Monday, June 30, 2014

The Secret Superfood

Image from procoffeebean.com
You have may have been vaguely aware, dear reader, that drinking coffee has health benefits, but you may not have been fully cognizant of the extent to which it is a secret superfood.

Improved circulation: In a Japanese experiment "those who downed 'regular' (caffeinated) coffee experienced a 30% increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period, compared to those who drank the 'unleaded' (decaf) version."

Less pain: University of Illinois research showed that drinking coffee "before a 30-minute bout of high-intensity exercise reduced perceived muscle pain."

Better memory: in memory tests Johns Hopkins scientists showed that "the caffeinated group scored significantly better."

Muscle preservation: Coventry University animal studies demonstrated that "caffeine helped offset the loss of muscle strength that occurs with aging."

Coffee-drinking is one area in which political partisans of all stripes, I suspect, will be happy to declare that the science is settled.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

No Disappointment

Rob and I split the responsibilities: he goes to the community center and begins setting out the baked chicken and salad, while I drive to St. Pius to pick up the brown-bag lunches for the guests to take home.

The key to the walk-in freezer wasn't in the usual place, and no one answered the door at the St. Pius administrative office. Plan C was a 3-year-old never-before-used phone number in my iPhone contact list. Voila and PTL, as the French and Baptists say, respectively; Dave answered the phone, and I went to his house to get the key. 100 brown bags were waiting in the freezer.

The diners had waited patiently for me to arrive. They took all the bags, along with bread, cookies, and cupcakes generously contributed by the Foster City Safeway. Sometimes, despite good intentions, one's efforts are not welcome or appreciated. Such disappointment has never occurred at Sandwiches on Sunday. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Whiteness of Their Soles

L to R: Saint Laurent ($575), Tretorn Nylite ($65),
Common Projects Achilles($400),
Adidas Stan Smith ($75),
Converse ($50) (WSJ photo)
Your humble observer never had the je ne sais quoi to wear white sneakers [memo to the great unwashed: white sneakers are not the same as white running shoes].

A missed opportunity occurred when I lived in the Islands, where white shoes matched well with certain aloha attire. But living is all about second chances; now may be the time to lighten the lower extremities. White sneakers are back:
Ubiquitous during the spring 2015 European menswear runway shows currently under way, the shoe has vaulted beyond its classic reputation to become a coveted high-fashion status symbol.
The risk is low, because attractive shoes can be had for less than $100. In life, and especially with white sneakers, I just have to watch where I step.

Friday, June 27, 2014

No Sweat

For the aromatically impaired (WSJ graphic)
I'm allergic to my friend's heavy cologne, to the extent that I avoid being near to him indoors until the smell wears off. The over-cologning stems from his exercising regularly and being told to mask his B.O. from an early age. O, how our childhood habits, good and bad, stay with us throughout our lives.

From my own experience it takes at least a couple of hours after exercising for noxious odors to begin wafting from one's Petri armpits, hair, and nether regions. A shower and change of clothes will do the trick, and it's unnecessary to douse oneself with cologne. But we naturalists are in a shrinking minority. Per the WSJ:
In a report from market researcher Mintel, 55% of men said they wear cologne. Men aged 18 to 34 have come of age at a time when male grooming is much more promoted.
Perfume companies are viewing men's lack of knowledge in this area as a marketing opportunity:
The fragrance industry is trying to get men to put a little more thought into their scent. Increasingly, designers are launching lighter versions of their colognes for warm weather, often with "summer" in their names....The industry hopes summer editions will get more men to think about having different colognes for different seasons, occasions and even outfits.
[I was going to end with a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger about "girly men," but (sigh) he wears cologne, too.]

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oblications

"Oblication": when travel for leisure is an obligation, like a friend's wedding or a relative's birthday.

From experience I've found that buying a present for half the amount that one would have spent on a trip is sufficiently endearing to make up for the lack of one's attendance. A year from now they will have forgotten whether or not you were at the party, but every time they use the espresso machine or bring out the crystal decanter they'll remember you fondly.

If you must travel, the WSJ offers money-saving tips:
  • Book hotel rooms well in advance.
  • Book flights on Tuesday afternoons, well in advance.
  • Clear your computer cache, or use the incognito mode in your browser..."some flight sites track your activity and push the prices up to encourage you to book sooner rather than later."
  • Wednesday, June 25, 2014

    In the Interests of Research

    Kenta's pork ramen
    The difference between fresh ramen noodles and the dried packaged stuff that we subsisted on during the Carter Administration is like the difference between coq au vin and chicken nuggets. Both have their purposes, but the latter need to be very quick and very cheap before they pass my lips.

