Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015: Bouncing Back

As is our wont, we keep track of the number of trick-or-treaters who come to our door.

20 years ago the numbers were much higher. One can speculate about why they dwindled---fewer kids, safety concerns, publicity about the dangers of sugar---but lately the turnout has been bouncing back. I know if I had a young child or grandchild that I would want her to turn off her electronic devices and mingle with friends and neighbors.

Tonight we greeted 34 kids, a five-year high. True, Halloween was on Saturday, and there is an extra hour of sleep tonight (we're reverting to Pacific Standard Time tomorrow morning), so we'll wait till next year before declaring a trend.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Somnus Interruptus

Not news: 7-8 hours of night time sleep is better than shortened sleep.

News: Shortened sleep is better than interrupted sleep (with the same hours).
those who woke up repeatedly showed less slow wave sleep, or the deep sleep that is normally linked to feeling restored and rested, than those getting the same amount of sleep but in a continuous session.
(imgbuddy image)
The study explains why new parents are irritable and perhaps even depressed [bold added]:
Based on the subjects' brain waves, the researchers determined that the people whose sleep was interrupted spent less time in deep, slow-wave sleep. The shortage of slow-wave sleep was tied to lower levels of positive mood, the study found. And those who were awoken frequently not only felt less energetic, but also less friendly and sympathetic, the researchers found.
Geezers, especially males, generally aren't roused in the middle of the night by crying babies but have their own problem of somnus interruptus. Aging bladders cannot hold as much urine as before. If the choice is between being well-rested or well-hydrated, your humble observer opts for sleep.

Good night, and sweet, thirsty, uninterrupted dreams.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Blind Adherence

Now that Hillary Clinton is the betting favorite to win the Oval Office, the debate is raging among grammarians whether "woman President" is proper English. (The controversy has nothing to do with Mrs. Clinton's politics; presumably the issue would apply to a President Fiorina as well.)

According to the Associated Press style book the adjective female is the acceptable modifier for "President." Woman, of course, is a noun, and nouns don't modify other nouns. In other words "female President" yes, "woman President" no.

The Economist's language columnist Johnson, named after Samuel Johnson, asserts (bold added[
In the phrase "the first woman president", woman is an attributive noun, which can certainly modify another noun. And although attributive nouns may initially look like adjectives in a sentence, they are indeed different.
Johnson goes on to explain that, while the "woman" in "woman President" functions as an adjective, it most definitely cannot be used as in adjective in common circumstances, i.e., "the governor is woman" sounds and is wrong, while "the governor is female" is proper usage.

Your humble observer's grammatical education never progressed further than the basic "a noun is a person, place, or thing", and "an adjective modifies a noun or pronoun." The Associated Press appears to be guilty of this blind--and deaf--adherence to these childhood rules. Never argue English with the English.

[Note: The great man himself would likely have disapproved of either woman President or female President.
Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."
--------from Boswell's Life of Johnson]

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


The two-dog special (Yelp photo)
I'm a fan of the basic hot dog, whether it's served at Costco or at the ballpark, but a Fletch's hot dog is a cut above.

The small San Mateo diner next to the train tracks serves it "Chicago style".

The onions, pickles, tomatoes, and toasted bun make for a mouth-watering experience.

The owner is a fan of
all teams Chicago.
I always get the two-dog special, which includes fries, for about $7 and justify the purchase by saying the extra hot dog is for my next meal.

More often than not, the second dog doesn't make it home.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lament of a Spreadsheet Reviewer

A knowledgeable consumer needs only to read a couple of paragraphs, listen to several bars, or watch a few minutes of film to tell if a writer, musician, or director is capable.

Snapshot of a few columns in an aviation leasing model: inputs
are blue, on one page, and selected from drop-down menus
Similarly, experienced Excel reviewers can tell at a glance whether the preparer is competent. It's not a matter of how many functions she knows or how many nested loops he can cram into a formula or even whether errors occur (they always do): it's the design that counts, especially in complex workbooks. Input, calculation, and report sheets should all be separated, not only for the reviewer but also for the preparer's own sake during the debug and testing phases.

The graphic (from Journal of Accountancy) says it all
Accountants are some of the heaviest spreadsheet users, and they have some of the most frustrated managers. Staff often rush to meet deadlines by typing over formulas with numeric values--so results don't change when inputs change--and logical errors (e.g., dividing by zero) frequently surface during reviewers' testing.

