Tuesday, January 31, 2017

No Sanctuary from Politics

Neil Gorsuch (Denver Post)
Your humble blogger has something in common with President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch; we usher for our local Episcopal church:
Gorsuch serves as an usher at St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder, and his wife gives the sermon and leads intercessory prayer on occasion.
(I can one-up him, though, because I also read the intercessory prayer.)

As Episcopalians he and I have another thing in common: we are faithful members of an organization whose leaders hold very different political views from ours (I'm just guessing about Judge Gorsuch's).
the rector (head pastor) of his church, Susan Woodward Springer, attended the Women's March in Washington, D.C., and praised the march (which excluded pro-life women and reportedly mistreated them when they showed up anyway) as a "glorious, unified, peaceful, friendly law-abiding crowd."
It's not the political views of the clergy that bother me, but the fact that we must often listen to these views, unchallenged, from the pulpit. As I've written before, the church as a whole envisions itself as a "social justice" organization, one which advocates the redistribution of wealth by the State, if necessary, to those who are purportedly victimized by the current power structure.

Sanctuary cities are all the rage, but I suppose it's too much to ask for the church, which is the original sanctuary (sanctus = holy), to be a safe space from politics. Last Sunday someone got up to talk about how he joined the demonstrations at SFO to protest the "Muslim ban" and another talked about how she was joining a protest group down in Palo Alto. C'mon people, you can turn off your cellphones for an hour, can't you turn off politics, and especially angry politics?

Good luck to Judge Gorsuch. From one suffering non-progressive Episcopalian to another, he has my sympathy.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Tempting But No

Costco is now selling Swallow Nest Beverage. The health drink was expensive--over $2.50 for a small bottle--and invited a closer look. Swallows Nest Beverage had the same ingredient, dried bird-saliva, that is in birds' nest soup served in Chinese restaurants.

Having partaken of birds' nest soup at Chinese banquets in the 50's and 60's, I don't remember it as being particularly tasty. It did have a distinctive gelatinous texture:
Right after they are mated, [swallows] regurgitate long, thin gelatinous strands from their salivary glands under their tongues. These strands play an important role in making their nests.
Birds' nests became very expensive, and chefs substituted other ingredients like sharks' fin (discontinued when sharks became endangered) and even corn starch.

Now that birds nest has been, er, regurgitated as a health food, expense is no object. From the company website:
Based on modern researches, the protein contained in swallow nest is distinct in that it is mainly biologically active protein, which has revitalizing effects to human body. The researches reveal that Swallow nest contains small amount of epidermal growth factor. Water extraction of Swallow nest can also directly stimulate cell growth/regeneration and enhance the effectiveness of mitogen (the initiator in cell division). Also, this active protein in the nest makes it a very useful tonic for people with weak digestion system (e.g. elderly people), and for some that need a very rapid cell regeneration and development (e.g.: pregnant women, growing children). One of the most recent published researches confirms that the high content of water-soluble glyco-protein in swallow nest promotes cell division within the immune system.
The beverage is good for elderly people, pregnant women, and growing children. The target market's hu-uge! I decided to wait; I'm not elderly....yet.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

For in Giving You Shall Receive

As happened last year, Sandwiches on Sunday coincided with the church's annual meeting, but the volunteers hid their disappointment well. The servers, including yours truly, served lasagna and salad to 75 people at the Fair Oaks Community Center.

Last year the number of “customers” averaged about 50, and 5 or 6 trays of lasagna were usually enough. Whether due to good fortune, intuition, or inspiration the cooks had prepared nine (9) lasagnas and six (6) bowls of salad. Added to the menu were day-old bread and rolls that a kind supermarket manager had set aside, and annual meeting leftovers that a parishioner thoughtfully dropped off. The large chocolate layer cake that was hardly touched met its fate that afternoon.

Although everyone thanks us individually as we scoop food onto the plates, more often than not someone makes a heartfelt thank-you speech to us as we are closing up. Today was no different. “You’re welcome” somehow seems inadequate, so we say “thank you for coming” or “we’re glad you could join us” as if they are giving us something, too. They are.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Start Spreading the News

I even read the comics, did
the crosswords puzzle, and
studied the bridge column.
The silver lining of economy air travel is that one is disconnected (in 2017) from the World Wide Web. The traveller is "forced" to read articles, even books, without the distraction of clicking through links. For the first time in years I read the SF Chronicle and Wall Street Journal cover to cover.

