Monday, December 31, 2018

Let the Dog Out

It's been a downer of a year. A number of good friends and relatives died, and my retirement fund took a major hit in the 4th quarter.

On the bright side our health is still good, I don't have to go to work (yet), and our loved ones aren't dealing with severe crises, at least any that I know of.

The zeitgeist is miserable. The airwaves--news, entertainment, even sports--and print media have gone anti-Trump 24/7. I didn't vote for him--basically it was a prophylactic (my 10-year-old self snickers) vote to protect my health and property--but all his positions are not arrant nonsense, and half the country supports him. To be clear about where I stand, the noise itself is wearying, and I wouldn't like it if the media were pro-leader 24/7 like in North Korea.

(Image from healthcmi.com)
I've stopped watching MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News and turned to the Hallmark Channel, where the plot conflict is whether Jill can persuade Jack to start enjoying Christmas again (spoiler: she can and he does).

2018 coincides with the Year of the Dog (2/16/2018 to 2/4/2019). What say you we let the dog out a little early---by the way, President Trump, a dog, was born in 1946---and welcome in the Pig, which is looking prettier every day?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

No Sandwiches This Sunday

Teen volunteers packing up the leftovers
We've been hosting Sandwiches on Sunday four times a year for fifteen years. Usually the event goes smoothly, but not today. (No, it wasn't close to being as bad as 2007, when a fight broke out.)

We didn't get the keys to the walk-in refrigerator, so we couldn't hand out 100 brown-bag lunches. No worries, the diners said. They were grateful for the lasagna and salad lunch that we did serve.

If only everyone had the attitude of gratitude, life would be much more pleasant.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Fond Farewell

As we say goodbye to 2018, we bid a fond farewell to the Boeing 747 passenger jet, which technology and consumers' preferences have rendered obsolete.
The 747 cargo version will continue.
The newer planes, which include the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, are redrawing the map for global air travel. They can fly just as far as the jumbos, but often are less expensive to operate on a per-seat basis. They allow airlines to offer multiple flights on routes that once justified only a single big aircraft. That helps fill seats and boost profits.

...for many international travelers, the shift is eliminating what has been an almost mandatory stopover in a global airport hub such as New York, London, Dubai or Singapore.

“Since the dawn of air travel, people always wanted to fly direct,” says Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s chief jetliner salesman. Smaller planes have changed the economics of the industry, he says, and have “pushed big aircraft, to some extent, out of the market.”
The Qantas 747 upper deck (runwaygirlnetwork)
In the 1990's your humble blogger averaged more than one international flight per month over several years, which was not unusual for business people connected to commercial aviation.

Most of the flights took place on the 747. Psychologically, there's a sense of security in knowing that the airplane has four engines when taking long-distance flights over water (even if three engines are out, the 747 can fly on one engine in an emergency; there's obviously less margin for error in twin-engine aircraft).

On a few occasions I got to ride in the upper deck, the symbol of luxurious air travel.

In most respects life is better today. But in business air travel? Not so much.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Not All It Was Cracked Up to Be

Mid-peninsulans have to go to SF or SJ for weed.
Think of the industries that started off small and have grown big, i.e., video streaming, fracking, ride-sharing, online shopping, organic farming, etc. They each have unique features, but one characteristic they all shared initially is a very light touch by government.

During the early stages employment, income tax, and environmental laws are less stringent for small businesses because society gives them a chance to prove themselves in the marketplace. Ill effects (e.g., pollution) become more apparent as the businesses get larger, at which point regulation may be appropriate.

But there's been no such incubation period for legalized marijuana, which had taxes and regulations imposed from the beginning. Politicians' starry eyes turned bloodshot as visions of plentiful tax revenues vanished in a puff of smoke:
high prices, red tape and competition from the black market have cast a pall over what was supposed to be a triumphant first year of recreational sales.

The cost of legalization was so high in 2018 that hundreds of growers and retailers went out of business, the number of available products spiraled down, tax revenues from sales fell below projections and the black market revved up, according to industry officials and business representatives.

...Meanwhile, growers say, the cost of being in the business is astronomical. Business licenses cost anywhere from $1,205 for a permit to grow 25 outdoor plants to $77,905 for a 22,000-square-foot indoor plantation. Growers and manufacturers also have to pay for lab testing to assure regulators that the marijuana is free of pesticides, chemicals and toxins.

