Saturday, January 31, 2015

But Really

Pleasant surprise: AAPL appreciated 62% over 12 months
As a holder of Apple stock, we haven't posted about our investment since June. (For the past couple of years there was not much to write about.)

After Steve Jobs' death in 2011 the stock price first rose in anticipation because of the "amazing" future products rumoured in his biography, then dropped as the pipeline birthed mice.

Though our own investment profile had shifted to moderate-growth-with-income stocks such as Apple had become, we had grown disenchanted by Tim Cook's leadership and his long-running promises. Though we weren't going to liquidate the majority of our holding, expectations were low.

Much to analysts' surprise, the company has appeared to regain its mojo:
Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in three months, more than most expected, and a profound amount of product to move. Even more amazing: According to data from Strategy Analytics, Apple regained lost market share, with the iPhone rising to nearly 20% of all smartphone shipments, the highest level since the end of 2012. Retaking lost market share is almost never accomplished in the fast-moving world of tech.

Apple shares did the reverse of Microsoft and jumped 6% the next day, ending the week at $117.16, after hitting a high of $120 on Friday.
The stock now sports a price-earnings ratio of about 15, in line with the S&P 500 market multiple. However, its dividend yield of 1.6% ($1.88 per share) is not appealing to income investors. On the plus side the iPhone is viewed as a luxury brand in fast-growing Asian markets, its Apple Pay and thumbprint identification technology provide a solution to both credit-card and mobile hacking, and the Apple Watch's prospects are not thought to be great, but could be.

But really, how fast can a company valued at $700 billion grow?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Stimulus and Response

Sampling from Twitter #breadbags
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst's response to President Obama's State of the Union Address last week was derided on social media for this one passage:
You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.
Like Pavlov's canines, Democratic partisans responded with mockery of her tale of poverty past (though she wasn't ashamed back then: "But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.")

WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan on this sad but predictable response:
Response on the left to Ernst and the bread bags was snobbish, superior and dumb to the point of embarrassing. First, they couldn’t believe it—no one wears bread bags on their shoes in a storm, how absurd, she must be developmentally challenged. Then they denigrated what she said, putting pictures on Twitter of themselves wearing bread bags on their feet, accompanied by comments that had all the whiff of the upper class speaking of the quaint ways of the help.
Angry, superior, all-knowing, yes, in 2016 let's put them in charge for another eight years.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tough Love

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics total employment at the end of 2014 was 147.4 million, an increase of 2.7 million jobs over the December, 2013 total of 144.7 million. The main reason?

A research paper traced most of the job increase to Congress' declining to re-authorize the unemployment-benefits extension that was enacted in 2008:
In levels, 1.8 million additional jobs were created in 2014 due to the benefit cut. Almost 1 million of these jobs were filled by workers from out of the labor force who would not have participated in the labor market had benefit extensions been reauthorized.
Count me among the doubters, but I was wrong about the wisdom of the President. He foresaw that terminating the benefits extension would increase employment, didn't he? (H/T Greg Mankiw)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Signs of a Turnaround

Volunteers and clients have dinner together.
We hadn't served dinner to the displaced families of Home and Hope since September. In the intervening months there had been a pleasant development: four new volunteers asked to participate in the cooking, serving, and cleaning up.

The church used to have ten regular participants, but because of age, disability, and death there are only three of us left. (Your humble observer doesn't believe in the strong-arm: I ask for help on Sunday during the announcements, post the notice in the newsletter, and pin the sign-up sheet to the bulletin board.)

Whether due to favorable changes in personal circumstances, blossoming of charitable impulses, or sympathy for the less fortunate, there are signs of a turnaround in the willingness of people to donate their time. If you keep it going, they will come.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pake Is As Pake Does

We've reflected on the Hawaiian term pake before. It has a dual meaning: a person who is frugal and a person who is of Chinese descent. It is a racial slur, but a) given the world's evils, we used to be and should be more relaxed about these things, and b) there is a kernel of truth in most racial stereotypes.

More evidence of your humble observer's pake-ness. I can't bear to see how much goes to waste because pump dispensers can't extract the last drop of liquid. Over a period of several days, I used a funnel to drain two nearly-empty bottles of shampoo into a third. Rational thought says that less than a dollar's worth was rescued, but I can't help myself. Pake is as pake does.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fish Lesson

(Image from Catholic Exchange)
Today the preacher meditated on the original fish tale, the Book of Jonah. From Sunday School I had only remembered the 10-second version: Jonah disobeyed God and was swallowed by a great fish or whale. The fish coughed him up ("vomited"), and Jonah survived and repented. But, of course, there's more to the story than the headlines.

