Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Focus of Attention

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a form of mental illness.

From personal observation, however, I suspect that minor OCD afflicts a large part of our population; how many of us, I wonder, must have a cup of coffee before starting work, or must exercise before breakfast, or must tie that half-Windsor knot exactly right (that's dating me)?

One of my OCD's is about correct grammar, spelling and word usage. But how can that be, since this humble journal is rife with such errors?

Here's the point: once I become aware of the error in my own work I am compelled to fix it. If I see the error elsewhere, I become oblivious to the rest of the message. An example of the latter is the image that a friend posted on Facebook about supporting fire fighters. "Affected," not "effected," is the proper usage, and the mistake is all I can think about.

I blame my sixth-grade grammar teacher, Mrs. Helen Matthews. Because she taught me so well, I suffer today.

Related: in the Austin Powers comedies various characters are so obsessed with the mole above a person's lip that it becomes the complete focus of their attention.

Monday, July 30, 2018

I Like the Old Rules Better

Microaggressions occur when people don't
conform to stereotypes (Buzzfeed)
Joe Biden, describing Barack Obama in 2007: [bold added]
"I mean, you've got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a story-book, man."
Mr. Biden's utterance was a textbook example of a microaggression:
a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)
His statement, meant as a compliment to Mr. Obama, instead was taken as evidence of an old white guy's unconscious racism.

Under the new morality what were once regarded as insensitive remarks to be endured by minorities, women, and other "marginalized" people is now justification for public shaming and even firing from one's job. (Disclosure: I have been the recipient of such remarks in my 40+-year career, and, yes, it was unpleasant, but c'mon, no one should be fired because my feelings got hurt.)

Perhaps you don't micro-aggress, dear reader, but do you micro-cheat?
Micro-cheating refers to “a set of behaviors that flirts with the line between faithfulness and unfaithfulness,” says Maryland-based couples therapist Lindsey Hoskins. But much like full-blown infidelity, Hoskins says it’s near-impossible to concretely define micro-cheating because “the line is in different places for different people in different relationships.”

Virtually anything, from Tinder swiping for fun to flirting with a cute stranger, could be considered micro-cheating, depending on someone’s values and relationship priorities. But Hoskins says some of the most common transgressions she sees include frequent text or social media communication with a possible flame, regularly talking with an ex-partner and growing too friendly with a co-worker.
God may have retreated from the world, but an implacable, angry Judge has arisen in His place.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Sweet Spot

Names on the sign-up sheet were a bit sparse a week ago, but three families, without being asked, contacted your humble blogger to offer their help. And so it was that eleven cooks and servers showed up at Sandwiches on Sunday (SOS).

SOS, where five churches take turns serving lunches to everyone who shows up at the Fair Oaks Community Center in Redwood City, is one of the favorite outreach activities in our parish. I post a sign-up sheet but don't really have to since, as mentioned above, the families call me.

It's rare in business, and even rarer in volunteer organizations, to hit the sweet spot where everyone steps up and no one needs instruction.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Abilities Insufficient

After the fix
On the day before our Hawaiian vacation the GFCI outlet by the downstairs family room sink tripped, and no amount of reset attempts were successful. When we returned from vacation, we found that four outlets (three GFCI's) in upstairs bathrooms were also out.

There was a decent chance that my home handyman skills were enough to solve the problem; the house was constructed before building codes required that kitchen and bathroom outlets be outfitted with shock protection, and I had put in the GFCI outlets myself.

After half a day of diddling, including replacing some older outlets, I gave up. The local electrician had an opening on his calendar, and he was here in an hour.

Displaying competence way beyond my skill set, he tested all circuits on the main panel in a matter of minutes. Unable to find the faulty circuit, he went methodically through each of the outlets (our house has over 30).

Luckily, one of the first outlets--it was functioning, by the way--he examined emitted a faint crackling sound after he pulled it from the wall. He replaced the faulty connector (part of the original construction), and everything began working in short order. The whole process took one hour and cost $100, the best $100 spent this month.

This was the third occasion this year -- the first two involved plumbing -- where my abilities proved insufficient to the task. And no, I'm not discouraged; I learn more by watching the professionals after trying to fix the problem myself.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Good Now But Better Later

The late, lamented Hung Won (Yelp)
Due to the real estate boom good, cheap Honolulu eateries are being displaced by high-priced diners. One such example was the defunct Hung Won Restaurant, where $40 of takeout easily fed 10 people. It was one of my Dad's go-to places; the owner knew him, the food would be ready in 15 minutes, and Hung Won was only a mile away.

Last week we had dinner with some friends at Hung Won's replacement, XO Restaurant. Having opened in May, XO's cuisine is small-plate Asian-fusion; it has gotten rave reviews. We phoned in a reservation, so there was no waiting when we arrived at 6. However, the dining room filled quickly because XO was understaffed. The two waitresses struggled valiantly to provide service commensurate with the menu, the wine list and the decor.

