Friday, November 30, 2018

You're Not There for You

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

On the Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Joking, I Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What I Can Do

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2018


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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

What's My Destiny?

St. Augustine (d. 430) wrote extensively on predestination
For millennia philosophers and priests have tried to reconcile free will with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient Deity. If God knows in advance that an individual will choose rightly or wrongly, then Judgment was foreordained and the individual really didn't have free will.

The predestination conundrum was a focus of intense debate because for most of human history the afterlife was more important than mortal existence, which was nasty, brutish, and short.

By the second half of the 20th century predestination became an intellectual exercise--interesting but hardly relevant. What mattered was this life. And the way to achieve the best outcome for each individual was to improve the environment in which one was reared. Better nutrition, medical care, education, and crime-free neighborhoods all became societal objectives and beneficiaries of government spending.

"Nurture" was the new orthodoxy. Human beings were malleable; given the right surroundings any man could be a caring nurse, and any woman could be a Marine. Johnny liking trucks and Susie liking dolls were mere social constructs that expressed society's artificial preferences, which could be reversed if children were trained differently. However, despite decades of effort to adjust and enrich environments, differences in life outcomes persisted. And Johnny continued to play with trucks and Susie with dolls.

The revolutions in DNA mapping, big data, and number-crunching have given rise to a new determinant of destiny: our fortunes are written in our genes. [bold added]
A century of research has found that these inherited DNA differences account for about 90% of the differences in people’s physical traits, such as height and eye color. What may come as a surprise is that DNA also accounts, on average, for about 50% of our differences in such psychological traits as personality, mental health and illness, and cognitive ability and disability.
Polygenic analysis: math required
But there's no single gene that is responsible for proficiency in the clarinet, there are dozens maybe even hundreds working in concert(!) that produce any trait or attribute. Only now do we have the technology to perform polygenic ("many gene") analysis. Number-crunching combinations of genes across thousands of individuals has enabled researchers to be much more accurate in their predictions:
This prediction of school performance is the most powerful polygenic score reported to date in the behavioral sciences. Predicting 15% of the differences in school performance might not seem like much, but it is a better predictor than the educational attainment of the students’ parents. My team showed that children with the 10% highest polygenic scores are five times more likely to go to university than children with the 10% lowest scores....

Polygenic scores for educational attainment not only predict performance in school but also success later in life, such as mate choice, occupational status, social mobility and even financial planning for retirement,
So, is free will dead? Scientists couch their findings in the language of probability:
It’s just a probabilistic prediction—genes are not destiny and heritability describes what is, not what could be—but it might still be hard to accept.
However, governments have been known to declare that "the science is settled" and proceed post-haste with policies and prohibitions based on probabilistic outcomes from studies that often can not be replicated.

Today an aspiring doctor may not get into the medical school of her choice. In the future her polygenic score may not even allow her to apply.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


(Chronicle photo)
President Trump's sculpture is on tour at the San Francisco wax museum. Constructing his waxwork posed unique challenges:
Every other wax figure at Madame Tussauds has human hair, but Trump’s orange mane could not be realistically duplicated with anything human. The sculptor settled on yak hair.
An electric bullhorn offers visitors the chance to "sing your praises" or "shout your grievances."

Someday historians will look at the sturm and drang surrounding this President as funny. Yak-yak.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Stock Market and the Fed: We've Been Warned

One of the principal reasons for the stock market rout is the Federal Reserve's higher-interest rate policy. [bold added]
Fed officials have signaled in recent days they plan to proceed with another quarter percentage point increase in their benchmark short-term interest rate when they meet Dec. 19, marking their fourth rate increase this year. The market pullback does underscore however the uncertain outlook for what the Fed will do after that.

Fed officials are divided over how many times the central bank will raise rates next year. Projections released after the Fed’s meeting in September showed officials are roughly equally split over whether the economy will require two, three or four rate rises next year.
CNBC's Jim Cramer has been increasingly vocal about the Fed's actions, openly pleading with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to pause after the December hike.

On Tuesday he made his strongest pitch yet that 2019 should not have any rate increases at all. He fleshes out his eight reasons (pictured right) at the link---his fundamental argument is that the economy is softening more than the Fed data shows.

