Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Good Feeling

Just to make sure that December's mistake did not recur, I called two different people to confirm that I would get the key to the walk-in refrigerator.

And so it was that there were no hiccups in distributing the sandwiches for Sandwiches on Sunday at the community center in Redwood City.

Though sometimes only 50 people show up at noon, we always make more food because the crowd can number 90 as it did today. I made two trays of baked chicken, which were consumed along with five other trays and six large bowls of salad by 12:45.

The manager at the Foster City Lucky Supermarkets gave us loaves of bread, cakes, croissants, and cookies to hand out along with the sandwiches.

Driving home with no leftovers and an empty trunk is a good feeling at the end of Sandwiches on Sunday.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Explains my Attraction to Smart Women

More evidence of women's biological advantages: [bold added]
Glucose metabolism is impaired
in Alzheimer's (researchgate)
Women tend to live longer than men. This is one of the most robust findings in biological science, and the evidence isn’t hard to find. In the U.S., women outlive men by almost five years, on average, while the gap is as wide as 10 years in Latvia and Vietnam. Now there is fresh evidence that women not only have a longevity advantage; their brains seem to be more youthful throughout adulthood, too.
We ought to be spending more research dollars on why men die earlier and why men are more susceptible to neural degeneration. Sure, this "unfairness" in allocating university research dollars is potentially a violation of Title IX, but the important scientific question is: do zombies prefer women's brains?

Friday, March 29, 2019

A Hoary Debate

April, 2018 rent control demonstration (Chron photo)
Rent control is back on the table in the legislature after Proposition 10, which would have allowed municipalities to impose rent control, was defeated last November.

The real estate boom, which in the Bay Area has more than doubled house prices in the past 10 years, has passed through to rents. Stories abound about the poor and elderly being forced to leave their apartments so that landlords can charge higher rents or convert their buildings to salable condos. It's hard not to feel sorry for these tenants.

As a matter of public policy, though, rent control is a bad idea. It's been around for nearly a hundred years, so we can observe its effects on the supply of housing and who actually gets the benefits of below-market rents.

Even the San Francisco Chronicle is opposed to rent control: [bold added]
Perhaps the voters understood that despite its populist appeal, rent control is the wrong answer to the state’s housing crisis. The policy benefits only those tenants who occupy controlled units, who are not necessarily the most vulnerable, at the expense not only of landlords but also of other renters.

Moreover, rent control diminishes the supply and maintenance of rental housing, exacerbating the shortages that drive up rents. That’s why economists broadly reject the approach. (Sample response to a poll of economists asking whether rent control improves the quality and quantity of rental housing: “Next question: Does the sun revolve around the Earth?”) A Stanford study of San Francisco’s 1994 expansion of rent control to smaller multifamily buildings found that it saved affected renters nearly $3 billion through 2012 — and cost the city’s other tenants about as much. Meanwhile, landlords took rental units off the market en masse, reducing the supply by 15 percent.
The people, as well as the experts, are in agreement. Eventually the bill will be defeated, especially since the impetus is toward encouraging investment in more housing supply. (Rent control is anathema to potential investors.)

The only group that stands to win from this hoary debate are the legislators who will receive "contributions" from both sides to rule in their favor. Why is that not surprising?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hankering for Ramen

Hankering for a hot and hearty soup on a cold day, we stopped for ramen noodles at Serramonte Center in Daly City.

The rest of the country may favor creamy chowders, beans, and bacon, but here in California ramen can be stocked with vegetables, pork, and eggs to make a filling meal.

