Saturday, June 30, 2018

Boomers to Blame

Many baby boomers need assistance, too.
Lawyer/journalist/publisher Steven Brill asks the painful question:
How did we get here? How did the world’s greatest democracy and economy become a land of crumbling roads, galloping income inequality, bitter polarization and dysfunctional government?
Hint: the answer is in the title of his Time essay: How Baby Boomers Broke America.

Mr. Brill doesn't attribute America's current state to evil people but to the unintended consequences of a meritocratic system:
The story of America’s tailspin is not about villains, though there are some. It is not about a conspiracy to bring the country down, nor did it spring from one single source....

The Meritocracy’s ascent was about more than personal may be understandable for those on the losing side of this triumph of the achievers to condemn the winners as gluttons. That explanation, however, is too simple. Many of the protected class are people who have lived the kind of lives that all Americans celebrate. They worked hard. They innovated. They tried things that others wouldn’t attempt. They believed, often correctly, that they were writing new chapters in the long story of American progress.
Sure, the boomers who made it to the top were smart and worked hard, but now they are using the advantages of wealth, education, and social connections to create a new aristocracy. Elites
can spend what they need to in order to send their children to the best schools, provide tutors for standardized testing and otherwise ensure that their kids can outcompete their peers to secure the same spots at the top that their parents achieved.
Mr. Brill calls for bigger government to help the majority of Americans in the "unprotected" class. [bold added]
On the other side are the unprotected many. They may be independent and hardworking, but they look to their government to preserve their way of life and maybe even improve it. The unprotected need the government to provide good public schools so that their children have a chance to advance. They need a level competitive playing field for their small businesses, a fair shake in consumer disputes and a realistic shot at justice in the courts. They need the government to provide a safety net to ensure that their families have access to good health care, that no one goes hungry when shifts in the economy or temporary setbacks take away their jobs and that they get help to rebuild after a hurricane or other disaster. They need the government to ensure a safe workplace and a living minimum wage . They need mass-transit systems that work and call centers at Social Security offices that don’t produce busy signals. They need the government to keep the political system fair and protect it from domination by those who can give politicians the most money. They need the government to provide fair labor laws and to promote an economy and a tax code that tempers the extremes of income inequality and makes economic opportunity more than an empty cliché.
Your humble blogger has always been of the opinion ("belief" is too strong a word) that massive government redistribution efforts create more problems than solutions. I still hold out hope that eliminating suffering and providing a decent life for the majority who can't make it is possible through a combination of technological advancement and the voluntary actions of the rich, but it just may be that the problems are too vast to overcome without bigger government. I'm not in Mr. Brill's corner....yet.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday Run-on Parentheticals

Three of the people whom I am closest to ["whom I am" is the correct grammatical construction because whom is the objective case though it sounds terrible, but I am compelled to use the correct case because Mrs. Matthews (English) and Miss Sturies (Latin) would otherwise give me a bad grade that would follow me through high school and hurt my GPA and prevent me from getting into the college of my choice, thereby ruining the rest of my life] had their birthdays this week.

The good news is that I can get shopping and visits to the Post Office out of the way in one fell swoop (just like the mandibularly challenged pull all four wisdom teeth out at the same time which happened to me in my late teens by a dentist who was an ex-G.I. who went easy on the novocaine but in those days we boys were supposed to be tough and not simper like the kids do these days at the slightest twinge), but the bad news is that I can't use "I forgot your birthday" as an excuse because they all know each other.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Wandering About

After I took her to Sutter Emergency in March, I urged my friend to get a colonoscopy to ascertain the source of her abdominal pain. If she did schedule one (the procedure requires sedation, hence separate transportation), I offered to drive the 2½ hours to Placer County to take her.

As the saying goes, "Don’t let your mouth write a check your a** can’t cash.” Her appointment was at 7 a.m. today, so I drove in last night.

I had a half a day to kill, so it was an opportunity to walk around downtown Lincoln. I wandered into the Lincoln Museum, which displayed items from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century.

Kids like playing on these typewriters.
Unfortunately few know how to fix them.
A fact that you didn't know and didn't care about: Lincoln was named after railroad businessman Charles Wilson Lincoln. (That's no surprise if you knew the town was founded in 1859, before the 16th President took office.) Like other towns in California, Lincoln's economy was based on farming after the Gold Rush. Coal- and clay mining followed. All were helped by the Central Pacific Railroad, which ran through Roseville 15 miles away.

