Monday, September 30, 2019

In the Cards

Goldman Sachs is one of the premier investment banks on Wall Street. It's been trying to leverage its prestige by entering the consumer space:
I caved to the marketing hype
Goldman’s new consumer bank, which operates under the brand Marcus, has lost $1.3 billion since launching in 2016. It spent heavily to buy startups and cloud-storage space, hire hundreds of techies, and build call centers in Utah and Texas. Loans have gone bad at a higher rate than that of rivals.

and got an Apple Card
Marcus launched without a collections team to chase down delinquent borrowers, resulting in early loan losses, people familiar with the matter said. A credit card developed with Apple Inc. was a coup, but a costly one: Thousands of engineers across Goldman were diverted to finish it in time for an August debut, delaying other projects.

Apple ads for the card carried the phrase: “Designed by Apple, not a bank”—a line that didn’t appear in a giant banner ad in Goldman’s lobby this fall.
It's easier for an upscale line to go down-market than the reverse. The risk is watering down the brand, and a failure in execution could tarnish Goldman's name. Even if the Apple Card succeeds, the cultural changes wrought from managing millions of retail accounts might prove too much for the venerable investment bank, and it wouldn't be surprising if a spin-off or even a divestiture is in the cards.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Filling a Need

On the Sandwiches on Sunday menu today, like last March, was chicken and rice. Within that description the preparers had broad latitude. Those who were pressed for time picked up rotisserie chicken from Safeway or Costco. Others spent hours in the kitchen. I was in the latter group.

On Thursday I bought 10 pounds of drumsticks--about 30--from Costco for $12.77 and marinated them in soy sauce and garlic.

The water will be absorbed by the rice
On Sunday morning I spread 10 cups of washed rice into a large roasting pan and poured over a mixture of 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, water, and grilled onions. Next I browned the drumsticks and covered the pan with foil.

Into the oven for two hours at 325 degrees on timer, et voila! Baked chicken and rice. (The dish can sit in the cooling oven for a couple of hours; it won't overcook.)

The cost of all the ingredients was less than $20, under $1 a serving. The 60 people in line finished everything. As long as there's a need--we've been doing this for 16 years--we'll keep coming back.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Spam Hypothesis

The pantry, like my inbox, overflows with spam. Lately I've been trying to live healthier, which means eating less meat. Spam, which is loaded with preservatives and comes from a can, seems to be the antithesis of healthy food. Consequently I haven't consumed any Spam inventory, and I had to pass up the semi-annual sale at Costco.

In my quiet moments, though, I wonder if we have it all wrong. Products like Spam and Coca Cola have a distant expiration date. Could it be that their preservatives have the same effect on living tissue?

Could it be that a diet of Spam and Coke will extend life? Even if that turns out not to be the case, there's the making of a best seller here...

Friday, September 27, 2019

Global Warming: The Real Fairy Tale

China's CO2 emissions are 2x the U.S. (visual capitalist)
Earlier this week 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg gave an impassioned speech about climate change to the United Nations.
You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words and yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
A cursory look at the data shows that China's CO2 production, nearly double that of the U.S., is increasing while in the U.S. it’s going down.

India, with half the emissions and 4x the population of the U.S., is on an even steeper trajectory. The math is simple but daunting; if India's carbon emissions rise to 8 tons per person per year (half the U.S. level) India's total annual CO2 will be roughly equal to China's. In India today many millions are without running water and basic sanitation.

With all due respect, Ms. Thunberg, improving the economies of the two Asian giants to a basic health and welfare standard without increasing carbon output is the real fairy tale.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Trash: We Must Redouble Our Efforts

Sometimes a stiff breeze lifts rubbish from a receptacle or blows a paper cup from someone's hand, but I have never seen anyone deliberately litter.

(The collection system isn't perfect; that's why there was the annual California Coastal Cleanup last Saturday. Thankfully, according to local politicians, not a single toxic needle of the unaccounted-for millions gets washed into the Bay.)