Just as an editor yearns to rewrite a disorganized essay rather than fix it, so must Excel reviewers fight the temptation to throw out messy calculations and start over.

They function not only as reviewers but teachers.

An article in the Journal of Accountancy, How to debug Excel spreadsheets, promises more than it could possibly deliver in a seven-page article. Some of the tips (Formula Auditing, Edit-Go To-Special) are indeed useful. After the review is done, time would be well spent to
a) teach staff how to do it right the first time
b) instill the discipline of checking one's own work
c) design the calculation flow so that errors are easy to spot.

Monday, October 26, 2015

No Pain, No Gain

Max's Latke Reuben: lactase tablets got me through it.
When I turned 40, I lost the ability to digest milk; the condition, familiar to the majority of Asian adults, is known as lactose intolerance.

My doctor was unsympathetic: "maybe you won't put on as much weight." In this relativistic age diarrhea, bloating, and cramps are not unequivocally bad.

Lactose intolerance has another benefit--it stopped me from being addicted to cheese.
Cheese happens to be especially addictive because of an ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins.

"[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element,"
Lactose intolerance helps with weight control and cheese addiction. It is a feature, not a bug.

Saint Paul: "For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Nancy Pelosi: "Embrace the suck."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Increasingly Problematic

The once and retired "captains and captainettes of industry" (as we called ourselves).
Having missed the earlier reunion events, I went to the brunch at the Knight Management Center.

Although it was a Sunday morning, students were working intensely at the computers on the ground floor; yes, I had that kind of energy once.

I took the elevator to the 4th-floor dining room, which was light-years removed from the spartan cafeteria in the basement of our old building.

105 members of our class (out of 300+) had registered, a record percentage for a 40th reunion at the Graduate School of Business.

One sad tradition is the roll call of those who have died. It was cheering that there were "only" 17 names on the list, especially since most of us are in our mid-60's.

The organizers asked us to attend the 45th. Of course, everyone's pointing toward the 50th reunion in 2025, but at this stage in our lives a 10-year plan is increasingly problematic.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

In and Out

Our patient 493077 is in Recovery (Blue)
The Endoscopy Center at Stanford Hospital not only seems to be designed for its patients; it also takes into account the concerns of their loved ones.

I was allowed to sit next to the supine patient during the entire pre-operative phase; the explanations and signing of documents actually took longer than the procedure itself.

The video board in the waiting room transmitted continuous updates, greatly lessening any worries. After the patient awoke, the doctor briefed both of us about his preliminary findings--no physically obvious concerns, but we'll have to wait up to two weeks for the results of the biopsies.

We were there for three hours, shorter than most car repairs. I forgot to ask about a warranty...

Friday, October 23, 2015

Unlikely to Survive Another Century

(Chronicle photo)
Mansions costing decamillions get all the headlines, but sometimes it's at the bottom end that one can see how overheated the real estate market is.

Headline: Wooden Shack in San Francisco Sells for $408,000 [bold added]
The dilapidated [765-sq. ft] shack was built as relief housing in 1906 after a devastating 7.8 earthquake ripped through San Francisco and destroyed more than 80 percent of the city. As such, the fixer upper is considered a historical property and cannot be torn down or undergo significant changes.
In one of many hypothetical scenarios an all-cash buyer (I can't see a bank making a secured loan on this property) can earn a slight return of about 2% if he a) invests an additional $40,000 in fixing up the property, b) rents it for $1,200 minus expenses, and c) sells it for $450,000 in five years.

If the property were to be tragically destroyed, however, the owners would make a much higher return, even if one factors in the cost of replacing the structure. Let's hope that the fire department and the next-door neighbors are vigilant against such a tragedy from happening.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Solution to Driver Fatigue

Syncing up their smartphone's address book
proved a little daunting for some of the grayhairs.
When we last bought a new car, all the controls could be figured out without consulting the manual. The advanced features were airbags and a CD player. Now there are volumes to read and classes to attend. We are not averse to technological change: recent close calls have revealed the importance of innovations like blind-spot monitoring and back-up cameras.

The Google driverless car (CNN photo)
However, the electronics seems to have been bolted on top of and not fully integrated with the automobile framework.

Until we get to the next generation of "smart" automobiles (some of which will be autonomous), driving will be complicated and messy, much as wireless phones were before the iPhone. The Apple Car and the Google car can't come soon enough.