In the first chapter God instructed Jonah to preach to the wicked and powerful Ninevites. Jonah immediately bought passage on a ship and fled. God sent a "great wind", and Jonah realized that his presence was jeopardizing the ship. He told the sailors to cast him overboard.

After he lived through the encounter with the fish, Jonah went to Nineveh and told the people that their wickedness was courting destruction. To Jonah's surprise the Ninevites turned from their evil ways, and God spared the city. Jonah became angry at God because a) he hated the Ninevites and wanted them punished, and b) Jonah felt he was made to look foolish.

Jonah, like most of us, is a mixed bag of virtue and weakness. He runs from his duty, then is willing to lose his life for others by being cast overboard. After he is saved, Jonah wants to see Nineveh destroyed for his own prideful reasons.

When men are poor and weak, they encounter obstacles that are often remembered fondly for the growth that was engendered (insert Nietzsche quote here). But perhaps the greatest test is how we behave when we were proven right and are on the top of the world.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Deal That Wasn't Made

Jan, 2014: Klay Thompson and fan
Last summer Warriors fans were aghast when they heard rumors that the club was negotiating a trade to give up shooting guard Klay Thompson for Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. The argument for the trade was that Kevin Love (who eventually signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers) was a proven All-Star; he was likely to elevate the Warriors to a true championship contender, even minus the services of Klay Thompson.

The Warriors must be thanking their lucky stars that they passed on the deal. Kevin Love has performed well with the Cavaliers, but Klay Thompson has been incandescent. On Friday Klay Thompson scored 37 points in the 3rd quarter against the Kings, breaking the all-time NBA record of 33 points scored by one player in a single quarter. It was a remarkable performance, especially with opposing players sticking to him like glue whether or not he had the ball.

Klay Thompson made 13 shots out of 13 tries in the 3rd quarter:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Brain Health

(pinterest graphic)
Time publishes 17 Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain. They are, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise:
  • Take dance lessons
  • Play an instrument
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Play chess
  • Read more of less: “It’s better to read one or two good articles and think about them in a deeper sense rather than read 20.”
  • Change your font (it stretches the brain)
  • Single-task: “Multitasking hijacks your frontal lobe”
  • Write about your stress
  • Take up knitting
  • Find your purpose
  • Be social
  • Play a video game
  • Use your time efficiently
  • Write by hand
  • Take naps
  • Wash the dishes
  • Ramp it up: “You need to challenge yourself to the next level so you get the benefits”
  • Are two of these steps enough? I hope to make it to 90 by napping and playing videogames. Hey, that's three (finding my purpose)!

    Thursday, January 22, 2015

    The Internet of Cars

    Progress, or just a tangle? (photo from
    In a few years, according to GM CEO Mary Barra, v2x will become a household word:
    The next frontier is a wireless technology called v2x, which companies in America, Europe and Japan are developing. It encapsulates vehicle-to-vehicle [v2v] and vehicle-to-infrastructure [v2i] communications. Essentially, special modems allow v2x-equipped cars to talk to each other and the world around them, and warn drivers when there is trouble ahead [snip].

    GM has announced plans to put its first v2x-equipped vehicle—the 2017 Cadillac CTS—on the road in about two years. The state of Michigan has committed itself to building 120 miles of v2x-enabled infrastructure in and around Detroit.
    Your humble observer is bemused by these predictions of "talking", intelligent automobiles by companies that can't even get the current crop of brakes, airbags, and engines to work right.

    Decades ago, I nearly sent my non-GPS-enabled, completely analog (chips had not been invented) VW Beetle to the scrap heap. Today I'm grateful to have a car that will operate without WiFi (or even a radiator or catalytic converter!). Sometimes doing nothing is the best decision of all.

    Being restored at the body shop school in Burlingame

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Three Cheers

    (January, 2015 USA Today photo)
    Oil has fallen from $100+ per barrel to under $50 today. At first glance the drop in the price of this modern necessity is like cheap (and plentiful) food, clothing, and shelter: a great boon to humanity.