    Only recently, however, has a good ramen house opened nearby. No longer do we have to drive to Mountain View or San Jose (or wait in long lines in San Mateo).

    The cost of a meal is about the same, the restaurant is only a couple of miles away, and the taste is maybe a notch below that of the other places. One visit is a poor sample size. More research, clearly, is needed. © 2004 Stephen Yuen

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    A High Rate of Return

    [Photo from the Sun (UK)]
    For a long time it was reading, then it was videogames and television (when color, remote-controlled sets became cheap enough to buy one for the bedroom), and now it's smart mobile devices with wi-fi---all of them are reasons that your humble observer was sleep-deprived most of his life.

    Not getting enough sleep because of children or a high-pressure job is justified in most people's eyes, but not for selfish pleasures (including those not mentioned in the previous sentence).

    The word is bedtime procrastination: "when you could go to bed, but you willingly put it off and, as a result, you don’t get enough sleep."

    I've been faithful to last year's resolution of getting at least six hours of sleep and count myself lucky that I don't need medications or CPAP machines. Turning off the lights an hour earlier makes the entire tomorrow much more enjoyable, a very high rate of return indeed.

    Monday, June 23, 2014

    Unfortunately, Math is Involved

    The complexity of Social Security has been likened to an atypical conversation about salary with one's employer:
    You can pick from dozens of different ways to be paid and hundreds of different start dates, and each will produce a different salary. We offer some guidance, but we're short-handed. As such, deciding when and how to collect a paycheck is essentially up to you.

    "So…what would you like to do?"
    To make the optimal decision, the Social Security recipient should have a financial model--probably a spreadsheet--that projects her cash flow over her expected remaining life before the addition of Social Security benefits. If she's married, the model should include the pre-SS income and expenses of her spouse.

    The impact of various choices (for example, claiming reduced benefits at age 62 vs. the highest benefits at age 70, or selecting spousal benefits instead of benefits based on one's own earnings) should be added to the model cash flow. The incremental SS benefit each year, after tax, should then be discounted (the theoretically correct rate is open to question, but a reasonable starting point is whatever one expects the inflation rate to be) to calculate the net present value, and one should select the option that produces the maximum NPV. 

    Of course, not one person in a hundred attempts the above, even those (ahem) who have worked in financial analysis for decades.

    Simple rules of thumb--like waiting to claim benefits if one can afford to--don't always produce the optimal result. True, benefit payments reach their highest point by deferring them until age 70, but the file-and-suspend strategy at age 65 (or whenever full retirement age is reached, depending on one's date of birth) may produce a higher net present value. That's the strategy that we eventually are likely to follow.

    I thought there wouldn't be any, but unfortunately math is involved. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

    Sunday, June 22, 2014

    The Once and Future Prodigies

    Lucy Li (NBC News photo)
    During the first two days of the U.S. Women's Open the story was all about a pig-tailed wunderkind from Redwood Shores.

    11-year-old Lucy Li astonished the grownups first with her golfing ability (78-78, missing the cut, but a lower score than 24 other ladies), then her un-self-conscious presence in the face of the media horde.

    In the final rounds it was Michelle Wie's turn. Michelle, a former prodigy of whom much had been expected, won her first major tournament:
    Michelle Wie (NY Daily News photo)
    in 2003, when she was 13, she finished in a tie for 39th. Also astonishing. She was better at 13 than she was at 20. Now she’s 24 and better than she’s ever been. Golf is hard to predict.
    Now, there are reports that Michelle Wie is partying hard after her long-awaited victory. Let's hope that Michelle, who has much to teach Lucy about how to work through inevitable disappointment, also becomes a good role model for handling success.

    Saturday, June 21, 2014

    Advice I'm Not Following

    Another article about the dangers of one of my favorite foods.
    England's Food Standards Agency found that washing raw poultry can splash harmful campylobacter bacteria on surfaces and cooking appliances in your kitchen, which can leave you vulnerable to symptoms that include abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, vomiting and food poisoning. Researchers found that washing the poultry under tap water can spread the bacteria more than three feet.
    Their advice is to forego washing the chicken and cook it thoroughly. Call me hypochondriacal, but given all the publicity about unsanitary conditions in chicken processing, I cannot not wash chicken (sometimes one has to use a double negative). I'll wash the parts at the bottom of a sink under a gentle stream, then I'll cook them thoroughly.