Packaging is another big expense. All smokable and edible cannabis must be in child-resistant containers and affixed with labels that outline potency and dosage amounts. There are also strict protocols on how to transport, distribute and dispose of excess or defective marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana was a favored objective of the educated class in California. It would reduce prison overcrowding from a "victimless" crime and raise oodles of tax boodle.

Like other industries favored by the educated (solar energy, recycling, public transportation), reality showed that they could only limp along if they had government intervention, subsidies, or both. And if you're in an industry that the educated don't favor (big energy, big pharma, big tech, big agriculture, big finance, or for that matter big anything) the handwriting is on the wall.

Get out. Now.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Don't Have What It Takes

Illegal, beginning in 2019.
I like to think that I'm law-abiding because of elevated morality, but I suspect that the explanation is pedestrian: I just don't have enough imagination.

Case in point: after buying a car in August I lamented not receiving the California license plates within two months. (I had to wait over three months.) It turns out that for many scofflaws having no plates is a feature, not a bug.

Paper plates with nothing but the dealer's name are prized because they enable cars to blow through toll booths and possibly commit crimes without being identified. On January 1st dealers will be required to issue temporary paper plates with large identifying numbers that can be traced to the car.

And to think that I could have skipped about $100 in tolls and driven in the car pool lane all by myself from September to November. Not enough imagination.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Cutoff Date

Maui Gold pineapple
This Christmas we got a lot of food, mostly fruits, along with candies, cookies, and frozen meats. It's going to be tough adhering to New Year's diet and weight-loss resolutions because these goodies have to be consumed, else they will go to waste.

I'll try to ingest as much as possible this week: if I gain five pounds by December 31st, it will make it easier to lose ten in 2019.

An accounting lesson that applies to more than accounting: inflate the balance sheet by the cutoff date.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

On Christmas Day the minister read the Gospel from the second chapter of Luke, but they were different from the words I remembered from my childhood.

My Childhood (King James)Today (Common English)
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”


The church wise people say that the modern language/common English version is more accessible and more inclusive ("toward men" becomes "among those whom he favors").

Use whichever version of the Bible resonates more closely with you, dear reader. It matters not which door you use to enter the room.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

On Christmas Eve, A Look Back

(Reprised from previous years):

In the late 1990's my former employer could draw on a talent pool of more than 200 people to put together a decent holiday choir. The grainy video (VHS tape) and monaural audio won't attract any hits today, but Christmas is a time of nostalgic sentimentality...



Note: here are parts Two, Three, and Four.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Beautiful Tree

It's not the prettiest or most grandly decorated, but the Giving Tree is the receptacle for perhaps the most love.

Roughly a hundred tags (e.g., "Johnny, 5", "Susie, 8") are hung on the tree at the beginning of the season, and members of the congregation and parents of the pre-schoolers (there's some overlap between the two groups) are asked to buy a present for a child who won't get much this Christmas.

Once again, all the tags were spoken for, and the unwrapped presents, along with their tags, were laid under the tree for StarVista to pick up the week before Christmas.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.
--Luke 12:48

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Shake Shack; the Wait Isn't Worth It

It was an hour's wait to place our order.
We dropped off the youngster's iPhone X for a warranty screen repair at the Stanford Apple Store. The Apple Genius told us to come back in three hours.

Three hours was exactly the wrong interval on the Friday before Christmas---just long enough to force us to stick around the crowded Stanford Shopping Center. Leaving and having to find parking again would have been quite inconvenient.

Since we did have three hours to kill, the youngster suggested that we stand in line at the Stanford Shake Shack, the first on the Peninsula.

Impressions: the burgers were flavorful and made of quality beef, but I certainly wouldn't wait an hour for them. There are any number of good burger places on the Peninsula that are competitive with Shake Shack's pricing, $8-$12 for a full meal.

Also, the average age of people in line was 20-25, contradicting the stereotype of impatient young adults. Unlike us, who were willing to wait out of curiosity, everyone had been there before. Which raises the important question: what's so great about Shake Shack? I'm not seeing it.