I had forgotten the delight of reading articles in the back pages of each section. Not skimming and actually thinking about the "minor" news that I had just read was a pleasure. Some poor section editor, a vanishing breed, applied all of his or her experience to designing the layout that will be completely forgotten in 24 hours.

After getting off the airplane, I sent my renewal payment to the Chronicle. Yes, its politics are different from mine, and yes, it's become increasingly partisan over the past decade, but there's enough in the venerable newspaper that's worth saving.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Beating the Competition

I usually tune out during the pre-flight safety announcements and after years of travel can almost recite them from memory (seat belts, no smoking, oxygen masks, emergency exit doors), but I snapped to attention when I watched Hawaiian Air's video. It showcased ordinary people reciting the instructions against Hawaiian scenic attractions. The cinematography and music were a cut above a typical airline production.

I've been flying HAL regularly, and I like the way it has been making improvements to its product, all the while keeping prices modest. Hawaiian companies rarely match Mainland competition, but here's one that's beating them.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Around and Back

Ala Wai Canal, January 2017
On every trip back to Honolulu I try to walk around the Ala Wai Canal. (I used to jog, but the pounding could trigger the arthritis that runs in my family--that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

One should not day dream or text when walking on the sidewalk, which has become increasingly crowded with pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, and bicyclists.

The canal in 2011
One should only cross the street in a crosswalk, when the light is green, and only after looking in both directions (the one-way traffic is westbound, but bicyclists can come from any direction). The automobile traffic is heavy, and many of the drivers are in a hurry, speeding through the red light.

I got back to the house after an hour. It was 6:30 p.m. and quite dark. My brother joked (at least I think he was) that he was getting ready to look for me.

Have I really reached the age where people worry that I might not find my way back? (Oh, so that's why she insisted I install Find My Friends on the iPhone.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In Hawaii the Perfect Runaround Car

(Hana Hou photo)
I learned to drive on three different cars, a black Chevy, a blue Pontiac, and a white Volkswagen bug. All had manual transmissions, and by far the easiest one to drive was the white VW, which handled like a toy compared to the Chevy (power steering was another luxury accessory I didn't acquire until I was nearly 30).

My bachelor uncle, who didn't drive much, let me use his car. After he died in 1982, relatives fixed and painted the car, which was stolen shortly thereafter. In Hawaii then and now, Volkswagen beetles are prized. [bold added]
There are Volkswagen enthusiasts all over the world, but Hawai‘i’s attachment to the brand is so deep and abiding that the cars have become an inextricable part of local culture. Only in Hawai‘i is VW to classic cars what Spam is to breakfast. If you think about it, there are some striking similarities: Both Volkswagens and Spam are dependable, inexpensive and fundamentally utilitarian. Both are also packed with grease. And while one comes in a shiny can and the other is a shiny can, both have a powerful appeal to local tastes that’s not easy for outsiders to understand.
I will install a security system in Hawaii, however.
On the contrary, the appeal is easy to understand. Pre-1975 VW's don't have catalytic converters or radiators. Maintenance is easily within the skill set of the backyard mechanic. To a young single person who doesn't care about impressing a client or a date (or for safety or air-conditioning), it's the perfect runaround car.

It's one of the few things that I'll take to Hawaii if I ever move back.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Better, I Suppose

The last time we were here the "new" International Market Place was still being built. The sidewalk kiosks had been razed, and a multi-story shopping center was springing up around the landmark banyan tree.

I didn't bother going into any of the stores. Attractive as it was, the International Market Place looked the same as other designer-name shopping centers in Hawaii.

The old Market Place had gone through cycles of unsavoriness. I remember it as a hangout for street people and drugs, especially when tourism was down. Beginning in the late 20th century, the Hawaiian economy began the long boom that in Waikiki resulted in high-rise hotels, office buildings, and condo projects all jockeying for the best views of the Pacific. The handwriting was on the wall for the old International Market Place.

Now I miss the haggling and the over-priced T-shirts......

International Market Place

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tempting, But No

CVS, like many retailers, is touting its healthy foods and snacks.

Absent from the webpage are the CVS Spam products in the 50th State, not only the regular and low-sodium offerings on the Mainland but also exotic variations like Portuguese-sausage Spam and Teriyaki Spam.

Don't be reticent, CVS. Proclaim your ability to cater to local tastes!

