Friday, December 31, 2021

The Big Got Bigger

Except for Amazon, the "tera" cap stocks beat the indices
It was a very good year for stock market investors: [bold added]
the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and low interest rates...helped the S&P 500 to close at a record 70 times this year, more than one-quarter of all trading days, according to Dow Jones Market Data, and pushed the index up 27% in 2021. The Dow and Nasdaq did well over the past 12 months too, rising 19% and 21%, respectively, handing all three benchmarks their best three-year performance since 1999.

Much of the broader market rally was also driven by a small group of massive stocks, such as Apple, Tesla and Microsoft. Microsoft and Tesla shares have each risen around 50% this year, while Apple has gained more than 30%.
Our stock holdings are weighted toward the so-called "megacap" tech stocks, so the portfolio has done well for the past decade. The 2021 performance of about 30% was way above expectations, since we did not expect the biggest of the big to go up that much. If we're up 10% in 2022, we'll be happy.

If you keep your expectations low, you aren't likely to be disappointed.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

A Lot of Trouble to Replace

Bent out of shape: I did that without help.
The best $150 I ever spent was in 2008.

Our 20-year-old dryer was irredeemably broken, and the new dryers at the time were too wide and cost at least $500, not including tax, installation, and hauling the old one out. On Craigslist the ideal replacement miraculously appeared. It was narrow enough, and the door hinge was at the bottom which was a "try-for" specification from the household CEO.

The seller, a lady in Palo Alto, had bought a new laundry pair and thought she could find a use for her old dryer but had given up trying. Her Kenmore had been sitting on the back patio for a year, covered with a tarpaulin. Before taking it, I asked her to plug it in to prove that it worked. It did.

The dryer easily fit in the 11-year-old Dodge Grand Caravan. (I always use an old car--for different reasons, of course--when I have to negotiate a purchase, do charity work, or go to crime-ridden areas like San Francisco.) The used dryer worked like a champ, and the garbage haulers took the old dryer on one of the two annual bulk-disposal days.

[Note: I forgot that I had blogged about the purchase in 2009. Most of the details are still clear in my memory. I'm not that far gone....yet.]

This week the dryer that had served us for 13 years finally failed. The drum turns but doesn't heat; the problem was likely due to one of three parts, said the Internet, each of which costs less than $50. But first the bottom cover plate has to be opened. It had never been removed by myself, nor likely the original owner, too, so I'm using brute strength and WD-40 against the rusty metal. So I can't even get to step 2: testing the continuity on the three parts to see which of them is busted. So I'll be spending a bit more time, probably through New Year's weekend, working the problem before giving up.

Fortunately for me the household CEO did not act disappointed though I bent the bottom plate out of shape. She knows that the hired help doesn't respond well to criticism and will be a lot of trouble to replace.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

John Madden (1936-2021)

The 1970's was a miserable decade--runaway inflation, gas lines, Watergate, the fall of Saigon--but at least Bay Area sports fans could find solace in their Oakland teams.

Charles Finley moved the Athletics from Kansas City and won three straight World Series from 1972 to 1974. Both owner and players broke the mold with "Charley O the mule, orange baseballs, mustachioed players, the designated hitter and designated runners."

The Golden State Warriors, led by Hall of Famer Rick Barry, were the surprise winner of the 1975 NBA championship. They dominated the 1975-1976 season, only to fall in the Western Conference finals to the Phoenix Suns.

Both the A's and Warriors were fan favorites--let's not talk about the mediocre 49ers and Giants, who rarely made the playoffs--but by the beginning of the 1970's football was already the most popular sport in America, and the top echelon of the National Football League included the Oakland Raiders.

Celebrating the 1977 Super Bowl Win
Led by its brilliant owner Al Davis, the Raiders were a team of castoffs, misfits, and rejects. John Madden, who died yesterday, molded this unconventional roster into a championship contender and became the most successful coach in Raiders history.
Just 32 when he became the Raiders’ head coach, Madden, who quickly became known for his sideline outbursts and unruly hair, led his team to the playoffs eight times in 10 seasons and compiled a .759 winning percentage (103-32-7) that still ranks as the highest of any coach with at least 100 victories.
Every January, while it was cold and raining outside, we could count on Raider football to entertain us on weekends.

During the '70's the Raiders had to go up against a historically great dynasty, the 4-time-champion Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the Miami Dolphins, who in 1972 became and still are the only undefeated team in NFL history. Given the competition, John Madden's record was remarkable.

Tom Landry
Prowling the sidelines with his portly frame and expansive gestures, John Madden was the opposite of Tom Landry, the buttoned-down coach of the "America's team" Cowboys.

Madden's game-planning and Hall-of-Fame players made Raiders-Steelers must-see TV. The playoff game between the teams in December, 1972, was decided by the Immaculate Reception, perhaps the most famous play in NFL history. I remember watching that game on a tiny low-res TV screen in Hawaii and thought that Terry Bradshaw's 4th-quarter 4th-down pass was knocked down and the Raiders had won. Then the fuzzy TV showed a Steeler (Franco Harris) racing toward the end zone for a Steeler touchdown and victory.

Huh? What just happened? Similar to the 1969 moon landing, you could hardly see it and you couldn't replay it.

We were sad to see John Madden retire from coaching in 1978, but even in those days it was understood that he was headed for a stress-induced heart attack if he continued.