Long-term Treasury rates are the most important driver of the stock market, and the short-term rates that the Fed controls drive the long-term rates, albeit not perfectly. If the Fed won't budge from its 2019 rate increases, the financial models tell us the stock market will go down. We've been warned.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

And now for something beautiful: a flash orchestra playing Beethoven's 9th in the Omotesando Hills shopping center in Tokyo. The musicianship and acoustics are outstanding, and the sight of Japanese "shoppers" singing the Ode to Joy in the original German might have moved the master himself.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

House Prices Falling: Furthering Progressivism

Last January it was obvious to your humble blogger that Bay Area real estate was headed for a fall, but I just didn't know when:
As of this writing house prices continue to rise, despite the reduction of favorable tax treatment for expensive houses in the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The warning signs are widespread. I don't know what may trigger the fall; perhaps it will be rising interest rates, dropping tech stock prices, or fed-up tourists, but it would not be surprising to see a collapse.
When is now: Price cuts on Bay Area homes are surging

(Chronicle graph)
The TCJA struck high-income professionals hard, especially if they have low equity. The Act limits the itemized deduction for total state-and-local taxes to $10,000 per year. Sure, a $1,000,000 purchase incurs slightly over $10,000 in property taxes, but a portion of the property taxes on more expensive homes is no longer deductible. It also means that high-income professionals can no longer deduct their state income taxes paid because property taxes consumed the entire SALT allowance.

The TCJA struck another blow against high home prices: interest on the portion of a mortgage exceeding $750,000 is non-deductible. For example, on a 5% $1,000,000 mortgage the monthly payment is $5,368.22. The first 12 months of payments total $64,418.64, of which $49,664.94 is interest that would be deductible under the old law. Because of the mortgage cap, one-fourth of that interest, or $12,416.94 is non-deductible.

The cash-flow hit to potential buyers on their Federal income taxes can be in the many thousands of dollars. Buyers can't pay, and home prices are falling. And we have not even factored in this year's mortgage interest-rate increases of over one point (less than a 4% rate to 5%) and the wealth-shrinkage effect of the recent collapse in tech stock prices.

As a homeowner I don't like the price drop, but it seems to this observer that liberal California should be applauding what President Trump and the Republican Congress did with Tax Reform.

Declining prices make homes more affordable, and those with high incomes are paying more of their fair share, thereby lessening inequality. I guess the silence means that they just haven't yet realized how great the tax bill was in furthering progressivism.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanks, Willie, But It Didn't Work

Former SF-Mayor and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown has advice for Republicans. (Appreciate that his tone is not snarky or insincere, as is much of the "advice" given by partisans to their opponents.) [bold added]
Willie Brown (OC Register)
It’s clear that Republicans’ slip in California relevance has turned into an all-out slide. The midterm results show that Republicans are being hurt as young adults and other progressively inclined people fan out from the Bay Area and Los Angeles into onetime GOP territory like Orange County and Central Valley cities.

Add in the toxicity of President Trump, and you have a party that is clearly in need of major retooling if it ever again hopes to be a factor on the state level.

Republicans could start by getting rid of the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus types who have made the GOP platform so distasteful to new voters.

But if they really want to make a comeback, the GOP should turn the party over to women. Not only would they give the party a better public face, they would inject a better balance on social issues.
Well, the Republicans did try the woman strategy; they had a textbook candidate in Korean-American Young Kim:
Young Kim (CNN)
Kim was considered by many to have an edge going into the race because of her name recognition and long history as a district staffer for [ex-Representative Ed] Royce, who had endorsed her....Kim broke with Trump on several of his policies, including family separation at the border and curtailing family-sponsored visas. Nearly a third of the district’s residents are Asian American, and a third are Latino.
If ever there was a seat that Republicans should have taken it was the seat held by Ed Royce(R) in the formerly conservative bastion of Orange County.

Democrat Gil Cisneros was the eventual winner, overcoming Young Kim's lead with provisional and mail-in ballots days after the election.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Gingko Leaves Left Out

This is too easy. Why didn't you put ginkgo in the gingko supplement?
Gingko supplements are
extracted from leaves.
Two dietary supplements promoted as improving memory using Ginkgo biloba contained either none of the ingredient or a lower amount than advertised, a government watchdog said Wednesday.
Answer: I forgot.