We ordered six small plates, plus two desserts. XO lived up to its reviews, each dish well-presented and redolent with flavor and texture. The dishes were spaced 8-10 minutes apart, which turned out to be our preference. (Frankly, I'm not sure that the staff were capable of bringing them out all at once if we had asked.)

Our meal took a good two hours, which was fine with us since we had a lot of catching up to do.

Pickled vegetables
I would come back again, but am not in a hurry to do so.

If I were going to spend $30-$50 per person (a meal for 10 at Hung Won, just saying) I'd wait a few months to give them a chance to work out the kinks in service.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

We've Heard This Before

American capitalism is going through one if its periodic episodes of gargantuan infatuation. The analysis is familiar: "XYZ Corp is so big and so dominant that no one can possibly compete with it for the foreseeable future. It has the most money, it attracts the brightest people and ploughs $billions into R&D. Legions of lawyers and lobbyists protect its interests. Customers flock to it for its reputation of being the biggest and best, etc. etc."

(Graphic From Management Study Guide)
In the mid-1970's your humble blogger was introduced to the Boston Consulting Group matrix.

According to BCG businesses can be classified according to four types: stars, cash cows, question marks, and dogs.
Stars- Stars represent business units having large market share in a fast growing industry. They may generate cash but because of fast growing market, stars require huge investments to maintain their lead. Net cash flow is usually modest. SBU’s [Strategic Business Units] located in this cell are attractive as they are located in a robust industry and these business units are highly competitive in the industry. If successful, a star will become a cash cow when the industry matures.

Cash Cows- Cash Cows represents business units having a large market share in a mature, slow growing industry. Cash cows require little investment and generate cash that can be utilized for investment in other business units. These SBU’s are the corporation’s key source of cash, and are specifically the core business. They are the base of an organization. These businesses usually follow stability strategies. When cash cows loose their appeal and move towards deterioration, then a retrenchment policy may be pursued.

Question Marks- Question marks represent business units having low relative market share and located in a high growth industry. They require huge amount of cash to maintain or gain market share. They require attention to determine if the venture can be viable. Question marks are generally new goods and services which have a good commercial prospective. There is no specific strategy which can be adopted. If the firm thinks it has dominant market share, then it can adopt expansion strategy, else retrenchment strategy can be adopted. Most businesses start as question marks as the company tries to enter a high growth market in which there is already a market-share. If ignored, then question marks may become dogs, while if huge investment is made, then they have potential of becoming stars.

Dogs- Dogs represent businesses having weak market shares in low-growth markets. They neither generate cash nor require huge amount of cash. Due to low market share, these business units face cost disadvantages. Generally retrenchment strategies are adopted because these firms can gain market share only at the expense of competitor’s/rival firms. These business firms have weak market share because of high costs, poor quality, ineffective marketing, etc. Unless a dog has some other strategic aim, it should be liquidated if there is fewer prospects for it to gain market share. Number of dogs should be avoided and minimized in an organization.
High-market-share companies, whether they are cash cows or stars, are very difficult to dislodge because, in general, their costs are lower than smaller competitors' and they have more reinvestable cash flow to maintain their dominance.

Today the evidence seems to suggest that the biggest companies are pulling away from, not regressing back to, the field: [bold added]
The biggest companies in every field are pulling away from their peers faster than ever, sucking up the lion’s share of revenue, profits and productivity gains...But new data suggests that the secret of the success of the Amazons, Googles and Facebook s of the world—not to mention the Walmart s, CVSes and UPSes before them—is how much they invest in their own technology.

IT spending that goes into hiring developers and creating software owned and used exclusively by a firm is the key competitive advantage. It’s different from our standard understanding of R&D in that this software is used solely by the company, and isn’t part of products developed for its customers.
Just like the "old" IBM, AT&T, Microsoft, GM and GE, the tech giants Amazon, Google, and Facebook appear to have unassailable positions in their respective sectors. Everyone else is at best a "question mark" and has to invest $billions just to be an also-ran. Everyone else may as well give up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On the Edge

Nuuanu Stream by the Cultural Plaza
In the '50's and '60's the border of Honolulu's Chinatown was occupied by drunks and bums. (Diffident, therapeutic language would become de rigueur decades later.)

The Chinatown Cultural Plaza, built in 1974, was supposed to be the catalyst for a new Downtown. However, it never attracted the foot traffic that the builders dreamed of, and today the Plaza stores and restaurants are barely keeping it together. (We attended a birthday party there last week.)

The area hasn't gone to seed completely--and it's still much improved from 50 years ago--but a lot of money and time will be needed to make it a tropical River Walk. Chinatown teeters on the edge of growth or decay. In 30 years we'll say the signs were obvious, but today, not so much.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sun Yat-Sen

Statue of Sun Yat-sen in Chinatown
Sun Yat-sen is a pivotal figure in Chinese history. Brittanica: [bold added]
[He was] known as the father of modern China. Influential in overthrowing the Qing (Manchu) dynasty (1911/12), he served as the first provisional president of the Republic of China (1911–12) and later as de facto ruler (1923–25).
Sun Yat-sen is unique in that he is admired by both the Chinese Communists and Nationalists (Chiang Kai-shek, who would become the ruler of Nationalist China, was his protégé).