Back at the Apple Store, repairing the screen would be too costly and time consuming, so they gave him a new replacement. Now that wait was worth it.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Sounds Like a Racket

I've been wearing hearing aids for a week. I'd like to say that it's been a revelation, because I can listen to the sounds of nature again, or an orchestra's full range. And I don't have to turn up the TV volume and irritate others in the household.

But it's been a modest let-down. I can hear the seatbelt rubbing against the upholstery and the crackling of cellophane, prevalent this time of year. Water flowing through the pipes and heated air forced through the ducts are much louder. At commercial establishments the decibel level of the Muzak is sometimes painful, and I have to turn off the equipment.

I am remembering a childhood that wasn't so great, when I had to cover my ears at the airport or when a marching band passed by.

The technology is more advanced than I had expected. The inserts are small, light, and pick up the frequencies that I cannot hear. The 36-hour battery life is impressive. The remote control doubles as a bluetooth intermediary between the hearing aids and the iPhone, obviating the need for the AirPods (Apple's wireless earbuds).

The cost of $3,000--most of which is not reimbursable by insurance--is quite steep in the world of consumer electronics, though I understand it's about half the cost that people paid a few years ago for old technology.

Well, hearing aids are preserving neural cells, except that no one told me that they are not in the brain's pleasure centers.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sober Outlook

Now that I'm back in California, fun time is over. There are cards to write, gifts to buy, taxes to plan, and donations to make.

My sober outlook was reinforced by the first sobriety checkpoint that I've ever gone through.

Heading east one evening on San Bruno Avenue toward SFO, traffic was narrowed to a single lane. I held up my driver's license to the window; the friendly cop handed me a MADD flyer (right) so I wouldn't be stopped by another officer 50 feet ahead. No such luck.

Another cop asked me to roll down the window. "Where are you going?" Home, while he inspected my driver's license. "Have you been drinking tonight?" No, I said truthfully, while he gazed intently at my non-reddened eyes and listened to my clearly enunciated one-word answers. He waved me through.

Afterwards, looking at the flyer, I was taken aback by the $15,000 cost of an infraction, $10,000 of which is increased insurance costs.

Mind, we are not talking about causing an accident, just being caught driving under the influence.

Contrast the DUI penalties with those of texting while driving:
With assessments and fees, convicted drivers face a first-time ticket costing at least $159, with a second offense climbing to $279. Hardly pocket change, but far below the penalties for first-time adult DUI offenders, which include fines up to $1,000, plus a minimum four-month license suspension and up to six months in jail.
The LA Times article quoted above stated that national DUI deaths were about 10,000 per year while "distracted driving crashes caused 3,500 fatalities and close to 400,000 injuries", not as bad but clearly in the same league. Whether one believes DUIs are treated appropriately, it's clear that the penalty for texting-and-driving is not proportionate when we look at the consequences of each.

Self-driving cars can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Welcome to the Neighborhood

The old station (Advertiser)
When McCully-Moiliili consisted of one- or two-story buildings, the old fire station was perfectly adequate.

However, modern ladder and engine trucks could not be accommodated by the structure.

The rebuild was completed in 2010. McCully-Moiliili Station 29 is well situated on the corner of University & Date. It has quick access to the entire north (mauka) side of the Ala Wai Canal and is less than two miles from the University of Hawaii.

Many changes to the neighborhood are not welcome, but this one is.

The buildings in the back of the photo explain the need for a new station.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Every Second Counts

Studying the manuals: who does that anymore?
Seven years ago I assisted my father when he acquired his first iPhone. Since then he's purchased an Apple Watch and an iPad, as well as upgraded to an iPhone 6 Plus, all without help from me.

Low speed and short battery life have been plaguing his iPhone 6 Plus. He had read about the significant changes Apple had instituted, and this time he wanted me to accompany him to the Apple Store at Kahala Mall.

The purchase went smoothly because we knew exactly what we wanted: the iPhone XR (a far better value proposition than the XS), a protective case, and AppleCare. Apple also gave him a $200 credit for his old iPhone.

What did not go smoothly was transferring the data from the old iPhone (Verizon requires a PIN, which few users have memorized, and dealing with Verizon took half an hour) and syncing the Apple Watch. In the end it all got done, and he's still getting accustomed to the changes (no home button and swiping up, facial recognition).

