Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Justice Was Done Here, but We are Right to Fear the Precedent

Donald Sterling: rich and unattractive (USA Today photo)
Now that Donald Sterling has been banned for life from the NBA, the story should soon recede from the front pages. (But not too far from the front---scandalous updates will continue to pique everyone's interest.)

A few thoughts:

1) Having been on the receiving end of racist comments---though not anywhere nearly as intensely or as frequently as African-Americans---your humble observer long ago learned not to listen to them. I suspect that black NBA players, extraordinarily accomplished and wealthy by any measure, also came to ignore them just to succeed in life. They learned that reacting to racist insults threw them off their game. Much of the "anger" and "outrage" seems forced; these days, however, showing emotion--even emotional infantilism, not maturity--is sometimes necessary to protect one's public image.

2) Old people are proportionately more racist than young people, and I believe that they should be cut a lot of slack for their speech and behavior. They grew up in a time when overt discrimination was part of the warp and woof of daily life. Most of them did change their actions and attitudes. However, mental abilities deteriorate over time, and reversion to childhood attitudes, behaviors, and speech seems to be a common occurrence.

3) Donald Sterling had reprehensible ideas, but he was expressing himself in a private conversation. If the thought police think it's okay to cast out someone because of what he or she said to a lover, a therapist, or a priest, then they'd better have displayed not only blameless behavior but thoughts pure as the driven snow. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban:
What Donald said was wrong. It was abhorrent. There's no place for racism in the NBA, any business I'm associated with, and I don't want to be associated with people who have that position.

"But at the same time, that's a decision I make. I think you've got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It's a very, very slippery slope.
The permanent record was a myth, now it's reality.

4) The NBA is a private organization that has a right to set its own rules of association. If an owner, a player, or a coach damaged its public image, it should be allowed great latitude to fix the problem, and the NBA did.

5) In the end justice was done, not least because of Donald Sterling's lifelong record of extreme racism, but we are right to fear the misuse of this episode as a precedent for detecting and punishing future non-criminal behaviors which are not so obviously evil to everyone. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Monday, April 28, 2014

On the Meanest Sin in the Book

Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. Former Scottish bishop Richard Holloway calls it "the meanest sin in the book":
Every other sin offers some gratification, if only in its early stages, but envy is an empty and desolating experience from beginning to end.
Envy poisons our relations because it doesn't allow us to rejoice unreservedly in others' good fortunes. Ten years ago I wrote how envy dissipated once I became aware of the troubles that afflicted those whom I was envious of. Even the most successful
still sojourn through the vale of tears. I cannot begrudge others their happiness; indeed, I rejoice and cheer them on.
In ABC's Once Upon a Time the Wicked Witch from the Land of Oz has turned
permanently green from childhood envy of her sister.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Not What They're Seeking

The news has been about secrets that have been dragged into the light: mass spying on private communications, disastrous decisions in a terrorist war, using the taxing authority to punish opponents, and, most recently, the extremely racist views of a very rich and powerful man. Hiding shameful secrets has been a constant of the human condition.

Interestingly, the New Testament spends little time on the matter of keeping secret our shortcomings. God, who sees everything, will reward and punish us for all our deeds, known or unknown to our fellow human beings.

There are instructions, however, about our desire to raise ourselves up in the eyes of others. We are commanded to keep secret our praiseworthy acts. From the Sermon on the Mount:
On righteous behavior: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

On giving alms to the poor: So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

On prayer: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

On fasting: When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Praying in public is no longer regarded as particularly commendable, so the Sermon on the Mount could probably stand a little updating. On the 21st century Peninsula there are many residents who drive a hybrid car and display Obama-Biden, pro-choice, anti-global-warming, and pro-gay-marriage bumper stickers.

It's uncertain whether these virtuous individuals will earn a heavenly reward, but it's not God's approval that they're seeking. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Juicy Growth

The Secret app home page
There's a new app that allows tattlers to divulge secrets without being traced back to them (supposedly).

The app seems to be ripe for abuse by hoaxers, but since one only shares information within one's Contacts, quality control can presumably be exercised because you, dear reader, only have trustworthy friends, right?

(Secret's operating rules are interesting. "Your secrets are delivered anonymously to the people in your Contacts who are on Secret", but you don't know which of them are subscribers unless you tell them. Also, secrets are not divulged unless the group has a sufficient number of members to protect the sharer's anonymity.)