2019 Coastal Cleanup (Chronicle photo)
In the fast-food restaurants where plastic is still allowed I always take advantage of this legal exemption, in this instance at Wendy's. The lid, cup, and straw are the perfect drink delivery system: minimized spilling, water resistant, disposable, and cheap.

At home I placed them in the blue recycling container as I have for the past 20 years. Nevertheless, some trash still leaks through.

We, the people, continue to disappoint our leaders. We must redouble our efforts!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

ESG: Ripe for Abuse

Exxon Mobil plant (WSJ photo)
If you have not been keeping up with the latest corporate trends, dear reader, you may not know the letters "ESG" (environmental, social, and governance). Proponents say that ESG measures the degree to which companies subscribe to the values of a significant sub-set of the investing public, i.e., those for whom environmental, social, and/or governance issues are important.

Critics argue that this is another attempt to bend corporations to the will of activists who have not achieved their objectives through the political and legal systems.

What are the details of ESG reporting? Investopedia: [bold added]
Environmental criteria may include a company’s energy use, waste, pollution, natural resource conservation, and treatment of animals. The criteria can also be used in evaluating any environmental risks a company might face and how the company is managing those risks. For example, are there issues related to its ownership of contaminated land, its disposal of hazardous waste, its management of toxic emissions, or its compliance with government environmental regulations?

Social criteria look at the company’s business relationships. Does it work with suppliers that hold the same values as it claims to hold? Does the company donate a percentage of its profits to the local community or encourage employees to perform volunteer work there? Do the company’s working conditions show a high regard for its employees’ health and safety? Are other stakeholders’ interests taken into account?

With regard to governance, investors may want to know that a company uses accurate and transparent accounting methods, and that stockholders are given an opportunity to vote on important issues. They may also want assurances that companies avoid conflicts of interest in their choice of board members, don't use political contributions to obtain unduly favorable treatment and, of course, don't engage in illegal practices.
In the opinion of your humble blogger, ESG is ripe for confusion, if not abuse:
1) Who decides what the measurements are, and who measures them?
2) The three categories have only a tangential relationship: dividing the CEO and the Board Chairman into two separate positions (good governance) has little to do with water usage (environmental impact).
3) Once a business starts measuring the data, activists will never be satisfied, because, for example, carbon emissions and plastics usage can not be reduced to zero.
4) In the age of social media, companies will make themselves even more vulnerable to judgment-by-bullhorn. There is enough headline risk already.
5) ESG disclosures will be expensive, because it's unlikely that a business will have in-house expertise on all the topics. Small businesses will be especially affected.

Nevertheless, not paying attention to ESG makes it more likely that a company's stock price will suffer:
while companies that don’t disclose environmental and social data may not always lose investors, they are more often being passed over by new investors, in favor of firms with better disclosure practices, ESG investors say.

pressure on companies for nonfinancial disclosure is growing. A group of 88 investors with nearly $10 trillion in assets, including HSBC Global Asset Management and the Washington State Investment Board, sent standardized environmental disclosure forms—requesting information related to issues such as carbon dioxide emissions, use of fresh water and deforestation—to many of the world’s biggest companies in February and followed up with officials of companies that hadn’t responded by June. Another group, the Workforce Disclosure Initiative, a coalition of investors with more than $13 trillion in assets under management, sent a letter to 750 companies in July asking for more information on how they manage their staff and workers in supply chains; 90 companies have provided the requested information.
I'll believe that the ESG movement is little more than a front for anti-capitalists when the same reporting is demanded of government agencies, some of which affect our lives more than any single company.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Even Hans Brinker Won't Be Enough

Back when heroes didn't have super-powers, a favorite children's story was about the little Dutch boy, Hans Brinker, who saved the town by putting his finger in the dike. Nowadays saving the Netherlands from rising seas involves expert engineering and vast expenditure of resources.

Headline: Dutch reinvent critical dike as seas rise, climate changes
The Afsluitdijk is 20 miles
long. (Wikipedia)
Engineers are strengthening the Afsluitdijk, including laying thousands of custom-made concrete blocks and raising parts of it....Engineers built a scale model of a cross section of the Afsluitdijk in the tank and are pounding it with waves that they say should occur only once every 10,000 years. The goal is to make sure the new design can survive the destructive power of such a storm.

