog Day, except they just cancelled their tour. If A Bronx Tale had announced a tour, it would also be likely. Ditto for Hello Dolly. Lesser possibilities are Amazing Grace, or A Night with Janis Joplin. In terms of potential retreads, I could see them bringing in the current Les Miz tour, and possibly the Fiddler on the Roof,  Lion King or Wicked tours, if they are still on the road. Also known to be going on tour/on tour, and thus possibilities for retreads, are Cats and Phantom, as they will draw in crowds and haven’t been in LA recently. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 has announced a tour, but I think the Pantages is too large for them. I could see them doing the Ahmanson. As for the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), which has two slots to announce, I predict that one will be a show in development, and the other will either be Natasha, Pierre, … , or some form of dance or ballet, like the Matthew Bourne stuff that they’ve done recently.

2018-2019 Pantages Season AnnouncementSo, what did the Pantages announce? You can see their graphic to the right. Here are my thoughts on the shows:

  • 👍 Hello Dolly. I hadn’t heard this was going on tour, but I thought that if it did, it would end up here. I haven’t seen this on the big stage; I think I saw a regional production in Atascadero once. So I’m looking forward to this. It will be interesting to see who they get to headline the tour, as this tends to be a star vehicle.
  • 👍 A Bronx Tale. Again, I hadn’t seen a tour announcement, but if it did, the Pantages was a likely home. I’ve heard the music from this and it is quite good.
  • 👍 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I predicted this one. Looking forward to seeing it, even though it got weak reviews in New York.
  • 👍 Miss Saigon. Again, I predicted this one. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this on the stage, so I’m looking forward to this.
  • 👍 Fiddler on the Roof. I predicted this was a possibility, so again, I got it right. On the original Broadway production, my daughter actually toured Eastern Europe on Yiddishkeyt with the actor performing Mottel. I haven’t seen Fiddler on the stage in ages, so I’m looking forward to this.
  • 😐 Cats. Again, I indicated this was on tour and a possibility for a retread. I saw it when it was at the Shubert in Century City ages ago, as well as a good regional mounting at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) quite a few years ago. I don’t mind seeing this again — it’s a great dance show.
  • 😐 Les Miserables. Another show that I indicated was a possibility. I saw this quite a few years ago when a tour hit the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, but I’m somewhat lukewarm.

What I found interesting was that neither Anastasia or Bandstand ended up at the Pantages; I really thought Anastasia would be a Pantages show. Either of these could end up in one of the unannounced slots at the Ahmanson; it is less likely that both would (but one never knows). Additionally, reflecting on things, I think that if Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 does go on tour, it would end up either at the Mark Taper Forum or another theatre that would be willing to adapt to their immersive staging (perhaps the Pasadena Playhouse, or a theatre on Broadway). For the following season, there are a number of shows from the current Broadway season that are likely to show up: Escape to MargaritavilleThe Band’s VisitSpongebob Squarepants, and many others.

 

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A Lunchtime Rant: Ohm on the Range

userpic=divided-nationEarlier today, a politically conservative friend of mine posted the following cartoon from Legal Insurrection:

Sourced from https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/01/branco-cartoon-love-trumps-hate/
 

My initial reaction is the situation pictured will be about as successful as the “Hate Obama/Clinton” strategy was for the Republicans in 2016.

I’ll let that sink in a minute.

But seriously, the picture highlighted a problem and perception that I have with our progressive, resistance movement. Far too many of us are just as knee-jerk in our hatred of Trump as the Conservative side was of Obama. Look at the memes from groups like Occupy Democrats making fun of Trump. Look at the posts on Pantsuit Nation with people in fear of Trump. As you read memes from our progressive groups, ask yourself if they are the same types of memes you might be seeing from the Conservative side against Obama or Hillary. Hell, you’re still seeing them from that side against Hillary.

An aside to any Conservative reading this: We’ve given up on Hillary; you should too, and let her fade back into the historical record.

We are better than that. I like to think that liberals and progressives are well educated and critical thinkers (which is why we’re liberals and progressives). I like to think that we have in-depth knowledge of the issues; that we take the time to learn the nuances and complications before we tweet. We shouldn’t need to sink to sophomoric name calling, fat shaming, slut shaming, ad hominem attacks, and all the other silliness that I see.

