Monday, August 31, 2015


Business consultant Rob Sher said this about business planning, but it applies to life planning as well:
Business planning is about knowing where you want to get to, figuring out how you’re going to get there, and then self-correcting along the way.
Why must planning include self-correction? Life.

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." -- John Lennon

Below is Rob Sher's 9½-minute YouTube video on constructing a one-page business plan. (Disclosure: Rob has consulted with one of my clients.)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sandwiches on Sunday

Three months after our previous Sandwiches on Sunday (SOS) it was our turn to serve lunch to whomever showed up at the Redwood City community center.

We brought eight trays of lasagna--some enterprising cooks made the dishes from scratch (your humble observer always buys the $13 pre-made frozen version from Costco). Well, I'm sure they'll be given credits in the Great Database, which we old-timers used to call the Permanent Record.

Today we had ten teenagers who served the lasagna, salad, and drinks and who distributed the brown-bag lunches for the guests to take home. In response to a question from one of the teens, I said that a group from St. Pius Parish, which organizes SOS, meets each Saturday morning to assemble the lunches. He seemed genuinely taken aback. They have to get up every Saturday morning? Yes, they're very dedicated.

The young man I was speaking to attends every SOS, unless his baseball team is playing. The charitable spirit builds slowly. Before long, others will marvel at his dedication.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Orange is the New Black (Coffee)

Last week we admitted to being perplexed about the hoopla surrounding pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks and Panera Bread. Time explains why it's a "big deal":
Customers who purchased a pumpkin spice latte spent an average of $7.81, compared with an average check of $6.67 for party poopers who ordered non-pumpkin items.
But wait, there's more [bold added]:
[Marketing researchers] conducted research correlating an increase in the frequency of wonder coffee chains and fast food franchises are constantly rolling out new limited-time offers and seasonal specialties. These items build excitement and draw in customers—who tend to spend more on each visit.
Increasing both the number of sales and the average sales ticket is that rare marketing sweet spot.

Orange is the new black indeed.

Those who can't wait for Starbucks' fall introduction can buy the ingredients and make it at home.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sticky Principles

The shield-shaped metal button (top left) should be glued to
the glass and cured for 12-24 hours before affixing the mirror.
The 18-year-old van had gone nine months without problems. Trouble was overdue. Fortunately, this time the issue was minor. The glue holding the rear view mirror to the windshield gave way.

Your humble handyman made several false starts with various adhesives, which entailed cleaning the surfaces with acetone and starting over. I should have started with epoxy. (Some mid-20th century products like epoxy glue and WD40 cannot be improved upon.)

The trick is not to rush. Detach the mirror from the metal "button". Clean all surfaces thoroughly. Allow the epoxy to set; the instructions say 12 hours, but take 24 to make sure. Finally, screw the mirror back on.

I just hope I remember all these instructions in 2033 when I have to do this again.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Grab and Hold, But Not Too Long

Twitter's effect on writing has often been deplored because of its 140-character upper limit on "tweets", but this bug could well be a feature.
Getting things into 140 characters might be teaching young writers one of the most cherished virtues among those who deal professionally with writing: brevity.
Excessive wordiness is learned [italics added]:
Why do people write more than they should, when most people find writing difficult? This may be because during their education, young writers are...told to write papers to minimum lengths.
Say your piece. Use no more words than are necessary. Then get off the stage.

And so I shall.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Original

The mind's eye switches between the columns and the shadowy figures.
Contained within the vision and hearing section of the Exploratorium is the original "angel column" optical illusion.

In 1989 David Barker designed, lathed and painted the columns, an achievement perhaps unappreciated in an age of high-speed computers, rendering software, and 3D printing technology.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wild Ride

Apple (AAPL) is down "only" 6% for the year, better than the Dow (-12%) and worse than the NASDAQ (-4.8%). However, the January 1st-to-August 25th percentage change doesn't capture what a wild ride it's been. From the intraday high of $134.54 on April 28th Apple's price has fallen nearly 23%. Will the downward trend continue or reverse?