I talked with the volunteer docents, who were proud of their town's history. Seeing an Asian face, they brought up the subject of the Japanese-American internment camps. They mentioned how many of the families could return to their farms after the War because the neighbors had kept up the properties and paid the taxes. If that was even partly true, then Lincoln residents had behaved better than most.

Livestock scale.
The museum was quite small--two large rooms and a gift shop. The displays were neatly arranged, but surely there was more stuff in a warehouse. No, we don't have a warehouse, one of our supporters lets us use his garage.

It hadn't occurred to me previously, but I'll add Lincoln to the list of places to retire.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Over the Hump

It had been a day of unrelated tasks: physical chores, bookkeeping, and a 2½-hour drive to Placer County.

My dinner companion yearned for the cheesy goodness of Romano's Macaroni Grill. Fortunately, RMG has other fare that isn't so lactose-intensive. Seared steak, roasted potatoes, grilled broccoli, and a glass of red were the perfect ending to this Hump Day.

I will sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Steph Posterizes CPIII

...on Family Feud.

Six answers, but what's the seventh?
The rules are simple: contestants guess the most likely answers that audiences give to questions. The questions are often constructed so that one cannot really say on national television what one is thinking ---especially if one is an NBA superstar.

A bald head? He shows more confidence taking an 80-ft shot
When the Chris Paul family faced off against the Stephen Curry family, the Curry clan won the match though they lost the first round because Steph refused to use wife Ayesha's answer.

Question: If a male stripper was nicknamed Popeye, what might he have? [Hint: the first six answers could have applied to the cartoon character Popeye, but what about a stripper named Popeye?]

(Answer revealed after the break.)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Wouldn't Want to Live There

The Chronicle follows middle-class families (they would be upper class in most of the rest of America) trying to make a go of it on a block close to downtown San Francisco:
Isis St is a short walk from City Hall
Those are the people who live on Isis Street, which should be everything that’s good about San Francisco. Funky flats. A group of progressive neighbors, many of whom are artists, writers and other creative types. A walkable neighborhood where you can get to Rainbow Grocery and a host of bars and restaurants in a flash. There are about 30 units of housing on the block, and six kids younger than 5 are growing up there. It should have been the best of San Francisco, but by April, it had become the worst.

The Schoen-Rene's stroll around their neighborhood (Chron photo).
[Ernst] Schoen-Rene’s 2½-year-old son, Laszlo, invented a game called “jumping over the poop.” Another kid across the street collected syringe caps and floated them down the stream of dirty gutter water for fun. People “as high as a kite” hopped Schoen-Rene’s 10-foot fence. He once tried to pick up a pile of cardboard somebody had ditched on the sidewalk to recycle it. But it was much heavier than he expected. There was a person passed out inside.

Homeless campers cooking over open flames on the sidewalk have started fires. They’ve partied and injected drugs on Schoen-Rene’s front steps, one time repeatedly throwing trash at his door, alarming the family inside with the thumping sound.

“There’s the poop and the needles and the rats,” Schoen-Rene said. “Oh, my God, there didn’t used to be rats.”

But the breaking point for him came when neighbors found a black suitcase with wheels on the corner that had clearly been used as a toilet by homeless people.
Mark Farrell, who served as interim mayor until London Breed was elected earlier this month, removed the homeless encampments in April. (It currently is a mystery where the homeless went, since most refused offers of indoor shelter, albeit sleeping on a floor bed.)
It’s far from perfect. On a recent day, he saw a tent on his corner with four people inside “with needles hanging out of their feet.” Police came and whisked them out of the neighborhood, signaling Farrell’s determination to keep the area clear. There’s still human feces on his street sometimes. And rats. And the wait-and-see feeling that the disastrous conditions could reappear at any time.

“Still, it’s amazing to have the street clean,” Schoen-Rene said. “It’s clean. It’s nuts.”
One silver lining of the experience is that Mr. Schoen-Rene can make a $300,000-$500,000 profit on the condo that he bought for $748,000 in 2010. He would have to leave the City to find something affordable, but if and when he does leave, I'll bet he will regret not doing it sooner.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Kim Walters (1951-2018)

My friend Kim Walters discovered in his later years that Buddhist teaching resonated powerfully, and so it was that the memorial service for the Tennessee native, who died of cancer at the age of 66, was held Friday at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple. (A brief obituary is here.)

