Sunday, December 05, 2021

Reconstruire Mieux, Non

Only Luddites would object to a pool on the roof.
2½ years ago Notre-Dame Cathedral was engulfed in flames. Somehow, miraculously, it was spared. In what has been termed "the world’s greatest act of collective cultural philanthropy"
Over $940 million has already been collected from donors, some 340,000 in all, from all over the world.
Initial attempts to modernize the reconstruction met with vociferous resistance, and the exterior will be restored to the original.

Now the controversy is over the interior.
The illuminated pictures do look like Disneyland
Now we learn from the Telegraph newspaper (and two European online journals) that the cathedral interior is to be updated—and in the most radical fashion.....the intact interior, is to be transformed into something akin to a contemporary art installation or theme park...

The grand nave, the central passage of the cathedral, is to be lined with Renaissance-era paintings, one above each of the Gothic capitals.

The idea is to make the Catholic faith the 12 million tourists, many with little or no knowledge of Catholicism, who arrive each year. To make them feel more welcome, phrases in their native languages are to be projected on the wall.
Traditionalists, which include your humble blogger, do not believe in "restoring" documents, works of art, or other relics to make them more "accessible" to modern viewers. As the essayist points out:
If those tourists want information about the Catholic faith in digital form, they can find it far more abundantly on the phones in their back pockets. It is a losing game to compete with virtual reality; the result can only be a simulacrum of a simulacrum.
With the right technology one can have both--the original physical experience of Notre Dame and the visual and auditory enhancement that can be superimposed over the physical. Using augmented reality tools would be more informative than images projected on walls, and there is no need for any controversy over reconstruction.

Just make sure the WiFi signal is strong.

Note: to their credit the French didn't have the nerve to call the project reconstruire mieux (building back better).

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Antibodies Multiplying

The post-jab waiting area was a tad smaller than
the cavernous Moscone Center last March
Traffic was heavy on San Francisco's surface streets--nearly back to normal--as I pulled into the garage at the California Pacific Medical Center on Castro.

The entire process went smoothly, the registration, the Moderna booster, the 15-minute wait, and the drive back.

Despite feeling no immediate side effects, I rushed to finish three chores. Nearly everyone in my circle had a worse reaction to the booster than the original vaccinations; some were out of commission for four days, and I was worried about a similar fate.

Sure enough, the injection site began throbbing on Friday evening, and everywhere started aching like in a bad case of the flu. Just to be clear, it was not the flu since there's no temperature or sneezing or coughing. Besides, I got the flu shot in September.

This morning I've been dozing intermittently and have been otherwise useless---a typical Saturday in other words--but the trajectory is positive. I can feel the antibodies multiplying.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Mixing it Up on a Friday Morning

Like shopping on Black Friday--at least, how it used to be before the coronavirus--the advantage in getting vaccinated goes to those who get up early.

The earliest Sutter Health appointment for either the Pfizer or Moderna booster had been late December at all Bay Area locations, though if I were willing to drive to Sacramento I could get a jab next week. Lazily perusing the website at 5 a.m., there was an opening in San Francisco at 8 a.m. for the Moderna vaccine, 11:30 for the Pfizer. So I'm going to mix my shots (I took the Pfizer in March) by grabbing the Moderna.

So now you know where I'll be this morning.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Aina ("Land")

Honolulu, like San Francisco, is replete with public art. Most works go unnoticed, as residents and visitors rush to important appointments and destinations.

And so it was that I had the Aina ("Land") sculpture all to myself on a Tuesday morning. Commissioned by Hilton Hotels, Aina was unveiled to great fanfare in 2008 outside the Grand Waikikian Hotel.
Inspired by the classic Hawaiian ring poi pounder, pohaku ku’i ai puka, this monumental ten ton arch floats on the surging waters that erupt around its three ton, black and red granite bowl or papa ku’iai and cascade down the lava rock he’eau that surrounds it.

Cutting across the top of the ring is the carved profile of the islands surrounded by a moat of water that spills on either side down the roughly textured channels that flair to its base reminding us of Hawaii’s many stunning waterfalls.
2008: how it was meant to be seen
The water has been turned off, and the flame no longer burns at the bottom edge of the ring. The depiction of the Elements--Earth, Air, Fire, and Water--is harder to discern, but the sculpture is impressive nonetheless.

The work is layered with meaning. Poi was central to the life of Hawaiians--Asian cultures place a similar importance on rice--and the poi pounder depicts the importance of food. There are three different kinds of poi pounders, and the artist chose the ring form to represent the dual image of the element Air as well as Life itself.

We learned the state motto in first grade, ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono (the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness); only now am I beginning to glimpse its meaning.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

A Quiet Monday Evening

Lincoln pond at sunset
The freeway--it has a soundwall--is only a few hundred feet away, but there's much less noise in Lincoln than in our residential neighborhood on the Peninsula.

Maybe it's the halo effect. I like the Sacramento hills, which biases me toward all other aspects of Central Valley life.

