Saturday, November 30, 2019

Blown Away

Today's fishwrap
The winter storm has brought blessed relief, not only from worries about drought but the incessant coverage of climate change.

Headline: San Francisco ties cold record as Bay Area freezes [bold added]
Tahoe this week (Chron photo). Crazy, because
snowfalls are a thing of the past.
The high temperature in the city on Thursday was forty-eight degrees. That tied a record high temperature for the coldest date for San Francisco in the month of November. That record had stood unchallenged since November 27th, 1896, when it last happened.
San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day set a cold temperature record not seen during the 20th century. It's strange how that happened, given all the reports that it's hotter than it's ever been.

The experts tell us that it's going to be a wet, chilly December.
The first of the storms, considered part of an “atmospheric river,” is expected to arrive Saturday with breezy winds in the morning and light rain after noon. Rains will pick up in the early evening before soaking the Bay Area and the northern part of the state overnight. The downpour could continue through Tuesday night with a slight break until Thursday morning, when the next storm is expected to arrive.

“For the average person, it’s just going to seem like it’s raining all the time,” said Drew Peterson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Monterey. “A lot of rain’s coming.”
I just don't see why a little cold and wet weather stopped the news about the existential threat to the world.

I guess I'll have to wait for the first hot day in 2020 for the stories to resume about how to save ourselves.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Cold-Blooded (Un) Realism

The statues of Beniamino Bufano (1890-1970) are scattered around Hillsdale mall.

I can usually identify the animals they represent, but I had trouble with this one.

Care to try your luck, dear reader?

(Answer after the break).

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving, 2019

I've been reading the Wall Street Journal since 1973. It has run the following Thanksgiving posts since 1961.

The language of the 17th century is from a distant, unfamiliar perspective, but so to a lesser extent is the essay from a mere half-century ago.
The Desolate Wilderness

(WSJ image)
Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

And the Fair Land

(Getty image via WSJ)
Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.

And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.

So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.

For the traveler, as travelers have been always, is as much questioned as questioning. And for all the abundance he sees, he finds the questions put to him ask where men may repair for succor from the troubles that beset them.

His countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure. Their spirits are not quieted by the thought that the good and pleasant bounty that surrounds them can be destroyed in an instant by a single bomb. Yet they find no escape, for their survival and comfort now depend on unpredictable strangers in far-off corners of the globe.

How can they turn from melancholy when at home they see young arrayed against old, black against white, neighbor against neighbor, so that they stand in peril of social discord. Or not despair when they see that the cities and countryside are in need of repair, yet find themselves threatened by scarcities of the resources that sustain their way of life. Or when, in the face of these challenges, they turn for leadership to men in high places—only to find those men as frail as any others.

So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?

Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere—in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Bowing Was Inevitable

Kippy Marks, 52, is a self-taught violinist who's so talented that he doesn't need to play for his supper on the sidewalks of San Francisco. day, in the fourth grade, his true calling came to light. He was giving a presentation to his class when the school orchestra walked in...

“I just watched the body mechanics of the man playing violin and saw the triangular shape he made with his body, and I knew I could do that too,” Marks said....“In that moment I knew that all I wanted to do was play the violin for the rest of my life,” Marks said.

When he arrived in San Francisco, he knew he wanted to get involved in the gay community. He began meeting charity groups and donating his time as a volunteer. After people heard his talents, he started getting gigs. He no longer needed to play in BART stations and began performing throughout the city, at farmers’ markets, corporate events and restaurants.
Black, gay, and never having taken a lesson, Kippy Marks overcame astronomical odds to make a living playing the violin "in 'the most expensive city in the world.'"

There have been so many feel-bad stories about San Francisco that it's nice to come across one that makes us feel good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Caution: May be Too Edgy for Some

In a recent Hallmark movie the brutal business practices of a rival are revealed. Actress Ali Liebert's horrified expression tells you all you need to know. Who says Hallmark doesn't make realistic movies?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Familiarity Breeds Tolerance

According to Yale political scientist Dennis Huber, communities which are directly affected by immigration do not display an increase in anti-immigrant attitudes.
Dennis Huber
A narrative arose after the 2016 U.S. presidential election that Trump had used his anti-immigration platform to exploit people’s fears over immigrants moving into their neighborhoods.

To test the narrative, the researchers needed to drill down to the community level. They acquired voting-precinct data, which offer a more precise measure of people’s local experiences than county-level data, Huber said. They combined the precinct data with demographic data from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey, which provides estimates of population changes...

They chose to study the key battleground states of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Georgia and Nevada were selected because their populations have diversified in recent years. Washington state was studied because it is less diverse and lacks significant policy conflict over immigration, Huber said.

While the study shows that people living in increasingly diverse communities aren’t as a result driven to support anti-immigrant candidates, he said, it does not challenge the idea that people are upset by demographic changes happening in the United States.

