Thursday, March 31, 2016

Apple Fritter, San Mateo

The popular bacon maple bar
After the Taco Bell on Norfolk St. closed, I half-expected its building to be torn down, reconfigured to accommodate the upscale tastes of the techies who are flooding into San Mateo.

To our surprise a bakery by the name of Apple Fritter has taken over the site. To our greater surprise, the lines are out the door for an eatery that doesn't cater to the health-conscious and carb averse.

There wasn't a line on a weekday
morning after 9 a.m.
We've been back three times since we discovered Apple Fritter in February. In addition to the pastries, our favorites are the Hippiehash ("Fresh hash browns scrambled w/ black beans, fresh green bells, & topped w/ melted american, sour cream, salsa. Served w/ 2 eggs & choice of toast") and the Sausage Scramble.

I'm having my annual physical in April, so I'll have to refrain from going to Apple Fritter---in other words detox until then. Somehow, though, my doctor always knows....

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

John Oliver: Apple Vs. FBI

One of the alumni of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, John Oliver discusses the FBI vs. Apple controversy over breaking into a terrorist's iPhone.

Typical of his video essays, Encryption is humorous, vulgar, and filled with information. While he does take Apple's side, John Oliver throws a few shots the company's way. And don't miss the last two minutes of the 18-minute video, which contains an example of a "little more honest" Apple ad about privacy and hacking.

One more thing: it's no wonder that the younger crowd prefers to get its news this way than from droning heads on the nightly news.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Go East, Young Man or Woman, Go East

The Economist - it's easier to become a billionaire in Asia than the USA:
The American dream of going from rags to riches appears more achievable in developing Asia than in America itself, which seems ever more in thrall to vested interests.
Not only are more billionaires being created, they are less reviled:
This may be because emerging-market billionaires seem more dynamic: more than half of them are under 60 compared with less than a third in the rich world. But it is partly because in the emerging world ordinary people have been getting richer alongside the billionaires; in the rich world ordinary people have seen their incomes stagnate.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Sickness That Now Has A Name

(pinterest image)
Despite its long-comings, the German language has words that describe some concepts perfectly.

Schadenfreude ("a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people") is used so often that it has become cliché.

Gestalt - in psychology, "something that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or different from the combination of its parts"; in broad terms, "the general quality or character of something."

Another valuable entry, sure to gain currency, is witzelsucht:
Witzelsucht (from the German witzeln, meaning to joke or wisecrack, and sucht, meaning addiction or yearning) is a set of rare neurological symptoms characterized by a tendency to make puns, or tell inappropriate jokes or pointless stories in socially inappropriate situations.
My affection for (obsession with?) Airplane! and Naked Gun movies can now be explained.

Witzelsucht "can be an early indicator of dementia" (Surely, you jest--no, and don't call me Shirley!), so I suppose I should see a doctor (if I don't, I need some new glasses).

But not before I check out TBS' Angie Tribeca series:
when Tribeca does work, it nudges awake a certain eighth-grade sensibility that delights in nothing more than seeing a knowingly asinine idea treated with staunchly serious commitment...Tribeca revels in fiendishly devised, fast-and-furious quips.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

The black drapery of Good Friday has been removed.

White, the liturgical color of Easter, is everywhere.

Mourning is over.

Welcome, Happy Morning.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

John Keast, R.I.P.

My friend, John Keast, died suddenly and peacefully on Wednesday in Santa Cruz. Many in his far-flung family weren't there to say goodbye, so the priest conducted the Ministration at the Time of Death today, the day before Easter.

The service became an abbreviated memorial, as were added a Gospel reading, a brief homily, and remembrances from John's children. His "real" memorial service will occur in September, when John would have turned 96.

If and when I reach my 80's, I hope to be reasonably independent and be able to carry on a conversation without people talking to me like a five-year-old.

