Mama, mama, forget your pies

userpic=tombstonesIf you can’t figure out why this post is named what it is, you’ll have to read to the end. If you get the connection, I’ve just created an earworm. In any case, this post is a requiem for some things that are nearly or dearly departed:

Oh, right, the title of the post. Take a listen:


On The Move: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

userpic=travelContinuing to clear out the links… here’s a collection of news chum all being related by the theme of travel or travelling:



Museum Pieces

userpic=psa-smileI’m home sick today. Why, you ask? Because I did a stupid, tripping in the parking lot at temple yesterday and doing a faceplant. I’m home while my swollen knee recovers. But my sick day shouldn’t be your loss, so here are some articles on museum pieces, potential museum pieces, or things that might be found in a museum:

  • Old Automobiles. The OC Register has a nice article on the future of the Petersen Automotive Museum at Wilshire and Fairfax. It seems there is new leadership at the Petersen, and they want to give the museum some love and drastically improve the exterior and interior exhibits. I’m looking forward to this; the Petersen has always been a neat museum.
  • A 747 In Your Garage. While I was burning vinyl to MP3 this weekend, one of the songs I burned was Tom Paxton’s “I Lost My Heart on a 747”. It seems someone else lost their heart, for a Redondo Beach man is recreating a Pan-Am 747 interior in a warehouse in the City of Industry. He’s going so far as to get retired Pan-Am stewardesses to fully complete the illusion. Cool.
  • Jewish Delis. The Los Angeles Times has proclaimed the Jewish Deli to be a museum piece. They are claiming that delis are out of style and too expensive. While I’ll agree that they haven’t been rediscovered by the foodies yet, the really good ones are still going strong. The ones that are dying are the marginal ones, and the ones people think of as just sandwich shops. In what I think is a related article, the VC Star is talking about the growth of Mediterranean grocers in Ventura County. This could just be a reflection of the changes in Judaism — just as Sephardi pronounciation has replaced Ashkenazi pronounciation, the Eastern European tradition and generation (exemplified by the traditional deli) has been supplanted by the Israeli and Middle-Eastern generation, thus increasing the need for Mediterranean grocers.
  • Amish Computers. Planet Money has a short article on one of the booths at the Amish Trade Show: a booth selling computers to the Amish. The argument is that these computers do not connect to the Internet,  have no video, and no music. I’m guessing they don’t need patches that much either, as there isn’t much of a risk (yeah, right, just as the folks that believed they had isolated systems). More significantly, they are offering M$ applications, which are increasingly requiring the Internet. This should be interesting. Of course, the real question is: Why not just sell them all those 286 PCs that just run MS DOS. Those should have the basic business apps they want with no connectivity?

Music: Live In Australia, 1959 (Frank Sinatra & Red Norvo Quintet): “One For My Baby”



Friday News Chum: Autos, Subways, Buses, Hotels, Secession, GF Wheat, and Hats

Well, it’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means–it is time to clear out the bookmarked links that didn’t quite form into themes (although, as I type in the times, there does seem to be a general transportation/travel theme). So here we go… (and as a reminder, I’m still looking for thoughts regarding use of iTunes 11 with the iPod Classic):

  • Three-Cylinder Power. This article from the LA auto show caught my eye. Evidently, Ford has a new 3-cyl. Fiesta, and the engine is designed in such a way as to give more power than a conventional 4-cyl. engine. The trick is to turbocharge the engine, combined with patented engine mounts and with weights installed outside the engine, on the pulley and flywheel to address the inherent unbalance of 3 cyl. If this approach works, I’m guessing we’ll see some revolutionary strides in small car efficiency.
  • Subway Problems. We all know how Super-Storm Sandy knocked out the NYC Subway system. What you probably don’t know is the work involved in getting it running again. Here’s an interesting article on why it is going to take a long time to restore the R train tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. One of the longest tunnels, it saw all of its electrical equipment coated in salt water. Not good.
  • Busing It. Megabus is returning to California, with low-price tickets between Vegas, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland to Union Station. This is of particular interest to me, as it provides an easy way for my daughter to get from Berkeley to Los Angeles (and then Red Line or Metro-Link to the valley). However, as the service is run by Coach USA, I’m unsure it will last (given Coach USA’s problems — they used to run the Flyaway). Still, I hope it succeeds.
  • The Cost of Hotels. LA Observed has an interesting discussion on why hotels cost so much, working off an article from Slate. There are a number of basic reasons: travellers tend not to bargain (especially when on expense accounts), and hotels don’t need to discount all rooms (they can discount the unsold few at the last minute). [By the way, this may be similar to the demand pricing Megabus uses to discount tickets — a few tickets purchased really early may be cheap, and tickets purchased at the very last minute may be cheap.] The Slate article itself talks about the excessive taxes, location costs, and high level of services, but concludes “Hotel customers tolerate these marked-up amenities because they generally aren’t very interested in driving a hard bargain. The business traveler is likely to feel that he “needs” appropriately located accommodations and isn’t going to be interested in exhaustive research about the costs and benefits of staying someplace cheaper and more remote. What’s more, he’s generally not paying out of pocket. A responsible employee will of course try to be reasonably frugal, but even so frugality is benchmarked to local costs. “
  • Costs of Secession. We’ve all be reading about the secession petitions, and even humorists have addressed the subject. But here’s a more interesting question: Suppose you have a DOD Security Clearance and sign a secession petition. Does that affect your security clearance? This article explores the question. When you think about it, it is a real issue: you have an individual who has just publically advocated working against the US government. Is that adverse information, and does it bring into question their loyalty to the US. As Ben Franklin once said, “Oh sure, harmless. I know how these things happen. You go to a couple of harmless parties, sign a harmless petition, and forget all about it. Ten years later, you get hauled up before a committee. No, thank you, I’m not going to spend the rest of my life writing in Europe.”
  • Gluten-Free Wheat? An intriguing article in the LA Times about some scientists who believe it is possible to engineer a wheat variety that goes not contain gluten. It might be possible, but I’m not sure I’d trust it… for a number of reasons. First, I would be far too afraid the processing would contaminate it with other wheat; secondly, I’m still unsure about engineered food.
  • Finishing With the Hat. And lastly, an interesting story about a woman who lost her hat while traveling. It was a hat her mother wore during her last days of chemo. How is she solving the problem… she’s putting the request on social networks.