[Note: every car we've owned we've held longer than 10 years and 100,000 miles. Due to rapidly changing technology, however, the next one will be a 3-4 year lease.]

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Small Pleasure

Exceeds what I get, but not by much (
Apparently, the banks think I'm simultaneously rich and poor, educated and uneducated.
If you want to know what credit card companies think of you, look at your mail.

Are you “pre-screened” for lots of mileage-reward cards? Banks think you’re rich and educated.

Do you mostly see offers for low-APR teaser rates? Banks think you’re poor and uneducated — and, perhaps, vulnerable to financial traps.
I show my appreciation for the big data segregation and analysis that goes into junk mail by churning it all together in the shredder. It's a satisfying feeling.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Unsettled Sleep

(Image from Huffington Post UK)
It's a commonplace that our fondness for electronic stimuli has created a crisis of sleep deprivation. No less an authority than the American Medical Association
Recognizes that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents.
Despite their deleterious effects, the temptations of TV, tablets, and smartphones appear too great to resist. Before electricity banished the night, the theory goes, human beings both needed and got 8-9 hours of sleep, the minimum necessary for optimal daytime performance. However, that was only a theory.

In order to ascertain mankind's sleep patterns "before coffee and light bulbs existed," scientists monitored the sleep of three contemporary pre-industrial societies in Tanzania, Namibia, and Bolivia. Their findings:
  • They do not sleep more than “modern” humans, with average durations of 5.7–7.1 hr.
  • They go to sleep several hours after sunset and typically awaken before sunrise.
  • Temperature appears to be a major regulator of human sleep duration and timing.
  • It's not surprising that the iPad insomnia theory has been widely accepted: it's consistent with our own experience and common sense. It also mildly conforms to our own aspirational values (quiet time before bed, turn off the computer and talk to your kids, etc.) However, according to this study at least, 5-7 hours of sleep is all the average person needs.

    What other scientific "findings" do we seize upon--perhaps too quickly--because we really want them to be true?

    Monday, October 19, 2015

    Trying to Make It So

    The pool shimmered invitingly but was off-limits.
    The YMCA's pool and locker rooms were closed last week for annual cleaning and repair. We nevertheless kept to a reduced routine. Changing clothes in the single-stall lavatories and showering at home were a little cumbersome, but the nearly-empty facilities meant there was no waiting for a machine. Not too discommoding, unless you're a regular swimmer.

    Exercise is not yet an ingrained habit, but we're trying to make it so.

    Sunday, October 18, 2015

    166th Diocesan Convention

    Bishop Marc Andrus kicked off proceedings on Friday.
    Your humble observer again represented his parish at the 166th Annual Convention of the (Episcopal) Diocese of California. This year's convention was devoid of fireworks--nothing like 2011's rejected resolution to divest companies doing business in the West Bank--but the progressives finally did manage to pass a version of 2013's resolution to banish fossil-fuel companies from the church's portfolio.

    The church's mission: progressive "Justice".
    Apparently natural gas, oil, and coal are all substances more deadly than tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, against which nary a resolution has ever been proposed. The inconvenient truth is that fossil fuels are necessary to power the furnaces that enable millions to survive the winter. Well, we in sunny California hope we made them feel guilty about turning up the heat, and have they tried solar panels?

    One lady mentioned how she is so devoted to the anti-fossil-fuel campaign that she is flying to Paris to attend a climate-change conference. I just smiled and nodded in agreement. As they say, you can't make this stuff up.

    There are small signs that a half-century decline in the Church's attendance may have bottomed. Youth are drawn to the Church's non-judgmentalism (unless you're talking about guns, conscious and unconscious racism, patriarchal attitudes, Western values, wealthy Republicans, Israel, and global warming unbelievers), and one mission was upgraded to Parish status. The new Skellig Celtic Christian Community of Marin County decided to join the Episcopal Church and was welcomed by acclamation.

    The Christian-themed music by the Theodicy Jazz Collective was beautiful, as was the majesty of Grace Cathedral. Yes, aspects of the Episcopal Church continues to provoke me ("comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable"), but I will be a member until the day I die.