In his 80's John was designing programs to help prisoners re-enter society, giving speeches to persuade others to join him, and raising funds for the Inmate Correctional Education Project. When I tried to tell him how much I admired him, he wouldn't hear any of it. John, I hope you're listening now. R.I.P.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Day's Work is Never Done

Andy Warhol’s “Do It Yourself (Violin)” (1962) is non finito,
i.e., intentionally unfinished (Economist image)
Unfinished paintings, unlike unfinished novels and movies, can be appreciated "as is." The inaugural exhibition of the new Marcel Breuer building ("Met Breuer) of the Metropolitan Museum of Art showcases 197 works that are in varying stages of completion.
Certainly the most common reason for an incomplete painting, at least in the early stages of this exhibition, is death or its approach...After death, the next-best reason not to hand in your homework is genius...grasping for the unattainable.
Geniuses are never satisfied, hence the discovery of partially completed works after their death has become commonplace. Everything can be made better, everything is in the process of becoming something else.

Note 1 (and Good Friday reference): in the Greatest Story Ever Told Jesus himself said, "It is finished," (John 19:30) but the story was actually far from over.

Note 2: Perhaps the most famous "unfinished" work of art in the past 200 years is a piece of music.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Good Morning and Happy Birthday

In Hollywood's greatest musical a key plot point occurs on March 24th. Early that morning actor Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) realizes that he can avert a box-office disaster by converting his upcoming silent movie, "The Dueling Cavalier," to a musical, "The Dancing Cavalier."

Buddy Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) and love interest Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) celebrate this realization through an exuberant tap number, thereby demonstrating the entertainment power of song and dance. It's so meta-.....
Cosmo rips a page off a day-by-day calendar to the new date: March 24. “Your lucky day is the 24th!” he tells Don. Cue the music.

March 24th is my twin brothers' birthday, also a cause for celebration.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Marriage: It's All About Expectations

A study has confirmed common sense--marital happiness is dependent upon expectations:
having high standards only makes people more satisfied if they’re in strong marriages—and having lower standards is better for marriages that aren’t as secure. [snip]

...higher standards were a bad thing for spouses who didn’t work as well together or were more indirectly hostile. Conversely, when couples like these had lower standards, they tended to be happier in their marriages.
Another solution: just have patience (Image from davenan)
The study didn't define what makes a good marriage in the first place, i.e., when spouses can use criticism as a way to make their partnership stronger instead of worse, but if it were that easy society would have a much lower divorce rate.

Anyway, one doesn't need science, just a bit of Reinhold Niebuhr:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ancien Régime 2.0

Apple's HQ (Rendering from the Economist 1843 Magazine)
Like some nouveau riche who distance themselves from their humble backgrounds, “Silicon Valley is having its Versailles moment”: [bold added]
The scale of the project rivals the ancient Egyptians’ monuments. Every piece of glass on the four-story exterior is curved, requiring special panes to be made in Germany – the largest pieces of curved glass ever manufactured. With a price tag of around $5 billion, [Apple's] may be the most expensive corporate headquarters in history. [snip]

Last year Facebook opened a new, 430,000-square-foot building in Menlo Park designed to embody the company’s informal culture. Resembling a giant warehouse, it is reputedly the largest open-plan office in the world. Meanwhile, Google is working on a zany idea for a new headquarters to replace its Googleplex, which involves constructing movable glass buildings. Other technology companies, including Nvidia, Samsung and Uber, will, collectively, spend well over $1 billion on new buildings that broadcast their success.
With world-changing innovations ever harder to invent, our latter-day Masters of the Universe are spending precious energy and enormous resources on building monuments to their grandeur. Let's hope that, like Versailles, 200 years after the monuments were built that tourists aren't the only beings on the grounds.
The truth is that individuals and institutions usually turn to architecture at moments of decline. This curious fact was pointed out years ago by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his 1968 best seller, Parkinson's Law....Parkinson considered buildings as an important barometer of corporate health, but as a negative barometer. "During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters," he wrote. "The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death."

Monday, March 21, 2016

English Digs

Emma Thompson won the Best Actress Oscar
in 1992 for Howards End.
Actress Emma Thompson, on reading for the audiobook of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw: [bold added]
I consider Henry James the most extraordinary writer (well, I almost prefer Edith Wharton, but don’t tell anyone I said that). I know his work very well, and I love it. The Turn of the Screw is extraordinary—the idea of these children knowing, in a ghastly way, stuff they shouldn’t know is so terribly good...

Interviewer: How do you use your voice to evoke a book’s atmosphere?

I think the writing does that for you. It gives you so many clues as to how it should be read.

Interviewer: Well, it does when you’re talking about a brilliant author.