Most stock analysts view Apple's current price point as a buying opportunity [bold added].
The market’s recent moves have made Apple even more attractive on a valuation basis, even with today’s recovery. At 11 times forward earnings [blogger's note: price divided by next year's estimated earnings], Apple is well below both its 12.6 times historical average and the Standard & Poor’s 500, at 14.7 times. Moreover, as [Wells Fargo analyst Maynard] Um notes, the shares change hands at 7.9 times his 2016 free cash flow estimate, while Apple has historically bottomed between eight and nine times free cash flow.

This comes as the shares’ yield is approaching 2%, and the company’s projected long-term earnings growth is 16.5%. [Blogger's note: Apple's "PEG" ratio--in this case 12 divided by 16.5--is less than 1.0, which is normally considered a strong buy signal.]

Investors are right to be concerned about China’s impact on Apple, as the nation accounted for more than a quarter of the company’s fiscal third-quarter sales. However, investors likely took the connection between Apple and China too far in recent days.
The principle of diversification prevents us from acquiring more AAPL, but we would be a buyer if it did not already comprise a significant part of our portfolio.

The Truth Hurts

Advice from Beth Feldman, blogging expert:
Update your blog at least once a week. If you do it every day and you really don't have anything to share it becomes like spam and may turn off readers.
I resemble that remark!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Practical Lens

Exploratorium exhibit
The abortion debate has reared its head again, this time over undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials making controversial statements. While partisans on both sides argue largely from principle, I daresay that the majority of the American public view the subject through a practical lens: if what is being killed is recognizably human, then the procedure should be restricted, if not banned.

Along the lines of the looks-like-a-baby measure, can you distinguish the human embryo? If it will help, the other four embryos are dog, chicken, skink, and zebrafish.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

21st Century Begats

What was once a trickle of media mentions has become a cascade. The Economist devotes this week's cover to CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). The Economist even uses the "G" word.
There are those who will oppose CRISPR because it lets humans play God.
The gene-editing technology is remarkably easy to use, "like the find-and-replace function on a word processor."

CRISPR has one additional feature not present in old-fashioned gene-splicing: it can change not only the organism but also all of its descendants. [bold and italics added]
By changing a gene in an early-stage embryo, or in the cell that makes an egg, you could ensure that the change is found in every cell in the adult body—including its own eggs or sperm, which would pass it to the next generation and thus on down through the ages. No one is pursuing such avenues in the clinic as yet.
We can do more than Victor Frankenstein ever imagined: we can create the monster, who will beget another monster, who will beget...

Model of fruit fly DNA at San Francisco's Exploratorium: "Changing even one chemical 'letter' in an animal's
DNA can sometimes cause major changes to its body."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Poor Dears

"Organic" eggs normally have been 50% to 100% more expensive than non-organic eggs. (Language observation: science bifurcates matter into organic and in-organic substances. With food the opposite of organic is non-organic.)

Recent regulatory changes have caused a temporary upending of the pricing relationship. With the bold COMPARE above the egg cartons, Costco is steering its customers to the cheaper and supposedly better organic product.

Costco---good products, good prices, and it even does the thinking for its customers, the poor dears.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Surprising Award

