Sunday, January 26, 2020

Gone Too Soon

At this morning's annual meeting the Rector announced that he will be retiring on August 1st. After 22 years in the post (the average tenure is about 10 years) he has earned his gold watch, or will it be a crucifix?

Less than 10% of the membership was here the last time we did a search, which takes at least a year given all the Diocesan procedures (we can't even start the process until he leaves, the reason being to prevent him from biasing the search--I told him no other public or private entity times it this way when there's a friendly resignation).

Facing us in the near future is hiring a new rector and a youth minister, operating with lay leadership for an extended period, and eventually accommodating to the style of the new priest. There are going to be significant changes, and there's nothing to do to prevent them. Churches always lose members during a search.

(Chronicle photo)
The meeting ended at noon, after which someone showed us breaking news on the death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash. Later the news and especially the sports channels gave his life story wall-to-wall coverage.

Even to this occasional basketball follower, the death of the 41-year-old retired L.A. Laker came us a shock. A brash 17-year-old when he entered the NBA, he won five NBA championships and was an All-Star for 18 years. But he had significant low points: 2003 sexual assault charges that were settled out of court, fallings out with players and coaches, and significant season-ending injuries (torn Achilles tendon, shoulder, knee).

As he neared retirement, Kobe Bryant's travails seemed to make him wiser, empathetic, philosophical, and charitable. He counseled young NBA players and devoted significant time and money to inculcating knowledge and values to children. He became an unofficial ambassador of the NBA worldwide and was preparing for a rich life after basketball, melding sports, entertainment, business, education, and philanthropy.

Kobe Bryant was an inspiration to youth because he demonstrated how hard work can overcome a humble origin.

But he was also an inspiration to oldsters when he showed that the inevitable changes brought on by the passage of time should be welcomed, not feared. I am sorry that he will not be here to show us how he did it.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Happy Year of the Rat

Below is a short video about the Chinese zodiac. It's produced by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and doesn't require knowledge of the Chinese language to understand it.

The film reinterprets the legend of how the zodiac was created by the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven. He announced a race among all birds and beasts with the first 12 to be chosen for the 12 signs of the zodiac. In the legend, the rat arrived at the finish line first, thereby becoming the first animal in the zodiac. Then the order in which the other animals arrived became their order in the zodiac system.

The passing on of traditional culture is depicted in the film through a relay race in whcih the participants are 12 young people. They wear animal masks, which combine traditional patterns with modern elements. ...

They run through the entire country, from the traditional lanes of Beijing with their rows of courtyard houses to highways passing through towering mountains, deserts, deep seas, the Great Wall, and even the sky...The modes include parkour, skateboarding, an off-road vehicle, the high-speed train and a rocket ship...

The rat is the last one to get the baton, which turns out to be a traditional red scroll. When the scroll unfurls, the message is revealed: "Continuing to write our own legend."
We don't keep many of the old ways alive, but I did give out red envelopes.

It's no mystery why that tradition stays popular.

Friday, January 24, 2020

When It's OK to Steal

Helen Raleigh (Federalist)
Helen Raleigh is fed up, not with cultural appropriation, but with those who complain about it. [bold added]
No one is safe from being accused of “cultural appropriation,” or even “racial identity theft.” Whether you are rich and famous or an average Joe going about your life, culture police are everywhere to make sure that people don’t out of their lane to claim something that’s “not theirs.”

...Based on the social-justice warriors’ logic, people must only function within the ethnic identity and culture they were born into—for life. Authenticity, to them, means each cultural group must embrace its own culture and fiercely defend its unique traits from others.
Hamilton cast in 2016 (Entertainment Tonight)
Cultural appropriation is a sin committed only by whites. In fine dining Chef Gordon Ramsey was excoriated for opening an Asian restaurant when neither he nor his head chef were Asian. Yet here in San Francisco no one says a word when Asian chefs serve Italian or haute cuisine.