    Saturday, October 17, 2015

    Friday, October 16, 2015

    Ninth Grade: An Important Year

    Seniors aren't usually very helpful.
    The first year in high school is one of inner turmoil. Middle school success matters nought; freshmen start at the bottom of the pecking order. The campus is much larger, less friendlier, and unfamiliar. It's not surprising that this is when many young teens lose their way.
    Years ago, researchers at the University of Chicago discovered that how students perform during their freshman year is the best predictor of whether they’ll graduate — better than their previous grades or attendance or their family’s income.
    So just hang on, kids, it'll get better.
    These little town blues, are melting away. I'm gonna make a brand new start of it, In old New York ninth grade, and...

    If I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere. It's up to you, New York, New York ninth grade, ninth grade!

    Thursday, October 15, 2015

    Think We're Here to Serve YOU?

    For two years Juanita the duck was "a beloved mascot and friend to all at the Bello Gardens assisted-living home on Mariposa Avenue in San Anselmo."

    When she flew a short distance away, Juanita was turned in to the WildCare rescue center, where she has remained for 28 days.
    federal rules say stray ducks are wild animals until proved otherwise. The law, they [at WildCare] say, prohibits Juanita from being reunited with the two dozen bereaved, heartsick and moping senior citizens at Bello Gardens.

    [Juanita] is not going anywhere until the U.S. government makes up its mind whether she is a pet duck, a wild duck, a lost duck or simply a misunderstood duck.
    It's easy to see why bureaucrats are taking their time: once human happiness is allowed into consideration, what other rules will crumble? And having to answer awkward questions at annual performance reviews can be such a bother.

    From 8/20: Seven ducks in a box.
    [In retrospect we were fortunate that we didn't involve government or non-profit agencies in our own duck-rescue efforts.]

    Wednesday, October 14, 2015

    Logical Extension

    (Image from
    Bicyclists are pushing back against mandatory helmet laws for adults (over 18). They are claiming that overall societal health will be reduced because some adults will be discouraged from riding due to the hassle of carrying and wearing a helmet.

    I happen to agree with that reasoning, but it's also clear that there will be additional head injuries without the law.
    Statistics vary, but several studies show that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head or brain injury by about two-thirds or more. An analysis in the Journal of Pediatrics of a decade of data concluded that bicycle-related death rates were about 20% lower among children in states with helmet laws.
    Sorry helmet-freedom advocates, but such injuries will be a burden to society's health-care systems; therefore society's right to keep its costs down trumps an individual's freedom to decide. This is the same argument that was used to justify mandatory car seat-belt laws, which were upheld by the courts in the 1990's.

    When you argue against someone else's freedom, even for what may be the "best" of reasons, you may be putting your own freedom at risk.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Feeling Guilty

    AT&T Park: nobody's here this October
    After a pleasant retirees' luncheon replete with wine and bonhomie, I reluctantly departed for an appointment in Santa Clara.

    It was an unusually sweltering afternoon in San Francisco. Traffic crept along the Embarcadero, the air conditioning wasn't working, and of course I was wearing business garb. It took 20 minutes to get out of the City. It could have been much worse; the Giants could have been in the playoffs and (whisper) I was glad they weren't.

    Monday, October 12, 2015

    Let the Sunshine In

    (Image from
    Another reason for the elderly to avoid the nursing-home option [bold added]:
    Up to 70% of nursing home residents receive one or more courses of antibiotics every year for urinary tract infections, pneumonia, cellulitis and other suspected conditions, according to researchers. Yet up to 75% of those prescriptions are given incorrectly—either unnecessarily or the prescription is for the wrong drug, dose or duration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

    One of the biggest culprits, researchers say: misdiagnosed urinary tract infections. Only a quarter to a third of people in nursing homes who are diagnosed have actual symptoms, according to several studies. Most have only vague symptoms like confusion or bacteria in their urine that aren’t actually causing an infection,
    Hey, doc, I think I have confusion in my urine! But seriously....

    The problem acquires urgency because the nursing home population in the United States is likely to be exploding: the over-65 group is the fastest-growing age cohort, smaller families mean that there are fewer children who are able (or willing) to care for their parents at home, and last but not least "everyone knows" someone who lives or has lived in a nursing facility. But such reasoning would be wrong.

    Kaiser Foundation data shows that the number of U.S. residents in certified nursing facilities has held steady between 1.35 and 1.39 million over the past ten years. The lowest value in the range occurred in 2014.

    What is going on in this industry? Sunshine, please.