Without excusing it, this consumer fraud may not make much difference for health purposes. [bold added]
Supplements containing Ginkgo biloba extract, made from one of the world’s oldest living tree species, are often bought by consumers trying to prevent or treat age-related memory loss, the GAO said.....There is no “conclusive evidence” the extract is helpful for any health condition, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Gingko's improved blood-flow doesn't reach the gullibility section of the brain, apparently.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

As Long As We Are Able

The "cruel irony" of the Bay Area's food insecure: [bold added]
While their income doesn’t keep up with the cost of living in the expensive region, the relatively high local minimum wage can make them ineligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. And even when they do qualify, the benefit only covers a fraction of the cost of each meal.
At Home and Hope we can't feed everybody, but we
can feed four families at a time.
Your humble blogger has spent some time with charities that feed the hungry, but I do occasionally wonder why SNAP / food stamp ($73.6 billion) and child nutrition ($24.3 billion) expenditures are inadequate to prevent the starvation of millions of Americans. Government payments dwarf what private efforts can provide.

It turns out that a $50,000 income--about $25 per hour--is too high to qualify for SNAP. Meanwhile payments on an apartment--$2,500-per-month ($30,000 per year) is a bargain in this area, by the way--take priority over eating for most people facing such a choice.

These are the working poor, and we'll help them as long as we are able.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Forest Management Facts and Logic

President Trump's tweet on November 10th, two days after the Camp Fire destroyed most of Paradise, CA, sparked controversy:

Reaction on Twitter was negative, of course. A plurality of responses were of the Trump-is-an-idiot genre, with a subcategory pointing out that, because the Federal Government owns most of the forestland, the President should point the finger at his own Executive Branch. That argument might have some validity if environmentalist lawsuits had not stymied government efforts to clean up the forests.

Sacramento Bee, 2015: Anti-logging lawsuits hurt fight against forest fires, officials say [bold added]
The largest fire ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada, the Rim Fire that began in August 2013, ultimately burned 402 square miles, spanning parts of Yosemite National Park, private lands and the Stanislaus National Forest. In September 2014, the Forest Service proposed a plan to allow logging on 52 square miles of the affected wildlands.

The Center for Biological Diversity and several other environmental groups subsequently sued to stop the Rim Fire plan [snip].

More than 40 percent of the [1,125 environmental lawsuits between 1989 and 2008] challenged the Forest Service’s “vegetative management” decisions, meaning logging and salvage programs, and these were also the lawsuits the agency was “most likely to settle,” the analysts found.
(WSJ graphic)
The destruction of Paradise may be the decisive event that will force environmentalists to withdraw their opposition to government forest management practices. Even before this year's wildfires the sentiment was moving in the direction of thinning trees.
In 2017, California joined with the U.S. Forest Service and other groups in creating the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative, which aims to thin millions of trees from about 2.4 million acres of forest—believed to be the largest such state-federal project in the country....The thinning coalition represents a new front. The Nature Conservancy’s Mr. Edelson used to sue to block logging plans in national forests as an attorney for another green group. Now he said he sees the need for limited logging because of the dramatic rise in wildfires.
President Trump's tweets are often crude and disrespectful, but they also give rise to learning. Thoughtful opponents who wish to respond with more than name-calling are forced to counter with facts and logic. Often to their surprise, sometimes the President has facts and logic on his side as well.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Promises, Promises

Dancing, singing, eating, and pledging
Speaking of philanthropic commitments (see previous post below), tonight was the church's annual stewardship dinner that marked the end of the pledge campaign. Members fill out cards that indicate how much they will donate to the church next year. There's a practical reason for pledges; they're the primary funding source for next year's expense budget.

The pledge is not a legal obligation; one can reduce or cancel one's pledge for any reason. Typically changes are made because of a move out of the area, the loss of a job, or health.

But a pledge is not nothing. I know people who have moved away, yet have finished out the current year's pledge. If they had not signed the card, who knows if they would have continued donating?