    A week from Sunday at the Redwood City community center another crowd will be waiting....

    Tasty....and safe, after baked for two hours at 325 degrees.

    Friday, June 20, 2014

    Building Block to a Cure

    Some forms of autism may have a biological basis not originating from malfunctioning of the brain [bold added]:
    WHAT causes autism is a mystery. One theory is that a phenomenon called the cellular-danger response lies at the root of it. The CDR makes cells put their ordinary activities on hold and instead switch on their defence systems, in reaction to high levels in the bloodstream of chemicals called purines. These are important and widespread substances: ATP, a molecule that shuttles energy around cells, is a purine; so are half the “genetic letters” in DNA. Cells under viral attack tend to shed them. Too many of them in the blood can thus be a signal of viral infection. In that case activating the CDR makes perfect sense. But studies have shown that people with autism (and also those with some other brain conditions, such as schizophrenia) often seem to have chronic CDR. The purine signal has somehow got stuck in the “on” position.

    Why this happens is obscure. But it has occurred to Robert Naviaux of the University of California, San Diego, that once the signal is stuck in this way, chronic CDR might, by subverting the function of crucial brain cells, be the immediate cause of the symptoms of autism. In a series of experiments, the latest of which has just been published in Translational Psychiatry, he makes a plausible case that this is exactly what is happening—and he also illuminates a route to a possible treatment.
    Experiments showed that inducing CDR in mice caused the mice to show symptoms of human autism, i.e., "fear of strangers, fear of novelty and poor co-ordination." Dr. Naviaux was able to reverse the symptoms in the mice by using a powerful drug, suramin, that counters the cellular-danger response. (However, suramin has damaging side-effects that make it unsuitable for long-term human use.)

    We're miles away from a safe cure for autism, if one even exists, but Dr. Naviaux' work with purines is a significant step in researching a condition that has afflicted thousands of patients and their families.

    Note: Robert Naviaux is an expert on mitochondrial disease and its possible connection with childhood autism.

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

    Commencement Speech Bingo

    Wired filled out the squares on a Bingo card with the top 24 clich├ęs from 2013's graduation speeches. If you make a game of it at this year's ceremonies, perhaps your attention won't wander...

    The most popular variation is drunk bingo, in which players down a shot of a favorite alcoholic beverage if a square's words are uttered. Think of it as an early start to the post-commencement celebration.

    Even the late Steve Jobs, in the most famous commencement speech of the past ten years, could not be wholly original. From his 2005 address to Stanford graduates:
    So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
    Happy listening, graduates. Good luck, and never stop learning.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

    Trust: Easy to Lose and Hard to Win Back

    A new WSJ/NBC News poll finds that Americans trust only two institutions, the military and the tech industry. One WSJ commentator theorizes that the regard for the tech industry stems from less government regulation.
    Washington has never created a federal computer commission, nor have state governments mandated which applications must exist in a standard smart phone. Without such interference, consumers have been largely free to choose the products and services they want, and producers have been largely free to supply them.
    Your humble observer doesn't agree with his analysis.

    Established institutions have a mission and a code of ethics. The public trusts those institutions which have shown that they adhere to both; the strongest evidence of sincerity is the punishment and/or casting out of individuals who violate the institutional codes. Saul Alinsky's 4th rule is insightful:
    Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.
    The Internal Revenue Service, news organizations, and churches are examples of institutions that not only failed to self-police but tried to cover up mistakes and malfeasance.

    With regard to the military, it took generations of hard work and leadership after Vietnam, as well as successes in the field of battle, to reverse the public's negative perceptions.

    The tech industry's high standing, IMHO, is based upon:
  • a long, consistent history of generating innovative products
  • the most successful individuals (e.g., Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Brin & Page) convincing everyone that their wealth is a by-product, not the goal of their efforts. They do this through philanthropy and by continuing to work harder than everyone else long after they made their $billions.
  • the absence of scandal and "evil" behavior (so far). If the tech industry continues to be seen as eroding privacy, however, look for the industry's high standing to vanish. © 2014 Stephen Yuen
  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014

    A Piddling Improvement

    Science has proved what most men had already figured out. To minimize splash-back
    a) when peeing into a toilet, aim not for the water but for the side of the bowl

    b) when using a urinal, don't be a straight-shooter but point down and to the side.
    "Fluid dynamicists" Tadd Truscott and Randy Hurd
    built a specialized hose that simulated a guy taking a leak, then used high-speed photography to film it in action.
    They presented their findings--where else--at a physics conference.

