Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Blue Moon, You Saw Me Standing Alone

iPhone 6 pic from our backyard in Foster City
Like some of our neighbors, we woke up at 5:15 AM to check out the "super blue blood lunar eclipse".

The viewing of the super moon was anticlimactic. Like other events in life, IMHO, it was over-hyped.

But that's what I also thought about last August's solar eclipse until people who saw it live assured me that it was special.

Let's hope the surprises in astronomy continue to be good.

"Moon over the City" (SF Chronicle) beats "Moon over my backyard"

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Not #MeToo But #MeAlone

Sole female Grammy winner Alessia Cara (NY Daily News)
Action: The Grammys joined other awards shows by lambasting Donald Trump.

Reaction: Grammys ratings were the lowest in a decade.

Not-as-I-do Dept.: Only One Woman Won a Major Grammy Award. The Internet Is Sounding Off With #GrammysSoMale.

Progressivism's sacred text: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules."

People listen to their betters. Maybe that's why they're not listening.

[Encore: check out the respect shown women--for that matter, everyone--by the award-winning rap song.]

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Grass Withers, the Flower Fades

Green today, brown tomorrow?
Thanks to the 2016-2017 wettest winter in over 100 years, California's reservoirs are in good shape. Right now, however, 2017-2018 is looking like another dry winter.
At the start of the week, statewide snowpack averaged just 30 percent of normal for the date, not far from the 25 percent logged at the same time in 2015, a record-low year.
I don't regret re-sodding in October. Water restrictions will occur in 2019 at the earliest, so I'm going to enjoy the color of green while I can.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

It Depends on Who the Speaker Is

Award winner Kendrick Lamar (
Donald Trump has come under fire from rap artist Jay-Z for the former's alleged (denied by DJT and others present) use of the term "shithole countries". Trump critics in the entertainment industry are understandably offended by the President's purported use of foul language.

In related news from Jay-Z's world, here are the lyrics from a popular number not only sold to the public but celebrated at tonight's Grammy's as Best Rap Song.

Nobody pray for me
Even a day for me
Way (yeah, yeah!)

Ay, I remember syrup sandwiches and crime allowances
Finesse a nigga with some counterfeits
But now I'm countin' this
Parmesan where my accountant lives
In fact, I'm downin' this
D'USSÉ with my boo bae, tastes like Kool-Aid for the analysts
Girl, I can buy yo' ass the world with my paystub
Ooh, that pussy good, won't you sit it on my taste bloods?
I get way too petty once you let me do the extras
Pull up on your block, then break it down: we playin' Tetris
A.M. to the P.M., P.M. to the A.M., funk
Piss out your per diem, you just gotta hate 'em, funk
If I quit your BM, I still ride Mercedes, funk
If I quit this season, I still be the greatest, funk
My left stroke just went viral
Right stroke put lil' baby in a spiral
Soprano C, we like to keep it on a high note
Its levels to it, you and I know, bitch, be humble

(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up lil' bitch, hol' up lil' bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Sit down, hol' up, lil' bitch)
Be humble (bitch)
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up) bitch, sit down
Lil' bitch (hol' up, lil' bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up) be humble
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, lil' bitch) sit down
(Hol' up lil' bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up, sit down, lil' bitch)
(Sit down, lil' bitch, be humble)
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, lil' bitch) bitch, sit down
(Hol' up, bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up)

Who dat nigga thinkin' that he frontin' on man, man? (Man, man)
Get the fuck off my stage, I'm the Sandman (Sandman)
Get the fuck off my dick, that ain't right
I make a play fuckin' up your whole life
I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin' natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin' natural like ass with some stretchmarks
Still will take you down right on your mama's couch in Polo socks, ay
This shit way too crazy, ay, you do not amaze me, ay
I blew cool from AC, ay, Obama just paged me, ay
I don't fabricate it, ay, most of y'all be fakin', ay
I stay modest 'bout it, ay, she elaborate it, ay
This that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that TED Talk, ay
Watch my soul speak, you let the meds talk, ay
If I kill a nigga, it won't be the alcohol, ay
I'm the realest nigga after all, bitch, be humble