The government has earmarked nearly $20 billion to fund such projects for the period from 2020-2033.
$20 billion is the equivalent of $460 billion to the United States, which has an economy 23 times the size of the Netherlands. The Dutch are devoting a huge portion of their resources to defenses against rising seas; one doesn’t need to buy into all the tenets of climate change to take action when one’s survival is at stake.

Monday, September 23, 2019

San Francisco: the High and the Low

Unfortunately the "high" is nothing to be proud of. Per the San Francisco Chronicle (bold added):
Van window bye-bye (Chronicle)
San Francisco has by far the highest property crime rate in California, with more than twice the number of reported thefts per capita than Los Angeles or Santa Clara counties, according to a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

And when it comes to arrests, San Francisco is 50th out of the state’s 58 counties.

Burlingame Apple Store (KTVU)
"Apple workers and security guards
are instructed not to engage"
One likely reason is the passage of Proposition 47, "a voter-approved measure that dropped property crimes of less than $950 in value to a misdemeanor that carries little if any jail time." California released many of its so-called "non-violent" criminals, and the consequences were what any pragmatic person might expect; criminal rings have organized to smash-and-grab cars and retail outlets (Apple Stores, which have desirable products under $1,000, are particularly vulnerable.)

And what do the enlightened progressives who run San Francisco suggest? Here's what the two candidates for San Francisco District 5 Supervisor have to say: [bold added]
[Dean] Preston would take a softer approach: enlisting a “non-police property crimes unit” to patrol the streets, unarmed. And how, we asked, would that stop car break-ins? The patrols would ask the thieves to stop.

[Vallie] Brown noted that many of the break-ins are being conducted by criminal rings. “I wouldn’t have someone say anything to them,” she said.
From one year ago: We keep voting them in, so I guess we're getting the government we deserve.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Poor Little Lambs Who Have Lost Their Way

Natalia Dashan (B.S. 2016) tries to put her finger on The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech. Excerpts: [bold added]
an administration and student body coordinated around an ideology that continually mutated to ensure moral entrepreneurship and a continued supply of purges, as new forms of human behavior or commonplace descriptors became off-limits. Some of this energy was genuine, some cynical...

It is not easy to stay up-to-date with the new, ever-more-complex rules about what you are allowed to say to qualify as the bare minimum of sociable and sane. It is cognitively and socially demanding. I had to not just study psychology and computer science, but I had to stay up-to-date with the latest PhD-level critical theory just to have conversations.

I had to debate with people why it is not racist that my Russian parents actually liked the word “Master.” That they liked that Yale was drawing from a rich, centuries-long tradition. “Master” connotes mastery of a subject. It connotes responsibilities and a cultural aesthetic far beyond what “head of college” connotes.

If words like “Master” are deemed offensive based on questionable linguistic or historical standards, then this means other words and phrases can become offensive at a moment’s notice. Under these rules, only people in the upper ranks who receive constant updates can learn what is acceptable. Everybody else will be left behind.

The people best positioned for this are professors at elite universities. They are ingrained in the culture that makes up these social rules. They get weekly or even daily updates, but even they cannot keep up.
Gutenberg Bible, Beinecke Library, Yale
During the early Middle Ages literacy rates were low, and educated Catholic priests often had a local monopoly on knowledge. The invention of the printing press, iconically represented by the Gutenberg Bible, kick-started literacy among non-clerics. Knowledge was no longer confined to a chosen few.

Whether the phenomenon Ms. Dashan describes is due to the decline in the church, the family, or in general the authoritativeness of the Western canon, today the ramparts of high culture and education have been co-opted by a caste whose scrolls are impenetrable to everyone but themselves.

However, your humble blogger is confident that this phenomenon, too, shall pass. The latter-day printing press, the Internet, is already beginning to expose the new clerics' ideological inconsistencies and individual moral failings.