    So why aren't the markets cheering? Two reasons [bold added]:
    First, China is now the world’s second largest economy and its most voracious energy consumer–and its economic slowdown has dented oil demand. Given that China has provided the majority of global growth since the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street is spooked. The benefit from falling oil prices for U.S. consumers and companies may well be somewhat offset by a slower China, given that so many American businesses depend on sales in the Chinese market.

    But there’s another factor at play. Plunging oil prices are pressuring the American shale-oil and -gas producers responsible for the domestic energy boom–which comes with its own ramifications for the economy. Shale oil is relatively expensive to get out of the ground; much of it requires prices of around $70 a barrel to be economical.
    There's a third factor at play: according to the cognoscenti's current consensus, cheap gas encourages more carbon-based energy consumption that would accelerate global warming and ocean acidification.

    As for me, I can't take the latter seriously until the let's-do-something-about-global-warming types stop flying around in private jets (H/T Glenn Reynolds).

    Two dollar gas? Hip-hip-hooray!

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015

    Melted Like the Glaze

    Why did Krispy Kreme diminish in popularity? Answers range from over-saturation, competition from Dunkin' Donuts, and high prices, but I suspect that for many like us it was the desire to limit carbohydrate intake.

    When someone gave us two boxes, years of self-control melted like the glaze on a warm doughnut. Thank goodness there were other people around to share in the bounty, else it would have been ugly.

    Monday, January 19, 2015

    No Controversy Today

    (Photo from
    Martin Luther King wrote the Letter from Birmingham Jail nearly 52 years ago. Excerpts [bold added]:
    We repeatedly asked ourselves : "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?

    One may want to ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust.

    How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.

    An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.

    One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

    I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest.
    Like Gandhi, whom he studied and admired, Dr. King was successful in part because he challenged the dominant culture to live up to its own ideals. He had his personal peccadilloes but was steadfast where it counted, refusing to waver from non-violence and "accept[ing] the penalty" for breaking "unjust" laws.

    It took 14 years (1986-2000) for all 50 states to recognize Martin Luther King Day as an official holiday. Today there is no controversy; the passage of time often clarifies the greatness of a man.

    Sunday, January 18, 2015

    Not Easily Reached

    First Baptist Church, 2012 (Seattle Times photo)
    [Note: this post is about church, not civil, recognition of same-sex marriage.]

    Why same-sex marriage is a wrenching issue to Evangelical Christians (no, it's not because they're afraid of, or hate gays):
    For many Evangelicals, the marriage debate isn’t really about marriage or families or sex–it is about the Bible itself. And that makes many evangelicals all the more uncompromising. The roots of the conflict are deeply theological. Evangelical faith prizes the Bible’s authority, and that has meant a core commitment to biblical inerrancy–the belief that the words of the Bible are without error.
    In my own denomination, the Episcopal Church, the Bible has long been superseded by the promotion of social justice, anti-isms (except for environmentalism), and the expansion of the secular state. Hence, it was easy for the Episcopal clerisy to override traditionalists' Scriptural reservations and fully embrace same-sex marriage, as well as the ordination of practicing gay priests and bishops.

    But such a 180-degree shift in theology is not so easy for Christians who take the Bible seriously. (BTW, they have an easy answer to critics' quotation of Old Testament dicta, e.g., stoning of adulterers and animal sacrifice, that modern Westerners find ridiculous or repugnant: Jesus himself, through words and actions, did not follow many of these laws.*)

    Such Christians first look for guidance to the New Testament, where St. Paul declares:
    Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
    If Paul was wrong about homosexual behavior, then what else is he wrong about? The Episcopal Church by implication has told drunks, slanderers, and swindlers that they don't have to repent, the Episcopal Church will still welcome them. For Evangelicals, that's a conclusion not easily reached.

    (*Jesus did not say that the Old Testament was N/A. Matthew 5:17: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.")

    Saturday, January 17, 2015

    New Economics = New Math

    The Economist waxes enthusiastic about how economics is helping firms at the ground level:
    Economics is evolving, with a mission to solve firms’ real-life problems at its heart.

    Divining hidden “types”—the buyer and the browsers, the content and the disgruntled—is a common challenge in the new realm of firms are often platforms on which buyers and sellers meet...Knowing more about a customer’s type can help the platform suggest a better link.
    Facebook, Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, etc. have a detailed profile of their visitors that previous generations of market researchers could only dream of. The companies know many of visitors' personal attributes, including age, sex, location, employer, friends, family, and race. They know or can make shrewd guesses about wealth and income. The watchers know whether the visitors browse or buy, whether they comment or merely read, and whether they prefer to get their information from text or video.