    Of course, the best solution for the male solution is to sit: urine doesn't break up into droplets if it travels less than 5 to 7 inches before making contact. Not surprisingly, the Germans already have words to describe each position.

    Guys, are you a Sitzpinkler or a Stehpinkler?

    (Wired graphic)

    Monday, June 16, 2014

    Win by Losing

    Word of the day:
    Propaedeutics or propedeutics is a historical term for an introductory course into a discipline: art, science, etc. Etymology: pro- + Greek: paideutik├│s, "pertaining to teaching".

    Propaedeutics may be defined as knowledge necessary for learning, but not for proficiency.
    Whenever your well-educated friends are getting the better of you in an argument, concede by saying "I only know the propaedeutics of the subject, but I'm no expert."

    Sunday, June 15, 2014

    Happy Father's Day

    There's nothing like being a father that makes a guy appreciate his own father even more.

    Happy Father's Day, Dad, you're still teaching me the meaning of responsibility and dignity.

    With gratitude,
    Your son

    Dad taught me how to spit-shine shoes with Kiwi polish,
    just like he learned in the Army (QuoteKo photo)

    Saturday, June 14, 2014

    Cheerfully and Willingly

    Four new deacons, holding Bibles presented by the Bishop
    On a mild spring afternoon in the City four deacons and three priests were ordained into the Episcopal Church at Grace Cathedral.

    In addition to passing tests and interviews, ordination requires two years of full-time study at divinity school and 3-6 months of field work ("Clinical Pastoral Education"), but for those who hold full-time jobs and/or are raising a family the journey can take much longer; in the case of the deacon whom we had been sponsoring it took nine years.

    The bishop and the newly ordained prepare for Communion
    The two-hour service breezed by since all in attendance had a personal connection to the participants and paid rapt attention. Even Bishop Marc's homily on St. Basil, one of the principal authors of the Nicene Creed and the doctrine of the Trinity, was surprisingly interesting.

    After the recessional, well-wishers surrounded the new men and women of the cloth. A lifetime of service with few earthly treasures awaits, but they will walk that path cheerfully and willingly.

    Friday, June 13, 2014

    Shutdown Averted

    At Lucky: green-topped Huy Fong Sriracha was $3.49,
    the smaller-sized Thai import was $2.99. Naturally
    I bought American.
    Profitable employers are a desirable commodity, yet a 31-year operating history by a homegrown company buys little goodwill in the Golden Green State of California.

    Huy Fong Foods, the maker of the popular Sriracha chili sauce, was on the verge of becoming the next victim of California's high-tax, highly regulated business environment.
    The city of Irwindale, California has filed a lawsuit asking for Huy Fong Foods to cease production of its iconic Sriracha sauce after residents complained that smells emanating from the factory have caused them physical harm and driven them from their homes.

    While Huy Fong is not the originator of Sriracha, the company's distinctive green-topped, rooster-bedecked rendition of the Thai chili sauce has become a staple on mainstream grocery store shelves, professional kitchen lines, restaurant tables and cafeteria condiment stands since the company's CEO and founder, David Tran, fired up U.S. production in 1983.
    Rather than work out the problem, the bureaucracy's instinct was to reject an invitation to tour the facility and issue ultimatums and lawsuits. To no one's surprise, Texas came a-wooing last month:
    Texas state Rep. Jason Villalba led the delegation meeting Monday with David Tran, head of Huy Fong Foods......The delegation included state lawmakers, as well as representatives from the governor's tourism office, the attorney general's office and the state's Department of Agriculture. Gov. Rick Perry and GOP Sen. Ted Cruz also tweeted their support for the Sriracha factory's move.
    Irwindale will now drop its lawsuit contingent upon the results of testing a stronger air-filtration system. Huy Fong Foods will continue to operate. That's good news for the State of California and even better news for fans of the Rooster.