(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up lil' bitch, hol' up lil' bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Sit down, hol' up, lil' bitch)
Be humble (bitch)
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up) bitch, sit down
Lil' bitch (hol' up, lil' bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up) be humble
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, lil' bitch) sit down
(Hol' up lil' bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up, sit down, lil' bitch)
(Sit down, lil' bitch, be humble)
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, lil' bitch) bitch, sit down
(Hol' up, bitch) be humble
(Hol' up, bitch) sit down
(Hol' up, hol' up, hol' up, hol' up)

Songwriters: Kendrick Lamar Duckworth
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
For non-commercial use only.
I know what you're thinking, dear reader. The well-turned phrases kinda remind you of Cole Porter.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Cow Gone Wild

(Rafal Kowalczykny photo via NY Post)
A Polish cow abandons her barn to roam with wild bison:
The cow "chose freedom" by running away from a farm late last autumn, and has been seen lingering on the fringes of a herd of some 50 bison in the forest on the Belarusian border, Poland's TVN24 news portal reports....

Dr Kowalczyk told TVN24 that this is the first time he has seen a cow join a bison herd. "She is not very integrated with the group, as bison act like one organism and she stands out." He added that the herd had probably saved her from the wolves that prowl the edges of the Bialowieza Forest through the winter.
There's increasing risk to both the cow and the herd the longer she stays. If she mates, giving birth to a large hybrid calf could kill her. And if the bison population's gene pool is contaminated, the bison could be endangered.

Yes, the situation is un-stable.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Not on my Bucket List

Auntie's health had been stable at the San Jose facility, but a recent fall necessitated a move to assisted living in Yorba Linda, close to her children and grandchildren. And so it was that we found ourselves on the 5 last night.

The 400 miles south used to take six hours, but when we hit northern L.A. at 5 p.m., traffic halted. Switching from Highway 5 to 210 East (see top of the map) helped by avoiding the worst of the 405, 5, and 101, but the time on the road still was almost eight hours.

The Anaheim Hills/Yorba Linda Residence Inn was clean and modern; we'll book it again on future trips.

She seemed happy to see us. Auntie had more color and energy than a few weeks ago, so moving to L.A. was the right decision. After a few hours visiting, we headed back. Next time we'll stay a few days, we promised.

How will we fill the time in Yorba Linda? The Richard Nixon Library is not on my bucket list, but when expectations are low things work out pretty well.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

FANG*-ian Bargain

(Economist cover illustration)
*Jim Cramer's acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (Alphabet).

Facebook and Google have borne rising criticism for the "fake news" that users are referred to on their platforms. From the left they are charged with Russian disinformation that swung the election to Donald Trump. From the right they, along with Twitter, are blamed for censorship of conservative views.

IMHO, fake news is a far less important problem (alleviated by providing as much information as possible and letting consumers decide for themselves) than their accumulation of data on billions of human beings.

Including Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, tech giants know what we buy, where we are, our health, our viewing and reading habits, who we know, much about our wealth, where we live, and are privy to much of our private communications.
Many of their services appear to be free, but users “pay” for them by giving away their data.....The platforms have become so dominant because they benefit from “network effects”. Size begets size: the more sellers Amazon, say, can attract, the more buyers will shop there, which attracts more sellers, and so on. By some estimates, Amazon captures over 40% of online shopping in America. With more than 2bn monthly users, Facebook holds sway over the media industry. Firms cannot do without Google, which in some countries processes more than 90% of web searches. Facebook and Google control two-thirds of America’s online ad revenues....

Facebook not only owns the world’s largest pool of personal data, but also its biggest “social graph”—the list of its members and how they are connected. Amazon has more pricing information than any other firm.
Old-fashioned antitrust law provides poor protection against the power that springs from data analyzed by powerful computers.
The traditional tools of utilities regulation, such as price controls and profit caps, are hard to apply, since most products are free and would come at a high price in forgone investment and innovation.
One solution: [bold added]
personal data are the currency in which customers actually buy services. Through that prism, the tech titans receive valuable information—on their users’ behaviour, friends and purchasing habits—in return for their products. Just as America drew up sophisticated rules about intellectual property in the 19th century, so it needs a new set of laws to govern the ownership and exchange of data, with the aim of giving solid rights to individuals.