Again, much to everyone's surprise, he became the most popular TV football analyst of all time and put his name on one of the most popular sports videogames of all time.

I don't know when it was that politicians sought to become a person "you would like to have a beer with," but they should just say "I want to be like John Madden." R.I.P., coach.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Promising Start

I-80 near Truckee is currently closed (Chron photo)
Snowfall over Christmas weekend broke a 51-year-old December record:
On Monday, the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, located northwest of Lake Tahoe at Donner Pass, recorded 38.9 inches of snowfall over the previous 24 hours — bringing the monthly total to 193.7 inches so far for December. The previous December record was in 1970, with 179 inches of snow.
All that snow isn't water until spring, so reservoirs haven't yet reached average levels:
As a rainy December comes to close, nearly all Northern California reservoirs were still drier than historic averages for this time of year, according to data from the California Department of Water Resources.

But the precipitation still gave several reservoirs a boost from the beginning of the month.

Of seven major reservoirs in Northern California, three currently have more water than they did a year ago: Lake Mendocino, up 7%; Lake Oroville, up 2%; and Hetch Hetchy, up 15%.
If we have just normal precipitation from January to March, there won't be a drought emergency next summer. It's a promising start to 2022.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Sugar Rush

At $38/dozen I was compelled to try Sibby's cupcakes.
The forecast from 2½ weeks ago has been fulfilled. Our house has been inundated with sweetmeats.

We've received over two dozen boxes of candy, cakes, and cookies. The fruitcake will go into the disaster-preparedness inventory, but the rest will have to be consumed in the next month or two. Some sharing outside the house is unavoidable.

Getting serious about a recent diabetes diagnosis, I bought a continuous glucose monitor. Let's not rush it: I will wait until after New Year's Day to put it on.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Christmas: Paring Back

At the beginning of the Christmas Eve service the priest walked around the altar waving the thurible in a pendulum motion, and the smell of incense permeated the air. Many "low" Episcopal churches honor their Catholic origins during the highest-ranking liturgical days like Easter and Christmas.

The local church consolidated the afternoon family, midnight Christmas Eve, and morning Christmas Day services into one.

The reasons are connected: the church has chosen to reduce the number of in-person gatherings; volunteers are down; and attendance has fallen. We will be lucky to have normal attendance on Sunday, the day after Christmas, so perhaps two services this week are enough. Like other areas of life, we are paring back to essentials.

The Christ Child was not the Messiah that the Jews were expecting. Our own expectations have similarly been upended: two years ago we did not anticipate that we would fear meeting with friends and strangers, traveling, or even just going to school and work.

Not as mighty as we thought we were, our prayers float up to heaven on clouds of incense, trusting that there is Someone who is listening.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Joyeux Noel from Foster City, CA

It's cold, wet, and windy in the Bay Area.

Stay safe. What's the rush?

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Peggy Noonan: What Democrats Ought to Do

(WSJ graphic)
WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan starts with the pandemic, segues to economics, and finishes (where else?) with politics. She imagines what an idealized Democratic politician would say (in other columns she role-plays Republicans):
in what really would have been the most consequential political statement of 2021—did anybody stand up and say,

“My friends, big ambition is admirable but we don’t have the margins. We don’t have FDR’s House and Senate, our control is razor thin. The path for us is easy does it, day by day, smaller bills and plenty of outreach to Republicans, whose increasingly populist base doesn’t mind spending as long as it doesn’t seem insane.

The progressives won’t like it, the Squad will hate it, but we can use them as a foil, as a useful illustration of what we’re not. We’ll use their criticism to underscore our centrism. We don’t need them. All we need to be popular is

a) not to be Donald Trump,

b) to provide steady leadership that delivers modest but regular improvements, and

c) to do this in a way that leaves people saying, ‘My God, someone made Washington work again.’ That’s the path.”

Did anyone inside say that?

Is there still time to change tack?
Peggy Noonan is asking if President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, or any grey eminences of the Democratic Party will admit their mistakes, moderate their rhetoric and policies, and possibly avoid losses in the mid-term elections. Such an admission would require strength of character, and based on what we have seen so far, I would not bet on a 2022 outcome different from what the prognosticators have stated.

Character is destiny.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Diablo Canyon: the Ground is Shifting

Diablo Canyon (Chron photo)
In California environmentalists won the debate over nuclear power long ago. New construction was halted, and existing plants were decommissioned. The last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, is scheduled to be closed in 2025.

Second thoughts have arisen about the shuttering of Diablo Canyon. The belief in the "existential threat" of global warming has become widespread, and eliminating 9.6% of California's energy production, especially since nuclear power is carbon-free, seems foolish.

The danger from earthquakes has not diminished, but the relative importance of carbon-free generation has increased, especially given California's ambitious targets for zero-carbon electricity production.

Stanford and MIT researchers have proposed two additional reasons why Diablo Canyon should remain open, reasons that did not seem important in 2018 when the plant was ordered to be closed. [bold added]
Intriguingly, the study suggests adding a desalination plant to the site to address water shortages in our drought-prone state. A desalination plant powered by Diablo Canyon could produce as much fresh water as the controversial project to build a tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the study says.

