Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It Sucks Just a Little

Duct tape had reached its limit.
After 30 years the central vacuum system was still working, but the same couldn't be said of the 30-foot hose. Mottled by cracks and holes, the hose's duct tape had its own duct tape. The suction power was only a little stronger than a good handheld vacuum.

I looked online for a replacement hose, but no one seemed to carry one that had our connector. And so it was that I found myself in southern San Jose, trying to find the successor to the company that had installed the original vacuum system.

Several websites suggested that the business could be found on Blossom Hill Road. One elderly resident said that she had seen a guy in a "two-story house" selling vacuum parts. After vainly searching, I knocked on the door of a house (pictured) that could have been involved with a hardware/car/parts business. The young man said that the previous owner, who left no forwarding address, had sold vacuum cleaners.

Stil strong
Though I made no progress toward the objective, I got outdoors, had a nice walk, and met some people. I've had worse days.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We Can't Go Against Tradition

One tradition that has survived three generations is hauling food back and forth between Hawaii and the Mainland.

Transporting food on the airplane made sense in the Sixties. My late paternal grandmother insisted that San Francisco Chinatown produced roast duck, preserved sausages, and dried mushrooms that were much superior to what we could buy in Honolulu. The last day of a Mainland trip was always spent shopping, wrapping, and packing.

With California merchants shipping to the four corners, the traffic now goes the other way. For the past two weeks we've been breakfasting on Portuguese sausages carried by a returning traveler. Next month it will be my turn to pick something up. Whatever it turns out to be, it won't be healthy.

Monday, November 28, 2016

It Was All My Doing

As we observed on Thanksgiving Day, average Americans are now by some measures richer than the richest man in the world of 100 years ago.

But how does middle-class America compare to the rest of the world today? It doesn't take that much to be counted in the wealthiest 10% of the world's population. according to The Economist:
If you had $71,560 or more, you would be in the top tenth. If you were lucky enough to own over $744,400 you could count yourself a member of the global 1% that voters everywhere are rebelling against.
NASDAQ graphic from 2015
Here on the SF Peninsula, one could get to $744,000 just by buying a middle-class house in a middle-class suburb 20 years ago and making the debt payments. The mortgage is likely to be under $200,000 by now, and the home can sell for over $1 million.

Persistence, and the good fortune of living close to companies worth $3 trillion, that's all one needs to be in the 1%.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ideal Church-goer

Gene's guide dog, Linmar, has come to church nearly every Sunday for over five years. He lies peacefully for an hour but does not drift off to sleep like many of the two-legged worshippers. He never barks or stirs, even when pummeled by toddlers.

He responds instantly to commands from a supine position, again much faster than the average Episcopalian.

If Linmar could sign/initial/paw-print a pledge card, he would be on the Vestry in no time...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Unwinding and No Winding

For many functions the Watch needs an iPhone nearby
Spending a quiet Thanksgiving weekend at home and munching on leftover turkey was just what was needed to recharge the batteries.

Speaking of things that need recharging, I played around with a belated birthday present, a new Apple Watch. The watch will likely be another "indispensable" modern device (mobile phone, TiVo, GPS) that I originally didn't think that I would need.

(Image from personalfintech)
The ability to dictate short text messages using the watch is a boon---yes, one can perform the same function on the iPhone but it seems a lot easier to do that on the watch.

Besides, I can finally look like one of my childhood heroes...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Not Pining for Brining

Ice bucket from 2012
This year I didn't feel up to the two-day prep for brining the turkey, especially the part where I had to reconfigure the outside refrigerator to accommodate the ice water bucket.

Dry brining--rubbing down the turkey with spices the day before--sounded like just the ticket. To safeguard against dryness I began roasting the turkey under low heat (225 degrees F) after midnight; 12 hours later the bird was pronounced excellent by the small group of guinea pigs diners.

Though its texture was good, I thought the turkey was lacking the flavor that a one- or two-day soaking will impart, but I'm not a perfectionist.

Speaking of perfectionism, Bradley Cooper plays a celebrity chef who is on a relentless pursuit for his third Michelin star in 2015's Burnt. Head chef Adam Jones yells at his staff, hurls crockery filled with food, and rushes madly from station to station putting the finishing touches on each dish---in other words, he's Steve Jobs in the kitchen.