In essence this means giving people more control over their information.
"Control" to the Economist doesn't mean that Facebook or Google doesn't have the information, just that they aren't as free to keep it out of competitors' hands. In any event privacy will be as dead as the dodo.

Whether the subject is nuclear weaponry or space exploration or personal data, the hoary cliché still holds: law and ethics cannot keep up with technology.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How About "Temblor Town "?

 St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad locomotive (
I often heard Dad and his brothers and friends refer to it as Frisco. They meant the nickname affectionately; that's what many GI's called the City during and after the war years.

However, San Franciscans let it be known that this appellation would not stand: "Don't Call it Frisco!". And this was before the age of taking offense.

There's little consensus around a replacement. "San Fran," the most popular nickname with outsiders, "sound(s) like fingernails on a chalkboard to the people of San Francisco." "Fog City", columnist Herb Caen's "Baghdad-by-the-Bay," and even "S.F." (think L.A.), have their adherents but haven't gained traction.

IMHO, no short- or long-form version of the City's name will ever satisfy the Progressive mind, because San Francisco refers directly to one of Christianity's greatest historical figures, Saint Francis. (Historical reference: progressivism's progenitors, the Communists, renamed St. Petersburg "Leningrad"; thankfully, that name change began and ended in the 20th century.)

Perhaps a variant of Yerba Buena ("good herb"), the region's name before San Francisco, will eventually win out. "Ye-bu" is redolent of organic farming, vegetarianism, and Gaia, the ancient Earth-worship that predates monotheism.

Don't laugh, trends that we viewed incredulously years ago have come to pass. Besides, in the glorious future you may only laugh at approved targets, and Yebu isn't one of them.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

You Have Not Been Properly Educated

Mark Farrell is sworn in by City Attorney Dennis
Herrera (Chronicle photo)
After SF Mayor Ed Lee died of a heart attack last month, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed became interim mayor.

Today the Board of Supervisors replaced London Breed with Supervisor Mark Farrell. [bold added]
San Francisco has a new interim mayor: moderate Supervisor Mark Farrell.

The vote to appoint Farrell — led, in a twist, by the board’s progressives — happened twice, after Supervisor Katy Tang withdrew her initial vote of support, saying she had been caught up in the moment.

In the end, Farrell carried the vote 6-3, with Supervisors Malia Cohen, Ahsha Safai and Tang dissenting. It came amid shouts and jeers by supporters of acting Mayor London Breed....

scores of residents had shown up for the public comment in the afternoon, many to support Breed. Some accused the board of racism and sexism — and even of reviving the Jim Crow policies of the 1950s and 1960s — for moving to replace Breed, an African American woman, with an interim mayor.
Former acting Mayor London Breed (Mercury News)
Mark Farrell is a former corporate lawyer and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, a white male with an extraordinarily privileged background, not to mention a beautiful (white) wife and three children. His selection over a qualified African American woman is not blatantly racist or sexist because those labels only apply to Republicans. If you don't understand that, dear reader, you have not been properly educated.

Monday, January 22, 2018


Apple display at Target
Stock market averages rose today, but the world's most valuable company was down 0.82%. Apple Stock Hit With Second Downgrade In A Week: [bold added]
Atlantic Equities analyst James Cordwell noted signs that iPhone demand is starting to soften as well as "limited visibility into the potential for future iPhone cycles"...On Friday, respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities predicted that the iPhone X will reach "end of life" in the summer.
Analysts have been wrong about Apple before but probably not here. Last Sunday the iPhone X was displayed prominently at the San Carlos Best Buy, which had plenty of supply.

That night I chanced upon a similar display at Target. Target? Not exactly where the elites shop, but maybe Apple is willing to sacrifice prestige because a) Apple has become desperate to sell excess inventory, or b) it wants to get as many iPhone X's into as many hands as possible for reasons still unclear. In either case, the price of the X could drop in a few months, much sooner than expected.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Turn it Off, Tune it Out, Drop in in Real Life*

*historical reference to "turn on, tune in, drop out"

Improved communications and social media have a downside: resentment. First, the definition:
Resentment is a feeling of indignation in reaction to a real or perceived slight, a sense of insult or inadequacy caused by the actions, comments or simple existence of someone or something else. It’s the feeling that you’re not getting your fair share, while someone else is getting more than theirs.
How resentment is triggered by modern technology: [bold added]
social media’s prime group of users....use the platforms to present a curated life that quite often shows only the most flattering bits, with the purpose of conveying, or implying, status and standing. You’re quite literally meant to resent their success, or their beauty, or their luck.
(Image from azquotes)
There are numerous other contributors to resentment, such as our (lack of) wealth versus those in our peer group, the career success of our immediate relations, not to mention ourselves, health, physical attractiveness, the list goes on.