He is also revered by Hawaii's Episcopalians of Chinese ancestry. From the website of Iolani, originally the Anglican boys' school in the Kingdom of Hawaii:
He also is ‘Iolani School's most famous alumnus, known as Tai Cheong or Tai Chu when he enrolled as a 13-year-old boarding student in 1879. He graduated from ‘Iolani in 1882. When he first came to Hawaii, Tai spoke no English. His teacher Solomon Meheula asked him to first observe classes for 10 days. But Tai was a fast learner. When he graduated from 'Iolani, he won an award in grammar, which was presented to him by King David Kalakaua. After ‘Iolani, he attended Punahou School for one semester in 1883 before returning to China. His travels eventually brought him back to Hawaii five more times.
In 2016 Iolani celebrated the 150th anniversary of Sun Yat-sen's birth.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Breakfast at the Hideout

Savory oatmeal
The restaurant for our hotel, the Laylow, is called the Hideout (clever theme, no?). Though our intention was to dine elsewhere, the kitchen at the Hideout was much better than we had expected. We had breakfast there four times.

Oatmeal with fruit seemed overpriced at $10, but for $13 one could get "savory oatmeal" with cheddar, Portuguese sausage, poached egg, and mushrooms. Those ingredients work well with potatoes or rice, and it's not a big leap to imagine that they could mix with oatmeal. They did, and very well.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Back to Where I Once Belonged

While visiting my wife's home church, Epiphany, in Kaimuki I ran into my dad's first cousin, Jennie. She lives close to UH (the University of Hawaii-Manoa; also note how we don't say "to the UH", just "to UH", malihini).

Honolulu (pop. 400,000) still seems like a small town; I run into familiar faces on a daily basis. If a person is a kamaaina, chances are high that we have mutual acquaintances. I've been away a long time, but I don't think I'll have any trouble moving back.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Fun Saturday Back in the 1950's

The banyan will also be there after I'm gone.
My parents often took me to the Honolulu Zoo. By the standards of today the Zoo was primitive, but it did have the basic bigs: lions, tigers, giraffes, seals, rhinos, gorillas, and elephants.

The hippos were usually submerged, and it was a treat to catch one of them in full view. I also liked to stare at the Galápagos tortoise, who, when they did move, moved with a slowness that was excruciating to a hyperactive child. The tortoise, like the redwood trees in California, would be there after I grew old and died.

One of my favorite things to do was to feed peanuts to the bears--yes, feeding was permitted. The bears would sit upright and wave their right front paw in a human-like gesture. I needed to make a long (for a 7-year-old) accurate throw to hit the bear in the chest, else the peanuts would fall into a pond, be snatched by a pigeon, or tumble into the moat surrounding the enclosure.

If I behaved, at the end of our excursion Mom would buy me a strawberry shaved ice, then use the exit-only revolving gate (now gone) by the concession stand to go to the car.

And that, kids, was a fun Saturday back in the 1950's.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Afternoon in the Sun

Gibbon exhibit: decline and fall not apparent
The youngster said he wanted to check out the Honolulu Zoo.

Later I discovered that he was looking for virtual animals, not real ones. The Zoo has rare Pokémon used in the augmented-reality Pokémon GO game, which seems to have gotten a second wind.

While the youngster was off looking for fake creatures, I enjoyed meandering about looking at the real ones. The Zoo seemed a lot smaller than I had remembered it; not only are childhood memories different from adult perceptions, but everything in Hawaii seems smaller once one has lived on the Mainland. The animal enclosures were much improved over the simple fences and cages of 60 years ago.

After finding the animals we were looking for, we both got shaved ice, the perfect Hawaiian ending to an afternoon in the sun.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


The puakenikeni is a fast-growing tree that produces fragrant white flowers popular in leis. It's seen in many Island neighborhoods.

My friend picked puakenikeni flowers from his backyard and left them for us at the front desk in two gold containers. Over the remainder of our trip we watched the flowers turn from white to yellow to orange. The best presents are the unexpected ones.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Alan Wong's

"Da Bag" appetizer: I was taken aback when it arrived.
I was the only one in our party of four that had never been to Alan Wong's, one of Honolulu's best restaurants. (President Obama, known for his impeccable taste, dined at Alan Wong's every time he returned to the Islands for his vacation.)

The prime dinner slots on Saturday night were taken, so the only times available were 5:30 and 8:30. We chose 5:30 and were seated promptly.

In "Da Bag": Steamed clams, kalua pig, shiitake mushrooms
Service throughout the meal was excellent. The waiters explained each item on the menu and gave us plenty of time to make our selections. Each of us ordered an appetizer and entrée and split a dessert. The four fish entrées all were fresh, moist, delicately seasoned, and neither under- nor over-cooked. Portions were ample.