When Yale and other colleges start to remember what made them elite in the first place, I'll start donating again.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Here's an Exception

White privilege is bad unless it's angry white girl privilege.

Greta Thurnberg's UN Climate Speech (Slate)
SF Demonstration on Climate
Change in March

Friday, September 20, 2019

Berkeley Enforces the Law

Blowing through a stop in Berkeley (Chron)
Your humble blogger only rides a bicycle for weekend recreation, but even that limited experience enables me to understand why serious riders, including those who ride bikes for a living or use them to commute, hate to stop. A bicyclist expends some effort to build a full head of steam, wastes that effort by coming to a stop, and then has to start all over. Also, everyone has grown accustomed to cars' acceleration, and by comparison bicycle acceleration after a stop takes excruciatingly long.

Bicyclists--though not everyone, just to be clear--have long operated under the belief that the rules don't apply to them, for example, that they can ignore stop signs and stop lights if there are no cars, or even if cars are slow--often because of their presence! (Some states now allow bicyclists to yield at stop signs.)

However, the increasing crowdedness of our streets has made it more important that everyone follows the rules that apply to them, for example, pedestrians must use crosswalks and only when the "walk" signal is on, cars must come to a complete stop and proceed with caution when making a right turn on red, etc.

Now the City of Berkeley is strictly enforcing the bicycle laws:
Berkeley has taken a different approach to traffic safety: penalties of more than $200 for cyclists who roll through stop signs.

The enforcement campaign, carried out by police officers who patrol the city’s quiet bicycle boulevards on motorcycles, has caused anger to spill from Twitter into City Hall.

Police say they are trying to prevent collisions and fulfill the requirements of a $250,000 state grant to promote good behavior on roadways.
The progressive nanny-staters who are fond of passing laws--no plastic straws! no free grocery bags! penalties for not sorting trash!--to regulate everyone's behavior don't like it when they have to follow the law.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Needling the Opposition

(Photo from ZeroHedge)
San Francisco needle exchange programs--both non-profit and government-sponsored--have been in existence for nearly 30 years. While probably preventing disease, the costs are significant: [bold added]
in 2018, the program distributed 5.8 million syringes and collected 3.8 million, an improved collection rate of about 65 percent. There was a significant uptick in dropoff of needles at kiosks which increased to 241,080 in 2018, a more than 300 percent increase from the 59,000 in 2017.
An unaccounted-for two million syringes with drug residue are an environmental disaster, whether they end up on the streets, on playground and parks, in landfill, or are swept into the Bay.

President Trump entered the fray by announcing that the EPA will cite San Francisco for violations because of needles flowing into the ocean. Predictably, San Francisco politicians and "experts" denounced the President by asserting that San Francisco sewers don't allow needles to get through.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city has a combined sewer system that “ensures that all debris that flow into storm drains are filtered out at the city’s wastewater treatment plants.” She called Trump’s remarks “ridiculous assertions.”

“No debris flow out into the bay or the ocean,” Breed said.
The whole premise behind the ban on plastic straws was that the straws end up in the Pacific Ocean, hurting ocean wildlife.

It's a very strange system that catches all the needles but not all the straws.

Update (9/21/2019) -- once again Willie Brown, tongue firmly in cheek, has the final word:
But, of course, Trump overplayed his hand by falsely claiming drug needles on San Francisco streets are washing into the ocean. Rather than having to deal with a national focus on the city’s homelessness failures, local officials got to turn the story around as just another Trump lie. And they were right, of course. The needles don’t wash into the ocean.

They end up on sidewalks and in parks.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Easy to Fool

Today I drove a 97-year-old lady to Palo Alto for an outpatient procedure. She has no relatives in the area, and remarkably she lives alone, without assistance, on the second floor in a condominium complex. She didn't want to pay $55 each way for a van service, and, after being contacted by a mutual acquaintance, I didn't have an excuse to say no.