But it is much faster, and at 93 every second counts.

Monday, December 17, 2018

We've Come a Long Way

Just a few of the beers on tap at Growler
On the last night in Hawaii my brother took me out to dinner. The destination was a sushi place at Hee Hing Plaza in Kapahulu.

(Digression: Hee Hing was the name of a Cantonese restaurant that had operated for 50 years at the site. The Lee family owned the building and restaurant, and my guess is that there was no one in the younger generation who had enthusiasm for continuing the original business.)

Patron with $4 pupus
We parked the car at 4:30, but the Japanese restaurant wouldn't be open until 5. We decided to pass the time at the Growler brew-pub on the second floor. We never left.

These brewpubs can be pricey. Conveniently, we arrived during Happy Hour, which had a half-dozen choices of beer and appetizers for four dollars. We stuck to the value menu for about an hour, but as often happens, discipline eventually went out the window. Well, my brother can afford it. He's come a long way from Everybody's Supermarket.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Hardened Heart

Despite appearances, the homeless population in Hawaii is decreasing:
This tent was pitched across the street.
The homeless population across all islands has decreased for the second year in a row, according to Hawaii's annual "Point-in-Time Count."

Volunteers counted 6,530 homeless people statewide. That's 690 fewer people than counted last year.

The largest decrease was on Kauai, where the homeless population fell nearly 29 percent. Maui County had a nearly 3 percent drop, while Hawaii island had a nearly 9 percent drop. Oahu's homeless population fell just over 9 percent.
Hawaii still has the highest rate of any state: in 2015 it had 487 homeless for every 100,000 people. Now it's fallen to 457 (6,530 homeless, 1.43 million population).

These statistics don't mean much if the homeless like to camp out near you. Within a half-mile radius of Dad's home are parks, overhead protection (carports, small business awnings, etc.), and proximity to monied Waikiki tourists and Ala Moana shoppers. It's a constant battle: Dad had cameras (including 24-hour monitoring), as well as iron gates, installed, but there continue to be incidents by people who don't much fear getting caught.

When out at night, I walk quickly or jog. I've stopped giving handouts to people who ask, because they'll return. I'm willing to help, but not here. And so is the heart hardened.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Late-Night Curve

At 10 p.m. Tuesday the parking lot was filled and most
tables were taken on the second floor of McCully SC.
At one time there were many Oahu restaurants and bars open late on weeknights. But crime, homelessness, and the lack of street lighting made customers cautious about going out. Demand fell, and it became uneconomic for places to remain open after 9.

However, some locations are proving that prosperity was theirs if they could provide parking and security. One such restaurant cluster is McCully Shopping Center, less than two blocks from my parents' house.

Chow mein from Fook Yuen
There are at least a half-dozen McCully eateries open past midnight. On the nights I walked by there weren't many business people, who were probably in Waikiki less than a mile away, but family-and-friends groups looking for something more than fast food (there is a Taco Bell at McCully SC).

My doctor says I shouldn't eat after 9, but the fact that I hadn't had dinner prompted me to try the noodles at Fook Yuen at 10:30. It was in the name of research, and I just did it once.

Yes, it was very good, but to be honest I am grading on the late-night curve.

Friday, December 14, 2018

So Serious

The Cinerama building is an O'Reilly Auto Parts Store
Cinerama was once the most technologically advanced movie theater in Honolulu with its large curved screen and stereophonic sound--the IMAX of its day.

In the first two years after it opened my parents and uncles took me to see It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and How the West Was Won, the latter because my grandfather liked Walter Brennan in TV's the Real McCoys.

(Image from Pinterest)
The last and greatest movie I saw at Cinerama was 2001: A Space Odyssey. I still remember the "profound" after-school discussions we had about the movie, especially the psychedelic ending, when we kicked around eschatology, √úbermensch, and the nature of consciousness. We were so serious back then.

Now it's an auto-parts store, as prosaic as it gets. The universe laughs.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

You Can't Go Home Again

The American Legion office on McCully Street, a few blocks from Waikiki, is dwarfed by the high rises surrounding it.