I had lost touch with Kim after we worked as junior staffers in a public company in the 1980's but saw him recently over the past five years when I helped him with his consulting practice. Alas, he couldn't finish a software product that could have sparked explosive growth.

A man is known by his loves--Kim loved his wife and two grown children, of course, as well as working on his company. He enjoyed riding famous roller coasters, tasting expensive whiskeys, and taking long car trips. His eyes would light up when he bought the latest device made by Apple, and he was always rescuing dogs from the shelter. Tennessee football was a special case (he graduated from UT), and he would spend hours discussing the high school seniors who had committed to Volunteer football.

I'll miss the hundreds of stories he would tell in his Southern drawl, the invitations to "supper", the how you doin' that started every conversation, and the kitschy birthday e-cards. These days, 66 is far too soon. R.I.P.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Why I Didn’t Flush the Urinal

Hint: this one makes a loud noise.

The guy on the toilet next to me was on the speakerphone talking to a girl. Yes, he ought to know better or maybe the girl didn’t care. But I wasn’t going to be the one to harsh his mellow by pulling the handle.

There are a lot of new trade offs that Emily Post never had to consider.

Friday, June 22, 2018

How Not to Market Books to Guys

This blurb was supposed to make me buy this book:
A New York Times bestselling author recounts growing up in 1950s Pittsburgh in this “luminous” memoir (Publishers Weekly) with nearly 2,700 five-star Goodreads ratings. “Loving and lyrical… This is a book about the capacity for joy” (Los Angeles Times).
"Luminous", "loving", "lyrical"? I feel the gorge rising.

Note: for the record I did like The Writing Life and found Annie Dillard's introspective reveries to be honest and thought-provoking.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Breathe Deeply and Count to Ten

Local sports item: Giants closer Hunter Strickland punches door, breaks pitching hand
In 2017 Strickland brawled with Bryce Harper (Mercury News)
subsequent X-rays revealed that the closer broke his hand after what manager Bruce Bochy described as a “snap” in which he punched a door with his right hand.

After being removed from [Monday's] game with three runs in and one out, Strickland made a “stupid decision,” he confessed a day after the fact.

Strickland underwent surgery Tuesday afternoon to repair his fifth metacarpal....Strickland will miss six to eight weeks.
Who does he think he is, LeBron James?
LeBron James revealed after Friday's [June 8] Game 4 loss to the Warriors that he had been playing with a broken right hand, which he injured following the Cavaliers' heartbreaking Game 1 overtime loss.

James said his emotions got the best of him as he punched a whiteboard in the locker room and called the injury "self-inflicted."
1) Players feel the greatest anger when they or a teammate--but not the other team--are to blame for a loss;
2) Professional athletes spend a lifetime training under strict self-discipline. Possible explanations for these explosions of temper: a) the coiled spring snaps; b) roid rage; c) other athletes are doing it, so it's more acceptable.
3) Teams should consider installing padding everywhere, just like they do on goal posts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Stocks on the Block

Four years ago the hot stocks were in social, mobile, and cloud. [bold added]
Cramer's first theme is 'embrace the holy trinity,' meaning companies which are involved in social, mobile and the cloud. Cramer says Google (GOOG) and (CRM) are two great stocks to own. For investors who follow revenue growth, Cramer says Workday (WDAY) and Cornerstone (CSOD) are also great names to own.
In 2018 the high-growth opportunities are in artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity.
Together's got to be better, right?
Artificial intelligence has benefited from advances in processing power and analysis that are opening myriad new ways to create products. Meanwhile, growing attention to cryptocurrencies has helped persuade a crop of highly skilled entrepreneurs to work on putting the underlying blockchain technology to various uses.

As for the third: “Cybersecurity should be a perennial anchor on the list,” [Venture capitalist Charles] Moldow says. “So long as there are black hats, there will need to be white hats.”
Cybersecurity being the exception, the average investor is probably not a direct consumer of artificial intelligence or blockchain. In all cases he or she almost certainly has no idea how the technology works.

Go ahead and take a flyer, but do it with your Las Vegas money, i.e., funds that you can afford to lose.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Two Icons and the Man Who Loved Them

The cover photo (by Richard Landers) of My Girls
All right, I admit it, I really like the cover photo on Todd Fisher's My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie.