“There are people who are very upset by increasing diversity and immigration,” he said. “They just don’t appear to be living in places experiencing an increase in immigration. It does not appear to be a story about local contact.”

1) Immigration advocates consistently conflate anti-illegal immigration with anti-immigration--in my view to tar opponents of illegal immigration as racist and xenophobic. (Your humble blogger values the rule of law higher than any specific policy and also wants more legal immigration.) I didn't see anything in the article that said the researchers distinguished the two points of view.

2) I also hope the researchers performed the basic step of excluding recent immigrants from the population who gave feedback. After all, we are trying to measure the politics of those already in place, right?

3) The study's purported result--those most upset by immigration do not have much personal experience with it themselves--is consistent with behavior of activists in other areas. For example, California environmentalists are much more opposed to fracking in North Dakota or drilling in Alaska than the people who live there.

4) The study's purported result also is consistent with a hoary principle: it's less likely that people will hate groups with whom they've had personal contact. We've seen how stereotypes melt away (not all the time, though) when people interact with others of different races, religions, cultures, and sexual orientation. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt but tolerance.

(Image from EHS Daily Advisor)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Something to Do With It

It was coincidental but thematically appropriate that our high school seniors spoke from the pulpit on Thanksgiving Sunday.

Landon talked about his lifelong battle with food allergies and his gratitude for the support from his family and doctors. He recounted how he was able to help a friend who had an anaphylactic shock while away on a trip.

Lydia first spoke about the little things she was grateful for--the paper to write her speech!--and then moved on to weightier matters, like how gratitude for her life led to her multi-year commitment to alleviating destitution in Latin America.

Young people experience emotional highs and lows, but when they are raised with an attitude of gratitude there's much less chance that bitterness and resentment will dominate their waking moments. I am sure that growing up in the church had something to do with it.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Still Funny After All These Years

One of his most famous cartoons
Gahan Wilson, 89, died on Thursday. In the 1970's and 1980's he was at the top of the cartoon profession, on par with Gary Larson (The Far Side), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), and Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury).

His drawings and humor were distinctive; he would take an ordinary subject--driving a car, a grandmother in her living room--and insert a macabre and humorous twist. Unlike other cartoonists who often mail it in, Gahan Wilson's single-panel creations were always imaginative.

After learning about his passing, I perused a couple of volumes that I had not looked at this century (!). They were still funny after all these years.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Real Estate: A Product We Would Consider

In paying for one's personal residence the choice has been between renting or buying. Now we can add a third option: renting and buying.

In new condo developments [bold added]
entire floors are devoted to amenities—including guest suites—that are designed to accommodate owners when they host gatherings and entertain. The suites give the buyers the ability to buy an apartment with fewer bedrooms, knowing that they can reserve a suite when company comes. More important, developers say, is that separate guest suites let homeowners enjoy their private space while eliminating the headaches of cooking, cleaning and laundry that come with hosting.
In one Manhattan tower, not having to buy an extra bedroom knocks "$1 million to $1.4 million" off the purchase price. At $300 per night for a guest suite at the tower, the owner would need to host visitors for half a year before his outlay equalled the annual 4% mortgage payment on an incremental $1 million for a bedroom.

(Image from
This is not a new idea--one could not always house out-of-towners in one's home, so renting a hotel room was a solution. The innovation is that guests are staying right next door, and the daily rent is a bargain compared to a hotel with similar amenities.

And we shouldn't ignore the effect of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act, which removed the Federal tax deduction for most of the interest and property taxes on high-end properties. Buyers are incentivized to buy less housing and to rent the additional capacity when needed.

If we were retirees who wanted to live in the City, we would seriously consider this product.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

What We Signed Up For

It's the week before Thanksgiving, which meant it was time to take food boxes to CALL Primrose in Burlingame. CALL Primrose is a Methodist and Presbyterian joint venture that has been dispensing food since 1983.
Last year, CALL Primrose was able to serve over 27,000 individuals in need by directly providing more than 51,000 bags of groceries.
Unlike 2018, when our parish was swamped with donations, we were only able to deliver the four boxes we signed up for.

The ladies at the CP office were grateful. Exceeding our commitment would have been nice, to be sure, but not more important than honoring it. It's a good rule for charity and life; don't make a lot of promises, but keep the ones you do make.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

It Checks the Boxes, but the Heart Doesn't Flutter

(WSJ photo)
We have owned and loved dogs, but allergies have kept them from our household. The Peruvian Hairless may just be the dog we're looking for:
Fans say they are smart and don’t shed. But perhaps the biggest perk of the Peruvian Hairless, they say, is its warmness. It’s like a hot-water bottle that barks...