The structure is a reminder of the neighborhood as it looked before the War--small single-family dwellings that were outfitted with then-modern conveniences of indoor plumbing, telephones, and electricity.

The high-rise behind the American Legion office was built on the site of Everybody's Supermarket, which closed in 1981.

Spruced up, this house is at least 70 years old.
While working as a stockboy at Everybody's, my brother tried to stop a robbery by grabbing the steering wheel of the getaway car. Thankfully, everyone survived.

He and I walked around the neighborhood last year to check out the changes. Heat, humidity, and termites have taken their toll on the houses, many of which have been replaced by small apartment buildings.

I've grown used to the cooler climes and spaciousness of Northern California. It will be tough to move back to the old neighborhood.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Happier Outcome

One of the items on my shopping list was kaki mochi, aka arare, a popular Hawaiian shoyu rice cracker that your humble blogger ate even before he tasted his first potato chip.

A large kaki mochi selection may be found at CVS. Though Long's Drugs was acquired by CVS ten years ago, CVS/Long's has retained its Hawaiian sensibilities, which means a large inventory of local foods.

When I texted the picture (above right) to the household member who requested two packages of crackers, she noted that the 4-for-$7 sale was too good to pass up. So I bought four, which were added to the food and Christmas presents from three other parties for me to take home.

Texting pictures before making a purchase makes for better decision-making and a happier outcome, though not necessarily for the person having to execute the decision.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Accountants: No Respect

From "Mingle All the Way"
Her daughter wants to be an entrepreneur, but the Lindsay Wagner mother character wants her to choose a steady, reliable career.

Hey, Lindsay, you didn't play it safe when you were young.

Even the Hallmark Channel says accountants are boring. Ouch.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Peanuts Were the Clue

Times sells 1 lb. raw
peanuts for under $5.
Having bought all the ingredients, I told Mom that I would be making oxtail stew for Sunday's potluck dinner.

She asked if I could add peanuts. What that meant, in Mom-speak, is that she wanted oxtail soup, not stew.

And so it was that I spent over an hour Saturday hand-shelling raw peanuts. Betcha never said that about your Hawaiian vacation, dear reader.

The soup simmered overnight, which I delivered Sunday morning. Mom was grateful, but next time I'm going to Zippy's.

 
Next time I'm going to Zippy's

Ingredients: salt, oxtail, peanuts, ginger, anise

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Attendance Was Down

One of the purposes of this trip was to see how my parents were acclimatizing to assisted living.

Most nights I stayed at their now-vacant home in the McCully Moiliili area of Honolulu and drove to their Hawaii Kai apartment every day.

I went to see them early Sunday morning but should have gone in the afternoon.



Using the Marathon as an excuse,
worshippers stayed home from this
Kaimuki church, leaving more food for me.
The Honolulu Marathon shunted the traffic to local roads, then detoured eastbound traffic to a single lane on the westbound side of Kalanianaole Highway. We crept along at 25-30 mph, confused about whether to obey the traffic signals, not all of which were visible in the direction we were going. Like the kids do on social media, I just did what everybody else was doing and barreled through some of the red lights.

About halfway to Hawaii Kai I saw the lead runner returning to downtown Honolulu.

After visiting my parents for an hour, I drove back home with gaggles of marathoners still headed east. No mockery here---if I ever tried to run a marathon they're faster than I would be.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Feeling Chipper

Now that I'm in Honolulu it was an opportune time to visit Mom's brother-in-law, Uncle Joe, and Mom's cousin, Aunt Ellen Jean. Both turned 90 the past year and are in declining health (which is better than some alternatives).



Uncle Joe often ignores well-meaning advice.
The wet Manoa weather had finally rotted the front of his house to the extent that it couldn't be patched. It took three months to repair, but Uncle Joe's picture windows are looking fine, as does the owner.

He does need a home-health aide to get around, but when I saw him on Friday he was chipper.

After four hours of conversation, including dinner, I was fatigued and had to leave.

Auntie Jeannie was in the hospital. Franklin, her nephew (Jeannie never married and has no children), informed us that she had fallen and was in a coma.