Given the importance everyone--yes, even the supposedly religious--places upon money, pledge information is restricted to very few, usually the rector and the treasurer. In fact I know one rector who instructed the treasurer not to tell him the specifics; the rector did not want such knowledge to influence his ministry.

As for me, I've tried stretch pledging (for more than is comfortable) and no pledging (when joining a new church). Lately I've been setting a relatively easy target and beating it slightly. This makes the church look good in the eyes of the Diocesan statistician.

A low personal target also leaves some funds in reserve for the inevitable special pleas--for example, aid to fire or hurricane victims.

Repeating yesterday's advice: it's always better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

CALL Primrose

Processing receipts a week before Thanksgiving
In 2017 we signed up for and delivered four boxes to the CALL Primrose fill-a-box-feed-a-family Thanksgiving food drive.

This year we committed to four containers again and were overwhelmed with offers to help. We delivered nine (9) boxes this afternoon.

It will be tempting to commit to, say, six boxes next year, but we'll have to think about it.

When the demands increase, charity ceases to be a joyous activity and becomes an obligation (yes, many traditions view charity as a moral obligation, but specific deliveries at a time and place feel like a secular debt).

Besides, it's always better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Excelsior and Imperius Rex

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (Marvel Silver Age)
The laudatory obituaries are piling up for Stan Lee (1922-2018), but I confess that I didn't immediately take to the new Marvel Comics that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby launched in 1961.

For one thing I couldn't afford to buy more comic books. Most of my allowance was already committed to the DC lineup.

Stan Lee's innovations: Fan Pages and Bullpen Bulletins (Giant-Size Marvel blog)
Second, some of Marvel's heroes were too similar to DC's, e.g., Marvel's Mr. Fantastic and Sub-mariner seemed like knock-offs of DC's Elongated Man and Aquaman.

Third, kids who read and re-read their precious purchases notice things like paper and ink quality; DC's was better.

Fourth, too many of Marvel's stories were "to be continued", meaning that I had to buy the next issue to see how the story turned out. (To save money I learned to speed-read at the comic-book stand without buying them...sorry about that, Woolworth's!)

A few years later after-school and summer jobs gave me the wherewithal to sample more of Marvel's products. Favorites were Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, which hooked me with the 1966 three-part series on Galactus, the unstoppable planet destroyer.

I also liked the fan letter pages and previews of upcoming issues. IMHO, the dense text, more than the angst-ridden Marvel heroes, showed that comic book fans were capable of looking past the pretty pictures.

To Stan Lee we say Excelsior! and Imperius Rex! R.I.P.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Smoky November

On Saturday you could look directly at the sun.
Two days after the fire began 200 miles away, the smell of burning wood permeated the Peninsula.

The sky was hazy, and the sun turned red. Prudent pedestrians perambulated with breathing masks.

The Air Quality Index is over 150 ("unhealthy") and will stay there for quite some time. As of this writing the fire is only 20% contained, and we are running the air filters 24/7.

Monday, November 12, 2018

More Fragile Than We Realize

Flanders Fields (U of Texas NROTC photo)
When I was in high school World War I was ancient history. (It's disconcerting to realize that WWI was as remote to baby boomers as Vietnam is to the teens of today.)

Despite its seeming irrelevance to the Sixties--we lived in the Space Age and they flew single-engine aerodromes--studying World War I was a requirement back in our day.

All Quiet on the Western Front brought home the pointlessness and horror of trench warfare.

Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August chronicled how communication missteps and tangled alliances caused a World War to erupt from a ducal assassination that triggered a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.

Violence experienced on a national scale is inconceivable to present-day Americans. World War I reminds us that life and peace are much more fragile than we realize.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Church 100 Years Later

The guns fell silent on the Western Front one hundred years ago, but the effects of World War I continue to be felt in the church today: [bold added]
(Image from Greenwich Village Society for
Historic Preservation)
By the early 1920s, churches on both sides of the Atlantic passed hundreds of resolutions renouncing war. Membership in peace societies exploded. In 1924 the Chicago Federation of Churches, representing 15 denominations, declared itself “unalterably opposed to war.” A nationwide poll found 60% of clergymen opposed any future war and nearly half vowed not to serve as wartime military chaplains.

