Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It Ain't Necessarily So

Reminiscent of the Harper's Index, the current issue of Time is chock-full of answers to questions that you didn't know you had.
Why do we laugh?

Scientists think laughing evolved to promote social group activity–you laugh 30 times as much when you’re with others

Why is a Cheerio a circle?

The “o” matches the cereal’s name, which was originally CheeriOats when it debuted in 1941

What are we most afraid of?

One study found that Americans’ biggest personal fear–even more than public speaking–is walking alone at night
And so on.

All very interesting, until the reader comes across a subject that he knows something about, for example , where's the best beach in America? Time's answer: Huntington Beach in Orange County. The only Hawaiian entry that made the Top Ten is Hapuna Beach (#8) on the Big Island.

Hey, Time, having computers and data analysts doesn't change your opinions into facts.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Genuinely Glad

It was a birthday party that turned into a family reunion. Fewer and fewer of the World War II generation are still around, and cousins who used to decline these invitations made a special effort to attend Dad's 90th birthday celebration.

Everyone seemed genuinely glad to see each other. Old differences seemed petty, if they were remembered at all, and the party continued long after dessert was served.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fresh Eyes

Only three of the buildings existed when I moved away.
Growing up in Hawaii, I rarely went to touristy areas like Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana, and Hanauma Bay.

Living half a lifetime on the Mainland has brought an appreciation for what was left behind. I am beginning to see why visitors to the Islands marvel at the white sands, warm oceans, and easygoing pace.

Fading memories bring fresh eyes.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Important First Step

Last September we wondered about the house that had been enveloped by the monkey pod tree. Decades of growth were chopped away two weeks ago, and the long-hidden roof was revealed. Sure, the owner has a lot of repairs to do, but he's taken the important first step.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Irrational? We'll Soon See

Asking price: $599,000. Lot: 2,414 sq. ft.  Bldg: 766 sq. ft.
Built: 1941, The yellow dumpster is overflowing.
The house in the old neighborhood is nearly unlivable.

After their parents died, the son moved to the Mainland, and the daughter, who 50 years ago would have been institutionalized, lived by herself. The weeds climbed over the fence, and the eyesore became a health- and fire-safety hazard.

A few months ago the brother returned and moved his sister to a mental-health facility. Because of its central Honolulu location, he is trying to sell the property for $599,000. However, modern zoning restrictions (for example, set back distance from the sidewalk) make a tear-down strategy very hard to make work.

We'll soon see just how irrational the Honolulu real estate market may be.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rooting for a Relative

(Star Advertiser photo)
The Star Advertiser profiles a relative :
[Richard] Fassler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2013 and had surgery to remove his prostate. Four months later the prostate-specific antigen in his blood tests began to climb, signaling a recurrence, and he was put on hormone therapy to lower it.

Hormone therapy, though, could have nasty side effects, including hot flashes and muscle weakening, Fassler said. A lifelong tennis player who met his wife on a tennis blind date, he preferred to combat the cancer with intensive exercise and a change in his diet.

“There are some risk factors you can’t do anything about, namely, age and genetics,” Fassler said. Although prostate cancer can strike men of any age, the risk rises after age 50 or if one’s father or brother has had the disease.

“Then there’s lifestyle, which you can do something about.” To try to keep his prostate cancer from growing, Fassler follows the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations: Eat a diet low in red meat and dairy fats and high in fruits, vegetables and fish; and avoid being overweight.

“It’s basically a heart-healthy diet and weight-control regimen,” said Fassler, who stands 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. Lean all his life, he exercised to gain back the weight he lost after surgery — “I’ve got much more muscle,” he said — and now focuses on staying at this healthy weight and not gaining body fat.
Richard was always been ahead of the rest of the family with his notions of mind-body-spirit health, but the times have caught up with him.