    Saturday, October 10, 2015

    Bully for Us

    Barron's runs a hit piece on Donald Trump.

    In 1990 Mr. Trump pressured mid-size brokerage house Janney Montgomery Scott into firing its "obscure gaming-securities analyst, Marvin Roffman" because the latter was skeptical about the finances of the Taj Mahal casino. Mr. Roffman was fired by Janney in March, 1990, just before the casino opened in April. The analyst did his job.
    Roffman had been advising investors to sell the bonds virtually from their date of issue all the way up to his firing, when the bonds had sunk to around 80. He reasoned that the Taj couldn’t earn enough revenue to cover the interest.

    And he proved right. The Taj defaulted on its first interest payment in October 1990, driving the bonds’ price down into the 20s. This pushed the Taj into filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization the following spring.
    Mr. Hoffman was "proved right," but his career in the securities industry was over. (He did receive at least $750,000, less legal expenses, from settlement of lawsuits against Trump and Janney.) In the end Marvin Roffman
    became quite successful. He founded a financial advisory firm in 1991 that ran more than $500 million by 2007 at his retirement. The 76-year-old now lives in a 15,000-square-foot mansion featuring extensive gardens and 40 rooms in the Delaware resort town of Rehoboth.

    1) It restores one's faith in cosmic justice that Marvin Roffman achieved great financial success. He believed in his analysis and wouldn't back down when faced by an opponent with overwhelming resources. Just because it worked out for him, however, doesn't excuse the actions by players in 1990.

    2) When the chips(!) were down, Janney's cowardice was reprehensible.

    3) Donald Trump was, and probably still is a bully who will run over little people to get what he wants. Barron's has been criticized for showcasing a 25-year-old incident, but character very rarely changes and the story, IMHO, is still relevant.

    4) That said, we're not voting for Pope but for President. We've tried the "retreat-because-the-bad-guys-are-on-the-wrong-side-of-history" [very Hegelian, n'est-ce pas?] approach, and would-be emperors across Eurasia have rushed into the power vacuum.

    The time to get tough is at hand.

    [Disclosure: Donald Trump is not my first choice for President.]

    Friday, October 09, 2015

    But What's My Motivation?

    (Image from
    The reasons we diet are selfish--health, vanity, work and social advantages--but vegetarians have been regarded as a noble exception because of their selfless motivation. The vegetarian diet is much friendlier to the environment, and the killing of animals, while not (yet) immoral, has made some uncomfortable.

    It turns out that vegetarians may not be that morally superior. Alcohol apparently reveals their true nature. [bold added]
    A new study from the U.K finds that 30 percent of vegetarians crave flesh during wild nights of partying and 40 percent always eat meat while intoxicated. Providing even more insight into the psychology of vegetarians, the survey revealed 69 percent of those who break their diets keep it a secret. After all, they have to keep up their sanctimonious and ascetic reputations.
    I don't share the writer's low opinion. While I have met a few vegetarians who are loud and proud of their meatless virtue, most keep quiet about it and certainly don't impose their views on others.
    “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."-----Matthew 6:16-18

    Thursday, October 08, 2015

    Get a Grip, "Experts"

    John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy (LA Times)
    California Republican Kevin McCarthy was the leading candidate to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House...until today. He withdrew his name when 40 conservative members reportedly wouldn't back him. The media couldn't restrain themselves:

    Time: "a new level of House Republican chaos."

    Economist: "the new McCarthyists"

    Vox: "chaos", "uncharted territory"

    Oh, please. This is no different from a corporate Chairman announcing his retirement and the expected successor having to bow out because he fell out of favor. The Chairman's still running the show and will just have to stay on a little longer.

    "Chaos" because 247 people can't agree under Robert's Rules of Order? No, chaos is the Middle East with millions of refugees fleeing into Europe. The world may be falling apart, but for all the dysfunction it's really not in the Halls of Congress.

    [Update - 10/9: Paul Ryan is considering a run for Speaker.
    Ryan, the Ways and Means Committee chairman and Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate in 2012 is respected throughout the conference and on paper could bridge the gap between tea party-linked conservatives and more establishment Republicans.
    I've long been impressed with Paul Ryan's intellect and practical savvy, a rare combination. Having to "settle" for Paul Ryan after Kevin McCarthy bowed out is like being disappointed that Lou Gehrig had to come in for Wally Pipp.]