The issues in the upcoming elections are critical not only to our nation, but to the world. They are complicated issues — health care, climate change, treatment of women and minorities, religious freedom, equality, economic class warfare, and much more. I like to believe we have the better positions. I like to believe that we can represent and discussion those positions, and win based on the strength of our arguments — even in the face of conspiracy theorists. Certainly, in a fact based discussion, we can demolish Trump’s position and expose them for what they really are, and who they do and do not benefit.

If our platform for 2018 and beyond is simply hatred of Donald Trump, we’ve lost. We’ve let partisanship eclipse our intelligence and common sense. Let’s win the upcoming election season not by dropping down to the level of hatred, but by rising up to the level of intelligent political discourse where we take the time to listen to the other side, and use our intelligence and critical thinking to refute their arguments and to convince them of the correctness of our positions.

Hatred never wins. Well, except when you manipulate the electoral college and district boundaries.

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Organized Confusion | “Pirates of Penzance” @ Pasadena Playhouse

Pirates of Penzance (Pasadena Playhouse)I’ve enjoyed the music and the story of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s The Pirates of Penzance ever since I saw the Los Angeles production of the New York Shakespeare Festival version in 1981, with Pam Dawber, Andy Gibb, Barry Bostwick, and Jo Anne Worley in the roles made famous in New York by Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, Kevin Kline, and Estelle Parsons. I’ve listened to the New York cast album of that show until it was etched in my brain. So when I learned that the The Pasadena Playhouse (FB) was presenting Pirates, my interest was peaked — peaked enough to overcome a slight bias I’ve had against going to the Playhouse since the bankruptcy in 2010 and the style of the Sheldon Epps era (note: this wasn’t against the few shows I’ve seen; more against just getting tickets and potentially subscribing). So I started exploring tickets…

… and I quickly discovered that, just as the NYSF version of Pirates was very much unlike your father’s D’Oyly Carte operetta ; this version of Pirates was going to be very much unlike my generation’s NYSF version. Oh, the basic story was the same, but the staging — it was staging for a non-traditional generation. This was made clear when booking tickets, and I learned that this wasn’t a proscenium show (and the Playhouse is a proscenium theatre). This show was being advertised as a beach party; all of the traditional seats in the theatre were not being used. The action would take place in the audience, and there would be seating in and around the stage, with bleachers around the action. What?!?!?!?‽‽‽ Totally unsure of where I might be sitting, we booked tickets in what was being called the Promenade. We even got tickets with a seat number and everything. You can see the warped seating chart a little lower down in this writeup. The top is the back of the actual stage; the bottom is the entrance to the auditorium.

We saw the show yesterday afternoon, and discovered what they had done to the theatre. They had erected a platform over most of the normal seating and the stage. There were bleachers on the side and on the stage, with a dock structure and a raised platform with a kiddie pool over what would be approximately rows L-N of the audience. There was a tiki bar serving drinks throughout the show, and a few benches surrounding ball pits filled with beach balls. The atmosphere was fun and frivolity, and … yes … this was a beach party. That “Promenade” seat? Those seats were around and on the stage — yes, you could sit anywhere that wasn’t a formal seat with a back.  On a bench. On the dock. On the floor. In a kiddie pool. You just had to be prepared for an actor to point and you and move you out of the way, and you could just go and sit anywhere else. It was organized mayhem, unlike anything I’ve ever seen at the Pasadena Playhouse (which is normally quite staid) — and almost unlike anything I’ve seen in any other theatre (we’ll we did sit on the stage in La Mirada’s Carrie, but that was very different). During the show, the actors were in and around you, standing directly in front of you, interacting with the audience, playing with the kids, making audience part of the actors at times. Before the show, they were wandering around, playing all sorts of songs (including TMBG), and throwing balls at the audience, and generally having a fun time.

Pirates Seating ChartSo as the show started we had no idea what to expect. We were sitting on a bench next to a ball pit near the dock (essentially, just to the right of the words “The Dock” on the image to your right, near the L of the dock). There are times we moved. There are times the performers were right next to us. It was non-traditional, and it was a hoot.

The performance itself stuck to the traditional Pirates narrative; which is summarized in a shorter form here; and which R&H licensing summarizes as “When the hero of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE was but a boy, his father instructed his nurse to have him apprenticed as a pilot. She thought he said ‘pirate’ and thus the zany troubles began.” Some songs were converted to recitative; and of course the songs added from other shows for the NYSF version weren’t there. The performance ran just about 80 minutes, with one one-minute (yes, one-minute) intermission. There were a few interpolations of modern songs that worked really, really well.