A task for burly men and the right equipment
The afternoon was far from stress-free: 1) traffic on the Bayshore Freeway was moderate, but in Palo Alto it was murder; 2) the maps app kept guiding me to the wrong building; 3) another car scraped ours in a parking lot while we were asking for directions--I'd have let it go but the other was a late model Camry, so we exchanged information by the book; 4) lacking a disability placard, walker, or wheelchair she could barely limp the distance to the front door; 5) the procedure and tests were inconclusive, so she has to return next month after the biopsy results.

Adding to her agitation was that she had locked herself out of her condo. The spare key was with a relative, two hours away. One ray of hope was that her balcony was unlocked.

Maybe I could go home and get a ladder? Nope, just one glimpse showed we needed professional help.

And so it was that I found myself at the Foster City Police Department explaining our predicament. The after-hours dispatcher totally believed me--I wore my most open, trustworthy expression--and a fire truck with three burly men solved the problem in less than 10 minutes by climbing to the balcony and unlocking the front door.

After I walked her safely upstairs, my new friend asked how I could remain calm throughout the afternoon. When one's interlocutor has poor eyesight and hearing, she's easy to fool.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Green Privilege

California trumpets its leadership on global warming climate change by pointing to the decline in carbon emissions over time. The analysis, however, is both strange and strained: [bold added]
2018 Mendocino fire: no CO2 to count
here, please move along (Chron photo)
The state does not include every source of gases that contribute to climate change when measuring its progress against the 2020 goal of 431 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — or its even more ambitious 2030 target.

Significantly, California does not factor in emissions from wildfires, even though trees release carbon dioxide when they burn and people often provide the first spark. Out-of-state and international air travel is another area that is excluded, according to the California Air Resources Board.

There are reasons for these omissions: California officials use international standards that track the direct results of humans burning fossil fuels and other such activity within the boundaries of the state.

But the numbers left out of the state’s calculations are staggering. Last year alone, wildfires released 45.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, according to state estimates. That’s more than half as much as the state’s industrial sector emits in a typical year.

If California factored wildfire estimates into its final count for 2017, the last year the state tallied all of its greenhouse gas emissions, the state would have seen overall emissions rise, not fall.
The one-party state first makes the rules, then uses them to judge others.

Now I'm feeling especially virtuous. Excluding my five trips to Hawaii (so far) this year, my carbon tracker says that I'm reducing California's carbon footprint!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Crooked Solution

Lombard St. (Chronicle photos)
For decades Lombard St. ("the crookedest street in the world") has been a San Francisco tourist attraction. The street has become so congested with cars that the City will implement a pilot reservation system at $5 per car. One problem: Gavin Newsom may not sign the proposed bill.
Local governments, however, cannot charge people to use a public road without state approval.
Your humble blogger does feel sorry for the homeowners who must put up with the sightseers.

(Lombard St. is part of my 1-day SF quickie tour.) However, a successful implementation ("The estimated toll revenue would be $2.1 million a year") will tempt San Francisco politicians to tax other venues. Why not have a car reservation system for Coit Tower, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, or Chinatown? Suffering Californians by many measures pay the most taxes and fees, but politicians will always come up with reasons to tax us more.

There's no need to give them another revenue source. Here's hoping that Governor Newsom doesn't sign the bill.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Lux et Veritas

Like the missionaries of yore, the church held a commissioning ceremony for the pre-school and Sunday School teachers as they began the school year.

May God guide them and protect them as they venture into hostile territory....

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Slicing It Thin

Urology patient's nightmare
Amazon sells a ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors for $99, but a co-worker needed one the next day.

Fortunately a party supply store in San Francisco had one that we could rent for three (3) days at $45.

So off to SF on Thursday, the Friday event came off without a stitch hitch, then back to SF on Saturday to return the item.

That was cutting it close.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Science Says Settle In

Research has proved not only what I believe, but what I want to believe; naps improve heart health. [bold added]
(Graphic from CBS News)
researchers found that Swiss adults who took one or two daytime naps per week had a lower risk of heart problems, including heart disease and strokes, than non-nappers....Almost 3,500 Swiss adults ages 35 to 75 took part in the study. They provided researchers information about their napping habits, nighttime sleep, demographics and lifestyle information, and underwent a range of medical tests meant to assess their overall health....

