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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.

 

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Here is some recently collected news chum, linked by a numerical progression:

 

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Today’s news chum post brings you five stories of new coming from the old:

  • North Hollywood. Emerging from the surface parking lot that just turned into a paid parking lot will be a new mixed use development. The plan would include 1,500 units of housing, 150,000 square feet of retail, and 450,000 square feet of offices (and 5,400 parking spaces). The project will be spread across a complex of new buildings centered around the intersection of Lankershim and Chandler. Plans also include a public plaza and a new entrance to the North Hollywood station, located beneath South Chandler on the western side of Lankershim (explaining the long empty stub on the S end of the North Hollywood station).
  • Masonic Lodge / Marciano Museum. The long shuttered Masonic Lodge on Wilshire (where once gigantic Lodge 42, my dad’s lodge, once met) is about to be reborn as the Marciano Art Museum. Here’s everything you need to know about it. The museum will be free and open to the public from Thursday through Saturday. Wednesdays will be reserved for school groups, and the museum will provide transportation reimbursements for all L.A. County public school visits. Advanced ticket reservations are required, and can be reserved online by setting up a free account (which takes less than 30 seconds) on their website.
  • Macy’s Woodland Hills / Woodland Hills Post Office. The long-standing post office in Woodland Hills on Clarendon (right next to where my father-in-law’s accounting office was) is closing. But don’t fear, Woodland Hills. They are moving — for perhaps 18 months — into the shuttered Macy’s at the Promenade Mall. Also facing closure and relocation are the Reseda and Northridge post offices.
  • Orange Grove Bistro / Hyatt Place. CSUN is getting a hotel. They are building it where the Orange Grove Bistro is now, and it will provide not only rooms for parents and visiting scholars, but a full-service restaurant and meeting rooms. This will be useful for campus, but I fear the traffic.
  • TWA Flight Center / Hotel. Moving out of LA for a moment, the unique long-shuttered TWA flight center at JFK Airport is becoming a hotel. Nearly 14 years after its closure—the TWA terminal finally found a new purpose. According to plans by JetBlue and a hotel developer, the original head house will be transformed into an airport hotel, consisting of 505 new guest rooms while maintaining many of the airport’s original icons, including the Lisbon Lounge and the Paris Café.

 

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While planning for the various theatrical adventures over the summer, I’ve also been collecting news chum. This lunchtime collection is tied together by a common theme: obsolecence, revivals, and transitions. Every article is about one or more of those three things:

  • Cassettes. By now, most of us have gotten rid of our cassette walkmans, and would be hard-pressed to find a cassette player. Elbow has come up with a fascinating minimalist cassette player: While it grabs the cassette’s spools in its elbow arms, the hinge sits against the exposed magnetic tape. A knob on the device allows you to control playback. It comes with a small magnetic clip, allowing you to attach it to your clothes, or a bag, as well as a 3.5mm audio output, allowing you to connect your earphones, or a speaker to it. It also includes a MiniUSB port, not just for charging the Elbow, but also for allowing you to digitally extract audio from a cassette tape to your PC.
  • Bluetooth Audio. If you’re an old fart like me, you’re likely using an audio device that doesn’t support bluetooth in a world of bluetooth speakers. What to do? iClever is a small bluetooth transmitter/receiver that solves the problems. It allows one to convert any audio-producing device with a 3.5mm output into a bluetooth transmitter, and to convert any speaker/headphones with a 3.5mm connector into a bluetooth receiver. I’m going to need to remember this.
  • The MP3. NPR is reporting that the MP3 is dead — specifically, the license for the technology is no longer being issued. The article claims the replacement is the AAC (.m4a). I’m still generating MP3 (although I could switch to M4A), and Amazon only sells MP3s so I somewhat doubt this. Are any digital players no longer proving an MP3 translating CODEC. That will be the death of the MP3, not licensing rules.
  • Churches/Synagogues. In the musical 70, Girls, 70, the question is asked: What do zoos do with elephants when they die? Where do the elephants go? A similar question might be asked of a church or a synagogue: when they close, where does their stuff go? I ran into two articles address this question: the first looked at finding a new life for Jewish religious objects when a congregation closes; the second asked where does the pipe organ go when a church closes. Of course, technology isn’t all bad: I found an article on how technology can help carry on Jewish traditions.
  • School Libraries. An interesting article I found explores whether school libraries are on the path to extinction. After all, library staff is expensive, and today’s students don’t research in books. But libraries are an important tool in teaching children to read and think, and funding for libraries boils down to a wealth/class issue: Parents with the means can find the funds to support libraries, so their student have them an do better. Parents without depend on the district, and the district has other priorities. We’ve seen this many times in things like art education and field trips. The article explores how LA Unified is trying to change things.
  • Hollywood Archives. We all think technology is a boon, but is it really. It used to be easy to preserve films: get good cellulose and store it right. Now? The storage media changes ever few years, everything has to be retranslated, and not everything can be saved. This is creating a gigantic headache for the studios, and means that film isn’t the long-term media we thought it was. We have human art that survived 5000 years. When we look at our civilization in 5000 years, what of our art will still be available?

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My last post dealt with some season announcements I was mailed. Here is some other theatrical news I’ve seen of late:

  • Allegiance. The George Takei musical Allegiance is coming to Los Angeles. I say George Takei, but he really didn’t write it: The show music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Kuo, Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione. It was inspired, however by Takei.  It is coming to the East West Theatre: “Allegiance” is scheduled to run from Feb. 21 to April 1, 2018, at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.
  • Spamilton. Perhaps you couldn’t get — or couldn’t afford — tickets to Hamilton. Don’t worry. You can go to Spamilton instead. Spamilton is starting its National Tour at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Nov. 5 through Dec. 31. Tickets will be $25 to $75, subject to change. Single tickets are not on sale yet.
  • A Noise Within. Pasadena’s A Noise Within has announced their 2017-2018 season. A lot of classics and good shows, but nothing that is strongly enticing to me. But it might interest you. The season is: A Tail of Two Cities; The Madwoman of Chaillot; Mrs. Warren’s Profession; A Christmas Carol; Henry V; A Raisin in the Sun; and Noises Off.
  • The Tour List. Two shows that got shut out of major — or any — Tony glory have announced tours: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Anastasia. These are both shows that would expect to show up in the Pantages 2018-2019 season.