This ramen is different from the dried, MSG-laden product that we heated on the hot plate in our dorm. At $12 it's 50x the cost of the 1970's packaged version, but we’re happy to pay the price. It’s cold outside.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Choice is Easy

Nov. 2018: Lt. Gov. Newsom, Gov. Brown, Paradise mayor Jody Jones, Pres. Trump, FEMA Adm. Long (AP)
The Wall Street Journal editorial page takes the side of California Governor Gavin Newsom:
The Governor on Friday declared a statewide emergency to expedite 35 wildfire-prevention projects including prescribed burns and tree-thinning around 200 cities over the next year. The emergency finding will let the state waive certain bureaucratic obstacles to tree-clearing. This could prevent a reprise of the last two horrific wildfire seasons in which 1.7 million acres burned. The Camp Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills last fall razed 14,000 homes and killed 85 people. [snip]

Yet Mr. Newsom is drawing fire from his friends on the left for waiving regulations such as the California Environmental Quality Act that produce mounds of paperwork and allow locales to veto sensible fuel-reduction projects for reasons unrelated to environmental protection. “The governor should reject this doomed, destructive approach” of thinning forests, the Center for Biological Diversity declared.

“Unfortunately, it’s a very Trumpian approach,” said Douglas Bevington, forest director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
Doomed, destructive, Trumpian--adjectives that inflame the leftist base. The WSJ doesn't often agree with a liberal governor, but when it's a choice between liberalism and environmental extremism that endangers people, the choice is easy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Today's Fishwrap

...or birdcage liner.

I suppose all these old-newspaper references are lost to today's readership, because who reads newspapers anymore?

As for magazines, I use them to sop up the leaks from green "bio" bags that I store in the refrigerator while awaiting the weekly compost pickup. Case in point—-Time's cover story in the impending impeachment of Donald Trump: [bold added]
But Pelosi is actually playing a deeper game. Her aides note that she’s never ruled impeachment out. All she’s done, they say, is set a standard: increased popular support and some degree of GOP backing...

But there are already signs Pelosi’s standard could be met...Large majorities say they would favor Trump’s impeachment and removal from office if Mueller finds he authorized coordination with Russia or obstructed justice.
Now that the Mueller report has found no Russian collusion or obstruction of justice, I suppose the raison d'être for impeachment, using Nancy Pelosi's standard, has gone away.

Fortunately, I have lots of bio bags this week, so it’s not a total waste of Time.

Monday, March 25, 2019

One Narrative Finally Wins

Two years ago I wrote about the two narratives that preoccupied the nation then and concluded:
the current or the past President is a "bad (or sick) guy!" (or maybe both are).
Now that the special counsel's report has been submitted, we have an answer. But back to the March, 2017 post, which does hold up remarkably and pathetically:

Who's the good guy and who's the bad guy? (WSJ photo)
Narrative One: Trump Stole the Election
President Trump and his campaign colluded with the Russians to hack communications between Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and other Democrats. The release of this information harmed the Clinton campaign, enough to swing the election. Transcripts confirm that meetings and phone calls occurred between key Trump staff and Russian officials. In exchange for help from the Russians, President Trump will make concessions to Russia on a range of issues; he and his staff also will personally profit from their cooperation. The communications continue to this day.

Narrative Two: Obama is Worse than Nixon
After the Obama Administration unsuccessfully applied for a law-enforcement warrant in June, 2016, the FISA Court approved a surveillance warrant in October. The court made its decision because of false or exaggerated evidence, and the eventual scope of the surveillance over Trump personnel was far wider than the warrant allowed. Since October information on Donald Trump and his staff has been feloniously leaked to the media by Obama appointees, some of whom remain in government. The purpose is to derail President Trump's timetable and question the legitimacy of his election. President Obama used the power of his office to damage the candidate of the opposition party much more than Richard Nixon ever did.

There are many details and nuances that the above summaries don't include. However, unless there are other major explanations, the current or the past President is a "bad (or sick) guy!" (or maybe both are).

Because the narratives are so different, and their respective premises are alarming, it behooves us to get to the truth as soon as possible. Per the WSJ ("Washington Goes Nuts"):
Political collusion with a foreign power and the abuse of intelligence collection to smear an opponent threaten the integrity of democratic institutions. Let’s hope the intelligence committees rise above their putative party leaders and tell America what really happened.
On this Sunday, a very old declaration:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
2019: unfortunately, we now know that "the intelligence committees [did not] rise above their putative party leaders and [did not] tell America what really happened." America is more divided than ever, people have stopped listening to each other, and arguments are impervious to facts (both sides say that about the other).