At 26th & Valencia (SF Gate photo)
The best new restaurant in the entire country? Bon Appetit says it's Al's Place in San Francisco.
Though he is careful to praise Al's Place,  the local Chronicle restaurant reporter seems to think that the Bon Appetit award is an overachievement, using phrases such as "cramped kitchen", "quirky restaurant" and "overlooked corner."
Al’s Place is just one of many great new restaurants in the city this year.....Amid a surge of new restaurants in San Francisco — many of them higher-profile and better-funded — Al’s Place has occasionally been lost in the mix.
Aaron London (A.L.) plating stone fruit curry
and black lime cod (SF Gate)
Bon Appetit does give its reasons [bold added]:
By the time I’d finished those pickled french fries—plus dishes of lightly cured trout with crispy potatoes in a strawberry gazpacho, asparagus in a currant soffritto, and pork belly with a galangal reduction—it was obvious that [owner Aaron] London had a knack for showcasing the flavors and textures of vegetables in very nonobvious ways. There was tons more going on in each dish than I got from reading the menu. The intensity of flavors was revelatory. It was almost as though I’d been eating vegetables in black and white my whole life, and then suddenly everything was in Technicolor.
The foodie crowds will take a couple of years to dissipate to the point where the wait for normal diners might be tolerable. I just hope that Aaron London will still have his passion when we're seated in 2018.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lucky Seven

Yes, she was up to something.
Last month we espied a duck in the back yard. Although we guessed what she was up to, there were no other tell-tail tale signs until Saturday, when she hopped onto the six-foot fence and called to her brood.

Unable to follow their mother (ducks can't fly until they're about two months old), the hatchlings left their hiding places and chirped plaintively. The lady of our house spent hours gathering nine of them in a box and carrying them outside to their mother.

Seven ducks in a box.
Hours later, TLOOH heard chirping coming from a storm drain a hundred feet away. Calls to the police and fire departments brought out hard-working public servants who tried with difficulty to mask their lack of enthusiasm. Upon prying open the cover, the firefighters found six ducklings--more than was expected from the faint noises--and agreed that the effort may have been worthwhile after all. Maybe the mother will come back, they counseled, otherwise you should take them to the SPCA.

Meanwhile, the sound of its six rescued siblings lured a tenth duckling from our backyard shrubbery. We now were responsible for seven (7). Hypoglycemia was a danger, so we administered sugar water via syringe. Energized, they pecked at lettuce and raspberries and splashed merrily in a water-filled plastic tray.

It was 9 p.m. on Saturday night. The SPCA and other animal-rescue organizations had stopped taking calls. We set up an incandescent lamp above one corner of the box to keep them warm overnight.

What happened to the mother? What happened to the three siblings? Should we take the "lucky" seven to the SPCA? Answers would have to wait at least another day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Breathless Anticipation

The matchup of the year...

In one corner we have Starbucks [bold added]:
We have been trying to keep a lid on some big news [ed: gotta sit down for this!] for the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte, but with recipes and ingredients starting to ship to our stores, the buzz is building.

...espresso, perfectly steamed milk, warm fall spices with delicious flavor of pumpkin pie that reminds you of the cool, crisp days of autumn. So, with that great taste you know and love, the PSL returns this fall, and this time it will be made with real pumpkin and without caramel coloring .
In the other corner we have Panera Bread:
Panera’s newly ‘clean’ pumpkin spice latte is made with select ingredients including milk, real pumpkin, whipped cream, spices and salted caramel sauce....“We’re offering a ‘Real Pumpkin Latte,’ made entirely without artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives, and letting the goodness of real pumpkin, milk and spices do all the work.”
Panera's release date is September 9th, while a Starbucks spokeswoman said, "it is coming soon." As one who didn't care or even know that this drink existed, I just have one reaction: isn't capitalism wonderful?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Physiological Basis for Schizophrenia?

In one of the latest developments in the Century of the Brain, Yale scientists may have detected a physiological basis for schizophrenia [bold added]:

"The areas in blue represent low level of connectivity
between thalamus and prefrontal cortex, while
 the areas in yellow show excess connections
in those at risk of schizophrenia." (
Schizophrenia usually develops late in adolescence or early adulthood but is often proceeded by some early warning signs such as mild suspicion, a perception that outside stimuli carry a special personal significance, or hearing a voice calling the individual’s name...