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As I’ve gotten older, my eyesight has deteriorated to the point I need glasses. When you wear glasses, you become acutely aware how the lens you see something through affects how you look at that object. This lunchtime post brings together a few articles and topics, all about how the lens you view through changes your perception:

  • Our View of the World. Most of us have our idea of the spatial relationships of the world from the Mercator Projection map, which goes back to 1589. This map was designed for navagators, and it was important to get where the countries were in relation to each other.  Size and proportion, less so.  Realize that any map is a projection, taking a portion or the entirety of a spherical surface, and making it flat. The distortions may be minor when this is done for a city, increase as you move from a state to the country, and are magnified for the world. The Mercator is a particularly bad projection. As Wikipedia notes: “It became the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course, known as rhumb lines or loxodromes, as straight segments that conserve the angles with the meridians. Although the linear scale is equal in all directions around any point, thus preserving the angles and the shapes of small objects (which makes the projection conformal), the Mercator projection distorts the size of objects as the latitude increases from the Equator to the poles, where the scale becomes infinite. So, for example, landmasses such as Greenland and Antarctica appear much larger than they actually are relative to land masses near the equator, such as Central Africa.” This also means that the size of *white* areas — Europe, Russia, America — are enlarged and the size of non-white areas are smaller. This can influence one’s understanding of power dynamics, and so some alternate projections have come in the news to address this. In Boston, they are using the Peters Projection, which stretches out the world in order to give each continent a proportionally accurate amount of room. On the Peters, Canada—so huge on the Mercator—shrinks to its proper size, while Africa, which the Mercator shows shrunk and jammed beneath a too-large Europe, stretches out. In Japan, a design competition has brought us the AuthaGraph Map, where continents curve upward like a smile. Africa and the Americas look like they swapped places, longitude and latitude are no longer a tidy grid, and proportions of continents and bodies of water are retained. All of these cause discomfort for Euro-centra or America-centric — really, white centric — for they emphasize the reality of the smallness of Europe and America.
  • Transit Maps. No article here, but a similar distortion of view comes from transit maps. Transit maps are often drawn stylized, showing stations in relationship to each other, but with a grid that may not accurately reflect the distance between stations, or how stations relate to the geography of the city. This can often result in travelers believing a distance is walkable when it isn’t.
  • The Meaning of Art. We tend to believe that the meaning of an artwork is independent from where that artwork is located. But that’s not always true. Consider the “Fearless Girl” statue in NYC. This statue — which was part of an advertising campaign — was placed in proximity to the private artwork “Charging Bull”. This bothered the artist behind bull as it changed the meaning of his piece… and the location was specifically chosen by the “girl” artist because of the meaning the bull gives. But, as the article points out, replace the bull with a group of immigrant families, and the meaning completely changed. “Girl” is a piece that gains meaning from its surroundings.
  • Men’s Magazines. The LA Times recently had an article on the attempted rebirth/resurgence of Penthouse Magazine. But what caught my eye was one exchange: «“I don’t wish the bunny ill,” Holland said. “But I’ve seen it make bad decisions for so long.” She cited Playboy’s decision two years ago to stop running nude photos in its magazine, only to reverse that decision earlier this year. “We are defined by Playboy and Playboy is defined by us,” she said. “I respect iconic brands.”» Penthouse is defined by Playboy. Playboy was borderline acceptable; Penthouse when across the line to raunchy, and Huster went to the strip club around the corner. A fascinating definition, but quite common. Look at Conservative Judaism. Rarely is it defined for what it is, but that it is somewhere in the middle between Orthodox and Reform. Again, we are defined by what is around us.

Can you think of additional examples?

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I’m still working on clearing out the news chum, now that I’ve done some cleaning of the house. Looking over the news chum, I think I can theme this bunch by relating them all to parts of the body:

  • Your Head. Ever wonder if you’re depressed. Here are 7 common symptoms of depression. Remember that depression, if left untreated, can be devastating. If you exhibit symptoms, talk to someone — friends, your doctor, a trained psychologist. But don’t try to do it alone.
  • Your Mouth (Part I). Have you ever wondered why dentistry is a separate specialty. This article explains why. Basically, blame your barber. Dentists were a trade. Doctors were a profession. At one time, the dentists tried to be considered medical. They approached the physicians at the college of medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore with the idea of adding dental instruction to the medical course there, because they really believed that dentistry was more than a mechanical challenge, that it deserved status as a profession, and a course of study, and licensing, and peer-reviewed scientific consideration. But the physicians, the story goes, rejected their proposal and said the subject of dentistry was of little consequence. As a result, dental insurance is often even harder to get than health insurance (which is not known for being a cakewalk), max out of pockets and payments are lower, and dental problems left untreated worsen, and sometimes kill.
  • Your Mouth (Part II). Using your mouth — that is, asking person-to-person — is 34 times more effective than asking for something via email. For the new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers Mahdi Roghanizad and Vanessa K. Bohns instructed 45 participants to each ask 10 strangers to fill out a survey. Half of the volunteers sent their requests over email while the other half found people to ask in person. Both groups used the exact same wording when reaching out to strangers. The experiment showed that the face-to-face requests were 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than cold emails alone. The results vastly differed from the participants’ expectations: Both groups guessed their methods would be equally effective, saying they’d find success about half the time.
  • Your Nails. Here’s a neat infographic on the chemistry of nail polish. Polymerisation, thixotropic agents, solvents and thermochromism are all terms you might expect to hear more frequently in a lab than in a nail salon, but they can all crop up in relation to nail polish. When you read this, ask yourself: is using all these chemicals good for me?
  • Your Heart. More precisely, Follow Your Heart, an ages-old natural food store in Canoga Park. They invented Vegenaise. Here’s their story. They started as a small store in 1973 (back when Lindberg Nutrition was the definition of health food). They would go on to become a global natural-foods brand, raking in $50 million in sales last year. Along the way, owners Bob Goldberg and Paul Lewin — hippies in the ’70s, like many founders of the movement — would help shape how Americans eat. Their effect is profound: Thanks to them and their compatriots, organic spinach is normal. Whole wheat bread isn’t a rare item.
  • Your Gut. Those with a genetic predisposition to celiac disease don’t always suffer from it. Why? Some scientists believe that a virus or stress point may trigger it. Scientists have been looking at a reovirus. Researchers studying the virus began to suspect otherwise during a series of recent experiments on mice. The scientists had infected mice with two different strains of the virus. The mice given the first strain were fine, as was expected. Their immune systems switched on, but nothing went wrong. The second strain was different. Mice who had been infected with this reovirus—one that commonly infects people, too—began getting sick when they consumed gluten. Their immune systems had switched on, then freaked out.
  • Your Feet. Scientists have discovered why shoe laces become untied. The answer, the study suggests, is that a double whammy of stomping and whipping forces acts like an invisible hand, loosening the knot and then tugging on the free ends of your laces until the whole thing unravels. A better understanding of knot mechanics is needed for sharper insight into how knotted structures fail under a variety of forces. Using a slow-motion camera and a series of experiments, the study shows that shoelace knot failure happens in a matter of seconds, triggered by a complex interaction of forces.

 

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Today is April Fools Day. On one hand, the day seems unnecessary, as we have elected the biggest (or should I say yugist or bigly) April Fool to the White House. But that doesn’t make you laugh; that just makes you run for cover and want to hide for four years (hopefully less). But this election has also ushered in the era of fake news, which makes every day April Fools Day. You never knew which news stories you read are true and which are not. So the following are some more stories I’ve seen over the last few days.  You assess, fake or real?

  1. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. Yes, if there is anything we need, is it is ghost exorcist — someone trained to remove humans from where they are not supposed to be — like the White House. But first, the BJ will visit Broadway.
  2. Set Phasers on Kill. George Takei has announced that he is running for Congress in 2018, against Devon Nunes. This will be after he stars in a remount of Pacific Overtures.
  3. Viewing Porn Safely. With all the changes in the Internet, a major porn site has announced it is turning on encryption all the time.
  4. Gay Characters in Disney Movies. Continuing the trend of having gay characters in Disney movies, Disney have announced that the live-action Lion King will feature a gay Simba.
  5. Metro Extension. LA Metro has decided to continue the “subway to the sea” saga, and is extending the Expo line to Catalina.
  6. Paige! TLC has announced that, given these poor economic times, it is bringing back Trading Spaces.  The plans are, for the first episode, for two political families in Washington to trade spaces. There are also rumors that While You Were Out is next, with the first target being Trump Tower.
  7. Tony Categories. Given the presence of the Cats revival, the upcoming Groundhog Day, and similar shows, the Tony Award committee has announced an award for the best leading animal on Broadway.
  8. More EPA Cuts. There are more cuts in the work at the EPA, including to pesticide safety and water runoff.  Documents reveal that concern that someone will use a pesticide to get rid of a family of invasive pests in public housing.
  9. Vending Machine Changes . Vending machines are being modified to introduce a short delay when you get unhealthy snacks, in order to make you satisfy your immediate urges healthier.
  10. Microsoft Goes Open Source. Microsoft is changing. First there was a Linux shell in Windows 10. Then Microsoft joined Linux Foundation. Now Microsoft has announced they are going open source.

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Over the last few days, the RSS feeds and various other sources have unearthed a number of articles that provide fascinating histories of various things. So I’ve decided to bring them all together into this historical prespective:

  • Graf Zeppelin Stamps. As I work at home, behind me is a needlepoint I did ages ago of the $2.60 Graf Zeppelin stamp. I recently encountered a history of this series of three stamps, most of which were destroyed by the post office. At the time, the Zeppelin was the largest flying machine the world had ever seen. Its operating costs were proportionate, clocking at about $4 per mile (or $54 per mile in today’s money). Although passengers paid steep ticket prices, especially on early flights, the ship could only hold about 20 of them at a time, limiting that revenue stream. So the operating company turned to what supported most airline companies in those days: air mail. They commissioned special stamps from the countries on the tour route. Only letters with these stamps on them would be accepted onto the airship, which would then deliver them to their destinations. The arrangement was that 93 percent of the proceeds from each stamp was funneled back into German Zeppelin Airship Works. The US eventually agreed to make such stamps: 65c, $1.30, and $2.60, with the hope that collectors would buy most of them and they could keep the funds. But this was the height of the depression, and the few bought were used on letters.
  • Three Clubs. If you go to the Hollywood Fringe Festival, one of the venues is the Three Clubs Bar — but not being a bar type, I’ve never gone in. Still, I have an actress acquaintance of mine who does a regular Harry Potter-themed burlesque show there, so it is on my radar. Yesterday, LAist published a fascinating history of the bar, from its early days, its 1950s vibe, its appearance in the movie Swingers, to its current revitalization as a theatre-venue thanks to the HFF. There’s even a great picture of the actress I know, Kim Dalton (who I still believe is another Megan Hilty waiting to be discovered).
  • Les Miserables. Speaking of theatre, let’s pivot to the musical and the book Les Miserables, which is about a man who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. NPR just did a history on bread at that time, and it is really interesting. There was no sharper marker of economic status in 19th-century France than bread. The country was divided into rich people who ate soft white bread (larton savonné) and poor people who ate coarse black bread (larton brutal) made from rye, into which bakers mixed sawdust, tree bark and other additives. The loaf that Valjean stole was the standard loaf of the poor in nineteenth-century France, an oval loaf weighing four and a half pounds, with a thick black crust and heavy grey meal inside. Not the sort of thing you would want to eat nowadays.
  • Universal City. Pivoting next to film, yesterday also brought a really interesting history of how Universal City got started. Yes, the tour was there from the very start, as early as 1913 with the first studio. After setting up shop, Laemmle came west to scout San Fernando Valley locations on which to construct a larger studio in early 1914, and quickly informed Southern California of his search. He bought a full page advertisement in the February 19, 1914 Los Angeles Times, proclaiming, “We want a ranch of 600 to 1200 acres on which to product moving pictures.” He estimated the company spent $1 million a year in business around the studio, and that other businesses servicing it would also greatly contribute to the economy. Universal offered employment to hundreds, and shopkeepers would make money off of these individuals, so he asked what inducements cities would offer to land their business, not unlike rich sports team owners looking for cities to pay for construction of fancy new sports arenas for their teams. And thus… Universal City.
  • Appliances. When I was young, appliances — once called “white goods” because that was the color they came in — lasted forever. A refrigerator or washing machine would last 25 years. Nowadays, things don’t last as long. Recraigslist has an interesting essay on the subject, exploring the reasons why appliances don’t last as long as they used to.
  • Diplomacy. A bit less of a history, but an exploration of the board game Diplomacy, which I used to play all the time. There’s a bit of history, but this is more an exploration of the game at the level of international competitions. I played this during high school — along with Machiavelli — and ran an occasional tournament at a local game convention in the 1980s. Today I can’t scare up a game — no one wants to play an 8 hours game when one could play 4-6 eurogames in that time.

 

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Inspired by some podcasts I’ve been listening to and some articles I’ve been reading, here are some deep questions:

  • Is cereal a soup? After all, soup is food in a nutritious liquid.  [Corollary: Is oatmeal stew?] (inspired by this)
  • Is a taco a sandwich? After all, when you take a single slice of bread, put PB&J on one side, and fold it over, it is still a sandwich. (inspired by this)
  • Is a Snuggie a blanket or clothing? (inspired by this)
  • Is a cheesecake or a tart a pie? [Corollary #1: Is pizza a pie?] [Corollary #2: Is yellowcake a cake?] (inspired by this)

 

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This week’s news chum brings together a number of articles that present facts that you might not have known, but that are fascinating to read. Shall we begin? I quote a bit more from the first article, simply because the words crack me up every time I read them.

  • Fighting Capitalism. As you may have just read, Hasbro has dropped three timeless Monopoly tokens — the thimble, the boot, and the wheelbarrow — and replaced them with a T. Rex, a Penguin, and Rubber Ducky. Some speculate that this is further evidence that what was once a game that protested capitalism is being further eviscerated to celebrate it instead. After all, all three tokens eliminated fit into the theme of capitalism and its discontents: the railway baron’s top hat, the worker’s thimble, the boot with the strap by which to pull one’s self up, and so on. But after Parker Bros purchased the game, it has slowly and surely been turned into a game demonstrating how fun it is to make lots of money and bankrupt your friends. But fear not. A wonderful Vox article identifies the hidden anti-capitalist meanings behind the new tokens: (1) The T. Rex stands for the inherent predatory nature of capitalism. When you use the token, you’re saying, “Behold, I devour all that stands before me, just as capitalism devours the rights of the workers.”; (2) The Penguin. It carries a double meaning. It stands for the coldness of Wall Street, and also for the profit-driven destruction of the polar ice caps. Plus it was a classic Batman villain. (3) The Rubber Ducky. It seems to say, “Much like water off of this duck, the inhumanity and decadence of late capitalism just rolls off my back.”
  • Time Zones. You’ve heard of “fun with flags”; here’s fun with time zones. Some timezones have 1/4 and 1/2 hour offsets. Some are next to each other, but when you cross only the date changes. Some even allow you to go back in time.
  • Chemistry and Ironing. Here’s why your shirts come out of the dryer wrinkled, the easy way to unwrinkle them, and the chemistry behind no-wrinkle fabrics and treatments.
  • Making Lemonade. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When genetics gives your vitilgo, turn it into art.
  • Pennnnnnnnnnnnnies. Here’s a history of coin-elongation machines,  which you’ve probably seen, but never thought about.
  • Decluttering. Here’s why it is so hard to let go of stuff.

 

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Amongst the political and transitional news chum I’ve been collecting of late, there are a number of articles that are more informational — that is, they provide some really useful tidbits and insights. I’d like to share them with you:

 

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I Gotta Go

Mar. 13th, 2017 08:28 pm
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This morning, Facebook reminded of a post I did a year ago on things transitioning away. Since thing, of course, more things are transitioning, and I seem to have accumulated quite a few in my news chum pot. So let’s clear them out (and, interestingly, one is an update on an item from the post a year ago). Of course, the one thing we would like to transition away hasn’t yet. I’ll keep hoping.