The writer, psychologist Peggy Drexler, has two recommendations:
the fix for resentment lies entirely within yourself. It consists of learning to push resentment down—remembering that happiness is found in what you have and not what you don’t.

we can control what we allow ourselves to see. If you find that Facebook or Instagram is making you upset, give yourself a break.
We've said it before, it's impossible to be angry or resentful for long if one cultivates an Attitude of Gratitude.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Role Reversal

An incongruous Time cover--48 smiling faces collectively labeled The Avengers.
Call it payback, call it a revolution, call it the Pink Wave, inspired by marchers in their magenta hats, and the activism that followed. There is an unprecedented surge of first-time female candidates, overwhelmingly Democratic, running for offices big and small, from the U.S. Senate and state legislatures to local school boards.

...the movement is driven not just by revulsion for Trump but also by some of the same forces that helped elect him: frustration at a nonresponsive government of career politicians who seem to care more about donors than the needs of ordinary families.
And what does the man who inspired such passionate anger have to say about today's Women's March?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Halfway There

Why settle for a salad when one can have Vegetable Crudité ("chilled grilled vegetables, olive oil, balsamic, sea salt") for $8? The owner of Ciao! in Roseville said that she had a special parboiling, seasoning, and grilling process that retained freshness and eliminated bitterness. The eggplant, arugula, bell peppers and squash were flavorful and filling, perfect for a meatless meal.

We were down in the Central Valley again, where the equivalent quality of life can be had for half the cost of the Bay Area (sales taxes are lower, too).

Friends of ours have fled to Nevada where state taxes are non-existent and the cost of living is much lower. Near Sacramento we are halfway there.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Are You an Enemy of the Planet, Stephen?

The 3R's? Pshaw! Just memorize what goes into each bin. 
Last August we noted how government subsidies can no longer conceal the abysmal economics of recycling.
To sum up, recycling is a government-mandated environmental program that:
  • adds $millions to the cost of consumer products;
  • created an industry that is unable to survive without a government subsidy;
  • is so uneconomic that even with the subsidy nearly a quarter of the locations have closed (so far);
  • doesn't accomplish what it set out to do anyway ("millions...going to landfills").

    But wait, it gets worse: the government extracts penalties from businesses.
    The law also requires stores that sell the beverages to have a place for consumers to return their bottles and cans within a half mile. If not, the stores themselves are required to either allow customers to recycle there, or pay a $100 a day fee.

    Many stores opt to pay the $36,500 annual fee, saying they are unable to set up a recycling center at their location.
    Consumers lose, businesses lose, the recyclers lose, the environment loses anyway.
  • Yale Law professor Stephen Carter laments how cumbersome recycling has become:
    with each passing season, the rules seem to grow more complicated. My wife and I are constantly getting online warnings (and paper flyers) from our Connecticut town, usually couched in a tone somehow contriving to suggest that we residents aren’t quite up to the mark: Too many of you are including plastic bags. Or polystyrene. Too many of you are leaving your boxes unbroken. Or broken but with food clinging to the cardboard.

    There’s so much to remember. If bottle caps are loose, keep them out of the recycling bin. (That’s what the state decrees, anyway; my town says caps are fine.) Don’t just rinse your aluminum cans but dry them too. (Water is bad.) As to those plastic bags that don’t go in the bin, don’t toss them in the trash either, but find a place that accepts them and drop them off there. Or better still -- we are told -- buy reusable bags. Sure, serious researchers consider them carriers of germs and infection. But that’s okay. Just wash them regularly. (More work.) Oh, and take your wire coat hangers back to the dry cleaners.
    The knowledge that one is not so much saving the environment but helping recycling companies' profits makes it a "daily grind." [bold added]
    what began nearly half a century back as a movement among happy optimists has become like too much else to which government turns its attention: heavy-handed, coercive, distant and thick with detailed rules. Recycling may be important, but it’s no longer romantic. It’s not fun. Nowadays, recycling isn’t solidarity. It’s ritualistic drudgery.
    It's a good thing Professor Carter has tenure and is a best-selling author. Voicing such opinions normally leads to public shaming, firing, and in the worst cases defenestration from Harkness Tower.

    Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Liking That Approach

    Apple became $300 billion more valuable in the past 12 months, $15 billion of it today.
    During the same period Apple outperformed Google, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500.
    Apple will pay $38 billion in extra taxes, happily, apparently.
    Apple said it would invest $30 billion in capital spending in the U.S. over five years that would create more than 20,000 jobs. The total includes a new campus, which initially will house technical support for customers, and $10 billion toward data centers across the country....All told, Apple said it would directly contribute $350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years, with the bulk—about $55 billion this year, for example—coming from ongoing spending on parts and services from U.S. suppliers. That number also includes the federal tax payment and capital spending.

    companies must pay a one-time tax of 15.5% on overseas profits held in cash and other liquid assets. Apple cited those changes as the reason for its giant tax payment, which it said would likely be the largest of its kind, but didn’t say how much of its $252.3 billion in overseas cash holdings it plans to bring home.
    Unlike previous repatriation schemes, the lower tax rate (15.5% vs. 35%) does not require Apple to bring the money home, or specify what it need be spent on (for example, new jobs).
    “There’s no longer an economic reason to maintain cash offshore to avoid high U.S. taxation,” said Richard Lane, senior vice president at Moody’s. “For that reason, offshore cash balances are going to come down quite notably from our estimate of $1.4 trillion at the end of 2017,” he added....Companies don’t have to bring the money home, they’re just required to pay the tax on it.
    Once unlocked, capital can be applied to its highest and best use, whether it be foreign or domestic expansion and hiring, debt repayment, share buybacks, or dividends. The tax law, once a barrier to applying overseas profits to spending in the U.S., will be much less of a hindrance.

    The government is letting companies make the "capital allocation" decisions for themselves; soaring stock prices seem to like that approach.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2018

    No Island is an Island

    The mistaken button-push was a reminder how the world impinges on the Island State.
    that sense of remove is shifting, as Hawaii plays a more central role in political brawls that put it in the spotlight. Last year, Hawaii’s attorney general successfully sued to block President Donald Trump’s first travel ban. Now come the regular missile siren tests.
    Hawaii's geographic situation has provided no protection from history. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) precipitated the American entrance to World War II, and, of course, Hawaii's annexation (1898) by the United States represents the ultimate intrusion. Strike that last sentence; a nuclear missile would be worse.

    Monday, January 15, 2018

    MLK Day, 2018

    From the Letter from Birmingham Jail:
    (Washington Post photo)
    In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.'s actions, words, and the thought behind them made him remarkable in a century filled with great men (Churchill, Gandhi, Roosevelt(s), Einstein, Picasso, Hemingway, Pope John XXIII, to name a few).

    Sunday, January 14, 2018

    Don't Fight It, Embrace It

    In 2006, 13 years after she became an international star, Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. It caused her to re-assess her life.
    The best lessons in life are the ones that stop you in your tracks. I was staring down a beast in the mirror, and it was saying, “You need to start changing some things.”
    She let go of her belief about the way life's supposed to be ("You fall in love, you have a great relationship, and then you have children") and adopted two sons. She also embraced her age.
    In the past 10 years, once I let go of trying to be younger and needing to have a pop-radio career, I’ve found the space to write about things that really matter.
    Accepting one's age is different from determining what is the perfect age: [bold added]
    Researchers like Dr. [Jay] Olshansky are trying to understand the mysteries of longevity and at what ages we feel our best and why. They measure worry and stress levels at different times in our life and peak years for having fun...

    If people could live forever in good health at a particular age, it would be 50, according to a 2013 Harris Poll.
    There are also arguments for 70 ("when people are less anxious but still healthy") or 30 ("when they are at their physical peak or have the most friends"). Of course, the answer will vary according to individuals' preferences, e.g., wealth, physical attractiveness, mental acuity, etc.

