Friday, July 12, 2024

It's Not Your Money, Peggy

(WSJ graphic)
Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, encourages Democrats to "embrace the chaos." [bold added]
The romantic route is to take personal responsibility and push the president to step aside. What follows is the Hail Mary pass: Say a prayer, throw the long ball and see who catches it. Devise a process—mini-primaries, open convention, figure it out—that lets the people of the party decide. Devise a formula whereby delegates can choose from five or six candidates. But open this thing up, anoint no one.

Elected officials, operatives and donors can’t in some grand cabal choose Ms. Harris as the directed heir. The country won’t respect it. Many in the party will resent it. They think she’ll lose. In four years she has, according to consistent polling, left most of the nation unimpressed. The Democratic establishment, such as it is, lost credibility by previously insisting on Mr. Biden when they could see he was impaired, and by blocking primary challenges. They can’t block all challengers again.

The vice president is never just “given” the presidency when he or she runs. They have always had to fight for it.

“It’s Kamala or chaos.” Then take chaos: Have the fight you fear. “We’ll have an intraparty war.” Then have it. “But Jeffrey Katzenberg says—” Whatever he says, do the opposite.

Ms. Harris deserves to be in the pool of candidates. Beyond that she can fight like everyone else.

The romantics are right and are seeing the situation clearly. They aren’t innocent: They understand the chaos that will ensue. But they know what U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq used to say: “Embrace the suck.” Open this up, take a chance. You may electrify America.
Ms. Noonan harks back to 1948, when the Democratic Party saw two major factions, the Progressives and the Southern segregationists, leave the tent. Against all odds, "give 'em hell" Harry Truman revived his campaign and won the election. She urges Democrats, who face risky decisions to "go for broke."
But Democrats should be Democrats again. When everything in your world is about to change, reach back to your old, best self.

Admit the chaos, own it, open this thing up, go for broke.
Democratic politicans and commentators often write op-eds about what struggling Republicans should do, and Republicans routinely ignore such advice. Now that the situation is reversed, Democrats will probably do likewise.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Comedy: is the Dam Breaking?

I stopped watching late-night comedy in 2009.

During the first decade (the "oughts") of the 21st century the jokes became more political and vicious, almost exclusively against Republicans and the Bush Administration. (Gone were the gentle chidings of Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, who focused on the personal foibles of politicians of all stripes.) Indeed, some of the fare was funny, but my laughter died down after the same jokes were told every weeknight for eight years.

In 2008 Barack Obama and the Democrats won landslide victories. They didn't need to compromise with Republicans on anything.

In 2009 I thought we'd start hearing jokes about the all-powerful Democrats, as comedians would follow the liberal mantra of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Instead, a year after Democrats won the election
David Letterman, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart still choose to joke about Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney's miscues but largely ignore the rich lode of material produced daily by this Administration.
The comics and their writers did their part by refraining to criticize President Obama for eight years, attacking Donald Trump throughout his Presidency, then laying off Joe Biden for three years as he deteriorated visibly after his election. In early 2024 they were still holding the line.
A new study from the Media Research Center found that 81% of all political jokes told on major late-night comedy shows in 2023 targeted conservatives.

The media watchdog analyzed each of the 9,518 political jokes told between six major daily late-night shows from January 3 through December 22, 2023, and found that 7,729 of them took aim at “someone or something on the right side of the political spectrum.”

The shows analyzed were ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “The Late Late Show with James Corden” (until its cancelation in April).
After Joe Biden made his senility obvious at the June 27th Presidential debate, there is no agreed-upon Democratic narrative to protect. Comedians can now direct their cruelties against Democrats (except for Kamala Harris, who may well become the party's nominee ).

Jon Stewart's monologue was something that I've been waiting for over 20 years.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

A Good Idea, but They Didn't Ask Permission

(Chronicle photo)
Last week we wrote about how the Hillsborough "Flintstone" House will become open to the public for a short period as a high-end sushi restaurant.

Your humble blogger wondered why the snooty community would allow such commercial use, especially since the property's owner, Florence Fang, had a history of disputes with her neighbors about the use and appearance of the house. Now that shoe has dropped.
On Friday, the Hillsborough Police Department sent the owner of the Flintstone House, Florence Fang, a letter warning her that the sushi business could be in violation of the town’s zoning ordinance.

“Restaurants and other commercial uses are not permitted in a residential zone, even on a temporary basis,” wrote Linda Stevens, code enforcement officer for Hillsborough police. “You and the restaurateurs may not have been aware that this use would be illegal. Since you are now on notice about this restriction, please inform the operators that they may not open for business.”