  • Popular Photography. When I was young, I remember subscribing to both Popular Photography and Modern Photography, when I went through a phase playing with my dad’s Konica SLR. But now film cameras are relics, film is hard to find, and while digital photography is strong, print magazines celebrating it are long gone — and especially the advertisers selling photo equipment and chemicals to amateur darkrooms are gone. So it is no surprise that Popular Photography is going away, both as a print magazine and as a website.
  • LA Restaurants. Of course, many restaurants in Los Angeles have transitioned away, but quite a few linger in the memory. Here is an interesting look back at some of LA’s legendary restaurants, many of which weren’t all that fancy.
  • European GM Cars. There once was the day when GM imported their European cars to the US — I remember the days of GM marketing Opel. Partially, this was because GM didn’t know how to make small cars. GM figured that out, and Opel disappeared in the US. Then GM bought Saab, and that disappeared. Then GM stopped designing real Saturns, and rebadged Opels as Saturns. Then Saturn disappeared. Now GM is disposing of its European operations. So where will GM get small cars with a design flair?
  • Your CD-ROMs. Remember when you carefully took all your LPs and recorded them to cassettes. Then cassettes disappeared. So you took all your LPs and rerecorded them to CD-ROMs to preserve your music forever. Guess what? Those CD-ROMs have probably chemically degraded and are worthless.  Lucky you, you’ve put your music in the cloud now, and that will never disappear. Right?
  • The 747. Last year, I wrote about how United was retiring its 747. Well, the 747 is in steep decline: it seems no one wants to fly passengers on something with four engines that guzzle fuel. They would rather used 777s and 767s and 787s — all two-engine, ER capable. So the 747 is entering the last refuge of the wide-body: the flying-truck freight business. After all, that’s where the few remaining DC-10s are — flying for FedEx. Oh, and that Airbus 380 everyone redesigned their airports for? Almost no orders.
  • The Critic. No, I don’t mean the excellent TV show, which is long gone. I mean the art critic, the theatre critic, the classical music critic. Those jobs are dying on the vine as media realizes they don’t bring in the clicks. I sometimes wonder whether anyone reads my theatre criticism posts, so I clearly understand what they are saying.

 

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When you read the news for fun, you run across a lot of surveys. Some are good science and good statistics, some are good science and blow the statistics, some get the stats right and blow the science, and some, well, just blow. Here are some articles about surveys I’ve seen of late — let’s figure out what blows, what sucks, and what is the truth:

  • Gluten-Free and Diabetes. The Telegraph in the UK is reporting on a Harvard study that appears to suggests that ingesting only small amounts of gluten, or avoiding it altogether, increases the danger of diabetes by as much as 13 per cent. The study seems to be aimed at the growing number of people who have gone on gluten-free diets because they believe it is better for their health, as opposed to the small percentage that have Celiac (or as they spell it in the UK, Coeliac) Disease or a true sensitivity.  The study was observational, and examined 30 years of medical data from nearly 200,000 patients. They found that most participants had a gluten intake of below 12g a day, which is roughly the equivalent to two or three slices of wholemeal bread. Within this range, those eating the highest 20 per cent of gluten had a 13 per cent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with those eating up to 4g a day. So what’s the problem? First it is observational, not rigorous. Secondly, they didn’t tightly control the factors, for the study also showed that those who eat less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fibre, a substance known to protect against diabetes. So is the finding really that if you go on a gluten-free diet, you need to eat more fibre?
  • Exercise and Weight Loss. We’ve all been through the drill: you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise. But is that true. Vox undertook a review of over 60 studies on the subject, and discovered that exercise isn’t  a significant factor. What you eat is important, how much you eat is important, when you eat is important, and even the biome that digests your food is important. But if you think you can eat loads of junk and then burn it off exercising, you’re wrong. This doesn’t mean that exercise doesn’t have health benefits — it does; however, it isn’t a significant factor in weight loss. The article is long and goes through 10 key points, and is difficult to summarize here. But it is an interesting read.
  • Chemtrails and Vaccines. I linked to this yesterday, but I like it so much I’ll include it in again (until my sister-in-law believes it 😉). In a new study coming out of Brown University, researchers concluded that being sprayed with chemtrails actually has a positive effect when it comes to vaccine injuries. While not all the data are available from the study just yet, it appears as though only 20% of the children who were severely sprayed with chemtrails ended up developing autism after their vaccines; a much lower rate than the 80% who normally get autism from vaccines. Correlation? Causation? Or just a fake study?
  • Depression and Food. You are what you eat — or to be more precise, you are what the bacteria in your gut eat. We are increasingly finding out that our antibacterial environment and our fear of germs is a bad thing. Some bacteria are good for us — they manipulate our metabolism in a myriad of ways, from determining how we put on weight and influencing our moods. The latter is the topic of this Mental Floss link.  A study published this week in Nature Scientific Reports finds that beneficial bacteria commonly found in yogurt can help relieve depression-like symptoms in mice. The scientists began by collecting a group of unlucky mice and subjecting them to a variety of intense stressors. Some were kept in crowded cages; others had to sit under strobe lights or listen to loud noises. Predictably, the stressful situations took a toll, and the mice began exhibiting what the researchers called “despair behavior.” The researchers collected poop samples from the mice before and after the stress sessions, then ran genetic analyses to determine the species and quantities of bacteria living in each mouse’s gut. The results showed that the stress resulted in a pretty significant drop in a microbe called Lactobacillus—the same type of so-called “good” bacteria found in yogurt. But the rodents’ despair would not prove permanent. The researchers began giving the mice small doses of Lactobacillus with their meals, and, over time, their symptoms resolved.
  • Napping and Mental Awareness. We all like to doze off at work, but our bosses tend not to like to see us doing it. Perhaps this study will change their mind.  Studies have shown that short naps can improve awareness and productivity. You don’t need much; just 15 to 20 minutes can make a world of difference. According to a study from the University of Colorado Boulder, children who didn’t take their afternoon nap didn’t display much joy and interest, had a higher level of anxiety, and lower problem solving skills compared to other children who napped regularly. The same goes for adults as well. Researchers with Berkeley found that adults who regularly take advantage of an afternoon nap have a better learning ability and improved memory function.