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

    This Week's Version of the-Science-is-Settled

    The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is melting, and rising sea levels may flood islands and coastal areas; however, the primary cause may not be global warming but volcanoes under the Antarctic ice. University of Texas at Austin researchers looked at where the fastest WAIS melting is occurring and concluded
    Our results produce high melt values adjacent to known volcanoes and structures that are morphologically suggestive of volcanic origin.
    The trillions of dollars that will be spent on carbon-limiting schemes may be more fruitfully applied to relocating masses of humanity to higher ground, constructing defenses against higher tides, and even research on capping volcanoes.

    We can't wait to see what next week's science will suggest.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    At the PARCA Drop-off Center

    The clothes, toys, and books had been piling up at the church, and we needed to clear the room so that the precinct voting machines could be moved in for the election on June 3rd.

    It was time for another trip to PARCA (the 62-year-old Parents' Association for Retarded Children and Adults goes by its acronym now).

    Our stuff
    Donors can schedule a pick-up with the PARCA truck, but we've experienced logistical mix-ups before and besides, an appointment would be at least a week away. It's much faster to take the items to the drop-off center in Redwood City.

    The receiving clerk said that they were out of tax-receipt forms. (The church predates the Internal Revenue Code, heck, it even predates the Constitution, but now good works require a receipt?) No, that won't be necessary, thanks, see you in 2-3 months with our next load.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    A Failure to Communicate

    Steven Pinker (Boston Univ. photo)
    Psychology professor Steven Pinker discusses Writing in the 21st Century, a title that actually doesn't do justice to the breadth of the conversation. Some nuggets [bold added]:
    language is a combination of two very different mechanisms: powerful rules, which can be applied algorithmically, and lexical irregularities, which must be memorized by brute force: in sum, words and rules.

    All languages contain elegant, powerful, logical rules for combining words in such a way that the meaning of the combination can be deduced from the meanings of the words and the way they're arranged. If I say "the dog bit the man" or "the man bit the dog," you have two different images, because of the way those words are ordered by the rules of English grammar.

    On the other hand, language has a massive amount of irregularity: idiosyncrasies, idioms, figures of speech, and other historical accidents that you couldn't possibly deduce from rules, because often they are fundamentally illogical. The past tense of "bring" is "brought," but the past tense of "ring" is "rang," and the past tense of "blink" is "blinked."

    So being a good writer depends not just on having mastered the logical rules of combination but on having absorbed tens or hundreds of thousands of constructions and idioms and irregularities from the printed page. The first step to being a good writer is to be a good reader: to read a lot, and to savor and reverse-engineer good prose wherever you find it.

    [On the Curse of Knowledge]: We as writers often use technical terms, abbreviations, assumptions about typical experimental methods, assumptions about what questions we ask in our research, that our readers have no way of knowing because they haven't been through the same training that we have. Overcoming the curse of knowledge may be the single most important requirement in becoming a clear writer.

    When we comment on the direction that intellectual life is going, we should learn to discount our own prejudices, our own natural inclination to say "I and my tribe are entitled to weigh in on profound issues, but members of some other guild or tribe or clique are not." And "My generation is the embodiment of wisdom and experience, and the younger generation is uncouth, illiterate, unwashed and uncivilized."
    One of the primary goals of an essay is to convey the writer's understanding of a subject and perhaps persuade the reader to take action. It's usually necessary for the writer to establish his bona fides through the use of technical jargon and/or citing his credentials somewhere in the piece (or through Internet links).

    But too much jargon causes distancing; it says don't-question-my-authority-because-I'm-smarter-than-you. Writers often need to choose between communicating or feeding their egos. Too many, unfortunately, choose the latter.

    Monday, June 09, 2014

    Green Lining

    Scraps aren't smelly when frozen.
    During the hot summer the compost bin is quite odoriferous. If we deposited only yard trimmings, it would hardly smell.

    On the other hand table scraps, which now go into the bin, become very ripe after a few days. Ants are the first to invade, and if a stiff wind should blow the lid open, birds and vermin swoop in. We now put organic garbage in the freezer until the night before the weekly pick-up.

    Both the time spent on garbage and our energy consumption have gone up, but at least we can pat ourselves on the back for being green.

    Another green lining: we have stopped mocking people who freeze their jeans.

    Sunday, June 08, 2014

    Spiritual Concepts

    Damon Lindelof, writer and producer of Lost, on the spiritual concepts that inspire his TV projects [bold added]:
    The idea that was so pervasive and strong in The Leftovers [Tom Perrotta's tale about the 98% who are left behind after the Rapture] for me was exploring the wake of what one would call a spiritual event, or some higher power essentially saying, "I declare that I exist, but I offer no explanation or instructions beyond this."