Absolutely. I don’t know what you do if you’re reading Dan Brown aloud. I really don’t.
Bazinga! The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown must have felt that one across the Atlantic.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday, 2016

Throughout Holy Week churches recite the Passion of Jesus. Today the congregation read Luke's Gospel, in which the Roman centurion observes at the Crucifixion, "surely this was an innocent man." That statement evokes sadness, and perhaps anger at the injustice of the wronged Innocent.

In Matthew and Mark the centurion states "Truly this man was the son of God." To the same emotions of sadness and anger we must add fear: if one kills the son of God, there will surely be a price to pay.

The death of Jesus occurred in the past, and we can do nothing about that now except quake in fear of Divine retribution. We can, however, strive to protect the innocent today. Not surprisingly, I prefer Luke's version.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Looking Out for your Outlook

(American Senior Communities image)
An optimistic outlook seems to reduce the likelihood of acquiring Alzheimer's Disease. In a group of adults who "were healthy and free of dementia" [bold added]
those who held negative stereotypes of seniors at the start of the study were more likely to develop the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s later: a decrease in the volume of the brain’s hippocampus—a key memory center—and an increase in amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
All subjects gave their optimistic/pessimistic views 20 years before the diagnosis was confirmed in some of them.
Among the 158 subjects who had MRIs, those holding more-negative views showed three times more hippocampal decline than those with less-negative views. Among the 74 subjects who had autopsies, the negatives had a “significantly greater accumulation” of plaques and tangles.
"A cheerful heart is good medicine." -- Proverbs 17:22

Related: "older people have less anxiety and sadness and more overall satisfaction."

Friday, March 18, 2016

There May be Leftovers

For last night's St. Patrick's Day dinner our in-house advocate of organic ingredients insisted on buying everything at the local Whole Foods Market. The corned beef cost $10 a pound, and the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots enjoyed a similar multiple over the offerings from other supermarkets.

Preparing the corned beef was extremely simple: simmer in the pot for three hours, glaze with mustard and brown sugar, then roast for 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees. All was consumed.

This weekend I'm going to try again with the cheaper name brand (pictured) purchased at Costco. We'll see if the diners detect a difference. Even if they don't like it as much, at least this time there will be leftovers.

Related: corned beef and cabbage "have little or nothing to do with Ireland."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Heavy Metal

The ancient Okidata laser printer refused to print. The error codes on the primitive liquid crystal display insisted that the cartridges, fuser, and other electronics be replaced. Getting new parts would cost more than $300, the approximate cost of an entirely new model.

The printer was bulky and weighed over 50 pounds. It was an anchor, and not just a metaphorical one. I took it to the PARCA Donation Center in Redwood City. Clearing the clutter can be difficult but in this case it was easy.

Caution: clutter is not unequivocally bad. [bold added]
In one study, Kathleen Vohs, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, took 48 subjects individually into two types of rooms—one messy (with loose papers and pens strewn around the desk and floor) and one that was spic-and-span. She had the subjects do a classic test of creativity: Generate new uses for a Ping-Pong ball. When her team scored the results, the subjects who’d worked at a messy desk in a messy room were 28 percent more creative than those in the tidy environment. “When things are tidy, people adhere more to what’s expected of them,” Vohs says. “When things are messier, they break free from norms.”
Sorry, dear, I can't be creative if I'm picking up all the time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Maybe the Lines Will Be Shorter

 Santouka, San Jose
Fans of ramen are willing to travel great distances (okay, maybe up to an hour) for a bowl of hot, slurpy goodness, and we're no exception. The restaurants we favor are in Mountain View and San Jose. San Mateo has a couple of small ramen houses that are nearly as good, but there's always a line out the door. (Economists say that when demand exceeds supply, and when prices don't increase, there will be queuing.)

Ramen Dojo, San Mateo
Japanese chains have been eying the Bay Area ramen boom and are coming in full force:
In the first two months of this year, two Japan-based restaurant groups opened Mensho Tokyo and Nojo Ramen Tavern in San Francisco, joining outposts from two other Japanese chains: Men Oh Tokushima Ramen and Ajisen. A fifth, Ippudo, is slated to open a Berkeley location later this year, courtesy of a partnership with Panda Express.
May the tastiest noodles win.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fish Names

Slimehead (
While clicking around the WWW, I got distracted by fish names.