The haute cuisine cinematography is beautiful, and the non-stop frenzy behind the scene of a top-notch restaurant is captured realistically according to those in the know. Well worth a look.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving, 2016

A few weeks ago the local church was in the midst of its annual pledge campaign, and I was asked to say a few words. Some of them seem appropriate on Thanksgiving Day (they were inspired by last March's blog post, Richer than Rockefeller):
The immediate questions before all of us are how much, if anything, should I put down on my pledge card for next year, how many hours should I volunteer for, and in what ministries? If you are like me eventually you get a brain cramp and sign up for pretty much what you signed up for last year.

But I do find it useful once in a while to lift my head out from under my credit card statements, my pay stubs, tax returns and spreadsheets and try to look at the big picture.

The wealthiest person in the world, as most of you know, is Bill Gates, whose personal fortune is currently estimated to be $80 billion.

But historians say that the wealthiest person who ever lived was John D. Rockefeller, who at one time controlled 90% of the oil industry. Money Magazine took John D. Rockefeller’s fortune in relation to a much smaller American economy and also adjusted it for inflation. Money Magazine estimated that his wealth would be like having $250 billion today.

John D Rockefeller (Daily Mail / Getty)
100 years ago John D. Rockefeller was 77 years old---by the way he would live another 20 years---but would you trade places with him? He had an army of servants, but here’s a little of what we have and he didn’t:

1) We can be in Paris in 11 hours. It would take him a couple of weeks to get to Europe from California by rail and then by ship.

2) If any of us had a medical emergency, paramedics would be here in 10 minutes or less. We would be treated by methods that would be infinitely better than were available in 1916 by the best doctors in the world.

3) We have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. No matter how many people John D. Rockefeller had working for him, it would take them hours to research a topic in the Library of Congress and we can do it in minutes. For that matter, we have movies--with sound--and huge music libraries at our fingertips, too.

4) I am sure each of us can think of many more examples of progress---about how we can carry on a live conversation with a relative halfway around the world and see their faces, about how we can forecast to the hour when rain is about to start, about how we no longer need to keep a stack of maps in our glove compartment to know where we’re going.

When you look at it that way, hundreds of millions of us ordinary folk are each richer than Rockefeller.

How much of our wealth is represented by what’s in our bank account, and how much wealth do we have merely because we are alive in this time and this place?

And while we are thinking about wealth and how much to give, how much does the church give back to your own lives and that of your family? Are you wealthier because this church is alive in this time and this place?

You may not have a lot of room in your budget, but look at all the unfilled spaces on the ministries and the sign-up sheets. Offering your time and talent increases the wealth of our church just as surely as a monetary offering—possibly even more so.

We are each of us richer than Rockefeller, and our church adds to that richness in ways seen and unseen. Please help keep it that way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It's Nearly Thanksgiving, So of Course I'm Working on Taxes

2015 Federal (1040X) and California (540X) returns
The only thing worse than slogging through one's tax return is having to do it twice in the same year. And how was your weekend?

When the envelope arrived in June from the Subchapter S Corporation, I opened it eagerly---would it be another profit distribution? The balloon deflated when I saw the revised Form 1120S (K-1). The changes were material, and amended 2015 tax returns would have to be filed.

The amended returns had to be mailed in before the filing of the 2016 tax returns next April due to changed carryovers from 2015. After five months of procrastination, I worked through the adjustments. Over a dozen schedules were affected. (It's amazing and frankly alarming how many different calculations involve Adjusted Gross Income.)

The (small) refunds provide some solace, but as I've said before I'd support tax simplification in a heartbeat even if it meant that I'd pay more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Head for the Hills

( graphic)
Seismophobics who live in Northern California have taken ever-so-slight comfort in predictions that the next big one will hit Southern California first, after which Northerners can start worrying in earnest.

Now scientists say that the entire San Andreas fault could rupture, wreaking devastation on North and South alike: [bold added]
As many as 3.5 million homes could be damaged in an 8.3-magnitude quake along a roughly 500-mile portion of the fault—compared with 1.6 million homes damaged if only the northern part of the fault were to break, or 2.3 million if the southern piece ruptured.

