Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Another Modern Dilemma

(Image from Business Insider)
Psychologist Josh Cohen distinguishes between burnout and exhaustion: [bold added]
The relationship to stress and anxiety is crucial, for it distinguishes burnout from simple exhaustion. Run a marathon, paint your living room, catalogue your collection of tea caddies, and the tiredness you experience will be infused with a deep satisfaction and faintly haloed in smugness – feelings that confirm you’ve discharged your duty to the world for at least the remainder of the day.

The exhaustion experienced in burnout combines an intense yearning for this state of completion with the tormenting sense that it cannot be attained, that there is always some demand or anxiety or distraction which can’t be silenced....
"Getting away from it all" for a week or two doesn't help because in the interconnected world you can't get away:
A walk in the country or a week on the beach should, theoretically, provide a similar sense of relief. But such attempts at recuperation are too often foiled by the nagging sense of being, as one patient put it, “stalked” by the job. A tormenting dilemma arises: keep your phone in your pocket and be flooded by work-related emails and texts; or switch it off and be beset by unshakeable anxiety over missing vital business.
Having experienced burnout at times, I'm sympathetic--but not overly so--toward fellow sufferers. The millions who are unemployed find it hard to get out of bed, too, but they often lack money, self-worth, and social acceptance that comes from employment. They would love to feel the pressure of a demanding job (okay, maybe for just a little while).

Or the burned out could try charity work. Meeting people who are in dire circumstances helps one to appreciate one's own life. Gratitude can chase despair.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post are Long Gone

"PokeStop nearby" does not refer to the restaurant in Waipahu.
I love poke, the seasoned raw fish dish beloved by Islanders and increasing numbers of Mainlanders. There are now restaurants that specialize in poke, for example Pokeatery, Poki Bowl, and PokeStop.

However, be careful when typing the name of the latter on Yelp, the popular restaurant and services rating site. What pops up may not be just fish.

Yelp now has a filter that shows whether a PokéStop (a place where Pokémon Go players can get rewards) is near a business.

Gone are the days when eating establishments frowned on telephones, paper and pen, or even talking business at the tables. Today restaurants are actively courting patrons who furiously flick their thumbs across tiny screens, trying to snare imaginary monsters.

Yelp is just responding to market demand. As for the patrons, they are far, far away from their frowning grandmothers, so what's the problem?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fear Is the Key

Biographer and Time editor Jon Meacham lists What a President Needs to Know and all but declares that Donald Trump doesn't have it and won't ever get it:
You don’t need a Ph.D. to lead the nation, but you do need to know–as Trump did not appear to grasp in one of the debates–what the nuclear triad is. Or that the Quds and the Kurds, not to mention Hamas and Hizballah, are different things. Or that you can’t order military officers to engage in illegal torture. Or that Ted Cruz’s father was not linked to the Kennedy assassination. Or that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, not Kenya. At his first joint appearance with Clinton on the campaign trail, President Obama put the matter clearly: “You’ve actually got to know what you’re talking about.”
To be fair Jon Meacham gives time to the Trumpian counter-argument:
As [Trump] likes to point out, if the elites are so smart, then why is the world in the shape it’s in–and why, exactly, is he now the Republican nominee? [snip]

“Government is built with many layers to avoid making mistakes,” wrote Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and one of the nominee’s most important advisers. “The problem with this is that it costs a lot and little gets done. In business, we empower smart people to get jobs done and give them latitude on how to get there. I prefer to move forward and endure some small mistakes to preserving a stale status quo whose sole virtue is that it offends no one.” In this construction, lack of knowledge and a get-stuff-done attitude would be assets–even if they sometimes get stuff wrong and break some geopolitical crockery along the way.
Throughout the campaign the Trump-is-too-risky argument has been made by people who are doing just fine in the current system. So far they've been outnumbered by those who fear more of the same.

Come November, we'll see which fears carry the day.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hexit Before Brexit

Henry VIII (
England has separated from Europe before.
“In 1534, the Act of Supremacy declares the king to be the head of the Church of England, completing the break with Rome.”
------ Kenneth C. Davis. “America's Hidden History.” HarperCollins.
Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church when Pope Clement VII would not annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In one of the most famous divorces in history Henry divorced Catherine and married Anne Boleyn.

