And You Thought Those Metal Rulers Were Bad

In response to the continuing scourge of school violence with weapons, there are those who believe the answer is not increased gun regulations, but increased armed guard and, in particular, arming school teachers. A few thoughts on that proposal:

  1. The right often quotes a statement by Benjamin Franklin about those who give up liberty for security get neither. This is usually in reference to proposals to ban or take away guns. But it is equally true to the notion of having increased armed presence in public and becoming a police state. Neither is the correct approach.
  2. Although the proposal is to arm the teachers, no one ever asks where those teachers would get the guns, and who would pay for them. Teachers are woefully underpaid as it is, using personal money for classroom supplies and educational material. Do we expect them to find the personal money to buy the guns; money that they don’t have? Do we expect the school districts, which are also underfunded, to supply them? What educational courses do you want cut this time; remember,  curriculum has also been cut to the bone due to lack of funds?
  3. In terms of hardening the schools themselves, ask yourself this: In the past — in the time of your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents — schools were not fortified, and did not have guards let alone fences. Yet there weren’t school shootings. So what has changed?
  4. Would you be comfortable with loaded weaponry, out and accessible, being present in a classroom with curious children? If not, when the unthinkable happens, would you rather the teacher protect the children and get them to safety, or fumble to find the keys to unlock the gun safe to get out the gun, load it, and then shoot? Where should those precious minutes be spent?

Arming the teachers is not the answer, when you think about it critically. Think about what other solutions might work better. I have a few ideas.

[ETA: Over on FB, a friend shared a post that captured three other areas I missed: Training — who will train the teachers and who will pay for it; Liability — who will be liable if the teacher misses and hits someone else; and Psychological — there will be numerous psychological impacts of asking a teacher to potentially shoot a child or a former student, and who will pay for all the counseling afterwards. Yet more reasons this is a poor idea. Here’s the reference to that shared post.]

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Working Towards a Solution on Violent School Assaults

Over on Facebook, a comment of mine has resulted in a thought provoking discussion between friends on all sides of the political and gun control spectrum — and I thank all the participants for being willing to listen to others and have a civil discussion. There have been some key underlying notions that have emerged that provide some good ground rules for discussion on this issue:

  • The answer is a complex one, and there is no single solution — or to use a bad analogy, no silver bullet. However, there are a number of small things that might work together to reduce risk.
  • The answer is not blanket taking away of guns. The guns are just a symptom of an underlying problem, and if you take them away without doing anything else, people will find another outlet that could be equally deadly.

The following is a collection of ideas and thoughts I’ve had from these various discussions. None are fully worked out, and I’m open to further civil discussion on them. Although they are numbered, that is solely for ease of discussion, and not to indicate any priority or ordering.