In a statement, the owners of Stoneage Omakase said the business has been “incorrectly classified as a restaurant, which has led to this misunderstanding. We look forward to working with the city to resolve this issue.”
The business owners said that the food will be catered, not cooked on premises. In the meantime, reservations will be canceled and any deposits returned.

Hillsborough, the home of the descendants of Bing Crosby and William Randolph Hearst, doesn't sound like a fun, welcoming place, and I'm sure the town likes to encourage that impression.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Still Second Place

A problem that concerns approximately zero percent of the American population: some Manhattan Ivy League social clubs can't attract new members and are shutting down: [bold added]
New York’s storied Ivy League club circuit dates back to the 19th century. For years, these membership organizations were considered among the most prestigious in the country.

These days, say alumni and former members, the clubs have fallen out of fashion. The venues are victims of dated decor, mediocre food and in some cases lingering dress codes—for most of their histories, these clubs have required men to wear coats and ties—out of step with young alums.
It appears that the Yale Club will do almost anything to stay in business:
The Yale Club changed its admission process to accept members without an affiliation to the university. Most anyone can now apply to the club if she or he has the endorsement of at least two members, according to a club document.

...Still, the clubs have loosened their rules to some degree over the past several years. For decades, dress codes have been a fault line between older and younger alumni. In 1999, the Yale Club became the first of Manhattan’s Ivy clubs to allow casual dress on Friday in an attempt to attract younger members and creatives.

The Yale Club today allows jeans throughout the clubhouse, and the Harvard Club now permits “casual attire”—except in two of its main halls after 5 p.m.
The Harvard Club:  inviting guests is a good way
to let them know you went there.
Harvard has the oldest (1865) and wealthiest social club, and its membership is one of the few that appears to be growing. Yale's social club, as the New Haven university does in other areas of endeavor, is trying to keep up with Harvard's.

Your humble blogger thinks that Yale's strategy of letting anyone in is misguided. If the price of membership growth is the loss of exclusivity, the price is too high.

"I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."--Groucho Marx

Monday, July 08, 2024

Truths Don't Care Who Finds Them Inconvenient

And now for some good news about climate change, specifically, that one of its supposedly worst effects has abated after 2021:

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states why global warming harms coral reefs:
Climate change is the greatest global threat to coral reef ecosystems. Scientific evidence now clearly indicates that the Earth's atmosphere and ocean are warming, and that these changes are primarily due to greenhouse gases derived from human activities.

As temperatures rise, mass coral bleaching events and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent. Additionally, carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere has already begun to reduce calcification rates in reef-building and reef-associated organisms by altering seawater chemistry through decreases in pH. This process is called ocean acidification.
Although your humble blogger is no scientist, he can tell from the language that the NOAA regards what should be a hypothesis ("Climate change = ocean change") as proven.

A little humility from this most recent data, compiled from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, is in order from American scientists, who should be trying to explain why there's a conflict between the Australian data and the dominant climate-change narrative. My expectations for the NOAA to do so are nil, based on the gaslighting behavior of other agencies in the American government.

Note--quotes from two 20th-century dead white males:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind - what do you do, sir?”

Sunday, July 07, 2024

"Take Nothing for Their Journey"

Today's reading from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 6:
"He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics."
The minister said that she took two lessons from Jesus' command to travel lightly: that we must have faith in a "radical dependence on God" and that we must be willing to "let go of our grip on those long-held practices and traditions that may not be helpful anymore."

Concerning the latter, she clarified that she doesn't mean that we must throw out the liturgy and all our traditions, but that we must be open to listen to the Spirit's voice if it tells us to change.

At this stage in my life, it's the former lesson, to leave our possessions behind, that speaks most loudly. All the financial security in the world can delay one's fate but not prevent it. In the end our accomplishments, our wealth, and any pride we might have in them mean little except more material for the obituary.

Later in Mark, Chapter 10, Jesus is more specific (my own reflection and not part of the minister's sermon): [bold added]
17 And when He had gone forth onto the road, there came one running, and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

18 And Jesus said unto him, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor thy father and mother.’”

20 And he answered and said unto Him, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.”

21 Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him and said unto him, “One thing thou lackest: Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

22 And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.
I am and have been that young man, unwilling to take that final step and leave all behind. Sure, there are justifications that few will quarrel with--I have to take care of my family, I don't want to be a burden to others, etc.

But it's also true that what we thought of as a choice--to take nothing for the journey--was never in the end really a choice at all.