Todd Fisher, 60, spent his life in the presence of two Hollywood icons, his mother, Debbie Reynolds, and sister, Carrie Fisher.

More than just a chronicler, Todd helped them through failed marriages, financial problems, and substance abuse:
The author turned patriarchal in his teens, when he discovered his mother being cheated out of program sales during a Broadway show and observed [Debbie's second husband Harry] Karl’s lawyers shoving her around in their divorce negotiations. Mr. Fisher’s role expanded beyond son and brother into lawyer, bouncer, doctor, stage manager, business adviser, psychiatrist, gate-keeper and pal.
Fun fact: Todd Fisher was named after his dad Eddie Fisher's best friend, Mike Todd. When Mike died in a plane crash, Eddie Fisher left Debbie Reynolds to marry Mike Todd's widow, the A+-lister of the 1950's and 60's, Elizabeth Taylor, in 1959. So that's what my parents were talking about and why they changed the subject when we kids entered the room.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Tendering for Tenderization

Hundreds of sheet masks to choose from--Here's one offering on Alibaba.
The Wall Street Journal asks the important question: Do Korean Sheet Masks Actually Improve Your Skin? (If one watches--or is forced to watch--Korean soap operas, one can't avoid noticing that lovely actresses walk around with these beauty treatments.)

Answer: they probably help. [bold added]
the masks are mainly a Korean phenomenon. Sold in individual packets or as multi-packs, they consist of a pulp, fiber or bio-cellulose base soaked in a serum that purports to brighten, moisturize, smooth or perform other tricks when applied for the prescribed period of time, usually around 20 minutes. Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman said that the form itself is effective: “Sheet masks use the material to trap active ingredients on the skin, forcing it to lock in the moisture and receive all the benefits.”
I wonder if the personal-care product developers got this idea from the kitchen. Any cook can tell you that plastic Ziploc® bags are effective in the marinading process because the bags help the meat to be in constant contact with the spice. The sheet masks use the same principle, albeit in a classier and more expensive manner.

It all depends on how much you are willing to tender for tenderization.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day, 2018

Dad, 92, relaxes at Ala Moana with a decaf latte.
Below is an old Father's Day post, last run five years ago.

I remember when Dad
  • Drove me to Little League three times a week and helped me work on my pitching motion every day after school.
  • Worked three jobs, which explained why he was always tired, so that he could buy a house and send all his kids to private school.
  • Installed all the wiring when the church put in its pipe organ.
  • Bought me a violin for $350, which was a lot of money in 1965.
  • Let me visit him in his office, where he was the manager. The atmosphere was hushed, quieter than a classroom (this was a long time ago).
  • Taught me chess, which was not one of his favorite games.
  • Helped get me great summer jobs at Brewer Chemical and Dole Pineapple.
  • Quit smoking, for his sake and ours, when the Surgeon General issued the first warning on cigarettes.
  • Gave me the family car when I learned how to drive.
  • Lectured me on how to treat women----politely, and always with respect.

    Happy Father's Day, Dad, we'll see you soon. © 2018 Stephen Yuen
  • Saturday, June 16, 2018


    The house that was listed one week ago on our block has a "sale pending" sign. This is good news: the owner got her price (or better), which means demand for neighbors' homes remains high; more importantly, my flower bed is looking ragged, so I was going to spend the weekend digging it up to make it look respectable. Now I don't have to.

    An overheated real estate market is like an overheated stock market; buyers overlook the weeds.

    Friday, June 15, 2018

    Not Super Feats, Just Feet of Clay

    We were excited by Theranos' revolutionary blood-analyzing technology in 2013, though we did say at the time "it does seem too good to be true."

    In 2015 the Wall Street Journal exposed the technology as fake, and in early 2018 the SEC imposed a $500,000 fine and other sanctions on Theranos' founder, Elizabeth Holmes. On Thursday it got worse for Ms. Holmes when Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges:
    Ms. Holmes, 34 years old, and Mr. Balwani, 53, were each charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud in an indictment handed up Thursday and unsealed Friday. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution to those found to have been defrauded, on each count.

    “This indictment alleges a corporate conspiracy to defraud financial investors,” said John F. Bennett, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Francisco. “More egregiously, this conspiracy misled doctors and patients about the reliability of medical tests that endangered health and lives.”
    Justice will be meted out to Ms. Holmes, but one huge aspect of the story is the eagerness of people to believe in a young, self-made female entrepreneur who disrupts an industry and even wears black turtlenecks like Steve Jobs.