Though the restaurant fell behind schedule, and arrivals soon filled the small waiting area, they never rushed us though we had three years of catching-up to do with our friends.

The final bill, including drinks and tip, was roughly $100 per person. It may seem pricey, but Alan Wong's, IMHO, was a better value than restaurants costing a fraction as much. Yes, I'd happily go back, but there are so many new Oahu restaurants to try...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

North Shore Excursion

Ukulele Site
As a child I heavily disliked the one-hour-plus trip to Oahu’s North Shore (it would be about 30 years before electronic distractions for children would become commonplace). I tried reading, which gave me a headache, and I could never fall asleep in the car like my Mainland cousins.

60 years later the drive was unpleasant, albeit for different reasons.

North Shore Goodies
The road from Haleiwa to Kahuku was still a nerve-wracking single-lane in each direction.

Surfers and swimmers didn’t bother looking for crosswalks as they ambled across the street; cars making a left turn waited interminably for an opening, and the numerous potholes and the crews called out to repair them certainly didn’t help.

We stopped to browse the unique boutiques—the Ukulele Site had a fine collection of instruments, and North Shore Goodies made their own Island-themed peanut butter and jellies. Luckily my Hawaii ID card was still good, so I got the kamaaina discount for some of the purchases.

We sampled shrimp plates from two food trucks, Big Wave Shrimp and Giovanni’s.

Big Wave
Numerous locals had told us that Giovanni’s had the best shrimp, but none had actually tasted the dish (much as San Franciscans don’t dine on crab cocktails at Fisherman’s Wharf). One of the Haleiwa store owners had vouched for Big Wave Shrimp, so that afternoon we conducted a taste test. Well, sometimes conventional wisdom is correct; Giovanni’s shrimp was plumper and juicier, though the Big Wave Shrimp was certainly a fine dish with its more intense garlic flavor.

From left: Big Wave garlic shrimp, Giovanni's lemon-butter shrimp, Giovanni's shrimp scampi.
Is the shrimp truck experience worth the trip to Haleiwa? Maybe once, but unless I’m playing tour guide I wouldn’t go up there again, and certainly not on a weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Matsumoto’s Shave Ice

To cleanse one’s palate from the taste of garlicky North-Shore shrimp, Matsumoto’s shave ice is a popular choice, especially on a hot, humid day. One of our party insisted on spending $5 for a bowl of frozen sugar water, so I walked around Haleiwa while he waited in line. Matsumoto’s is an example of how the Internet can turn a small business’ product into a must-have; there are many other shaved-ice places where the wait is much shorter or non-existent.

Heck, one is a few blocks from my parent’s house, not a one-hour drive to Haleiwa.

Another example of cashing in on exaggerated popularity: Matsumoto’s Hello Kitty T-shirt for toddlers is priced at $20. Of course, as instructed, I bought one for my grand-niece. She’s four and loves “Hello Kitty”, which overrides any objection. You don’t get to be my age without learning when to pick your battles.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Gone With the Trade Winds

(Photo from iolanipalace.org)
When I first visited Iolani Palace as a school kid, I gawked. (There was a time, children, before the internet, when the only images we had of famous places were tiny black-and-white pictures from "encyclopedias"--ever wonder how Wikipedia got its name?)

Explanations were kept simple; that's the bed where King Kalakaua slept, there's his throne, that's the dining room, etc.

Dining room
To the extent there was moral judgment, teachers implied that it was a good thing that the Kingdom of Hawaii was annexed by the United States.

Hawaiian society had brutal kapus where common folk were killed, for example, if the shadow of an alii (royalty) fell on them, and Hawaiians cannibalized Captain Cook's body (now it is believed he was, yes, cooked but not eaten).

Throne room.
In college the narrative changed. The Hawaiians were exploited by the descendants of missionaries, who "came to Hawaii to do good, and they did well." Thousands of Hawaiians died from measles, leprosy, venereal disease, and other maladies against which they had no immunity. Lacking the weaponry and the disposition to fight the developed civilizations of the West and East, Hawaiians offered little resistance to the 1898 Annexation.

Queen Liliuokalani
It's easy to be angry about the predations of Western colonialism, and our educational institutions do not hesitate to stoke that anger. As for me, I just feel sad.

IMHO it was inevitable that Hawaii, with its strategic location in the middle of the Pacific, would have been seized by a great power. The Russians, British, Spanish, French, and Portuguese all had designs on the Island Kingdom.

But it was the Japanese who were the greatest rival to America; tens of thousands of laborers were imported to work in the sugar-cane and pineapple fields, and the Japanese population after the turn of the century outnumbered the native Hawaiians.

Despite efforts by Hawaii's last monarchs, King David Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, to remain on good terms with the United States by becoming fluent in its language and culture, sugar interests forced the Annexation. After a few months under house arrest, the Queen abdicated her throne so that her sympathizers would not be harmed. Were she born a hundred years later, her poetry, music, and art, her generous Christian spirit, as well as her genuine love for her people, might well have led to the Kingdom's survival. At least we still have her music.