The damage to homes alone could total $289 billion, compared with a previous range of $137 billion on the southern portion of the fault and $161 billion in the north, according to the CoreLogic analysis.

Researchers say a statewide quake above 8.0 would likely hit the Golden State once at least every 2,500 years. “We are talking about very rare earthquakes here,” said Maiclaire Bolton, a seismologist and senior product manager for CoreLogic.
I admit to being math-challenged in that bimillennial and centennial events cause me about the same amount of concern. The young 'uns are worried about getting their toes wet from seas rising, while I fear my house coming down around my ears. In either case the solution is the same. Head for the hills.

Monday, November 21, 2016

When One Big Mac Just Isn't Enough

(Time photo)
Just in time to test one's New Year's resolve, McDonald's will roll out the Big Mac's bigger brother, the Grand Mac, in early 2017.

Both the Grand Mac and the Mac Jr. launched in Florida this month, so if Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings still left you feeling empty, dear reader, head to the Sunshine State for that "hearty, beef-forward experience."

As for me, I'll just have to buy two Big Macs for the times when one just isn't enough.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Something Memorable

Last week your humble blogger listed Kate McKinnon's SNL opening as an example of comedians' Freakoutrage over the election, but that categorization was unjustified. Her performance was inspired, though it certainly was a deviation from the sharp comedy that typically leads off the show. The subdued applause reflected the audience's confounded expectation.

Dressed in her Hillary outfit, Kate McKinnon sang excerpts from Hallelujah, one of Leonard Cohen's (d. 11/7/2016) most famous songs. As she warbled "And even though it all went wrong, I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah" Kate's Hillary turned into a tragic figure, her lifelong quest turned to ashes partly through her own human weakness.

Christians are instructed to say "Hallelujah (Praise the Lord-PTL)" in bad times as well as good. Hillary Clinton, the lifelong Methodist, knows this, though people with only a popcorn understanding of Christianity typically don't understand how one can PTL in the midst of tragedy. For a moment SNL cast off its clown outfit and produced something memorable.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It Would be Huge, I Tell You

Long before he was huge (Boston Globe)
Normally a mid-season football game between the NFL's best (Patriots, 7-2) and worst (49ers, 1-8) teams would spark little interest, except that there's a local angle:

1) New England quarterback Tom Brady has never played the 49ers in San Francisco.

2) Tom Brady, on the short list of all-time greatest quarterbacks, was born in San Mateo and attended Junipero Serra High. (Serra is also the high school for Barry Bonds, one of baseball's greatest and most controversial players.)

3) The 49ers are going nowhere, Expect to see some cheering for the hometown hero, especially since, at 39, this is likely to be Tom Brady's last game in SF as well as his first.

Other notes:
  • A returning family member spoke to a number of Hawaii Brady fans (all guys, natch) who flew in last night just for Sunday's game.
  • The quote of the week was from 49ers safety Eric Reid:“I’ve been watching this guy for a long time. If I can get my hands on one of his balls, that would be huge for me and huge for this team.”

    [Update - 11/20: 1) Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes in the Patriots' 30-17 victory. 2) Eric Reid sustained a season-ending biceps injury. 3) New England fans were plentiful at Levi Stadium.]
  • Friday, November 18, 2016

    An Auspicious Start to the Season

    Two months after our last drop-off, we took five (5) Thanksgiving food boxes to CALL Primrose, the Burlingame food pantry founded by the Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

    We had signed up for four, but the church members filled five complete containers and even had some extra cans for the store room upstairs. The Parish will be asked to dig deep for four other charities in December, and the annual fill-a-box campaign for CALL Primrose was an auspicious start to the season.

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Greek Columns Then and Now

    2008: inspiring words and the adulation of millions (Brittanica).

    2016: walking amidst the ruins. (WSJ photo)

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016


    Kiplinger Personal Finance says Costco's store brand has three "best bets". We already buy the Kirkland Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.
    Bacon. In a taste test of bacon brands, Consumer Reports bestowed an “excellent” rating on just one product: Kirkland Signature Bacon ($10.99 for four 1-pound packages).

    Liquor. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck with the Kirkland Signature Tequila Añejo ($19.99 for 1 liter) and the Egg Nog Liqueur ($9.99 for 1.75 liters),
    Clearly we need to expand our sights beyond the healthy-food aisle.