This truly was organized, improvised, mayhem. But the best mayhem is well-planned, and so credit here goes to Sean Graney (FB), the director (and artistic director of The Hypocrites (FB), who developed this show); Andra Velis Simon (FB), the musical director; Katie Spelman (FB), the choreographer; Miranda Anderson (FB); the production stage manager; and Nikki Hyde (FB), the assistant stage manager. I include the latter two because they were on stage, dressed as life-guards, making sure the action went where it was supposed to go. This team kept the show on focus and moving forward, in and around the great distraction that an unpredictable audience could be.

As for the actors, they had an even harder job, for they were also the orchestra — using almost any instrument you can think of. Guitars, banjos, ukuleles (I don’t think a ukulele has been on stage at the Playhouse since Radio Gals in 1992), spoons, clarinets, flutes, mandolins, fiddles, saws, accordions …. you get the idea. There was also sharing of roles: the actress playing Mabel also played Ruth, and both the daughters and the pirates, at times, became the police officers. The cast consisted of Doug Pawlik (FB) [Freddy]; Shawn Pfatsch [Pirate King, Major GeneralUS]; Matt Kahler (FB) [Major General]; Dana Omar (FB) [Ruth / Mabel]; Leslie Ann Sheppard (★FBFB); [Daughter, Ruth/MabelUS]; Amanda Raquel Martinez [Daughter]; Tina Muñoz-Pandya (FB[Daughter]; Lauren Vogel (FB) [Pirate]; Mario Aivazian (FB) [Pirate, Pirate KingUS, FreddyUS]; and Eduardo Xavier Curley-Carrillo (FB) [Pirate]. All of them were great and clearly having the time of their life (and loving the interaction with the audience). A few notes and thoughts: Pawlik gave Freddy just the right amount of youthful naivete and bravado to make things work; Pfatsch kept evoking Bostwick/Kline in my head, but he played with the role in a very different way that was a joy to see. Kahler handled Modern Major General well, and I loved the interstitial from the daughter. I liked Omar’s dual characterization and her switching back and forth; she had a lovely voice — plus, she played the banjo and the accordion — a skill that will earn her tens and tens of dollars (and she better keep her car locked). The daughters were cute (especially with the moustaches), and I wish I had known that Sheppard was a knitter (my wife had her knitting there). Of the pirates, my eye was drawn to Vogel both for her voice and musical skills, as well as how she was having fun playing with her role. But all of these actors were just great and a joy to watch.

I’ll also note that this is one of the few productions I’ve seen at the Playhouse that didn’t have a 100% Equity cast; I don’t know if they are getting Equity cards from this show. AEA is a bit controversial here in Los Angeles with what they did to the intimate theatre scene, and I’m hearing rumblings they are going after membership companies next (with plans to have local minimum wage laws take precedence over AEA agreements/codes). I’m glad I’m not an actor trying to decide what to do about my union.

Finally, turning to the technical and production side: Tom Burch‘s scenic design transformed the Playhouse, and was remarkably inventive with the docks, benches, pools, and everything else. I can’t think of a similar transformation of the venue in all the years we were there (going back to 1989). Incredible. This worked well with Maria DeFabo Akin (FB)’s properties design — not only all the beach balls and other set accouterments, but clever little tricks to signal characters, the cigarette holders, the rubber ducks, and such. Also supporting this was Alison Siple (FB)’s costume design; no credits were provided for the wig design that transformed Mabel. From down where we sat, Kevin O’Donnell (FB)’s sound design worked well; the LA Times indicated there might be a sound problem in the rafters of the bleachers. We didn’t see that. Heather Gilbert (FB)’s lighting design established the mood well. This version of Pirates was adapted by Sean Graney (FB), and co-adapted by Kevin O’Donnell (FB). Other credits: Joe Will [General Manager]; Chris Cook [Production Manager]; Brad Enlow (FB) [Technical Director]; and Davidson & Choy Publicity (FB) [Press Representative]Pirates of Penzance was presented/produced by The Pasadena Playhouse (FB) , Danny Feldman (Producing Artistic Director) in association with The Hypocrites (FB).