 

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Observation StewOver the past few weeks, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of news chum (that is, links and articles that I found interesting) that refuse to theme or create a longer post. So let’s just clear the chum, and for fun, let’s see if we can build a chain connecting one article to the other. To start the screw, so to speak, let’s begin with…

  • High Tech Condoms. I don’t know where I’m going on this, but I know what’s coming, excuse me, cumming. I mean, this brings the Internet of Things to its logical climax. I mean, it’s thrust — what it pounds into you — is that not everything needs to be connected. I’m talking, of course, about the i.Con — the First Internet Connected Condom. I’m sure that you, like me, is asking — but why? According to the article: The i.Con tracks speed, “average thrust velocity,” duration, skin temperature, girth, calories burned (no joke) and frequency of sessions. Most importantly for many, no doubt, will be how a wearer stacks up to the average and “best” performers — though a sexual partner will likely have an insight or two about that. Statistics are tracked via an i.Con app. The i.Con is also supposed to be able to sense sexually transmitted diseases [but what if the technology gets a virus?].  The ring will come with a one-year warranty and have a micro-USB charging port to provide up to eight hours of juice after a single hour of being plugged in. Supposedly “all data will be kept anonymous, but users will have the option to share their recent data with friends, or, indeed the world.”
  • Security of Medical Data. Of course, we all know our medical data is secure, right? Right? RIGHT? Well, not really. I found an interesting article this week on Medjack, a medical trojan. The problem is that the proliferation of literally insecurable medical systems running orphaned operating systems with thousands of know, unpatchable defects provides a soft target for identity thieves looked to pillage your health records. One trojan, Medjack, enters healthcare facilities by penetrating these badly secured diagnostic and administrative systems and then fans out across the network, cracking patient record systems. These records are used for tax fraud and identity theft, and to steal narcotics prescriptions that can be filled from online pharmacies and then resold on the black market.  Security firm Trapx says that “every time” they visit a healthcare facility, they find Medjack infections running rampant on the network, using exploits designed to take over Windows 2000 systems to seize control of the creaking, non-upgradeable systems that are inevitably found in these facilities.
  • Google Maps Data. Speaking of data, have you ever wondered how Google Maps gets its accurate traffic data. Of course, the answer is from you.  The Google Maps app on Android and iOS constantly send back real-time traffic data to Google. The data received from any particular smartphone is then compared to data received from other smartphones in the same area, and the higher the number of Google Maps users in an area, the more accurate the traffic prediction. Using the historical data it has compiled over the years and traffic data from mobile devices using the Google Maps app, the company is able to create models for traffic predictions for different periods. For example, the modelling techniques would be able to predict that certain roads would experience more traffic during rains than other times of the year. Google also takes traffic reports from transportation departments, road sensors, and private data providers to keep its information up to date. The accuracy of location data is unmatched only because of its users, since the billion Google Maps users on the road act as sensors for the app, which make the service as precise as possible.
  • Bus Disposal. One way to avoid traffic is to take the bus. But have you ever wondered what happens with buses when they die? Here’s an interesting article on what happens to Muni Buses in San Francisco when they are retired. Some, of course, are scrapped. Others are reincarnated as mobile showers for the homeless, airport shuttles and odd uses all across the Bay Area — even after accruing more than 400,000 miles on the road apiece. That’s due to the ingenuity of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s 300 or so mechanics. This all occurs in Muni’s Islais Creek Yard, a bus yard in San Francisco’s south side, that serves as a staging area for buses that are set to be sold, scrapped or otherwise discarded. One of the more interesting conversions, after the bus was stripped of useful parts, was for the nonprofit Lava Mae, which converted four old Muni buses into mobile showers for San Francisco’s homeless residents.
  • A Flight of Angels. Of course, talk of buses takes us to other forms of transit such as trains. One unique train that existed in Los Angeles is coming back to life, again. It appears that Angels Flight, a tiny funicular in downtown LA, will be running again by Labor Day. A nonprofit has been in charge of the attraction for more than a decade, but a new private operator, ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc., is taking over for the next 30 years.  The funicular is over 100 years old, and has been inoperative since 2013 due to an accident.
  • Clintons on Broadway. Of course, talk of trains takes us to subways, and no where are subways more popular than in New York. However, I doubt that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton take the subway when they go to Broadway. Since losing the election, Hillary has been regularly attending Broadway shows, usually to a very receptive crowd. At least four times since November. At each theater appearance, Mrs. Clinton is greeted as a vanquished hero — standing ovations, selfies, shouted adulation. Mrs. Clinton has been attending Broadway shows for years, often when she has had a personal connection to an artist, a producer, or to a show’s subject matter. As for Obama, he was seen on Broadway taking his daughter, Malia, to “The Price”. The daddy-daughter duo headed backstage after the play — a new revival of the Arthur Miller classic — and met with the cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Danny DeVito, Tony Shalhoub and Jessica Hecht.  Contrast this with Trump and Pence. Since the election, only Pence has been to Broadway — to see Hamilton, and we all know what happened there.
  • Sushi. If you’re going to a show, naturally  you have dinner first? How about sushi? Here’s an interesting history of Sushi in the United States. Although there were a few restaurants experimenting with raw fish in 1963 in New York, Los Angeles was the first American home of authentic Japanese sushi. In 1966, a Japanese businessman named Noritoshi Kanai brought a sushi chef and his wife from Japan, and opened a nigiri sushi bar with them inside a Japanese restaurant known as Kawafuku in LA’s Little Tokyo. The restaurant was popular, but only with Japanese immigrants, not with American clientele. However, as more sushi spots opened in Little Tokyo, word got back to Japan that there was money to be made in America. Young chefs, tired of the rigorous and restrictive traditional culture of sushi making in Japan, struck out on their own in LA. The first sushi bar outside of the Little Tokyo neighborhood popped up in 1970, next to the 20th Century Fox studio. And then came Shōgun, … and you can predict the rest.
  • … and Beer. If you are having sushi, you are likely having beer, wine, or saki. These beverages come in bottles of colored glass, and have you wondered how glass gets its color? Here’s an infographic explaining how different chemicals result in different glass colors.
  • … on a Table. Additionally, you are likely sitting at a table to eat that sushi and drink your beverage. Speaking of tables, here’s a collection of interesting periodic tables.
  • Plus Size Fashions. To finish off the chain, if you eat too much at that table, you get fat. We know a lot about size acceptance for women, but what about men (and us CBGs — chubby bearded guys). Here’s an interesting article on plus-size fashion… for men.