Wake me when it's 2021.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Light Eternal

20th-century choral music is not among my favorite genres, but works by Morten Lauridsen, 76, resonate. Meditative music speaks to our inner selves, and in the autumn of my life there's more receptiveness to that message.

Morten Lauridsen composed his modern requiem, Aux Aeterna, while his mother was dying.
Mr. Lauridsen said that “it was a great comfort to me in the two years it took me to write the ‘Lux Aeterna’ to go to those texts each day….I simply tried to write something very, very beautiful; a meditation, a quiet meditation about illumination.”...apart from the engaging beauty of his melodic gift and the diaphanous purity of his choral writing, his musical invention seems fired by his ability to tap his intimate knowledge of historical musical forms and techniques—from medieval chant and Renaissance polyphony onward.
Music can break through the listener's wall of rationality and release powerful emotions. Whether they are tied to spirituality or buried memories or something else, Morten Lauridsen appears to have found the key.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Spam: Long-Term Investment

Like clockwork it was time for the equinoctial (March and September) Spam sale at Costco. Though we already had 16 cans in the pantry I bought eight more.

The cans' expiration dates are 2021-2023, giving us plenty of time to consume the inventory.

Besides, one can never have enough emergency supplies in earthquake country, and even when opened spam takes days to spoil. It's not just food, it's a long-term investment.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Full Flintstone

(Chronicle photos)
We've admired Hillsborough's "Flintstone House" for decades. From three years ago (scroll to bottom for update):

For nearly 40 years Peninsula motorists have been driving by a white, mushroom-shaped structure off Highway 280. When it was re-painted in 2007, the 2,730-square-foot orange-and-purple home was nicknamed the Flintstone House.

The unique Hillsborough property is listed at $4.2 million. If you can afford to cut a check for such a whimsical purchase, you're entitled to shout Yabba-Dabba-Doo.

The interior's special, too.

The metal dinosaurs are new (Mercury News photo)
2019: Hillsborough sues to declare Flintstone House a ‘public nuisance’
Calling it a “highly visible eyesore” and “out of keeping with community standards,” Hillsborough planning and building officials are asking a judge to officially declare the iconic Flintstone House a “public nuisance,” and they want a recently-erected metal menagerie of prehistoric animals, along with other features, removed.

Media mogul Florence Fang purchased the property in 2017 and quickly got to work remaking the backyard with a herd of 15-foot dinosaurs, plus a giraffe, mastadon, and brightly-colored mushrooms.
You've gotta admire owner Florence Fang for her commitment. If you're gonna go Flintstone, go full Flintstone.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Justice League

(Image from
The Netflix DVD queue finally worked down to Justice League, the DC Universe's superhero team-up movie released in 2017. The disc had been sitting on the blu-ray player for over a month, and I half-heartedly popped it in. Expectations were low because the reviews had been mediocre.

Having low expectations about a movie--in fact, everything--is a useful policy in life to prevent disappointment and its partner, anger. A secondary benefit is that occasionally one is surprised on the upside. So I'm happy to report that I liked the movie. Its opening action sequences were great; the blend of CGI and live actors was seamless, and a few seconds on each character were sufficient background to allow the audience to move on to the story.

Justice League of America was one of my favorite comic books in the 60's. For 10 cents one could get a story with seven heroes (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter) instead of buying the separate books. Given the changes to the DC Universe, it was remarkable that the Justice League was largely intact a half-century after the original comic; for the movie Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter were subtracted and Cyborg was added.

Ben Affleck's Batman is the glue that holds the team together. He persuades the other recruits to join forces against the planet-destroying Steppenwolf. To these eyes the weakness of the film was the plot-obviousness of the MacGuffin: the three separated Mother Boxes that, if united, would destroy the world.