Did I buy some to take back to California? Tempting, but no.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Tableau

My home parish is not a large church, so I was not expecting to see a sufficient number of acolytes to make up a Gospel Processional, complete with crucifer, bookbearer, and two candlebearers.

The rector is a Lutheran pastor---there is full communion between the Lutheran and Episcopal denominations---and (obviously) a woman. She's a living symbol of the changes that have come to the Church over the past half-century.

But is she doing a good job? Based on the evidence of our own eyes, she is.

The Anger Trap: More Powerful Than Ever

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.
-- Proverbs 22:24-25
(Telegraph image)
Before the modern era anger was not a virtue, in fact it was one of the seven deadly sins.

Nowadays if you are angry for the "right" reasons many people will follow you, you'll get on the nightly news, and you may even get elected to high office. And if you destroy property and harm people because you are angry about the way things are or will be shortly, you are also rewarded with fame and clicks. There is plenty of anger on display by all sides.

Your humble blogger is not immune from anger and sometimes allowed it to control his decisions. Although some say that anger can be used as motivation and channeled into productive uses, I have found its costs to be much greater than any benefits. As King Solomon wrote about the anger trap, don't "get yourself ensnared."

BTW, don't suppress or vent your anger. Try reappraisal.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Apt Metaphor

The new President's first and last names are each very punnable, so inspired by a headline such as the one shown ("Don of a New Day") I went outside on Friday to take a picture of the sunrise at 7:10 a.m. HST (12:10 p.m. in Washington, DC) while he was delivering the Inaugural address.

No luck, the heavy overcast blocked the sun, and fierce rains blew through Honolulu shortly after.

Well, a storm is a more apt metaphor anyway for what's going on in politics.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Nice to Test It

Tourists who want to spend a lot of money can always go to Maui or Kauai or stay in Waikiki, and I'm not averse to doing that every five years or so.

This time I would have my typical Oahu vacation in which expenses, including airfare, would be under $1,000 for the week (OK, it helps to have relatives who will provide a bed and a car).

I strolled down to Ala Moana Beach Park; it has large expanses of white sand, reef-protected beaches, and hardly any people on a weekday. The distance around the park was 1.8 miles, enough to meet the (low) exercise criterion on the Apple Watch.

The short walk was enough to work up a light sweat and a good reason to walk across Ala Moana Boulevard to the shopping center for refreshment. Retiring in Hawaii, I would start doing this every day and might eventually get bored. Well, I'm not sure about that but it would be nice to test that hypothesis.

Banyan at Ala Moana park

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Often Wrong but Never in Doubt

Two Wall Street Journals in one: from last Friday's web page, the Trump rally has peaked vs. the Trump rally continues. (Clicking through shows that the optimistic projection is actually from Marketwatch.)

Despite millions (billions?) of dollars spent on computer models and hiring the best mathematics PhD's from CalTech and MIT, the investment banks, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and Economics departments still can't tell us where the financial markets are going today, tomorrow, or next year.

Maybe they should think outside the box and hire climate scientists, who can tell us with unfailing accuracy when the polar ice caps will melt and what the global temperatures will be in a hundred years (about tomorrow they're not so sure). And they can do this with only a fraction of the funds allocated to financial software.

Spend $millions and get a lot of I'm-not-sures or run an Excel spreadsheet that tells you where mankind is going? Your choice.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hospitalization Unlikely

The first order of business after getting off the plane was to go to a place where standing water is prevalent. Somewhat disconcertingly, a sign posted at eye level warned of an unpublicized peril, dengue fever. Fortunately, there were no mosquitoes buzzing about the room in the air-conditioned terminal.

Well, I'll just have to avoid the rainforests on this trip and confine myself to the bars and nightclubs, where one can still contract fevers and headaches. However, hospitalization will be unlikely.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Now This is a Data Set

In an important tech development that Americans may have missed, India has rolled out a digital identification system ("AADHAR") that “relies on fingerprints and eye scans to eventually provide IDs to all 1.25 billion Indians.”

While the system’s advantages of efficiency, accuracy, and security are potentially huge, its glitches have affected millions of the poorest people in the world by delaying their receipt of benefits.
The error level is less than 1%, but in the world’s second-most populous country the snag would still affect about 11 million people.
100% coverage also isn’t immediately feasible in a country “where many people live off the grid or have fingerprints compromised by manual labor or age.”