Saturday, July 06, 2024

Berries: Sweeter than Ever

Raspberries and strawberries are sweeter than
ever, and we replenish them 2-3 times per week.
We've been buying berries in order to add more anti-oxidants to our diet. Initially most of them were tart (except for blueberries), and we ate them because they were good for us, not because of their taste.

Over the past year berries of all kinds--not just popular strawberries but "blacks, ras, and blues"-- have become noticeably sweeter. Despite higher prices the market is exploding:
The U.S. berry market is worth about $9 billion annually, which is up more than 40% over the past five years, according to NielsenIQ. Strawberries are the most popular berry, but the entire category is one of the most promising areas of growth in the entire grocery store. In fact, berries now sell twice as much as any other fruit.

Most shoppers buy regular berries. Others splurge on organic berries. But more are now filling their carts with these luxury berries.

If you want to know how to find them, all you have to do is look at the label—yellow for conventional berries and green for the organics. If you spot a clamshell with a Driscoll’s Sweetest Batch sticker, you’re staring at the premium brand, the finest berries of a company that trademarked the phrase “only the finest berries.”

...There is sticker shock in every part of the grocery store these days. But no matter how much they might cost, Americans continue to inhale berries. They’re the rare food that can be eaten for breakfast and for dessert. They’re also more snackable than most food—and most fruit. And they have one of the highest household-penetration rates in the produce aisle, according to NielsenIQ. Jonna Parker, who leads market-research firm Circana’s work on fresh foods, put it this way: “Berries are now ubiquitous.”
Technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, space travel, medicine, and energy capture all the headlines, but advances in agriculture are perhaps the most impactful to our daily lives.

Friday, July 05, 2024

Declaring Independence....From Grilling

The July 4th traditions notwithstanding, it was too hot to do backyard grilling--or any cooking for that matter--so yesterday we headed to Nijiya Market where there was a broad selection of take-out Japanese dishes. There were dozens of other shoppers, mainly of the Asian persuasion, who had the same idea.

We threw sushi, ramen, salads, and barbecued chicken into the basket. We watched the fireworks from a mile away and went to bed right after. On this Independence Day we were free to engage in as much tradition as we wanted.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Five Years Ago

Five years ago July 4th was a day of personal sadness. The post is reprinted below:
Alfred, 20, in Fukuoka (1945)
My father died earlier this week.

Starting the sad process of notifications and filings, we looked high and low for his discharge papers. Then we opened his wallet. Miniaturized to the size of a credit card, they commemorated events of 72 years ago. He always carried them.

The greatest generation won a two-front war against the most powerful war machines in history, then battled a determined adversary for over 40 years, during which a misstep would have killed many millions. We owe them our independence and our very lives.

On this Independence Day we humbly give thanks.

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Not the Caveman Diet

Bedrock architecture (Chronicle photos)
The last time we posted about the "Flintstone" house was five years ago.

In its latest iteration the Hillsborough home is a high-end sushi restaurant:
Stoneage Omakase will launch July 12 with a 15-course, $230 omakase menu inside a dimly lit, cave-like private dining room at the Bay Area landmark. A temporary pop-up run by a catering company, it’s the first time the Flintstone House, which sold in 2018 for $2.8 million, has been open to the public. (It was available to rent on Airbnb in 2016.)

The acclaimed chef behind the sushi is Masa Sasaki, who previously worked at the Michelin-star Maruya in San Francisco and his own restaurant Sasaki, both now closed. Sasaki was also slated to open a sushi bar as part of a splashy project at the Salesforce Transit Center rooftop before the plan fell apart. An Instagram video shows a menu with dishes like kurodai (black sea bream) nigiri and akami zuke (marinated tuna).
This is an inspired use of the property. Patrons get a Michelin-quality dinner along with a tour of the house.

I'd sign up, but Stoneage Omakase has stopped taking reservations. Here's wishing Chef Sasaki a successful, extended run.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Jiggling Too Much Can Get You Fired

I took early retirement in the oughts when people worked in the office full time.

Workers took computer breaks by web surfing, online shopping, and playing Solitaire. As long as we didn't engage in these activities too long or too often--there weren't specific numerical criteria--our employer didn't mind. The protocols didn't have to be spelled out, and for the most part it just took a passing manager's raised eyebrow to show where the line was.

The phenomenon of working from home has resulted in the formalization of employee monitoring. Also, technological advances have accelerated the "arms race" between employees who devise new ways to goof off and employers who measure productivity. [bold added]
It’s getting harder to outsmart the digital minders at work.