Every Sunday Island churches, including mine, sing the Queen's prayer in the original Hawaiian. Below is the English translation:
Your loving mercy
Is as high as Heaven
And your truth
So perfect

I live in sorrow
You are my light
Your glory, my support

Behold not with malevolence
The sins of man
But forgive
And cleanse

And so, o Lord
Protect us beneath your wings
And let peace be our portion
Now and forever more


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tsukemen at Momosan (Now That's a Mouthful)

Tsukemen ($16)
Rather than stand in line at Marukame Udon, we strolled Diamond Head (locals don’t say “toward Diamond Head” any more than one would say “toward East”) to Momosan Waikiki, a bar-restaurant four blocks from the zoo. We were seated immediately.

I tried the tsukemen; the waiter instructed us not to pour the broth over the noodles but to use the liquid as a dip for the pork, egg, noodles, and vegetables. He was right; immersion in the fatty and flavorful liquid would have overwhelmed the ingredients. Also, a squeeze of lime over a chopsticks-full of noodles worked much better than dissipating the sourness in the soup.

If our trip were longer than six days, we would come back, but as we said on day one, so much food, so little time.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Gone Big Time

Kinda how I remembered it. (Liliha Bakery website)
The original Liliha Bakery is down the hill from where I used to live with my grandparents---who actually preferred pastry and pies near my grand-aunt's place in Kapahulu. However, those shops and Aunt Bertha's house are all gone now (except for Leonard's Bakery of malasada fame).

During my return trips I would stop by Liliha Bakery to pick up their creamy guava and haupia (coconut) cakes.

Liliha Bakery breakfast of fried rice, pork belly, and eggs
The crowded parking lot in the 80's and 90's was evidence that the independent bakery would be a survivor against much larger operations. In 2014 the Liliha Bakery opened a restaurant-bakeshop on the Nimitz Highway on the way to the airport. Serving Island-themed dishes, the restaurant has proved popular with the locals. Its proximity to Honolulu's industrial parks and retail stores (Home Depot, Best Buy, Costco) ensured its success.

We don't have to worry about Liliha Bakery surviving; they've gone big time.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Aloha Means Let's Eat

Shirokiya: crowded at 2 p.m. Thursday
After my first day on Oahu I realized that I should have lost some weight to prepare for the trip.

Driving in from HNL, we stopped at the new Shirokiya Japan Village Walk in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was a Japanese cornucopia: sushi or udon, ramen or tempura, teriyaki or karaage, mochi or custard? I settled on pork ramen, higher-quality fare and 50 times more expensive than the dried instant version that I scarfed in college.

Across the street from our hotel, quirkily named the Laylow, Autograph Collection, was Marukame Udon. one of the most popular restaurants in Honolulu. It would be a one-hour wait for a table (no reservations), so we'll probably pass this go-round. So much food, so little time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Third World Story

One advantage of making a succession of outrageous statements and tweets (even his supporters are occasionally appalled) is that President Trump's past provocations become buried in the 24/7 news cycle. One such example is the reference to s***hole countries in January:
President Donald Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries" during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on Thursday's meeting told NBC News.
(Actually, there is some question whether the President used the term, because he purportedly said it at a closed-door meeting, a Democratic aide reported the utterance second hand, and some Republicans present denied that it happened.) Be that as it may, your humble blogger respectfully submits that a derogatory, some-might-say-racist remark should not be used to make policy.

In fact I support the basic meaning behind the President's alleged expletive--that limited slots for legal immigrants means that the United States should admit, say, an engineer from India over a farmer from the Caribbean. Apply the standards that a college admissions office would---which candidate is more likely to succeed? A bad choice doesn't help the college or the admittee; it often hurts the community because of the extra cost in helping the person assimilate.

Red Cross workers after the 2010 earthquake (CNN)
Setting the issue of immigration aside, what does a well-intentioned society do to help an impoverished one like Haiti? There's financial assistance, but pervasive corruption diverts funds from the suffering masses to the ruling few. Consequently donor countries and organizations insist on maintaining control of the relief, which leads to gross waste in the process:
"USAID has spent about $1.5 billion since the earthquake...Less than a penny of every dollar goes directly to a Haitian organization."

A growing reliance on U.S. and other international contractors helps explain why the payoff of foreign aid in Haiti often seems so low. For instance, it cost more than $33,000 to build a new housing unit in one post-earthquake program, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office said last year. That's five times more than one nonprofit, called Mission of Hope, spends per house, using local contractors.

"International companies had to fly in, rent hotels and cars, and spend USAID allowances for food and cost-of-living expenses"
Even people who donate their own services and money find the task difficult, even dangerous. From July 9th:
But as violent protests over sharply rising fuel prices shook the island nation, a dozen members of North Albemarle Baptist Church still took refuge Monday in an orphanage outside the capital city...Plans to board a flight out Sunday were aborted when the group's Haitian contacts found that armed civilians still barricaded roads and were charging tolls to motorists. The unrest left businesses burned and looted.