  1. Constitutional freedoms are not unlimited. Courts have ruled that there are limits on speech, especially when it goes to the level of harming others. Some rights are limited to citizens; others can be lost with criminal convictions. It is permissible to regulate guns in various ways (“well-regulated” is part of the 2nd amendment) — the question is what is the right way.
  2. In discussions like this, people commonly bring up Benjamin Franklin’s statement about giving up liberty for security not being the answer. That’s true on both ends of the spectrum. Just as giving up the ability to legally own guns doesn’t bring security,  nor do armed guards and bag checks and hardened facilities everywhere. Some levels of both, when warranted in a risk reduction context, are appropriate; however, neither is a complete answer. [ETA: The answer is also not arming the teachers, for the reasons discussed in this subsequent post I made.]
  3. One approach might be to treat more lethal weapons (automatic or semi-automatic weapons, for example) differently. Not to take them away, but to have increased regulation of ownership: regulations for refresher training on how to store such weapons, more frequent health and anger screenings, special permits. Handguns and hunting rifles and such may have easier ownership regulations. In a way, this is similar to what we do with vehicles: motorcycles and commercial vehicles have different training and licensing regulations than passenger automobiles and trucks.
  4. It is increasingly clear that we need to address the root causes of the problem: the stresses that make people turn to guns and such violence as a solution to their problems. Perhaps what we should be discussing is the cost and benefits of a different tradeoff: the tradeoffs of tight gun control or armed protection on one side, vs. the cost of health and societal safety nets on the other. It might ultimately be cheaper — and more preserving of liberty — to have no cost, low cost, or affordable mental and physical health services available so that those facing the stresses can get help before turning to guns; to have living wages and financial support for families in need so that those pressures don’t result in a turn to violence; to have programs that address the inequalities and bullying so that people don’t feel the need to turn to violence. It could be that the cost of providing those things is much less than the cost of arming or taking away things (with the concurrent costs of the regulatory and legal structure). There’s often the comparison to other countries that don’t have those problems. Those countries don’t have the guns, but they also typically have better support systems as well.
  5. We need to address the culture of anger and hate that underlies the violence. We need to teach people that violent assaults are not the proper response to stress and anger. Just as the car chases you see on TV never result in the criminal winning, shooting up innocents has never solved the underlying problem behind the solution. We need to better understand the role our various media — the internets, publishing, music, games — play in this culture of anger and hate; we need to figure out appropriate regulations — but regulations and processes that move away from taking away things (negative) to positive additions. This means emphasizing a different message, and using media to teach other ways to resolve problems.
  6. We need to address the acceptance and glorification of violence in society. When our media celebrates violence; when video games focus more on violence than positive interaction; when guns are used casually and no thought (and no consequences) in movies; when our social media celebrates and amplify violent memes — we’re doing something wrong. We need to replace violence as a solution with a different message.
  7. We need to address dehumanization. When one sees others as “less than” due to various attributes: economic status, skin color, sexual orientation, political stance, religion, gender … then violence against them becomes more acceptable. I have seen — on all sides — views that people of different political stances are not worthy of life … and that’s plain wrong. We need to value everyone, from the lowliest welfare recipient to those with economic success; gay or straight; all shades of skin tones; all religions. We need to address the Internet echo chambers that feed upon and amplify the hatred of the different.
  8. If we are to build a culture that values life, we need to do it at all stages. One can’t be valuing the life of a fetus and then turning a blind eye to the person once born. The entire spectrum needs to be considered. Reasonable regulation of abortion (making it harder to obtain as independent life outside the womb is increasingly viable), as well as social safety nets demonstrating we value  the child once born, and the adult that child grows into. If we value children and adults in everything we do, than it becomes increasingly unacceptable to have violence against those who are valued.
  9. We need leaders that are role models again. When we have leaders that joke about violence to others, that act in ways that dehumanize segments of society, and that who operate through bullying and ridicule, we teach that those values are acceptable. We need to make it clear that such leaders are not leaders to be followed and emulated.
  10. We need to care about and for each other, and that means recognizing that the camel’s back is about to break before it breaks. We need to teach society to recognize the signs that indicate someone is antisocial and about to snap, that someone is dealing with situations they cannot handle. This is not to “take away their guns”, but to intervene with solutions that will help the individual before they turn to violence. The best gun is not one that is taken away, but one that isn’t used out of choice.
  11. While it is reasonable, in a National sense, to restrict certain rights and privileges to citizens (for example, ask yourself if the Second Amendment applies to the undocumented immigrant or the violent felon who has lost certain rights), some solutions may not be acceptable to limit. For example, we don’t restrict vaccines to citizens, because non-citizens can get sick and spread disease. It may be reasonable to extend societal safety nets and other support systems broadly, because even non-citizens and undocumented residents can go crazy, get angry, and grab their weapon of choice to assault others. Weapons don’t work only for citizens. (This, by the way, is a notion similar to why drivers licences should be available to undocumented residents — they still share the roads, and their vehicles can still crash into ours. That doesn’t prevent the license from making clear that the bearer is not documented, which simplifies law enforcement’s job if they do get in an accident.)
  12. There has been much discussion of thoughts and prayers. But I never seem to see the notion that God’s answer to our prayers might be the brains that God has given us. We were made in God’s image, and that includes the ability to answer our own prayers by developing a solution, perhaps with a little divine inspiration. We have been given free will; we have been given the choice of life or death, right or wrong, to act properly or not. The answer to our prayers is not doing nothing, the answer is choosing to do the right thing even when it is difficult to do.
  13. In general, the answer is not to ban and take away things, to be negative. Rather, the answer is to be positive and proactive. Prevent the situation that leads to the violence. Educate people on alternative solutions. Make the necessary help available so that violence and guns are never considered even as a potential solution.