Another reason AADHAR won't work in America: beneficiaries must
first pay market prices, then have their subsidies deposited later (WSJ)
Such a system is years, perhaps decades, from being implemented in the U.S., not only because of privacy concerns but also because of technical matters. If a few Americans can’t get fingerprints read—and therefore their government payments right away---their complaints would go viral in the age of livestreaming video.

The trick would be keep the old systems in place—or have backup systems available—to handle the cases that fall through the cracks. But that would involve cost, planning, and smart people paying attention to detail, the latter of which is in short supply in private industry as well as government.

Well, the good news is that by the time such an ID system is implemented here many of the bugs will have been worked out elsewhere. The bad news is that the inventors won’t be American companies.

Monday, January 16, 2017

MLK Day, 2017

Last year's post, with an addendum:

At the 1963 March on Washington (ABC news)
The death of Martin Luther King, Jr., occurred when I was a teenager. I admired his speeches but knew little else about him. He was part of the societal eruptions occurring on the Mainland, and wasn’t the FBI investigating him, and weren’t there rumors that he was a communist?

Race riots, the civil rights movement, Vietnam war protests, drugs, the Russo-Chinese axis, and finally the granddaddy of worries—nuclear war—all made for an unsettled Sixties. The murder of Martin Luther King in 1968, one of the most eventful years of the 20th century, was another sign of a very unstable world.

The world, of course, did survive the tumult, and with distance comes reflection and perspective. For me Dr. King is one of those rare individuals whose greatness has increased with the passage of time. His “I Have a Dream” speech is as compelling—and relevant—as ever, and his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is a soul-searching treatise on civil disobedience. Only recently have I begun to appreciate its wisdom.

Dr. King's words, like the Bible, have been used by people to support opposing sides of various issues. Usually at least one side engages in cherry-picking; an honest reading in context will likely make it clear where he would have stood.

For example, gay rights may be analogized to the battle against segregation.
An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
Another example: the hypocrisy of climate change celebrities and billionaires who use private jets and own multiple estates.
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. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: something to like---and not like---for everyone.

Addendum: the Letter from a Birmingham Jail has something to say about the debate over a voter identification law (one side says it would prevent fraud, the other says it would cause intimidation). Would such a law be unjust? Your humble blogger would cheerfully show his ID to vote, as would the presumed majority who would support its enactment. In other words the majority would make the law binding on itself, making voter ID a just law by Martin Luther King's definition.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

St. Elizabeth's, South San Francisco

St. Elizabeth's in South City was the first church we attended in the Bay Area 40 years ago. The exterior looks better than I expected. For a mission that's always on the verge of closing, it's looking good. (The website history is out of date; due to declining attendance the Diocese has combined its congregation with St. Andrew's, San Bruno.)

(Photo from All Saints)
I have a distinct recollection of the Vicar, the Rev. Richard Byfield. As a young priest he worked with Bishop James Pike, whose once-revolutionary ideas (ordination of women, LGBT ministry) have become mainstream Episcopal thought. Father Byfield became rector of several large churches before he moved on to St. Elizabeth's. He gave his full attention to ministering to our small congregation, which loved him. That's one aspect of the Episcopal priesthood that I've always admired---everyone I've met puts aside worldly ambition and prestige and goes to where they are needed the most. R.I.P.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

No Woman in History has Exceeded Her Achievement

Ferdinand and Isabella - wedding portrait (Wikipedia)
This is a time when we need strong women leaders, so it's appropriate to remember one of the all-time greats, Queen Isabella, without whom the blessings of Western Civilization would not have come to the New World.

From America’s Hidden History by Kenneth C. Davis [bold and bullets added]:
In 1469…teenage cousins Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile were married. Isabella and Ferdinand were a remarkable couple whose successes in
  • uniting several fractious small kingdoms into a nation [Spain],
  • eliminating the last vestiges of Islamic power in Iberia,
  • revving up the Inquisition, and
  • setting Spain on a path of world domination
    were extraordinary by any measure.

    “No woman in history has exceeded her achievement.” - Hugh Thomas, Rivers of Gold
  • Isabella turned down arranged marriages and chose to marry second cousin Ferdinand, who was no shy consort material. By the age of 17 Ferdinand had already led troops into battle and fathered children by two different women.
    In modern tabloid parlance, he’d be headlined a “hunk.” In fact the pair would have been People magazine’s dream royals. The tall, blue-eyed beauty Isabella and the muscular Ferdinand would have dwarfed most contemporary celebrity couples.
    Moderns will quail at the brutality of those whom history has labeled great, but one truth is that in Isabella’s time everyone behaved savagely, the Moors whom “Ferdabella” drove from Spain, the French whom the Spaniards battled in the New World, and the “Indians” in what was to become America.