    No, there are no tech superheroes, and our anointing them as such has been bad for their companies and investors alike.

    Elon Musk, Tesla; Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos; Travis Kalanick, ex-CEO, Uber (WSJ graphic)

    Thursday, June 14, 2018

    Some Heft

    On Flag Day it's appropriate that we honor Robert G. Heft (1941-2009), who designed the current flag:
    The original 1958 flag in 2006 (Houston Chronicle)
    Ohioan Robert G. Heft designed the fifty-star United States flag. Stanley Pratt, Heft's teacher at Lancaster High School, asked his students to design a flag for the admittance of Hawaii and Alaska as states in the United States. Heft chose to arrange the fifty white stars on a blue background in alternating horizontal rows. Five rows had six stars, and four rows had five stars. Seven alternating horizontal red and six white stripes completed the flag, representing the original thirteen colonies. The flag's three colors, red, white, and blue, represent respectively courage, purity, and justice. It took Heft 12.5 hours to sew the flag together.

    Stanley Pratt gave Heft a B- as the grade for the flag. Pratt supposedly stated that Heft's design lacked originality, but the teacher did offer to raise the grade if Heft could get the flag accepted as the United States' national flag. Heft sent his flag to Walter Moeller, his Ohio Congressman. Moeller succeeded in having Heft's design adopted as the new United States flag on July 4, 1960.

    Heft's original flag has flown over the White House, every state capital building, and eighty-eight United States embassies. It remains in Heft's possession, although numerous people and museums have offered to purchase the flag, including one offer of $350,000. Heft's design was the twenty-seventh official flag of the United States.

    Heft was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but he spent his youth in Ohio. He returned to Saginaw after retiring from Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio, where he was a professor. He also served as mayor of Napoleon, Ohio, for 20 years. In Saginaw, he was employed as the Education Manager of the Saginaw County Junior Achievement. Heft traveled across the country, giving speeches regarding the United States flag and his role in its design. Heft also developed a fifty-one star flag in case a new state joins the United States.

    Heft died on December 12, 2009, in Saginaw, Michigan, of natural causes.
    Robert Heft's humble Midwest beginnings, his claim to fame (what 17-year-old boy today would spend 12.5 hours sewing a school project?), and what he did with his life is from a Norman Rockwell America that has all but vanished.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2018

    The Six Methods

    The wrecking-ball cover shows the
    Economist's opinion of Mr. Trump's
    foreign policy
    Even more interesting--to this observer--than the President's objectives in foreign policy is how he conducts it . The WSJ has discerned six principles:
    Method 1: “I Alone Can Fix It”
    on May 8, 2018, he sat alone at a small wooden desk in the White House he dramatically signed a stack of documents withdrawing America from the seven-nation deal aimed at constraining Iran’s nuclear program.

    Method 2: Soften Up the Opposition and Keep it Off Balance
    The President...[called] Mr. Kim “rocket man” on a “suicide mission”....over the Easter weekend, the president switched tactics and surprised top advisers by urging restraint.

    Method 3: Set Deadlines—Real or Imagined—to Create Pressure
    No one loves negotiating against deadlines more than Mr. Trump, who proudly uses them as weapons....Mr. Trump also likes to create deadlines with consequences to prevent others from running out the clock...It also shows his deadlines aren’t bluffs, said Lawrence Kudlow, director of the president’s economic council. “The point is, when the president says something, believe it,” he said.

    Method 4: Don’t Calm the Waters—Roil Them
    He looks skeptically at advice from policy experts, previous administration officials and global allies—the “geniuses,” as Mr. Trump contemptuously privately calls them—which means the U.S. is often churning foreign policy waters instead of calming them.

    Method 5: Make it Personal
    When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in April 2017, the president shattered the careful choreography—something that took weeks of international negotiations—surprising the Chinese by immediately seeking a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Xi.

    Method 6: Use “Maximum Pressure” and Be Prepared to Walk Away
    A signature Trump tactic is to respond to every attack with a stronger counterstrike. When Beijing threatened to match his tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, he threatened to put tariffs on $100 billion...When North Korea increased missile tests, he vowed to respond with “fire and fury.”
    As with any new strategies, once opponents study them they will be better prepared next time. For example, heads of state will now practice for personal negotiations, sans staff, in case Mr. Trump wants to take a one-on-one walk in the woods.