 

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Difficult Decisions

A few days ago, I wrote a post titled “Navigating the Minefield” where I discussed three interesting societal divides: (1) how do we deal with old, potentially problematic, music; (2) the divide about coats on the UW Madison campus; and (3) how autonomous automobiles may have a significant impact on privacy. WIth respect to the following news chum items, item (1) is particularly applicable. Titled “The Music I Love Is a Racial Minefield“, it explored the problem of music, and playing songs that had problematic history, origins, or words — such as the Star Spangled Banner, where the full version as written includes a verse in which slave owner Francis Scott Key, an outspoken white supremacist, rails against “the hireling and the slave.”  I recommend everyone read that piece, which includes the following paragraph by an artist I enjoy, Dom Flemons (the American Songster):

“People are trying to find modern sensibilities in stuff that was not built on modern sensibilities,” Flemons told me. In 2015, he performed an instrumental version of Stephen Foster’s “Ring, Ring de Banjo” at a Foster-themed event with the Cincinnati orchestra. Foster’s racist lyrics are “absolutely unacceptable” nowadays, and “I would never think to perform that song outside the context of that specific show,” Flemons says. But these once-popular songs “are a document of what happened,” and failing to acknowledge that history would “completely devalue the strength of how far we’ve come.”

The following three news chum pieces evoked in me similar feelings to the “Racial Minefield” article, and are worthy of your consideration:

  • Sexual Predators. How do we separate the art from the artist? That’s a big question in these days of #MeToo and TimesUpNow. In particular, how do we treat the art created by these individuals we now know were predators and harassers? Can I still enjoy Fat Albert and Bill Cosby’s routines, knowing his history? What about watching “Annie Hall”? Vox has a great opinion piece on the subject titled “How to think about consuming art made by sexual predators“. It’s conclusion is that the answer is not easy. The basic conclusion, according to a historian consulted in the article, is to put everything in context: “As a historian, I strongly believe that it’s important that we keep these men’s work accessible. Woody Allen films are a genuinely important part of American film history. The Cosby Show is key to understanding representation in media and tangled issues of race, class, and acceptance. But I also can’t imagine watching old episodes simply for entertainment.” But where do you fall on the subject? Can you listen to Bill Cosby, or watch the artwork of Gaugain, the same anymore?
  • Smoking. In a somewhat similar vein is an article by Peter Filchia in Masterworks Broadway about the context of musical plots or dialogue that centers on smoking. Many shows were written at the time that smoking was ingrained in American society. Certainly the classic musicals of the 1950s make jokes about smoking. Look at the lines in musicals that refer to smoking, and look at the musical writers that also penned cigarette jingles. Filchia doesn’t draw a particular conclusion, but does really demonstrate how musicals are a product of their times. (Which, I’ll note, is why shows like Showboat remain problematic, as does the behavior of Rosemary in How to Succeed — how would we view today a woman that predatory towards her male boss?)
  • Confederate Iconography. The last article of interest is from Religion News, and has to do with changing names of things named after Confederate Icons. It is one thing to take down a stature, or to rename an elementary school that has no connection to the person. What do you do if you need to rename a church where he actually worshipped or was memorialized? This article, titled “Our church was named for Robert E. Lee — here is how we changed it” explores just that issue. It talks about three churches : (1) St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Richmond, which is the church Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended during the Civil War; (2) Christ Church, in Alexandria, a 1773 Episcopal parish that claims George Washington and the Lee family as former worshippers; and (3) R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington VA, where Robert E. Lee was senior warden after he joined the church in 1865.

All four of these articles, which are fascinating reads, demonstrate why reconciling the facts of history with the emotion of people and with common sensibilities is never easy.