The Slimehead (aka orange roughy) got its name from mucus-filled canals on its head. Scientists believe that this feature allows slimeheads to sense predators (but not fishing trawlers, unfortunately), and is the reason that they can live more than 100 years.

Assfish (
The assfish is "actually a type of cusk-eel, an eel-like fish that resembles a 'glorified tadpole, with a bulbous head and a tapering tail.'" Assfish bodies are “soft and flabby, and their skeleton is light and reduced."

Slippery dick (
The slippery dick "wrasse is a small sized fish that can reach a maximum length of 35 cm." It is a protogynous hermaphrodite; in other words slippery dicks are born female and become males later in life.

No matter how old I get, there will always be an 8-year-old boy crying to get out.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tax-Season Scam

We first encountered an IRS-phone scam in 2014. We continue to get several a year, all threatening seizure of bank accounts or other assets. A recent variation is verifying information in order to process a return (when a refund is due, the credulous taxpayer is motivated to comply):
Scam artists call claiming they have the consumer’s tax return, and they only need to verify a few details to process the return. The scam tries to get taxpayers to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information like bank numbers or credit cards.
We get e-mail scams every day from crooks impersonating our bank and credit-card companies. We never click on the links, and if we do have a concern, go directly to the companies' secure websites (for example, and login to our accounts. If there's any question whatsoever, we switch over to other credit cards or bank accounts until the matter is cleared.

The reason IRS scams are effective is that the agency is feared more than any single private-sector company (most people are aware that it can seize assets and has caused harm to people and businesses who later proved innocent). It already has our private information, and there's no way to fight it except through the courts (we can't go to a competitor tax agency that will treat us better).

I am grateful that in one respect the IRS is old-fashioned: it conducts official business using letter correspondence. Anachronisms slow things down, but they can protect better, too.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Welcomed, not Feared

The rector of the local Episcopal Church has been here nearly 20 years, much longer than the average tenure for a minister at one location. None of us are looking forward to his retirement in four to seven years, when we will have to suffer through the hiring process: the minister departs, the Diocese appoints an interim priest, and the parish forms a search committee which will screen candidates who will be presented to the Vestry and congregation.

The entire process takes a year--if the parish is lucky--and a decline in membership nearly always occurs during the search.

I asked the minister after the service today, why does it have to be so stressful? In the private sector CEO retirements seem much better planned. The successor is identified well before the CEO leaves, knowledge and authority are transferred in an orderly fashion, and there may not even be a need for an interim leader. There's much less disruption in corporations that know of key departures ahead of time.

(Tweeted by Sean Lucas)
But the church is not a business, he replied. A new-rector search is an opportunity for the congregation to redefine itself. Other goals and other ways of doing things may be proposed without hurting the now-departed priest's feelings.

That's a point that I hadn't thought of. We happen to like this rector, but now I'm remembering other churches who were happy to see their minister leave.

The church is more like a marriage than a business, he said. One doesn't look for a new spouse while the current one is alive (!). In that light having an interim minister is crucial, because the interregnum (inter-rectorum?) is a period necessary for mourning the old and preparing for the new.

The church is one of society's oldest and hidebound institutions, and it's easy to forget that its roots lie in radical transformation that should be welcomed, not feared.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Where Backwardness is Sought

Affirmative action, a term that originated in the Kennedy Administration, had begun with the best of intentions: a method of redressing discrimination that had persisted in spite of civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees.

More than 50 years later, this humble blogger is of the opinion that affirmative action has outlived its usefulness. Too many resources are now devoted to claiming membership in "disadvantaged" groups that ironically are granted advantages through force of law. Affirmative action causes individuals to emphasize their differences; it exacerbates, not reduces, conflict. The above statements about human behavior and motivations are disputed in the United States; they are not so in India. [bold added]

Jats protest in Haryana (Hindustan Times)
Haryana’s Jats are angry. [Blogger's note: the state of Haryana has roughly 25 million people, of which 25%--6 to 7 million--are Jats.] Jealous that weaker, lower-caste groups get government aid, they want to be classified as equally deserving. Protests that started peacefully soon turned violent as rioters looted, pillaged and raped and blocked roads, railways and, most alarmingly, also a canal that supplies about half of Delhi’s water.