    We have yet to see whether any of these unconventional methods will be successful, but the ride will surely be exciting.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2018

    Sticky Fattiness

    The British food writer of the Economist puts her finger on why Asians relish foods that Westerners are indifferent to or are even disgusted by: an appreciation of texture. [bold added]
    According to one study, Americans use just 78 words to describe the texture of food. By contrast, there are more than 400 such terms in Japanese. Puri-puri describes the feel of biting into something like a prawn, bouncy, with a slight resistance; neba-neba, the slimy, viscous feel of foods such as natto, fermented soyabeans. Shuko Oda, head chef at Koya, an udon bar in London, says that only Japanese customers order it; the rest balk at the snot-like strings clinging to the beans.

    In China, texture is part of the pleasure of food and people praise the feel as much as flavour, says Fuchsia Dunlop, a British writer on Chinese food. Ingredients are used for their mouth-feel alone. Birds’ nests and sharks’ fins don’t taste of much, but both contribute a gelatinous texture that is prized. For non-natives, the choicest textures can be puzzling, at best.
    Chicken feet ordered at Graton, 2015
    Every Chinese-American adult male of my father's generation loved to munch on chicken feet. As children they ate them out of economic necessity---the butcher gave bags of animal parts away---but they continued to hanker after the dish even when the budget had room for steak. As children we tried them only after repeated assurances that the feet had been thoroughly washed, seasoned, and cooked for hours. Now we appreciate the combination of spiciness and gelatinous texture.

    Before pressure-cooking,
    but after parboiling
    Pork trotters slow-cooked for hours are also a much-loved delicacy. When I was last in Hawaii I filled an Instant Pot with several pounds of pigs' feet, ginger, garlic, sugar, and soy sauce. After two hours under pressure the mucilage-rich dish was ready. The sticky fattiness is part of the pleasure.

    Hey, don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

    Monday, June 11, 2018

    The Joys of Almost Summer

    Bill from Pittsburg, CA exults
    While sports no longer provides the escape from reality that it once did, it still has the capacity to surprise. The surprise in this case occurred in the stands.

    On Sunday an Oakland Athletics fan caught two consecutive foul balls. Commentators have opined that the odds against this event were one in a billion or one in a trillion.

    At first blush, statistical analysis suggests those odds are wildly overstated. Here's a back of the envelope calculation: with a little over 15,000 in attendance, and assuming that 40 foul balls were hit into the stands during a game, the average fan has a 1 in 375 chance of catching a ball. The chance of getting two balls in the same game is one in 375 squared, about 141,000-to-1. Of course, the probabilities can be adjusted by seat placement--the upper decks in large stadiums get hardly any--but we're still a far cry from one in a billion.

    If we layer in another filter, the odds of back-to-back balls landing in the same place must be at least 1 in 10,000. Now we're at 1 in 1.41 billion (141,000 x 10,000). OK, you can cheer now.

    Another phenomenon is how much joy one derives from snagging a fly. Every guy is an excited little boy again when he catches a ball that costs about $30.

    Female fans show their joy, too. This San Diego fan became an internet celebrity and received several marriage proposals due to her one minute of fame.

    Sunday, June 10, 2018

    Sorrowful Parting

    Ercira had been struggling with age-related infirmities, but she was strong in body and mind on this, her last Sunday. She spoke movingly of her 30+ years in the life of our suburban parish. She and her late husband Peter worked tirelessly, mostly without acknowledgment, to help the suffering and less fortunate.

    She is going to live with her nephew in the greater Sacramento area.  We know that this parting is best for Ercira; nevertheless, I will miss her.

    Saturday, June 09, 2018

    San Francisco / Oakland Comic Con

    When the storm trooper asked for ID
    (yes, really) the proper response is, "I am
    not the droid you are looking for."
    If the New York Giants can play their football games in New Jersey, then it can't be a problem for the San Francisco Comic Con to be held at the Oakland Convention Center.

    A weekend pass for $80 seemed a bit much for this newbie (to conventions, not comics), so your humble blogger bought a $50 Saturday ticket and strolled around the convention floor.

    Most people seemed happy to be there, with about 20% garbed in costumes---Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars characters were the most prevalent.

