Friday News Chum: Iranian Jews, Homework, 7-11, and Shuttle Moves

Well, it’s Friday at lunch time (well, it’s really Thursday night, but let’s do like they did at the debate and play “let’s pretend”). It’s time to clear out the remaining accumulated links…


Sunday Morning Musings: Space Shuttle Route, -Stan, Yelp, Vegas History, Porn, and More Politics

Sunday morning… everyone else in the house is asleep, so I thought I would share a few articles I discovered yesterday:

  • Space Shuttle Final Flight. You’ve probably seen this, but they’ve announced the route for the final flight of the space shuttle. The itinerary starts on 9/17 with flyovers of its former Florida home. Continuing west, Endeavour will make low flyovers of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly plant near New Orleans. As Endeavour approaches the Texas coast, it will fly over Houston, Galveston and Clearlake. The 747 carrying Endeavour will touch down at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center. At sunrise on 9/19, Endeavour will depart Houston and refuel in El Paso at Biggs Army Airfield. The next low flyovers at 1,500-feet will take place over White Sands Tests Facility in New Mexico and the Dryden Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. After the Edwards flyover, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, SCA, will land at Dryden. On 9/20, the shuttle will overfly Northern California, passing nearAmes Research Center outside San Francisco. It will make numerous flyovers of landmarks, NASA says, in multiple cities including San Francisco and Sacramento.The final flyovers will take place over Los Angeles before landing at LAX around 11 a.m. Pacific time. I’m sure we’ll all be out to watch it from the Circle A parking lot. On 10/12, the shuttle will depart again, this time using surface streets (Westchester Parkway, Sepulveda Eastway, Manchester, Crenshaw, MLK Blvd) to get to the California ScienCenter. Over 400 trees are being cut down to clear the route for the shuttle’s wingspan.
  • Hi, Stan.  One of my favorite books is “How the States Got Their Shapes“. I read it again over vacation, and learning the history behind the various boundaries is fascinating. So naturally I loved a recent Mental Floss that explored why so many countries end in “-stan”. The proto-indo-european root root, stā, or “stand,” found its way into many words in the language’s various descendants. The Russian -stan means “settlement,” and other Slavic languages use it to mean “apartment” or “state.” In English, the root was borrowed to make “stand,” “state,” “stay” and other words. The ancient Indo-Iranian peoples — descendants of Proto-Indo-Europeans who moved east and south from the Eurasian steppe – used it to mean “place” or “place of.” It’s this meaning that’s used for the names of the modern -stan countries, which got it through linguistic descent (Urdu and Pashto, the respective official languages of Pakistan and Afghanistan, both descend from the Indo-Iranian language), or by adopting it (the former Soviet -stan countries have historically been mostly ethnically Turkic and speak languages from the Turkic family). Thus, a country such as “Afghanistan” means “Land of the Afghans”. Cool.
  • Impact of Yelp. With my daughter at UCB, naturally I’ve added the Daily Cal to my reading list. Last week there was a very interesting research report on the impact of Yelp on restaurants. Specifically, the research found that when you move up half a star, your probability of being sold out goes up by roughly 20 percent. Moving up from a 3 to a 3.5 star rating gives restaurants between a 20 and 40 percent chance of being sold out at peak hours, while moving up from a 3.5 to 4-star rating gives restaurants a 40 to 60 percent chance of being sold out. I’d be curious to see a similar impact of ratings on items at sale at Amazon, and on Amazon Marketplace sellers. I’d expect to see similar impacts.
  • Las Vegas History. One of my hobbies is the history of Las Vegas (and other areas with lots of development in the 40s and 50s). So naturally I found the article about the El Cortez Hotel seeking a historic designation interesting. Most hotels in Vegas (especially on the strip) want to get rid of their history. You’ll find very little of 1950s Vegas left on the strip: there is the original building at the heart of the Riviera, and the Circus area at Circus Circus. I’m not sure how much of the original building is left at Ceasars, but the rest of the original strip is either gone (El Rancho Vegas, Last Frontier, Dunes, Hacienda, Desert Inn, Sands, Thunderbird), due to come down (Sahara), or had the original portions remodelled away (Flamingo, Tropicana, Caesars). The El Cortez downtown has done none of that. Original walls, original signs, original everything.
  • Porn Changes. One of the people I read on FB posted a link to an interesting article from Time Magazine in 2005 that explored how porn has changed since the 1970s. It talked about the history of the porn movie, and how the early films at least had pretenses of being real movies with real stores… just more sex. Eventually, that trend died away, and we were left with the straight-to-Internet garbage of today. An interesting analysis, and one that begs an alternate history where the skin flick and mainstream movies merged, and it was violence in movies that died out and went underground.
  • A Political Closing Note. As you know, I’ve been following the election this year. One of my favorite sites is; if you don’t read it… you should. I’ve also got Facebook friends who post good political links. For example, Stephen Greenwald posted a link to a great piece on why it is so important that Our Side must win and the Wrong Side must absolutely lose. One of my favorites on FB is Gene Spafford (who, as he wrote, is looking to be put on a pedestal… he’s hoping that one day his plinth will come). Gene posted a link recently to his blog, where he wrote about all you need to know for this Presidental year. Well worth reading… and worth asking yourselves why the Republicans didn’t trot out a former president to recommend their candidate.