    The methodologies are not new, but what is revolutionary is the ability to sort oceans of data into dozens or more variables, and then associate the variables with certain behavioral outcomes.

    To this observer the discipline is more statistics than economics, but we're quibbling about nomenclature.

    If you have a solid knowledge of math, facility with tech tools, and the ability to put into perspective both the power and limitations of the new "big data" technology, the 21st century is your oyster.

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    I'd Rather Be Lucky, Though

    According to research, appearing intelligent is not too difficult to pull off if one practices certain behaviors [bold added]:
    They include showing self-confidence, speaking clearly and smoothly, and responding thoughtfully to what others are saying, research shows. And put away that phone: One of the strongest and most accurate signs of intelligence is looking at others when you are speaking to them.
    (Psychology News photo)
    Note, however, that the aforementioned are social signals that don't necessarily correlate with the mathematical and pattern-recognition intelligence that is highly valued by many who live here.

    The type of personality that likes to dive deeply into a computer program often makes a poor salesperson for herself as well as her company.

    We're probably overthinking this: just wear eyeglasses.

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

    The Picture that Straightens, not Sags, Over Time

    Pyramid to dome to column (Economist graphic)
    A profound shift with consequences that are only partially grasped by policy makers [bold added]:
    The pyramid was characteristic of human populations since the day organised societies emerged. With lifespans short and mortality rates high, children were always the most numerous group, and old people the least. A population chart of England in 1700 looks like a pyramid, as well.

    But now look at the chart of the global population in 2015. It looks more like the dome of the Capitol building in Washington, DC (middle chart). Young children are still the largest group, but now make up only 10% of the population, and those above them are almost as big a cohort, with 9.5%. The age groups start to become markedly smaller only about the age of 40.
    Some forecast a forlorn future where "looking after parents and grandparents will be as big a, or a bigger, social requirement ­as bringing up children and grandchildren."

    But there's another view. Extrapolating from the current pace of technological advancement, it is entirely possible that developments in medicine, robotics, and/or artificial intelligence will enable the old to live independently (and happily) much longer than today. (As I near retirement, I am keenly interested the future turns out that way!)

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    An Exciting Year

    Quality, features, and supply rise faster than costs, except in three major sectors:
    in America the number of hours of work that it takes to buy a car, or a wardrobe full of clothes, has halved in the past generation. But in three big areas it has singularly failed to operate: health care, education and housing.
    All three areas are subject to extensive government regulation, government subsidies, and barriers to entry in the name of public safety (you or I, dear reader, cannot treat a patient, teach a course, or build a house without credentials that require years of experience, education, and testing).

    Government solutions call for more spending and higher taxes, but the public's desire for more of the same seems to have peaked.

    Limits spur creativity. This will be an exciting year, except for those trying to preserve the status quo.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    It's Only January, So There's Still Time

    Having made little progress on New Year's resolutions (broad categories: health, work, organization), I am receptive to advice on "how to stop being lazy and get things done."

    Georgetown University Professor Cal Newport :
  • To-Do Lists Are Evil. Schedule Everything.
  • Assume You’re Going Home at 5:30, Then Plan Your Day Backwards
  • Make A Plan For The Entire Week
  • Do Very Few Things, But Be Awesome At Them
  • Less Shallow Work, Focus On The Deep Stuff
  • Can't hurt to give it a try. I'll start next Sunday :)

    Monday, January 12, 2015

    Two Cheers

    Having forgotten--or never knowing--that I had signed up for text fraud alerts, I was a little taken aback by a message received today from Chase Bank. Actually, I wasn't sure that it was from the bank, so I followed protocol by calling the 1-800 number on the paper statement that I receive every month.

    By the way, that's another reason for relying on dead-tree communications: it's easy to make a fraudulent message or website look legitimate, but a printed missive is much harder to fake. Paper quality, typeface, grammar, typographical errors, and logos all have to pass the eyeball and touch tests.

    The Chase customer service rep confirmed that someone had tried to use our Visa card with an online merchant but was turned down because the $1,249.61 purchase looked suspicious. A quick check of our wallets showed that we still had our cards, so our number could have been skimmed from any number of sources, e.g, restaurants, movie theaters, stores, or other online vendors. The new cards will be sent shortly in the mail.