In entertainment, productions of the Mikado have been criticized heavily if they don't have Asian actors. On Broadway Hamilton, a musical about the American Founding played by a non-white cast, has been showered with accolades.

Helen Raleigh, who immigrated from China, welcomes Westerners trying to adopt elements of Chinese culture. Similarly, she is enthusiastic about Zumba and yoga classes, and she will snack on nachos on Super Bowl Sunday.

Your humble blogger pays no attention to those who want people to stay within their cultural confines. When they criticize Hamilton for cultural appropriation, I'll start listening.

[Note: just in case it isn't clear, I have no problem with the Mikado played by an all-white cast or Hamilton with non-white actors.]

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2014 MacBook Air: Still Going Strong

Time to install the 3rd case.
The screen on the MacBook Air cracked two years ago, and I had the battery replaced at the same time as the repair. The laptop is still going strong after six years with its 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 8 GB RAM. (I looked at the new MacBooks last fall, but the features weren't compelling enough to spend at least $1,000.)

One worthwhile safety measure is to buy an inexpensive (<$15) case every two years. It not only affords protection from the occasional drop but shields the laptop from dirt, food, and spilled drinks.

I'll keep using it until it stops. Meanwhile, I back it up every evening.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Homelessness: You Will Be Made to Care, Comrade

It would be quite a stretch for me to live in Beverly Hills, but, if a proposal becomes law, all I would have to do is pitch a tent in the 90210 zip code. Cities would be required to shelter the homeless, according to a recommendation by the governor’s Regional Council of Homeless Advisors. [bold added]
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told The Chronicle, “We are calling for a legally enforceable mandate requiring governments to bring people home. No more of this being an option. ... When it really matters, we require it. Why should this be any different?”
The Chronicle editorial board supports forcing cities to provide housing (and other services).
by making housing a right instead of the luxury it’s become for an unconscionable number of Californians, the task force’s proposal would constitute a dramatic shift in the right direction....

The trouble is that, as San Francisco’s experience attests, spending large new sums of money on homelessness and housing has not been as consistently effective as it is politically expedient in a liberal state. Making the provision of sufficient housing and shelter obligatory is what’s missing.
California must exist in an alternate reality. The rest of the country is reducing homelessness , but it has increased in California to such an extent that the national totals are rising. California is spending $billions--as are other States--and outside of California it's working.

Rather than look at why we're so ineffective, California politicians and the Chronicle are saying that we're not trying hard enough, so we'll get the law to force you to try harder.

Compassion is not optional. You will be made to care, comrade.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Far Removed From My Wheelhouse

As a retiree and part-time finance consultant, I've posted an abbreviated profile on LinkedIn.

That's enough information for some information scrapers to send me regular emails on jobs (e.g., controller, treasurer, interim CFO, investment analyst) that I might be interested in.

I gotta say that community organizer is far removed from my wheelhouse.

These job algorithms still need work.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK Day, 2019: Now, More Than Ever

The New York Times' 1619 Project. as described by one of its critics, the National Review [bold added]:
The “newspaper of record” states that this “ongoing initiative” “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” It’s a conscious attempt to make the country’s “real” founding stem from when the first African slaves arrived in Virginia, rather than when the thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain (or, say, 1620, when the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts, or 1607, when Jamestown was settled).
Clayborne Carson, Director of Stanford's Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, agrees with the criticism: [bold added]
That kind of gets back to the 1619 Project. A lot of their focus seems to be the founding of the United States as a nation. The way I would look at that, is that at that time, for a variety of reasons, you have a predominant group, white men, beginning to articulate a human rights ideal. We can study why that happened when it happened.

It had to do with the Enlightenment, the spread of literacy, the rise of working class movements. All of these factors led people to start talking in terms of human rights. It was both an intellectual movement from the top down and a freedom struggle from the bottom up. People begin to speak in terms of rights: that, I, we, have rights that other people should respect. The emergence of that is important.