Time technology reporter Harry McCracken says that the app is finally living up to its promise of being "a source of juicy news about the tech industry."
First, a user posted that Nike was going to slash the staff responsible for its FuelBand wearable gizmo. That turned out to be true. And then someone–presumably a different someone–posted that Vic Gundotra, the Google executive in charge of Google+, was job hunting. That secret also panned out.
Before investment bankers and stock traders sign up to swap (illegal) inside information, it does seem possible that Secret's founder-administrators could with some effort trace posts back to the originator, especially if they are motivated by a court order.

Even if certain types of information-sharing are barred, there's plenty of "juicy" stuff that people are dying to share. Secret's near-term growth seems assured. [Update: Secret's servers are out of the reach of foreign governments, so the real growth opportunity may be outside the U.S.]

Friday, April 25, 2014

Good News: Unnecessary Law Rejected

California legislators have killed a proposed "kill-switch" law, which would have required cellphone vendors to install software that "would render a phone inoperable if stolen." There are already a number of free apps that will do the trick---I use one of the oldest, Find My iPhone, that allows the owner to lock and/or erase his stolen iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Frankly, I'm opposed to another law that presumes that government knows what's best for consumers. Let selection of such an app be voluntary, not mandatory; there's always the risk that the kill-switch could be triggered accidentally by the user or her kid, for instance. In an industry notable for rapid change, it would be foolish to pass a law that would likely stifle innovation. [Digression: how does this stifling happen? Often by prescribing a method to solve a problem---for example, everyone is required to wear a seat belt while riding or driving. The real objective is passenger safety, and out-of-the-box inventors are constrained by the seatbelt requirement.]

Besides, lockdown software solutions protect against the misuse of a phone after it's been stolen, not against the loss of the hardware itself.

American ingenuity has come up with a way to safeguard not only the phone but the person of the owner. Spraytect produces a pepper-spray system ($39.99) for the iPhone and Yellow Jacket makes a stun gun ($149.99) case. A kill switch won't be needed if you have either one of those.

[Note: illustrative flash video below won't play on iPhones or iPads]:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sweets Will Make Her Sweeter

Candy=>Happy Wife=>Happy Life
Ohio State researchers have found that higher levels of blood glucose result in more affection for one's spouse.
One of the secrets of a successful marriage is to eat before you fight.
And I thought my irritation came from enviously watching her eat the cookie while I was on a low-carb diet.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Apple: Excitement Enough and Safer, Too

After tomorrow's pop to $560-$570, AAPL's price will be back to where it was two years ago.
Momentum stock investors had long ago swapped their Apple shares for smaller, younger, and faster-growing darlings.

After today's close the Cupertino giant showed that it still had the capacity to surprise tech analysts, who had been forecasting a lackluster, if not down quarter [bold added]
the company had better news than many expected, posting a quarter that outdid its performance a year ago. But sales of the iPad were down 16 percent.

Apple reported earnings of $10.2 billion, or $11.62 per share on $45.6 billion in revenue during a quarter that saw the release of no new products. [Wall Street was expecting earnings of $10.17 per share on revenue $43.5 billion.] That was above both the $42 to $44 billion in revenue Apple forecast for itself in January, and the $43.6 billion it reported the same time this last year. The company also announced a seven-for-one stock split, with a $90 billion stock buyback program.
An 8% dividend increase, also announced, provides further impetus for the stock.

Apple CEO Tim Cook remains mum on specifics for a new product category, although he did say "it's closer than it's ever been." Apple may still not be exciting enough for momentum traders, but it's got excitement enough for your humble investor, and more safety, too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day: That's A Lot of Wind

In an oft-cited essay Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and UC-Davis scientist Mark Delucchi claimed in 2009 that it is technologically feasible that
100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030.
The writers should be allowed some liberties because the article is in the nature of a thought experiment, and advances in wind/water/solar (WWS) technology since the article was written have only buttressed their primary thesis.

In my humble opinion, however, they make major assumptions that are very difficult to believe:

1) Worldwide maximum power consumption, which in 2009 was 12.5 terawatts (TW) and is forecasted to grow to 16.9 terawatts by 2030, will decline to 11.5 TW in a world without gasoline-powered cars because "electrification is a more efficient way to use energy".

2) Half the world's power would be supplied by an additional 3.8 million large wind turbines. Yet alternative-energy advocates can't even get a mere 130 turbines approved in Cape Cod, home to wealthy environmentalists.