Diablo’s nuclear power also could be used to produce more of the hydrogen-based, zero-carbon fuels the state will need to transition to carbon neutrality. Stanford and MIT found that hydrogen produced by Diablo could cost up to 50% less than hydrogen produced via solar and wind power, and would require much less land...

Such possibilities weren’t on the table when the 2025 closure was approved back in 2018. Other realities have changed as well. Drought conditions and water shortages have increased, blackouts have become more common, and California and the world have learned more about the value of reliable nuclear energy in stabilizing the electric grid during the shift to renewables.
Also significant is the fact that present and former members of Democratic Administrations do not support the shutdown.
Leading federal officials, including current Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and her predecessors (notably the Nobel Prize-winning Stanford physicist Steven Chu) are pushing to keep the plant open.
Progressives have dominated coastal politics, but their visible failures in crime, education, and homelessness and housing have tarnished their aura of invincibility. Now some Democrats are pushing back against unbending anti-nuclear policies. I can feel the ground shifting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Gooder and Harder

Unfortunately for Republicans, land area
does not translate into political power
(graphic from San Joaquin Valley Sun)
The 2020 census reduced the number of California representatives in Washington from 53 to 52. The redistricting process has resulted in the Democrats gaining one seat while the Republicans will lose two. [bold added]
Overall, outside experts analyze the map as favorable to Democrats. Several swing Democratic seats now lean more left, based on voting data, including the one represented by Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock (Stanislaus County), whose district shifted several times over the weeks of drawing as the commission grappled with how to draw San Joaquin County. Many close Republican-held seats also will swing left, including those of Reps. David Valadao of Hanford (Kings County) and Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County). Redistricting expert Paul Mitchell predicts the map favors 43 Democrats and nine Republicans. The current split is 42-11.
Of course, in the one-party State, the same Democratic dominance is reflected at the State and Local level.

I like the policies that brought us more crime, more homelessness, higher taxes, filthy cities, water and housing shortages, and productive young workers fleeing the state along with the billionaires. As an old, retired unproductive guy, I'm staying and loving the next ten years.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Dark Beginnings

(Illustration from EarthSky)
One question I have zero expertise in answering:

Black holes and dark matter — are they one and the same? [bold added]
If most of the primordial black holes were “born” [after the Big Bang] at a size roughly 1.4 times the mass of Earth’s sun, they could potentially account for all dark matter, said Yale professor of astronomy and physics Priyamvada Natarajan, the paper’s theorist.

Natarajan and her colleagues say their new model shows that the first stars and galaxies would have formed around black holes in the early universe. Also, she said, primordial black holes would have had the ability to grow into supermassive black holes by feasting on gas and stars in their vicinity, or by merging with other black holes...

“Our study shows that without introducing new particles or new physics, we can solve mysteries of modern cosmology from the nature of dark matter itself to the origin of super-massive black holes,” [Miami physics professor Nico] Cappelluti said.

Primordial black holes also may resolve another cosmological puzzle: the excess of infra-red radiation, synced with X-ray radiation, that has been detected from distant, dim sources scattered around the universe. Natarajan and her colleagues said growing, primordial black holes would present “exactly” the same radiation signature.

Best of all, the existence of primordial black holes can be proven — or disproven — in the near future, courtesy of the James Webb Space Telescope and ESA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission announced for the 2030s.
Major discoveries are occurring in every field of science at a rapid rate, thanks to the development of tools like the Webb Space Telescope. That's a good reason for us Boomers to stay sentient as long as possible, just to see what happens.

In the Book of Genesis readers rush past the beginning where everything is formless, void, and dark in order to get to the light and the creation of the world. It appears that the study of darkness would be very much worth our while.

Monday, December 20, 2021

The Beam in Their Own Eye

Having studied Latin in middle school and rather unsuccessfully trying to learn conversational French and Spanish during the '80's and '90's, your humble blogger was struck by the foundational importance of gender in the Romance languages.

(Gif from NBC News)
At the beginning of the 21st century, in the drive to eliminate gender from American English, a strange word, Latinx, seeped out of the academy into the mainstream.

How would American Hispanics react?

Latinx was initiated by a Progressive movement that purports to have their interest at heart, but labeling a group with a genderless brand-new word seemed a bit like the cultural imperialism that Progressives decry. (For the record, I believe that we should strive to call people by the names that they wish to be called, but when addressing members of a group who themselves disagree, we should try to use the terms that the majority find least offensive.)

There were Hispanic voices speaking out against Latinx when we posted on the subject in 2019, but they were still early days.

In the intervening two years more evidence has come in that 'Latinx’ Isn’t Popular With Latinos:
Actual Latinos shun the word “Latinx.” According to a November 2021 poll by Bendixen & Amandi International, only 2% of Americans of Latin descent refer to themselves that way. Some 68% prefer “Hispanic” to “Latino” and “Latina.” And 40% are offended by “Latinx,” which means it’s a mistake for a politician to use the word, at least around Latino constituents.
Will the white Progressives who use Latinx respect the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Hispanics? I doubt it, they see white supremacy everywhere but in themselves.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Meaningful Outreach

At the Redwood City laundromat: 3 members of our church
and Pamela Stevens (2nd from right) from the Diocese.
Those of us who have owned our own washing machine and dryer for decades may have forgotten, like I did, what a hassle it is to haul dirty clothes, laundry bags, detergent, and quarters ($8 for a large load!) to the laundromat, sit on hard plastic chairs, and wait for a machine to open up.