In 1517 Martin Luther had birthed the Reformation by posting the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. A few years later, but before the events of 1534, Henry defended the Roman Catholic Church against Luther's heresies in one of history's ironies. (The Pope rewarded England's monarch with the title "Defender of the Faith").

The fracturing of Western Christianity has lasted nearly 500 years. Henry's exit ("Hexit"?) was far more consequential than Brexit is ever likely to be.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Still Not Turning It On

We've been marveling at the rapid adoption of Pokémon Go but have not played the game because of privacy issues. WSJ tech reporter Joanna Stern says that we should set those concerns aside: [bold added]
We’re standing at a defining moment in the history of technology...

If you’ve been fighting to ignore this phenomenon, you should check it out, too. Not just because you may get to know new places or people, or because you may enjoy the charming absurdity of little monsters dancing on your desk. It’s time to witness the power of augmented reality, which connects us to others and our environment in a way no technology has before.
Pokémon Go makes its players go outside, meet other players in person, and walk more (to "hatch" eggs). Even if we're already socially and physically active, Ms. Stern argues that experiencing augmented reality (AR) is another reason to play.

Just like many of us can't imagine a world without smartphones, I suppose in a few years we won't be able to live without AR glasses that explain the history of what we're looking at or superimpose a person's personal data over his image.

Nevertheless, Pokémon Go will have to wait. I've got a pile of books to finish, financial records to organize, and clutter to clear. And miles to go before I sleep....

Friday, July 15, 2016

AppleCare: Not a Loser

Transferring backup files to the replacement iPhone.
The do-it-yourself fix to the iPhone 6 freezing problem proved temporary, and having to restart the iPhone in the midst of every text message was the breaking point (phone calls weren't prematurely terminated, though). I made an appointment at the local Apple Store.

Apple's tech Genius said that the freezing of the touchscreen was a known hardware problem on the iPhone 6; luckily the iPhone was only in month 20 of its 24-month AppleCare contract.

Your humble blogger has the Apple triad--MacBook, iPad, and iPhone--and a hardware problem on at least one of them crops up every year or two.

I always buy AppleCare on all three, which is still cheaper than replacing one device when it breaks down.

Gamble if the odds are at least close to even, but not buying AppleCare is almost a sure loser.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Concern I Didn't Use to Share

Pokémon Gym at the local church:
One way to attract the younger crowd.
The younger members of our household have been playing Pokémon Go since it was released on July 6th. Estimates of the number of players run about 20 million, the fastest rate of acceptance of any game in history---and it has yet to be distributed in Asia.

Like many tech inventions, a simple description makes it hard to see what the fuss is all about:
Pokémon Go is a smartphone game that blends the real and digital worlds, tasking players with exploring their neighborhoods to find creatures and treasure for in-game use....

Go is almost boringly simple: Once you encounter a Pokémon in the wild, Go switches into “capture mode,” where users flick Pokeballs at the creature until they nab it.
Staring at the smartphone instead of Cupid's Span (Chronicle)
As might be expected, when millions of shut-ins get out and "go," there are consequences, good, bad, and weird. From the Chronicle alone, a few headlines from the past week:

Animal shelters stand to benefit from rabid Pokémon Go gaming.

The SF Zoo finds three Pokémon Go gyms on property, rolls with it

4,500 say they'll hunt Pokémon together on the streets of San Francisco

‘Pokémon Go’ users help cops arrest attempted-murder suspect

Players get hurt hunting for ‘Pokémon Go’ monsters

Your humble blogger did download Pokémon Go but hasn't activated it due to privacy issues.

No game is that important---to be sure, a concern I would not have shared 30 years ago.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mystery Dish

When ordering a European or American dish (e.g., spaghetti, Salisbury steak, chicken parmesan) at a Chinese restaurant one must be open to surprises.

The lunch special on Monday was no exception. From the description I thought there was a good chance that my cardiologist would have approved; clearly he wouldn't have.