A Star Trek

Yesterday, an interesting “star trek” was announced: the trek of the orbiter Endeavor from LAX to the California ScienCenter. There have been a number of articles written (LA Times, Curbed LA, Daily Breeze, and of course, the California ScienCenter site itself). These articles provide lots of interesting details on the route and some of the incredible logistics that will be involved:

  • The shuttle will fly across the country on the back of a specially modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, arriving at LAX (weather permitting) on September 20, 2012. This should be neat; we will probably be able to see the landing from our offices here at Circle A ranch.
  • Once at LAX, the shuttle will be prepared for transport. Once there are assurances that wind conditions are below 10 mph, a pair of cranes and a giant sling will be used to lift the 170,000-pound orbiter off the NASA 747. NASA’s 747 plane will be backed out while an overland transporter rolls under the shuttle. From there, the Endeavour will be moved to a hangar provided by United Airlines, where crews will prepare the shuttle for the drive across LA. This includes installation of a final – yet arduous – haul through Los Angeles and Inglewood. This will include installation of a transponder so that the Shuttle can use the express lanes on the Harbor Freeway (just kidding).
  • The transportation of the shuttle itself won’t be easy, as it is 78 feet long and 58 feet high! The route from LAX to the museumwill be along city streets. The shuttle will leave LAX, take Westchester Parkway and LaTijera to Manchester, go along Manchester to Crenshaw, up Crenshaw to MLK Blvd, and thence to the California SciencCenter. This includes a bridge over I-405 that was probably not constructed to handle the weight of a shuttle (the shuttle weighs 165000 lbs when empty, but will be engine-less but have the transport trailer… so we’re still talking between 70-85 tons!). The city streets along the way probably can’t handle the weight too well either. It also includes numerous power poles and trees and such. One article notes that crews will need to remove 212 traffic signals and lights and move overhead utility lines so that the massive shuttle can slowly maneuver through the streets of Westchester, Inglewood and Hyde Park before it finally arrives at the museum. Trees will be pruned back or even uprooted. Power lines will be raised. Every tree removed along the route will eventually be replaced with two trees in an attempt to minimize impacts on surrounding communities.
  • The shuttle will move over two days: October 12-13, weather permitting. Along the way, the shuttle will arrive at Inglewood City Hall for an official launch ceremony on the morning of October 13. After that, it’ll go to Martin Luther King and Crenshaw Boulevards for a celebration produced and directed by Debbie Allen.
  • At its top speed, the giant mobile transporters carrying the shuttle will travel about 2 mph along the city streets. But there are some points along the route where Endeavour will have less than a foot of clearance on either side! The drivers better drive straight!
  • Once it arrives at the California ScienCenter, it will be housed in a temporary exhibit — open to the public Oct. 30 — until construction on a new Air and Space Center is complete. According to the CTC, “The public will be able to view the shuttle in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion at the Science Center while the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, a new addition to the Science Center, is being built. When completed, Endeavour will be the centerpiece of this new building, envisioned as part of the Science Center’s 25-year master plan”. No word if they’ll need to move it again at that time! In case you are curious, costs for the move and construction of the temporary and new exhibits will total about $200 million. The money will come entirely from donations.
  • Note that the shuttle is considerably lighter than the recent move of the “Levitated Mass” boulder. The 340-ton boulder sat atop a massive truck that crept 105 miles from Riverside County to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art during a 12-day journey. The shuttle is only 80-ton, so with the trailer, at worst, it is probably half the weight of the boulder. That really puts things in perspective. Where the shuttle tops the boulder is sheer size, at 78 feet long and 58 feet high compared to the boulder’s 21½ feet height and length. Here’s some more perspective. A story in a building is roughly 10 feet, so moving the shuttle means moving a 5-6 story building (when you add in the transport). A block is roughly 660 feet, so moving the shuttle means moving a 5½ story building that is 1/8 block long, including making 90° turns. Quite a challenge.