Note - the article includes a troubling comment (for me) from his oncologist:
“If you’re sedentary and have excess fat tissue, cancers thrive and can even become more aggressive,” said Fassler’s doctor, Charles Rosser, a urologist and oncologist at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gentlemen, Start Your Masticating

HNL departure line in November
Various activities had gotten in the way of returning to the Islands earlier, but the happy occasion of Dad's birthday got us on the plane. The Honolulu terminal was busier than last November; we had to wait 40 minutes for our bags. No worries, our ride circled until we were ready and took us home, where a huge lunch spread awaited. Let the eating begin.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"The Most Powerful First Lady in the Country"

Anne Gust Brown and husband (Sacramento Bee photo)
California Sunday Magazine runs a profile of Anne Gust Brown:
Gust Brown has been at the center of nearly every major political feat for which her husband can claim credit: closing the budget deficit; persuading voters to pass ballot measures to raise taxes, sell bonds to update the state’s aging water infrastructure, and create a rainy-day fund to protect against future budget crises; shrinking the staff of the governor’s office; recruiting some of Brown’s top advisers, including executive secretary Nancy McFadden; nudging a stalled high-speed-rail project back into motion; and, last year, getting her husband re-elected.
In the early 1990's (California
Sunday Magazine photo)
Born and raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Anne went to Stanford (BA 1980) and the University of Michigan Law School (JD 1983). A successful corporate lawyer, she met Jerry Brown in the early 1990's. She became general counsel at the Gap, eventual rising to "chief administrative officer, a senior position reporting directly to the CEO." Anne and Jerry got married in 1995, after which "she left the Gap and a salary of $600,000 to run her husband’s [State Attorney General] campaign for no pay."

What's fascinating--at least to this Californian--about Anne Gust Brown are her Midwestern values and her willingness to give up her career to support her husband's. Snippets:
I certainly would want people to think I was helpful — that I helped Jerry be a good governor — but I don’t actually sit and think, I want to be known for this. Maybe I’m deficient that way.” This could be “a Midwest sort of thing,” she said. “You know, we’re not real navel gazers.”

She seems unaware — or maybe just unconcerned — that her goal of helpfulness can appear old-fashioned. The modern image of a powerful first lady is of someone who pursues policy objectives that complement, but are often separate from, her husband’s projects. Gust Brown suggested that she approaches her position differently because of her deep involvement in the governor’s office rather than despite it. “Jerry and I are partners all the time in almost any issue that’s going on in California where I think I can be of help,” she told me. “I don’t feel the need to say” — she took on an officious-sounding tone — ‘These are the Anne Gust Brown goals.’”

“I just think for social issues,” she said, “the government should be out of all that stuff. I’m very pro-choice, I’m very pro–gay marriage, and on those social issues, I just think the Republicans are so off-point on that and off-track. Fiscally, I just think that we should live within our means, and I’m a conservative that way. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be investing in certain things, but I don’t think we can just keep spending off a cliff.”
But the First Lady of California is not demure and retiring. She's also Jerry Brown's campaign manager and (unpaid) chief counsel. From the 2010 gubernatorial campaign:
Brown left a voice message for a police union in Los Angeles; afterward, thinking the call had concluded, someone from Brown’s circle called [Republican Meg] Whitman a “whore,” a comment the union caught on tape and released. A number of people thought the voice sounded like that of the candidate’s wife, which the Brown campaign deflected. A couple of years later, Gust Brown acknowledged that it “probably” had been her after all. (Several people who know her told me they recognized her voice.)
Anne Gust Brown rejects all suggestions that she enter politics on her own after her husband retires. But it's not unheard of for First Ladies to seek--and win--political office, and in this heavily liberal state she may just be the Democrat that Republicans can get behind.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Action vs Inaction

Left: Burnt-out ballast;  Right: lightweight replacement
The builder of our home went crazy with fluorescent lighting. Two years ago the ballasts that power the tubes began going out. Like with most projects that are a bit of a hassle, I procrastinate until increasing inconvenience and guilt force me to take action.

On Father's Day weekend the family left me alone to "relax." While they were away I brought out the tools and fixed a couple of banks of lights. Action can be much more relaxing than inaction.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day, 2015

Resting after exercise, 1942
Dad has slowed down a little from the days when he was on the high school track team, but he walks every day, sleeps soundly, and sees the doctor regularly.

He continues to take care of himself, one of the best gifts that a father can give to his children.

If you, dear reader, are lucky enough to have a father who is still in your life, give him a call today--advice that is more for your sake than his.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"My Glutes are Shutting Off"

Tiger Woods' decline is so remarkable that your humble observer still has trouble processing his fall from golf's pinnacle. In 2009, before his infidelities and marital struggles became widely known, Tiger was the favorite to win every tournament he entered; there was no one close to challenging him as the world's best golfer.