One of the film's pluses was the late introduction of Superman, whose presence usually shifts the balance of power to the good guys. (Superman is always a problem for comics writers because he's too mighty; they either have to get him out of the picture with some personal problem or weaken him with Kryptonite, which used to be exceedingly rare but now shows up in nearly every story.) Encouraged by Justice League, I'll put the DC Universe back on the follow list.

Netflix's blu-ray service levels.
Because I watch most videos on Netflix streaming and its rivals, I've been thinking about canceling the $9.99 per month Netflix DVD-rental service. However, the large majority of movies, for instance Justice League, are only available on disc. If I manage to view at least one a month this year, I'll keep the subscription.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Drought Gone, Nagging Down Ever So Slightly

After four straight years of normal-to-wet winters the State of California has finally been declared to be drought-free.
Getting the red (extreme drought) out (Chronicle graphic)
California has fully emerged from drought conditions for the first time since December 2011, and just 7 percent of the state remains abnormally dry, scientists said Thursday.

Rain and snowstorms that slammed the state this winter helped rebuild the snowpack, filled reservoirs and improved soil moisture, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Moderate spring temperatures are helping the snowpack stay intact and avoid early melting.
The main benefit of four years of wet weather, of course, is that there will be plenty of water this summer for everyone, including the farmers. But another benefit is that the nagging might abate slightly from cacophonic caterwauling to continuous clamoring (though you wouldn't know it from last week's demonstrations--see below), as we will gain a reprieve from global-warming-is-why-reservoirs-are-empty scoldings.

Anthropogenic global warming is still to blame for wildfires, floods, and declining fish and wildlife populations, but at least the volume will be turned down ever so slightly

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

They're Carefully Taught

On Friday they got to skip school and yell and scream. It was a good day to be a kid. (Chronicle photo)
Friday, March 15: [bold added]
Thousands of Bay Area students walked out of schools Friday to protest climate change and many of them marched down Market Street in a noisy, energetic show of youth frustration and determination....Similar protests took place across the U.S. and in more than 100 countries.

In San Francisco, about 2,000 students — many with their teachers’ blessing — and their parents gathered first in front of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office at 7th and Mission streets, then marched to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office at Market and Post streets before heading for a rally at Union Square.
This girl's photo was in the Chronicle print
edition and is strangely missing on the web
The kids received a valuable education on Friday. At a tender age they felt the adrenaline of anger and the rush of self-righteousness. In a crowd of the like-minded it was intoxicating.

Later, perhaps, in a moment of self-awareness they will understand how a Cultural Revolution can occur in late-60's China or why students like themselves burned books across Germany in 1933.

However, your humble blogger will not fall into the trap of pronouncing judgment on a person's character--especially a young person's--on the basis of one photograph, much like sophisticated adults blasted 17-year-old Nicholas Sandmann based on a single facial expression.

The lyrics from a musical that I heard as a child keep running through my head (with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein for italicized changes to the second verse):
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people who say climate's not man-made
And people whom progressives can't persuade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Energy Efficiency: Let the Market Work

(LED's. NY Mag photo)
Lately we've been buying LED's (light-emitting diodes) to replace our compact fluorescents (CFL's) and incandescents. We're installing LED's independent of any government incentives or penalties.

The price-performance relationship of LED's for us beats the other products, and we've come to that conclusion on our own....which is why your humble blogger finds the following headline irritating:

Trump administration could hamper shift to more efficient light bulbs

Energy efficiency is good, goes the thinking, so the Trump Administration should force the adoption of LED's by increasing the cost of incandescents or even outlawing them. Haven't we learned the lesson from the last energy-mandate fiasco? [bold added]
Congress established the first national light bulb efficiency standards in 2007, which were signed into law by President George W. Bush. Starting in 2012, the law required new light bulbs to use 28 percent less power than existing incandescent lights — essentially ending the sale of the older, inefficient bulbs.
(Photo from snopes)
Back in 2012 light-emitting diodes were costly, so most people installed CFL's. But the latter's mercury content made clean-up and disposal extremely expensive. Below are the EPA's recommendations for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb:
Before Cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
    --Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
    --stiff paper or cardboard;
    --sticky tape;
    --damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
    --a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.
    During Cleanup
  • DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag. See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