    Nevertheless in the annals of atrocities there are few rivals to the cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition, which tortured and killed Protestants and Jews during Isabella’s reign, or the death and destruction wrought by the Spanish conquistadores who came after Columbus and Isabella. Another Spanish first---years after Isabella's reign but a direct consequence of the forces that she set in motion--was slavery:
    Menendez also brought along Africans as "laborers" [in 1565], which should properly give Spain---not the English in Jamestown in 1619---the distinction of introducing African slaves to what would become the United States.
    Not all of Isabella’s “achievements” may be praiseworthy, but they had a profound influence on the world that exists today.

    Friday, January 13, 2017

    It's Not All Like the DMV

    Thursday : getting the news that we had to show up Friday.
    Today we found out why over 250 potential jurors had to be interviewed. The case was a homicide with two defendants, each of whom needed to have his own jury of 12 good persons and true, plus 3 alternates. Also, the proceedings were going to last at least 30 days and would turn out to be a "hardship" for many prospective jurors.

    Two months ago I had booked an upcoming vacation---the cancellation of which is a valid hardship---and I was excused tout de suite.

    The judge explained the complexities reasonably, IMHO, and the calendar didn't seem to have a lot of slack. All the court officers spoke courteously and professionally. The whole experience was a reminder that many who work in government not only are competent but also maintain cheerful spirits under pressure.

    Note: I ran into Helena, whom I just talked to last month volunteering for Home and Hope. That's the second time in four years that I've run into someone I knew at the jury pool. San Mateo County has about 750,000 people. When you've been around as long as I have, you may know more people than you thought you did.

    Thursday, January 12, 2017

    Newly Summoned Faces

    Redwood Creek is less than a 10-minute walk from the courthouse.
    By 9 a.m. the Jury Assembly room was filled to its 165-person capacity. Judging from past experience the odds were in favor of my going home early. Typically 50-60 would be called to go upstairs.

    Uh-oh, the clerk flourished a thick sheaf of papers and began reading. There was an initial thrill when 140 names were called, none of them mine. I sobered when the clerk told the "lucky" 23 to come back after lunch. What sort of trial calls 140 candidates, screens them in the morning, and needs more potential jurors in the afternoon?

    About 100 newly summoned faces were seated in the Assembly room after the lunch break. Half of them went upstairs, and we lucky 23 joined the uncalled remnant.

    After waiting an hour, the clerk told us to come back at 1 p.m. tomorrow. If we didn't, the judge could issue a bench warrant for our arrest. The good news: we all would be paid $15 for showing up.

    They couldn't get 12 jurors from the nearly 200 that went to the courtroom today. What was this trial about anyway?

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Kerouac Would Approve

    (Ars technica image)
    In news that you may have missed, the village of Tourouvre au Perche in Normandy, France has opened a 1-kilometer (0.6 mile) "solar road" built out of solar panels:
    The roadway is just one kilometre (0.6mi) long, but that still works out at 2,800 square metres of photovoltaic cells—enough, hopefully, to power the village's street lights.
    At a cost of €5 million (currently US $5.3 million), the uneconomical "Wattway" is a demonstration project:
    There will now be a two-year test period, to see if Wattway can withstand the rigour of being pounded by thousands of cars and trucks per day, and whether it can actually provide a useful amount of electricity.

    Usefulness aside, the main problem with constructing solar roads is their crippling cost. One of the main selling points of Wattway, according to Colas, is that each panel is just a few millimetres thick, and can thus be installed on top of an existing road, which in turn massively reduces construction costs. Having said that, the 1km road in Normandy cost €5 million (£4.3m) to build. And that's for a single lane of a two-lane highway!
    There are clearly engineering obstacles--not only the vehicular pounding but also problems that are foreseeable with solar energy, such as dirt, snow, and other sunblocking materials and cloudy weather--but we applaud the experiment.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2017

    How Quickly We Condemn

    (Image from MountVernon.org)
    Many of the Founding Fathers were slaveowners, among them Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison. (Those who didn't own slaves include John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Alexander Hamilton.)