    Everyone's uncomfortable about how governments and companies track what private citizens are doing, but in this case I'm happy that the bank understands our normal behavior well enough to know when a transaction should be investigated. Here's hoping that the technology is sophisticated enough to nail the bad guys as well. For now, two cheers for big data.

    [Update - 1/15/15: in related local news
    Menlo Park police arrested Menalto Cleaners owner Edwin Gary Smith on Wednesday in connection with a large-scale credit card fraud. Smith, 63, was served with an arrest warrant that alleges 40 felony counts including identity theft, credit card fraud and elder fiduciary abuse.....Menalto Cleaners defrauded 38 clients out of a total of $678,000 between December 2011 and October 2014 by overcharging their credit cards, police said.]

    Sunday, January 11, 2015

    Vocabulary Lesson

    Do you aspire to asperge the assembly?
    One benefit of being a member of the Episcopal Church is the exposure to uncommon words and concepts.

    Asperge (verb) has nothing to do with asparagus (the French word is asperge) or Asperger's syndrome, the autism-spectrum disorder named for the doctor who discovered it. It means "to sprinkle the congregation with holy water."

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

    No Pressure

    Yesterday morning I had to circle the block a couple of times to find parking on Ocean Avenue. Two spaces had been set aside for Zipcars, one of the new car-sharing services that have sprouted in metropolitan areas.

    A monthly subscription plus hourly usage fee entitles members to use cars stationed at various locations. Mobile-phone apps make it easy to reserve a car, and a member's access card uses RFID technology to activate it during the period of the reservation.

    One drawback of the Zipcar system is that the auto must be dropped off where it was picked up. Other services, like car2go, are trying to do away with that limitation.

    The transportation marketplace has exploded with new technologies, equipment, ownership, and rental alternatives. Given such ferment we're inclined to select terms for our next vehicle, such as a three-year lease, that don't entail a long-term commitment. Meanwhile, with gas at $2.40 a gallon (and even under $2 in other parts of the country), it's easier to keep our clunkers going, and there's no pressure to rush a decision.

    Friday, January 09, 2015

    Organic Overkill

    Consumers show a marked preference for organic food and are willing to pay "20 percent to 100 percent more than their conventionally produced equivalents."

    Not surprisingly, food vendors use the organic designation whenever possible. However, there's such a thing as overkill.

    Memo to the Campbell Soup Company: 34 mentions in 15 lines is a turn-off.

    Thursday, January 08, 2015

    Location, Location, Location

    Information from
    We're used to seeing outrageous prices for homes in Palo Alto---excellent schools and proximity to Stanford and Silicon Valley provide a partial explanation---but $5 million for a 610-sq-ft house on a 5,000-sq-ft property was an extreme outlier.

    The explanation: Bernard Newcomb, founder of E*Trade ($6.7 billion market cap), lives next door and made the owner an offer he couldn't refuse.

    Good fences make good neighbors, but a successful IPO makes even better ones.

    Buyer on the left, seller on the right (Google street view)

    Wednesday, January 07, 2015

    Men's Kaffee Klatsch

    Tuesday morning at Starbucks
    Men as a group don't engage in conversation as much as women do, but that broad general statement, of course, masks infinite variations.

    At Starbucks a group of older guys carried on conversation and experienced bonhomie for well over an hour. It's common to find women's kaffee klatsches but coming upon the male version is rare.

    It takes a while to regain one's footing during retirement. These guys had found theirs.

    Tuesday, January 06, 2015

    If Ever

    (SFGate photo)
    Like a runaway freight train there's no stopping the California high-speed rail project, which broke ground today in Fresno. Forget that the initial cost estimates have more than doubled to $68 billion, or that initial operations will serve only about a million people in the Central Valley. (It would be a shock if the Fresno-Bakersfield corridor will produce a regular ridership of at least 1%, i.e., 10,000 people.)

    If all goes according to plan, the San Francisco--Los Angeles connection won't be operational until 2029. Governor Jerry Brown "said the state owed it to the future to think big and invest in projects like high-speed rail."

    OK, Guv'nor, let's dream about a new, customizable, eco-friendly transportation system for California:
  • $30 billion for 1,000,000 driver-less all-electric cars @ $30,000--which won't need feeder buses to/from the train stations.
  • $20 billion for new power plants (nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind)
  • $20 billion for highway improvements and strengthening the power grid.

