Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Cure for Innumerable Ailments

Herbs for soaking, and a bottle of liquid yuk jiao.
My bum leg (luckily only bruised, not broken) has elicited much sympathy from the older generation, all of whom advised me to rub the affected area with yuk jiao (aka dit da jow). I have been plied with bottles of the ancient Chinese liniment, the cure for innumerable ailments.

One aunt gave me a package of dried herbs that came from her mother's garden (her mother died 40 years ago). The herbs were to be soaked in rubbing alcohol or whiskey. I now understood why another relative sipped the black smelly liquid every day; she lived to the age of 94.

Another lady gave me a bottle of her stash that was mixed by her mother, who died in 1960. Like fine wine, yuk jiao purportedly improves with age.

I honored their gifts by applying the yuk jiao every morning and evening, and, you know what? I do feel better. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hobbling My Way

The doctor had prescribed "occasional movement," so I grabbed a cane (if one has aging parents, there's a large selection at hand) and hobbled my way around the old neighborhood.

The Waiola shaved ice store, favorite of Presidents, was closed until 10:30. The proprietor must be doing OK; a couple of new vans were parked outside.

After 40 minutes the leg was quite sore, and I was done. The fitness app said that the distance traveled was one mile. Getting back to normal will take some time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kozo Sushi

Having a gimpy leg doesn't deter the seasoned traveler from venturing out in search of Island food. It was my first visit to Kozo Sushi, an Osaka chain that has opened multiple outlets across Oahu. The South King Street store was less than a mile away from my parents.

We ordered take-out servings for three people. The bill was under $20, and the seafood, rice, and vegetables were uniformly fresh. It wasn't gourmet sushi, but the prices were just a notch above American fast food. We'll be limping back before we leave.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Much Needed Wake-up Call

X-rays showed no fracture
Goals for this trip changed when your humble correspondent tripped down stairs last night. The intense pain in the right thigh had subsided only a little by next morning, so it was off to the Straub Clinic emergency room. X-rays showed no fracture or break, and the diagnosis was a hematoma (blood pool) by the thigh muscle.

Even with a regimen of rest plus occasional movement, ibuprofen, and alternating a heating pad with cold compresses, the hematoma would take days to break up and for the pain and swelling to subside.

Comments: 1) the Straub doctor said that the thigh bone was "well-maintained," a compliment that I would be happy to accept if I had known that a fabulous femur was a health objective; 2) Daydreaming when I tripped, I need to be mindful to be mindful. 3) I now have a lot more sympathy and patience with people who have mobility problems.

It was a much needed wake-up call, and I was very lucky the consequences weren't worse. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

Dad, near Tokyo in 1945
I'm spending this Veterans Day with Dad (89) and Mom (85).

My kid brother headed back to Orange County and left the spare bedroom in tidy shape. It's true what they say: marriage changes a man.

This trip's to-do list had some "important" items, but I can already sense that they won't be accomplished. I'll just have to come back in January and try again. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Monday, November 10, 2014

Google Barges Grounded, Ground Up

Under construction in 2013 (Examiner photo)
The "secretive" barge project that Google has been working on for at least four years has been put on hold due to fire safety concerns [bold added]:
“These vessels will have over 5,000 gallons of fuel on the main deck and a substantial amount of combustible material on board,” wrote Robert Gauvin, the Coast Guard’s acting chief of commercial vessel compliance.[snip]

Google had previously said the barges, located of the Maine coast and in San Francisco Bay, were to be “an interactive space where people can learn about technology.” The West Coast barge was eventually moved out to storage 80 miles away, while the Maine barge was dismantled and scrapped.
The Coast Guard is doing its job, but the people at Google aren't idiots. They know that Google would be liable for multi-millions, even billions, of dollars in monetary damages were an accident to happen in San Francisco Bay, not to mention the attendant bad publicity. Too bad, because I would have loved to visit a Google barge and would have happily signed a waiver. (BTW, to put the fuel hazard in perspective, over 500 planes with full fuel tanks take off each day from San Francisco Airport; one of the smaller commercial jets, the 737, takes off with at least 5,000 gallons.)