    After Cleanup
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  • Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
  • We've always followed grandma's admonition to turn out the lights when leaving the room, so maybe we've saved a hundred bucks in electricity over the last seven years for switching to CFL's but sacrificed 10-20 man-hours for CFL cleanup and disposal, not to mention spending more time worrying about mercury poisoning.

    So, Chronicle headline writer, leave alone the person who wants to replace an incandescent bulb with another incandescent; perhaps she will turn it on once a week in a storage locker, or maybe she likes its warm glow, or maybe she wants to heat up the lava lamp. Don't make her a criminal, and (sigh) stop making every story about the dastardliness of Donald Trump.

    Sunday, March 17, 2019

    Foster City Village

    On Sunday the Village came to town.

    The nice people at Foster City Village gave a short presentation to our congregation, which fits right in with the Village's desired demographic:
    Foster City Village is not a real estate development or another retirement community.

    Our mission is to enable older adults to continue living in their homes and communities as they age by providing mobility, practical assistance, easy access to services, social connections and educational opportunities.

    We are a non-profit, membership-based organization comprised of neighbors helping neighbors for an improved quality of life – enabling healthier aging for our members and peace of mind for their families.
    Foster City Village, whose staff, volunteers, and members number 170 in our city of 30,000, is part of a 200+ network of "villages" that have sprung up across the country to cater to the needs of local senior populations. The presenters did describe the services--primarily transportation--that most members used, but the social and educational activities were especially emphasized.

    My grandparents and parents spent their entire lives near where they were born, with many friends and relatives close by. That world is long gone, and many seniors live lives of quiet separation, far from their home towns. Organizations like the Village help to combat the epidemic of loneliness in the aged. Right now I have plenty of volunteering, family, and professional activities to keep my calendar full, so I won't be signing up, but some day....

    Saturday, March 16, 2019

    Green Motives Revealed

    Morning near Sacramento
    WSJ columnist Holman Jenkins presents the case for a Green Rational Deal. His solution to global warming is so inexpensive that it does seem too good to be true, but he is trying to solve the warming problem, not trying to force vast numbers of people to change their desires and behaviors. [bold added]
    we could fix the biggest piece of the climate problem by injecting particles into the air sufficient to block 1% of sunlight hitting earth.

    No, this would not cure every risk (or end every theorized benefit) associated with higher atmospheric CO2. But it would neutralize the biggest putative risk, namely a warming of the planet. Gernot Wagner, a Harvard economist specializing in climate, is the latest to run the numbers. He estimates that such a program would cost around $2 billion a year. His findings are in line with estimates made by other reputable researchers.
    For over 200 years the phrase "blue nose" described a person who tried to impose a strict moral code on the rest of society. The new "green noses" seem to prefer extremely difficult reverse-the-Industrial-Revolution solutions to much simpler, cheaper methods to lower global temperatures. Their motives are revealed by their choices.

    Friday, March 15, 2019

    A Beautiful Portfolio

    The Villa Maryland in Cap Ferrat, France (WSJ)
    20 years ago a business colleague vacationed in Europe. Only later did she fill in the details.

    A friend had terminal cancer, and Paul Allen had invited the lady and a group of her closest acquaintances to enjoy the comforts of his chateau in the South of France. And so it was that Sue and friends had the run of Paul Allen's estate, complete with staff and the services of a Cordon Bleu chef for a week.