    At $2.75 a pound, how could I say no?

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    Sooner Than Never

    Paul Krugman, the NY Times Nobel Prize-winning economist, instantly reacted to Donald Trump's election: [bold added]
    It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging [blogger's note: the futures plummeted 5% overnight, predicting a drastic fall on November 9th]. When might we expect them to recover?.... If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.
    The markets dipped Wednesday morning but surged when they digested the prospect of higher spending, lower taxes, and a decrease in regulatory red tape. Now the indexes are 3-5% higher a week after the election was called for Trump, better than the infinitesimal interest earned on cash and certainly sooner than "never".

    I hope Professor Krugman didn't act on his own forecast and go short. If he isn't more circumspect, he could make the Trump loser list.

    The Dow (.DJI), S&P 500 (.INX) and NASDAQ (.IXIC) are all higher after November 8th

    Monday, November 14, 2016

    A Great Problem and a Huge Opportunity

    Their balloons deflated, comedians need some helium:

    Wanda Sykes: “I am certain this is not the first time we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic president,” she said.

    Samantha Bee: “I guess ruining Brooklyn was just a dry run. The Caucasian nation showed up in droves to vote Trump.”

    Kate McKinnon: writes Ann Althouse - "She completes the song, then turns to us and says, earnestly, her eyes glistening with tears, 'I'm not giving up and neither should you.'" [Update: I watched Kate McKinnon's "cold open" of this week's SNL. Her rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah doubles as a tribute to the recently deceased songwriter and Hillary Clinton. After reflection it should not be lumped in with these examples of angry comedy.]

    John Oliver: “That is the front runner for the Republican nomination advocating a war crime!”

    It seems to this humble observer that anger, harangues, and lamentations do not good comedy make. As some feminists say, "That's not funny!" but hey, I'm not a professional comic.

    The election of Donald Trump is a great gift to comedians, who will, after an 8-year cease fire, be free to mock the Executive Branch of the government again. If they can do it without being mean or "blue" or overtly one-sided--and yes, they know where the lines are--comedians will be able to expand their audience much further than the bicoastal echo chambers they play in.

    Humor is a personal thing. Example: I find this funny.

    Sunday, November 13, 2016

    Old Humor

    Some Gahan Wilson cartoons are seared...SEARED! my brain.

    Here's one from 1970 that could refer to this week's election.

    (Image from Oakland Museum)

    Outward and Visible Signs

    (Gospel Side image)
    Signaling religious devotion has never been my thing:

    1) During our young-adult years the members of my generation by and large weren't followers of organized religion. To be accepted by the cool kids meant keeping one's light under a bushel.

    2) Deeds count more than outward and visible signs, anyway. As the song goes, they will know we are Christians by our love.

    3) Besides, who wants to be called out as a hypocrite when one inevitably messes up?

    4) Then there's Matthew 6: (italics added)
    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
    Now science says that it may be to one's social benefit to be pious in public.
    People perceive signs of religious observance in others as a measure of dependability, . Whether one fasts on Yom Kippur, wears a cross of ash for Lent or places a red dot in the middle of one’s forehead, such religious “badges” do more than just signal that you belong to a particular group. Other people see these displays as a shorthand for reliability.
    Perhaps a fish tattoo, tastefully done will open doors previously closed.
    The main thing is honesty. If you can fake that you've got it made.
    --Ed Nelson

    Saturday, November 12, 2016

    Picture and Words

    National Review editor and writer Reihan Salam likens Donald Trump to Richard Nixon (though probably not in the way that first comes to your mind, dear reader):
    Nixon would make peace with the New Deal and with activist government, having concluded that Goldwaterism was a dead end....Nixon believed that America had been betrayed by feckless, out-of-touch elites who had allowed the country to descend into chaos, and he effectively exploited both racial desegregation and crime as wedge issues. He promised to use the power of government on behalf of decent, law-abiding people—but not to dismantle the power of government.
    (Reuters / WSJ graphic)
    Reihan Salam evaluates major Republican figures over the last half-century across two dimensions: pro/anti-government and pro/anti-elite. Donald Trump and Richard Nixon are the only inhabitants of the pro-government, anti-elite quadrant.