[Update (11/11) - Gotta hand it to them, they never stop trying. Google Leases NASA's Moffett Field, Historic Hangar for $1.2 Billion:
A Google subsidiary will lease a NASA facility in California's Bay Area for $1.16 billion over the next 60 years, agency officials announced Monday.....The company will refurbish all three hangars and use them as research facilities in an attempt to develop new technologies in space exploration, robotics and other high-tech fields, NASA officials said.] © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Limited Metaphor

The crosier (shepherd's staff) signifies
the Bishop's rank and responsibility.

Normally the church parking lot is empty on Saturday night. We stopped to drop off some food boxes. The rector's car was parked and the lights were on inside.

"Why is he here?" asked the youngster.

He's just making sure everything's in order for the bishop's visit.


It's the same as businesspeople who tidy up the office when the big boss comes to town.

When the Bishop arrived on Sunday, he preached, confirmed candidates, and greeted everyone warmly. He acted like a shepherd who has been enjoined to lay down [his] life for the sheep [John 10].

Don't know too many big bosses who would do that. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Saturday, November 08, 2014

We Saw What You Did on Saturday

Dad didn't mind that the kids next door liked to hang out by the steps, but when one boy defaced the wall that's where he drew the line.

From the security recording he printed out the incriminating photo and taped it up near the scene of the crime. It was torn down the next day, but he immediately posted another copy. The kids have stopped coming by. Actions have consequences. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Friday, November 07, 2014

At the Recycling Center

When the bins by the fence are filled, I load them into the car and take them to the San Mateo recycling center. It usually takes ten minutes to collect $10-$15, which is the equivalent of earning $15-$25 before tax.

At 1:30 on Friday the prospect of quick lunch money dimmed as the line moved with the speed of molasses. Everyone had a sour expression, except for one lady who rolled out a couple of empty barrels for me to use. 20 minutes later there were still three customers and six full containers in front of mine.

I caught the attention of the helpful lady and pointed to my three barrels of plastics and cans. You can have them. "Really?" Yes. The memory of her surprise and pleasure will stay with me a lot longer than ten bucks ever would have.

[Update - 11/10: economists and psychologists are probing the complex relationship between money and happiness. One of several findings:
The paradox of money is that although earning more of it tends to enhance our well-being, we become happier by giving it away than by spending it on ourselves.]
© 2014 Stephen Yuen

Thursday, November 06, 2014

To Accountants, A Matter of Earnest Importance

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) headlines why Ebola is so alarming:

Ebola diminishes tax collections in Liberia.

No wonder the disease has everyone in an uproar.

Oscar Wilde's famous description of a cynic may well be applied to accountants:

"A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Tips for Socially Awkward Accountants

Accountants are known to be socially awkward. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) lists some top tips for socializing at work:
Walk and talk: Take a five-minute break from your desk every 90 minutes, and walk around and say hi to a co-worker.
Prep your intro: Practice a short “elevator speech” about who you are, what you stand for and what your interests are when you know you’re going to meet new co-workers.
Be strategic: Introduce yourself to people you don’t know who interest you or have a job you’d like to know more about.
Connect: Notice what’s on someone’s desk and ask about it as an icebreaker.
Expand: Socialize with everyone on your team so there’s no hint of favoritism.
Keep it classy: Drink in moderation and discuss only neutral topics at work functions.
Unplug: Give LinkedIn a rest periodically and telephone your contacts.
Check in: After you meet someone, follow up within 24 hours with a call, email, or text.
No, the AICPA is being serious, and please, dear reader, refrain from laughing when Joe or Sue from accounting stammers a question about your dog; remember who screens your expense reports. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Thank you, Democrats

California is one of the few redoubts to have escaped the Republican wave election. All eight statewide offices were won by Democrats, as were both houses of the State legislature. Democrats were as dominant in the delegation to Washington, winning 38 seats to the Republicans' 15 in the House; both Senators, neither of whom were running this year, are Democrats.

