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This collection has taken a while to ripen to fruition:

  • Knitting as a Patriotic Duty. Here’s an interesting article on how knitting helped us win the war. From knitting for the troops to encoding information in garments, knitting has been vital.
  • The Welcome Blanket. Here’s an interesting knitting project: The Welcome Blanket. The aim of the project is to use 2,000 miles of yarn to knit blankets. The significance of that staggering number? It’s the approximate length of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Those participating in the project are asked to knit (or crochet, or sew) a blanket that is 40 inches by 40 inches, which averages 1,200 yards. That means about 3,200 blankets will be needed to meet the goal. Participants are encouraged to make their blankets “something you would like to receive” and think of it as “a gift to a neighbor.”
  • Baby Hats. Don’t want to knit a blanket? How about baby hats? Oklahoma needs 5,000 of them, all in purple. Why? The campaign is part of an effort to raise awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome, a form of abusive head trauma that’s a damaging parental response to excessive crying and can result in serious brain injury. The effort, dubbed “Click for Babies” after the sound knitting needles make, is intended to highlight the potential hazards of improper infant care. Why purple? Because the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome refers to an infant’s period of prolonged crying as the PURPLE period. The word is an acronym for reminders about the syndrome: L, for example, stands for Long-Lasting. Babies can cry for five hours a day, up to four months of age.

Don’t knit. Here’s a non-knitting item:

 

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Over the past few weeks, there have been quite a few articles I’ve uncovered related to California and Los Angeles history:

Speaking of going away….

 

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Sometimes news chum is just useful information. Here’s a bunch of items, all related to your house or your household:

 

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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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Here’s a collection of articles that I found to be quite interesting (and worthy of comment), and yet ones that are unlikely to fit into a themed post:

  • Garfield is Not Meant To Be Funny. We’re all familiar with the lasgane-eating cat. We read the script, and scratch our heads. Some of us even find Garfield minus Garfield to be funnier.  Turns out there is a reason. Garfield was never meant to be funny; it was specifically designed to be marketable.  That is, Garfield was designed to be able to create plush toys, trite sayings, kitchen magnets, T-shirts, and such — not to be a funny strip.
  • Judaism Isn’t Cheap. The LA Times has an interesting op-ed today on the high cost of Judaism. This isn’t even talking about the cost of living Judaism — kosher food and the like. Rather, it refers to the high cost of Jewish community services, the high cost of synagogue membership. It posits that this is one reason behind declining synagogue membership. I know that at our large synagogue in the ‘burbs, membership dues are high, there are regular additional appeals because dues don’t cover all, and accounting errors lead to additional assessments … plus all the various fundraisers and events that have their fees. If you’re not lucky enough to be middle-class, what do you do. You join with dues assistance, which then makes things even worse for the rest of the congregation. There are some answers, but they take, so to speak, a leap of faith and assumption of a certain amount of risk. They take making synagogues be more than dues for service, rather a relationship you want to support. It’s not an easy question.
  • Dealing with ADHD. We have taken in a cousin who is dealing with ADHD. This is something new to us, and is leading us to be more attentive to the various posts that go around on the subject. Recently, a FB friend brought to light this wonderful ADHD survival guide. I think it has some really good tips that we are going to try.
  • You Are What You Drink. Coke Zero is rebranding itself as Coke Zero Sugar. Why? The new name is intended to make clearer that the drink has no calories, and a new recipe is intended to make the drink taste more like regular Coke. The company isn’t specifying what it’s changing aside from saying it tweaked the “blend of flavors.” It says the drink will use the same artificial sweeteners. Mainly, they are making it look more, and taste more, like Coke. Why? Because “Diet Coke” doesn’t taste like Coke (remember, Diet Coke replaced Tab, which was saccharine based). The push behind Coke Zero comes as people continue moving away from Diet Coke in the United States. Coca-Cola in the past has blamed the declines on concerns over the aspartame used in the drink, though the ingredient is also used in Coke Zero, which has enjoyed growth globally. Note that last bit: aspartame is used in Coke Zero. That’s why I don’t drink it. I either drink water or plain black tea. With respect to that, alas, Starbucks is closing down all Teavana locations. Starbuck has never had a commitment to tea. Note that both Peets and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf have also been reducing their tea selections, likely because there’s no profit in tea as people don’t doctor it as much as coffee to make it drinkable, and thus they can’t charge the extra $$$. Let’s hope David’s Tea stays around.
  • Dealing with Dementia. Unfortunately, many of us are having to deal with the mental decline of our aging parents. We get diagnoses of cognitive impairment, and often leave it at that. But it turns out that the type of dementia is important to know, for it can impact the approach to treatment. So, for me, this article was interesting simply because of all the dementia we’re dealing with these days.