Fans say golden retrievers, beagles and German shepherds have nothing on the Hairless. Shedding isn’t a problem, making them ideal for dog lovers with allergies. Washing them is a cinch. Forget about fleas.
(American Kennel Club)
The breed's warming feature is an important benefit to owners with arthritis and tendinitis, which we're beginning to suffer from. The Peruvian Hairless
has a body temperature of about 101 degrees, similar to other breeds and slightly hotter than humans. But without fur, the dog’s skin radiates heat.
Now, if we can just get past their atypical look, which triggers discomfort similar to the uncanny valley. We're no beauties ourselves, but the heart doesn't flutter and it wants what it wants.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Cup Half Full

'Left: old machine in white;
Right: new black Keurig K Duo
We first came across Keurig's single-cup brewing system 12 years ago, when its then-owner, Green Mountain, rented Justin Herman Plaza to promote its wares.

At the time we were unimpressed:
  • The coffee tasted just okay.
  • It was expensive on a per-cup basis.
  • There were a lot of plastic pods to dispose of.

    Last year we bought a cheap Keurig knock-off. The coffee was good, not great; the garbage problem is manageable at one cup a day; the pods are only 40 cents each. Most importantly, set-up or clean-up takes less than minute.

    Addicted to the convenience, we bought a new Keurig Duo (it comes with a carafe if one has to brew for a group) when the old machine broke. Fortuitously, the Duo was on sale at Costco for $170.

    Over the years the Keurig has become lighter and cheaper and also has more quality and features. The world is getting worse in some respects, but I prefer to focus on how it's getting better. In other words I'm a cup-half-full kind of guy.
  • Monday, November 18, 2019

    Haughtiness Oozing

    A firehose of information comes at us every day. Accordingly, a filter that tells us what we need to know without tipping over to advocacy is specially valuable. I don't want to get deep into the weeds about intelligent curation--I know it when I see it!--but a wise editor decides which stories are important and, if an action is being promoted (ban fossil fuels, nationalize health care, tax both wealth and income, impeach the President) which arguments, pro and con, carry weight.

    I am a paid subscriber to the San Francisco Chronicle and Wall Street Journal, both of which have not only strong opinion sections but also trustworthy news departments that frequently undermine the editorial positions. And I'm on the lookout for a few more information sources.

    On the Twitter feed was an ad for Blinkist, a site that identifies "important" books, summarizes their contents, and links to the sources if the reader wishes to dig deeper. I clicked my regret. Nearly every sentence was a turnoff to me, and, I suspect, many American readers. (Particularly irritating words and phrases are highlighted for your convenience.)

    The Innovative App That's Trending Among Intellectuals - Blinkist Magazine

    Studies have shown that last year, the typical American read 4 books. In contrast, the average number of titles completed by a Blinkist user was 26. That's why intellectuals are turning to Blinkist—because it's a proven way to get through more of the world's leading titles.

    At Blinkist, we summarize the key insights from nonfiction books into 15-minute reads and listens. There are over 3,000 titles across 27 unique categories, cementing our app as the go-to destination for big thinkers.

    More than 11 million people are expanding their horizons with Blinkist, with thousands of knowledge hunters downloading the app everyday.

    'Blinkist encourages you to read more nonfiction books. The app contains cleverly written digests — called blinks — where books are broken down into their main arguments.'
    The New York Times

    So, what exactly is it that top thinkers like about Blinkist?

    1. It's Backed By Science

    At Blinkist, there's a dedicated team of experts who sift through the millions of books published each year to find the best ones out there. We don't just want bestsellers, we want the hidden gems, the timeless classics, books written for intellectuals, by intellectuals — because we have built an app with serious purpose and intention.

    'When we started most apps were for social media or gaming. We wanted to do something different and build an app that would add genuine value to someone's life'.
    – Holger Seim, Blinkist co-founder

    Once the books are selected, our specialist editors identify the key ideas and themes from each book, and turn them into useful summaries of insights. The best part, all of the content is created using neuroscientific principles making all the information easy to understand, but hard to forget.
    Actionable examples, case studies, and anecdotes help deliver information that's relevant, useful, and applicable to a person's life. Plus, Blinkist is tailored: as soon as people start reading, the app will start to recommend new titles that they'll love, based on their unique interests and individual preferences.

    2. Built By The Smartest People In Europe

    We don't rely on algorithms to choose or make our content, we choose people. We read every book ourselves, we edit and record each pack of insights. We're a team of experts, specialists with PhDs and diplomas, people who are hungry, eager, and passionate for understanding and sharing knowledge.
    To ensure our app, and our content, is the best it can be — we've built a team of over 200 qualified people who want to make powerful information available to millions.

    3. Join The Club Of Global Intellectuals

    Millions of tech-savvy intellectuals are using Blinkist to stay ahead of their peers, and on top of their fields. Blinkist encourages readers to explore a range of different areas and genres, discovering new knowledge around exciting subjects. We know intellectuals want to expand their knowledge, which is why we have 27 topic categories, filled with a wide spectrum of titles.