    The booths consisted of comic collections--no surprise--but it was disheartening to discover that half the titles and most of the artists were unfamiliar to me. Also disheartening was the monetization of everything; one could easily blow $100 on an autograph and selfie with a C-list celebrity. Even the Oakland Convention center got into the act, charging $22 for 4 hours parking on a Saturday. (I paid $15 for all-day Saturday in SF a couple of weeks ago.)

    I'm glad to have experienced Comic Con, but once is enough.

    Friday, June 08, 2018

    Appreciate What You're Seeing

    Stephen Curry bellows in triumph; his teammates are
    happy but a bit more subdued (Chron photo)
    The Golden State Warriors are the 2018 NBA Champions, sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers four games to none on Friday night.

    Monday morning quarterbacks are saying they've known this would happen since last year's Finals, but winning it all looked far from certain to this non-expert. Stars Iguodala and Curry missed playoff games with injuries, and the mighty Houston Rockets for a while seemed to have their number in the Western Conference finals.

    Kevin Durant repeated as Finals MVP.
    At the highest level of any sport a "minor" injury or a family issue or jealousy of a teammate or a problem with a coach is like a grain of sand in the gears of a Porsche. The finely tuned engine easily loses its edge and becomes entirely normal. In other words the Warriors are human beings, and nothing is guaranteed.

    Just ask Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, or Hillary Clinton.

    Thursday, June 07, 2018

    Fortune Favors the Swift

    Real estate markets move more slowly than equity markets, where transactions can close in a day. Once established, however, real estate trends often extend for many years. As we intimated three months ago the new tax act will eventually dampen California home prices.
    high-end real estate will stop increasing and may even fall. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act reduces the deductions for state and local taxes and for mortgage interest. The elimination of these tax subsidies may well cool off the overheated real estate market in New York and California.
    The WSJ confirms that the move out of high-tax states, already high, has accelerated.
    some real-estate professionals say they are beginning to see early signs of an exodus to low-tax states.

    “I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of [New York and New Jersey] clients who want to purchase in Palm Beach to establish residency in Florida,” says Chris Leavitt, director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Palm Beach. “And there has been a pickup since Jan. 1.”
    To fellow Bay Area homeowners, if you are thinking about selling and moving out of California in the next 5-10 years, it's probably to your advantage to sell sooner than later. Supply should increase as other owners make the same decision, and buyers will dry up due to the loss of deductions for home ownership. In other words waiting a few years likely won't win a higher price.

    Our neighbor a few doors down has listed her house (broker photo on right) for over $1 million, unimaginable ten years ago. Good for Paula.

    Wednesday, June 06, 2018

    The Series Starts Ends When the Home Team Loses

    (Still from video)
    Warriors superstar Kevin Durant almost single-handedly won Game 3 of the NBA Finals as he scored 43 points in Golden State's 110-102 victory over Cleveland. The Warriors have won the first three games of the Finals.

    Out of 130 instances, no NBA team has ever come back to win a 7-game series after losing the first three games.

    So the series is over, and it's impossible for Cleveland to win.

    [Hey, anything can happen---didja forget that the Cubs won the World Series after a 108-year drought? La la la, I'm not listening.]

    Tuesday, June 05, 2018

    Let the Seller Beware

    Accounting irregularities and insider manipulation--much more prevalent in China than America--would seem to make the Hong Kong stock market ripe for short selling. However, betting that a Chinese stock will go down is an especially risky proposition: [bold added]
    Sly humor:  junks in Hong Kong (WSJ photo)
    Hong Kong’s market structure has made life difficult for the short sellers. The presence of large controlling shareholders in many listed Chinese firms makes it is easier for friendly parties to defend them against short sellers’ attacks. Dali Foods, for example, has only a 15% public float.

    Another difficulty is the growing influence of money flooding into Hong Kong from mainland China to defend beleaguered stocks.
    The WSJ calls moves to prop up questionable securities as "threats to the Hong Kong market’s integrity." But such indignation merits attention if integrity is a bedrock principle; it's not, but State Capitalism is. Wrote the Economist in 2012:
    state capitalism...tries to meld the powers of the state with the powers of capitalism. It depends on government to pick winners and promote economic growth. But it also uses capitalist tools such as listing state-owned companies on the stockmarket and embracing globalisation....

    State capitalism can claim the world's most successful big economy for its camp. Over the past 30 years China's GDP has grown at an average rate of 9.5% a year and its international trade by 18% in volume terms
    Hong Kong market participants have been amply warned. They should adjust their predictions to account for the Chinese government's direct and indirect support of stocks. Let the (short) seller beware.