    2x2 matrices are both revealing and over-simplifications of reality. For example, Dwight Eisenhower was clearly pro-government in his sponsorship of "a vast network of highways and world-class research universities." However, Ike's most famous speech, his 1961 farewell address, cautioned against the dangers of big government (the military-industrial complex.)

    Donald Trump has promoted border security and energy independence, both of which will indeed entail increases in spending.

    In the Republican debate from last March Mr. Trump also said that he will reduce government, potentially by a lot:
    As president, I will repeal every word of Obamacare. I will pull back the regulators that are killing small businesses.

    And we will pass a simple flat tax and abolish the IRS. [snip]

    [I will cut] Department of Education. We're cutting Common Core. We're getting rid of Common Core. We're bringing education locally. Department of Environmental Protection. We are going to get rid are of it in almost every form. We're going to have little tidbits left but we're going to take a tremendous amount out.
    Richard Nixon not only increased government spending but government's mission by creating the EPA and OSHA. If Donald Trump is to be believed, he will seek to remove some major functions. Let's see if Mr. Salam puts his picture in the same place in four years.

    Friday, November 11, 2016

    The Discomfiture of the Elites

    To no one's surprise the Economist endorsed Hillary Clinton last week: [bold added]
    The choice is not hard. The campaign has provided daily evidence that Mr Trump would be a terrible president. He has exploited America’s simmering racial tensions (see article). His experience, temperament and character make him horribly unsuited to being the head of state.[snip]

    This presidential election matters more than most because of the sheer recklessness [electing Trump] of that scheme. It draws upon the belief that the complexity of Washington is smoke and mirrors designed to bamboozle the ordinary citizen; and that the more you know, the less you can be trusted. To hope that any good can come from Mr Trump’s wrecking job reflects a narcissistic belief that compromise in politics is a dirty word and a foolhardy confidence that, after a spell of chaos and demolition, you can magically unite the nation and fix what is wrong.
    Wow, they really didn't like Donald Trump. If the Economist is trying to sway an undecided voter, or even one who is leaning to Mr. Trump, sneering condescension and value-laden adjectives (terrible, unsuited, narcissistic) directed toward Trump supporters aren't the way to do it. On the other hand, if one is merely engaging in virtue-signaling to its presumed Oxbridge/Ivy readership, then the writers did a fine job.

    Though I didn't vote for him, the discomfiture of the elites about the election results has been a wholly unexpected pleasure.

    In its post-mortem the Economist displays a glimmer of self-awareness:
    ordinary Americans...repudiate the media—including this newspaper—for being patronising, partisan and as out of touch and elitist as the politicians....The election of Mr Trump is a rebuff to all liberals, including this newspaper.
    However, they still expect Donald Trump to fail:
    We are deeply sceptical that he will make a good president—because of his policies, his temperament and the demands of political office.
    Baby steps. Baby steps.

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Better Than What They Paid For

    Big Bank stocks' increase in less than two days: Citigroup +7.82%, J.P. Morgan Chase +9.68%,
    Bank of America +10.91%, Goldman Sachs +11.60%, Wells Fargo +13.78%

    Hillary Clinton was the friend of Wall Street, but the election of Donald Trump, coupled with the Republican retention of both houses of Congress, has powered financial stocks higher probably beyond bankers' wildest hopes if their candidate had won. One reason could be the President-elect's desire to streamline cumbersome Dodd-Frank regulations:
    House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) last year laid out a blueprint for replacing Dodd​-Frank​, and ​ many observers view ​that ​as a starting point. It is built around a trade-off: Banks can free themselves from various regulations, such as tough stress testing, so long as they maintain capital equal to at least 10% of total assets and high ratings from the regulator.
    Republicans should temper their enthusiasm for helping the banks. Sure, get rid of red tape that slows everything down and maybe loosen capital requirements slightly, but be very cautious about letting the financial gunslingers roam free. [bold added]
    [Republicans] also risk losing support if they push too far, according to lobbyists and congressional aides.

