Friday, May 24, 2019

Not So Beautiful

The felled tree hasn't moved for three days
One of my timber-company bosses 40 years ago said,

"The most beautiful tree is one that's lying on its side."

We know that's not true. It's never pretty if you're blocking traffic.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Nervousness is Receding

Good news for California water users and skiers, disappointing news for global warming alarmists: [bold added]

Tahoe on April 2nd (Chron photo)
Late-season snow gives one last chance to ski Tahoe this Memorial Day weekend
As of Thursday morning, Tahoe City had received 239 inches of snow since Oct. 1 — 129% of the usual snowfall for the water year, said Mark Faucette, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
The wet, snowy weather has been experienced in the mountains throughout the State, not just Tahoe:
Three hours south of Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain has held onto a monstrous 155-inch base at its 11,053-foot summit. Weather allowing, the mountain is skiable top-to-bottom.
Due to warnings of "permanent" drought conditions we were nervous about re-sodding the lawn two years ago. The nervousness is receding.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

And the Company's Name is Great, Too

Naomi Granger, founder of Dope CFO, on how she found her niche:
Naomi Granger (WSJ photo)
I picked professional athletes at first, and would go on LinkedIn trying to connect with players. The ones who were actively playing seemed to be bombarded by different financial advisers.

Then I decided to try real estate because I already knew a few agents, but realized most didn’t make enough money to hire an accountant.

That’s when I stumbled upon cannabis. It’s such an underserved industry, facing these huge problems because of the changing laws and massive growth. Most banks won’t serve cannabis companies, and large accounting firms and accounting software providers don’t want to serve the industry either because it’s still an illegal business, federally speaking.
The debits and credits of cannabis accounting don't cover new ground. However, the ethics issues are difficult to navigate, since CPA's are not supposed to be associated with businesses that knowingly break the law (marijuana is still illegal under Federal statutes).

Good luck to Ms. Granger, an entrepreneurial millennial accountant to keep your eye on.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Why of Donald

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan is by no means a supporter of President Trump. As a TV commentator for CNN, ABC, and NBC, she is a "Georgetown" Republican who is often the object of conservative ire.

Nevertheless, in last week's WSJ column Ms. Noonan exhibits a genuine understanding of Trump voters: [bold added]
Democrats unveil charges and accusations—the president is a liar, he’s a tax dodger, an obstructor of justice. But in a way Mr. Trump’s supporters accounted for all this before they elected him. They are not shocked. They didn’t hire him to be a good man. Their politics are post-heroic. They sometimes tell reporters he’s a man of high character but mostly to drive the reporters crazy. I have never talked to a Trump supporter, and my world is thick with them, who thought he had a high personal character. On the other hand they sincerely believe he has a high political character, in that he pursues the issues he campaigned on. They hired him as an insult to the political class, as a Hail Mary pass—we’ve tried everything else, maybe this will work—and because he agreed with them on the issues.

Supporters give him high marks for not looking down on them as they believe most members of the media, who are always trying to “understand” them, do. Their attitude is: “Don’t try to understand me, like you’re the anthropologist and we’re the savages. I’m an American, what are you?” They factor the cultural animosity in. When they jeer the press during rallies at the president’s direction, they don’t really mean it. They’re having fun and talking back. They’d be happy if their kids became reporters—an affluent profession, and half of them are famous. The president doesn’t really hate the press either, he wants their love and admiration. You don’t need the admiration of people you truly disdain.

Trump supporters now are looking around and thinking: Things are looking up. The economy is gangbusters, everyone can get a job, good people are on the courts. Something good is happening with China—it’s unclear what, but at least he’s pushing back. As for illegal immigration, he at least cares about it and means to make it better, though no, it doesn’t seem improved.

To take all Congress’s time right now and devote it to attacking the president, or impeaching him, will be experienced as a vast, disheartening insult by half the country, and disheartening. It will simply damage the country and be seen as extreme and destructive. It will keep good things, such as an infrastructure bill, from happening.
His supporters view Mr. Trump as a highly imperfect vessel who at least is sailing in the right direction. The various Democratic candidates, save for Joe Biden, have moral characteristics and personal behaviors that most Americans believe are superior to Mr. Trump's, but Democrats seem to be sailing the ship toward a world where one can be arrested for sipping on a plastic straw, grilling a steak outdoors, or stopping a man from entering the girls' restroom. Worse, if one is a member of a victim group, one need not obey any of these stultifying laws.