During up to eight years of follow-up, 155 people had a heart problem. The researchers found that people who took one or two daytime naps per week had a lower risk of cardiovascular issues than non-nappers, even after adjusting for excessive daytime sleepiness (which can be a symptom of underlying health issues), nighttime sleep duration and demographic and lifestyle factors. The connection between more frequent naps and heart health was not as strong.

These short snoozes could be a valuable way to relieve stress and compensate for inadequate sleep at night, thereby protecting heart health, the paper says. Sleep deprivation is a known risk factor for conditions including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and mental distress, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So naps could help the roughly one-third of Americans who don’t get the recommended minimum seven hours of rest per night.
However, more research is needed on your humble blogger's cohort:
The new study did find an exception for adults older than 65. They did not see heart-health benefits associated with occasional napping, perhaps because they tend to have more health problems and nap for longer amounts of time than younger adults, according to the study.
We shall rest until we find out more!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Aloha Also Means 'Til We Meet Again

Maybe next time.
We would have stayed longer, but some of us had to get back to work.

Also, having too much fun didn't seem appropriate. It's schizophrenic to embark on a multi-mood holiday, i.e., participate in a memorial service and party at the same time.

We walked around Waikiki for the evening constitutional but didn't stop anywhere. When I return in October, that will change.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Living with No Resolution

9/11 has been called this generation's Pearl Harbor, but unlike World War II the problem wasn't mostly resolved in 3½ years. 18 years later the threats are still active, and we continue to wait in security lines at airports. Whatever anxiety the rest of us feel, however, pales before that of New York City inhabitants:
9/11 Memorial (Architectural Digest)
“What we’ve seen lately, is an unusual amount of propaganda directed at attacks on U.S. soil and an unusual amount of that pointing to New York as a target,” said John Miller, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism...

Rita Katz, the director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors and tracks radical groups online, said New York City remains a top target for terrorists because it “embodies American culture, making it a highly symbolic location.”

The NYPD operates the largest counterterrorism apparatus of any law enforcement agency in the U.S., with hundreds of staff officers and analysts and extensive relationships with outside intelligence agencies.
Like West Coasters who live on a fault line, New Yorkers have learned to live with the threat of a sudden turn for the worse.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

You Are What You Eat

A man and a woman ordered breakfast at a Honolulu restaurant. Who ordered the "Waffard"--waffles, custard, berries--and who ordered the pork belly, eggs, and fried rice? (Neither is on a diet, obviously). The gender stereotypes regarding food are so strong that it should take only a second to answer.

Included among the differences between men and women is what each chooses to eat.
Men eat more meat and bread, while women consume more fruit, yogurt and diet soda. There are also gender differences in eating styles. Women take smaller bites and take longer to eat than men.
While I have ordered fish while my favorite dinner companion slices into prime rib, with us the stereotype generally holds.

I enjoyed the pork belly on last year's visit to Liliha Bakery, and I ordered it again.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Morimoto Asia, Waikiki

Tuna pizza appetizer
Though the trip to Hawaii was chock-full with family obligations, there was still time for fun. Friends said they "owed" us dinner--though truthfully we had lost track and weren't sure whose turn it was--and we headed for Morimoto Asia, a Waikiki restaurant that we would never have gone to on our own.

Morimoto Asia is part of Iron Chef Masahuru Morimoto's expanding culinary empire. The cuisine is Asian fusion, and sure enough the beef, shrimp, fish and fried rice dishes were fundamentally Asian but with European or tropical overtones. Our hostess did all the ordering, and we shared the dishes family-style.

The conversation with fellow baby-boomers extended to the closing hours, as we compared notes about parents who have lived a blessedly long life, and adult children who are not as self-sufficient as we were ourselves, or mis-remembered ourselves. We resolved to keep our bodies and minds healthy as long as we could to make a positive contribution to the lives of our children and possible grandchildren.