    For instance, some Republicans are split over the idea of removing Title II of Dodd-​Frank, which gives financial regulators authority to take over and unwind huge financial firms as a way of avoiding future bailouts. On the other hand, ​Republicans might need to pick up some Democratic votes to move the bill through the Senate, and that party is almost sure to oppose major changes to core Dodd-Frank provisions, such as the Volcker ​rule barring banks from some forms of proprietary trading.
    The wounds from the 2008 financial crisis that ruined millions are still fresh, and folks, your allegiance is to the people who elected you, not the Wall Street elite who will throw you over the side if they can get a better deal from the other guys.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2016

    Unexpectedly Reflective

    Though he must have been tempted, Stephen Colbert foregoes his bash-the-Republicans shtick in favor of quiet reflection. The election is over, so normal people should get back to their lives.

    If this is the real Stephen Colbert, I should tune in more often.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2016

    No, I Didn't Vote for Him

    Whether Donald Trump wins or loses, I'm leading with that titular sentence whenever someone wants to discuss the election.

    I live in one of the coastal counties of deep blue California, where people think it's acceptable to declare, without being asked, the unacceptability of the Republican nominee. Just this week I listened to two such declarations from people I must deal with on a regular basis.

    Knowing that it's more important to be against the disgusting, evil, racist, sexist Republican than it was to be for the Democrat, I didn't vote for him (or her for that matter) so that I wouldn't be lying to anyone about my vote.

    No, I'm not going as far as Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams did in June [bold added]:
    So I’ve decided to endorse Hillary Clinton for President, for my personal safety. Trump supporters don’t have any bad feelings about patriotic Americans such as myself, so I’ll be safe from that crowd. But Clinton supporters have convinced me – and here I am being 100% serious – that my safety is at risk if I am seen as supportive of Trump. So I’m taking the safe way out and endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

    As I have often said, I have no psychic powers and I don’t know which candidate would be the best president. But I do know which outcome is most likely to get me killed by my fellow citizens. So for safety reason, I’m on team Clinton.
    (Scott Adams subsequently changed his endorsement twice, by the way. You'll have to search his blog, dear reader, for more details because I would not want to be responsible if anything happened to him.)

    A nanosecond after the polls closed, California was placed in the Clinton column. My vote didn't matter in the Presidential race at all, but it will be very useful during the next four years because I won't have to defend any of President Trump's actions to an outraged person.

    What if California became a swing state and I was forced to pick one or the other? As the politicians say, I don't answer hypothetical questions.

    Monday, November 07, 2016

    Etymological Evolution

    How would you look after 74 years?
    When the Internet was just a gleam in Albert Gore, Jr.'s eye, I was told to "look it up in the dictionary" when I wanted to know the definition or spelling of a word. When the student dictionary did not suffice, I referred to my mother's massive Webster's New International Dictionary which was (whisper) unabridged. It was comforting that everything I needed to know was contained in that volume: [bold added]
    the most reassuring thing about a dictionary is its finite nature. A small dictionary contains all the words you need to know, and a really big one seems to contain all the words in existence. Having one nearby seems to say that the language has boundaries, and reasonable ones at that.
    It now turns out that our thinking was limited: a dictionary is a database (a word that didn't exist pre-1965).
    A dictionary is really a database; it has fields for headword, pronunciation, etymology, definition, and in the case of historical dictionaries like the OED, citations of past usages. Its natural home is one that allows the reader to consult it in any way that makes sense. Look up a single word. Or look up all the citations by a single author. Or those which share a root: only such a tool can tell you that the OED knows of 1,011 words ending in –ology, against 508 with –ography.
    Something physical--a dictionary--is really an information construct. My head is beginning to hurt. (Of course, the headache isn't real because the entire universe is a simulation.)

    Sunday, November 06, 2016

    It Doesn't Get Better

    Our church's growing Indian cohort grew by one a few months ago.

    In time-honored tradition, Simran was baptized on the Sunday after All Saints Day. She complained loudly, as a baby is wont to do when there's lots of commotion and water is poured over her head. After the sacrament she quieted as she and her parents, baptismal candle in hand, passed the peace.

    We happily munched on chicken tandoori and cake. Adding a member (young and non-Caucasian--I only mention those facts because they're highly important to the shrinking U.S. Episcopal Church) along with good food---it doesn't get better than that.

    Saturday, November 05, 2016

    Not So Trivial

    (Photo from
    Economist Tyler Cowen calls it one of the best and most important job market papers of the year.