Pirates of Penzance has been extended at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB), now closing on February 25. Tickets are available through the Playhouse box office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar, TodayTix, or LA Stage Tix. This show is a lot of fun and you’ll have a wonderful time — just don’t expect your father’s stuffy old theatre. Bring the kids and they’ll have a lot of fun as well — it is a great introduction to theatre in an environment where they don’t have to sit absolutely still.

This show has certainly made me rethink what I think about the Playhouse; I think we’ll be back more often. Certainly, with the dormancy of the Colony Theatre, we’ve been trying to find an affordable mid-size theatre. When we left the Playhouse, tickets were over $1000 per season, which was ridiculous. Their new options for membership certainly look more affordable; now they just need a reliable show mix.

Speaking of show mixes: The Ahmanson has added Ain’t Too Proud, a musical on the Temptations, to their 2018/2019 season, and they still have two shows to announce (see the end of the paragraph). It is looking even more likely that we’ll add that subscription, if we can get the cheap seats. As for the Pantages, they announce on Tuesday. As I wrote in my Aladdin writeup: We already know that Dear Even HansenCome From AwayFalsettos, and The Play That Goes Wrong will be going to the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). What does that leave for the Pantages, as they don’t produce their own. Here are my guesses: BandstandAnastasia, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are highly likely; so is the Miss Saigon revival. So would Groundhog Day, except they just cancelled their tour. If A Bronx Tale had announced a tour, it would also be likely. Ditto for Hello Dolly. Lesser possibilities are Amazing Grace, or A Night with Janis Joplin. In terms of potential retreads, I could see them bringing in the current Les Miz tour, and possibly the Fiddler on the Roof,  Lion King or Wicked tours, if they are still on the road. Also known to be going on tour/on tour, and thus possibilities for retreads, are Cats and Phantom, as they will draw in crowds and haven’t been in LA recently. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 has announced a tour, but I think the Pantages is too large for them. I could see them doing the Ahmanson. As for the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), which has two slots to announce, I predict that one will be a show in development, and the other will either be Natasha, Pierre, … , or some form of dance or ballet, like the Matthew Bourne stuff that they’ve done recently.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

February starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB). The following weekend brings our first Actors Co-op (FB) production of 2018: A Walk in the Woods. Mid-week brings opera: specifically,  Candide at LA Opera (FB). That is followed the next weekend by the first production of the Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season, Dessa Rose. The month concludes with  James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at  the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

March was supposed to start with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner, but that shifted back a week, so we’ll go to it after our first show in March, the LA Premiere of the musical Allegiance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (FB). This is followed by a HOLD for Steel Pier at the UCLA School of Television, Film, and Theatre (FB). The penultimate Friday of March was to bring Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), but that has shifted to June and that weekend is currently open. The last weekend of March is open for theatre, but there will be the Men of TAS Seder.

April looks to be a busy month. It starts with Love Never Dies at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) [as an aside, there was just a great interview with Glen Slater, the lyricist of that show, on Broadway Bullet that is well worth listening to]. The second weekend brings A Man for All Seasons” at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)), as well as our annual visit to the Original Renaissance Faire. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB). Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding an  Ahmanson Theatre (FB) subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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CyberSecurity News of Note

Here’s the last of the news chum collections for this morning. This one has to do with safety and security.

  • Tiny Dots and Phish. Hopefully, you’ve been getting trained on how to recognize phishing threats, and how to distrust links in email or on websites. But it’s getting even trickier, as this article notes. Miscreants are using characters in other character sets that ļȯоķ like other characters. Hint: Always look at how addresses look when you hover over them, and even then be suspicious.
  • Complex Passwords Don’t Solve All Problems. So you’ve gotten smart: you are using complex passwords everywhere. But every solution contains a problem: reusing complex passwords can give your identity away. Research showed, the rarer your password is, the more it “uniquely identifies the person who uses it. If a person uses the same unique password with multiple accounts, then that password can be used as a digital fingerprint to link those accounts.” Although this is not something previously unknown, there seems to be a lack of awareness about the practice. Remember: complex passwords, never reused, and use a password manager.
  • Two Factor Authentication. Using 2FA can also help. Here’s a handy guide on how to set it up on most major websites. Here’s a list of all major websites, and whether they support 2FA.
  • Protecting Your Social Security. This article from Brian Krebs explores abuse of the social security system, and contains some advice I hadn’t known: go create your account at SSA.gov now to protect yourself.  That’s something I need to do; I tried to do it this morning but it wouldn’t accept the proof for the upgraded account, and I have to (a) find a previous year’s W2 and (b) wait 24 hours to try again.
  • Predicting Problems. A few articles on predictive algorithms. One explores whether predictive algorithms should be part of public policy.  Essentially, should they have a hand in shaping jail sentences and predicting public policies? Government agencies are now using algorithms and data mining to predict outcomes and behaviors in individuals, and to aid decision-making. In a cyber-vein, there are calls to add prediction to the NIST cyber-security framework. The argument: With AI and machine learning, companies should now be considering how to predict threats before they even appear. Speaking of the NIST Framework, Ron Ross tweets that it is being incorporated into FIPS 200 and the RMF.
  • Building It In. The NIST effort — especially with SP 800-160 — is to emphasize the importance of engineering in and designing in security from the very beginning, not bolting it on at the end. Good news: The government is finally coming around to that realization as well. The link is a summary of the recent updates to the NIST pub. It’s an area I’ve been exploring as well, and I’ve been working on some modifications to the process to make it even more accepted. The first report on the effort is under review right now; I hope to publish something soon.