    I liken it to one of my favorite shows as a kid. It was called The Greatest American Hero, and the crux was he's a high school teacher and he finds this suit, this uniform with a cape, and he puts it on, and it gives him strength and he can fly around, except the instruction manual is gone. So he doesn't fly particularly well, and he doesn't know how to use the suit.

    I'm sort of like, "Is there any better metaphor for religion, which is like, 'I'm just going to leave you this book, but I'm not going to make myself available to answer any follow-up questions that you may have about the wild inconsistencies in this book nor will I allow you to amend it.'"
    Something inexplicable happens, then human beings have to figure out what to do about it. One such event, commemorated by Christians today, is the Feast of Pentecost , when the Holy Spirit descended like "tongues of fire" upon Jesus' disciples. The people asked,
    “Brothers, what shall we do?”

    Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

    With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. [Acts 2: 37-47]
    Damon Lindelof laments the lack of an instruction manual. Another explanation is that the manual does exist, but no one wants to follow its instructions.

    During Pentecost the altar is draped in red.

    Saturday, June 07, 2014

    WWDC: For Once the Reaction Was Positive

    Unlike other WWDC's, Apple share prices rose, albeit only 2%, during this week.
    Until this year, the occasion of the Worldwide Developers' Conference had not been good for Apple investors [bold added]:
    The data shows that the Monday of WWDC is a horrible day to buy Apple stock. Since 2003, Apple stock has always closed below where it closed on the Friday before WWDC kicks off. Despite the appeal of the WWDC Keynote amongst Apple fan boys, it seems that investors never think that the presentation meets expectations.
    Apple watchers have been continually disappointed in the nearly-three years after Steve Jobs' death by the dearth of revolutionary products (although some have been pretty good, like the iPhone 5S with fingerprint recognition). Consequently, expectations for the 2014 conference had been reset downward. As expected, there weren't any hardware announcements, but some observers expressed guarded excitement about what some software changes portended:
    Apple did two things that set the stage for a dramatic increase in the software infrastructure that underlies its devices. First, it announced a suite of software and services for developers that will speed how they develop programs for the iPhone that use cloud computing. Apple will let them plug into massive amounts of processing and storage on Apple's servers, so that a whole chunk of infrastructure that a young start-up would have to build itself is now there for free. [snip]

    The second big announcement last week was what Apple calls "Handoff."

    Handoff is a means for each computer you own to know what you are doing on every other computer at any moment. You can start typing an e-mail on your Mac, and your iPhone realizes you're doing so and offers to let you pick up right where you left off and finish the e-mail on the phone's screen as you hustle out the door. You can answer a call from your iPhone on your Mac. And you can pick up where you left off with a Web page on your iPad when you sit down in front of your Mac.

    That kind of seamless interactivity between devices is groundbreaking.
    Apple management deserves credit for resisting the temptation to talk about the hardware that it will be releasing in the fall. Instead, it stuck to the plan of rolling out the software tools that will help developers write apps for the new devices.

    Patience, making a plan, sticking to it until you're ready to talk about it, now that's revolutionary.

    Friday, June 06, 2014

    D-Day, 70 Years Later

    Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944 (LA Times)
    It happened within our parents' lifetimes--and there are voluminous historical records, not to mention an award-winning movie, about it--yet D-Day seems like an impossible event.

    The planning and execution on such a vast scale, all without the aid of modern communications, computers, and global positioning satellites, and the willing self-sacrifice of thousands of men who charged up the cliffs of Normandy are the stuff of myth. If our generation were given the same resources and knowledge, we would perish long before we reached the sands of Omaha Beach.

    The words of one of the Allied leaders sound archaic in the age of the selfie:
    An immense armada of upwards of 4,000 ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel. Massed airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy lines, and landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. The fire of the shore batteries has been largely quelled....

    Complete unity prevails throughout the Allied Armies. There is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends of the United States. There is complete confidence in the supreme commander, General Eisenhower, and his lieutenants, and also in the commander of the Expeditionary Force, General Montgomery. The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself, embarking in these last few days was splendid to witness.

    Thursday, June 05, 2014

    Uncle Mel

    Dad called tonight to tell me the sad news about Melvin. Uncle Mel was a quiet man. Sure, when he was among family and had downed a few, Uncle Mel would become more talkative, but he was never as boisterous as the other guys sitting around the table. He was typical of the greatest generation which served its country, then went about its business, working and raising a family.