Today at 39, an age when professional golfers' skills should still be near their peak, Tiger Woods could reasonably be expected to contend for championships. After all, in the past 50 years six golfers who were in their 40's have won major tournaments.

This week Tiger Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open by a wide margin:
He finished 16 over par in two days at Chambers Bay....It was his highest 36-hole score above par at a major in his career. At the time he stepped off the course, he was tied for 154th place in a 156-man field.
His latest excuses are ripe for mockery [bold added]:
It's just my glutes are shutting off. Then they don't activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back. So, I tried to activate my glutes as best I could, in between, but they never stayed activated.
Gluteal analysis by Golf Digest
What happened to Tiger isn't a tragedy in the modern meaning of the term because he retains many millions of dollars from his golf endorsements and wins, no one's died, and he's still famous in a mostly positive sense.

His persistence in the face of criticism and even pity is commendable. In fact expectations are so low that, if he can pull off a victory or two, his comeback will be lauded enthusiastically. I, for one, am hoping that he's got another run left. May his glutes activate more strongly than ever before.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Uniter, Not a Divider

On Tuesday Donald Trump declared that he was running for President. The near-universal mockery resurrected posters from 2012. (Above left: Atlantic; above right: alicublog)

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza treated the announcement seriously:
Republicans know Trump. And they really, really don't like him.

Trump, of course, knows this. His goal is attention, not winning. And in truth, even that would be fine if Trump had an issue (or issues) that he cared about and wanted to draw attention to via his presidential bid. He doesn't. He just says stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. And it's not clear that he's spent more than the five seconds before he speaks thinking about what he's going to say.
I beg to differ with the naysayers. Donald Trump's candidacy can teach valuable lessons to the children:
1) Having a lot of money doesn't mean you are smart.
2) Having a lot of money doesn't cause people to love you.
3) Democrats and Republicans both dislike Donald Trump. See? the country can still come together.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hospital Construction on the Peninsula

The new hospital rises next to the radiology building.
We thought that the $618 million Mills-Peninsula Medical Center was an impressive facility, but the $2 billion new Stanford Hospital, scheduled to open in 2018, promises to raise the ante on health care on the Peninsula.

Our various medical conditions have occasioned visits to Mills-Peninsula, Stanford, and Sequoia Hospital, which has recently completed its own construction project.

Wealthy benefactors (foundations, endowments, individuals), prosperous corporations that are willing to pay for premium medical plans, and the availability of medical and research talent are the prime movers behind the explosion of construction. This is one arms race that we're lucky to be living next to.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Baseball Justice Restored

Rare sight: Giants congratulate each other after a win.
In the important Bay Area sports news of yesterday (kidding!), the Giants broke a nine-game home losing streak by defeating the Seattle Mariners 6-2 behind the pitching of Tim Lincecum and hitting of Matt Duffy.

It was an interesting game to witness, and not just because the home team won.

Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan got thrown out for arguing two called strikes in the middle of his at-bat (manager Bruce Bochy, who unfailingly supports his players, was also ejected) in the 8th inning.

Rookie Jarrett Parker was substituted for Pagan and promptly took a third strike. The scoreboard showed that poor Parker's batting average fell from .111 (1 hit out of 9) to .100 (1 for 10). It seemed to this casual baseball fan that it was pretty unfair to charge Jarrett Parker with the strikeout after one pitch, but professional statisticians must know the rules, right?

Faith in the justice of baseball was restored when a check of the box score this morning showed that Pagan, not Parker, was assigned the strikeout. Now, if they can just do something about the designated hitter...

Laughable Exercise

Laughter yoga classes at UCSF (SF Gate photo)
Yoga is renowned for its health benefits, but its practitioners rarely look like they're having a good time.

Students seem to enjoy themselves, however, at sessions of a yoga offshoot, laughter yoga. No, the instructor doesn't crack Henny Youngman one-liners. Apparently, laughing without humor can be learned.
Anyone can laugh for no reason without relying on humor, jokes or comedy and one can feel the benefits on the very first session....We initiate laughter as a body exercise in a group and with eye contact and childlike playfulness. It soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
If yoga's mental, physical and spiritual benefits don't appeal, at least one can learn how to be more convincing in feigning laughter, a skill that is useful throughout life.

Note: Oprah seems to approve.