I like the spread-out feeling and the aforementioned quiet. Even the air seems cleaner, which doesn't make sense because this area is close to the wildfires.

The real estate websites say that home prices in Placer County have gone up by more than 20% in the past year. Builders are noticing, and new developments are springing up on what used to be farmland.

The coronavirus only accelerated the trend of leaving the over-priced, over-crowded coasts. The great migration shows no signs of abating.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

No Argument from Me

The old filter (right) and its replacement.
We hadn't visited our friend in the Central Valley for 1½ years, i.e., since the beginning of the pandemic.

After the usual pleasantries and catching up, I offered to change the furnace filter, which task involves climbing a ladder. Perhaps there's an engineering advantage to placing the intake on the ceiling of the second floor, but IMHO this HVAC system was poorly designed for humans.

The filter had turned black, the residue of two summers of wildfires. Our friend texted back later tonight and said the air was much "fresher."

Perhaps her feelings were colored by the above picture, but if the good feeling raises another person's opinion of me, I'm not going to argue.

Monday, November 29, 2021

A Bit of His Strut

For at least a decade feral chickens have been annoying Oahu residents. Despite programs to capture them, the problem persists.
One reason Honolulu found it difficult to capture feral chickens was because they would run from city property to state or private property where city-paid staffers aren’t authorized to enter
In the Market City shopping center earlier this month, one bird was the cock of the walk, having no fear of humans or cars.

Back in the 1950's Honolulans would buy chickens live and slaughter them in their back yards. If only a few people still did that, that rooster might lose a bit of his strut.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Get the Answers Before It's An Emergency

My brother in Orange County and I take turns flying to Hawaii to visit Mom.

In October he put in some new plants by the front walkway.

When it came time to water the plants, none of the four nearby valves and spigots worked.

In response to a text for help, one of my kamaaina brothers answered that I had to turn on the master shut-off valve next to the pond by the back door.

My father had installed the pipes decades ago.

I grew up here, and I didn't know how something as basic as the irrigation system worked.

What else don't I know?

I only hope that the next time I need to figure out something it's not during an emergency.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Return of the Greedy Corporation....Excuses

Gerald Ford's pleas to Whip Inflation Now failed,
as did his 1976 election campaign. (Ad Age)
As predictable as the sun rising in the East, Democrats are blaming inflation on corporate greed.
White House officials said Mr. Biden would continue publicly calling out industries that he believes are raking in large profits while raising prices for consumers, amid calls from some of Mr. Biden’s outside advisers to respond aggressively to inflation to counter mounting criticism from Republicans.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren adds her two cents:
Wondering why your Thanksgiving groceries cost more this year? It’s because greedy corporations are charging Americans extra just to keep their stock prices high. This is outrageous.
Through the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations inflation ranged between negative 0.4% and 3.8%. For the past several months inflation has run above 5%. [bold added]
The Labor Department said the consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—increased in October by 6.2% from a year ago. That was the fastest 12-month pace since 1990 and the fifth straight month of inflation above 5%.

The core price index, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, climbed 4.6% in October from a year earlier, higher than September’s 4% rise and the largest increase since 1991.
(GIF from rebloggy)
Not only have "greedy corporations" failed to raise prices significantly for the previous 20 years, boardroom avarice has been dampened by the growing emphasis on "stakeholder capitalism" and Environmental, Social, and Governance goals. In my humble opinion--and I'm no economist--business is not to blame for high prices.

And inflation is not the fault of the government, as those in charge of government have said.

It's truly a puzzlement.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Turkey Day, 2021

It's been 40+ years of trial and error, and it bore fruit in yesterday's turkey.

Think of all the possibilities:
  • Fresh or frozen?
  • With stuffing or without?
  • Turn the bird?
  • Wrap the turkey in foil?
  • Change the temperature during roasting?
  • Brine beforehand?
  • Rub with spices and/or oil?

    Three hard-to-make side dishes were store-bought.
    Each of the above in turn has many options. Stuffing recipes are innumerable, temperature adjustments can be high to low or vice versa, how long before turning the turkey over, if at all, etc.

    My wife's late aunt had a reliable method for keeping the meat moist---cover the turkey with a wet paper shopping bag, replacing it every hour as it dried out. We stopped using that technique when supermarkets switched from paper to plastic.

    Here's the 2021 recipe. On Tuesday wash the fresh turkey, pat dry, and season all over. (I used salt, pepper, and garlic.) Leave uncovered in the refrigerator until ready to cook. On Wednesday evening rub with butter and roast in oven, breast-side down, at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Turn the bird and roast at 400 for 20 minutes. Pour 2 cups wine or apple cider over bird. Adjust the temperature down to 170 degrees and roast for 12-20 hours until inner thigh temperature reads at least 160 degrees. Baste if skin appears dry (I only did this once). After removing turkey from oven, allow at least 30 minutes before carving.

    My limit was one plate plus a second helping of turkey.

    I had to save room for the pumpkin pie.