The pacifist outlook culminated in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact. Signatories, including the U.S., Germany, Japan and France, agreed to abandon war as a tool of national policy. Church leaders mobilized for passage. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in 1929. The Christian Century, liberal Protestantism’s leading journal, opined: “Today international war was banished from civilization.”
The stark evil that promoted the genocide of "inferior" races forced liberal American denominations to suspend their anti-war advocacy during World War II, but the pacifism re-asserted itself overwhelmingly after Vietnam. (Your humble blogger has engaged in various discussions with clergy in my denomination who believe that the U.S. has not been justified in taking any military action in the last 40 years.)

While I personally disagree with such an absolutist position, I remain a member of the Episcopal Church. The reasons I don't choose a church more in line with my political beliefs is that 1) there's more to life than politics; 2) Because I can leave, I won't. Hooray for the First Amendment!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

"The Speed and Ferocity of the Fire Was Too Much"

(Image from Chico Enterprise-Record)
One of the most jarring images to come out of the Paradise fire was that of burned-out vehicles along the road.

The fire came upon fleeing residents so quickly that they had to abandon their stuck cars. In the safety of our living rooms it makes as much sense as jumping out of a burning building. God help everyone who is faced with such a choice.

Another jarring fact: Paradise had a disaster plan: [bold added]
Following those fires — part of what Cal Fire still refers to as the “2008 siege” — city leaders began working on an evacuation plan. They broke up neighborhoods into geographic zones that, in the event of a wildfire, would be cleared one at a time to avoid gridlock. There are few roads in and out of Paradise.

With about 27,000 residents, the town also went through the unusual exercise of holding mock evacuations during morning rush hour, closing some streets and turning a major two-way road into one way to let people practice getting out fast....

Bill Stewart, the co-director of Berkeley Forests, a wildfire and forest research department at the University of California, Berkeley, said Paradise had “about the most advanced level of planning I’ve heard of,” but the speed and ferocity of the fire was too much.

“It overwhelmed the town,” said Stewart.
The pictures told us with absolute certainty that a reported fact on Thursday night was not true: the death toll was five (5).

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Most Destructive Wildfire in California History

KFC restaurant, Paradise, CA  (Chronicle photo)
Stopping in Vacaville on Thursday morning, we espied a gray haze on the horizon. The smell of burning wood was in the air, signaling a nearby fire. By the time we got to Sacramento, 35 miles away, the air should be clear. However...

Little did we know that Sacramento was on the way to the source of the smoke over 120 miles away. The so-called Camp Fire had "exploded near Chico" that morning.
Paradise or Hell? (Chronicle photo)
The massive Camp Fire that exploded near Chico in Butte County on Thursday is now the most destructive wildfire in California history. Officials announced Friday that the Camp Fire, which continues burning, destroyed 6,713 structures as of Friday evening. It has also killed 9 people and dozens remained missing a day after it began.

The blaze reached 90,000 acres by Friday evening — more than twice the size of San Francisco — and was 5 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Eleven years ago my uncle, the best mechanic I ever knew, passed away. His home was in Paradise, most of which has been destroyed by the Camp Fire. I still miss and think often of him and my aunt, but I'm glad they're not here to experience this.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Prices Squashed

There are three identical boxes to the right.
For a few bucks I could buy out the lot, cornering the pumpkin market in our suburban town. Unfortunately that monopoly would last only a few days, because the Cucurbita Maxima are looking a bit ragged.

The store's buyer overestimated demand. Eight days after Halloween the remaining inventory easily weighs over a ton.

At 25 cents each, there's little downside to trying out a few pumpkin recipes. I'll likely pick one up on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Right Day

On the drive down to Santa Cruz the airwaves were filled with what yesterday's results mean for the 2020 election.

Give it a rest, political junkies. You remind me of sports fans who wonder about next year's champion on the morning after the Super Bowl. Let the winners have their moment. Please stop talking about future campaigns. For the sake of your families make Thanksgiving a politics-free zone.

Cocoanut Grove
The Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk overflows with thousands of people during the summer but was deserted this November morning. There were a few workers about; signs needed painting, rides needed fixing, and lavatories needed cleaning.

A few seagulls scavenged without enthusiasm; they seemed to know that the pickings were slim.