    Wednesday, October 07, 2015


    The founders of Israel's SpaceIL (Israel Today)
    Time: "Google and Israel May Be Heading to the Moon". There's a $20 million first prize to land an unmanned spacecraft, have it move 500 meters, and send back hi-def pictures by the end of 2017; it's a one-way trip.

    Am I the only one who thought "Good idea! Moving Israel to the moon will at last bring peace to the Middle East!"

    Nope, I'm far from the first.

    Tuesday, October 06, 2015

    Microsoft Office: the Handwriting is on the Wall

    Periodically Microsoft comes out with a revision to its Office software suite, but recently there's no compelling reason for most users to upgrade [bold added]
    you don’t need to keep buying new versions of Office. Microsoft hasn’t added a ton of new innovations to typesetting and presentation building—those all work just fine on what you’ve already got.
    Since the dawn of the PC era, white-collar workers--by the way, who actually wears white collared shirts any more?--have had to adapt to major software changes required for their jobs. Your humble observer, for example, became quite proficient with the early-1980's word-processing program, MultiMate, then had to relearn the shortcuts when his next employer used WordPerfect, and finally converted to Word when that program became dominant in the 1990's.

    Spreadsheets followed a similar path. VisiCalc, the killer app that spurred the sale of Apple II computers, was a marvel in its time. Lotus 1-2-3 became a necessity when the IBM-PC was ubiquitous in the corporate world. Through fair means--and perhaps some foul--Microsoft won the spreadsheet war with Excel, also part of Microsoft Office.

    The age of mobile devices has given an opening to competitors like Apple and Google, but their offerings have fallen short---so far. Microsoft has defended its turf because some of Excel's functionality still cannot be duplicated and has been embedded in critical corporate systems.

    Nevertheless, the handwriting is on the wall, if for no other reason that startups don't want to create systems with old technology. As its clients wither away so, inevitably, will Microsoft Office.

    Monday, October 05, 2015

    Forensic Accounting

    The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants defines Forensic Accounting
    as the application of specialized knowledge and investigative skills possessed by CPAs to collect, analyze, and evaluate evidential matter, and to interpret and communicate findings in the courtroom, boardroom or other legal or administrative venue.
    Magnifying glasses and handcuffs are not in the normal FA toolbox (image from Purdue University)
    Forensic accounting is one of the fastest-growing accounting specialties. It requires using high-tech tools, investigative techniques more elaborate than those of conventional auditing, and imagination.

    Forensic accountants appear in TV shows as eyeglass-wearing geeks who unearth the secrets in bank statements, ledgers, and complicated corporate structures. Buried in documents, they labor in the background while the detectives go out and get the bad guys. This stereotype is only partially accurate. Accountants have learned that good interpersonal skills, especially when conducting interviews, can save weeks on a FA engagement.

    The well-crafted interview can
  • Decrease the time involved in determining how to conduct the investigation;
  • Reduce the breadth of the investigative plan;
  • Garner valuable information from interviewees, either wittingly or unwittingly; and
  • Increase the likelihood of overall success in discovering and proving fraud or malfeasance.
  • Some documentary evidence will always need to be assembled, but one confession is worth a hundred bank reconciliations.

    Sunday, October 04, 2015

    Underestimated Virtue

    The forecasters warned darkly of inclement weather, but the skies were pristine and the air was still.

    At the Feast of St. Francis over 40 pet owners came to the Dog Park for the annual Blessing of the Animals, which Catholic and Anglican churches celebrate in honor of the patron saint of animals and the environment.

    There were a few members of the congregation and pre-school who showed up, but the majority were members of the community who just liked to mingle with other pet owners. The ministers began coming to the park on St. Francis' Day nine years ago, and some of the pet owners come looking for us on the first Sunday in October.