North Albemarle Baptist sends mission teams to Haiti three or four times a year, [Pastor Brad] Lynch said, and considers the trips so safe that middle-school students sometimes go. The orphanage's location outside Port-au-Prince and local reverence for the institution worked in favor of his team, which Lynch said was handling the situation calmly.

"We just never saw this coming," he said. "It just completely blew up out of nowhere."
President Trump is alleged to have used an inapt term. Even if he did, he was not wrong.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

First World Story

(Alameda County FD via SF Chronicle)
The Alameda County Fire Department rescued two ducklings from a storm drain, a story that wouldn't otherwise be notable except that the firefighters: 1) Played a cellphone YouTube video with mother-duck sounds to lure the ducklings from the pipe; 2) Spent an hour looking for the family so as not to consign them to an uncertain fate with Animal Control. A happy ending resulted:
they checked the Monarch Bay Golf Club and spotted ducks in the distance....When [firefighter Brendan] Burke approached, the duck and her 10 nestlings initially retreated, until one of the lost ducklings let out a chirp. The mother duck corralled the two little ones and the family was happily reunited.
Seven ducks in a box.
Flashback: three years ago at our behest the Foster City Fire Department rescued six ducklings (plus one that came running from the bushes when it heard its siblings) from a storm drain. We watched them overnight, then opened our windows wide in the hope that the mother would hear them. She did.

The green-eyeshade people would say that duck rescue is a waste of taxpayer resources; however, if it were put to a vote I am certain that Bay Area residents would overwhelmingly disagree.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Sound the Alarm

I'm surprised that this headline hasn't gotten more coverage. Have the police, fire, and other emergency services been alerted?

Thousands of accountants and finance executives are gathering in New York this week for the inaugural launch of the new Accounting & Finance Show....(CPA Trendlines)

Sunday, July 08, 2018

The New Book of Common Prayer

The 1928 BCP is still sold on Amazon
We're going to have a new Book of Common Prayer in twelve years; trials on a draft version will begin in six.

The General Convention, the chief governing body of the Episcopal Church, met in Austin last week and passed Resolution A068. A summary from Episcopal News:
The resolution directs that any future revision will “utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity” and will “incorporate and express understanding, appreciation, and care of God’s creation."
I have attended Anglican services in many parts of the U.S. and the world, and I have never seen anyone turned away; apparently, however, the sexist language of the 1979 BCP makes people feel unwelcome. Well, let's fix some of that language at the margin (probably at the cost of excising more of the beautiful phrases that have comforted both men and women for decades, if not centuries). We will alienate more old people, but to be honest, they're not the future of the Church.

But gender-neutral references to the faithful are not the major change. Did you notice the "expansive language [for] divinity"?

I have attended a few services where a lady minister would reference "God the Mother" and use the pronoun "She". In another vein, especially when the topic was the environment ("care of God's creation"), priests have called upon Gaia, who is the Greek goddess commonly knows as Mother Earth. In this way they could strike a blow against both patriarchy and monotheism in one fell swoop.

Part of me wants to encourage this project because it's time the Church resolves whether "God the Mother" is consistent with its theology. However, we know the result before it's even started; the cultural Marxists in charge of my church know that changing the language is a prerequisite to changing thoughts.

Note: one source of amusement is the translation of gender-neutral English into Romance languages, where gender is all-pervasive. Here's a Quora thread where Spanish-speaking natives weigh in. Excerpts from different contributors:
this issue is an excellent example of how English speakers love to impose their world view/cultural grid on other cultures. With regards to Spanish, the battle for gender inclusivity is very real in places like Mexico and Spain, both countries in which I lived for a number of years. In Mexico for example, official government publications must refer to “los mexicanos y las mexicanas.” Many ordinary Mexicans, however, feel this is a pointless (and perhaps American-influenced) distraction from real issues that affect the lives of millions of women, such as domestic violence and female indigenous disempowerment.

To truly respect the cultures associated with Spanish and French would be to learn the languages the way they are spoken, written, and taught today and then to engage respectfully in an ongoing dialogue with native Spanish and French speakers and teachers about how to reconcile your Anglo-Saxon political convictions and worldview with the languages that are being shared with you.

nobody who speaks Spanish as a native would care. It's you trying to impose your values in other people. Hundreds of millions of people are not going to change the way they talk just to accommodate you.

It'd be like a native Spanish speakers expecting English native speakers to use three different forms of you: an informal one for singular, a formal one for singular, and a form for plural. Why? Because that's how it works in Spanish, so you and every person that speaks English should change.

"the overwhelmingly gendered nature" of the Spanish language refers to grammatical gender, so if you have any troubles with that, you could think about it as a silly bourgeois convention unrelated to what your mind actually believes of a person's gender or lack thereof.

PS: your teacher is probably trying to teach you Spanish, not impose any kind of socially normative prejudices, so please let him/her/sher/zer/them/whatever do the work. Thank you.