    Note: U.S. markets aren't exactly free of government interference. For decades there has been a strong belief in the "Fed put", that the U.S. Federal Reserve would be a buyer of last resort if equities collapsed, or at least infuse the economy with cash so that private investors would prop up prices.

    Monday, June 04, 2018

    The Old Ways Are New Again

    Star Trek: Ascendancy - a new, old-school game.
    Several millennial family members are late-arriving fans of table games. Your humble blogger--an avid game-player (e.g., bridge, chess, Scrabble, cribbage, mahjong) in his youth because, if truth be told, there were no electronic options---responds favorably to invitations to join in.

    There are health advantages--socializing can ward off dementia and handling cards or game pieces maintains fine-motor dexterity--but more importantly it's an in-person way of spending time with family and friends. Also, as the Wall Street Journal advises, it's a way for seniors to have fun.
    older adults have more time to have fun—7½ hours of leisure a day compared with 35-to-44-year-olds, who have only around 4 hours, according to a 2016 study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave...

    many adults forget how to have fun. They’ve spent the past 40 years showing up for work every day, paying off mortgages, getting kids through school and taking care of aging parents. Having fun and being spontaneous —a key element of fun and play—gets lost. It’s considered nonproductive, which makes some people feel guilty.

    Fun is important at every age but can be even more beneficial as we grow older. The very things associated with it—laughter, levity, enjoyment, diversion—can act as antidotes to stress, depression, and anxiety. It often involves being with others, and social connections are linked to better cognitive health in later life and lower likelihood of developing dementia.
    In Star Trek: Ascendancy, however, I may have bitten off more than I could chew. ST:A has instructions that are more voluminous than Monopoly, bridge, or chess. (A well-designed game, IMHO, has simple rules but may take years to master; a good example is Texas Hold'em.) The seemingly arbitrary rules reminded me of "Fizzbin", a game discussed by Captain Kirk in a 1968 Star Trek episode.

    The millennials had blank looks when I mentioned Fizzbin, so it was time to pass on this important cultural reference to the next generation. Take that, Angry Birds.

    Sunday, June 03, 2018

    Not Final

    Ocean Beach was perfect: sunny and temperate, with nary a breeze to disturb the sand. A few surfers donned wetsuits, and middle-aged couples strolled by with their dogs.

    We remembered loved ones whom we will never see again. Somehow, in this time and place, "never" didn't seem final.

    Saturday, June 02, 2018

    Afternoon by the Bay

    The sea lions began occupying Pier 39 nearly 30 years ago.
    The Musée Mécanique moved to Fisherman's Wharf in 2002.
    It had been six years since I'd given a tour of San Francisco to visitors. A relative was here for the day, and we spent the afternoon walking around Fisherman's Wharf.

    My younger, more energetic self might have attempted the one-day San Francisco Quickie Tour, but the traffic and parking are a lot more difficult today. Besides, she'll be back, and it's good to leave something for next time.

    Friday, June 01, 2018

    NBA Finals Game 1

    Wow. What a game.
  • Possible game- or season-ending injury to Klay Thompson (it wasn't).
  • Overturning of an offensive foul by Kevin Durant in the last 40 seconds; the review perhaps was contrary to rules and cost Cleveland the game.
  • "Chippiness": "The Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson challenged [Draymond] Green to a fight after the two engaged in a brief skirmish in the final seconds."
  • Blunder by Cavalier J.R. Smith in the final seconds of a tie game:
    Only good things could happen, and Smith had three obvious options. He could attempt a game-winner, by lofting a quick put-back or dribbling into a turnaround jumper. He could call for timeout and let coach Tyronn Lue draw up a play. Or he could pass out to LeBron James, who had already scored 49 points on Thursday and who had hit two game-winners earlier this postseason.
    Instead, J.R. Smith, thinking the Cavs had the lead (according to his coach), dribbled out the remaining seconds, and the Warriors won in overtime.
  • Overtime.
  • Great performance by Stephen Curry, who rained in 3-pointers and took it to the rim with balletic grace.
  • One of the all-time greatest Finals performance by one of the all-time greatest NBA players, LeBron James, who scored 51 points. The Warriors threw everyone at him but couldn't stop him.

    Art imitates life. LeBron James is the super-being Thanos, who an army of super-heroes couldn't take down in Avengers: Infinity War.