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Navigating the Minefield

One has to tread very carefully these days. Topics, words, and even clothing can trigger deep divides between people. Here are three examples:

  • Your Music. Some music is timeless. Other music, however, is more “of its time”. Every holiday season this is driven home to us as we listen to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in a whole new context. Now I tend to love both cast albums and folk/bluegrass, and both have the same problems: Some of the music, when heard in today’s light, is clearly racist and problematic. This is something discussed everytime “Showboat” or “Annie Get Your Gun” is remounted; it is even a larger issue with folk music. Many of our folk songs make use of stereotypes or motifs that are problems, starting with “Wish I was in the land of Cotton”. The author of our national anthem was a white supremacist. Here’s one fiddler that tackled the issue head on. I love his mention of Dom Flemons, the American Songster, who does great stuff.
  • What You Wear. My daughter goes to school in Madison WI, and she alerted me to this divide: The attitude towards the “Coasties” in the North Face jackets. Here’s the requisite background:A UW–Madison student wrote in 2008 that he could distinguish between coasties and sconnies—or, Wisconsin locals—by looking “at their distinctive clothing.” While focusing on the “female Coastie” appearance, the student argued that the “natives begin to resent these outsiders who are so different.” This student’s editorial in the Badger Herald,perhaps unknowingly, invoked a history of compounding stereotypes of “outsiders” wearing conspicuous or expensive clothing on campus that reaches back to the 1920s. His comments also highlight what is at stake in making assumptions about a Canada Goose owner in 2017. In 2007, two Wisconsin students recorded a song called “What’s a Coastie,” describing the Wisconsin-based label/slur as an “east coast Jewish honey” identifiable by her outfit: a North Face jacket, black leggings, and big sunglasses, among other attire. The song highlighted young Jewish women’s outdoorwear as linked to their outsider status on campus. According to the student songwriters, expensive consumer products, down to the Ugg boots and complicated Starbucks drinks, highlighted the wealth of these out-of-state students. “Coasties” effectively flaunted family wealth, their North Face jackets a stand-in for the high-priced out-of-state tuition their families were paying.
  • Your Car. My step-sister highlighted this divide, and the problem it will create. The thesis: With the growth of self-driving cars and naviation, personal driving will be outlawed as something dangerous to one’s health and the health of others. If that happens, what does that do to privacy? No more can you go someplace anonymously. You’ll be tracked: by your car, by your cellphone, by your navigation app? Who owns those records? Who can look at those records? More importantly, who can be prevented from looking at those records. All questions that in our rush to adopt a technology, we are likely not exploring.

 

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A Hostile World

Hostility. It seems to be growing in our society, from the hostility we see from our leaders towards the lower and middle classes, from the hostility we see from “the other party” to our party, from the hostility and name calling that seems to commonplace on social media. The amount of hatred and hostility in society is growing, and we seem to be doing little to stop it. It’s hidden and unacknowledged, almost like climate change.

What got me thinking about this was an interesting article in LAist about Hostile Architecture. I’d heard the term before — 99% Invisible did a piece on the subject back in July 2016. What is Hostile Architecture? The LAist article summed it up well: “You know those pigeon spikes to stop pigeons from congregating? Imagine that, but for humans.” To put it another way, Amber Hawkes, Co-Director of Here LA, defines hostile architecture as “any streetscaping element or design move in the public realm that is unfriendly to the human being.”

[ETA: This article from CityLab highlights more hostile architecture: The MTA in NYC rehabbed some stations in Brooklyn, removing benches and replacing them hostile architecture: “the leaning bar. A slanted wooden slab set against the wall at about the height of a person’s rear end, the bar was meant to give passengers a way to take some weight off their feet as they waited for the next train. What it was not, however, was a bench.” As that article notes: “Despite the MTA’s protestations, some New Yorkers saw the bar as the latest salvo in what could be called the War on Sitting. As cities around the world tear out benches in an effort to deter homeless people from sleeping and drug dealers from hovering, or to force loiterers to move along, pedestrians and transit users may find fewer and fewer places to sit down and take a load off, or hang out and watch the world go by—and that’s bad news not only for tired feet, but for city life itself.”]

Essentially, hostile architecture are those bumps and arms in the middle of benches that make it hard for the homeless to sleep, the bumps on the walls that stop skateboarders. There are spikes, pig ears, bollards, grates and other elements (like bolted vents making it impossible to sleep near a heating vent in winter in colder climates, for example) to dissuade homeless individuals from resting or sleeping in alleys, near store fronts, or in parks.  Some are less obvious. The 99% Invisible piece notes the following examples: Some businesses play classical music as a deterrent, on the theory that kids don’t want to hang out or talk over it. Other sound-based strategies include the use of high-frequency sonic buzz generators meant to be audible only to young people. Housing estates in the UK have also put up pink lighting, aimed to highlight teenage blemishes.