    The biggest Founding Father, George Washington himself, was also a slaveowner and at least for part of his life threw himself into the activity: [bold added]
    When Washington was 11, he inherited 10 slaves from his father; when he died five decades later, he owned 123 of the 317 slaves who lived and worked at Mount Vernon. In that time the estate grew from a fairly modest farmhouse with 2,000 acres to a 21-room mansion and nearly 8,000 acres. It was in this way that the first president became rich: by buying, owning and sometimes selling people and by forcing them to work for him, under pain of flogging, beating or being sold away from their relatives and friends.
    What George Washington did over 200 years ago is morally reprehensible now, but I wonder how many of the things we do today will be found to be beyond the pale in 200 years? There's a good chance that some of the following will be viewed as barbaric by distant descendants:
  • Eating meat from slaughtered animals.
  • Related: treating animals, including pets, as property.
  • Treating A.I. machines, such as robots, as property.
  • Burning fossil fuels, especially for flying to climate-change conferences.
  • Having an abortion.
  • Letting people die because it's illegal to purchase a kidney or liver.
  • Not letting people choose the manner and timing of their own death.
  • Imprisoning criminals instead of changing their behavior.
  • Behaving hypocritically (easy to check on the permanent record).
  • Letting people die instead of prolonging their life indefinitely.
  • Obviously, some of the above cannot co-exist.
    Judge not, that ye be not judged. - Matthew 7:1

    Monday, January 09, 2017

    So Will I

    There was a line despite the rain.
    Though the benefit is not worth the effort for most people, we've continued to take the bottles and cans to the recycling center.

    The benefit that I neglected to factor was teaching the youngster the value of work. The container by the side of the house was filled by Saturday. He emptied the plastic bottles into three large garbage bags, which we threw into a 26-year-old car that fits in well with the task.

    We stood in line with the rest of the small-time recyclers, waiting for our cash payout. Absent from everyone's mannerisms was the pretension of class; we're all here because we find that $5 or $10 is worth the time.

    The man at the counter weighed the bottles and presented us with $14.87. The youngster, who did most of the work, was happy when I handed him $10. As long as he wants to keep doing this, so will I.

    Sunday, January 08, 2017

    Answered Prayer

    At the church entrance: the rain fell steadily
    on Sunday morning but did not keep the faithful away.
    I knew storms of the century, and 2017 New Year's squall, you're no storm of the century (with apologies to Lloyd Bentsen).

    On Sunday morning the wind and rain were not strong enough to dampen worshippers. As ushers, Elliot and I had expected very light duty, but attendance was nearly normal.

    The Peninsula by and large escaped the floods and road closures that pummeled other areas:
    In the Bay Area, northern regions took the brunt of the storm, with the Napa River reaching flood stage at St. Helena and Napa and water spilling into frontage areas alongside the Petaluma River in downtown Petaluma. In Sonoma County, authorities were urging people in low-lying areas along the Russian River to evacuate ahead of flooding predicted for Monday.
    The good news is that snowpack levels across the State are at normal levels or higher.

    Dare we hope that the drought has ended? It's an auspicious beginning to the year.

    Saturday, January 07, 2017

    The Chessmaster

    Juxtaposition by the Boston Globe
    It's Vladimir Putin's world, and we're just living in it. Time: [bold added]
    While there is no evidence that votes were altered, the steady stream of embarrassing revelations from the emails put Hillary Clinton into a defensive crouch. And, in a razor-thin election, there are many Americans who believe, with some justification, that Putin helped Trump win.

    What makes it even better for Putin is the election meddling caps an extraordinary two-year string of military and diplomatic victories that leaves him in a strong position as the new President enters office. In Eastern Europe, Putin turned a losing hand in Ukraine into a territorial grab of Crimea. He has helped fund the rise of nationalist parties in Western Europe and benefited from the resulting weakening of the European Union. In the Middle East, he has deployed his forces to Syria to save a beleaguered Cold War ally and emerged with newfound influence throughout the region.
    But what's dominated the domestic news in the past month has been Russia's attempts to influence the U.S. election:
    Putin wasn’t just trying to give Western democracy a black eye, say senior intelligence and Administration officials, he was also trying to help Trump win White House [sic].
    What's missing in this narrative is why Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump to win. Did Mr. Putin think Hillary Clinton would make the U.S. Defense posture stronger than Donald Trump? Below are some of Donald Trump's defense goals:
  • Work with Congress to fully repeal the defense sequester and submit a new budget to rebuild our depleted military.
  • Increase the size of the U.S. Army to 540,000 active duty soldiers, which the Army Chief of Staff says he needs to execute current missions.
  • Rebuild the U.S. Navy toward a goal of 350 ships, as the bipartisan National Defense Panel has recommended.
  • Provide the U.S. Air Force with the 1,200 fighter aircraft they need.
  • Grow the U.S. Marine Corps to 36 battalions.
  • I cannot imagine any Democratic administration proposing anything close to the above nor that the Russians would prefer DJT to HRC.