    Blinkist allows intellectuals to learn from the best writers and thinkers, in order to become better themselves.

    4. Read The World's Most Important Books

    The Blinkist library contains over 3,000 titles across 27 different categories such as Self Improvement, Entrepreneurship, Parenting, Sex & Relationships, and Management & Leadership among many others. Whatever it is you're eager to learn about, Blinkist has got you covered.

    'As a productivity coach and one of the lifelong learners, I can't tell you how happy I was to find Blinkist. If you enjoy nonfiction reading and are short on time, Blinkist will be your new favorite app.'
    – Karen Trepte, Huffington Post

    Time-honored favorites sit next to the latest bestsellers and talked-about new titles so that you're getting a complete look across the breadth of nonfiction. There are 10 new titles added to the app every week so even the most voracious reader will never run out of great content.

    5. Global Success And The Stamp Of Approval

    We're proud of what we do — we believe in our product because it has meaning, purpose, and intention. Our aim is to help people learn, to allow them to grow, and to better themselves in whatever way they would like.
    This was recently recognized and praised by the United Nations, who acknowledge Blinkist as a Global Leader in Learning and Education.
    'With Blinkist you can boost your knowledge and gain new perspectives so that you can be a better professional, a better partner, or a better you—and finally get through your book list or make sense of the increasingly big and busy world of ideas'.
    – United Nations
    With a community of 11 million people located across the world — from tech entrepreneurs in New York, to meditation teachers in the Himalayas — we have a band of people spanning the globe who are all thirsty for inspiring knowledge.
    Be part of it! Download the Blinkist app now and join the 11 million curious thinkers who also love to learn.
    The Blinkist writer's first mistake--I guess she can be forgiven because the app originated from Germany and is not attuned to American sensibilities--is that an "intellectual" is automatically viewed favorably by an American audience. Another turnoff is the presumption that people who read 4 books a year are certainly not intellectuals but essentially stupid and inferior. Then she tries to seal the deal by appealing to our putative aspirations to be a global thinker; the app has been "recognized and praised" by the United Nations, the apparent arbiter of intellect and probity.

    The haughtiness oozes from each page, but they don't have a lot to be haughty about.

    Sunday, November 17, 2019

    No Template

    Professor Timothy Beal analyzes why young Americans are turning away from churches and synagogues. [bold added]
    A big part of the answer is that there is less social pressure to identify as religious, especially among young adults. In fact, a young adult today is more likely to feel social pressure to justify being religious than being None. Another factor is the rise of families in which the parents identify with different religions: Children in such families are often raised with exposure to both identities and left to decide for themselves which to adopt. In many cases, they eventually choose neither.

    And part of the answer is that many of the personal and social functions traditionally performed by religious institutions are now being served by new communities that we might call “alt-religious.”....

    (WSJ graphic)
    Based on my own experience with hundreds of young adult Nones in my classes over more than two decades, I’ve found that the specific “religious teachings” and related “positions” they object to most often concern sexuality and science. Many of them question what they perceive as religion’s negative views about women’s reproductive rights and non-heteronormative sexuality, especially same-sex marriage and transgender rights. And they question religious teachings that appear to fly in the face of scientific research, especially with regard to evolutionary theory and climate change.
    It's safe to say that all traditional churches--except perhaps the Mormons and Baptists--are experiencing attrition. In our own parish we've been moderately successful in attracting young families who wish to have their children experience positive peer-to-peer interaction outside of school and sports. As other priorities intrude, the children fall away in middle and high school. A few return to visit while on college break, but we rarely see them afterwards.

    When our young adults form families--which occurs later and in smaller numbers than previous generations--they do go back to church but in other locales because most of them have moved. Our own church benefits from newly arrived young professionals who themselves went to Sunday School, but on balance we lose more than we gain.

    So we teach them, wish them well as they go into the world, and hope something sticks 20 years later in a land far away. It doesn't seem like a good business plan, but then again there's no template for writing one with a 2,000-year horizon.

    Maybe they'll be on the vestry in 40 years.

    Update - 11/21/19: On the other hand, the real problem could be poor font choices. OK, it's satire.
    U.S.—A new Pew Research Center study found that the main reason millennials are abandoning the church in droves is because of terrible font choices.

    The study surveyed thousands of millennials who have left the faith all across the country. While a few left because the church wasn't adequately addressing their questions or confronting the culture's challenges to Christianity head-on, over 92% said they left because of the cringe-inducing fonts churches use on their bulletins, signs, PowerPoint presentations, and websites.

    "When millennials see Comic Sans used next to Papyrus and a bunch of random gradients and drop shadows, they realize the church has nothing to offer them," said Dr. Gary Wendersmith, head of the survey. "They begin to question everything, and their faith unravels." In fact, Wendersmith says the use of Comic Sans is one of the top reasons people become atheists.