 

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In my day, we had to walk 7 miles uphill in the snow just to get to school every July. Oh, wrong soapbox speech.

Do kids today know what catalogs are? Nowadays, catalogs are rare: you search online for anything you want. Having a thick book or magazine like item with pictures and descriptions is very rare — perhaps you might see them in office for office supplies, and perhaps you might get a Harbor Freight catalog in the mail. But even as late as the 1990s I used to get catalogs from Lands End and LL Bean and order from them; catalogs of folk CDs and needlepoint. I still get catalogs of each from Upton, and occasionally from Stash. But the days of the think “find everything” catalog are long gone. Does Sears or Montgomery Wards or JC Penny even still have their catalog departments?

Catalogs are treasured because of how they reflect, and to some sense, change, their society. Here are three recent news articles about how catalogs and magazines have influenced society:

  • Shipping and Handling. Nowadays, you think nothing of ordering something from Amazon and having it shipped to your account. But that wasn’t always the case. Whereas letters would be delivered, shipping packages was resisted by the postal service — and even when it came in, domestic package delivery lagged far behind. What changed it? Rural Free Delivery (RFD) and the Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs. Both companies’ catalogs, each debuting in the late 19th century, successfully capitalized on the expansion of the country’s mail and package delivery systems, in particular the novel service of postal delivery to rural addresses. When Wards started, as long as you could get to the closest rail station to pick it up, Montgomery Ward could help you save a few bucks and get a better selection than the nearby general store. But (according to the article), the biggest problem that mail-order catalogs faced at the turn of the 20th century was the fact that their intended audience—often rural, as that was 65 percent of the U.S. population at the time—didn’t have easy access to mail delivery. Outside of cities, the infrastructure just wasn’t there, and often people had to pay just to get someone to simply deliver their mail to them—let alone parcels, which the U.S. Postal Service didn’t handle at the time. The solution to this problem was something called rural free delivery, which was heavily pushed by farmers’ advocacy groups. Despite the growing desire to create mail delivery in rural areas, there was much pushback on the issue within Congress due to the high cost, and as a result, the idea only came about in baby steps before finally rolling out wide in 1902. This need to get mail to rural areas was a major driver behind infrastructure building, leading to the creation of roads, eventually allowing cars to drive on those roads to deliver mail. Things improved enough that, by 1913, the U.S. Post Office itself was delivering domestic post packages.
  • Jewish Catalog. Those of us who grew up in the 1970s remember the wonderful Whole Earth Catalog out of the Whole Earth store in Berkeley (Whole Earth also gave us the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL), one of the first BBS).  That catalog inspired some counter culture folks in Mass. to create the First Jewish Catalog — a wonderful hand-drawn catalog of everything Jewish. I still have my copy. There were later two additional volumes with more information, but less hand drawings.  In essence, the First Jewish Catalog and its companion volumes were the FAQ of their day — everything you needed to know about Judaism and practice, distilled down, with addresses and phone number. Tablet Magazine has a great article about how the catalog holds up today. It makes me want to go home and look at the three volumes that I’ve got, and remember. Here’s an excerpt of their description: “The book that does it all, offering sensible peer-to-peer advice, just enough halakhic wisdom (you’ll find no better synopsis of the kosher laws), and the best diagram for wrapping tefillin that was ever rendered by your friend in Hebrew school who was always sketching things under his desk. The best pictures look like Shel Silverstein’s (I won’t die from surprise if someone writes in to say they were Shel Silverstein’s). It tells you how to build a sukkah, how to affix a mezuzah, which blessings to say over what, and how to get by when hitchhiking around Israel (“Get a haircut; Israelis are wary of foreign ‘hippies’”). It offers instructions for sitting shiva, and it tells you where in all the major American cities you can rent Jewish movies. ” They conclude by noting: “Of course, all the information the catalog gives is now available online, in a multitude of places. To learn how to pray, you can find Reform sources, Conservative sources, a dozen flavors of Orthodox sources. You can find melodies by dozens of composers, you can put “Jewish” in the search-bar of your video streaming services, you can visit a website that tells you what drinks are kosher at Starbucks. But in diversity, we sometimes wish for unity. The Jewish Catalog is one of those books, like Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers, or Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar, that you could spot on the bookshelf of a certain kind of Jew and just nod, slowly, and give a look that says, “Yeah.””
  • Playboy. If you were a soldier in the 1960s and 1970s, Playboy Magazine was essentially a catalog of trends back home. So claims an opinion piece in the New York Times. According to the article, Playboy’s value extended beyond the individual soldier to the military at large; the publication became a coveted and useful morale booster, at times rivaling even the longed-for letter from home. Playboy branded the war because of its unique combination of women, gadgets, and social and political commentary, making it a surprising legacy of our involvement in Vietnam. By 1967, Ward Just of The Washington Post claimed, “If World War II was a war of Stars and Stripes and Betty Grable, the war in Vietnam is Playboy magazine’s war.” Here’s where the cataloging of society comes in: The centerfold and other visual features in the magazine served another, unintentional purpose for American troops in Vietnam. Playboy’s pictures and often-ribald cartoons conveyed changing social and sexual norms back home. The introduction of women of color in 1964 with China Lee and in 1965 with Jennifer Jackson reflected shifting attitudes regarding race.  Over time, the centerfolds pushed the boundaries of social norms and legal definitions as they featured more nudity, with the inclusion of pubic hair in 1969 and full-frontal nudity in 1972. The Washington Post reported that American prisoners of war were “taken aback” by the nudity in a smuggled Playboy found on their flight home in 1973. The nudity, sexuality and diversity portrayed in the pictorials represented more permissive attitudes about sex and beauty that the soldiers had missed during their years in captivity. The magazine provided regular features, editorials, columns and ads that focused on men’s lifestyle and entertainment, including high fashion, foreign travel, modern architecture, the latest technology and luxury cars. The publication set itself up as a how-to guide for those men hoping to achieve Mr. Hefner’s vision of the good life, regardless of whether they were in San Diego or Saigon. There’s a lot more in the article, but the basic notion is that the magazine shaped the soldier’s view of what was happening “back home”, the attitudes towards the war, and the general changes in society.