For the foreseeable future California residents will be subject to high tax rates and ever-more intrusive laws enforced by a regulatory state that is not used to opposition. The tech-media-academic-entertainment complexes are producing enormous wealth, enough to forestall the discontent from bubbling over from non-coastal California.

And I'm very grateful. Thanks to Proposition 13, which caps property tax increases if one doesn't move, our taxes are much lower than our neighbors'. Easing into retirement, I don't drive as much as I used to and don't worry about tolls, high parking fees, gas prices, and gas taxes. The enviros have stopped nearly all home building on the Peninsula despite the immense swaths of open space in the foothills; demand and scarce supply have driven average house prices to seven figures in our sleepy suburb. The nest-egg is accreting merely with the passage of time, no work being necessary.

There aren't many undocumented aliens because, frankly, they can't afford to live here. They move to the drought-ridden farms and industry-fleeing towns of the Central Valley whose social safety nets are frayed to the breaking point. They and their problems are out of sight.

Thank you, Democrats, for having my back. And I didn't even have to hire a lobbyist. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Monday, November 03, 2014

This Time the Science is Settled

I got music: Black eye in a red holiday cup, good reads,
laptop, and cellphone - who could ask for anything more?
Ever since my brother introduced me to the drink I have been averaging two blackeyes (a coffee with two shots of espresso) per week. The caffeine noticeably improves my mental acuity, and I get more work done.

The beginning of November kicks off the season of multitasking and wrapping up projects, and the question must be asked: is caffeine over-consumption dangerous?
It is possible for a person to die from too much caffeine, “but that would mean about 14,000 milligrams, or around 140 8-ounce cups of coffee in one day,” [Johns Hopkins professor Matthew] Johnson says. Consuming that much would be difficult because of coffee’s self-limiting nature. “One cup makes you feel good and alert, but five cups may make you feel like your stomach is cramping,” he says. “You feel wired and you wouldn’t typically be able to go overboard.”
This is very good news. Once science tells you what you want to hear, there's no point in researching it further. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed

Yesterday churches around the world celebrated All Saints Day, which recognizes not only the saints who have reached heaven but also their ongoing spiritual bond with the living. Today, on All Souls' Day, we remembered the Faithful Departed.

The priest read a hundred names from the list that parishioners had inscribed. I had written just three---Fred, Robert, and Priscilla---though I could have added dozens more like Betty and Melvin who left our extended family this year. In the quiet of church on Sunday morning (cellphones are off or silent) we resurrected happy memories, contemplated our time together, and tried to divine the meaning of brief lives in the context of eternity.

Some day all of our names will be on that list, and eventually they will drop off as fewer and fewer of the living remember us.

So make it count.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.   (Isaac Watts)
© 2014 Stephen Yuen

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Last Stop

Must remember how to put
everything back
The 17-year-old Dodge Grand Caravan started, then stopped. Fulfilling Einstein's definition of insanity ("doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"), I repeated the action three times.

The instrument panel was dark. The good news was that the problem likely was electrical. (I had no intention of incurring another $1,000 engine expense on a car that qualified for cash-for-clunkers five years ago.)

The red connector in the center is the
source of most electrical problems
An hour later dashboard parts were scattered around the garage. I pulled a circuit board from behind the instrument panel. It looked pristine, but somewhere there lurked a break in the circuit. I dabbed at some of the connectors with an old soldering iron. I wasn't going to order a new $800 board---this really was the last stop before the scrap heat.

[Update - 11/2: I put everything back. The engine started, and I drove around the block. The old car must have been reading my mind.] © 2014 Stephen Yuen