Since India’s independence, the government has made provisions to uplift the most downtrodden members of the caste system, known as Dalits, most often by means of state favours known as “reservations”: jobs and slots at universities set aside for the people who had been least likely to enjoy their benefits. None of the riots have been started by Dalits, who were traditionally known as “untouchables”. It is relatively clear who counts as a Dalit: about a quarter of the country’s population qualifies, including remote tribal groups. But since 1990 the national government has allowed other, somewhat less disadvantaged groups to claim similar benefits, if they can establish that they belong to the “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs). There are 11 formal criteria for admission into the ranks of the OBCs, but these are open to interpretation. Dalits and OBCs together may claim as many as 50% of a given state’s reservations. The Jats of Haryana, like the Patidars of Gujarat or the Kapus of Andhra Pradesh, all want to be counted among the OBCs to gain a slice of the social-welfare pie to which lowlier castes are entitled.
Corrective programs do address needs, but they often not only continue but expand with their original purpose transformed, long after the original problems have subsided.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Real Problem

This week's local transport news was puzzling to those who don't take BART regularly:
If you take up more than one seat you could fork up $100....The first offense would be $100 and the second $200. Anything after that, as much as $500.
Sure, your humble blogger is irritated when seat hogs won't move their bags when people are standing, but he prefers to handle this matter via moral suasion than the BART police. And causing a rude human being to pay $100 or more seems like an overly severe penalty for his lack of courtesy.

Homeless people stay in the BART stations, too. (SF Gate)
SF Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders says the real problem is about the homeless, who use the trains as shelter: [bold added]
If a simply inconsiderate passenger is taking up an extra seat for a backpack or luggage, another commuter will ask that person to make room. It’s only when the two-seat hog seems hostile, mentally ill or inebriated that others hesitate to inquire. Smell is also a factor.

During the winter months, the homeless can be especially vexing. When you are riding the train to work, it’s irritating to see others taking up space during heavy commute hours in an effort to stay warm and dry. The public pays fares to use BART as a conveyance, not to ride in railcars that double as homeless shelters (for which working stiffs also pay).

Also contributing to the dysfunction: Once you pay the minimum fare, you can ride all day.
The BART police don't have a rule for making people move, hence the seat-hog proposal.

A better course of action might be to address the ride-all-day behavior. For example, there could be an ordinance to make passengers leave the system after a certain amount of time has elapsed. BART police already "audit" the tickets of passengers; why not use ticket scanners to make sure they entered, say, within the past three hours? (Such a three-hour rule can be suspended if there's a train delay.)

A related story -- Study: BART is second-germiest transit system in the US

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Richer Than Rockefeller

Tennessee law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds reminds us that it's easy to lose perspective by watching the 24/7 (bad) news feed: [bold added]
in many ways, today’s Americans are richer than the original super-rich tycoon, John D. Rockefeller. Noting the absence of antibiotics, reliable birth control, air conditioning, on-demand music, television, contact lenses, dental care, jet travel, etc., economist Don Boudreaux comments: “Honestly, I wouldn’t be remotely tempted to quit the 2016 me so that I could be a one-billion-dollar-richer me in 1916. This fact means that, by 1916 standards, I am today more than a billionaire. It means, at least given my preferences, I am today materially richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916. And if, as I think is true, my preferences here are not unusual, then nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America’s richest man a mere 100 years ago."
John D Rockefeller (Daily Mail / Getty image)
Your humble blogger expressed the same sentiment in 2014:
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.
No matter how the elections turn out, we are richer than Rockefeller. © 2016 Stephen Yuen

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Too Much Marketing

(This post is tangentially related to yesterday's about password security.)

A letter from an alumni association encouraged me to sign up for a "free guide" to Long-Term Care Insurance, a subject that I've been meaning to investigate.

I was primed to accept when I saw the quid for the quo: my spouse's and my own birth date, my phone number(s), and e-mail (they already have my name and address).

That's too much information that will be forwarded to an insurance company database.