    "Millennials are asking, 'How can God be both all-good and all-powerful if He would allow a font like Papyrus to even exist?" he continued. "And the church just continues to design fliers, slides, and signs as though it were still 1990."

    "I mean, can we at least get rid of the freakin' Papyrus, for the love of all that is good!?"

    Concerned churches all around the country responded to the findings, saying they will address millennials' concerns by adding more drop shadows and rainbow fonts.

    Saturday, November 16, 2019

    Another in a Long List of Double Standards

    A blonde wife who is taller and much more famous
    than I would make me insecure too. (BBC photo)
    If a conservative husband were to do this to his liberal wife it would be "mansplaining" or verbal abuse.

    Because it's a liberal husband talking about his conservative wife--and jeopardizing her career--it's fine.

    George Conway Reportedly Tells People His Wife Is in a “Cult”

    Friday, November 15, 2019

    Interesting Findings on Mass Shootings

    And now for something special: a study on mass shootings that produced interesting findings and did not have an obvious agenda:
    Barriers and locks meant to block outsiders and active-shooter drills do little because most attackers already have access and are aware of the procedures, said the authors of the study, Jillian Peterson and James Densley. The university professors have created a mass-shooter database that goes back more than 50 years. [snip]

    The most common site for a mass shooting since 1966 is the workplace, Mr. Densley and Ms. Peterson found. In May, a disgruntled Virginia Beach, Va., city employee killed 12 people at a municipal building. Next was a category that includes restaurants, bars and nightclubs, followed by retail establishments, schools, houses of worship and colleges.

    There is no single profile of a mass shooter, but the study’s authors found common factors based on the target. School shooters, like the 19-year-old who killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school in 2018, tend to be suicidal white-male students with an interest in guns. College shooters tend to be suicidal nonwhite men with a history of violence and childhood trauma. Workplace shooters tend to be men in their 40s of any race who are having trouble on the job. [snip]

    In schools, the cost of active-shooter drills for kids outweigh the benefits. Would-be attackers are learning how to take advantage of drills, which create a fascination for some students, said Ms. Peterson.

    “You want the adults in the building to be trained to know what to do,” she said. “But training the kids who are the potential perpetrators doesn’t make sense with our data.”
    The last recommendation is surprising; train the adults but don't teach students what to do because would-be shooters would learn too much about school defenses. Instinctively I am skeptical, because withholding knowledge from people for their own protection is an excuse that bureaucracies use to cover up their mistakes and to maintain their authority [only they know the secret, important stuff].

    Surely there can be a compromise between knowledge and total ignorance. For example, hidden passages through which police may enter the school can be kept secret. And the students can be taught the general principles of run, hide, fight, which may also be used outside of school.

    Nevertheless, more studies like this, please.

    Thursday, November 14, 2019

    Great That It Worked So Well

    "Find My" icon
    Leaving the house last night I dropped the AirPods on the sidewalk. The left AirPod fell out of the case, but I couldn't spot it, even after turning on the iPhone flashlight.

    It was time to put Apple's "Find My" app to the test (Apple has combined its "Find my iPhone", which includes other Apple devices, and "Find My Friends" apps).

    The left Pod showed up on the screen, only a few feet away. I pressed the button and heard a faint chirping sound.

    Directional hearing isn't my forte, and it took a couple of minutes to locate the Pod under the nasturtiums.

    A couple of swipes on the shirt, and into the ear it went, still working perfectly.

    Of course, I was happy about the result, but the joy was not unadulterated. A loss would have been an excuse to buy Apple's new AirPods Pro.
    Unlike the $159, one-size-fits-most AirPods, which are still available, the $249 AirPods Pro have active noise canceling...The new pods also are sweat- and water-resistant, equipped with improved microphones and come with three different size silicone tips for a better fit.
    According to the reviewer the AirPods Pro sound better, too.

    But I won't be making the purchase. It was too bad great that the Find My app worked so well.

    Wednesday, November 13, 2019

    A Caracas in our Future?

    Two juxtaposed stories in today's fishwrap illustrate why the City is circling the drain.

    Violent beating of three seniors in San Francisco’s Chinatown sparks fear, outrage
    The violent beating of three older men captured on video in San Francisco’s Chinatown over the weekend has sparked fear and outrage among some residents in the city’s Chinese-American community, who said they feel increasingly targeted following several high-profile attacks on the neighborhood’s most vulnerable residents....

    Three victims, all men ages 63, 67 and 68, were left with varying injuries, police said. Two were treated at San Francisco General Hospital and later released. A third was checked out by paramedics and released at the scene...

    No one has been arrested and no suspects have been identified in the attack.
    And who is the official who will lead the fight against this recent wave of attacks against seniors?