Researchers developed whole-brain functional connectivity maps of 243 people who experienced early warning symptoms and 154 healthy subjects, and then followed them for two years. They found a decrease in functional connectivity between the thalamus and prefrontal cortex regions in the at-risk group that was particularly pronounced in those who went on to develop full psychosis. However, the at-risk group also had excess connectivity between thalamus and sensory areas of the brain.
We're a long way from being able to screen children widely for brain abnormalities, much less knowing what to do about them when they are found. The progress in neuroscience has been astounding, yet it can't come quickly enough for those who are afflicted by mental illness and their families.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Amazon's Jungle

The NY Times publishes a lengthy piece on the law of the jungle at Amazon [bold added]:
many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends. [snip]

Amazon employees are held accountable for a staggering array of metrics, a process that unfolds in what can be anxiety-provoking sessions called business reviews, held weekly or monthly among various teams. A day or two before the meetings, employees receive printouts, sometimes up to 50 or 60 pages long, several workers said. At the reviews, employees are cold-called and pop-quizzed on any one of those thousands of numbers.

Explanations like “we’re not totally sure” or “I’ll get back to you” are not acceptable, many employees said.
The stimulus prompted CEO Jeff Bezos' response:
The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.
Intolerance will not be tolerated!

AMZN has blown past the averages over the past 5 years. Customers are happy. Investors are VERY happy.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bye, Betty, and Thanks

Frank, the organist, chatted with Betty this morning
Attending the local Episcopal church for the past 12 years, I've only known a white-haired Betty Dial. Remarking about her great-granddaughter's most noticeable feature, her grandson said that Betty was also a natural redhead.

And so it is that we're always learning something new about people, though we may have known them a long time.

From 2009: Peggy, Betty, and Kay are irreplaceable
Betty was one of our most stalwart participants for Home and Hope, a local charity that shelters, feeds, and helps homeless families get back on their feet. She, along with a half-dozen senior former volunteers, have been difficult, if not impossible to replace.

She's still smart as a tack, but because of her health is moving to Oregon to be closer to her son.

Godspeed, Betty, till we meet again.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Again, the 50th State Leads the Way

(WSJ illustration)
Debating the important question, the Wall Street Journal asks whether it is now okay to "Wear a T-Shirt Under a Blazer and Not Look Like an 1980s Leftover".

Begging the esteemed publication's pardon, but the choice is not strictly between a T-shirt and a collared dress shirt (with or without a tie). In Hawaii the aloha shirt-with-blazer is a tasteful compromise.
A blazer or a sport coat over an aloha shirt, dress pants and shined shoes are the foundation of the most appropriate outfit for executive men in the Hawaii workplace, according to fashion experts and dress-code minders.
Don't believe what the experts say, just trust your own eyes....

Actor Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men (NY Daily News photo)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy Hour at Buffalo Wild Wings

I’ll have a Michelob.

“May I see your ID?”

Really? (Pause to glance at waiter’s face, because some like to kid their customers.)

“Really” (no smile).

I produced my driver’s license, along with my AARP card. Still no smile.

Just as TSA pats down four-year-olds and grandmothers, certain institutions tell their employees to follow the rules with no exceptions in order to eliminate human error (as if).

I like Buffalo Wild Wings but will be more watchful. No room for human judgment often means trouble on the horizon.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Something Happening

Five months ago we wrote that CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) "may become one of the most significant acronyms of the 21st century."

More about CRISPR from Wired:
researchers have already reversed mutations that cause blindness, stopped cancer cells from multiplying, and made cells impervious to the virus that causes AIDS. Agronomists have rendered wheat invulnerable to killer fungi like powdery mildew, hinting at engineered staple crops that can feed a population of 9 billion on an ever-warmer planet. Bioengineers have used Crispr to alter the DNA of yeast so that it consumes plant matter and excretes ethanol, promising an end to reliance on petrochemicals. Startups devoted to Crispr have launched. [snip]