 

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Health and Medical News of Note

As I continue to clear out the links, here is a collection of articles with some interesting health and medicine news:

  • Colds and Flus. A few articles related to the cold and flu season. First, here’s a useful chart of how to pick the right medicines for that cold or flu that you have. The key tip: Know your ingredients, what they do, and go for single-ingredient generics. Next: If you haven’t gotten that flu shot yet, GO GET IT. Anything you read about the dangers is only fear-mongering. Perhaps you think you shouldn’t get it because it isn’t fully effective. Even less effective, it is important to get it.  Think about it this way: seatbelts and air bags aren’t fully effective — people still get into accidents and die. But if you get into an accident, seatbelts and airbags reduce the amount of damage you will incur. Flu shots are like that:  you might still get sick, but it will likely be less severe. Better to be in bed for a few days than in the hospital or dead.
  • Tide Pods. They won’t go away, will they? Here’s an interesting infographic on the chemistry behind laundry pods, demonstrating succinctly why should should never never never put one in your mouth. You shouldn’t even eat real foods made to look like Tide Pods, so you don’t confuse the gullible and stupid out there.
  • Better Medical Testing. You might have heard about the recent Ikea advertising for women: they would pee on the ad, and it would reveal a discount on baby furniture if they were pregnant.  But it turns out that’s just the beginning, and the Ikea technology could save your life if you where having a heart attack. How? The cited article explores the technology behind the ad, and notes that the developer of the ad is now working on developing a type of synthetic paper that could combine all of those characteristics, and be used to develop diagnostic tools to detect certain types of heart diseases. Heart attacks, for instance, are very hard to diagnose from symptoms alone, like chest pain. But if, say, paramedics in an ambulance had a tool that can pick up certain biomarkers from plasma, just like the ad picks up the pregnancy hormone from the urine, they could quickly determine whether someone is having a heart attack. That would allow patients to receive immediate treatment, which is key to survive a heart attack. Oh, and someone else is working on a quick and easy blood test to detect cancerThe test, detailed in the journal Science, could be a major advance for “liquid biopsy” technology, which aims to detect cancer in the blood before a person feels sick or notices a lump. That’s useful because early-stage cancer that hasn’t spread can often be cured.
  • The Alien. I have an odd problem. When I essentially do a sit up (i.e., lie on my back and curl up), I get a belly bulge. My internist thinks it is a form of hernia (muscles separating), and although it can be fixed surgically, such fixes aren’t all that effective. Reading an article the other day, I found an interesting explanation of what I’ve got — which is oddly a post-pregnancy belly problem called diastasis recti.  Doctors diagnose diastasis recti when the distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle gets to be two centimeters or more. DR can affect anyone — women, men, and children. “Coughing, laughing, pooping, breathing, birthing, and moving (i.e., your posture and exercise habits) are all things that can change the amount of pressure in your abdomen” and can, over time, cause DR. As the article notes: “DR can give the belly a soft, protruding appearance. It can push the bellybutton out, or look like a visible gulch at the midsection when a [person] bends or does an abdominal curl.” For me, it seems to only be there when I move like a sit-up; for others, it is much more common post pregnancy due to the pressure of the baby. Alas, the cited article notes there are no good solutions to the problem yet, and exercise done wrong can make it worse.
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Interesting Histories