    The Russian hacking is entirely believable, but the motivation remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Probably, as usual, the Russians are playing chess, and the Americans are playing--not even checkers--but tiddlywinks.

    Friday, January 06, 2017

    Epiphany At a Different Time

    From four years ago:
    Today, January 6th, Epiphany, marks the official end of the Christmas season. Not too long ago Catholics, Episcopalians, and other Christians observed not only the twelve days of Christmas but also the eight days of Epiphany. ("The Octave of Epiphany" sounds like the title of Dan Brown's next book.) In the Internet age we can barely concentrate twelve minutes, much less eight or twelve days, on any endeavor.
    In a more observant time the Feast of Epiphany was celebrated in Church on January 6th, although it was a weekday. The children's Christmas pageant was held on Epiphany, rather than Christmas Eve, because that was when the Magi (three kings) by tradition visited the manger.

    Your humble blogger has childhood memories of dressing up as Gaspard, Melchior, or Balthasar and marching down the aisle holding a representation of gold, frankincense, or myrrh, all to the strains of "We Three Kings of Orient Are." It was hard to find boys to volunteer for the role, because each king had to sing his designated verse (e.g., "myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume, breathes a life of gathering gloom"); singing was not viewed as a manly activity. The girls had better voices, but they didn't want to do it either because that meant stepping out of their gender role.

    Yes, it was a different time.

    Thursday, January 05, 2017

    Self-Cancelling Label

    If the label says "Hight Class Sesame Oil" it probably isn't.

    (I like to substitute sesame oil for vegetable oil in some recipes to make the flavors more interesting.)

    Wednesday, January 04, 2017

    Still in a Bubble

    Conservative columnist and humorist Kurt Schlicter channels how the deplorables think in flyover country.
    “You know Mitch, with the economy so good and America so respected in the world, I was totally going to support Hillary continuing Obama’s work, but then I found out that Donna Brazile was feeding her CNN’s debate questions. Also, until Comey reminded me, I had totally forgotten Hillary was under FBI investigation for doing what would have gotten me sent to Leavenworth if I had done it when I was in the Navy. So, despite loving all the Democrat policies that have made my life a paradise, especially the idea of a law allowing grown men in dresses to loiter in my tween daughter’s restroom, I’m voting for Trump. Oh, also I’m a deplorable racist and hate science. Also, sexism.”
    Actually, this is the narrative that the coastal elites tell themselves about the November election. They're still grasping to understand the deplorables.

    Heck, they don't even know someone who drives a truck. (For the record, your humble blogger knows several people who drive pickup trucks.)

    Tuesday, January 03, 2017

    Unforced Error

    Though my politics are more in tune with Republicans than Democrats, I'm under no illusions about the wisdom, intelligence, or character of some Republican members. One of the first items that the House Republican majority put on the agenda was to "reduce the power of an independent ethics office":
    Republicans had voted 119-74 in a secret House GOP Caucus meeting Monday night to hobble the Office of Congressional Ethics as part of new rules to govern the incoming Congress.
    Not everyone who voted in favor of this item was motivated by venality (the Office had a history of tying up Members with spurious claims by activist groups, as well as investigating legitimate accusations), but surely there are more important things to do in the first hundred days.

    It took a tweet from the President-elect to shame the Republicans to remove the provision. The un-politician seems to have more political sense than those with many years of experience.

    Monday, January 02, 2017

    Just Give Him Time

    I just became a Twitter follower of the President elect. He took New Year's Day off, but on the 2nd he produced five (5) tweets, among them the following: It's far from the most inflammatory thing he's ever said, and it's no different from what many Americans would say at the water cooler, but since it reflects the thoughts of the soon-to-be President of the United States it sparked a diplomatic contretemps:
    In response, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a press briefing on Tuesday that his government’s efforts were “widely recognized,” and that “we hope all sides will avoid remarks and actions to escalate the situation.”
    Donald J. Trump's tweets are not as powerful as the visage of Helen of Troy, but just give him time.