Her nose and mouth were outfitted with breathing tubes, so I had a trapped audience as I prattled about the past. I talked about how much I enjoyed going to her parents' house in Kapahulu back in the Sixties. There was always a poker game going in the back patio; grand uncle John would have a whiskey in one hand and a cigar in the other. Grand aunt Bertha was always smiling and laughing and pushing food at me. Bertha and her sister, my grandmother Sarah, could chat for hours.

Jeannie’s eyelids fluttered, a good sign, and the nurses told me that she was awake and listening.

An hour later the doctors said that she could breathe on her own, and they removed the tubes. Color came back to her cheeks. I called Mom on FaceTime, and she spoke to her cousin at length. (I had an ulterior motive for the video call; without it Mom would have interrogated me at length about Jeannie's appearance, so I saved myself a half an hour of uncomfortable questioning by my mother---is there any other kind?)

Franklin called the next morning to say that the hospital had moved her out of intensive care. That was good news; unlike last time I won't let three years pass before seeing her again.

Friday, December 07, 2018

The Best $130 I Ever Spent

I bought paper, extra ink, and a stapler, too
A small task regarding my Hawaiian family's financial matters expanded into a project with lots of scanning, copying and e-mailing. Sure, I could have spent my vacation at FedEx/Kinko's or prevailed upon one of my brothers to use his office after hours, but the convenient, economical choice was to buy my own.

The all-in-one HP 8715 inkjet printer ($130 on sale at Costco) fit the bill. It could even scan up to 50 pages at a time--not perfectly, because the feeder often grabbed more than one page--but it worked often enough to save hours over my one-at-a-time scanner back home.

When I'm done, I'll turn the printer over to Dad, who needs a copier anyway.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Family Reunion

Cousins Flora and Al.
I go to more of these every year...two days after getting off the plane we attended the memorial service for my father's first cousin, Margaret Choy Lan Ching.

I didn't talk much with Auntie Lani when I was a kid. I played outside with her son Dexter and second cousins--some by blood and some by marriage--Leonard, Erwin and Carleton. Children back then were expected to stay in their own worlds; adults couldn't be bothered by us, and we were fine with that.

I was able to identify all of them by sight (and they me) after 45 years on the Mainland. I didn't recognize or even know the dozens of people who came from later generations.

Lani seems to have led the retired life that I would be happy to have:
She retired from [First Hawaiian Bank] in 1985.

After retirement she enjoyed ballroom dancing and traveling to many countries. She was also an avid golfer and when she accompanied [late husband] Ed on their many Vegas trips, she would play the penny slot machines. When not gambling in Vegas, she followed the stock market. Marge was never idle, her hobbies were cooking, crafting, and quilting. In her later years she and Ed played mah jong, and she also formed a mah jong club at her last residence, The Plaza at Punchbowl.
More importantly, she leaves behind and derived much enjoyment from her five children and nearly two dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was 93.

30 minutes before the service the room started to fill up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Welcome Addition

On my first night back I strolled the old neighborhood.

Having walked home from school for four years, I once knew every house and car. It was still familiar, with the primary changes being the replacement of single-family homes by apartment buildings. The total lack of street parking results in cars overflowing sidewalks and encroaching on corners and fire hydrants.

One welcome addition is the office of the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) in 1993, one block off King Street. Back in the 1960's everyone in Hawaii knew about the 442nd. Made up of young first-generation Japanese men (Nisei), many of whose families were in the internment camps, the 442nd became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Its soldiers were awarded 21 Medals of Honor and 9,486 Purple Hearts.

The RCT's complement of 4,000 men turned over twice because of combat casualties, yet there was no shortage of Nisei volunteers.

These young men had every reason to be bitter--perhaps some were--but their deeds surpassed many who experienced no injustice. To this day their choices and accomplishments inspire awe.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Guy, Feeling Better

Another thing that I had to do before going on the trip was to descale the tankless water heater.

The task was simple enough---running a vinegar solution through the pipes--but it did involve buying a couple of gallons of vinegar, taking the pump out of storage, and remembering which valves to turn off and which to turn on.

The latter was the most difficult step, as the pump strained furiously without result until I opened a drain and the vinegar circulated through the heater and back into the bucket.

Even after watching YouTube videos (that don't match the situation exactly), it's not easy working out how to do something after three years.