And it does affect African Americans. We know that from Benjamin Banneker and lot of other black people who realized that white people were talking about rights and said, ‘well we have rights too.’ That’s an important development in history, and an approach to history that doesn’t say we should privilege only the rights talk of white people. There’s always a dialogue between that and oppressed people. You have to tell the story from the top down, that intellectuals began to articulate the notion of rights. But simultaneously, non-elites are doing that—working class people, black people, colonized people.
Clayborne Carson has made it his life's work to research and document the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Like Dr. King, Professor Carson fought against racism his entire life. But as an historian he praises the American experiment, not condemns it.

400 years ago there were only glimmers of the ideas that would lead to an overarching philosophy of human rights. It wasn't so much "racism" then, but the way everything worked--tribes conquering other tribes. The world view was that of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)--either accede to a sovereign which offered limited protection or, in a state of nature, have a life that was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Today most of us are blessed to live in a world where the biggest complaints are about inequality and privilege. But the answer, I believe Dr. King would say, is not to tear down the wealthy but lift up the poor. He would dream
that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
If we keep focusing on race--as the 1619 project does--we will never look past it.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

No Other Gods

The fondness of Episcopal clergy--and leaders of other Protestant denominations--for socialism and progressivism has been commented on in this journal before. But the love is not reciprocated.

The War on Philanthropy. [bold added]
(Image from FourStarWealth)
progressive editorialists and political candidates openly call for deep cuts in the charitable deduction, an end to tax protections for churches and other charities, the taxing down of personal fortunes, and new regimes in which government becomes the sole ministrant of societal needs.
Christians who are political progressives think that socialism's battle is with capitalism. They do not see that a powerful socialist State views all groups that have influence--not only businesses, but also churches, charities, and universities--as threats to its authority.
Authoritarians have always hated independent civil society. Russian, Iranian and Chinese dictators clamped down on charities in recent years because they want the state to be the only forum for human influence. “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” was Mussolini’s encapsulation. For people with a controlling impulse, private wielders of resources represent alternative sources of ideas and social legitimacy that must be suppressed in favor of unitary government prescriptions.
The first of the Ten Commandments was: You shall have no other gods before Me.

When the State supplants God, I suspect that it will adopt the first commandment as its own.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

21st Century Fullback

In the build-up to the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and the Packers the WSJ profiles Kyle Juszczyk (YOOZ-check).

The NFL’s Unlikeliest Millionaire: He Went to Harvard and Plays Fullback [bold added]
Kyle and Kristin Juszczyk
By any modern standard, Kyle Juszczyk shouldn’t be playing in the NFL. He went to Harvard, a school that was important in football about a century ago. And he plays fullback, a position that was important when teams ran the wishbone toward goal posts that were planted at the front of the end zone.

But there’s one team that feels differently. A few years ago, the San Francisco 49ers didn’t just sign Juszczyk. They made him the highest-paid player in the entire league relative to other players at the same position. Juszczyk makes more money than the second- and third-highest paid fullbacks combined and carried the ball a grand total of three times this year.
The 49ers' use of their fullback would seem inexplicable to football traditionalists. He very rarely carries the ball. Yet he is in on many of the offensive plays. His value lies in his versatility.
Although technically a fullback, he played tight end and H-back in college, giving the 49ers the flexibility to motion him out and place him in any number of roles. It allows San Francisco to completely change the way the offense might look without changing the actual players on the field, a tactic that can prevent the defense from substituting and frustrate defenders schematically.
Kyle Juszczyk sounds like the Draymond Green of the 49ers: very good at seeing the whole field, can play a variety of positions, talented but not blessed with superstar physical abilities, and most importantly understands his coach's complicated schemes and recognizes on any given play where and in what role he's needed the most. On another team he wouldn't be as valuable, but like the Warriors with Draymond, he is integral to their scheme and is paid much more than another team would pay him.