    Enchanted Hill near Beverly Hills (WSJ)
    His co-founding of Microsoft made him a billionaire by the age of 30, and Paul Allen was famous for his portfolio of eclectic investments (Charter Communications, Seattle Seahawks, SpaceShipOne, and Portland Trail Blazers, among many others). The composition of his vast real estate portfolio is less well-known but is now being evaluated following his death in 2018.
    While geographically diverse, these properties share common elements. They aren’t by any means on the wrong side of town, but they also aren’t typically in a hot spot. For example, rather than Seattle’s elite, pricey community of Medina, where Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have homes along what is called the Gold Coast, he chose the more suburban Mercer Island, where he bought on the less-desirable south end of the island. In Los Angeles, his compound is in what’s called “Beverly Hills Post Office,” where homes can sell for about half of those in Beverly Hills proper. His ranch in Idaho is over the Teton Pass from the ritzy ski area of Jackson Hole, Wyo., near where the workers who can’t afford Jackson live and commute. His property on the peninsula he bought on Lopez in the San Juan Islands, Wash., is on the island’s less prestigious side, far from the village. Yet the homes he built were impressive estates.
    Their potential to do harm has prompted calls (from the left--where else?) to abolish billionaires' existence, but that potential doesn't trouble me. Billionaires directing their favored philanthropic causes are far more efficient and effective than a government bureaucracy with its attendant inefficiencies, not to mention graft and corruption.

    And if a Paul Allen chooses to spend his fortune on building or preserving beauty, that's fine with me, too.

    Thursday, March 14, 2019

    One is Condemned, the Other is Praised

    33 wealthy parents were charged with breaking the law in getting their children admitted to the colleges of their choice. The illegal actions took two forms: [bold added]
    to bribe coaches and administrators to designate their children as top recruits in such sports as football, water polo, soccer, track and volleyball at universities including the University of Southern California, Georgetown and Wake Forest. Some parents also allegedly paid Mr. Singer as much as $75,000 for test-cheating services.
    Yale was worth a million bucks to one parent. He should have saved his money (WSJ graphic)
    Parents on the list, like actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, have lost jobs. Business executives have been suspended and also may eventually be fired. Sole proprietors and highly paid professionals have had their reputations impaired, perhaps permanently. The obloquy has been visited from across the political spectrum, as no one can defend cheating by the already-wealthy and privileged.

    I can't condone (and I solemnly swear that I never did) what those parents did, but I understand it. And why so much outrage?

    1) One source of anger is the belief that those admitted would not have gotten in based on "objective" criteria like SAT scores, but why is it okay for the bar to be set lower for affirmative-action applicants, some of whom also come from wealth and privilege? The latter don't have to cheat to raise their scores, because a low score is good enough if they happen to be in the right group.

    2) The parents broke the law in a misguided attempt to give their children a better life. In contrast those crossing the southern border illegally are lauded for doing the same. Of course, there's a big difference; trying to sneak into USC, Stanford, or Yale doesn't put kids' lives in jeopardy like marching across Mexico with no food, water, or money.

    The former is condemned, but the latter is praiseworthy. As is often the case, how one reacts to the story is a big story, too.

    Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    Hardware Solution to a Software Problem

    Desperate smartphone addicts are turning to a hardware solution to address their compulsive behavior:
    2008: The 3G and my office view.
    A growing contingent is embracing a new crop of minimalist phones, priced around $300 to $350, to wean themselves off premium models that keep them constantly connected.
    I still possess every iPhone I've ever owned, including the iPhone 3G acquired in 2008. Current apps don't work on the 3G, and the 2 MP camera is barely adequate. So I don't have to buy a stripped-down phone; all I need to do is swap out the SIM card from the new XS Max.

    I'm not (yet) downsizing to the 3G or iPhone 4 because my screen time is "only" two hours per day. So you see, I don't have a problem...

    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    The Goose

    Seven years after my last visit, we met for lunch again at the Dutch Goose.

    This wouldn't have happened 30 years ago: the kids from the nearby private school (K-5) took over the joint. The racket was such that neither retirees, grad students, or venture capitalists could hear themselves think.