Crispr....could at last allow genetics researchers to conjure everything anyone has ever worried they would—designer babies, invasive mutants, species-specific bioweapons, and a dozen other apocalyptic sci-fi tropes. It brings with it all-new rules for the practice of research in the life sciences. But no one knows what the rules are—or who will be the first to break them.
One of the most exciting--and alarming--aspects of CRISPR is its low expense:
“Genome editing started with just a few big labs putting in lots of effort, trying something 1,000 times for one or two successes,” says Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford. “Now it’s something that someone with a BS and a couple thousand dollars’ worth of equipment can do. What was impractical is now almost everyday. That’s a big deal.”
CRISPR joins other powerful, cheap technologies, e.g., drones, 3D printing, that have arisen suddenly and are spreading like wildfire. Society will be transformed dramatically, but in what directions we don't know.
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
             ---Buffalo Springfield

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sad Benefit

Burnt-out cars in Tianjin (
Early reports of today's warehouse explosion in Tianjin (about 75 miles southeast of Beijing) said that there were at least 44 people dead, hundreds injured, and thousands displaced. [Update - 8/14/15: the Chinese authorities still have not released information about the cause of the explosion, the latest count of the dead and injured, the ownership of the warehouse, and, perhaps most importantly, specifics about the chemicals released into the atmosphere.]

The scale of destruction is terrible to behold, but one sad benefit is that it allows us to put into perspective the horror of nuclear war, which most of us know only through grainy black-and-white photos and newsreels. The nuclear bomb that detonated over Nagasaki 70 years ago (August 9, 1945) was 22 kilotons, nearly 1,000 times as powerful as the Tianjin explosion. The most powerful hydrogen bombs were an unimaginable two million times more destructive than Tianjin.

Oh, that's why there's all this fuss about Iran.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Everything Old is New Again

1950's IBM assembly (
Headline - DARPA's Bringing Back the Vacuum Tube (h/t Glenn Reynolds) [bold added]:
the tech has unique benefits. Because they have millimeter wavelength precision and higher amplitude, the signals from the vacuum tube powered devices are harder to jam. Beyond military uses, civilian communications devices can be improved, as well as electronics used by physicists and other scientific researchers. It allows devices to operate above the 75 GhZ radio line, utilized by radio astronomers, radar installations, and satellites.
Vacuum tubes are less vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses and could be part of a defense against EMP attacks. Just as it's a good idea to keep a pre-2000 running automobile that can't be disabled by EMP or tracked (by GPS) or hacked (by WiFi), the virtues of old technology are being appreciated more and more.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Quiet Celebration

Pork tenderloin roasted on skewers
We used to celebrate our anniversaries--especially those marked with a zero--more elaborately, but not this time. Most of the items on the couples bucket list have either been checked off or found to be not that important, and what we really want, the health and happiness for friends and family, cannot be easily purchased. So no trips or gifts that will be locked away in a jewelry box, just a quiet evening consisting of flowers, candy, and dinner in a nice restaurant.

Espetus Churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse that we've walked past on the way to other restaurants in San Mateo. It was time to use the Christmas gift card that we had received from my brother. It turned out that "steakhouse" is not quite an accurate description.

A few items from the salad bar
A dozen different meats, seasoned and roasted on long skewers, are sliced to order by waiters who go from table to table. Included in the prix fixe dinner ($58) are a salad bar and unlimited servings of the meat dishes. They were all delicious, and our favorites were sirloin in red wine and some of the less-expensive cuts like pork and chicken.

I wish I had brought a bigger appetite, but like many other activities I can't do it like I used to.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Re-energized by Their Example

Dan Ludeman at Covenant Theo-
Seminary (Barron's photo)
Law-abiding citizens have little sympathy for ex-prisoners. The latter did commit crimes--many stole property or injured people--and in all cases disrupted others' lives. Lending ex-prisoners a helping hand, however, is one of society's most productive, self-interested charitable endeavors because it reduces future crime. (In California a recidivism rate of 61% is lauded as an "improvement" by State officials.)