Or maybe coach likes him because his name is Kyle.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Tuesday Rumination

More useful than facial rec after plane crashes.
As we noted in 2015, we used to wait half an hour for the results. (Actually, I remember when mouth X-rays took overnight to process. The dentist would read the results over the phone the next day and schedule dates to fix cavities.)

At Tuesday's appointment the results were flashed instantaneously on the monitor, and the pictures revealed no changes, hence no additional procedures this time.

Stan asked about my 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. (He used to drive one when he went to Berkeley.) Still running, I said, all I have to do is change the oil. Would that my own maintenance were as simple.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Wouldn't Mind a Little Warming

We're in San Mateo County
Foster City (37° 33' 31" N / 122° 16' 12" W) is just north of the 37th parallel--roughly the northern border of Arizona and New Mexico--and very rarely experiences temperatures below 40°F.

Mid-westerners will mock our lack of toughness, but they should know that living in heat is much healthier than cold, nearly 20 times as healthy.
The study — published in the British journal The Lancet — analyzed data on more than 74 million deaths in 13 countries between 1985 and 2012. Of those, 5.4 million deaths were related to cold, while 311,000 were related to heat.
Going outdoors, even swathed in several layers, is becoming very uncomfortable in 40-degree temperatures to older bones with slowing metabolism.

(Whisper): I wouldn't mind if the planet warms a few degrees like the alarmists say it will.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

San Francisco: Getting What They Wanted

Jan. 8: Mayor Breed swears in Chesa Boudin (Chron photo)
In November we commented on the election of Chesa Boudin to the District Attorney's office of San Francisco.

Mr. Boudin was a public defender and had never prosecuted a case. Clues to how he would run the DA's office lay in his upbringing by Weather Underground parents, adoption by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and his employment in Hugo Chavez' Venezuela.

Chesa Boudin has begun his term by firing prosecutors--which is his right, btw--as he starts to keep his "promise[s] to confront racial disparities in the criminal justice system, work to end mass incarceration, and hold police more accountable in cases of brutality."

Those fired include:
[Michael] Swart is a hard-charging homicide prosecutor known for his brash style in the courtroom. [Tom] Ostly was an attorney in the Crime Strategies Unit. He was in the middle of prosecuting a multimillion-dollar fencing bust announced last month by interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus.
Here's the nut: [bold added]
Boudin also promised to focus on violent crime, leaving many in the office questioning why he let go many of his most experienced felony attorneys.
Well, San Francisco voters elected him, and now they're going to get what he promised good and hard.

As for non-San Francisco visitors, never park your late-model vehicle there; it will be broken into with impunity, since there is zero chance of prosecution for property crimes. BTW, here is Mr. Boudin's solution to break-ins:
Boudin is proposing the city set up a private-public partnership to start a mobile auto-glass repair operation that would respond directly to the scene of burglaries and repair the broken windows on the spot for “a fraction of the cost” of window repair shops.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

When Marshawn Lynch Talks, People Listen

(Seattle Times image)
When their running backs were injured at the end of the season, the Seattle Seahawks asked 33-year-old Marshawn Lynch to come out of retirement and join them during the playoffs. The Seahawks were eliminated by the Packers on Sunday, and the normally taciturn Lynch became unusually voluble in the postgame interviews.

The topic: advice to young players from a star who had a taste of life outside of football. [bold added]
"Look, I'll say like this though, right?" Lynch said. "This is a vulnerable time for a lot of these young dudes, you feel me? They don't be taking care of their chicken right, you feel me? So if it was me, or if I had a opportunity to let these little young sahobs know something, I'd say take care of y'all money, African, because that ... don't last forever. Now I done been on the other side of retirement and it's good when you get over there and you can do what ... you want to. So I tell y'all right now while y'all in it: Take care of y'all bread, so when y'all done go ahead and take care of yourself.