    Reshmaan Hussam and three other newly minted Economics PhD's authored Habit Formation and Rational Addiction: A Field Experiment in Handwashing. At first glance the subject seems trivial: "everyone knows" that regular handwashing slows the spread of disease.

    Reshmaan Hussam
    However, like other low-cost beneficial behaviors (eating healthier, exercising moderately, sleeping more), the majority of people don't hand-wash consistently.
    “Every home has soap, and everyone knows that handwashing with soap is important, yet hardly anyone [in Bangladesh] does it,” Hussam says. “Existing public health campaigns don’t ask why. If we want to see progress on these simple but valuable preventable health activities, we need to understand the behavioral reasons for why people aren’t taking up [healthy habits].”
    The dispenser was specially designed.
    Reshmaan Hussam turned her attention to her homeland, Bangladesh, and designed an ambitious study that: 1) incentivized household members to wash their hands regularly, 2) measured the time of day and frequency of handwashing by means of an electronic dispenser, 3) measured a significant reduction in children's respiratory infections and diarrhea, correlated with handwashing.

    Perhaps most importantly the researchers found that handwashing became a habit even after the incentives and the monitoring were removed. (The paper has a long technical section on applying the good behavior of handwashing to "rational addiction" theory that economists have used to explain alcoholism and smoking.)
    This exercise offers the first well identified estimate of the presence of rational habit formation, and additionally for good habits, in the literature. These findings inform the optimal incentive design of programs that seek to increase the takeup of good habits; namely, if a behavior is habit-forming, then an intervention may do better to front-load incentives, and thereby maximize habit stock, rather than spread incentives over time.
    To this humble non-economist, this is the rare economics study that both is insightful and has the potential to save thousands of lives.

    Friday, November 04, 2016

    No Class

    The plastic was torn at bottom left and one bottle removed.
    Costco sells its branded Kirkland water at $2.99 per 40 bottles. At 7½ cents a bottle it's one of the deals that keep us coming back, just like the $4.99 whole rotisserie chicken and the $1.49 hot dog-and-soda.

    If a shopper wants a chilled bottle immediately, he can buy one from the vending machine out front for 25 cents, another bargain.

    I couldn't understand why someone would steal one of the room-temperature bottles, "saving" 7½ or 25 cents and making the 40-pack unsellable. Some people.

    (BTW, a few feet away I found another case in the same condition.)

    Thursday, November 03, 2016

    Hell Froze Over

    Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo begins the celebration.
    Like "when hell freezes over," Cubs win World Series has been a short-hand expression in science fiction time-travel to show how unexpected (or ridiculous) the future turned out to be. Last night was also a time to re-acquaint Americans with history. The Fox Sports announcers commented on who was alive in 1908, the last time that the Cubs won the World Series e.g., Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell. The SF Chronicle made other gee(zer)-whiz observations:
    At the time, Theodore Roosevelt was president, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states, and the first Ford Model T car was two weeks old.
    The science-fiction writers will now have to come up with a different metaphor. By the way, given the advances in genetics, I wouldn't give "when pigs fly" a long shelf-life either.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2016

    Mystery Dish - Part II

    Four months after our previous visit, my gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems were ready for another lunch at Café Bakery.

    I ordered the lunch special. In July it was pork chops with broccoli sauce over rice.

    It's easier this time: can you guess what this is?

    Tuesday, November 01, 2016

    November, Full of Portent, Begins

    a person should say "rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit", "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit", "rabbit, rabbit" or simply "white rabbits" upon waking on the first day of each new month, and on doing so will receive good luck for the duration of that month.
    It's been over four years since I uttered "rabbit, rabbit" on the first of the month---and I'm not particularly superstitious---but the end times may be near and we're going to need a lotta luck.
  • There's a realistic chance that a loudmouth businessman with no political experience is going to be the next President. It shows how bad things are that I am considering voting for him.
  • Italy, the center of Western Christendom, has been hit by a wave of earthquakes.
  • "David Levy, an artificial-intelligence expert and author of “Love and Sex with Robots,” believes humans will be having sex with interactive robots within the next year or so, falling in love with them after that and marrying them by 2050."
  • There's a realistic chance that (11/2 Update!) the Cubs will win the World Series.