After letting the pump run for an hour, I disconnected the hoses, rinsed off everything, and made sure the hot water was coming through various faucets--yes, the flow was stronger.

Maybe I'll do this again next year, like I was supposed to. Doing things with pumps, hoses, and wrenches--dare I say it in this day and age--makes this CIS male feel better.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Unfinished Business

Old filter and fading UV lights
Before another trip to the Islands I had to attend to chores over which I had been procrastinating.

The furnace filter, which should be replaced annually, was overdue for a change because of the smoke from the Camp Fire that began on November 8th.

The kit ($179 from Amazon) included ultraviolet light bulbs and a catalyst screen that killed germs as the air passed through the apparatus.

Clear filter, clear conscience.
I'm not sure I believe them, but it wouldn't be the first or last time that I bought a product because of its unproven health advantages.

Before one starts a journey, one should take care of unfinished business.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Not the Enemy

Psychologists believe that they can explain kindness and altruism through evolution: [bold added]
Research suggests that one fundamental reason people are altruistic is to make themselves attractive to sexual partners. In a large-scale cross-cultural study of qualities found attractive in mates, published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology in 1990, David Buss and colleagues asked young adults across the globe to rate how important various attributes were in long-term mates. Across a broad range of cultures, they found that kindness placed toward the top of the list. Mate preferences are a very strong evolutionary force, so if people prefer kindness in mates, kindness will become a common attribute in the species. This is one reason why there are so many good people.
(Image from medium.com)
There also is an evolutionary explanation for evil ("behavior that other people find objectionable and even hateful"). But before they could explain how these behaviors emerged, the social scientists had to define them; appropriately, they're known as the "dark triad":
narcissism (an excessive focus on oneself), Machiavellianism (manipulating others for one’s own gain), and psychopathy (an overall disregard for others).
Wood frogs make like the birds and bees (music of nature)
The writer hypothesizes that the dark triad is an adaptation similar to that of weaker male wood frogs who are trying to reproduce:
Once a female wood frog approaches, the male tries to mount her, while she tries to shake him off. This is a way of selecting for larger mates, since if the male is large enough, it is harder for her to dislodge him.

This preference leaves smaller male wood frogs in a pickle because they can’t stay mounted on the female. So these males have evolved an alternative strategy: They hang out near a large, dominant male as he calls out for females. When a female comes by and releases her eggs—in wood frogs, fertilization takes place outside the body—the satellite male will try to quickly enter the picture and fertilize them with his sperm.

In the wood-frog mating system, then, we see two very different behavioral strategies, each of which can achieve reproductive success. Smaller male frogs face obstacles to mating, forcing them to use an aggressive or “fast” mating strategy, while larger frogs have the luxury of using a safer, “slower” mating strategy.
Objections are immediately apparent if we try to analogize wood frogs to humans: 1) not every physically weak male is a psychopathic Machiavellian narcissist; 2) why do some women evince dark triad behavior? 3) if a "stressful, harsh, or unstable child-parent relationship" is the trigger--as one theory goes--why do some people who come from a stable family (their siblings turned out all right) become evil?

This is yet another example of a thesis that one's destiny is determined by genes, the environment, or both in combination. Your humble blogger doesn't disparage these explanatory efforts, however, for knowledge of our feelings enables us to control them, and knowledge enhances free will, not destroys it.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

GHWB: A Man of Character

George and Barbara, 1960's (WSJ photo)
George H.W. Bush's death last night was another reminder that the greatest generation has all but passed from the scene. Mr. Bush was the last American president to serve in World War II. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush all wore the uniform.

Much has been made of the loss of civility in politics after the senior President Bush departed office.

Navy Lt. George Bush (Time)
I suspect that much of the "civility" was derived from the realization by these Presidents that today's political opponents were yesterday's allies in the life-and-death struggle that was WWII. Those who fought share an unbreakable bond with each other and with those who never came back.

Another oft-remarked element of World War II was that everyone served, from the richest blue bloods to the poorest farmers and inner-city workers. On the battlefield, if you're focused on racial or religious or class distinctions, you're dead. George Bush, perhaps influenced by his wartime experience and unlike some members of his class and heritage, never looked down on anyone.