    This cocktail-napkin transportation project was concocted in two minutes, but there is absolutely no doubt that the CNTP would be operational long before California's High-Speed Rail is completed, if ever.
  • Monday, January 05, 2015

    Not on the Horizon

    Centaurus A, where galaxies collide (NASA photo)
    Scientists have discovered (bold added)
    a pair of supermassive black holes orbiting each other more closely than any ever before observed.

    Other twin black holes won’t merge for another few billion years, but these, says Caltech’s George Djorgovski, co-author of a paper in Nature describing the new discovery, “could merge in a mere million years.”
    Centaurus A is 11 million light-years away (Andromeda, the closest galaxy to our Milky Way, is 2.5 million light-years from Earth), which means that we are watching events from 11 million years ago; the two black holes have likely already merged.

    Unlike Comsat in the 1960's, however, there is no technology on the horizon that will eliminate this tape delay.

    Sunday, January 04, 2015

    No Provocative Adornments

    The newly ordained priest guest-substituted for the two regular ministers who were away this Sunday.

    Episcopal priests must be able to perform the sacraments whether they are held at the grandest of cathedrals or around the humblest of altars. Today the milieu was closer to the latter. Rebecca had to do it all---the Gospel reading, the sermon (homily), and the celebration of the Mass---and she did it without missing a beat.

    Your humble observer especially appreciated her by-the-Book approach. The homily was derived directly from the lessons, and there were no adornments (e.g., references to Gaia / Mother Earth, calls for social justice) that some clergy feel compelled to provoke their listeners with.

    In the near future Rebecca will retire from her longtime secular job to take a position at a parish or mission. For our sake we hope that she'll be nearby, but wherever it is, she'll be just fine.

    Saturday, January 03, 2015

    Tech Etiquette

    (Image from
    This article is about rules of etiquette in the brave new technological world. Examples:
  • You can’t quit a social network just because your mom joins.
  • Early Apple Watch owners.....don’t act like you’re better than the rest of us because you can order pizza by talking into your wrist.
  • All smartwatch owners: No messaging during dinner and pretending you’re just scratching your wrist. Wrists aren’t that itchy.
  • An insightful quote at the end, IMHO, takes the prize:
    When my friends and I go out to dinner, we’ll sometimes go ‘phones down’ as soon as we’re seated. Whoever accidentally picks up the phone first has to pay the tab for everyone. It is really effective at getting people off their phones. — Andy Dunn, CEO of the online men’s fashion retailer Bonobos
  • Friday, January 02, 2015

    The Day After

    Plump, tasty, and tender
    Our visiting relative has both a bigger budget and love for the slots than we do. Being gracious hosts, we complied with her wish to return to Graton.

    The casino was more crowded than it had been on New Year's Eve. I killed time at the bar in Martin Yan's M.Y. Noodles. The drinks and food were generally overpriced (menu here), but one tasty bargain was the chicken feet at $5.

    Chicken feet (they're cleaned thoroughly and the toenails are removed) are marinated, fried, and steamed over many hours. M.Y. Noodles gets the texture right---very tender but not overcooked to the extent that the feet fall apart. The dish compared favorably with the best dim sum palaces in SF and the Peninsula.

    Chicken feet dim sum in Rohnert Park? Knock me over with a feather.

    Thursday, January 01, 2015

    A Resolution That I'll be Sure to Keep

    à votre santé!
    Having received the gifts of Bacchus this holiday season, I needed to purge the liquor cabinet. Neither we nor visitors are fans of the hard stuff, and some of the bottles had not been touched for decades. Well, it's time to do one's duty: I resolve to take 1-2 shots every night until the bottles are empty.

    As you, dear reader, are undoubtedly aware, alcohol taken in moderation can have health benefits. Here are seven:
    1. It Can Lower Your Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
    2. It Can Lengthen Your Life
    3. It Can Improve Your Libido
    4. It Helps Prevent Against the Common Cold
    5. It Can Decrease Chances Of Developing Dementia
    6. It Can Reduce The Risk Of Gallstones
    7. It Lowers The Chance Of Diabetes
    More on item #5: contrary to what we've been told since we were children, alcohol (in moderation) can help brain function:
    researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that light alcohol consumption could be linked to better episodic memory—the memory of events. They studied adults over age 60 with no indication of dementia, and saw that moderate drinking was associated with larger hippocampal brain volume—the area of the brain responsible for the consolidation of short- and long-term memory.
    I've always wanted to increase my hippocampal brain volume.