    I hope you and your loved ones had a Happy Thanksgiving.
  • Thursday, November 25, 2021

    Yakiniku Korea House

    Later today we'll have November's biggest meal, but I can already say that the best meal I had this month was at the Yakiniku Korea House in Honolulu. Yakiniku restaurants are popular not only because meat cooked on a hot grill is always delicious but also because it's fun cooking together.

    We ordered two platters at $70 each for our party of eight. Together with rice, condiments and dipping sauces, the beef and pork belly unleashed the inner carnivore.

    Beef and pork belly (Yelp photo)
    The meal was a blast, literally, because the steam and smoke were so intense that the waiter had to lower the exhaust pipe to eye level.

    Dinner companions asked if we should order more. In my salad days (when I ate much less salad, btw) I would have readily assented, but (sigh) not for me, I answered.

    My birthday was earlier this month, so my brothers paid for everything. Like I said, the best meal this month.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2021

    We Won't Be Starving

    Last-minute Thanksgiving shoppers could find everything in stock at Costco today.

    In fact there's a surfeit, glut, abundance, plethora and every other synonym for surplus, of turkeys at 99 cents a pound.

    I meant to buy a 12-pounder last Friday but only a 20-pound bird was in the display. Spooked by reports of food shortages, I grabbed the tom.

    It does not require a crystal ball to envision lots of turkey a la king and turkey sandwiches in the near future.

    Just in Time

    The recent upward blip in interest rates resulted in Citibank adding 8 cents, more than double the usual, to my largely inactive savings account.

    It was just in time for Christmas shopping.

    As the saying goes, I'll try not to spend it all in one place.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2021

    The Central Valley is Looking Better and Better

    WSJ illustration: blue dots show where Bay
    Area ex-residents are resettling.
    In April we commented on a Chronicle editorial that decried the migration from the coasts to Central California. The Chronicle declared the growth of the suburbs "unsustainable", which struck us as wishful thinking:
    No, Progressives, your scare tactics won't work ("drought","fire country"), not to mention your sniffing at the plebes ("sprawl", "unsustainable"). And what's with the suburbs fostering climate change? Sacramento, which you control, has ordered us all into electric cars in a few years, so transportation won't be a source of bogeyman carbon.

    It's your emptying cities which frighten us with homeless encampments, rampant burglary, drugs, usurious rents, filthy mass-transit, filthy streets, and labyrinthine regulations, which all come with extra taxes for the privilege of living and working in your precious highrises.
    Six months later the trend shows no signs of abating. WSJ: Californians Flee the Coast to Inland Cities in a Mass Pandemic-Era Exodus
    The pandemic boosted the flow of households from California’s coastal counties to other parts by nearly 50%, postal data show.

    A net 97,000 households left the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and the San Francisco metro area lost about 67,000. The city of San Francisco lost a net of 44,000 households last year, about one-eighth of its total. Many from the city settled in the Sacramento metro area, about 90 miles northeast.

    In Southern California, the center of the state’s shift, the Inland Empire had a net gain of 25,000 households last year, according to the postal data. That figure doesn’t count immigration, a longtime source of new Californians.
    Roseville, near Sacramento, has some nice stores
    but I doubt they'll be hit: too many guns and
    Republicans, and the people support the police.
    As if to put an exclamation point on the pay-more-get-less life by the Bay, organized smash-and-grab gangs attacked pricey stores in multiple cities the past weekend.
    “It was a wild weekend,” (Alameda County Sergeant Ray] Kelly said, referring to sprees in Hayward, Walnut Creek, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco, where roving bands of thieves swarmed into stores, grabbed as much merchandise as they could carry and escaped in getaway cars.

    In Oakland the caravans grew particularly violent, as police encountered hundreds of drivers roaming the city on Friday, seeking out cannabis businesses for attempted theft, authorities said.
    And why should the gangs worry? Property theft less than $950 is only a misdemeanor, so hardly any victim bothers reporting it. And if you're unlucky or stupid enough to get caught, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin ended cash bail for all criminal cases, so criminals will be out in no time.

    This weekend, for the first time in two years, I'll be visiting the Sacramento area, where life seems more civilized.

    The Central Valley is looking better and better.

    Monday, November 22, 2021

    Around the Ala Wai

    The Ala Wai Golf Course
    Two Fridays ago our part of the city was in the high 70's with a light breeze, cool by Honolulu standards. It was a perfect morning to walk around the neighborhood.

    Reality: the Waikiki Library was smaller than I remembered.
    The Ala Wai golf course is an almost totally flat public course ideal for beginners and oldsters. Constructed in 1931 on the mauka side of Ala Wai Canal, it could never be built today given the price of Waikiki real estate.

    Near the southern end of the golf course is the Waikiki Library, where I occasionally did my homework. Before there were computerized databases, one could sometimes find a book that had been checked out of the Main Branch downtown.

    The Ala Wai Canal was looking especially fine. Sometimes the air hangs heavy and the water stagnates, but not today. The final two mile straightaway went quickly, and I was home in time to pick up lunch for Mom.