Wells Fargo Advisors CEO Daniel Ludeman retired at the age of 56 two years ago because he felt called to "help[] other people."

John Keast
After looking at a wide range of charitable activities, he felt he could do the most good by providing ex-cons the skills and material support to adapt to life after prison.. That will be his nights-and-weekend job; he will also be studying for his Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis

I especially admire individuals like Daniel Ludeman and my friend, John Keast, who devote the latter years of their lives to helping this unloved population (you'll see very few pictures of cute babies or baby animals on re-entry brochures). Whenever my enthusiasm flags, I think of these guys and am re-energized by their example.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Big Headache

The Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statement arrived from our insurance company; it concerned a hospital visit that had never occurred. A stranger had successfully used a family member's Social Security number and birthdate to receive treatment and have it charged to our insurance. Phone calls to the hospital and insurance company corrected their records, and we weren't liable for any charges.

(Image from ABC News)
We were victims of a burgeoning cyber-crime, medical ID theft, and were lucky that the consequences weren't worse.[bold added]
Medical identity theft—in which someone fraudulently uses data to bill for medical services—affected 2.3 million adult patients in 2014 versus 1.4 million in 2009...

Thieves use many ways to acquire numbers for Social Security, private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. Some are stolen in data breaches and sold on the black market. Such data are especially valuable, sometimes selling for about $50 compared with $6 or $7 for a credit-card number, law-enforcement officials estimate. A big reason is that medical-identification information can’t be quickly canceled like credit cards.
Medical privacy laws, enacted to protect patients' welfare, make it difficult to disentangle the thief's records from one's own:
Federal medical-privacy laws bar a person’s access to someone else’s data, even if the information is in their own files, medical experts say.
Despite the knotty problems, we are confident that medical identity theft will become much less of a problem: privacy laws will change, ID technology will improve, and the medical payments system will be overhauled. In the meantime, we are checking our statements and guarding our data.

Friday, August 07, 2015

21st Century Headline

Time headline: Volkswagens Are Getting A Long Overdue Upgrade.

The crucial upgrade? [bold added]
The MIB II replaces phone-specific ports for phones with USB ports.
I could list a hundred reasons for buying a car, and USB ports wouldn't be one of them.

Le dinosaure, c'est moi.

The Tesla dashboard: the future is now (

Thursday, August 06, 2015


 The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion
Hall in 1945 and today, now nicknamed
the A-Bomb Dome (AP Photo)
The 70th anniversary of Hiroshima's destruction by an atomic bomb is a time for sober reflection, not only about the horror of nuclear war but of the circumstances that gave rise to the use of such a weapon. As the World War II generation disappears into history, support among Americans for the atomic bombing of Japan has fallen from 85% to 56% today. There are cogent arguments for and against the use of the bomb. This is one of those issues where it behooves us all to study the arguments on both sides before drawing a conclusion.

I have no enthusiasm in being part of the shrinking majority supporting Truman's decision. Killing 200,000-250,000 Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved hundreds of thousands American soldiers' lives and perhaps avoided 20 million (!) Japanese casualties, the latter a Japanese official's estimate.

Three more comments:

1) Thank God Harry S Truman was President.

2) I doubt strongly whether many in the generations that came after, including myself or for that matter the current holder of the Presidency, would have the courage to make the decision and be second-guessed and vilified throughout history.

3) There's a good chance that I owe my existence to the bomb. My father, who celebrated his 90th birthday in June, would have been part of the invasion of Japan. (Dad served in the post-War occupation.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Mistaking an Attribute for the Cause

(Image from
Forbes columnist Rich Karlgaard cautions against emulating the "jerky behavior" of superstar-CEO's Steve Jobs and Elon Musk:
If you decide you want to behave this way, make sure you’re the company founder, you’re the smartest person in the room, you outwork everyone and that people love your products.....The number of individuals who check all those boxes is minuscule. Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk [Tesla, SolarCity, SpaceX]. Jeff Bezos [Amazon]. Travis Kalanick [Uber].