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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I know, we’re all sick of Trump and news about Trump. So let’s take a breather. Here’s a collection of news chum that shows some other interesting ways that the times are a changin’:

  • Social Media Addiction. The New York Times is reporting that Generation X is more addicted to social media than Millenials. Again, read that headline: the younger kids (Millenials) are LESS addicated than the generation before them (GEN X, Adults 39-49). That, perhaps, explains the greying of Facebook. A Neilsen study found that adults 35 to 49 spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week (and I’m part of this latter group). The report is based on smartphone and tablet use, and it found that in the United States, 97 percent of people 18 to 34, and 94 percent of people 35 to 49, had access to smartphones. Seventy-seven percent of those 50 and older used smartphones, the report found. The 29-page report was based on data from 9,000 smartphone users and 1,300 tablet users across the country from July through September. It also found that Facebook still dominated on mobile, with about 178.2 million unique users in September. It was followed by Instagram, with 91.5 million unique users; Twitter, with 82.2 million unique users; and Pinterest, with 69.6 million users.Snapchat, a favorite of younger users, was sixth on the list, behind the professional networking site LinkedIn.  This raises the next question: if Millenials are using their smartphones so much, and they aren’t on social media, what precisely are they doing? They aren’t making phone calls.
  • Screens on Airplanes. Another New York Times article has an interesting finding regarding screens: we are using our personal screens so much that airlines are phasing out seat-back screens (which saves them a hella-lot of money). With built-in screens, airliners provide passengers with a set menu of content through boxes that power the in-flight entertainment system. The screens appeared in their most primitive form in the late 1980s with a few movies played on a loop. By the early 2000s, they had advanced to allow passengers to make choices on demand. By streaming content over wireless systems, passengers will have a wider array of content and the carriers will not have to maintain screens because passengers will bring their own portable devices on board. For carriers that discontinue the screens, the savings can be significant. By one estimate, in-flight entertainment systems are the biggest expense in outfitting a new plane and can make up 10 percent of the entire cost of an aircraft. The screens and their wiring add weight to the plane, and when fuel prices are high, every pound makes a difference. Another financial incentive: Without the screens, carriers can install slimmer seats, which means they can accommodate more passengers and earn more money. The article makes one other very important comment regarding personal screens: Experts said that if airliners are going to rely on consumer electronics for in-flight entertainment, the carriers should be prepared to offer another amenity: outlets for passengers to charge their devices. Mr. Hoppe said it was “imperative” to have them available in all rows and seats, and “essential” to ensure that each one works.
  • Fashion Rules for Plus Size. Let’s break up the New York Times articles with a change of fashion. A bunch of editors at Buzzfeed decided to break the “fashion rules” for Plus Size women. You know what? They looked great.  This goes to show yet another change that is happening in society: people deciding not to follow arbitrary rules from someone else, and wearing and being what is right for them. More power to them!
  • Intel Dropping Out of Science Fairs. One last New York Times article: it appears that Intel is dropping its sponsorship of Science Fairs. As someone who judges at the California State Science Fair, this is bad news. I see the remarkable things kids do, and it restores my faith in our youth. I originally thought the reason might have to do with Trump — after all, Intel had been meeting with Trump and Trump hates science.  But the reason is due to a more fundamental change: [The traditional science fair’s] regimented routines can seem stodgy at a time when young people are flocking to more freewheeling forums for scientific creativity, like software hackathons and hardware engineering Maker Faires. That is apparently the thinking at Intel, the giant computer chip maker, which is retreating from its longtime sponsorship of science fairs for high school students. It has dropped its support of the National Science Talent Search, and is dropping support of the International Science and Engineering Fair. The article noted that this leads to broader questions about how a top technology company should handle the corporate sponsorship of science, and what is the best way to promote the education of the tech work force of the future. Intel’s move also raises the issue of the role of science fairs in education in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All I know, as a judge, is that these fairs have encouraged some remarkable research by Middle and High School Students.
  • The Cost of Solar. As we keep debating the real costs of hydro-carbon based power, the costs of solar on an industrial scale continue to drop. Eventually, it may be that clean power is so much cheaper that we’ll be able to reserve hydro-carbons for the real thing we need them for: plastics. [And, believe me: if you think about a society without gas for your car is bad, just imagine a world with no plastics — not only no plastic bags and storage containers, but circuit boards, enclosures, insulation for wires, sterile medical devices — we need to save our oil for plastic]. Quoting from the article: Solar has seen remarkable cost declines and is competing in more circumstances with every passing year. But it is not the world’s cheapest source of electricity. Yhe main reason is that there is, at least currently, no such thing as “the world’s cheapest source of electricity,” if that’s taken to mean cheapest, all costs considered, in all places, at all times. No such fairy dust exists; different sources perform differently in different economies and different electricity systems. What can be said about solar is that it is rapidly increasing the range of circumstances under which it can compete on costs, without subsidies. This is a good thing. Together, wind and utility-scale solar are now the cheapest available energy sources in the places that are building the most of them. Utility-scale solar now has a lower total cost of power than natural gas.

 

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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