Working on that resolution will have to start tomorrow. The chocolate sphere takes precedence.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The Narrow Path

Encampment by the neighborhood library.
At yesterday's memorial service the Gospel reading was the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, whom Jesus held up as virtuous despite the Samaritan's low social status.

Mom chose the passage because of my father's lifetime of service to the church and the Shriners. Dad's generosity did not blind him to the real world. He erected thick iron gates and installed 3rd-party security systems to protect his property and tenants from the homeless who roam the neighborhood.

Wariness and caution have always been our default states, and I'm finding with age that I have to work harder at being open and trusting. My father, even at the age of 94, could walk the narrow path.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

An Afternoon Both Sad and Joyful

People say it gets easier, which I suppose is true because the world demands attention, breaking up the wallowing. One must continue to work, pay the bills, shop, exercise, tend to the house and garden, and do the myriad things one has to do to live. This week, however, the emotions returned because the focus was on Dad.

A little over two months after he passed away, we held Dad's memorial service. After a one-hour visitation there was, in accordance with his wishes, the 15-minute Masonic ritual that honored his 54 years in the Freemasons and Shriners. Then came the Episcopal service of Holy Communion, the presentation of the flag by the honor guard, and the committal of his urn to the church's columbarium.

At the reception in the Parish Hall were relatives I hadn't seen in decades. I was happy to greet Dad's friends, some of whom I frankly thought were dead.

I was especially happy and proud of Mom, who engaged with everyone through the long afternoon.

I think Dad liked how it all turned out.

(Eulogy in written form after the break.)

Friday, September 06, 2019

Not Impartial

The flagship branch of the Honolulu Coffee Company at Kalakaua and Kapiolani is a convenient quarter-mile walk from my parents' house. (Or one can drive...there's ample free parking, a distinguishing feature in congested Honolulu.)

At HCC the walls are plastered with information about coffee--its history, sourcing, roasting, and brewing. The owners' love of the business is shared by the employees, who eagerly explain the workings of the roasting equipment in the center of the room.

Sure, the Honolulu Coffee Company is more expensive than Starbucks, but the paneled room is pleasantly spacious, and the WiFi is clear.

I'm not impartial; my nephew works here and this is one of Dad's favorite places. Perhaps I should have led with that?

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Makiki Ditch

The bridge over the Makiki Ditch, according to the inscription, was built in 1931. It spans just a few feet over Kapiolani Boulevard next to the intersection of Kapiolani and Kalakaua.

The sign is weatherbeaten, but the sturdy sidewalk feels stable, a testimony to the soundness of early 20th-century engineering.

Yes, this is another water source for the Ala Wai Canal (see yesterday's post below), but this blog isn't, so I'll stop now.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

One Man's Drainage is Another Man's Sustenance

Not Venice: no gondolas or o sole mio's
On the mauka (mountain-facing) side of Kapiolani Boulevard are canals that disappear beneath the streets and the high-rise condos.

The water enters the underground storm drainage system that empties into the Ala Wai Canal, without which none of this concrete-in-paradise wonderland would exist.

The ancient Hawaiians also built a complex drainage system, not to dump water as efficiently as possible into the ocean but to service agricultural needs.
Once upon a time, the entirety of Hawaii’s coastal plains was covered in terraced plots of taro, a staple of the Hawaiian diet and a sacred plant throughout Polynesian culture.

Auwai crisscrossed the landscape. Water flowed from one patch to the next before returning, filtered, to the fish and salt ponds below.
We can appreciate, even extol, the benefits of progress while mourning what has been lost.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

O, the Fecundity Part 2

Walking around the neighborhood, I came across an apartment building whose owner hasn't trimmed around his tree. (Though it's on the street side of the sidewalk, the property owner is responsible). The weeds were six feet high. Thirty bucks to a kid with a weed-whacker should take care of the problem.