    Uncle Mel was proud of his Hawaiian heritage and went to Kamehameha. When I began attending its rival, he took me to the Kam-Punahou football game at the old Honolulu Stadium. My 9-year-old self loudly cheered as the Puns won, 20-0. Uncle Mel told my parents that I gloated, and to this day I am sorry that I did. You were a good man, Uncle Mel, and I'll miss you. R.I.P.

    Wednesday, June 04, 2014

    Women: Don't Look Like You're Trying

    According to Autumn Whitefield-Madrano men desire women who are thin but don't appear to be trying too hard to stay that way. She mustn’t always order salads or freak out when she doesn’t make it to the gym. [bold added]
    Being effortlessly thin is no more achievable through a charmingly carefree attitude than becoming green-eyed or double-jointed. And while naturally thin women exist, of course, their numbers cannot keep pace with the number of men that desire them. And so we must be overly concerned as quietly as possible.
    So, why do women torture themselves? The reward:
    though I never had trouble getting a respectable amount of romantic attention, at a size 0 it rushed in at such a volume and with such enthusiasm that it was difficult not to be taken aback.....Male acquaintances suddenly wanted to spend more alone time together....I’d only dropped a couple of sizes but I was in an entirely new country.
    It's a popular meme that 21st-century America is a women's world, but, guys, in addition to talent and hard work women have to look good and appear to be doing it effortlessly. Those who make it deserve it.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2014

    It's All About the Tradeoffs

    Economist Justin Wolfers, who studies money and happiness, cites his own experience in a Money interview (sorry, no link):
    Q. Are you happier now that you make more money than you used to?

    A. Unquestionably, yes. When I was in graduate school and I went into a store, I was always looking at the prices. I was constantly calculating. You ask yourself, "Can I afford to buy this box of cereal?" You think, "If I buy more of this, maybe I can afford less of that." You're making these tradeoffs and you're constantly aware of these tradeoffs. And it's tiring.

    The first thing I did when I had a well-paying job is I stopped looking at those price tags. Now I never really feel stressed about money. Even if I lost my job tomorrow, I have my degree, and I can get another job. I get to live free from stress and worry and the constant calculating of tradeoffs that I had earlier in my career.

    Q. So would I be happier if I became a hedge fund manager?

    A. Don't let an economist bully you into believing money's all that matters. And don't let a psychologist bully you into believing that money is completely unimportant. How you manage that tradeoff is going to require a lot of experimenting and thinking and introspection. People choose occupations based not just on money, but also on meaning. There's nothing in my research that says that's a bad idea.

    Justin Wolfers is happy, and not only because he has more money (NYT photo)

    Monday, June 02, 2014

    It's All Marketing

    Hope Jahren writes How to Turn A “Good” Proposal Into An “Excellent” Proposal in Eight Admittedly Arduous Steps. Though intended for an academic or non-profit audience, much of her advice applies equally well to business--in fact in any milieu (except romance!) where one person wants to persuade another.

    The "arduous", common-sensical steps, each of which she expands upon:
    1. Do the Math
    2. Be Specific
    3. Be Quantitative
    4. Tell Me Why Oh Why
    5. Consider The Funder’s Objectives
    6. Write it Well
    7. Gird Your Loins
    8. Don’t Lose Hope
    Boiling it down further, give the funders reasons to trust you, meet their (not your) needs, and prepare for rejection. In other words, it's all marketing. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

    Sunday, June 01, 2014

    Almost All Would Decline

    This year's hot economist has proclaimed
    rising inequality over the past few decades [in the U.S.] has been quite spectacular
    From a historical perspective today's moguls aren't on the leaderboard. The richest Americans in history, as measured by the size of their estates relative to the economy of their time and adjusted to 2013, are:
    1. John D. Rockefeller ($253B)
    2. Cornelius Vanderbilt ($205B)
    3. John Jacob Astor ($138B)
    4. Steven Girard ($120B)
    5. Richard Mellon ($103B)
    Bill Gates ($74B) and Warren Buffett ($64B) are ranked 12th and 14th, respectively.

    Ask any middle-class American, however, if he or she, with access to better medical care, the world's knowledge at one's fingertips, and the capability of being in Paris or Tokyo tomorrow, would trade places with John D. Rockefeller.

    I daresay that all but the most power-hungry, ego-centric, and status-conscious would decline. © 2014 Stephen Yuen