    How Chesa Boudin, a public defender who never prosecuted a case, won SF D.A. race
    Boudin’s story is even more movie-worthy. His parents were left-wing radicals in the Weather Underground and served as getaway drivers in an October 1981 robbery that wound up killing three people. Boudin, 14 months old at the time of the incident, was adopted by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, also Weather Underground radicals. He graduated from Yale and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar.
    Voters elected Mr. Boudin "despite never having prosecuted a case and having a controversial background that included an imprisoned father* and a stint working for Hugo Chávez, the late president of Venezuela who was criticized for trampling human rights."
    *Not your run-of-the-mill imprisoned dad: "His parents were left-wing radicals in the Weather Underground and served as getaway drivers in an October 1981 robbery that wound up killing three people."
    Hugo Chavez was the socialist who turned Venezuela, the wealthiest country in South America, into a hellhole where millions flee from starvation, disease, and crime. San Francisco currently has the highest per-capita income of all U.S. cities, and the progressives are in charge. Let's hope the parallel to Venezuela stops there, but the signs aren't hopeful.

    Well, San Francisco voters keep electing progressives like Chesa Boudin, so there may yet be a Caracas (Wikipedia: "Caracas has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, with 111.19 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants") in our future.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2019

    It Needs a Lot of Cabbage

    Next to the tubs of guacamole and mashed potatoes was a ham costing $549.99. Jamón ibérico de bellota is
    from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal and eat only acorns during this last period. The exercise and diet have a significant effect on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months.
    $35.714 per pound for cured pork is unimaginable to me, but Costco's hard-nosed buyers wouldn't have ordered the item unless they thought there was a market for it on the mid-Peninsula.

    Monday, November 11, 2019

    Veteran's Day, 2019

    St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Honolulu, on September 7, 2019
    One of Dad's few requests was that an honor guard be present at his memorial service.

    The young men performed the ceremony deliberately and precisely. The bugler played Taps, the sweet sound carrying across the church grounds. Mom received the folded flag six minutes later, though it felt like more time had elapsed.

    Another Veteran had passed from the scene.

    Sunday, November 10, 2019

    Sometimes the Best Does Happen

    Lutherans (Jerry) and Episcopalians (Diane) can get along.
    Flying in late last night, I didn't have time to make anything for the Home and Hope families, so I bought the precooked mashed potatoes, rotisserie chicken, and dessert macaroons at Costco. Anyway, that's my excuse story, and I'm sticking to it.

    Diane slow-cooked a pork roast, seasoned with lemon and garlic. Accompanied by the mashed potatoes and gravy, the roast was the perfect comfort food on a chilly fall night. We put on a pot, and the female heads of household spent an hour socializing over cookies, macaroons, and coffee.

    Everyone was in bed by ten, and all were out the door by 6:15 the next morning without our having to roust them. My overnight partner, Hank, and I could scarcely believe our good fortune. Being done by 6:30 instead of the usual 7:30 was a first.

    Expect the worst while hoping for the best is a sound rule, but sometimes the best does happen.

    Saturday, November 09, 2019

    Heavy Prediction

    (WSJ art by Ryan Inzana)
    Space archaeologist Alice Gorman says that gravity will be "the most precious commodity of the next space age." [bold added]
    To maintain their bone density and muscle mass, crew members must exercise for over two hours each day. Without this discipline, the astronauts could end up with osteoporosis. Living in gravity so different from Earth’s has consequences, including vision impairment and diminished organ function...

    Living in variable gravity environments makes gravity a commodity that it simply isn’t on Earth; it becomes foreground rather than background. Power may be determined by whomever controls access to specially designed, high-gravity environments where people can maintain their strength. Gravity may indeed be rationed, and depriving people of access could have serious health (and even legal) consequences.
    Dr. Gorman quickly dispenses with the spinning-spaceship solution to artificial gravity:
    The earliest space stations, such as the rotating wheel conceived by the Viennese engineer Hermann Noordung in 1929, were designed to produce “artificial” gravity by spinning, like the centrifuge astronauts train in.....In the 1960s, NASA considered spinning space stations, but decided that astronauts might not enjoy being spun like a sock in a washing machine. Having been in a gravity rotor in an amusement park, I can categorically say that I did not enjoy it.
    I applaud Alice Gorman for thinking outside the capsule, but it seems that there are many features of earthly life--oxygen, natural food, copious running water, convenient sanitation, privacy, pets--that will be in short supply in space. I doubt gravity will be "the most precious", but then again she's the expert.

    Friday, November 08, 2019

    Unexpected Pleasures

    Waikiki is quiet before dawn. The tourists are still sleeping save for the solitary jogger. Workers sit quietly at the bus stops, waiting for the ride down town.

    The noise from the tree-trimmer is jarring. 6 a.m.? Until one realizes that traffic congestion makes this the best time to trim the fronds and coconuts before they hurt someone.