Early Saturday morning I went to the church office to pick up donations for the community served by El Buen Pastor, the Episcopal Church's Spanish-speaking congregation on the Peninsula.

Staff and parents of the pre-school and members of the church contributed laundry supplies, rolls of quarters, and children's books and toys to the effort. All told, we paid for 20 loads of laundry, and everything that was donated found its way to a proper home.

Meaningful outreach needs time and money, but a little empathy and imagination help, too.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Elon Musk: The Excitement is Here Again

I never expected to see another businessman as important or as lionized as Steve Jobs, but ten years after Steve's death Elon Musk has filled that role.
The richest man in the world does not own a house and has recently been selling off his fortune. He tosses satellites into orbit and harnesses the sun; he drives a car he created that uses no gas and barely needs a driver. With a flick of his finger, the stock market soars or swoons. An army of devotees hangs on his every utterance. He dreams of Mars as he bestrides Earth, square-jawed and indomitable. Lately, Elon Musk also likes to live-tweet his poops.
Like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk nearly bankrupted his companies in pursuit of a vision that very few could see, much less believe in. Like Steve Jobs, he achieved extraordinary success, disrupting major industries, making himself a multi-billionaire and enriching many thousands of employees, investors, and suppliers. Both men also pushed people out of the way, thereby earning criticism for their acerbic ways and personal eccentricities.

Bill Gates, who knew both men, sees major differences:
“Elon’s more of a hands-on engineer. Steve was a genius at design and picking people and marketing,” Gates said. “You wouldn’t walk into a room and confuse them with each other.”

Indeed, Musk often talks about his demanding schedule and his hands on approach. For example, on a Tesla earnings call in November 2017, Musk said he was spending all hours in the Tesla battery production factory, even sleeping on the floor and skipping showers to catch up on Tesla 3 production in 2018.

“I am personally on that line, in that machine, trying to solve problems personally where I can,” Musk said on the call. “We are working seven days a week to do it. And I have personally been here on zone 2 module line at 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, helping diagnose robot calibration issues. So I’m doing everything I can.”

As for Jobs, he “was such a wizard at over-motivating people ... I could see him casting the spells, and then I would look at people and see them mesmerized,” Gates told podcast host Dax Shepard Aug. 20.
As of this writing Steve Jobs has touched many more lives than Elon Musk. Over one billion people have an Apple device, while less than 1% that number have owned or will own a Tesla.

But with his single-handed revival of the space program, Elon Musk may very well have changed the course of human history. Ten years ago many asked, somewhat plaintively, "Without Steve Jobs, Where's the Excitement Going to Come From?" Time's Person of the Year has the answer to that question.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Nature, red in tooth and claw

The Zouk otters in March, 2021 (WSJ)
In a follow-up to yesterday's post about a man injured by otters, the culprits have been identified: the Zouk family of Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Ottercity, a local group that is supportive of otters, said the attack on Mr. Spencer was the work of the so-called Zouk family, a wandering household of around 15 otters that sometimes gather in the Botanic Gardens area.

The Zouks have seen their fair share of struggles. “The family was displaced by other stronger families and have been wandering, searching for a permanent home,” Ottercity said, according to a post on the group’s Facebook page. “Along the way, they lost a few members due to roadkills and fights.”

The Zouks got their name because the parents came from an area near the former location of Zouk, a prominent nightclub in the city. Local otter experts consider the Zouks to be among the most urban-adapted otters in the world.

But their tolerance of humans has limits. Ottercity, backing Mr. Spencer’s account, said a jogger had stepped on the otters in the dim light, causing the family to react in defense of their young against the nearest person still around.
The otters are more urban, not urbane.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Called Wildlife for a Reason

USPS stamps: Otters in Snow
Since it opened in 1984 the Monterey Bay Aquarium has featured sea otters, the endangered marine mammal whose playfulness and cutesy features have made them a popular attraction.

After decades of such favorable exposure, the affection for sea otters has often transferred to the other 12 otter species.

There are numerous otter toys, clothes, and dolls for sale this Christmas; when I asked for holiday stamps at the Post Office, the clerk pointed to "Otters in Snow", which wasn't really Christmas-themed but certainly cheerful enough.

The stamps, which I did purchase, are misleading, because most otter species are "opportunistic carnivorous mammals." Last week a Singapore man was viciously attacked by a raft of otters.
2020 photo of otters in Singapore park. (NYPost)
[Graham] Spencer, who is in his 60s, was reportedly approaching the visitors center when he spotted around 20 otters crossing a dimly-lit path in front of him....The animal encounter went south after a jogger ran through the pack, causing the fish-eaters to go “crazy like dogs” and try to bite the passerby...

Fortunately, the runner escaped, but the water weasels set their sights on Spencer, who believed they’d mistook him for the runner.

The ornery otters reportedly hit him in the ankles, pushed him down and leaped on top of Spencer, then proceeded to bite the prone man around his legs, shoes and buttocks, with one nipping his finger, according to the media reports.

“I was bitten 26 times in 10 seconds,” an aghast Spencer recalled to Today.