    I asked one kid if they always came here. "It's a minimum day." Note to self: avoid the place on Tuesdays.

    The Goose has added healthier fare, for example, the turkey burger which one friend had. I went with a hot pastrami. We all had beers, though. There's a limit to how much any of us are willing to change.

    Monday, March 11, 2019

    How to Get Women to Look at You

    Light your dish on fire.

    The Flaming Dragon ($15.95) at Ninja Sushi consisted of
    Crab salad, deep-fried shrimp, spicy tuna, topped with avocado, hamachi, red tuna, ebi shrimp, bake 5 sauces, masago, green onion and served on a flaming plate at your table.
    Although not bad, it looked more spectacular than it tasted.

    Sunday, March 10, 2019

    Was It a Typo?

    In a story about the number of Anglican worshippers by country:
    Unsurprisingly, the country with the largest population of followers is the foundering state, the United Kingdom. The Church of England has an incredible following of 26,000,000 people. In the second position, the Church of Nigeria has about 18,000,000 believers...
    The writer meant founding ("the activity or process of beginning an institution"), not foundering ("To fail utterly; collapse: a marriage that soon foundered").

    Given the sorry condition of Britain's ship of state (Brexit, immigration), however, foundering may be the correct usage.

    Saturday, March 09, 2019

    More Civilized

    Having neglected to renew my passport, I had to get a REAL ID:
    Look for the bear on CA REAL ID's 
    You will need a REAL ID driver license or ID card if you want to continue using your driver license or ID card to do any of the following:
  • Board a domestic flight starting October 1, 2020.
  • Enter secure federal facilities or military bases starting October 1, 2020. (Note: Check with the federal facility/military base before your visit to verify their identification requirements.)
  • Purchase firearms or ammunition. (Note: Check with the firearms dealer you plan to visit to verify their identification requirements)
  • Roseville DMV (Yelp photo)
    Because the nearest available times at Peninsula DMV offices were months away, we scheduled an appointment for today at the Roseville DMV, 20 miles northeast of Sacramento. The Roseville office was spacious--it's less than five years old--and there was no waiting in the appointment line (the other line had 20 people).

    We had brought all the required documents (social security card, birth certificate, two proofs of California residency, e.g., property tax or utility bill or bank statement), so the whole process took 90 minutes.

    On the Coast we like to think of ourselves as the California elite, but frankly, in many ways Valley life is more civilized.

    Friday, March 08, 2019

    Better If We Don't Have To

    It was a successful Hawaii trip in that a number of financial and personal projects were completed. However, the final item, my parents' 2018 tax returns, was ready to be sent in but couldn't, alas, be crossed off the list.

    The problem was not the detail (I reconciled the accounts of their small business), nor tax law changes (they met the test for the Section 199A, aka QBI deduction), but the bane of the accounting profession, missing documents.

    The exact amounts of Mom's retirement income and withheld taxes were known, but we couldn't find the Form 1099-R. TurboTax doesn't require this document for electronic filing, but the electronic transmission was rejected by the IRS because of a data mismatch. (TurboTax advised that it was probably one of the birthdates, but correcting the government database wasn't going to happen quickly.)

    So we are going to do this old school. The returns have been printed and signed and are sitting on the table. Once they receive a duplicate 1099-R, it will be stapled to the returns and mailed in. And if the duplicate doesn't come in, we'll file Form 4852. But it's better if we don't have to.

    Thursday, March 07, 2019

    Not There Yet

    This homeowner's place in the sun is on the verge of
    being overshadowed. Nice trimming, though.
    We've commented often (too often, some say) on changes to my old neighborhood in Honolulu. If the changes--homelessness, parking and traffic, vermin-- are so bad, why don't more people sell? Sure, they may be holding out for a higher price, but I don't think that's the main reason.

    First, there's the emotional attachment: four generations of my family have lived at the same address, and we're typical. Second, there's an embedded cultural principle, common to many Asians, of holding onto land at all costs.