One doesn't have to travel to the forest or mountains for a quiet meditative walk.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will do fine if you pick the right day.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Accelerating the Day

Scary graphic on October 31, 2018 (WSJ)
Nowhere is the American political divide more stark than in the difference between college-educated white women and non-college-educated white men:
a campaign for Congress in many places starts with 60% of college-educated white women favoring the Democratic nominee. An even larger share of white men without degrees favor the Republican—making both essentially unreachable by the opposing candidate.
It's easy to denigrate each group through simplistic stereotypes: the white men are ignorant gun-loving racists while the white women are overeducated snowflakes who come running to the burly men when the real world comes knocking.

I look at it this way: whites' loathing of the opposite sex's politics makes it less likely that they'll couple, much less reproduce, accelerating the day when whites will no longer be in the majority and this graph won't matter.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Remembrance of Lives Past

Baptisms are often scheduled on All Souls' Day.
On All Souls' Day, aka the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, the priests read the names of those whom the congregation wishes to be remembered. The list numbers about a hundred, usually consisting of parents and grandparents.

When in my late twenties I had attended this church (before moving elsewhere) and met many of its first generation. I wrote down a half-dozen names, unfamiliar to all but a very few, but without whom this church would not exist.

Maybe in 40 years a formerly young person will remember to put my name on the list.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Hie Thee to a CPA

As we noted in February re the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA)
One of the most beneficial--and complex--provisions is the deduction for pass-through income, which applies to small-business owners like your humble blogger, but only if business affairs (these days the adjective is necessary 😀) are structured properly.
We had hoped that clarity would have obtained by now, especially for small landlords whom we know. The answer to the following question indicates little progress has been made.
(Image from Green Bush Financial)
I hope to get the new 20% deduction for “pass-through” businesses that report profits on individuals’ tax returns. Does my income from rental real estate qualify?

We just don’t know. In general, owners of businesses organized as proprietorships, S-corporations, and partnerships now get a deduction of 20% of the business’s income—if the owner’s taxable income is $315,000 or less for married couples ($157,500 or less for singles). Above that level, there are complex rules as to who gets a break.

The problem for millions of landlords of all sizes is determining whether their rental income is from a business or an investment. If it’s investment income, then it doesn’t qualify for the 20% break, even if the landlord’s income is below the $315,000/$157,500 threshold.

Anthony Nitti, a tax specialist with Withum, says, “A century of case law hasn’t clearly defined when a rental rises to the level of a trade or business. Now, landlords across the country will somehow have to make that determination.”
As is typical of new tax laws, the complex questions have not been answered by the IRS--and may not be by April 15, 2019. If real estate comprises more than a few thousand dollars of your income, dear reader, get some professional advice.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Hearing Footsteps

2013: below the 20db line is bad.
In 2013 an audiologist said that I had mild hearing loss.

Five years later the members of the household have tired of asking me to turn the volume down on the television set.

Also, they are weary of my ignoring requests that I don't remember because I never heard them in the first place 😉

It was time to get my ears checked again.

2018: the deterioration continues
Sure enough, the test showed a worsening, especially at the higher frequencies.

Hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars; most insurance plans cover only a little of the cost.

Saving money might be tempting, but untreated mild-to-moderate deafness has other consequences.

Hearing Loss [is] Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss [bold added]
Although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss, according to the results of a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging. The findings add to a growing list of health consequences associated with hearing loss, including increased risk of dementia, falls, hospitalizations, and diminished physical and mental health overall.
I'm placing my order this month.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Making the Consequences Worse

Stanford professor Robert Sutton says that the biggest mistake that bosses make is pretending that employees have a say in decisions when they really don't:
(WSJ illustration)
too often, the consultation of others is a sham. It looks like the real thing, but bosses are just pretending that others’ input has some influence over the final decision.... sham participation contains many of the elements—including deception, disrespect and lack of influence over decisions—that end up discouraging and demotivating employees.
Experienced workers can tell when an issue is still open for discussion. If a strategy consultant has been called, the decision has not been made, but if the consultant is from human resources, watch out for layoffs or at least a cut in benefits.

Painful decisions are not easy, but managers can make the consequences worse in how they're disseminated.