99PI notes: “Unpleasant designs take many shapes, but they share a common goal of exerting some kind of social control in public or in publicly-accessible private spaces. They are intended to target, frustrate and deter people, particularly those who fall within unwanted demographics.” The LAist pieces commented: “The idea seems to be that if an exterior space becomes anything more than a place to walk or commute through, it’s a problem.”

That last line really brought the concern home to today. We have leaders that are creating a hostile society — a society where those not of the social or economic strata they want get pushed away, our of their spaces. The proposal yesterday about raising the fees for popular public parks is an example of that. The changes being made to our refugee policy. The changes to the tax code are hostile architecture. Our media has conditioned us to believe that hostility is the answer to problems, and as we’re all passive-aggressive, we’re letting our benches and laws do it for us.

That’s wrong (and if you disagree, I think you’re stupid 🙂 ). We have to make the choice to turn away from hostility, and move towards acceptance.

P.S.: I’m surprised no one commented on my previous post, asking what was in common between the recent incidents at Telsa and Solar City, when compared to past SpaceX. Another example of passive-aggressive hostility?

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Sex and Drugs

We’ve had the rock and roll, so how about some sex and drugs before the next writeup. Here’s is some news chum I found particularly interesting in these areas:

Sex

Three interesting articles related to the subject of sex:

  • Bespoke Porn. Technology changes the porn industry. As free porn has become increasingly available on the Internet through sites like Pornhub, the primary industry in the San Fernando Valley — porn — has been hurt. When people don’t pay, how are actors to earn a living? The answer is a bit of a surprise: Bespoke Porn. What this means is porn specifically made for one individual for their particular tastes. This isn’t always the sex you think. The article notes cases of women fully clothed swatting flies or destroying stamp collections. To each their own; I find this interesting less for the sex aspect and more for the statement it makes about the larger industry.
  • Cosplay Capers. The second article I found explores the trend for cosplayers (usually buxom young women) to create patreon pages where followers can pay to see even more risque photos (usually at the edge of R towards the S T U, but not getting as far as X or multiples thereof). I see this on FB: I have one friend that has befriended a bunch of cosplay models and comments on their pages; thus I see them promoting their patreons. It bothers me what such comments telegraph to others, but that’s neither here nor there. As for the evolution of cosplay, as long as this is the player’s choice I guess it is OK, but I can also see how such images play to the troublesome double standards we see in society.
  • Sex on Stage. Here’s a fascinating article on intimacy directors: that is, those individuals whose job it is to choreography intimacy onstage to make it believable, and yet not cross actors’ personal boundaries.

Drugs

Here are two articles related to … well, not quite drugs, but something that acts like a drug for the current generation: smartphones.

  • Smartphones and the iGen. As I wrote in my last post, we’re dealing with a teen who constantly has her face in her phone: snapchat, youtube, constant selfies. We don’t think it is healthy, and this article gives some facts and statistics to confirm it. It leads to significant sleep deprevation and depression, and serves to isolate the generation from personal contact and interactions with friends (not in all cases, but as a general statistical sample). It really is an interesting read.  Here’s an example of such a statistic: “All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.”
  • Sinister Screens. Here’s a shorter article that addresses the same subject, and again an interesting quote: Brain-imaging studies have shown that the dopamine released when users are getting their technology fix is akin to what is seen in other forms of addiction — one of the reasons Peter Whybrow, director of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, has referred to digital technology as “electronic cocaine.”

Bringing It All Together

Now, think about these articles in the large. Are we creating a generation that finds intimacy online through individualized porn and patreon girls? Is this an unanticipated side effect of the growth of the Internet? What does that say about society as a whole?