Your humble pollyanna still holds out hope that Americans will come together eventually--probably in January, 2021 or January, 2025 after Mr. Trump leaves office.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Protectionism Doesn't Stink for Everyone

Experts caution that trade wars have no winners, but don't tell that to this local company:
Ken Christopher gets emotional about tariffs
Christopher Ranch, the nation’s largest commercial garlic grower,....stands to gain from a 25% tariff the Trump administration imposed on Chinese garlic and other goods this month. [snip]

Before the 10% tariff enacted in September, Chinese garlic cost $15 to $20 per box, while California garlic was about $50 to $60 per box, according to [CEO Ken] Christopher. Now, with the 25% tariff Chinese garlic will be $40 to $45 per box, he said.
Despite its higher price, your humble blogger always buys Gilroy garlic. "Made in China" means low prices and acceptable, sometimes above-average quality, but I'll admit to being biased against imported Chinese food. From 2015:
"Food from China is frequently found to contain alarming levels of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) and other contaminants." That's why some of my new neighbors left their homeland---who wants to raise kids in that environment?
Saving a couple of bucks on a package of garlic isn't worth one's health.

Also from 2015: note how this Asian-market's display advertises the non-Chinese sourcing of its meat.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Christianity Today: Everyone Wins a Trophy

St. Peter and St. Paul (El Greco)
One of the most significant events in European and world history could have occurred because of a misunderstanding over a single word in the New Testament.
These ["New Perspective on Paul"] scholars begin with the contention that the Protestant reformers mistakenly read 16th-century debates about grace and works into the writings of Paul.

When Paul insisted that no man is justified by “works” or “works of the law,” they insist, he wasn’t criticizing the Judaism of his day as a legalistic or works-based system of earning divine favor.
It's impossible to understate the importance of Martin Luther's 95 Theses, posted on the door of Wittenberg Castle church in 1517. Luther questioned the Catholic Church's use of indulgences, the purchase of which would result in sins being forgiven. (Indulgence purchases were a form of "good works" through which one could enter heaven.)

Martin Luther (Smithsonian)
Martin Luther declared sola fide ("faith alone") based on his reading of Paul's letters to the Romans and Ephesians. According to Luther indulgences were unnecessary to "justification" (right-standing before God). The authority, not to mention a source of funding, for the Church was challenged, and the Protestant Reformation began.

Some modern scholars, however, now say that Luther's interpretation of Paul's view on good works was over-broad:
Messrs. [James] Dunn and [N.T.] Wright contend he was talking about cultural “boundary markers” separating Jews from gentiles. These include rituals and practices such as sabbath observance, circumcision and food laws.
Whether or not their view is correct, WSJ columnist Barton Swaim opines that the new Perspective allows Christianity to de-emphasize not only the faith-good works debate but also heaven, hell, sin, and faith:
My own suspicion is that the New Perspective achieved popularity mainly because young Protestant ministers would rather talk about inclusion and breaking barriers than about the guilt of sin and the pointlessness of trying to erase it by a regimen of good deeds.
I am not definitively persuaded about priests' motivations ("Judge not, that ye be not judged."-Matthew 7:1), but in a society where everyone wins a trophy it makes a lot of sense.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Cheery Weekend

5-10 year-old non-functioning electronics
Bye-bye old tax returns
Foster City holds free e-waste and paper-shredding events at City Hall on a semi-annual basis. And so it was that we piled broken-down electronic equipment and old tax returns and medical files into the car this morning.

First was the disposal of documents, which we watched enter the shredding truck. Next was the equipment, from which we had removed any memory devices that could have contained sensitive information.

I had also been concerned that the recyclers wouldn't accept the mercury-containing fluorescent and compact-fluorescent bulbs, which many hardware stores now refuse to accept. No worries, they took everything.