    Showing up regularly, like patience, is an underestimated virtue,

    Saturday, October 03, 2015

    Everything We Do Can Be Rationalized

    (Image from Aurous Health Care)
    In my youth videogames were a distraction from accomplishing goals like career advancement, building family relationships, and staying in shape. Now that I'm a senior citizen I'm encouraged to play videogames to keep my brain healthy [bold added]
    As reported in the journal Nature in 2013, the Gazzaley lab [at UCSF] trained 60- to 85-year-old subjects on a game called NeuroRacer. The multitask version involves simulated driving along a winding road while quickly pressing keys or a game controller to respond to a green sign when it appears on the roadside. [snip]

    After 12 hours of training spread evenly over a month, multitasking subjects were about twice as efficient at shifting attention as when they started, a huge improvement by any standard. Remarkably, their new scores were comparable to those of 20-year-olds not trained on NeuroRacer. The subjects still tested positive six months later.
    Playing videogames appears to have joined a host of other activities (coffee, golf, sex, sleep, partying, alcohol) that in excess were regarded as selfish indulgences when young but are now viewed favorably when done by seniors.

    Kids, we're doing it for our health, which in turn keeps us from being a burden to our family and to society. So really, we're thinking of you. V-rrr-oom!

    Friday, October 02, 2015

    Bowing Desultorily

    Tony's Pizza sign in top right is half the distance to the goal.
    Having bought cheap ($29.50) tickets weeks ago to what turned out to be a meaningless contest, we made a last-minute decision to go to the game. Besides, it was the first-ever Stanford Night at AT&T Park.

    We waited to get the commemorative cap. An alumnus in the line said that he hoped that they wouldn't run out.

    Yep, $60,000 per year but everyone's gotta have the hat! Shortly after we got to our seats, the Rockies jumped to a 5-1 lead.

    We left in the 7th inning. A comeback was very unlikely with players that we casual fans have never heard of. The Giants never made a game out of it and bowed desultorily, 9-3.

    Hey, but at least we got a hat.


    Achtung! Below is a recent notice from a local condominium association to the member-owners.
    To: All Homeowners

    From: Board of Directors

    Subject: Short Term Rentals

    Date: September 29, 2015

    In the last few months, the Board of Directors has received a number of complaints about owners listing their homes on short term rental websites (i.e. Airbnb). The Board takes these concerns seriously and has reviewed the matter with legal counsel. The Association's attorney has concluded that there are sufficient restrictions in the Governing Documents on these types of activities and that these types of rentals are NOT permitted at the property. The Board will review all submitted complaints and work to make sure all owners are compliant. Owners found to be in violation will be fined per the Association's rules. The Board takes this matter very seriously and will remain vigilant on this matter.

    Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me (408.559.1977 x 114) or attend a Board Meeting. Thank you in advance for your assistance regarding this matter.
    A San Francisco apartment trashed by Airbnb guests.
    Your humble observer must state at the outset that he has no dog in this fight.

    Es ist verboten! is the instinctive reaction of the bureaucrat, and it seems like a fearful reaction to activities that weren't contemplated decades ago--before the Internet--when the rules were written. If there has been harm to other people and/or their property, then it's indeed reasonable to call a halt to these short-term rentals until rules can be worked out to safeguard hosts, "guests," and third parties.

    Some owners, especially those who've paid sky-high condo prices, can use the short-term income to defray the cost of housing when they're going to be away for a few weeks. Board members, who are owners, too, should be able to see both sides of this issue.

    Thursday, October 01, 2015

    Going Gently

    (Image from Lefty's Sports, Burlingame)
    [Note: the Dodgers eliminated the Giants from the playoffs on Tuesday.]

    As he announces his retirement today, Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt thinks about his legacy :
    "if I don't see these guys again, if I'm not their teammate, then what did I leave them with?"
    Jeremy Affeldt helped San Francisco win three World Series Championships in five years. Very few relief pitchers can point to greater accomplishments. Yet, it's how he says goodbye to his teammates and baseball is what's most important to Jeremy Affeldt.
    "I think it [quitting early] would’ve been a travesty and something I would’ve regretted for the rest of my life if I would’ve walked early. But knowing I’m not 100 percent in, every day, is a disrespect to this organization if I were to continue to push it.

    “If I had to sign with another organization, it would have been a disrespect to them because I would’ve known walking into it that I wasn’t all in. So this is a time I feel like I can retire with a team that I truly feel I’m a part of. I played for four teams, but if you ask me who I am as a baseball player, I’m a San Francisco Giant, and that’ll never change.”
    How many people are "all in" with their jobs, and if they're not, have the luxury of walking away with their principles intact? Like many other baseball players who have said goodbye to the game, Jeremy Affeldt is a lucky guy.

    [End note: his Sports Illustrated post, "I'm retiring. Here are five things I won't miss about baseball" is both funny and perceptive.]