"So while y'all at it right now, take care of y'all bodies, you know what I mean; take care of y'all chicken, you feel me; take care of y'all mentals because, look, we ain't lasting that long. I had a couple players that I played with that they're no longer here no more — they're no longer — so, I mean, you feel me? So you start taking care of y'all mentals, y'all bodies, y'all chicken, so when y'all ready to walk away, walk away and you'll be able to do what you want to do."
To sum up, Mr. Lynch is advising young players not to spend the immense sums ("chicken") that they are earning now, to guard against their minds being blown by concussions or drugs, and to keep healthy physically. When they leave football, hopefully with money and minds and bodies intact, they'll "be able to do what you want to do."

So take care of y'all mentals, y'all bodies, y'all chicken. When Marshawn Lynch talks, people listen...and remember.

Monday, January 13, 2020

How Dumb Do They Think We Are?

(image of ad on a finance website)
My retirement, bank, and brokerage accounts are all separate. Despite entreaties from these large, well-known institutions to input each others' information into their respective websites--all to "help" me with planning--I've resisted.

I don't want any of them, or hackers who are probing their databases, to know all my business. So why would I provide this information to an app that I never heard of?

Word of the day: risible.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Make America Virtuous Again?

At one point in high school someone told me that character is destiny, which at the time seemed profound. (The quote is attributed to Heraclitus, who is also famous for "you can't step into the same river twice," but I digress.)

After a few years under their belt, most people come to realize that being of good character does not guarantee secular success. Bad things happen to good people, and bad people can be found at the pinnacle of government, business, entertainment, sports, law, media, and even churches and other non-profits. However, the importance of good character still persisted in a society that believed in an after-life when Final Judgment would be rendered.

When fewer people believe in a Deity, and fewer are members of an organized religion, does virtue have relevance, especially since virtue may be the only reward?

Answering in the affirmative, Harvard history professor James Hankins sees similarities in today's predicaments to 14th century Italy, when the philosopher-poet Petrarch saw virtue as the solution:
it was precisely the collapse of institutions and the twin diseases of violent partisanship and tyranny that drove the great political thinkers of the Renaissance to invent a new instrument of statecraft. They called it the studia humanitatis, or the humanities...

Italy was recovering from the Black Death and the collapse of its financial system. The Catholic Church was divided and corrupt, the Holy Roman Empire was fatally weakened and the Ottoman Turks were knocking at the door of Constantinople...These leaders were ignorant of the past, unable to express themselves truthfully or decently, and driven by their unbridled lust for power and riches to neglect the common good. Feared and hated by their subjects, they were unable to inspire loyalty.

Petrarch’s solution was a new kind of politics: virtue politics...Following Plato, the humanists defined tyranny as the absence of good character, so the ruler who lacked good character could by definition be considered a tyrant. Those who possessed political power by hereditary right didn’t deserve that power unless they were also virtuous—that is, unless they possessed moral excellence and practical wisdom. Virtue was made a necessary condition of legitimate rule, and virtue could be taught and learned—through an education in the humanities.
Your humble blogger buys into much of what Professor Hankins advocates, that widespread education in the humanities is a societal good. However, with regard to the humanities I am referring to the canon as it was 50 years ago, not that which prevails today with restrictions on speech and thought, promulgation of "social justice" through an expansion of State power, and tribal politics that sees everyone through the prism of group identity.

But...teaching men to be virtuous will not make them so. One of the major premises of American constitutional government is that individuals cannot be trusted with too much power, hence the system of checks and balances. That system, while infuriatingly slow at times, has proved to be remarkably stable regardless of the character of those who inhabit political office.

Also, virtue isn't everything. One of the least successful Presidents of the 20th century--but arguably the most virtuous--was Jimmy Carter.

Success in the sacred does not make one successful in the profane. We can support Donald Trump or Bill Clinton for their effectiveness, not their saintliness.

While we wish that our leaders would be both, they are rarely so.