There, doctors administered Spencer tetanus shots and oral antibiotics and stitched up his wounds before discharging him the same day.
The endearing qualities of individuals do not necessarily pass on to other members of their family.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Tuesday Chronicle: Three Related Stories

(WSJ graphic)
S.F. metro area retains No. 1 spot as most expensive place to live in the U.S.
The San Francisco metro area was the nation’s most expensive place to live in 2020 for the sixth year in a row, and California was the third-most expensive state, according to federal data released Tuesday.

Prices in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley metropolitan statistical area were 17.4% higher than the national average, with apartment rents 107.4% higher,
Comment: One wonders how much of the rental increases this year has been due to landlords taking units off the market because of the the eviction moratorium.

San Francisco becomes first city to require sick leave for nannies, cleaners, gardeners
The measure — the first of its kind in the country — would affect some 10,000 people in San Francisco who work in private homes to clean, cook, tend children, garden, do personal organizing, or provide non-medical care for disabled people or seniors.

The measure, called “Domestic workers equal access to paid sick leave,” addresses the fact that many domestic workers may work for multiple households. It creates a a portable paid sick leave benefit, so workers would earn slivers of paid sick leave from each employer and then consolidate them. An employer would pay one hour of wages into the fund for every 30 hours of service from a domestic worker.
Comment: your humble blogger doubts strongly that all of the "multiple households" report to the authorities all of the payments made to domestic workers. It's also obvious that the workers like the current arrangement. Prediction: participation will fall far short of the 10,000 people covered by the measure; nevertheless, San Francisco will add dozens to the payroll to administer this program.

The San Francisco exodus isn’t over, according to new migration data. [bold added]
Excluding moves from abroad, over 72,000 more people have moved out of the city than since the beginning of 2020, almost eight times more than the same period in 2018-2019.

The Bay Area’s high costs have soared even further this year amid global inflation and supply chain gridlock. Gas prices have leaped above $5 a gallon and housing costs have rebounded as renters have returned to the region, a daunting challenge for both consumers and President Biden’s administration.
Comment: high costs are a problem, but don't forget the needles and feces on the sidewalk, and the trashing of parked cars and the dwindling number of neighborhood stores that haven't yet closed due to shoplifting. People had good reason to leave one year ago , and the problems have only gotten worse.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Time for Hunkering Down

In February your humble blogger, admittedly sensitized by the experience of the 1970's, saw the warning signs:
Today's gargantuan deficits in the $trillions and near-zero interest rates have not resulted in inflation...yet; but now may finally be the time when history repeats.
Speaking of the 1970's, the approaching train wreck had grown more apparent by May:
The economy is warm if not hot, the Administration is proposing $trillions in additional spending, and the Federal Reserve is promising to keep rates low...It is possible that the economy will not experience inflation if high government spending on the wrong things (unemployment insurance extensions that keep workers home), high taxes, and high regulation results in stagnation. But an economic boom and low inflation? No way...and I hope my pessimism is wrong.
Policy mistakes are now obvious in December, and the economy is experiencing the highest inflation in 39 years: [bold added]
U.S. inflation reached a nearly four-decade high in November, as strong consumer demand collided with pandemic-related supply constraints.

The Labor Department said the consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—rose 6.8% in November from the same month a year ago. That was the fastest pace since 1982 and the sixth straight month in which inflation topped 5%.
Inflation: no more semi-annual sales of Spam
and prices are up by 8%
We're just going to have to hunker down as best we can while the Federal Reserve slows the growth of the money supply by tapering its bond purchases.

Meanwhile, I'm glad I stocked up on Spam when it was on sale before COVID-19.

Monday, December 13, 2021

They're All Wet But Don't Know It

A steady rain fell as I picked up my home-delivered news-
paper(!) in the driveway. Wrapped in green plastic, the
newspaper was dry. Glad I tipped the delivery person.
As predicted the heavy storms hit our region yesterday. TV programs have been interrupted by flash flood warnings:
A flash flood warning was issued for portions of San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties Monday that was expected to last until at least 11:45 a.m.

....Pilarcitos Creek in San Mateo County was reported at 10.16 ft, above the 9.1 ft minor flood stage, according to the weather agency.
Another safe prediction: we will be asked to conserve water this summer because, whether or not we have a wet winter, droughts are here to stay due to climate change.

My Christian faith pales before the fervor of the apostles of global warming climate change.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

A Dead Language: In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti

Gaia is an icon of modern environmentalism and
has influenced the feminization of God
The Episcopal Church has gone through many changes in the past half-century, e.g., the ordination of women and gay priests and an overwhelming tilt toward Progressive politics, and it appears that another dramatic change is in the offing--the re-gendering and non-gendering of the Christian God:
In some seminaries and university religion departments, “Godself,” [in place of "Himself"], though somewhat awkward, has become second nature; professors are even known to dock points from papers that use “he” for God...

The 2021 language guide of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recommends titles such as “Mother,” “I Am,” “Hen” and “Woman.” In 2018, the Episcopal Church’s 79th General Convention, while stopping short of authorizing a full revision of its 1979 Book of Common Prayer, encouraged liturgical experimentation, including with “inclusive and expansive language and imagery.” And more casually across mainline Protestantism, it’s not uncommon to hear God, and especially the Holy Spirit, referred to as “she.”
To baby boomers these developments aren't new. In the late 60's and 70's, priests in college towns rattled theological comfort zones by introducing new religious forms and concepts to young mainline Christians. At Catholic and Protestant services, for example, I heard God referred to as "She" and prayers to pagan deities such as Gaia. In college I first experienced the folk mass while then-exotic varieties of bread were served at Holy Communion.