It’s been an interesting week. Although I was collecting a bunch of news chum, they never coalesced in my head into a coherent post. Now it’s the weekend, so let’s start clearing them off. This first collection provides a bunch of histories that I found of interest:

  • Street Light Banners. 1984. For some, a chilling book. For others, a foretelling of our current political climate. For me, it is the memory of when Los Angeles hosted the Olympics, with pastel banners and wayfaring signs all over the city. It turns out that the 1984 Olympics was the first major use of the light pole banner. As the article notes: “With only $10 million to outfit the entire city (five percent of the budget of the 1976 Games in Montreal) the designers of LA’s Olympic look, overseen by legendary designer Deborah Sussman, had to be scrappy. Instead of stadiums, they built towering scaffolds. Instead of brand-new Olympic villages, they outfitted parks and freeway entrances with colorful pylons, sonotubes, and giant inflatable stars. Little of it would have stood a chance if it had rained (luckily it didn’t) but the designs looked great on television. It was a classic LA story. The street banners were intended only to line the Olympic marathon route, which ran down Exposition Boulevard from Santa Monica to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum downtown. At the last minute, however, the organizing committee dramatically expanded the program, promising banners to dozens of additional neighborhoods and even cities in neighboring counties.”
  • 31 Flavors. Here’s another Los Angeles creation. No, not ice cream, but Baskin-Robbins.  Starting with two shops, one in Glendale, the other in Pasadena, BR franchised and grew, until by the time of the 31st anniversary, Baskin-Robbins had already accumulated more than 500 flavors. The previous year, they had come out with several flavors made for the U.S. bicentennial celebration, including Yankee Doodle Strudel, Valley Forge Fudge, Concorde Grape and Minuteman Mint. Over the years, their commemorative flavors have ranged from Beatle Nut in 1964 to Lunar Cheesecake in 1969 to Saxy Candidate in 1996. Today, Baskin-Robbins has 1300 flavors.
  • Use of the American Indian Image on Advertising. It’s a staple of advertising, from Land O’Lakes butter to Native American Cigarettes. They were at cigar stores and on motorcycles. How did the image of the American Indian — either the full headdress or the beautiful princess — come to be everywhere. Here’s an article that explores a new exhibition of how the image of a people that we systematically oppressed and pushed out because an advertising image that is everywhere. As the article notes: “American culture has used imagery of American Indians to symbolize authenticity in branding, or combativeness in sports and the military, even as it has subjugated real-life Indians throughout history. At its core, the artifacts in the exhibition reveal how Indians have become an integral part of the American brand itself–something that companies have been capitalizing on for decades.”
  • Food Colors. Brightly colored food. Red maraschino cherries. Blue jelly beans. Yellow banana pudding. Do we ever stop to think where those colors came from? When food dyes came in, they were made from products such as coal tar, a by-product of coal manufacturing.  Yet we believed them safe. As the article notes: “Food companies soon used the coal tar colors as well, especially in butter, candy, and alcohol. Though gross-sounding, they might have been healthier than the alternative. In both Britain and the United States, the 19th century was plagued with food adulteration, often in the form of food coloring. In order to make pickles, jellies, and candy more vivid, manufacturers added dangerous metal salts such as copper sulfate and lead chromate. In contrast, coal tar dyes were so vivid that only a little was needed. Plus, the tiny amount meant that the flavor wasn’t affected.” But were they safe? And what are we using today?
  • Elevators. We probably don’t think twice about using an elevator. They are everywhere. They are what made the high-rise revolution possible. But there is risk, such as the time the President got caught trapped in an elevator.  This was at the Pentagon, a concrete building/bunker with only one elevator. What did the President’s party think? Levinson’s first thought was that he was experiencing, first-hand, an attempted coup by the U.S. military on McNamara’s last day in office. “Was someone about the inject some type of gas into the lift or drop some form of explosive? We had the head of state and the Secretary of Defense in one small place that was undefended and vulnerable. A natural site for an extraordinary disaster.”
  • Interstate 95. For a highway system that started in 1955, one would think the Interstate Highway System, after 60 years, would be complete. But it isn’t, and one glaring whole was New Jersey… was in New Jersey on I-95. Finally, through a kludge, I-95 has (almost) been completed. Construction to fix the I-95 gap began more than eight years ago in Pennsylvania, but it has now reached its final stage. This week, the New Jersey Department of Transportation began switching out road signs in preparation for the change. But until it opens, if you are driving northbound on I-95, just outside of Princeton, a road sign will warn you that I-95 North—the road you are on—is ending. But the physical road itself doesn’t end—instead, the highway veers south, now under the name Interstate 295. If you don’t get off at an exit, you will find yourself suddenly driving south, and have to do a complicated series of maneuvers to get back on a northbound road. On the other side of this gap, Interstate 95 continues northward, starting from eight miles away.
  • Mapping Applications. Some of us love road maps. Some of us love our navigation applications. But did you ever think about where the maps come from, and how they were created in the era before satellite mapping. It was a hard process, and this article explores how cartographers made maps before modern technology. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.
  • Printers. Although this article isn’t as long as I would like, and omits a number of classic printer types (such as the IBM 1403 Line Printer, or the workhorse ASR33s and the DEC LA36  Dot Matrix Printer), here’s a short exploration of the start of computer printing technology. The articles notes that in 1953, the first high-speed printer was developed by Remington-Rand for use on the Univac computer, and the original laser printer called EARS was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center beginning in 1969 and completed in November  1971.
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Where The Shutdown Blame Lies