Friday News Chum, with Extra Link Sausage

Well, it’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means: time to clean out the accumulated News Chum links:

Music: When I Need You (Roger Whittaker): A Weekend in New England


Moving Space in Time

A couple of interesting articles today regarding the space shuttle.

  • Space Shuttle Enterprise… is being moved by barge from JFK Airport in New York to its final destination, the Intrepid Museum. Today, after shipping out from JFK, Enterprise will make its way toward New York Harbor by traveling along the shore of Queens and Brooklyn. The planned route will bring Enterprise by the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, slip by Coney Island, and then pass under the Verrazano Bridge before pulling into a temporary dock in New Jersey’s Port Elizabeth. On Tuesday, the shuttle will finish the journey by leaving Port Elizabeth, passing the Statue of Liberty, floating up the Hudson River by the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower, and arriving at the Intrepid museum.
  • Space Shuttle Explorer (a/k/a Space Shuttle Replica). This is moving in Houston. The replica will take an early-morning trip from its dock at Clear Lake to the Space Center Houston by way of the area’s NASA Parkway and NASA 1 Bypass. The space shuttle replica was previously on display in Cape Canaveral, Fla., at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the welcome center for the nearby Kennedy Space Center spaceport that served as the homeport for NASA’s space shuttle fleet for 30 years. Florida will be getting Atlantis.
  • Space Shuttle Endeavor. This is the interesting one. Endeavour is being prepared for its cross-country trip to Los Angeles, where it will be delivered to the California Science Center for public display. Once it arrives, it will face an interesting problem: how to get from LAX to the California ScienCenter near Exposition Park, where it will be housed.  A report has been provided to the City Council detailing how hard this task will be: “…after being flown to Los Angeles International Airport, the shuttle will travel roughly ten miles on city streets to its new home at the California Science Center. To be transported on its belly, the shuttle will exceed five stories high and boast a wingspan of 78 feet. Detailed planning and coordination will be required to find an appropriate route that will avoid freeway overpasses and identify streets that are both wide enough and strong enough to support the Endeavour. It will be necessary for City crews to temporarily relocate overhead wires, street signs and traffic control devices to allow the shuttle to move safely through city streets. Additionally, traffic officers will need to be deployed at various locations along the route to assist motorists where traffic signal equipment has been removed.” For reference, your normal lane width is between 10-12 feet, so 78 feet means you’ll need a six to eight lane wide street for the entire route, with no places where the roadway goes under something (and remember, the route will have to cross I-405 at some point), and the ability to move something about 52 feet high… and any bridge you use needs to be able to support the load. Now remember the route will likely need to move across some of the more densely populated places in LA (Inglewood, South Central) to end up near USC. I wouldn’t want to be the space planner for that move.



Another Themeless Day: Clearing Clutter, Space Cases, and Things that are Hidden

Continuing our trend of a themeless lunchtime news chum week, here are a few articles to ponder over as you eat your healthy salad:

Music: The Great Works of Vivaldi (Hanseatic Baroque Orchestra): The Four Seasons: Autumn