My former school, which has a multi-billion-dollar endowment and doesn't need this "partnership", should be careful how it chooses its "friends" (quote from the letter), especially if even a few alumni are aggravated enough to change their donation plans.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


(LinkedIn image)
A venerable, widespread rule of network security is to force users to change their passwords periodically, say, every 90 days. Research has shown that the cost of this policy exceeds the benefits if a user has a strong password.
“With a strong password, there is little to be gained having to change it every few months,” says password security expert and author of Perfect Passwords Mark Burnett. “Six months to a year will result in a better experience for users and allow for stronger passwords.” Just imagine the sanity gained by going a whole year without a single password-change prompt. Think of the morale boost alone!
Microsoft's criteria for a strong password:
  • Is at least seven characters long.
  • Does not contain your user name, real name, or company name.
  • Does not contain a complete dictionary word.
  • Is significantly different from previous passwords. Passwords that increment (Password1, Password2, Password3 ...) are not strong.
  • Contains characters from each of the following four groups:
    ---Uppercase letters
    ---Lowercase letters
    ---Symbols found on the keyboard (all keyboard characters not defined as letters or numerals)
  • An example of a strong password is J*p2leO4>F.
  • Your humble observer keeps his passwords, handwritten, on ten pages of notepad. Yes, he is aware that various services will keep track of all of one's passwords, but he is fearful of them being hacked, too.
    Only the paranoid survive. --Andy Grove, Intel founder

    Monday, March 07, 2016

    You Say Potato, I Say Solanum Tuberosum

    The College Board will eliminate "obscure vocabulary words" (BTW, isn't "vocabulary words" a redundancy?) from the SAT. Its January 26th press release reveals a sense of humor that the erudite educators have kept well hidden for 100 years:
    New York — Throughout its 100-year history, the abstruse vocabulary words of the SAT® have engendered prodigious vexation in millions of examinees annually. On Saturday, Jan. 23, students across the country participated in the terminal transpiration of the SAT in its habituated gestalt.

    To adumbrate the changes to be manifest in future administrations of the assessment: The new SAT will be more trenchant and pellucid, and the format will no longer pertinaciously reward students who punctiliously engage in the antediluvian praxis of committing idiosyncratic words to memory.

    College Board President David Coleman promulgated, “Your invectives and maledictions have been heard. Clemency has been granted.”
    I somewhat disagree. Rote memorization is good for the soul, praxis makes perfect, and I wish those kids would get off my lawn.

    Sunday, March 06, 2016

    Another Surprising Development

    (Photo from
    Donald Trump's march towards the Republican nomination has perplexed pundits, party leaders, and preachers.

    How can religious conservatives support someone who is so unlike "evangelical" Christians?
    The professed Presbyterian referred to the sacramental bread as "my little cracker" during a meeting with conservative Christian leaders last year; more recently, he tried to put money in an Iowa church's communion plate ahead of the state caucus.
    One of the problems with the "baseline premise of political analysis" that Republicans and religion go hand-in-hand is that there's no commonly accepted definition of evangelical. For example Barna Group religious researchers have a nine-point definition [numbers inserted for clarity]:
    “Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a (1) personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that (2) when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."

    “Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include (3) saying their faith is very important in their life today; (4) believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; (5) believing that Satan exists; (6) believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; (7) believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; (8) asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and (9) describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.
    Using Barna's definition, only 8% of Americans are evangelical. If accurate, evangelicals' importance to the Republican nomination is much less important, another surprising development in a very surprising election year.

    Saturday, March 05, 2016

    Welcome Inconvenience

    The downpours were a welcome inconvenience. A drought changes one's attitude. More, please.
    The first West Coast waves of a week of powerful storms arrived to provide strong evidence March will not be as parched as the month that preceded it.

    Steady rain fell in Northern California on Saturday and was expected to go statewide Sunday. Fresh and growing snow blanketed the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, ending a dry spell and raising hopes the drought-stricken state can get much needed precipitation.

    Friday, March 04, 2016

    Don't Get Too Comfortable

    Data analytics, aka "Big Data", has revolutionized sports and politics, so why not venture capital? MIT researchers list attributes of high-potential businesses: [bullets added]
  • Their names, for example, tend to be shorter and are
  • less likely to include the founder’s name.
  • They tend to be set up as corporations, not limited liability companies, and
  • they are often incorporated in Delaware, a state known for its business-friendly regulations.
  • They often apply for patents early in their corporate lives.
  • The analysis seems rudimentary and unrevealing: there are many failed businesses that share these characteristics. Given the rapid advance of artificial intelligence, however, venture capital analysts shouldn't get too comfortable.