Of all of his characteristics the one that struck me the most is how he would hand-write personal notes to everyone, many of whom he don't know personally. One of the busiest men in the world would take the time for others who couldn't possibly be of any help to him. R.I.P.

Friday, November 30, 2018

You're Not There for You

(Photo from asha.org)
It's been my experience that about half of my acquaintances and relatives who lived past 80 acquired dementia, ranging from mild to profound.

Digression--I might well be displaying some of the early signs: today, while lost in a (business) cellphone discussion in the parking lot, I opened the wrong car door, taking the seated driver by surprise. Apologizing profusely, I told him that I was distracted and imagined it was my car. Thank goodness he didn't have a gun.

For now I am on the good side of the dementia divide, and visit sufferers with more empathy than I had in my impatient youth. Here are 3 traps when talking to someone with dementia:
If you’re a stickler for accuracy, it’s tempting to correct someone who misspeaks.

If you’re impatient, it’s easy to interrupt and steer the dialogue in the direction you deem most important.

If you’re offended by what you hear, it’s understandable if you take it personally and express disapproval.
Don't correct, interrupt, or be offended, which are fundamentally manifestations of pride. You're not there for you.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

On the Calendar

Volunteers and clients dine together.
Home and Hope's clients arrived early this evening.

All had cars, which is a good thing because the van service had been discontinued. The charity still owned the van, which is in good condition, but it was very difficult to put together a combination of volunteers and part-time employees to guarantee that the van was operating every day at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Another good thing is that everyone had jobs that enabled them to cover the cost of their cars. Affordable housing is the problem; the temporary shelter that H&H provides is spartan, but secure, reliable and well-heated---important when it's 45 degrees outside.

I started the dishwasher and rolled out the sleeping bag. In the morning I'll put the dishes away.

In February it will still be cold. Some of these families will be back, and so will we.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Joking, I Hope

Probably won't survive
a 7.0, though.
The repair work had been completed in September, but the cabinets still were not installed.

Our household has become increasingly worried (paranoid?) about earthquakes that could topple heavy furniture.

I ordered safety straps from Amazon. I couldn't trust plastic anchors to hold to hollow walls, meaning I had to locate the wooden studs.

Stud finders have advanced amazingly since I last bought one 40 years ago. Back in the '70's they were little more than compasses, that is, magnets in search of beams' metal nails instead of the North Pole.

Now they use radar and sensor technology to read changes in density. Costing about $30, the stud finder was successful about 80% of the time; my hit rate got better with experience.

Straps finally in place, the cabinets were set up over the Thanksgiving weekend.

The member of the household in charge of these things said that maybe they would be better in another corner. She was joking, I hope.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What I Can Do

Teresa and Dilip volunteered for the first time.
It had been six months since we last served dinner to the families of Home and Hope. Though our commitment occurs in the middle of the holiday season we have five cooks/servers for each night.

One of the clients, a single mother, was excited by her new job. The downside was that she had the night shift, which meant leaving her teenaged son in charge of his two younger siblings.

The two volunteers who stay overnight--my turn will be on Thursday--must be knowledgable about each family's situation, for their and our sake.

In this economy adults of all skill levels can get jobs. The problem is not finding work but housing that is affordable. In Foster City the cheapest one-bedroom apartment (525 sq. ft.) is $2,295 per month, which would absorb more than half the after-tax salary of someone earning $50,000.

Solving the problems of homelessness and affordable housing is way above my pay grade. Meanwhile, what I can do is bring some food and help look after things overnight.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Offbeat

Actor Jeff Goldblum, known for his quirky heroes, self-aware villains, and oddball funny guys, is a skilled jazz pianist. As a child he was fascinated by syncopation.
Future movie star, 11, in 1964 (WSJ)
In our living room, we had a baby-grand Steinway. My mother, Shirley, knew her way around the keyboard, so we had lots of piano books. I used them to learn chord markings and how to improvise. I also played on our upright piano in the basement. It was the ’60s, so I painted it lots of different colors.
Acting was his dream job, but piano would have been his profession, he says, had the former not panned out.

At 66 he's cut his first album, giving encouragement to all us baby late-bloomers. (Note: his profile on CBS Sunday Morning is here.)