    Maybe Sheryl Crow has the right attitude. Accept how you are now for maximum happiness.

    Saturday, January 13, 2018

    Buttons Are Back

    (screenshot of mobile phone alert from USA Today)
    Today's false alarm may inspire a few chuckles from those who are thousands of miles removed--in other words, the rest of the world--but to Hawaiians it was no laughing matter. Trapped on an island and with many homes being of lightweight construction, they instantly became aware of their vulnerability.
    Celeste Russell was driving near the 7-Eleven in Waimanalo.

    “There was a red light and people were beeping their horns for people to go through it, instead of stopping, because obviously, they wanted to get home themselves. So it was bad,” she said.

    After the alarm went out, 32 youth flag football games scheduled throughout the day at Mililani Mauka Community Park were canceled, with some families leaving their tents and running to their cars....

    United Airlines cleared its lobby at Honolulu airport and sent passengers downstairs to the baggage claim area. Workers at Pearl Harbor were scrambling to get off the base.
    (Image from
    The reason for the false alarm? "a state employee accidentally hit the wrong button on a computer." For all their recent bluster, we have been assured that neither Mr. Kim nor Mr. Trump have "buttons" that could trigger a nuclear war. Maybe not, but here's one important button that needs to have better controls.

    In first grade we practiced diving under our desks when the monthly air-raid sirens went off, an action that would be helpful under very limited circumstances but better than nothing, I suppose. Today Hawaiians discovered that nothing's improved in 60 years.

    Friday, January 12, 2018

    Don't Take It Personally

    To Americans offended by Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem: he doesn't mean it as an insult to you personally; he's hoping that you will be inspired to make changes to improve your country.

    To immigrants offended by President Trump calling your native land a "shithole": he doesn't mean it as an insult to you personally; he's hoping that you will be inspired to make changes to improve your country.

    To Trump voters offended by liberals calling you "trailer trash" and where you live as "flyover states": they don't mean it as an insult to you personally....wait a minute, they do.

    Thursday, January 11, 2018


    I have long sworn off vulgarity (the occasional "damn" is the worst offense), and most of the people I encounter have likewise done so. I say "most", because there are still individuals, some highly educated and women, even, who sprinkle f- and s-bombs liberally in their speech. I react with a brief silence to process and recalibrate by remembering my college days when everyone swore. Then the words don't bother me and the conversation resumes.

    President Trump is coming under fire because of his comment during an immigration discussion, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" (He was referring to El Salvador, Haiti, and some African countries.) Immigration activists are outraged understandably, and accusations of racism (especially since the President mentioned Norway as a preferred alternative) once again fill the air.

    Acknowledging that he used language that is out of bounds not only in the business of State but in polite company, your humble blogger, a non-Trump voter, would like you to consider:
  • Many people from New York and Boston pepper their language with vulgarity. As with hip-hop, listeners get used to it.
  • It's better that everyone knows where the President stands; one "shithole" is worth a thousand diplomatic words.
  • Those countries really are terrible places. No American wants to move there. (Should the President have said "terrible places"?)
  • Look at what the President didn't say. He didn't mention Mexico, his main reason for building the wall, or India, renowned for its poor sanitation ("Open defecation continues to be high") since we're on that subject. Which leads us to the serious topic of
  • Merit-based immigration. Why admit people with no skills useful to 21st-century America? Let America be as discriminating as Harvard; no one gets in unless they can do the work.

    More engineers and doctors from India will put the lie to the claim that the President is against brown-skinned people. I expect that merit-based criteria will result in the majority of immigrants being non-white. Now, if we can just get past the outrage...
  • Wednesday, January 10, 2018

    Beer and Barbecue

    18-hour brisket, pulled pork, house salad, and JÅGØV light.
    The brisket was a little dry.
    I hadn't seen Kim for a month and Bill for a year, and the start of 2018 was a good excuse to get together.

    We met at Dan Gordon's, a new beer-and-barbecue place in downtown Palo Alto. Dan Gordon, who with Dean Biersch founded the Gordon Biersch chain of brewery restaurants, opened his eponymous restaurant at Gordon Biersch's first site, 640 Emerson.