    It's rare to see a tent. The police chase the homeless away from Waikiki to the other side of the Ala Wai Canal, the old neighborhood. Dad installed a monitored security system, reinforced windows and iron gates because his streets have gotten meaner. After a while one gets used to the new normal.

    At least the late night/early morning denizens in the tourist areas are safe. A few Waikiki diners are open, reminding me of this painting (below).

    Edward Hopper, Nighthawks (1942), Art Institute of Chicago

    An overweight man in a dirty tee-shirt was sitting at the bus stop. He asked for a dollar. He won't have a lot of prospects at 6:30 in the morning. I gave him a twenty. His eyes widened in surprise. Life is full of unexpected disappointments or worse. Unexpected pleasures are few and far between.

    Thursday, November 07, 2019

    Trying to Take It With Me

    California bound: clothes, food, kitchen tools, memorabilia 
    In the freight industry managing backhauls is crucial to the success of the business. The railcar, aircraft, ship, or truck is often filled going in one direction but empty coming back. The carrier heavily discounts rates on the backhaul, because some revenue is better than none.

    On my trips to Hawaii--six this year so far--there is a similar freight imbalance, so I've been taking a half-empty suitcase. On the return to California my luggage is heavier, and I'm heavier.

    The only thing lighter is my wallet.

    Wednesday, November 06, 2019

    Do-ne Japanese Food

    The "seafood set" is more than just a poke bowl
    and includes salad, miso soup, and 3 small dishes
    Honolulu is no paradise with its traffic congestion, high cost of living, homelessness, and crime. Every time I return the problems seem worse. In the Bay Area, however, living conditions are getting worse faster, so if one grades on a curve Hawaii scores well.

    Related note: when dining out in the Islands I've found that, from fast food to fine dining, one obtains the same degree of quality but at a lower price than back on the Peninsula.

    The seafood set ($15.95) is about the
    same price as a bento box in SF
    Relatives insisted that I join them for dinner at Do-ne Japanese Food, a mile and a half from the center of Waikiki. Do-ne has only six tables; if one fails to get a seat when the restaurant opens at 5:30 p.m., then the wait can be an hour. Arriving at 5, I put our name on the sign-up sheet, and we were the first party seated.

    I ordered the pork belly set ($15.95), but the kitchen had run out of the ingredients during lunch. No worries, the seafood set was excellent. The fish was very fresh, and we took our time savoring and sharing our dishes. The waitress--who is also one of the owners--never rushed us despite the line building outside. I told my hosts that I'll stop by on my next trip, if for no other reason than to sample the pork belly.

    Do-ne was a pleasant experience; the downside is that a poke bowl in California will never taste as good again.

    The salmon surf bowl ($13.95) at Shiki, Foster City

    Tuesday, November 05, 2019

    The Lesser Head

    Koko Head Crater from Hawaii Kai
    Koko Head is Diamond Head's little brother:
    1) Diamond Head is Hawaii's most famous natural landmark;
    2) Diamond Head dominates the Waikiki landscape, while Koko Head is too far away from downtown to be visible;
    3) In songs and children's nursery rhymes Koko Head comes after Diamond Head, if it is mentioned at all.

    Google's word-count tool confirms that Diamond Head is mentioned about 10 times more often than Koko Head.

    It's time to show little brother some respect. From Koko Head's summit one can see Portlock/Hawaii Kai on the right and Hanauma Bay on the left. One of these days, before the tendinitis gets too bad, I hope to climb the Koko Head Stairs.

    Monday, November 04, 2019

    Not Glamorous

    The heavy equipment wasn't there in June.

    "The project involves dredging of the Ala Wai Canal to remove accumulated silt and sediments, and repairing two sections of walls along the canal."

    The suits--and pantsuits, let's not discriminate--like to talk about infrastructure, a word which distances oneself from the grime and sweat involved in the work.

    The burly men and women get their hands dirty so that we won't get our feet wet from storms, tsunamis, or even climate change.

    Their task is not glamorous, but it is necessary.

    Sunday, November 03, 2019

    EDNC: A Trusty Conduit for Fire-Relief Donations

    As we near the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire (November 8, 2018), Northern California again has been beset by wildfires. The devastation hasn't been as bad, perhaps because of evacuations and electricity shutoffs (PSPS) to a million people, but the precautions had their own cost. However, policy discussions are for another day.

    How do we help the displaced and the suffering?