3) Of course, 3.8 million turbines can't all be bunched together:
When the needed spacing between them is figured, they would occupy about 1 percent of the earth’s land, but the empty space among turbines could be used for agriculture or ranching or as open land or ocean.
One percent of the earth's land mass is roughly equivalent to two Texases, and it's hard to imagine that environmentalists would allow new power lines and windmills to be built over open spaces, not to mention all the birds and animals that would be killed.

It's been said before and bears repeating:
From coast to coast, efforts to build everything from wind farms to solar plants has run afoul of local environmental groups and the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) phenomenon.
Altamont pass near Livermore, CA (SF Gate photo)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fiction vs. Journalism

Gabriel García Márquez on the difference between fiction and journalism:
I don’t think there is any difference. The sources are the same, the material is the same, the resources and the language are the same. The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a great novel and Hiroshima is a great work of journalism.

In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work.
"Gabo," who died last week at the age of 87, was called "the most important writer in Spanish of the 20th century". He won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. R.I.P.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On the Avenue

The Easter Parade is but a shadow of its former self. Wikipedia:
Starting as a spontaneous event in the 1870s, the New York parade became increasingly popular into the mid-20th century—in 1947, it was estimated to draw over a million people. Its popularity has declined significantly, drawing only 30,000 in 2008.
The Easter-Parade-that-once-was lives on in the ebullient 1948 musical starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland warbling and belting, respectively, tunes by Irving Berlin.

To see an unapologetic celebration of Easter we must go to a land whose residents seem to admire American culture more than Americans do.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Vigil, 2014

Attendance for Holy Saturday evening services has revived, as more Christians study and honor the roots of their faith. The Church of England on the Easter Vigil:
This is probably the oldest feature of the Easter celebrations. From its earliest times the Church would keep watch through the night and meditate on the mighty works of God. Christians would pray until the earliest hours of the morning, when Christ’s resurrection was acclaimed.The Vigil is properly a service for the night and should never begin before sunset on Holy Saturday
During the Easter Vigil the priest lights the Paschal Candle, proclaiming the "new fire" that has entered the world. Incense is sprinkled liberally around the altar, and biblical passages are read and meditated upon. The flame from the new fire ignites the candles throughout the church, until, finally, all the lights come on. Worshippers exit into the night.

Alleluias, ringing bells, and Easter egg hunts will begin in a few hours.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Barbara Brown Taylor (PBS image)
Preacher-philosopher Barbara Brown Taylor says that our avoidance of the dark leaves us poorly equipped to deal with life:
we pay a high price to shut out the darkness. We glue our eyes to screens by day, while electric light hampers our ability to sleep at night. Then, when we lie awake with all our fears, we turn to solitaire or to sleep aids to cope. Our spiritual avoidance of the dark may be even more dangerous. Our culture’s ability to tolerate sadness is weak.
She deplores the perpetually cheerful Christianity that "focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith." She is careful to say that such Christians are genuinely caring people. It's just that
the trouble starts when darkness falls on your life, which can happen in any number of unsurprising ways: you lose your job, your marriage falls apart, your child acts out in some attention-getting way, you pray hard for something that does not happen, you begin to doubt some of the things you have been taught about what the Bible says.
During Holy Week it is tempting to skip past the night of spiritual agony and betrayal in Gethsemane, the physical agony of the cross, and the darkness of the tomb to Sunday's celebration of the Resurrection. Barbara Brown Taylor provides a reminder to Christians that they should also give thanks for Good Friday.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday in the City

Nancy Pelosi and Marc Andrus (Chron photo)
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus washed the feet of immigrant children at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, San Francisco.

Foot washing on Maundy Thursday is one of Christianity's oldest traditions and derives from Christ's command ("mandate") to perform this humbling act in service of one other [John 13]. The Lord Himself kicked off the practice:
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."
Initially I thought that Nancy Pelosi's opponents were being much too reflexively critical; by washing immigrant children's feet she appeared to be performing a commendable act of humility. But it turned out that she was using this ceremony
to talk about passing HR15 - bipartisan immigration legislation that her office says would "reduce the deficit by nearly $1 trillion, secure our borders, unite our families, protect our workers and provide an earned pathway to citizenship."
Politicians, like the poor, will always be with us, but at least the poor know when to stop talking.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Satisfactory Resolution

The Chronicle's $99-per-year offer to new Peninsula subscribers--it has since expired--was too good to pass up; it was one-fourth the cost of a subscription five years ago. I mailed in a check.