 

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Continuing to clear out some articles, here’s some travel and transit related articles:

 

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This news chum post has coalesced around the theme of generations, generational changes, and growing up:

  • Dealing With The Stuff. Actually, the title of this article says it all: “Boomer parents: ‘One day, this will all be yours.’ Grown children: ‘Noooo!’“. Basically, dealing with our parent’s stuff. They collect it. It has meaning to them. They leave it to us. We have no idea what to do with it. We keep some, donate the rest, and accumulate stuff with meaning to us. Which we then leave to our children. Which they don’t want.
  • The Casserole. Quite likely, some of that stuff is Pyrex baking casseroles. Compared to modern kitchen items, vintage Pyrex — which is heavy, increasingly expensive and not dishwasher safe — doesn’t seem immediately practical. Yet people remain obsessed with the old Pyrex — not just to look at but to actually use. And they collect it. And this article is about their collecting it.
  • Working Online. For the younger generation, there is the belief that they can be the next “You Tube” star with their video log, or with their written fashion or makeup blogs. Think again. Most fail.
  • Man-Boys. No, I’m not talking about Peter Pan again. Rather, the spoiled white men who never seem to grow up. Here’s an interesting opinion piece on the subject (from the NY Times), exploring why society allows them to get away with it (cough, Trump, cough), and how that ability is denied to non-whites.

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Continuing the clearing of some themed groups, here are some interesting histories that I’ve seen come across my feeds of late:

  • LA Theatre. Here’s a complete history of LA Theatre while standing on one foot.  OK, well, it’s not complete (there’s no mention of the LA Civic Light Opera, for example, or the other major large theatres that are no more, like the Huntington Hartford or the Shubert in Century City), but it is a great summary of the current situation with 99 seat theatres and how we got there.
  • Jewish Culinary Tradition. Here’s an article (and a discussion of a cookbook) related to a classic Jewish food tradition: pickling and preservation. A number of the recipes described sound really interesting .
  • Left Turns. If you’re like me, you get … annoyed … at the current crop of drivers that wait behind the limit line to make a left turn, and then do a sweeping arc that almost cuts off the car waiting on the cross street to turn (plus, it means one car per light). If you’re like me, you were taught to pull into the middle of the intersection, and then to do an almost 90 degree turn to go from left lane into left lane. Turns out, left turns have changed over time, and I’m old-school.
  • Old Subway Cars. When your light rail cars die, where do they go? Often, they are dumped in the ocean. Los Angeles did that with some of the Red and Yellow Cars. New York does it with its subway cars. But this isn’t pollution, and here are the pictures to prove it. Rather, it is creating reefs for oceanlife.
  • Tunnels Back In Service. An LADWP tunnel that dates back to 1915 is going back in service.The Los Angeles Daily News reports the tunnel is being refurbished to capture water runoff from the Sierras, which was inundated with snow this winter.The tunnel is part of a larger system, called the Maclay Highline, that runs from “the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in Sylmar to a group of meadows in Pacoima.” Once restored, the tunnel will carry a significant amount of water—130 acre-feet a day—to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water. (One acre-foot can supply two households with water for a year.)

As we’re talking history, here’s another interesting themed historical group, this time focused on air travel:

  • Lockheed L-1011. I remember back in the 1990s flying between LAX and IAD, when I could still occasionally get an L-1011. This was a tri-jet from Lockheed, and was nice and spacious with great overhead space. They have long since disappeared, but one recently took to the skies as part of a ferry to a museum. The refurbished plane will be used as part of a STEM teaching experience.
  • Boeing 747. The Queen of the Skies has been dethroned by someone skinnier and cheaper. The last few 747s for passenger service are coming off the line; airlines are phasing them out of the fleets. There will be a few more for freight service, but like the DC-10, they will be disappearing. The market can not really support such large loads — and the multiple engines and fuel it takes to ferry them. The Airbus A380 is facing similar problems. Airlines want at most two engines, with the planes packed to the gills.
  • Old Airports. Here’s an article on an interesting dilemma: What to do with old municipal airports, such as the one in downtown Detroit? (NYTimes article) Should they be restored for general aviation purposes, and perhaps the occasional commercial craft? Should their land be repurposed for more housing and manufacturing, as was done quite successfully with the old DEN (Denver Stapleton). Repurposing can be temping. Cities such as Detroit will soon run out of wide-open, city-owned spaces that can be offered to companies looking to build manufacturing or other commercial facilities here. A decomissioned airport can provide just the opportunity needed. But others say cities should reinvest in the airports, saying it could be an economic engine as well. (I’ll note similar questions exists for former Air Force bases as well — how is former George AFB working out, San Bernardino?) The article  notes that cities across the nation are reconsidering the value of municipal airports in the era of superjumbo jets and budget cuts. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimated the nation loses 50 public-use airports a year. Almost all are general-aviation airports, ones that cater primarily to owners of private planes, and most have operating deficits that the cities must make up for in their budgets. Detroit, for instance, faces a $1.3 million operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year for Coleman Young, which averages just 30 landings a day. The main airport for the region is Detroit Metropolitan, a Delta Air Lines hub about 20 miles west of the city limits.

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Here are three interesting uses of technology that I’ve seen come across my various feeds lately:

  • Cats without the Litterbox. Do you love cats for the relaxing purr, but hate cleaning litter boxes? Are you allergic to cats but still find the sound relaxing. Problem solved. The Internet has a cat, and it is ready and willing to purr just for you.
  • Travel Tips. I regularly bemoan the fact that kids these days can’t read maps. They are addicted to their GPS and navigation apps. But here’s a cool navigation thing for when you don’t have real experience: Google Maps will now tell you the best time to leave to avoid traffic to your destination.
  • Finding Counterfeits. People who operate pawn shops have a big problem: counterfeits. They have no control over their supply chain (no SCRM here), so that Gucci handbag that was brought in might not be the real thing. Luckily, technology helps. There’s now an app/camera combination that can examine a handbag (or other products) to determine their authenticity. Entrupy’s microscopic camera device is used in conjunction with the Entrupy app on a Apple device to take images of handbags, its seams, its inner fabric and any serial number or date code in the bag. Artificial intelligence algorithms analyze the images to determine authenticity, and results are received in real time. Entrupy backs up the authentication service with a financial guarantee. If a bag is deemed to be authentic and later is discovered to be fake, Entrupy will cover any financial loss. Entrupy plans to enter the shoe authentication sector next. Shoes such as Air Jordans, Yeezys and others can fetch hundreds to thousands of dollars on the resale market.

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Today’s lunchtime news chum post brings you three interesting recent reports related to food and medicine:

  • Artificial Sweeteners. Obesity is a growing problem in the world — although the issue should really be not the size, but the health of the individual. For the longest time, people believed that “diet” products were (a) good for you, and (b) helped you either lose or not gain weight. Increasingly, we’re believing and discovering otherwise. Specifically, a recent analysis of data from 37 studies has shown that artificial sweeteners are associated with weight gain and heart problems. After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude that there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight. And observational data suggest that the people who regularly consume these sweeteners are also more likely to develop future health problems, though those studies can’t say those problems are caused by the sweeteners.  In other words, if you are going to have something sweet, have the real sugar.
  • Carbohydrates. If you have tried to lose weight, you know how it is. Those carbs call to you. Here’s an explanation of why it is so hard to cut carbs. The answer is: Insulin. It directly links what we eat to the accumulation of excess fat and that, in turn, is tied to the foods we crave and the hunger we experience. It’s been known since the 1960s that insulin signals fat cells to accumulate fat, while telling the other cells in our body to burn carbohydrates for fuel. By this thinking these carbohydrates are uniquely fattening. As insulin levels after meals are determined largely by the carbohydrates we eat — particularly easily digestible grains and starches, known as high glycemic index carbohydrates, as well as sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup — diets based on this approach specifically target these carbohydrates. If we don’t want to stay fat or get fatter, we don’t eat them. This effect of insulin on fat and carbohydrate metabolism offers an explanation for why these same carbohydrates, are typically the foods we crave most; why a little “slip,” as addiction specialists would call it, could so easily lead to a binge.Elevate insulin levels even a little, and the body switches over from burning fat for fuel to burning carbohydrates, by necessity. In other words: The more insulin you release, the more you crave carbs.
  • Expiration Dates. We’ve all been taught to throw away stuff that is expired. Food, medicine, grandparents. If it is expired, throw it away. But it turns out, that’s really bad advice and a waste of money. Food dates rarely are true expiration dates: most are “best by” dates and the food remains perfectly fine and nutritional, and for some, the printed date can be overtaken by poor handling. A study recently released shows that medicine expiration dates are also meaningless. A cache of medicine was recently found in a hospital from the late 1960s, and it was tested for efficacy. Of the 14 drugs, 12 were as potent as when they were manufactured.  Both of these findings point to needed better rules on “expiration dates” to avoid waste and early unnecessary disposal; it also should teach you to use your common sense. Look and smell before using. You may discover it is still good.