    As with last year, we'll be making a donation to the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California "because it's an effective, trustworthy conduit for fire-relief donations." From the website:
    Saturday, October 26, 2019

    Across the diocese, many of us are experiencing power shut off and the question of how to have services with no power. Our office has fielded some calls about this, and we want to encourage each of our congregations to:

    Be Safe: do what you need in order to be safe
    Be Creative: if possible, hold services as a witness to the risen Christ
    Be Bold: remember that we are witnesses to the wider community

    St. Paul's has sheltered the homeless since 2017.
    Our church and community in Healdsburg and the surrounding area are all under evacuation. Click here for fire and evacuation news. Bishop Megan, Canon Andrea, and Director of Operations Kati Braak have been in contact with church leadership: the Very Rev. Daniel Green, Dean of the Russian River Deanery and St. John's, Petaluma; the Rev. Sally Hubble, St. Paul's, Healdsburg; and the Rev. Stephen Shaver, Incarnation, Santa Rosa; who are all working to coordinate response and hospitality efforts.

    We are praying for St. Paul’s, Healdsburg: in gratitude for the ongoing outreach and service that they have for the homeless. St. Paul’s, today, is a center for the homeless to gather for transport to evacuation sites. We pray in hope: that all will be safe in the midst of this crisis. St. Paul’s will hold their Sunday Services at Incarnation, Santa Rosa.

    We pray for Good Shepherd, Cloverdale: they are safe at this time, and in contact with the bishop’s office. They are holding Morning Prayer services and are opening their homes for safe harbor for those in need.

    We pray for our diocese: as we all bear witness to the risen Christ and share this journey with one another.

    We want to give: the bishop’s office has sent $6,000 to St. Paul’s already, and gift cards have been purchased and distributed. We are contacting Episcopal Relief and Development today. More will be needed, and we ask that you give generously.

    Online Donation Information:

    Click here to make a donation: 100% of your donation will go towards disaster relief, distributed by the clergy at their discretion.

    Donation link:

    Check Donation Information:
    Want to send a check?
    Make checks out to EDNC, with "Disaster Relief" in the memo line

    The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California
    350 University Avenue, Suite 280
    Sacramento, CA 95825

    Gift Card Donation Information:

    The following types of gift cards are being requested:
  • Safeway
  • Visa

    You can mail the gift cards to The Office of the Bishop, who will coordinate distribution.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California
    350 University Avenue, Suite 280
    Sacramento, CA 95825
  • Saturday, November 02, 2019

    Remarkably Uncrowded

    Cars on Ala Wai Boulevard head toward the Kalakaua Ave. overpass
    The footpaths near the western end of the Ala Wai Canal are not the shortest routes to shopping or the beach, and they're remarkably uncrowded while being only a few feet from Waikiki or Ala Moana.

    For someone who's just trying to record a few clicks on the smartwatch or the pedometer, it's a far more pleasant stroll than the sidewalks near congested boulevards.

    At 1 p.m. last Thursday it was only the heat that chased me indoors.

    Friday, November 01, 2019

    Government Gas & Electric

    Like North Koreans, power-less Oaklanders could gaze
    at the lights of a city a few miles away (Chronicle photo)
    After the wildfires, evacuations, and PSPS ("Power Safety Power Shutoffs"), California politicians are, er, feeling the heat to do something about PG&E, the utility they had a hand in bankrupting. Governor Newsom threatens a government takeover:
    The utility must exit bankruptcy by the end of June to access a new state fund that would help PG&E pay for damage from future wildfires caused by its equipment.

    But if the company doesn’t reach a resolution quickly, Newsom said, a state takeover is on the table, a position the governor has previously been reluctant to embrace.
    Even the wisest Latina couldn't run PG&E.

    She has to
  • Deliver electricity and natural gas reliably to 16 million Californians;
  • Charge customers as low a rate as possible;
  • Earn a profit for investors, including a regular dividend;
  • Clear trees and brush to reduce the risk of wildfires;
  • Provide generous salary, medical and pension benefits in accordance with union contracts;
  • Repair and replace its aging infrastructure with less efficient and more costly carbon-minimizing energy sources (principally windmills and solar, but not nuclear);
  • Decommission Diablo Canyon, its last nuclear power plant, for an estimated $4.8 billion beginning in 2024;
  • Meet Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards;
  • Pay $billions in damages for its culpability in the 2017-2019 wildfires.
  • Transfer hundreds of thousands of acres to tribes and public agencies per agreements dating back to 2001.

    Your humble blogger is strongly in favor of a government takeover of PG&E. Then the credit or blame for the outcome will be clearly assigned to one party, not diffused over a multitude of groups who have a say in PG&E's governance.

    If "Government Gas & Electric" succeeds, then it will be the first major piece of evidence that socialism works, i.e., government can operate a major non-defense sector of the economy. If it fails, then the reasons should become obvious after a few years. In either case, the lessons learned will reverberate far beyond the confines of Northern California.

    After-thought - WSJ:
    Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, said he will compel PG&E to make massive investments in its infrastructure to improve the safety of the system and reduce the need for pre-emptive power shut-offs.
    PG&E was "compelled" to make massive investments in wind and solar farms to meet California's climate-change goals. Now the Governor wants to compel safety and always-on power. Just take it over, already, so you can show us how it should be done.