It only took a few hours on a rainy Saturday, but the stress-relieving effects of clearing the clutter made for a cheery weekend.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Less Argument There

Marshland in Foster City
Finally, a common-sense response to a putative danger of global warming:
Blueprint to battle Bay Area sea-level rise focuses on natural solutions
Why "common sense"? Because making improvements to San Francisco Bay has benefits that appeal to those who don't buy into the entire warming credo, which in 2008 we outlined as follows:
  • Temperatures are rising worldwide.
  • This phenomenon is attributable to an increase in “greenhouse gases”.
  • Greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, are largely produced by human activity.
  • Rising temperatures are bad (I guess that’s why everyone goes north for the winter--sorry, couldn't resist).
  • Therefore, we should overhaul our daily activities, whatever the cost, in order to forestall the catastrophic consequences of global warming.
  • Every one of the above statements is debatable. However, there are remedies that are worthwhile without necessarily buying into all of these assertions. For example, we can spend limited resources converting to wind and solar power (without adding to the supply of energy), or we can spend the same resources protecting the Bay from floods. Coastal properties can be flooded from melting glaciers caused by global warming, but rising seas can also result from storms and seismic activity.

    The study, the San Francisco Bay Shoreline Adaptation Atlas, recommends projects that
    would in many cases replace or bury seawalls, rip rap, culverts and other crude fortifications that experts say won’t hold up as the climate warms and water rises.
    Hydroelectric dams and replanting forests have value whether or not one believes in all the tenets of global warming. So does protecting the Bay and coastal properties. If we pursued these, we would spend a lot less time arguing and more time accomplishing something.

    Thursday, May 16, 2019

    No "Yes, But's" Allowed

    At Northeastern University computer-science majors are required to take a course in theater and improv.
    (GIPHY Image)
    The course requires public speaking, lecturing on such nontechnical topics as family recipes. Students also learn to speak gibberish—“butuga dubuka manala phuthusa,” for instance.

    The class is a way to “robot-proof” computer-science majors, helping them sharpen uniquely human skills, said Joseph E. Aoun, the university president
    All the world's a stage, nerds, so you'd better get used to it.

    As for liberal arts majors, laugh it up, fuzzballs, but a little science, technology, engineering, and math will get you on the good side of our future robot masters.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2019

    So, Do Something

    Hetch Hetchy water and power system (Water Educ. Fdn)
    Hydroelectric power checks a lot of boxes:

  • Plentiful source of energy;
  • No burning of fossil fuels;
  • Low operating cost;
  • Water storage.

    An updated version, pumped storage, can also provide wind and solar energy storage without the drawbacks of chemical batteries.

    One such project has been proposed in "a remote canyon in the towering eastern Sierra."
    (Chronicle diagram)
    The proposed “pumped-storage” project would essentially bank solar and wind energy by pumping creek water uphill when the power sources are plentiful, say during sunny or windy times, and conversely, send the water back down through power-producing turbines when the energy is needed.

    “It’s a great way to manage the intermittency of renewable energy,” said Frank Wolak, an economics professor at Stanford University and director of the school’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, who called pumped storage “ideal” for helping the state scale up its clean power.
    Construction would occur mostly on Federal land. At risk would be
    a landscape known for its brown trout and bighorn sheep, unparalleled alpine vistas, and pristine rivers and lakes.
    Politicians must weigh the habitat of sheep and fish and "vistas" which only a few people have the time and money to see, against the millions of Californians who would benefit from increased water, electricity, and alternative energy storage.

    The choice is obvious, but I don't give it much of a chance. The very influential people who say the planet is doomed unless we do something don't seem to want to do something (or they don't really believe the planet is doomed).
  • Tuesday, May 14, 2019

    Que Sera, Sera

    Apr 03, 1922 - May 13, 2019 (Time image)
    Blonde and blue-eyed, Doris Day wasn't sexy in the same fashion as Marilyn Monroe, but she was perfect for pre-1964 America, girl-next-door beautiful.