Can you guess what this is?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cheer if It's Clear

(Image from Distilled Water Association)
One of the easiest and most often recommended ways to lose weight is to drink more water [bold added]:
the main reason appears to be that it helps fill your stomach, making you less hungry and less likely to overeat. In addition, drinking more water may discourage you from guzzling soda and other calorie-laden beverages.
Drinking water makes a lot of sense, and anecdotal testimonies abound, but there hasn't been much research done on the relationship between drinking water and weight-loss until now. In a study of 9,500 adults scientists found
a link between dehydration and overweight. People who weren’t hydrated enough had higher BMIs [Body Mass Indexes] than those who were.
Useful tip:
So how can you tell if you’re drinking enough water? Instead of sticking to a cup-per-day recommendation, [U of Michigan professor Tammy] Chang says the most reliable way to tell is to check the color of your urine. If it’s light, almost the color of water, then you likely are, but if it’s dark, you need to step up your water intake.
Despite her advice, I'm not giving up my asparagus.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Question of the Day: "Will Robots Replace Accountants?"

[Author and Oxford lecturer Daniel Susskind] will be presenting a session entitled “Will Robots Replace Accountants?” at The ICAS Conference 2016. Excerpts from the preview:
“The thesis is, very broadly speaking, that we see two different futures for the professions, both of which rest upon technology.”

The first future bears a striking resemblance to the present day. Professionals will use increasingly sophisticated technologies to enhance their traditional ways of working.

The second future Daniel describes, however, is radically different from the first.

“Here technology doesn’t simply streamline and optimise that traditional approach, it actively displaces the work of traditional professionals.”
Comments, some too easy:

1) "Will robots replace accountants?" Wait, hasn't that already happened?

2) "Some of these systems will still require humans in order to function." Still? That's a relief.

3) Robot accountants don't make mistakes--and presumably will be hard-wired to be honest*--so bye-bye audits!
*Obviously, robot lawyers are many years away.

4) Robot accountants preparing financial statements and robot financial advisors making investments may be alarming, but if robots can do my tax returns I'm all in.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Understanding or Anger?

(YouTube image)
The minister's grief was evident as he began his homily:
This past week was a sad and terribly tragic week in which two black men, one in Baton Rouge, and another in St. Paul, Minnesota were shot and killed by police, only to be followed by the killing of five police officers and the wounding of another seven police officers and two civilians in Dallas....What do these events say about the United States of America as a nation? What are we to do?
I know from past discussions that he, like many Episcopal clergy, subscribe to the social justice movement, which holds that most of our troubles are the result of "-isms", i.e., racism, sexism, capitalism, and the values traditionally associated with Middle America, such as the Protestant ethic and the right to bear arms.

But today he took off his social-justice warrior hat and tried to bridge the gap in understanding [bold added]:
The young people behind the Black Lives Matter movement intend to be provocative. But in being provocative and prophetic, they are not being correctly heard. The Black Lives Matter movement has been countered by an “All Lives Matter” movement, and a “Police Lives Matter” movement. Steve Hartman of CBS News said this weekend that a necessary word needed is the word “some.” Some police shoot and kill young black men, not all police. Some young black men are out of control and dangerous, not all. Some people are racist, not all. Imagine if the word “too” was added so it would say, “Black Lives Matter too.” Wouldn’t this get to the point that black lives, as any other life matters? Wouldn’t it still point to the ongoing national tragedy of the killing of young black men?
"Black lives matter, too," has been suggested before. Whether one uses the phrase depends on whether one is trying to change the hearts of the indifferent and antagonistic or whether one is trying to silence them with one's righteous anger.

Note: the minister's sermons may be downloaded here.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Building a Wall Won't Help Here

The number of Chinese homebuyers now surpasses the number from Canada (Barron's)

Hong Kong Chinese were the first wave, many of them taking precautions against a disastrous outcome from the 1997 transfer of sovereignty. For the past two decades, though, we've had an influx of home buyers who originate from mainland China.

Barron's takes notice:
The Chinese again dominated the ranks of international homebuyers in the U.S., solidifying their first-place rank for a second straight year, according to the latest survey from the National Association of Realtors. Chinese buyers bought 29,195 homes in 2016, for a total of about $27 billion.

Remarkably, buyers from China still spent astonishing sums, paying $936,615 on average for homes from California to Texas to New Jersey in the period from April 2015 to March 2016. That’s up from $831,761 the year before — and far more than the average $477,462 paid by all foreign buyers. Another starker point of comparison: The average U.S. home buyer paid only $266,683.