userpic=divided-nationThroughout the day, I’ve been reading posts trying to place the blame for the looming government shutdown. The Republicans blame the Democrats for holding up the bill because of DACA. The Democrats blame the Republicans for not passing a bill, given they are the majority party. Where does the fault really lie? Hint: It has nothing to do with DACA, and everything to do with Congress — in particular, Congress not doing their job.

The US Office of Budget and Finance has a great infographic on the budgeting process. In short, Congress is supposed to develop a budget and appropriations bill well before the start of the government fiscal year on October 1. This bill should be one that can pass both houses with appropriate majorities — meaning that it must represent bi-partisan goals and compromise. Neither side gets 100% of what it wants, but can live with the results. It must be something that either the President can sign, or Congress can override the veto.  When this happens by the start of the fiscal year, there are no government shutdowns. Money is appropriated, Federal agencies can operate, they can do appropriate long range planning, and things run smoothly.

When the majority party FAILS to do its job — that is, fails to pass budget and appropriations bills on time and get everyone on board, then continuing resolutions become necessary. This keeps the funding going at last year’s levels for a short period while they supposedly are finishing the budget. We are now on our second or third continuing resolution, and they are attempting to pass another one.  Further, this ends up costing the government more in terms of wasted time, inability to plan ahead, in ability to purchase ahead for a discount. Congress failing to do its job costs you, the taxpayer, more.

So when placing the blame, remember that the entire need for a continuing resolution goes back to the majority party not doing their simple job of passing the needed budget and appropriations bill. It means the President failed to work with all parties to reach concensus. It means that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader failed to negotiate a compromise in the overall interest of the nation, as opposed to just their party. And since the President, Speaker, and Majority Leader are from the same party, there’s only one party to blame: The Republicans, for not doing their constitutionally-mandated job.

Remember also that it is the Republicans that have conditioned us to expect budget bills to be late, to hold up appropriations threatening shutdowns, to say they are against deficits but then pass tax bills that increase the deficit. It is the Republicans that continually “kick the can” down the road when they don’t want to face an issue and do their job: be it establishing a realistic budget that might be balanced, or hiding the deficit inherent in “temporary” tax fixes for individuals but permanent fixes for corporations.

P.S.: Both sides will be trying scare tactics with the shutdown, claiming social security checks or welfare checks won’t go out, or soldiers won’t be paid. That’s not true. Here’s what won’t shut down:

  • Programs that don’t require annual appropriations. That group, which includes Social Security, Medicare and other so-called entitlements, continue without interruption.
  • Those entailing functions “necessary to protect life or property.” Law enforcement, the military, intelligence agencies and foreign embassies all will stay open.
  • Some programs that have other sources of money that will allow them to function for a while. Courts, for example, can spend money they have collected through fines and fees, funds that would allow them to keep functioning for a while.
  • The U.S. Postal Service. It’s a quasi-independent entity and does not depend on annual appropriations, so its business will continue as usual.

What does shut down? Parks, non-essential services, and such. Who gets hurt? The middle and low income contractors, who don’t get paid. The people to whom the government owes money. Taxpayers, who can’t file returns or get refunds.

Now you know.

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