In related news I walked around my parents' property and found that the Roundup applied last month did the trick. A little weedkiller now prevents an expensive asphalt repair later, not as memorable as "a stitch in time saves nine" but true, nonetheless.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Chilly Reception

Refrigerators and air-conditioners are targets of climate-change activists:
Window air conditioners in Brooklyn (CNBC)
CFCs were replaced by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), compounds that may not harm the ozone layer, but have proven to be powerful greenhouse gases with remarkable heat-trapping capability. Since 1990, according to the EPA, there has a 258 percent increase in HFC emissions.

"For perspective, 16 ounces of HFC 404a [a type of HFC that doesn’t deplete the ozone] equates to burning approximately 4.5 barrels of oil from a climate perspective.”
On the surface, sweating a little more during the summer or using the refrigerator less seems like a small price to pay to save coastal denizens from rising seas.

Before we start junking our Frigidaires, however, we should understand that refrigeration is an under-appreciated aspect of the Industrial Revolution. It is not an exaggeration to say that refrigeration changed the landscape of America. Wikipedia: [bold added]
BNSF refrigerated boxcar
The introduction of refrigerated rail cars contributed to the westward expansion of the United States, allowing settlement in areas that were not on main transport channels such as rivers, harbors, or valley trails. Settlements were also developing in infertile parts of the country, filled with newly discovered natural resources.

These new settlement patterns sparked the building of large cities which are able to thrive in areas that were otherwise thought to be inhospitable, such as Houston, Texas, and Las Vegas, Nevada. In most developed countries, cities are heavily dependent upon refrigeration in supermarkets, in order to obtain their food for daily consumption.
Refrigerated transportation is not only essential to the survival of large inland cities like Houston, Las Vegas, or Phoenix but also to the deliveries of sushi and fresh organic produce to the coasts.

When New Yorkers and Californians quit shopping at Whole Foods and start eating out of cans--all to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, of course--then we'll know they're serious.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

No Solace

It's just me, but a hammer-and-sickle crucifix is
not a crucifix (WSJ photo)
For centuries the Church, in order to survive, has accommodated itself to tyrants. However, accommodation is futile in the case of Marxists, who destroy all rival ideologies and faiths once they achieve power: [bold added]
Religion may show man’s longing for a better existence, Marx argued, but it also prevents that dream from becoming reality.

Communist regimes put Marx’s principles into practice, starting with the first Marxist state. Between 1917 and 1921, the Soviet Union destroyed nearly 600 Russian Orthodox monasteries and convents. The leaders of the first communist country oversaw the killing of at least 300 Orthodox clergy. This bloodbath eventually became Soviet policy. The Eighth Party Congress decreed in 1920 that “the Party aims at the complete destruction of links between the exploiting classes and . . . religious propaganda, while assisting the actual liberation of the working masses from religious prejudices.”

The scholar Todd M. Johnson estimates that Soviet authorities sent 15 million Christians to their deaths in prison camps between 1921 and 1950. A further five million Christians perished in the following 30 years. The Soviet Union also targeted Muslim communities for mass deportation, killing, for example, as many as 46% of Crimean Tatars. Thousands of Buddhist monks also died at Soviet gunpoint. Where religion survived in the U.S.S.R., it did so secretly—or under the watchful eye and controlling hand of the state.

Central and Eastern European communist states also suppressed religion. Perhaps best known are the Polish communist attacks on the Catholic-driven Solidarity movement in the 1980s. Today North Korea reserves some of its harshest treatment for those found in possession of Christian Bibles. In Venezuela and Nicaragua, satellites of communist Cuba, Christian communities are viewed as a threat to the dictatorships and have been targeted for punishment.

Communist China is today’s worst offender. Since its founding, the People’s Republic of China has tried to control or eradicate every religion within its borders.
The social-justice wing of the Church allies itself with progressives who will kick it to the curb once the latter are in charge. For example, it doesn't take much imagination to envision what will ensue when the wealth-tax movement starts eyeing beautiful church properties in the Bay Area. Or when a priest is "asked" to provide confessional evidence against an enemy of the state.

But there's no solace in I-told-you-so's.