P.S.: Received my first challenge coin today. Cool.

Music: Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (Martin Short): “Glass Half Full”


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”



Take Me for a Ride in Our Car-Car

Yesterday was the drive back from Berkeley. We took US 101 — and we’re glad we did, because round-about San Miguel, the air conditioning went out  (we were in my wife’s 2002 CRV). We thought it was the belt, but the problem turned out to be the condensor clutch (about $1550, with labor).

This has been an expensive year for my wife’s car:

  1. Condensor A/C Compressor Clutch, $1500
  2. Catalytic Converter, $2060
  3. Tires, $500
  4. Heating elements: Upper radiator hose, Thermostat, Condenser Fan Motor, Cooling Fan Motor, Leaking water pump, $1788

Now, admittedly, the car has almost 175,000 miles on it. However, all these repairs made me curious about how problematic of a car we have. So I pulled out the service records looking for non-wear major problems ($600) [so I’m not considering a major maintenance service a problem] Here’s what I found:

  1. 2006-09, Broken Valve Retainer, Check cylinder head: $1.1K
  2. 2009-10, Head Gasket, $2.3K
  3. 2010, Ball Joint Boots, Motor Mounts, $1.5K
  4. 2010, Control Arm Bushings, $1.1K (these where replaced in the 2007 time frame as well, but didn’t meet the cost threshhold)

So, I guess major failures haven’t been as often as I thought — this is just a bad year as lots of things have failed. Still, it is cheaper than getting a new car!



Friday Miscellany: Crown Vics, Different Views for the Jews, Ice Cream Burgers, Chocolate Chips and more to chew on

It’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means: time to clear out the links to give you something to chew on…

Music: Bring In The Noise, Bring in the Funk (Original Cast): The Uncle-Huck-a-Buck-Song


Maybe New Cars Aren’t Safer

A coworked alerted me to a paper presented at the 2010 Oakland Conference: Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile. I suggest you attempt to read the paper. It’s scary. Basically, the authors discovered how easy it was to take over a car’s network, doing this such as activating brakes, disabling or modifying the engine, changing the lights, radio, door locks, heat and A/C, and almost anything on the vehicle. It was evidently pretty easy to do. Now think about an adversary doing this, and you’ll be scared to drive a modern automobile. You can also see why Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem has been so hard for them to find, because there are just so many inputs that could have triggered things.

Now, to get you even more scared… according to Wired, the Feds are beginning to test interconnected automobiles. This is something we need to make highways more effective: cars that can communicate with each other to improve safety on the highway, eliminate human reaction times, and increase road density. But what can be used can be used for bad: imagine a malicious car on a connected road network. Imagine the havoc that could reign.

Makes me look back whistfully at some of the cars of my past that were not computerized. My 1968 Buick Skylark (“Werner Von Braun”): A hunking beheamoth of steel that got 12mpg if I was lucky, but was purely mechanical. My 1977 Toyota Corona (“Thomas Michael Something”), which was probably my last car to have non-computerized systems. The 1981 Nissan Stanza (“Beast”) that wouldn’t die. After that point, the computerized systems began to take over: I’m sure they were in the 1985 Nissa Stanza, the 1986 Toyota Camry, the 1992 Mercury Sable, and the 1999 Honda Civic.