    Thursday, March 03, 2016

    Super Steph

    2012 in Burlingame: Just another good NBA player with fans.
    Not being a sports blogger, your humble observer has had to restrain himself from commenting too often on the wondrous works of the Golden State Warriors, who are tearing up the NBA. If past months are prologue, they are well on their way to being regarded as the greatest basketball team of all time and Stephen Curry as one of history's greatest players.

    Our unambitious prediction from 2012: "the Golden State Warriors are quietly moving toward respectability."

    Professional basketball analysts have been more effusive about Mr. Curry:

    SF Chronicle - "Stephen Curry’s shot a thing of scientific beauty":
    “I’m absolutely certain Curry releases the ball at the angle of the softest shot,” [physics professor John] Fontanella said last week. “What that means is, he has mastered the technique of when the ball gets to the rim, it travels as slowly as it possibly can.

    “I’ve never seen anyone with a quicker release,” Fontanella said. “The science, quite simply, is the ball travels a shorter distance before the release. That’s part of it.[snip]

    “The second part is the wrist bend and the wrist snap. The shot occurs in a single motion; on a true jump shot, you put the ball on top of your head and then you snap the wrist. … He catches the ball and it goes to the basket in one motion.”

    Fontanella called him the most ambidextrous player he’s seen.

    Also consider Curry’s body control. Fontanella pointed to the way Curry jumps almost straight up on every shot — maybe a little forward, but remarkably on balance amid the speed of an NBA game.

    “I’ve never seen anyone with more consistent body motion,” Fontanella said.
    New York Times - "It’s Stephen Curry’s Game Now":
    Stephen Curry, a butterfly with a jump shot who is reshaping people’s understanding of the an outlier. He has caused a tipping point in basketball.
    (WSJ Graphic)
    Wall Street Journal - "Stephen Curry’s Science of Sweet Shooting; How a Nearly Perfect Shot Changes Every Golden State Warriors Game":
    To watch Stephen Curry play basketball is to witness a shooter unlike any the NBA has ever seen.

    His kinetic efficiency comes from Curry shooting as he’s jumping, rather than jumping and then shooting, which also lets him release the ball in as little as 0.3 second.

    The result is a sharp arc that has become Curry’s shooting hallmark....Curry’s shot is mathematically optimal, said John Carter of Noah Basketball.
    I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Steph does not put his pants on one leg at a time but hops into them with a single bound.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2016

    A Benefit to Everyone

    iPhone 5C like the terrorists' (Newsweek photo)
    Mark Cuban sides with Apple in its battle with the government. The major issues have been well-publicized over the past two weeks, and there's no need to recount them here.

    However, he does raise an issue that I've not heard elsewhere, if the government should prevail: [bold added]
    Once the phone is “cracked” by Apple or any device or Operating System developer, whatever is found by the FBI or whatever government agency is involved, is going to be labeled “planted” or false evidence. The defendants lawyer is going to scream as loud as they can that whatever was found was not originated by their client. That Apple, in cahoots with the government agency, modified their software to not only unlock the phone, but to also write to the device everything the government agency needs to gain a conviction. Pictures. Texts. Logs. Files. Videos. All originated and/or imported by the code in order to gain a conviction.
    Encryption is a benefit to everyone, even to the government that refuses to acknowledge it.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2016

    In Like a Lamb, Again (?)

    Foster City, 3/1/2016, 70 degrees: tiresome, isn't it?
    Like last year, the threatened winter storms have been disappointing.
    El Nino may be a bust and...the 5-year-old drought may hang around much longer. The Sierra Nevada snowpack has fallen below normal levels.
    However, there's still hope for rain.
    Starting Friday, forecasters are predicting a chance of rain or snow for 10 consecutive days.
    (Mercury News graphic)
    Also, the sunny, dry weather we're experiencing in the Bay Area doesn't count as much as what's been happening in the mountains:
    Despite the February stall, the Sierra is having a better snow year than at any point since 2011. Statewide, as of Monday, the snowpack was about 85 percent of normal for this time of year, compared with 19 percent last year, the lowest number on record.
    We've pulled out dead bushes in a section of the property. By April we'll know whether we should plant or pave.