This is a terrible non-issue you are making out of your stubbornness to impose your north american-centric view of culture and the world on peoples who don’t really care. These are things that really don’t make us latin americans at all concerned. Spanish speakers don’t lose sleep over the existence of “gender neutral nouns”. WE DON’T HAVE THAT CULTURE. WE DON’T CARE, AND WE DON’T MIND. WE USE LANGUAGE AS IT IS.
Resolution A068 mandates that "all materials be translated into English, Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole, following the method commonly called dynamic equivalency". I doubt that any objections by non-U.S. Episcopalians will slow the process down anyway, because it's impossible for the Church, which inveighs against colonialism incessantly, to engage in cultural imperialism.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Dennis McKean (1947-2018)

To my regret I had not spoken with Dennis McKean for 20 years. Last month Dennis succumbed to duodenal cancer.

(Digression: what is the protocol when you meet someone through a blood relative, and the marriage ends in divorce? Continuing to communicate is awkward if you value the relationship with the blood relative and everyone in her family.)

We attended Dennis' memorial service at his home in the South Bay. His relatives and friends spoke eloquently about the man whose brilliance was known by few outside his immediate circle. An inveterate reader of history, Dennis had a "photographic memory" and could reference passages that he read years ago. His daughter asked that guests help themselves to books from Dennis' library. I chose Paul Johnson's The Birth of the Modern, which I'll be lucky to finish by the end of the year (Dennis read a book a week).

He was Phi Beta Kappa at UC-Berkeley and earned a Masters in Chemistry from Stanford. His former boss at IBM said at the memorial that he was so impressed with Dennis' work that the company moved his family to Fort Collins and paid for his PhD at Colorado State. Dennis spent 16 years at IBM, then moved on to Seagate. Most recently Dennis was a professor at UC-Merced and a consultant who spent years in Hong Kong. A colleague at Merced read testimonials from Dennis' students, many of whom had returned to Asia.

A list of 44 patents on which Dennis is named is found here.

A quiet man, Dennis chatted about lighthearted matters--sports, travel--at social gatherings, but for the most part he listened. Now I wish he had talked more and that I was doing the listening. R.I.P.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Landline: Peace of Mind

I'm glad to see we're not alone in keeping it: Why the Landline Phone Will Never Go Away [bold added]
Rotary-dial Mickey still works
According to a 2017 U.S. government survey, about 44% of households still own traditional phones, down from 53% three years before—but still much higher than, say, the share of those buying vinyl records, another cultish throwback.

For many, the reason is pragmatic. Cell service is spotty in large, rural stretches of the country and even the hills of Los Angeles. Rocky elevation disrupts communication with cell towers, which are also often banned in environmentally protected areas. You can rely on a landline when the power is cut, or during an emergency like a hurricane that causes cell blackouts. And cellphones offer no real escape from harassment and distraction; we’re all being beckoned all the time, everywhere—if not by an actual voice on our cellphones, then by texts, emails, swipes on dating apps.
As we reflected last year:
I'll still keep the AT&T landline. Old-fashioned single-purpose phones still operate on it, and because it has a separate power source the landline may still work when cell, WiFi, and electrical services are out.
About 20% of the time the cell-phone calls at home are faint or are filled with static. When we try again on the landline, it's clear as a bell.

If we were pinching pennies, we'd probably cancel the service because $60 per month is expensive insurance. In our current circumstances, however, we'd rather have peace of mind.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Dropped From Sight

In this week's version of "it's the end of America as we know it" President Trump will soon nominate another Supreme Court Justice. Anthony Kennedy retired last week, kicking off a nomination firestorm that will dominate headlines into fall.

For perspective I pulled up the 2018 Time covers to see if the overturning of Roe v. Wade (a threatened occurrence, BTW, with every Supreme Court nomination by a Republican President since 1987) would be more outrageous than any of the other things that Donald J. Trump was responsible for this year.

There were several weeks of #MeToo coverage that recounted numerous incidents of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault that predated not only President Trump but also the 21st century. Yes, let's shame or prosecute the people responsible, but at least give President Trump indirect credit. #MeToo would never have happened under President Hillary Clinton, with big-time supporter Harvey Weinstein yukking it up with the Big He in the Lincoln bedroom.

Then there are President Trump's inflammatory speeches and tweets directed at Kim Jong Un. Time's February mushroom cloud (which indeed would have been worse than anything going on with the Supreme Court) was superseded by the June cover that showed the two leaders talking amiably.

And what happened to those determined, angry kids who want gun restrictions? I agree that stopping school shootings has to be a national priority. Despite the polarization, surely we can reach common ground on mental illness, rapid-fire technology, and background checks. Or was it all a voter registration drive for Democrats?

Then there are the pictures of border families and crying kids who seem to elicit powerful emotions from people on all sides of the illegal immigration issue. Here's where over two decades of screening grant requests has hardened my heart. Everyone who wants money knows that crying babies trump nearly all rational consideration. OK, reunite the border families, but you still have to deliberate over the adults, some of whom are using their children to catch a break. Note: in California alone there are over 50,000 children separated from their parents by Child Protective Services, undoubtedly for good reason. Over 20,000 are age 5 or younger; I'll bet some of them cried when they were taken away, but their pictures aren't on the cover of Time. I do get it, CPS good, border patrol bad. Indeed, I have to work on my hardened heart.