That's what college was--a place where one could experiment with new things, question the assumptions under which one operated, and try out different religions. But we always knew we could go back to our home churches, if we wanted to lead a mainstream though possibly boring American life.

Over the past 20 years, I've noticed--infrequently, to be sure--that some Episcopal priests sneakily insert words and phrases, including feminine pronouns, for God. This phenomenon occurred long before the 2018 General Convention "encouraged liturgical experimentation." I use "sneakily" because those words and phrases are certainly not consistent with Anglican theology.

If revolutionaries are going to change the venerable and venerated words that constitute one of the bases of faith for the overwhelming majority of congregants, they ought to explain why such change is necessary. Why is "God the Mother" or "God the Sexless" truer to Christianity than "God the Father?" Why is the Holy Spirit feminine, especially when He impregnated the Virgin Mary, or is the Immaculate Conception nonsense, like the rest of the Nicene Creed?

I hope the Episcopal Church doesn't plop the rumored new Book of Common Prayer in our laps and say "Use this, sheeple." It could be enough to make some of us Catholics.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Baby, It's Cold Outside

KPIX5 meteorologist Darren Peck discusses cold
temperatures and the upcoming winter storms.
It's freezing this morning in the Bay Area, and this time it's not hyperbole.
Last night’s temperatures ranged from the upper 20s to the low 40s, across the Bay Area, [NWS meteorologist Drew] Peterson said, with the below-freezing temperatures mostly hitting the North Bay, with “isolated pockets” of freezing temperatures across the interior East Bay and as well as the eastern parts of the South Bay.
A wave of storms this week should make skiers happy and put a dent in the drought.

Just like November, 2019:
As of Thursday, an average 77.8 inches of precipitation had fallen between Mount Shasta and Lake Tahoe since Oct. 1 — about 212 percent of average for the period.
Going back two years further (May, 2017):
[Tahoe] is filling up fast, and about a foot away from reaching full capacity. Federal water managers say Tahoe will fill this summer for the first time in 11 years, and when it does, the total amount it will have risen across the water-year between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 will be record-breaking.

"What we've come up so far and what we expect to come up will be the largest rise at the lake in 117 years of recorded history."
Water shortages that pop up in years where there are not heavy rains are the result of gross incompetence by those who are trying to shift the blame from themselves.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Season of Temptation

After three months on Metformin my A1C reading fell from 7.8 to 6.7. That's an improvement but still well above the danger zone for Type II diabetes. In the coming year I hope to make some lifestyle changes, continue with Metformin, and use technological aids to help drive the indicator down.

It doesn't help that the Christmas treats have started to arrive from friends and relatives.

They have absorbed the news about supply-chain disruptions and have conscientiously sent their gifts early.

The packages in the other room are calling with their siren songs and tempting smells. Without taking a bite I can feel the glucose rising....

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Bob and Dan, Continued

Two Senators who were friends for almost 70 years were honored this week.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole says goodbye to her husband.
Bob Dole Lies in State as Biden Hails Former Senator as ‘Giant of Our History’
“Well, you know, Bob and I, like many of us here, we disagreed on a number of things, but not on any of the fundamental things,” Mr. Biden said. “We genuinely respected one another as colleagues. As fellow Americans. It was real. It wasn’t fake. And we became great friends.”
From today's Star-Advertiser:
The Navy’s newest warship, the Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer USS Daniel Inouye, was officially commissioned at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Wednesday. After days of rain, the sun shown bright during the morning ceremony as the ship, named for the powerful Hawaii statesman, war hero and Medal of Honor recipient, joined the fleet...

Daniel Inouye — as a Japanese American and World War II veteran — became an important figure in postwar U.S.-Japan reconciliation and in shaping U.S. policy in Asia more broadly. He spearheaded efforts, which, in 1994, resulted in Congress appropriating funds to create the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Waikiki. It aims to bring together military, civilian and academic leaders from across the region. After his death, the center was renamed in his honor...

Several speakers at the ceremony reflected on Inouye’s friendship with former Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who died Sunday. Inouye and the Kansan were often at odds politically when they served in the Senate, but they shared a bond as WWII soldiers who were both seriously wounded in battle during their service.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Bob, Dan, and the Way Things Used to Be

Celebrating his nomination at the Republican
Convention, San Diego, 1996 (WSJ photo)
Bob Dole (July 22, 1923 - December 5, 2021) was disabled by war injuries for most of his life:
In April 1945, while stationed in Italy during WWII, the young soldier was struck by enemy fire. As a result of his wounds, Dole was permanently left without feeling in his right hand and arm, which measured more than two inches shorter than his left after reparative surgeries; part of his left hand was also left numb. Dole, who died on Sunday at the age of 98, would live with and be shaped by the aftermath of those injuries in the years that followed, including the 30 he spent as a U.S. senator from Kansas.
The future Republican senator from Kansas met the future Democratic senator from Hawaii when they both were recovering in an Army hospital. Daniel Inouye (1924-2012), who lost his right arm in the Italian campaign, and Bob Dole became lifelong friends.