A week, then another, and a month went by without a paper on my doorstep. If the Chron's finance department had put the kibosh on the promotion, it would have been perfectly understandable since it didn't even cover the cost of production and transportation; nevertheless, they should give me my money back.

I e-mailed Circulation and attached front-and-back copies of the check (hooray for traditional proofs of payment). Within 24 hours Amy R. responded with an explanation: the Chronicle was being delivered to the same street address as ours in Hercules, which is 50 miles north. Our one-year subscription would begin on April 20th, Easter Sunday.

Comments: 1) Many suburbs have street names with maritime and/or English themes (e.g., Spinnaker, Marlin, Bristol), but they're now so prevalent that duplicate-address mistakes have become common; 2) this was an unexpectedly quick response by Chronicle customer service---if the rest of the operation has improved to that extent, I'll give some thought to retaining their subscription, yes, even at much higher rates. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You Can't Do Both

99% of the information had come in, and the maximum error for being wrong would have been plus or minus $100, but the green-eyeshade section of my brain would not let me file our tax return on April 15th.

The missing 1% was a partnership form (1065 K-1), so, after a quick calculation showed that we were paid in for both Federal and State, extension Form 4868 was mailed to Fresno.

The partnership has much upside, but its complexity has its cost on this April 15th. The old saw comes to mind: you can sleep well or you can eat well, but you can't do both.

Monday, April 14, 2014

If Something Changes, Be Very Careful.

Technology has given us amazing tools to manage the complexity of modern life. I am speaking, of course, of automatic bill-pay---no more stamps, envelopes, and cramping of a right hand that's no longer accustomed to writing checks, or handwriting anything, for that matter. The downside of technology is that there are new screw-ups to watch for.

I have a simple business which has its own bank account. The business has five automatic transactions per month--one cash receipt and four cash disbursements, all fixed amounts--that produce a surplus of $200. After the surplus is transferred out, the bank account keeps a few hundred dollars. The business was on auto-pilot.

One of the regular payments was for a loan. When Bank of America sold the loan to Nationstar, I changed the information on the bill-pay system. Unfortunately, the Nationstar payment was, I suppose, entered under both "recurring" and "one-time," so a double payment was made, resulting in an overdraft. (I am happy to say that this error never occurred when a payment could only be made by check.)

I voiced a minor complaint to Bank of America, which never responded. Yes, I probably bear some responsibility for not filling out the bill-pay instructions correctly. But it was the sale of their loan that did trigger the error, after all, and they made a tidy sum while inconveniencing me. Oh, well, I'll just keep this incident in mind when I'm looking for a bank to handle my next business opportunity.

But the important lesson is that auto-pilots are great when everything's normal. If something changes, be very careful.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday, 2014

As in Palm Sundays past, the congregation marched around the block in remembrance of Jesus' palm-lined march into Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Holy Week begins in sunshine, then descends into a darkness that will be dispelled two days later by transcendent Light.
During Holy Week Christians remember the fleeting exultation of Palm Sunday, Jesus' betrayal by Judas, His abandonment, rigged execution, and astonishing triumph over death itself. From the highs to the lows to the ultimate high, it's a story that's hard to believe in an age where science rules more strongly than ever.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Humble Egg: Great and Powerful

(WSJ photo)
As dieters have come to realize that sugar, not dietary cholesterol, is the enemy (in fact, consumption of sugar can cause high blood cholesterol) the lowly egg is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Prolific cookbook writer Michael Ruhlman calls the egg "the greatest of all our foods."
The egg combines beauty, elegance and simplicity, a miracle of natural design and bounty. Containing all of the nutrients required to create life, eggs give our bodies a powerful combination of proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, a package unmatched by any other single food.
Your humble observer has found that fried or scrambled eggs come out just right sautéed in butter on medium-low heat (if the eggs brown the burner is too high), a simple, filling, delicious, inexpensive, and sugar-less dish that most doctors will approve. I don't yet have Mr. Ruhlman's enthusiasm, but he does know much more about the subject than I.
An egg is an end in itself; it's a multipurpose ingredient; it's an all-purpose garnish; it's an invaluable tool. The egg teaches your hands finesse and delicacy. It helps your arms develop strength and stamina. It instructs in the way proteins behave in heat and in the powerful ways we can change food mechanically. It's a lever for getting food to behave in great ways. Learn to take the egg to its many differing ends, and you've enlarged your culinary repertoire by a factor of 10.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rare Batting Feat

Petaluma students perform the National Anthem
The fans filed in to AT&T Ballpark on a cool Friday night, hopeful of a victory with ace Madison Bumgarner on the mound. Little did they suspect that he would win the game by performing a feat by a pitcher that is rarer than a no-hitter.