    We had met in 1978 while working at a lumber company (!) in Menlo Park. After 1983 we went our separate ways. We talked about bitcoin and blockchain and wished we were 40 years younger. Nevertheless, there's a lot to be grateful for, especially that we bought our houses long ago, i.e., in the 20th century.

    Now that we're retired with nest eggs that allow for these outings, we'll be meeting up more often.

    Tuesday, January 09, 2018

    Victory Marches

    Tua Tagovailoa celebrating with his parents (AP)
    My high school wins awards for its sports programs but its longtime rival, Saint Louis, has left it in the dust as a training academy for top quarterbacks.

    2011 graduate Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy at Oregon in 2014. Last weekend he led the Tennessee Titans to their first playoff win in 14 years.

    On Monday fellow Crusader [don't let them change your mascot, St. Louis!] alum Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench in the National Championship game to spark a come-from-behind overtime win by Alabama over Georgia. Both quarterbacks were and are effusive in their praise for each other.

    If Tennessee upsets heavily favored New England on Saturday, look for Marcus Mariota to regain the headlines from his protege.

    Monday, January 08, 2018

    Sunday, January 07, 2018

    Nothing More Important

    It was New Year's Eve Sunday. Despite many being on vacation, we managed to gather a group of 12 volunteers to serve lunch to 60 people on a chilly day in Redwood City.

    Some were new to the activity, and others (okay, they're kids) have been doing it half their lives.

    Some of the younger volunteers.
    Sandwiches on Sunday is an outreach ministry of St. Pius Catholic Church of Redwood City. Our Episcopal parish is one of four other churches that take a turn serving Sunday lunches at the community center.

    A small group had gathered around a car in the parking lot. A parishioner from St. Pius was handing out coats to the diners. He said it was a grass-roots effort started by church members; they collect and pass out 5-10 coats a week. (By the way, distributing used cold-weather gear is the primary mission of some charities.)

    We polished off the apple cider and closed up. There were celebrations to attend that night, but nothing more important than this.

    Saturday, January 06, 2018

    Good Shape

    Fire station on a rainy evening

    The Fire Department, as are most of Foster City's line operations, is in good financial shape. The Fire budget is $10 million out of the City's total $100 million per year.

    Years ago there was a ballot measure to transfer the Fire Department's assets, personnel, and future tax revenues to San Mateo, which would manage the firefighting service. Proponents dressed up the measure with a few sweeteners, but it was voted down heavily after they couldn't guarantee our station would not be closed.

    Long-time Foster City residents remembered all the promises that were made by the County and the teachers' union to take care of our students if we didn't build our own high school and set up an independent school district. We yielded to their blandishments, and the land set aside for the high school was built over. Now all our high schoolers are bused every day to and fro across heavily trafficked Highway 101 to six different high schools. (Foster City's own elementary and middle schools consistently rank in the top quartile of the State; not so San Mateo's high schools.)

    The high school experience showed that San Mateo could not be trusted with Foster City's fire service, especially since an earthquake could knock out the bridges and we would be on our own. (Foster City was built on Brewer's Island and is connected to the Peninsula by four bridges.)

    Nevertheless, they still keep trying. A Joint Powers Agreement under which several cities, including ours, cede some authority and assets was signed two months ago. Yes, cost-sharing makes sense for functions such as fire inspection and education. However, because Foster City runs budget surpluses while neighboring cities are in deficit, the agreement bears watching.

    We're in good shape, as long as we keep our distance.

    Friday, January 05, 2018

    My Normal Trip to Costco

    At least I didn't forget the eggs (upper left).
    Needing some eggs, I stopped by Costco on Wednesday night for "15 minutes."

    Charmin was on sale, and though we have a two-month's supply, one can never have enough of squeezably soft TP.

    We're running out of Downy softener, which was also on sale so I bought two bottles, feeling a pang of regret for not buying Procter & Gamble stock after I got married.

    CoQ10, an enzyme I'd never heard of 10 years ago, was marked down. Into the cart went two bottles. The cost was nearly $60, but a bargain because it prevents cognitive decline and "support[s] a healthy heart." I read about those benefits on the Internet so it must be true.