For the vast majority of us I would say: Don’t go there. Being a jerk isn’t worth it. It will damage your heart and soul. It will hurt, not help, your teams. It will lead more often to poverty than to riches. Instead, follow B.C. Forbes’ advice: Produce happiness.
Even the "nicest" leaders have to make decisions that hurt people's feelings---think hiring and firing, raises and promotions, pursuing and defending lawsuits, etc. But why aggravate a tough decision by being obnoxious about it?

So, unless you're a superstar who never has to worry about finding a job, remember to Be Nice to People on Your Way Up. You’ll Meet Them On Your Way Down.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Pure Organic

At Safeway, Lucky, Whole Foods, and other "American" supermarkets such labeling is unnecessary, but at the Asian food stores it is very important. Chinese customers want to make sure the food isn't from China..

"Food from China is frequently found to contain alarming levels of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) and other contaminants." That's why some of my new neighbors left their homeland---who wants to raise kids in that environment?

The "beef lady finger meat" was born, raised, and harvested in the good old U.S. of A, so I bought some for curry stew, whose spiciness will be pure organic.

Monday, August 03, 2015

A is for Adventurousness, B is for....

Costco's buyers are remarkably attuned to consumer trends. Solar energy devices, organic produce, and luxury items (e.g, jewelry, bordeaux) at heavily discounted prices are but a few examples of goods that were stocked before customer demand became certain.

Sometimes the buyers make puzzling decisions, however. Last year's chicken coops can no longer be found on warehouse floors, and I'll bet this month's beehives suffer a similar fate. (I wont be a buyer, because of my trouble with bees last year.)

Nevertheless give them an A for adventurousness.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Teach a Man to Fish

In 2007 we visited Heifer International's demonstration
farm (now closed) near Modesto.
Heifer International is one of our favorite charities. For the expenditure of a few hundred dollars a donor can buy a farm animal such as a goat or a water buffalo for a family in the Third World. Per Heifer's website:
our approach is more than just giving them a handout....Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.

The core of our model is Passing on the Gift. This means families share the training they receive, and pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family. This extends the impact of the original gift, allowing a once impoverished family to become donors and full participants in improving their communities.
One of the thorniest problems in philanthropy is finding "investments" that lift people out of poverty permanently without making them dependent on continued funding. It turns out that a modification to Heifer's approach has been supported by MIT researchers Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, who found [bold added]
an anti-poverty strategy that works consistently, based on a seven-year, six-country study of more than 10,000 poor households. The secret, the economists argue, is to hand out assets, followed by several months of cash transfers, followed by as much as two years of training and encouragement. That formula seems to have made a lasting difference to the lives of the very poorest in countries as different as Ghana, Pakistan and Peru.
The short-term cash transfers help the recipients resist the temptation to consume the farm animals they have been given.
Perhaps most important, when the researchers went back and surveyed households a year after the programme had ended, they found that people were still working, earning and eating more.
The good can be made better.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Losing our Balance

Puunui Park: the steel bars I used to climb on have been
replaced by this pretty and non-hazardous play structure.
Proprioception: the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself.

Proprioceptive activities like tree climbing or balancing on a beam can "dramatically improve cognitive skill."
According to a press release from the [University of North Florida], the results demonstrated remarkable cognitive gains: “After two hours, participants were tested again, and researchers found that their working memory capacity had increased by 50 percent, a dramatic improvement.”
As a kid I used to climb jungle gyms nearly every day, and my memory stayed pretty sound during my full-time working years. (Now, not so much.)

Today one rarely sees traditional jungle gyms at playgrounds, even with mandatory thick padding. Children today are much safer, but in general they take much longer to learn how to be adults, n'est-ce pas?