Below are Senator Dan's 2008 reflections on his shared experiences with Bob Dole. His description of how things worked mere decades ago shows how much times have changed.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Day of Infamy, 80 Years Later

Gun turret: the rest of the Arizona lies beneath
Below is a post, lightly edited, that has appeared in this journal on previous anniversaries of the attack on Pearl Harbor:

On December 7, 1941 Japanese bombers obliterated the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. My father, a junior at William McKinley High, saw the silver planes flying overhead on that clear Sunday morning. He didn’t realize anything was out of the ordinary until he saw smoke rising from the Ewa (western) side of Oahu.

My mother, a middle-schooler at Robert Louis Stevenson Intermediate, was preparing to go to Sunday services downtown.

It was a day that changed everything. Millions of Americans, including Dad and his five brothers, answered the call.

While the majority survived the War with life and limbs intact, hundreds of thousands did not, like my wife’s uncle who died somewhere over the Pacific. His body was never found.

Some found the armed services to be to their liking and made it a career, like my uncle who was the best auto mechanic I ever knew. Others, like my father-in-law, seized the opportunity offered by the GI bill and went on to college and jobs that they would never previously have considered.

At the U.S.S. Arizona memorial the names of the fallen are inscribed on the wall.

Are we worthy of their sacrifice? Perhaps......if we preserve, protect, and pass on the gifts they have bestowed to us.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Unassuming Statue

Right outside the California Pacific Medical Center, where I received the Moderna booster, sits the unassuming life-sized statue of George D. Monardo (1921 ~ 2008).

Mr. Monardo was a World War II vet who began as a hospital administrator and rose through the ranks to become President of the Ralph K. Davies Medical Center. From his position he was able to lead funding for AIDS research and advanced technologies like microsurgery. He was active on the boards of charities and health organizations.

Why did I bother with a post on a man I've never heard of? Well, this was the first time I've gone to the CPMC on Castro, and I doubt I'll pass this way again.

More importantly, George D. Monardo represents the wonderful, accomplished people who die every year and who will be remembered by few outside of their families after some decades have passed. Well, they did make a statue to honor him, so perhaps he was a little more special than others, another of many "common men" who led uncommon lives.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Reconstruire Mieux, Non

Only Luddites would object to a pool on the roof.
2½ years ago Notre-Dame Cathedral was engulfed in flames. Somehow, miraculously, it was spared. In what has been termed "the world’s greatest act of collective cultural philanthropy"
Over $940 million has already been collected from donors, some 340,000 in all, from all over the world.
Initial attempts to modernize the reconstruction met with vociferous resistance, and the exterior will be restored to the original.

Now the controversy is over the interior.
The illuminated pictures do look like Disneyland
Now we learn from the Telegraph newspaper (and two European online journals) that the cathedral interior is to be updated—and in the most radical fashion.....the intact interior, is to be transformed into something akin to a contemporary art installation or theme park...

The grand nave, the central passage of the cathedral, is to be lined with Renaissance-era paintings, one above each of the Gothic capitals.

The idea is to make the Catholic faith the 12 million tourists, many with little or no knowledge of Catholicism, who arrive each year. To make them feel more welcome, phrases in their native languages are to be projected on the wall.
Traditionalists, which include your humble blogger, do not believe in "restoring" documents, works of art, or other relics to make them more "accessible" to modern viewers. As the essayist points out:
If those tourists want information about the Catholic faith in digital form, they can find it far more abundantly on the phones in their back pockets. It is a losing game to compete with virtual reality; the result can only be a simulacrum of a simulacrum.
With the right technology one can have both--the original physical experience of Notre Dame and the visual and auditory enhancement that can be superimposed over the physical. Using augmented reality tools would be more informative than images projected on walls, and there is no need for any controversy over reconstruction.

Just make sure the WiFi signal is strong.

Note: to their credit the French didn't have the nerve to call the project reconstruire mieux (building back better).

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Antibodies Multiplying

The post-jab waiting area was a tad smaller than
the cavernous Moscone Center last March
Traffic was heavy on San Francisco's surface streets--nearly back to normal--as I pulled into the garage at the California Pacific Medical Center on Castro.

The entire process went smoothly, the registration, the Moderna booster, the 15-minute wait, and the drive back.

Despite feeling no immediate side effects, I rushed to finish three chores. Nearly everyone in my circle had a worse reaction to the booster than the original vaccinations; some were out of commission for four days, and I was worried about a similar fate.

Sure enough, the injection site began throbbing on Friday evening, and everywhere started aching like in a bad case of the flu. Just to be clear, it was not the flu since there's no temperature or sneezing or coughing. Besides, I got the flu shot in September.

This morning I've been dozing intermittently and have been otherwise useless---a typical Saturday in other words--but the trajectory is positive. I can feel the antibodies multiplying.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Mixing it Up on a Friday Morning

Like shopping on Black Friday--at least, how it used to be before the coronavirus--the advantage in getting vaccinated goes to those who get up early.

The earliest Sutter Health appointment for either the Pfizer or Moderna booster had been late December at all Bay Area locations, though if I were willing to drive to Sacramento I could get a jab next week. Lazily perusing the website at 5 a.m., there was an opening in San Francisco at 8 a.m. for the Moderna vaccine, 11:30 for the Pfizer. So I'm going to mix my shots (I took the Pfizer in March) by grabbing the Moderna.