 

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Alas, I’m home sick for another day. So, before I get to attempting to work from home, here’s a bit more of the accumulated news chum. This batch is all about Los Angeles:

  • Damn You, Internet. Just as Amazon has decimated so many retailers, the easy availability of porn has decimated the adult movie theater. Whereas there were once loads of adult theaters across Los Angeles, the city is down to just two. Is this a good thing? Is there some element to the communal experience of an adult theater that we are losing? Having never gone to one … I can’t answer. [But then, who needs the Internet … the next uproar you’ll see has to do with Teen Vogue, which has decided to inform teens by publishing a tutorial on anal sex. I kid you not, and I’ve already started to see the protest posts from the Conservative / Evangelical side on FB]
  • Damn You, Interent (Take Two). The Internet has also impacted journalism, causing many big city papers to see falling readership and resulting in downsizings. The LA Times isn’t immune. As part of the whole mess with Tribune and Tronc, the paper’s real estate, including the storied HQ downtown, went with Tribune (not Tronc) and was sold for the cash. Developers are supposedly keeping the historic core, and developing the rest. Yup. More live / work / retail / office space. As for the Times, some say they are staying there, and some say they are moving to new digs. But then again, no.
  • Good Dog. Short but sweet: The iconic home of the former Tail Of The Pup restaurant has found a new home.
  • Remembering Obama. The LA City Council has voted to rename Rodeo (Road-ee-oh) Road after President Obama. The road is in an area where there are Washington, Jefferson, and Adams Blvds (and who can forget President Venice), so that works. It also eliminates the longstanding confusion with that similar named street in Beverly Hills (Rodeo (Road-ay-oh) Drive). But what of the symbolism of the fact that the road travels through predominately black neighborhoods, and there aren’t similar roads for later Presidents. (Related: There is a pending resolution to name a short stretch of Route 134 after Obama as well, but that name won’t go into common use given the nature of the naming mechanism.)
  • BBQ. Wood Ranch BBQ (not known as a haven for great BBQ) is attempting to master Texas Brisket BBQ. I’m not sure I want to try it.

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Observation StewI’m home today with a cold, and I have loads of interesting news chum links that have no coherent theme, so let’s just get them out there (h/t to Andrew Ducker for a few of these). Oh, and with each, you’ll get a little bit more.:

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Here are some technology news chum items that have caught my eye of late:

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Today’s lunchtime news chum brings two stories where getting what you wanted didn’t quite work out as planned:

  • We Elected A Business Man to run our Government. What Could Go Wrong?

No, I’m not talking about President Trump. Politico Magazine has a detailed analysis of Colorado Springs’ jump into Libertarianism. From the election of a politically-inexperienced Mayor who promised to run the city like a business, to the consequence of the financial crisis. From some initial successes, it was downhill. But the Springs are booming again? Why. A political conservative new Mayor was elected — but this time, one who understood what government is and how it functions.

  • We Wanted a Cheap, Reliable, Air Transportation System Between Domestic Cities. What Could Go Wrong?

The answer is, of course, corporate greed. This is what has led to the Boeing 737 being stretched longer and longer, with more efficient and powerful engines, going longer and longer distances. But there hasn’t been a change in fuselog width or underlying control systems. So we’re just packing more and more in, and squishing everyone closer together.  But don’t panic. The real Boeing 797 may be around the corner. It will be built of new composite materials, but doesn’t look to be a wide-body. Sounds like a 737 with new electronics and a lighter airframe, permitting even more speed and even more distance. How far can you throw a tin can?