In the fourth inning "Mad Bum" came to the plate with the bases loaded and the Giants trailing the Rockies, 3-2. On the first pitch he slammed a towering drive into the left-field bleachers. (When the ball left the bat, the crowd, including your humble observer, rose to its feet and didn't stop yelling for a good five minutes.) It was only the second grand slam by a Giants pitcher (the first was Shawn Estes in 2000) since the team moved from New York 57 years ago. During that same period, Giants hurlers have notched seven (7) no-hitters.

The tall, lanky 24-year-old is already one of the top pitchers in baseball. Although no one expects his batting to be as consistent as that of an everyday player, his raw power will have to be respected. The Giants have made some poor personnel decisions recently, but with Madison Bumgarner they've struck gold.

By the way, the Giants held on to win, 6-5.

Photo from Bay Area Sports

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easter Drop-Off

No room on the floor: we stacked the boxes on chairs.
Today we made our annual drop-off of Easter food boxes at CALL Primrose. (CALL Primrose, a partnership between the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, renders aid to less fortunate families on the Peninsula and has been in operation for over 30 years.)

Each box contained:
1 package pasta
1 box instant mashed potatoes
1 box muffin or bread mix
1 box flavored rice, e.g., Rice-a-Roni.
1 box macaroni & cheese
1 can tomatoes
1 can soup
2 canned vegetables (one green, one not)
2 cans fruit
1 small bottle cooking oil
2 cans beans (refried, kidney, black, etc.)
1 $20 Safeway gift card
It may seem that a modest container of food would have a small impact, but CALL Primrose says that the boxes make a big difference to each family that receives one. It's trite but bears repeating: we can't save the world, but we can feed a family for a day.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Another Example of Religion vs. Science

+1°C over 130 years doesn't seem so bad (Stanford graph)
The "global warming" alarmists began changing their object of disaffection to "climate change" when recent measurements (as well as record cold winters) did not support the thesis that higher CO2 levels caused rising temperatures, at least high enough to make the world's population take meaningful action.

"Climate change" is a synonym for extreme weather, a hard-to-pin-down concept which has the virtue of being an enemy impossible to defeat.

But here's a development that could make the alarmists' heads explode: could it be that global warming dampens extreme weather phenomena?

Bloomberg news: [bold added]
Rising heat in the equatorial Pacific Ocean portends the quietest Atlantic hurricane season in five years, Colorado State University researchers said.
Give credit to the researchers for putting science above a religion that ignores and/or suppresses results that don't fit the narrative.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Just Like the Old Days

This copy of Windows XP was purchased in 2009.
Today Microsoft ceased support of Windows XP, the only operating system that our seven-year old Dell Vostro has ever known. The computer still works, but it will become even more open to computer viruses and other Internet dangers. Windows 7 or Windows 8 (maybe) could be installed on the creaky old Dell, but all the files would still have to be off-loaded then recopied back because the upgrade would wipe the hard disk.

We'll get a new Windows desktop but won't be rushed into making a decision. Luckily there are other desktops, laptops, and mobile devices on which to do work. Meanwhile, the plug has been pulled on the wireless adapter, and the Internet-less Dell is still being used for writing letters and memos and designing spreadsheets.

Just like the old days.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Taste of Hawaii

Poke display at Costco, Redwood City
Hawaiian culture is enjoying one of its cyclical resurgences. Hawaiian food, clothes, and music are served, worn, and heard throughout the Bay Area. Of course, there's nothing like experiencing the real thing, but I haven't been able to get away this year.

Costco is dishing up poke in April, and though it was a tad expensive ($15.99-$17.99 per pound), I splurged. The ahi and limu (sea algae) were very fresh, and though the taste wasn't an exact match it certainly wasn't a disappointment. That reminder of Hawaii will have to tide me over until summer.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Double Bellows

30 years of progress:
unibody construction
The old toilet-bowl plunger--a rubber suction cup affixed to a wooden stick--finally crapped out, the cup snapping in half due to age and overuse.

At Home Depot there were four different replacement alternatives, each sturdier than the broken one I had, plus machines that could probably unplug all the toilets in the house at the same time.

I settled on a cheap but durable polyethylene model, which had double bellows for "extra force." (We'll probably all be on waterless waste systems--ugh--in 15 years, so one shouldn't make a huge investment in today's toilet technology.)