So now you know where I'll be this morning.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Aina ("Land")

Honolulu, like San Francisco, is replete with public art. Most works go unnoticed, as residents and visitors rush to important appointments and destinations.

And so it was that I had the Aina ("Land") sculpture all to myself on a Tuesday morning. Commissioned by Hilton Hotels, Aina was unveiled to great fanfare in 2008 outside the Grand Waikikian Hotel.
Inspired by the classic Hawaiian ring poi pounder, pohaku ku’i ai puka, this monumental ten ton arch floats on the surging waters that erupt around its three ton, black and red granite bowl or papa ku’iai and cascade down the lava rock he’eau that surrounds it.

Cutting across the top of the ring is the carved profile of the islands surrounded by a moat of water that spills on either side down the roughly textured channels that flair to its base reminding us of Hawaii’s many stunning waterfalls.
2008: how it was meant to be seen
The water has been turned off, and the flame no longer burns at the bottom edge of the ring. The depiction of the Elements--Earth, Air, Fire, and Water--is harder to discern, but the sculpture is impressive nonetheless.

The work is layered with meaning. Poi was central to the life of Hawaiians--Asian cultures place a similar importance on rice--and the poi pounder depicts the importance of food. There are three different kinds of poi pounders, and the artist chose the ring form to represent the dual image of the element Air as well as Life itself.

We learned the state motto in first grade, ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono (the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness); only now am I beginning to glimpse its meaning.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

A Quiet Monday Evening

Lincoln pond at sunset
The freeway--it has a soundwall--is only a few hundred feet away, but there's much less noise in Lincoln than in our residential neighborhood on the Peninsula.

Maybe it's the halo effect. I like the Sacramento hills, which biases me toward all other aspects of Central Valley life.

I like the spread-out feeling and the aforementioned quiet. Even the air seems cleaner, which doesn't make sense because this area is close to the wildfires.

The real estate websites say that home prices in Placer County have gone up by more than 20% in the past year. Builders are noticing, and new developments are springing up on what used to be farmland.

The coronavirus only accelerated the trend of leaving the over-priced, over-crowded coasts. The great migration shows no signs of abating.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

No Argument from Me

The old filter (right) and its replacement.
We hadn't visited our friend in the Central Valley for 1½ years, i.e., since the beginning of the pandemic.

After the usual pleasantries and catching up, I offered to change the furnace filter, which task involves climbing a ladder. Perhaps there's an engineering advantage to placing the intake on the ceiling of the second floor, but IMHO this HVAC system was poorly designed for humans.

The filter had turned black, the residue of two summers of wildfires. Our friend texted back later tonight and said the air was much "fresher."

Perhaps her feelings were colored by the above picture, but if the good feeling raises another person's opinion of me, I'm not going to argue.

Monday, November 29, 2021

A Bit of His Strut

For at least a decade feral chickens have been annoying Oahu residents. Despite programs to capture them, the problem persists.
One reason Honolulu found it difficult to capture feral chickens was because they would run from city property to state or private property where city-paid staffers aren’t authorized to enter
In the Market City shopping center earlier this month, one bird was the cock of the walk, having no fear of humans or cars.

Back in the 1950's Honolulans would buy chickens live and slaughter them in their back yards. If only a few people still did that, that rooster might lose a bit of his strut.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Get the Answers Before It's An Emergency

My brother in Orange County and I take turns flying to Hawaii to visit Mom.

In October he put in some new plants by the front walkway.

When it came time to water the plants, none of the four nearby valves and spigots worked.

In response to a text for help, one of my kamaaina brothers answered that I had to turn on the master shut-off valve next to the pond by the back door.

My father had installed the pipes decades ago.

I grew up here, and I didn't know how something as basic as the irrigation system worked.

What else don't I know?

I only hope that the next time I need to figure out something it's not during an emergency.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Return of the Greedy Corporation....Excuses

Gerald Ford's pleas to Whip Inflation Now failed,
as did his 1976 election campaign. (Ad Age)
As predictable as the sun rising in the East, Democrats are blaming inflation on corporate greed.
White House officials said Mr. Biden would continue publicly calling out industries that he believes are raking in large profits while raising prices for consumers, amid calls from some of Mr. Biden’s outside advisers to respond aggressively to inflation to counter mounting criticism from Republicans.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren adds her two cents:
Wondering why your Thanksgiving groceries cost more this year? It’s because greedy corporations are charging Americans extra just to keep their stock prices high. This is outrageous.
Through the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations inflation ranged between negative 0.4% and 3.8%. For the past several months inflation has run above 5%. [bold added]
The Labor Department said the consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—increased in October by 6.2% from a year ago. That was the fastest 12-month pace since 1990 and the fifth straight month of inflation above 5%.

The core price index, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, climbed 4.6% in October from a year earlier, higher than September’s 4% rise and the largest increase since 1991.
(GIF from rebloggy)
Not only have "greedy corporations" failed to raise prices significantly for the previous 20 years, boardroom avarice has been dampened by the growing emphasis on "stakeholder capitalism" and Environmental, Social, and Governance goals. In my humble opinion--and I'm no economist--business is not to blame for high prices.

And inflation is not the fault of the government, as those in charge of government have said.

It's truly a puzzlement.