 

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Continuing to clear the news chum, here are some interesting “explanations” I’ve found of late:

 

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Now that the Fringe Fest is past, it is time to start clearing out the news chum (if I could just do that with the 70 backed up podcasts!). This first batch all provide some interesting histories:

  • Knitting as an Espionage Tool. This is an older article — I’ve been holding onto it for about a month. It tells the interesting story of spies that used knitting as an information hiding technique. Whether women knitted codes into fabric or used stereotypes of knitting women as a cover, there’s a history between knitting and espionage. When knitters used knitting to encode messages, the message was a form of steganography, a way to hide a message physically (which includes, for example, hiding morse code somewhere on a postcard, or digitally disguising one image within another). If the message must be low-tech, knitting is great for this; every knitted garment is made of different combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a “v”, and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump. By making a specific combination of knits and purls in a predetermined pattern, spies could pass on a custom piece of fabric and read the secret message, buried in the innocent warmth of a scarf or hat.
  • Mr. Cellophane. In a previous post, I cited an article about the transformative nature of the elevator on society. Here’s another transformative item: cellophane. It changed the way we buy food by allowing clear packaging. Cellophane packaging let food vendors manipulate the appearance of foods by controlling the amount of moisture and oxygen that touched a product, thus preventing discoloration. In turn, it led to the rise of the self-service store. In a similar vein is plastic. We often think of gasoline and cars when we look at the impact of oil, but there’s an even bigger impact in oil-based plastic. Just imagine a world where there is no plastic. No plastic for food, gloves, medical equipment, insulation, packaging. It’s scary.
  • Hawaiian Pizza. It seems simple doesn’t it: Canadian Bacon and Pineapple on a pizza. It’s heresy to some. But someone had to come up with the idea, and here’s the story of the invention of said pizza. You have tiki culture to thank. According to Atlas Obscura, the rise of tiki culture, as troops returning from the South Pacific after serving in World War II, and the influence of American Chinese food were crucial to inspiring the creator, who sought to unite the sweet and the savory — a mission that ended in him dumping a can of pineapple on a pizza pie.
  • Yellow Cars. When you think of trolley cars and Los Angeles, I’m sure you think of the Red Cars — the cars made famous in Roger Rabbit — the cars that a “conspiracy” supposedly killed (truth: that’s an urban legend). But the Red Cars weren’t the only system. Here’s an article on LA’s narrow-gauge Yellow Car system. As opposed to the interurban Pacific Electric, the Los Angeles Railway provided quick, local service in downtown L.A. and nearby communities. For decades, the Yellow Cars’ bells rang as far west as La Brea Avenue and as far north as Eagle Rock, and the trolleys serviced neighborhoods from East Los Angeles to Hawthorne. Though their reach was shorter than that of the fabled Red Cars, the Yellow Cars carried roughly twice as many riders—at its peak in 1924, the Los Angeles Railway served 255.6 million passengers, and the Pacific Electric only 100.9 million.
  • Beauty Remains. Yes, this is SFW. Here’s an interesting little bit of history, wherein Playboy cover girls recreate their iconic covers 30 or more so years on. Guess what? A beautiful woman remains beautiful.
  • Boyle Heights. Lastly, there is currently an exhibition in the Boyle Heights neighborhood celebrating its Jewish history. I’ve been learning this history of late, and it is really fascinating — and it shows the impact of Yiddishists and Workers Movements on the Jewish Community of LA.

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Reading my news feeds over the last few days, I’ve uncovered three infographics that illustrate how the generations differ in various ways. As news chum is governed by the rule of threes (at least three items on a theme), that means it is posting time:

P.S.: A birdie tells me there’s going to be  a great graphic on freeway signage, using information from various source (including my site), sometime this weekend on the Southern California Newsgroup Papers. I’ll post a link to it when I have it.

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Today’s news chum collection is united by the common theme of transportation: either the article deals with modes of transportation, or places impacted by transportation:

  • The Bus. Think about transportation museums that you know. There are loads of airplane museums. Train museums are quite common. Automobile museums you also see. But bus collections? Rare. About as rare as boardgames about Interstates. Here’s an article about a vintage bus graveyard in Fontana, CA, that may be in trouble. The owner has long wished to found a nonprofit museum dedicated to the history of the American motor coach, and his 122 buses represent a dream long deferred — a dream that could abruptly end, due to the fact that the city of Fontana has annexed the property that he rents to store the buses. he has been given two weeks to move (and the article was published in mid-May, so time may be up already). If he doesn’t get a stay of execution or a new, multi-acre lot (and significant funds to move the buses), many of these historic treasures will be destined for the scrapyard. [Note: I did some searching, but I could not find out what happened on this.]
  • The Elevator. Sometimes the most commonplace objects are the most transformational. Consider the elevator, or as the Brit’s call it, the lift. This humble movable box that goes up and down changed the shape of our cities. It changed the nature of the value of the uppermost rooms of a building, it made increased density possible in our cities, and it transformed how we use space in our cities.
  • The Motel. The impact of the automobile is significant. It transformed the humble inn or downtown hotel into the motel — a building expressly designed for the motoring public where the driver could park next to their room. The world’s first motel was in San Luis Obispo on US 101. Left to decay, the first motel is now going to be rebuilt. All that remains of the Motel Inn is a crumbling façade and an office building. The property on the north end of Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo has sat shuttered and dilapidated since the 1990s. In 1925, the Milestone Mo-Tel, as it was originally called, became the first motel in the world.Now, a team of local developers is working to restore the motel to it’s former glory.
  • The Vanpool. Solo driving can be tiring. Consider the transformational value of the vanpool and ride-sharing on how one gets to work. I know this personally: I vanpool every day. I put less miles on my car, have lower insurance, use less gas, and get reimbursed for my vanpooling costs (so I commute for free). A sweet deal. But I’m not the only one. Here’s a piece from a lawyer who commuted to Century City who decided that ride-sharing was much better. PS: If you live in the north valley, and commute to El Segundo, drop me a note if you might be interested in joining our vanpool.
  • The Mall. One of the greatest impacts of the automobile was in how we shop. No more wandering that quaint collection of stores downtown. We could go to the mall. That indoor collection of store after store surrounded by free parking, anchored by multiple department stores. Well, the department stores are going bankrupt, the small stores in the mall are dying, and everything is being killed off by Amazon. People still go shopping, but for the experience in outdoor shopping villages. As for the mall? Perhaps we can transform it into something better. But perhaps not. We shall see.
  • Signage. Transportation has also transformed how we sign things. We have to design signage to be universally understandable, at a high speed, by many cultures. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t (I have yet to see a well designed “no right turn on red” sign). 99% Invisible presents one such quandry: how would you redesign the “lane ends, merge left” sign? The old version of the sign features two lines running parallel at the bottom with one angling in toward the top. This design can be mirrored to indicate a merge from either the left or the right. It is hard to tell, though, whether the lines represent lanes or their borders — if lanes, then it looks like two routes coming closer together (not merging). The existence of text-only supplements (“LANE ENDS MERGE LEFT”) also suggests a graphic-only approach can be baffling. How would you improve it?

 

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As I walk into work, there are signs noting that June is a month where they are emphasizing a culture of safety. So here is a collection of news chum articles intended to keep you safe. If not safe, then perhaps healthy. If not healthy, then hopefully not in pain. And if you are in pain, remember that they eventually move out and live on their own.

  • Wheelchairs and Airplanes. In many ways, our current airplane culture is a poor way to travel. We’re all aware of how much of a pain it is for able-bodied passengers. Just imagine how much worse it is for those who must be in wheelchairs: enduring transfers to narrow chairs, dealing with narrow aisles and seats, and all sorts of other indignities. Wouldn’t it be much nicer if they could take their chair onto the plane and simply lock it in place? There’s a group, All Wheels Up, working to achieve just that goal.
  • Dealing with Chronic Pain. Here’s a report on a device that will supposedly help with chronic pain. It looks, to all intents and purposes, to be a form of TENS device. I’ve had such a device (Cephaly) suggested for my migraines and I’m considering it, and this might help my wife with various joint pain. Has anyone tried it?
  • Allergies and Antihistimines. Via Compound Interest, here’s a full graphic on how antihistamines and other treatments work to help allergies.  Understanding how medicines work chemically is a key to using the right medicine at the right time, in the right way.
  • Dealing with Hives. When one sees topical (skin) hives, one often thinks they are an allergic reaction that that oral steroids will help. A new study says: perhaps not. Despite standard use for the itching associated with urticaria (commonly known as hives), prednisone (a steroid) offered no additional relief to emergency patients suffering from hives than a placebo did, according to a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel-group study published online. What works? Antihistamines.
  • Drug Prices. We’re all aware of spiraling drug prices, and are sure of the common culprit: drug companies. Yet even their tricks to make their drugs affordable raise prices. Consider the question: You can get a generic drug for which you have a copay of $10, or a more expensive brand-name drug which, with copay assist from the drug company, brings your cost to $5. Which do you get? Most people think with their pocketbooks, and go for the $5. But this ends up costing insurers much more, as they pay their share of the much higher brand price. California is working on a bill to prohibit this: make it so that co-pay assist is not permitted on drugs that have equivalent generics. What is unclear is what will happen to co-pay assist when the equivalent drug isn’t available, and the drug company wants to cover something with supposedly similar indications for treatment (e.g., you are on a branded specialty drug, but the company only wants to cover a generic for that condition).
  • MALM. Lastly, if you have any of the various shapes and sizes of the Ikea MALM dressers, Ikea has a recall on because of supposed tipping dangers. We have two: one is in a closet so I’m not worried about it, and I believe I’ve already anchored the other. But if you have one of these, you should make sure they are anchored.