It did the trick in less than a minute. If more of life's emergencies could be solved for the six dollars spent on this one, the world would be a much happier place.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Not a Financial Calculation

Through difficult times spouses give each other support---one of the benefits of marriage---but what strengthens marriage are celebrations of each other's success:
Studies show that demonstrating appreciation for your partner not only makes the other person feel better, it makes you feel better, too.

One of the best ways to show your spouse you really care is to go out of your way to celebrate good things that happen to him or her. Think of it as leveraging the positive. Researchers call it "capitalization" and say it is just as important—and maybe more so—than being supportive in tough times.
It's no surprise that an article about "capitalization" appears in the Wall Street Journal, but it's not the usual kind that business people are used to working with. If done right though, this form of capitalization could be more important to one's happiness than any financial calculation.

Friday, April 04, 2014

That's Progress

Statuettes at M.Y. China
The previous days' rains had scrubbed the landscape, and it was a perfect morning for a drive. A family member wanted to revisit the Graton casino in Sonoma County, less than a two-hour drive from the Peninsula. Traffic was heavy through the City, but once past the Golden Gate Bridge it was smooth sailing to Rohnert Park.

At the casino we sat down to lunch at M.Y. China ("M.Y." stands for Martin Yan, the celebrity Chinese chef.) M.Y. China's decor and menu offerings are a cut above the average Chinese restaurant, as are the prices.

I lingered on the M.Y. dim sum collection ($19). The quantities were not extravagant, but the seasonings and freshness of the ingredients were excellent. The dim sum collection was the perfect lunch to nibble on while companions tried their luck at slots and blackjack.(Graton's free Wi-Fi makes it easy for casual or non-gamblers to pass the time.)

30 years ago I would have spent every available second at the tables. Now a couple of hours was more than enough, and I left Graton that evening with the same amount that I started with. That would have been a better-than-average result 30 years ago, so I suppose that's progress.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Rain Was Not Enough

Deceptive appearance:
overflowing gutters.
Tuesday night's rainstorm helped the water levels in South Bay reservoirs rise to 44% of capacity as of this writing. More significantly, the Sierra snowpack--from which our city of 30,000 strong gets most of its water--is only at 32% of normal.

It's going to take a miracle to prevent rationing (e.g., no lawn watering) from taking effect later this year.

As life teaches, you can't dig yourself out of a hole, dry or otherwise, overnight.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Silver Linings

Veronica runs the office, drives the van, and organizes
volunteers from 30 churches and synagogues.
It was a pouring rain the likes of which we hadn't seen this winter. Though welcome, the storm had to occur, of course, during the evening when I had to go to various houses and pick up the prepared meals. The Home and Hope dinner was for the families who had temporary shelter at the Lutheran church.

Note to self: umbrellas are useless when a) it's windy, and b) one is using both hands to carry trays of food.

Diane baked four briskets of corned beef, Irene made a salad, and I contributed ice cream, cookies, and a broccoli kugel, all from Costco. A loaf of rye from Sunday went well with the corned beef. The kids asked for seconds, which normally doesn't happen unless dinner is pizza or macaroni and cheese. WTG, Diane.

One of our volunteers brought a chocolate cake and cherry pie. His daughters talked to the other children over dinner, then helped with the dishes. WTG, Rob and Anita.

By 8 o'clock the dishes were put away, and the families had retired to their rooms. We started planning for next month, when we'll do this again, and packed up our containers. The rain had stopped.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Fool

Satire is very difficult to pull off. First, the audience has to be familiar enough with the subject to know that the satirist is exaggerating to cultivate ridicule and not praise for a particular point of view. Second, it helps if the audience already knows the satirist's own POV well, so that there is no mistaking his message. Third, the piece can't be too vicious or obscure, else anger and other emotions overwhelm the laughter that the writer intended.

When comedian Stephen Colbert performed a crude "Ching Chong Ding Dong" skit to get the audience to analogize Asian racial stereotyping to the use of "Redskins" for the Washington football team, he came under fire not only from his usual enemies on the right but from some of the anti-racist Progressive left.

Though his real politics are the opposite of mine, there's a part of me that empathizes. I once wrote an article for the high-school newspaper that was an obvious satire to me but not to many of the readers. (It didn't help that I was the editor and the first line of defense.) As a consequence there were meetings, controls put in place, and the usual barn-door closings.

Dying is easy, comedy is hard.