Other observations: 1) the portraits of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a sexual-predator felon are both cast in shadow. I wonder what Time's editorial position is on these guys. 2) Pictures or representations of President Trump appear on four covers, only one of which is non-hostile. If Time were a person, I'd advise it to get therapy for its obsession. 3) What happened to Russia-Russia-Russia and the anytime-now impeachment of Donald Trump? 4) What happened to the tariff wars that will plunge the world into the next Great Depression? (I'm actually worried about this one and wonder why they're not using this to undermine the President's support from business.)

Now that I've done the half-year in review I feel a lot better. These "crises" must not have been so important after all because they've dropped from sight.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Independence Day, 2018

Eclectic people meet eclectic food.
We headed over to Duane and Sandy's house in Hayward. They've been hosting 4th of July parties--really an open house where you can come and go as you please without anyone knowing you even showed up---for the 40 years we've known them.

We talked to the hosts and a few friends who had retired and fled to Reno.

Leo Ryan Park, Foster City
California is looking less appealing with 9.3%-13.3% income tax rates plus threats to revive the California tax on estates above $5.45 million (not that we necessarily have that problem, but why take chances?).

Also, there's a lot of meanness, anger, and self-righteousness, as well as smoke, in the air these days, and President Trump isn't helping either. On this Independence Day, it's time to seriously look at Goodbye, California.

Oh, yes, Happy 4th!

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Ivory Tower

(Image from Kiplinger.com)
Buying the right gift has always been a problem for your humble blogger; in some cases the gifts were received so unenthusiastically that I would have been better off giving cash, gift cards, or even a donation to charity in the recipient's name. In the dry language of economics
A gift will cause a misallocation of resources if the recipient would have preferred something else that would have been no more expensive for the donor to acquire.
So why do we continually "misallocate" (buy the wrong) gifts, even for those whom we know well? Researchers theorized that expressions of gratitude--smiles and hugs, for example--steer donors in the wrong direction.
Dr Yang and Dr Urminsky framed an experiment around St Valentine’s day. They picked three pairs of appropriate gifts: a dozen roses in full bloom versus two dozen rose buds that were about to blossom; a bouquet of freshly cut flowers versus a bonsai; and a heart-shaped basket of biscuits versus a similar basket of fruit...

[Donor] men went for the smiles and hugs more often than it would seem that [recipient] women would have wished. Specifically, 44% of them said that they would prefer to give roses in full bloom while only 32% of the women said they preferred that gift to the two dozen buds. Similarly, with the bouquet and the bonsai, 40% of the men preferred to give the bouquet but only 28% of the women preferred to receive it.
(Biscuits, i.e., cookies in American English, were chosen by both donors and recipients over flowers).

The researchers were puzzled why the women displayed more affection over the gift with a short-term life (i.e. floral bouquet), although they said they preferred the longer-lived one (the bonsai). Really? Didn't they ask any husbands about the cold reception for a practical, long-lasting gift like cookware or an electric shaver? Don't the researchers have any life experience?

Definition of an economist: an academic who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Pickle Time

The lowly pickle has long been an amusing condiment--the object of late-night craving by pregnant women, the subject of jokes derived from its shape, and, next to onions, the item most often requested to be left off the sandwich. But the zeitgeist is signaling that it just may be the pickle's time.

Pickle Juice Drinkers Are Coming Out of the Closet
PJ-lover Katie Cerniglia (WSJ photo)
People who privately partake of pickle juice are finding it easier to go public, thanks to endurance sports. Athletes have discovered its electrolyte-replenishing qualities...Devotees say they like pickles but like the juice even more because it satisfies a salt craving they can’t quite explain. Some gulp with pickles still in the jar, irking nondrinkers.
Pickle-Ball is Popular Among the Medicare Set
Pickle-ball (NPR image)
Pickle-ball is traditionally played on a badminton-sized court with special Pickle-ball paddles, made of wood or high-tech aerospace materials. The ball used is similar to a wiffle ball, but slightly smaller. The lower net and wiffle ball allow the game to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities
According to the USA Pickleball Association, more than 100,000 people play the sport on at least 5,000 courts nationwide, and membership in the organization increased more than sixfold from 2006 to 2010.

Though it’s played by people of many ages, it’s especially popular among the elderly. An Orlando, Fla., retirement community opened with more than 100 pickleball courts, anticipating the demand.
Pickle Depreciation Rules
As hundreds of $billions of aircraft, ships, and other transportation equipment are financed each year, understanding the "Pickle" tax-depreciation rules for cross-border leases (e.g., U.S. owner leases an airplane to a Chinese carrier) is of paramount importance.

Ignoring all things "pickle" may come back to bite you.