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A Final Serving of News Chum Stew to Close Out 2016

Observation StewIt’s the last day of the year. That means it is time to clean out the accumulated News Chum links, so I can  start 2017 fresh. It’s been a busy week, what with cleaning out the highway headlines and getting the California Highways website updated. But I’ve caught up on the RSS links (again, I highly recommend newsblur, which I switched to when Google Reader died), and I’ve got a full set of hopefully interesting articles ready to go:

  • Livejournal Moves its Servers to Russia. The Russians haven’t only interfered in the US elections and been sanctioned for it (more on that in my second post for today). Long ago, the Russian entity SUP purchased Livejournal from SixApart. In fact, supposedly the Russian word for blog is Livejournal. But the servers for the American Livejournal have long been on American soil, under American rules. Not any more: Livejournal has moved their servers to Russia, and already Russia is interfering with free speech. I’ve been with Livejournal since I started blogging back in 2004; I’ve got a permanent account there. I’ve been there through the original ownership, the days of SixApart and Vox Media, and the SUP ownership. About 4-5 years ago, I got fed up with their DDOS attacks and moved my blog over to WordPress, self-hosted on cahighways.org. I also created a Dreamwidth account with the same username as LJ (cahwyguy), and set things up so my posts auto-crosspost to Dreamwidth, and thence to LJ. I also imported all my posts from LJ to this blog, although some were protected and comments didn’t come through. Most of the friends I’ve had from LJ days have been refriended on Facebook. Long story short (TL;DR): LJ is now my tertiary site; I still read and comment there, but main posts are here. Those still reading this there are welcome to friend me over on Dreamwidth (user: cahwyguy) or on Facebook (again, user cahwyguy).
  • Fiddler on the Roof Announces Tour. Continuing the trend of starting with some updates, about a week ago I did some predictions about the upcoming touring season of Broadway shows. Since I wrote that, Fiddler has confirmed their tour. I predicted that Fiddler would go to the Ahmanson; as the Pantages shared the news from Playbill, it could end up there. I’m interested in this tour primarily because this version’s Motel, Adam Kantor, did Yiddishkeyt with my daughter.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas. As we’re on the penultimate day of Chanukah, and still within the 12 days of Christmas (and we still have annoying Christmas car commercials on TV), this article is still of interest: The story behind the most annoying Christmas Carol: The 12 Days of Christmas. For someone who doesn’t like Christmas Carols (for the record, my favorite is still Peter Paul and Mary’s Christmas Dinner), I found the background fascinating.
  • Solar Power – It’s Everywhere. Another thing currently on my mind is solar power, as we’re about to embark on a re-roofing and solar installation here (a consequence of extremely high DWP bills ($1500 and $1200 from July/August and September/October) and wanting to get it done before Trump guts everything). So this article about how Solar Power is getting cheaper caught my eye. To my eye, solar is now a no-brainer even if you don’t believe in climate change: it helps us get off of imported oil, and ensures our domestic reserves will be there in the future when we need them (as there is no dispute that petroleum is a limited resource). More importantly, cutting edge solar is now cheaper than Natural Gas, as least for large power producers. Alas, home solar has not gotten significantly cheaper, although presumably it will pay out in utility savings (especially in the hot San Fernando Valley).
  • Historical Notes. Two articles related to history caught my eye. The first has to do with Air Force Space Command, and particularly a new website that captures that history. I know one of the folks on that website, Warren Pearce; he seems to view me as a “greybeard” in relation to AFSPC (although I’m more of a CBG – Chubby Bearded Guy). I’m not really a greybeard in the true sense (although my first task when I got to my current employer was doing the security certification of then Lt. Pearce’s facility in the Springs — which I still remember because our finding was the lack of plastic sheeting in case the sprinklers went off), although I know quite a few from my SDC days. The second looks at the history of the Shopping Mall, and how the designer came to regret it. The mall — in its original sense of a square building, with the stores turned inwards surrounded by parking and a non-descript exterior — is dying, to be replaced by urban streetscapes such as the Rick Caruso specials or Big Box stores that harken back to the shopping main streets of old. What’s old is new again. Speaking of that, remember the site in Carson that was going to be the home of the LA Raiders. It’s becoming a shopping outlet mall.
  • Annoying Things. Here’s another pair of interest, dealing with annoying things. The first article looks at those annoying notifications of “Facebook Live” events from your friends — and provides information on how to turn them off. The second is more significant, and worth saving as a reference: what to do if you are hit by ransomware. Of course, the first thing to do is make sure you have backups, not network connected, to save your ass. The page, however, provides information on how you might be able to decrypt your disk, and not pay the ransom. Related to that is a third potentially useful link: How to use the Microsoft System File Checker to restore potentially corrupted system files.
  •  Food News. Two food related items. The first has to do with a Russian-Armenian restaurant in North Hills that sounds interesting enough to try. The second deals with the death of yet another deli: Carnegie Deli in NYC has served its last Pastrami Sandwich, although an outpost remains in Las Vegas.  I’ll also note that Cables Coffee Shop in Woodland Hills has Closed.
  • Android Phone Information. Did you get a new phone for the holidays? Is it Android? If so, here are two articles for you. The first talks about what you should do to get rid of your old Android phone. The second talks about how to transfer stuff to your new Android phone.
  • Supersonic Flight Possibly Returning. We’re getting near the end, folks. Here’s an interesting article on why we lost commercial supersonic flight, and the way it may return. The answer is: It may not be for everyone, and it will remain very expensive.
  • The Specialist. Lastly, one of the podcasts I listen to is “The Specialist”, which talks about odd jobs. Here’s one for the specialist: the guy who replaces the light bulbs in the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. I’m sure he didn’t go to college with that career in mind.