    In the grocery section I added more foods that I forgot that I needed.

    40 minutes and $181 later, the cart was filled. Thank goodness Citibank did me the favor of granting me a Costco Visa card, because I never carry around that much cash.

    Thursday, January 04, 2018

    Loose Bannon

    Steve Bannon (AP photo via WSJ)
    Your humble blogger follows political news less than he does sports, business, and entertainment. Political junkies, please make allowances for the fact that I'm not intimately familiar with the twists and turns regarding ex-Presidential advisor Steve Bannon.

    Steve Bannon was on top of the world after the 2016 election. His relationship with the President soured in a matter of months. After he was fired by the President, and, after his candidate, Roy Moore, failed to win the Alabama special Senate election, Steve Bannon has been viciously attacking President Trump, his family, and the Administration.

    The situation calls to mind Lyndon Johnson's embrace of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover:
    "It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”
    Donald Trump knew that his advisor, pride wounded, was probably going to react this way to the firing yet did it anyway despite the consequences. True to form, Steve Bannon has been raining criticism from outside the tent.

    Keeping a guy like that around would have escalated the damage, and give the President credit for knowing when to cut his losses.

    Wednesday, January 03, 2018

    Going Stinky

    (photo by noobcook)
    Back in the 1950's, that is, before there were microwave ovens, frozen TV dinners, pizza delivery, and grocery stores that were open after dark, the procrastinating cook was in trouble if she hadn't started dinner by 5.

    Both my parents worked, and many were the nights that yours truly had nothing to go with his bowl of rice except stinky fermented bean curd. The stuff was so powerful that an eighth of a teaspoon was enough to flavor (contaminate?) an entire bowl of rice. I couldn't fathom why my parents liked it, and that childhood memory to this day has banished the ingredient from my kitchen.

    Why am I talking about this? Because fermented foods are making a comeback.

    Not only are many people liking the taste, there is a scientific reason for going stinky:
    Fermentation produces delicious foods. But more than that, it connects humans to the invisible processes of life all—to the microbes that were here for billions of years before humans arrived, and will persist for billions more after they have gone...

    Rob Knight, who heads the American Gut Project at the University of California, San Diego and researches the links between the microbiome and general health, says that lactic-acid bacteria do in the sauerkraut crock or the yogurt pot what they do in the gut: render their environment unfriendly to an array of unhealthy fungi and bacteria. Mr Knight has found that people who eat fermented foods tend to have more diverse gut bacteria. This, in turn, tends to be associated with better physical and mental health, though whether a bountifully biodiverse gut is a cause or an effect of better health remains unclear.
    You may learn to like the flavor, dear reader, and you may even believe fermented foods improve your health; just be aware that your consumption of them won't make you more popular.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2018

    2018 Resolution: Time to be Prone

    No reason to show this WSJ gif other than "I like it."
    Former lawyer and bestselling business author Daniel H. Pink says that achieving one's New Year's resolutions is all in the timing:
    timing is really a science...By understanding the science of the day—and by giving more attention to the question of “when”—we can improve the effectiveness and success of our resolutions.
    Exercising before breakfast is better for weight loss because it burns stored fat. Also, because the majority of people "peak" in the morning, "trough" after lunch, then "rebound" in the late afternoon the author suggests that the trough period be used for "mindless administrative work, such as answering email, filing papers and filling out expense reports."

    One advantage of being semi-retired in 2018 is that I can nap through the trough on a couch (or a bed). Being prone so that I'm less prone to error--I like it.

    Little Buzzing Gadget

    January 1st, 10 PM. Red-move 650 cal.
    Green-30 min exercise, Blue-stand for 1 or  
    more minutes during 12 separate hours.
    Though my daily "move" target on the Apple Watch is but 650 calories, I've only been achieving that goal once or twice a week.

    Well, the page turned on the calendar, and I'm going to try harder. At 9:30 p.m. the red ring still was 150 calories shy, so off I went into the night. It was a pleasant-enough walk in the 50-degree weather, and I did close all three activity rings.

    However, any notion that I am of independent mind was again disproved.

    Little buzzing gadgets influence my behavior powerfully, a sobering thought in the New Year.