    If the dollar signs become big enough so that it's really stupid not to sell, I suppose the family will. But we're not there yet.

    Wednesday, March 06, 2019

    Lent: Not if It's Too Tough

    Fat Tuesday in Hawaii: malasadas and King Cake
    Because its roots are in the Catholic Church, Episcopalians abide by its strictures unless they're too tough, for example, priestly celibacy or memorizing the catechism (yes, we say we have theological rationalizations for our differences). Another example--the strict rules of fasting and abstinence during Lent, which started today:
    The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste...During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere...

    The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
    Thank goodness I'm not Catholic.

    Tuesday, March 05, 2019

    Momona Pōʻalua, 2019

    Nearly every year we and thousands of others celebrate Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) by eating pancakes. In Hawaii people chow down on malasadas. From 2007:
    Leonard's truck at Koko Head Marina Shopping Center.
    Leonard's [Bakery]'s founders came up with the idea of malasada day several years ago.

    "The reason they ate all the malasadas was it used to be cooked in animal fat," said [manager Darlene] Young. So with the animal fat, they could pig out or eat a lot of meat to substitute before they went into the lent."

    ...They say they make about triple the amount they do on any other day.
    To be fair, every day seems to be Malasada Day in Hawaii.

    Monday, March 04, 2019

    Fixing the Infrastructure

    Hawaiian Electric is replacing its equipment on our street. They cordon off a block then bring in the trucks and cranes. A lot of people don't like the noise, but not me.

    It's rare to see this kind of activity in a residential area, so I watched for 15 minutes while the workers replaced a component. Fixing the infrastructure takes one transformer at a time.

    Sunday, March 03, 2019

    Voice and Hands

    The clock shows that we're near the beginning of the
    church year and about to enter the season of Lent
    In the early 1980's I had to take over a Sunday School class for a couple of months. I dispensed with the scheduled lessons for the 8- and 9- year olds and in the fashion of the times tried to be more "relevant" by discussing current events. I brought out the flip charts and markers (PowerPoint was nearly a decade away) and bulled my way through, ignoring the fidgeting. Thankfully and to the best of my knowledge, no one experienced lasting damage.

    Today's Episcopal lectionary is about Moses' trip up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. I'd heard the passages many times before, so I only half-paid attention.

    However, I sat up when the kids came in and the teacher retold the story in the manner of Godly Play. She used simple props to illustrate the extreme heat and dryness of the desert. The listeners began to appreciate the faith the people had in Moses to venture into such a place for a journey of unknown duration to an uncertain destination.

    A bad teacher armed with the latest tech can't hold a candle to a good teacher who uses nothing more than her voice and hands.

    Saturday, March 02, 2019

    In Our Favor

    Three months ago I said that the office of the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

    I'm glad I had the chance to peruse the exhibit leisurely that December night, because the fencing no longer allows the passerby to do so.

    Tents outside the neighborhood library
    Because of our proximity to downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, the real estate values for small, ramshackle properties approach seven figures. Yet the rats, the homeless encampments, the cars crammed onto sidewalks, and paucity of lighting have made the streets a lot meaner than 30 years ago.

    Unlike San Francisco I haven't seen drug paraphernalia and human waste on the sidewalks, so at least we've got that in our favor.

    A half-block from Dad's house this tent is much larger than the one I saw in December. He must have added on; I wonder if he got a permit?

    Friday, March 01, 2019

    Natural Enemies

    A couple of nearby apartment buildings have messy trash enclosures, and the rats are multiplying. (It's likely that was the birthplace of the rat that took a liking to our car's wiring.)

    Last night I saw a big gray cat sauntering down the middle of the street, its head as if on a swivel looking for prey. Three blocks from the house I saw the black specimen (right), which gazed balefully until I went away.

    I've never much cared for cats, but I'm glad to see them in our neighborhood, the enemy of my enemy and all that. Happy hunting!