The rise of remote work and, in turn, employee-monitoring software sparked a boom in mouse and keyboard jigglers and other hacks to help staffers fake computer activity—often so they can step away to do laundry or a school pickup.

Now some companies are cracking down on the subterfuge, deploying tools that can better spot the phony busywork.

The latest salvo in this productivity-tracking arms race came in a recent regulatory filing from Wells Fargo. In the disclosure, first reported on by Bloomberg News, the bank said it had fired more than a dozen employees in its wealth and investment management unit for allegedly simulating keyboard activity to create the “impression of active work.”
Here's an ad for a mouse jiggler, a device that didn't exist back in my day.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Sneezing: Letting It All Out

(BBC photo)
I've had some bad hay fever days, but nothing like this:

Florida man sneezes his intestines out of his body at restaurant
A Florida man eating in a diner with his wife recently sneezed so forcefully it caused parts of his intestines to exit his body through a surgical wound, according to researchers.
Details are found at the above link, and your humble blogger has mercifully omitted them from this post. Paramedics and doctors put things back where they belong, and the patient is expected to recover fully.

Despite the sensational nature of this incident, it does have some scientific value: [bold added]
The journal notes that the case is an important one because it fills in gaps in the literature about dehisence, the bursting of wounds.

"While wound dehiscence is a well-known complication, this case is important because evisceration through the abdominal surgical site after cystectomy is poorly described in the medical literature,” the article concludes.
If I ever have surgery during allergy season, I'm pumping myself full of antihistamines.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Presiding Bishop Sean Rowe

Press release from the Episcopal Church:
The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of the Episcopal Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, was elected and confirmed the 28th presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church on June 26 for a nine-year term beginning Nov. 1.

Rowe was chosen from among five nominees on the first ballot, with 89 votes out of 158 votes cast; 82 votes were needed to elect. Following his election by the House of Bishops, the House of Deputies confirmed the election, with 778 votes for, 43 votes against...

Rowe, 49, was ordained bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania in 2007 and became bishop provisional of Western New York in 2019. From 2014 to 2018, he served as bishop provisional of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem.

Born in Sharon, Pennsylvania, Rowe earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Grove City College, a master of divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in organizational learning and leadership from Gannon University.

Rowe was the youngest Episcopal priest in the U.S. when he was ordained in 2000 at age 24, and he was the youngest member of the House of Bishops when he was ordained and consecrated at age 32.

Known for his research and work on organizational learning and adaptive performance in the church, Rowe serves as parliamentarian for the House of Bishops and the Episcopal Church Executive Council; chair of the Episcopal Church Building Fund; and as a member of the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, and Constitution and Canons. He also serves on the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable. In 2018, he became the first bishop to serve on the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church.

Rowe is married to Carly Rowe, a Christian educator; they have a daughter named Lauren.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Yesterday was Mom's 95th birthday. The facility where she has lived for four years set up a conference room for her family to use. Her birthday cake was a chocolate cupcake with "9" and "5" candles, which she blew out with alacrity.

Those of us who weren't there were able to join the party on FaceTime.

Happy Birthday, Mom, and many more.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

A Thankless Task

(Image from Carby & Carby)
We have close friends and relatives who have been executors of estates (and we ourselves are co-executors of our parents'). The job goes smoothly if the estates are relatively small--say an owned home plus less than $1 million in liquid assets--, the heirs (typically siblings) get along, and the decedent leaves a will. In the absence of those conditions, the job is time-consuming and stressful. Many people turn it down.
In many cases, estate lawyers said, people named as executors don’t want the job, or decline it. “It happens all the time,” said Roy Kiecke, an estate lawyer in Austin, Texas. “Mom and Dad come in and don’t want to name one of the kids, so they appoint brother Bob, and he goes, ‘Huh?’ ” He recommends that people writing their wills ensure their named executors are up to the job—and revisit the choice every few years.

Naming a family member feels natural, but a grief-stricken relative might not be able to cope with the task. Picking one child can lead to resentment from siblings, while having co-executors can result in stalemates.

“If you’re hesitant, then that probably means that’s not the right person,” said Chasity Sharp Grice, an estate lawyer in Memphis, Tenn.

Especially in situations where conflict between heirs is likely, it is better to choose an impartial third party, such as a friend, lawyer or accountant, estate lawyers said.
One of our California friends has spent over a year handling his mother's estate on the East Coast. There are complications because one of his siblngs passed away years ago and his kids want the parent's share, but it wasn't specified in the will. Our friend will try to do something for them, but the surviving siblings have objected.

Yes, being an executor is an often thankless task where, despite best efforts, one will end up being the bad guy.