61% of all Chinese homebuyers in 2016 were U.S. residents, up from 53% a year earlier. In other words, the Chinese who are in a position to buy the most U.S. real estate were those living within the U.S., not China.
From 2004: 99 Ranch Market has continued to thrive.
According to the 2010 Census Foster City's population of 30,000 is 45% Asian (in 1980 it was less than 20%). In our little neighborhood so many Chinese have bought homes that the 25-year Hispanic resident across the street complained....and she married a Chinese guy! (They have two lovely daughters by the way.)

So far I've survived in California without speaking Spanish, but I just may have to learn Mandarin...

Friday, July 08, 2016

Payments Revolution or Devolution

The new Costco Visa has a chip but the
Costco machines are swipe only. Maybe
Costco doesn't trust the technology?
Despite nearly a year of preparation, the transition has not gone smoothly. [bold added]
The new Costco credit card was supposed to make everybody happy.....

As soon the switch went into effect, though, Costco members reported problems with the card and vented their frustrations on social media. Cards weren’t mailed on time, there were long delays on customer service lines, and in some cases cards couldn’t be activated at all. Citi, the card’s new issuer, has spent the past couple of weeks extinguishing fires.

1) I activated the Costco credit card by doing it the old-fashioned way and used the phone. I then used it at Costco (without a hitch). Properly established, I set up an online ID on the Citi website and linked it to the credit card. However, the first payment will be via check.

2) When starting with a new vendor, bank, or credit card company, I always pay via check for a few months.

Get your account flowing---it's not good to miss your first payment---then set up the "modern" payment method (website, mobile pay, automatic transfer, etc.) that you prefer. Checks-mailed-to-a-lockbox are a proven system that has been around for decades, and the paperless methods for most companies are bolted on top of the existing system. Yes, planning ahead a few days is so very difficult, it's such a hassle writing a check and stamping an envelope, so go ahead and take your chances....

3) It's one's right to be a demanding customer and post complaints on message boards, but have you noticed that the majority who do the complaining are themselves quite slovenly in their work product? Conscientious workers know how hard it is to make things perfectly and make allowances when complex products are introduced.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Not 1968 Yet

This week's fatal police shootings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana brought the issue of "blue on black" violence to a boiling point, culminating in widespread demonstrations. Tonight's headline, Snipers open fire on officers during Dallas protest, killing 4, is shocking, but not surprising, given the inflamed emotions of the current day.

[Update - 7/9: the final casualty count is 5 officers killed, 7 officers wounded, 2 civilians wounded, and 1 shooter killed.]

The zeitgeist of the times has evoked memories of a Presidential election year a half-century ago, but we have a long way to go, thankfully, before 2016 will be as tumultuous as 1968, which had two assassinations and hundreds of American troops dying each month in a far-off war. True, there are protest movements that threaten to disrupt the major parties' conventions, there's a cloud of uncertainty over Europe as Russia and China are ascendant, and neither of the leading Presidential candidates excites the majority of the country, but 2016 is not 1968, and we'll pull through.

In one respect the past was much better than today. Here are 1968's top 20 songs, many of which are still played. (50 years from now I doubt that we'll have more than a couple from 2016.)
1. Hey Jude, The Beatles
2. Love is Blue, Paul Mauriat
3. Honey, Bobby Goldsboro
4. (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding
5. People Got to Be Free, The Rascals
6. Sunshine of Your Love, Cream
7. This Guy's In Love With You, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
8. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Hugo Montenegro
9. Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel
10. Tighten Up, Pt. 1, Archie Bell and The Drells
11. Harper Valley P.T.A., Jeannie C. Riley
12. Little Green Apples, O.C. Smith
13. Mony Mony, Tommy James and The Shondells
14. Hello, I Love You, The Doors
15. Young Girl, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap
16. Cry Like a Baby, The Box Tops
17. Stoned Soul Picnic, The Fifth Dimension
18. Grazing In the Grass, Hugh Masekela
19. Midnight Confessions, The Grass Roots
20. Dance to the Music, Sly and The Family Stone