 

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The last few weeks have been busy, what with getting the highway page updates done, planning for the Fringe Festival, and assorted craziness at home. The chum has been accumulating, so let’s start clearing it out. This first batch is all food related — a common theme, if you hadn’t noticed:

  • Defining a Sandwich. A few months ago, the Sporkful podcast introduced the debate of whether a hot dog is a sandwich.  That opened the question of what makes a sandwich a sandwich, and is our opener to this batch of chum. First, there is the sandwich alignment chart, rating your view of sandwiches on two dimensions: structure and ingredients.  I tend to go for radical sandwich anarchy, but I don’t know how well that plays in this administration. Of course, you could instead turn to the law, and look at the five ways the law defines a sandwich. This can have big tax ramifications when sandwiches are taxed differently than other foods. For example, California considers hot dogs to be sandwiches. So would New York — anything on a bread like product is a sandwich. But the USDA is stricter: two slices of bread are required.
  • Do You Like It Hard. Sandwiches, of course, bring us to tacos. Here, the question is not not whether tacos are sandwiches, but whether hard-shell tacos are real tacos or a gringo aberration. The New York Times tries to make the case for hard shell tacos: Do they have their place? Are they just folded tostadas? Something to appeal to the middle-of-the-road? Something to bring the family together? All I know is that there are times a good hard-shell taco is what I want.
  • Ringing a Bell. Tacos and Mexican food bring us to the fruit that I dread: the bell pepper. Can’t stand the taste. The aroma. The indigestion it causes. So, naturally, an infographic on the chemistry of bell peppers caught my attention. It looks at the compounds behind the colors (as well as some pepper aroma chemistry) – and finds that peppers have some extraordinary chemistry to thank for some of their hues. Peppers start off green, which unsurprisingly is due to the presence of chlorophyll pigments. These are vital for photosynthesis in plants, and actually come in two subtly different forms, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. As the pepper ripens, these chlorophyll pigments start to decompose, and other types of pigments start to take their place. All of the different colours of peppers that follow green are due to the presence of carotenoid pigments.
  • Making a Mold. Leave your peppers in the refrigerator too long, and you end up with mold. Have you ever wondered about the different molds you see on food? Why can you cut off some, but not others? Are any safe to eat? Here’s an interesting science article on all the different molds you see on your food, including those black specs on your apples or grapes.
  • Doughnut Boxes. If you live in Southern California, you’re familiar with pink doughnut boxes. But why does SoCal have pink doughnut boxes? The answer: Cambodian Doughnut Shops. According to lore, a Cambodian doughnut shop owner asked a local supply shop some four decades ago if there were any cheaper boxes available other than the standard white cardboard. So the company found leftover pink cardboard stock and formed a 9-by-9-by-4-inch container with four semicircle flaps to fold together. To this day, people in the business refer to the box as the “9-9-4.”
  • Valley Food. One big problem in Los Angeles is that people often look down on the San Fernando Valley. All these lists of restaurants that EaterLA loves to put out just have a few token valley dines, and rarely off of Ventura Blvd. That’s what makes this  list of 12 valley favorites so interesting. Most I would agree with, but I would eschew Hogly-Woglys for Mom’s at Vanowen and Hazeltine. I’d also eschew anything at the Village at Topanga: I’m sorry, but the modern take on a mall is far too new for anything to be a favorite.  EaterLA’s contribution to this is their list of 25 essential cheap eats in LA. I love cheap eats — I started la.eats back in the early Usenet days to talk about cheap dive restaurants, of which the first was the original Versailles in Venice. Of course, Eater  only lists 3 places in the valley; one of which is on the first list as well (Saj). I will have to try their chicken place in Northridge. Of course, Mom’s belongs on the cheap eats as well.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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