    Though her public persona never strayed from what we would call "traditional cultural values," her movie characters were articulate and spirited. With the benefit of hindsight we can see how she was the precursor of the ideal professional woman who is assertive, talented, and feminine.

    Her personal life was no Doris Day tale:
    Her 1976 tell-all book, “Doris Day: Her Own Story,” chronicled her money troubles and three failed marriages, contrasting with the happy publicity of her Hollywood career.

    “I have the unfortunate reputation of being Miss Goody Two-Shoes, America’s Virgin, and all that, so I’m afraid it’s going to shock some people for me to say this, but I staunchly believe no two people should get married until they have lived together,” she wrote.
    In my humble opinion, Doris Day is under-rated as a singer. Her music is part of the American songbook--Sentimental Journey, It's Magic, By the Light of the Silvery Moon--often producing an I-didn't-know-that-was-her-song reaction.
    Born to a music teacher and a housewife in Cincinnati, she had dreamed of a dance career, but at age 12 suffered a crippling accident: A car she was in was hit by a train and her leg was badly broken. Listening to the radio while recuperating, she began singing along with Ella Fitzgerald, “trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.”
    Her hit Que Sera, Sera, (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) from Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is a throwback to old-style performing--perfect intonation, clear projection, vocal control, feeling without emoting, and erect posture. She knew how to get on and off the stage. R.I.P.

    Monday, May 13, 2019

    Saturday in the Park

    Good reasons to see the Giants vs. Reds on Saturday:
  • Beautiful afternoon weather, with great views of the bay.
  • High quality, albeit pricey, food.
  • The fancy, new scoreboard--now fully operational--chock-full of information for baseball junkies and casual fans alike.
  • Free bobblehead that depicts Pablo Sandoval's pitching:
    [On May 6] Sandoval became the only other player besides Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson in 1905 with a homer, steal and scoreless pitching outing in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
  • Reason not to go the park on Saturday: Giants baseball. The Giants lost to the Reds, 5-4, in a desultory performance by the home team.

    Sunday, May 12, 2019


    Nob Hill or Knob Hill?
    Reported by the Chronicle:
    “I like to have sex before I come to church. That way, if anything happens, I’m covered.”

    Man to man, overheard at Grace Cathedral by Alexandra Morgan
    Making Episcopal Great Again.

    Happy Mother's Day!

    Saturday, May 11, 2019

    Let’s Plan to Make a Plan Dept.

    James Harden, after the Houston Rockets were eliminated from the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors:
    “I know what we need to do," Harden said. "I know exactly what we need to do. We'll figure it out this summer."

    Slip Me a Slug of the Wonderful Mug

    Perhaps you missed the latest tempest-in-a-latte-cup when Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones showed what appeared to be a Starbucks drink next to one of the leading characters. (Starbucks, not to mention electricity and paper cups, does not exist in the Game of Thrones fantasy universe.)

    The accidental product placement has garnered free social-media publicity for the Seattle-based coffee company:
    Plenty of brands would like to find a way into an ad-free smash TV show like HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” On Sunday night, Starbucks Corp. seemed to have lucked its way there...the apparent anachronism handed Starbucks a big share of the voluminous “Game of Thrones” social-media conversation that follows every episode.
    In the middle of its final season, over 17 million viewers (across all platforms) have been watching Game of Thrones. That's a lot of eyeballs.

    Note: in an alternative universe it's possible that the Starbucks cup could have existed, for example:
    After a day of slaughter, Daenerys really needed to stop at a bathroom. Her code of ethics forbade her from using the Starbucks facilities without buying anything--though she didn't have to (cut to image of the Philadelphia 911 incident)--so she ordered the venti, triple-shot non-fat latte, no sugar. When the barista asks if she needed a cardboard sleeve, the camera pans to her calloused hands, toughened by the fire of dragons that she rides all day. Daenerys smiles faintly and takes the cup without the sleeve and pops in the green swizzle stick that seals the top for transport. She enters the gender-neutral bathroom. Fade to black...
    Note: at last night's Warriors-Rockets game actress Emilia Clarke, the subject of all the social-media fun, was spotted by the mascot. You cannot escape, Daenerys!