And with that, we’ve cleaned out the 2016 News Chum. I’m planning one more political post to close out the year, and then it is on to 2017. May your new year be a good one, filled with fewer deaths of people close to you or celebrities you care about, and may all your news chum stews be filled with tasty morsels of delight, as opposed to pieces of sinew (as we got with the 2016 election, but that’s the next post).

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The Impact of Technology

In another tab I’m working on my final news chum stew of the year (look for it shortly), when I realized I had a sufficient set of articles for a themed post — specifically one looking at some unexpected impacts of technology:

  • Self-Driving Cars and Organ Donation. Slashdot had an interesting piece on the impact of self-driving cars: It will significantly impact the availability of organs for donation. The basic thesis is as follows: A primary source of organs in good shape for donations is auto accidents, where the victims have indicated they are organ donors. Self-driving cars will reduce the number of auto accidents, and hence the number of healthy donors. We’ll be left with those that die in hospitals, where donors tend to be less healthy.
  • The Amazon Echo and Privacy . I recently was gifted with an Amazon Echo Dot. I’ve installed it, even though I’m not quite sure what it is good for, especially as I don’t do streaming music. But there are interesting privacy implications (independent of the insecurity of the Internet of Things): there is now a murder case out there where the question has been raised of requesting the audio captured by the Amazon Dot as evidence. So, for those that have the device, don’t talk about committing crimes where it can overhear you.
  • Streaming Media and Extras. There are those that believe the move to streaming media is good — you’ve got your music and video everywhere. That’s good, right? Right? I don’t necessarily subscribe to that, given my iPod Classic is nearing 40,000 songs, but I have streaming quality as they are all MP3s or AACs. An article from Vox looks at the problem with respect to video, and concludes TV on DVD is increasingly important. They provide significantly higher video quality than Internet transmission can support, and provide video extras (commentary, outtakes, alternate audio tracks, superior audio quality) that streaming can’t support. Plus, you own the content, as opposed to leasing it (which is why I still like my iPod Classic). That reminds me: I still need to order Lou Grant, now that it is available. Yes, there are series that are still just being re-released.
  • The Internet Kills Typography. Slashdot has another interesting discussion: this time, on how the Internet has killed the curly quote (e.g., “ and ”, in favor of the straight quotation marks). Deeper in the discussion, the larger point is made that the Internet is killing typography in general: people don’t think about the differences between inter-letter spacing (do you know the difference between “ ” (en-space), “ ” (em-space), “ ” (thin space), “‌” (zero-width non-joiner), ” ” (no-break space), “” (soft-hyphen), and ” ” (normal space)? Did you ever write “␣” for space?); often the distinction between the various hyphens are lost, and even the difference between the -, –, and — is being lost (that’s hyphen, en-dash, and em-dash). I remember the days when one got curly quotes by using “ and ”, and depended on programs like troff to fix things up. Is it better these days? I don’t know.

 

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