Friday, April 30, 2021

Don't Disturb Grandpa While He's Sleeping

(Washington School of Medicine illustration)
At last July's check-up I asked the doctor why I have to get up in the middle of the night to relieve myself. His response: as men age, the prostate enlarges and presses against the bladder; it's all quite natural and nothing to worry about.

Though comforting, his statement didn't address the problem of going back to sleep (I stay awake till morning about a third of the time).

The importance of sleep has been confirmed by yet another study: [bold added]
People age 50 or 60 who regularly slept six hours or less each night were more likely than those who slept seven hours to be diagnosed with dementia, according to the study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Even after controlling for cardiac, metabolic and mental-health issues, the study researchers found that 50-year-olds who were sleeping six hours or less a night had a 22% higher risk of developing dementia later in life. Sixty-year-olds were 37% more likely to develop the disorder. The comparisons were with people who slept for seven hours each night.
What about the risk if one can go back to sleep after using the bathroom?
Studies have also shown that interruptions preventing people from getting a good night’s sleep are associated with higher dementia risk later on.

Past research also suggests that obesity, high systolic blood pressure and mental-health issues like depression increase the risk of sleep issues and dementia.
This research on inadequate sleep is keeping me up at night.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Paris Accord Target Met: Just Eliminate the NFL Draft

There was President Biden's "sweeping" tax-and-spend-initiatives speech to Congress last night. There were Apple's "historic" quarterly revenues ($89.6 billion) and profits ($23.6 billion) announced after the market's close yesterday.

But the most important news of the day, the preoccupation of millions of Americans for an entire month, is....which quarterback will the 49ers select with their #3 pick in the NFL draft? WSJ columnist Jason Gay puts it all in perspective: [bold added]
Draft metaphor (From
Football’s draft, which kicks off Thursday night in Cleveland, is the biggest, most beautiful gas factory in all of sports, a monthslong blabby-blab blab-a-thon in which well-sourced experts, armchair fans and mediocre sports columnists at financial newspapers compete for the right to be wrong at least 50% of the time.

A power company could charge the nation with the hot air annually expelled in the weeks leading up to this event—who’s moving up; who’s moving down; who’s the hot pick; who’ll pull off a draft-day heist for the ages. Nobody really knows! And the jargon: You’re not an official draft guru unless you’re tossing off buzzy terms like “arm talent.” Arm talent! What does that even mean? Are the football cognoscenti now evaluating the skill of a solitary arm, disembodied from the rest of the human being, like The Thing in “The Addams Family?” Isn’t arm talent like, just, you know, throwing?

It doesn’t matter. Get it right, get it wrong, the draft is a huge deal, really an optimal event for these times, a windy feast of gossip, cherry-picked facts and baseless speculation—America’s second, third and fourth favorite past times, after screaming at each other on social media about pandemic face masks.
Your humble blogger has been a fan of the local teams, the 49ers and Raiders (until the Raiders moved to Las Vegas in January, 2020). However, a modicum of life balance had been achieved by avoiding fantasy football and the NFL Draft....until 33 days ago, when the 49ers gave up a Bezosian ransom in future draft picks to move up from #12 to #3 in the draft order. If one lingered on any sports channel or any sports page for a half-minute, one could not avoid the blather.

San Francisco, with Jimmy Garoppolo as its quarterback, has a loaded team which was in the Super Bowl only 14 months ago. Apparently the Niners think that Jimmy G. isn't good enough to lead the team long-term; to draft his replacement they made moves that disrupted the NFL eco-system like an asteroid strike.

The apotheosis (or is it the nadir?) was reached when a reporter asked Coach Kyle Shanahan if Jimmy Garoppolo would be the 49ers quarterback on the Sunday after today's draft. His answer: "I can't guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday." Wow, that's some heavy stuff you're smoking, man.

Again, WSJ columnist Jason Gay: With the third pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers select Friedrich Nietzsche, from Leipzig University!

[Update: 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP of the league, wants to leave the Packers and is eyeing the 49ers. Thanks, Aaron, it sure was quiet before you said that.]

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Maybe a Good Scolding Will Bring Them Back

Post-war Levittown, PA (photo: J Reps)
The suburbs boomed after World War II, and Progressives have been decrying them ever since. The latest harangue, by the Chroncile editorial page:

Editorial: No, Californians aren't fleeing for Texas. They're moving to unsustainable suburbs [bold added]
California isn’t shrinking. It’s growing unsustainably.

Dense urban centers like San Francisco and Los Angeles are seeing outmigration. But smaller, car-dependent cities like Fresno and suburban and exurban communities — often in fire country — are booming. In the tiny city of Lathrop, 9 miles south of Stockton, a new 5,000-acre community is in the works that will include 11,000 single-family homes. Home sales in Sacramento’s suburbs are also exploding, as well as in drought and wildfire-prone Sonoma County and Southern California’s Inland Empire and desert communities.

Newfound work-from-home options for high-paid office workers are driving some of this movement. But these migration patterns were already in place long before COVID-19 untethered these workers’ housing from their jobs.

Rental prices may have come down slightly in San Francisco, but they’re hardly affordable. Los Angeles remains impenetrable as well. People are chasing the California dream where they can afford it. And right now that’s in the distant ’burbs.

There’s an old-fashioned word for this pattern of migration and development: It’s called sprawl. And it’s kneecapping the state’s climate change fight.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. Big California cities still have room to grow. We need them to if the state is going to have a sustainable future. Dense housing near jobs, transit and entertainment has a much lower carbon footprint than car-centric suburban homes.

But the path to get us there is iffy. California may not be growing as fast as it used to, but its future doesn’t look much different than its past: suburban and unsustainable.
No, Progressives, your scare tactics won't work ("drought","fire country"), not to mention your sniffing at the plebes ("sprawl", "unsustainable"). And what's with the suburbs fostering climate change? Sacramento, which you control, has ordered us all into electric cars in a few years, so transportation won't be a source of bogeyman carbon.

It's your emptying cities which frighten us with homeless encampments, rampant burglary, drugs, usurious rents, filthy mass-transit, filthy streets, and labyrinthine regulations, which all come with extra taxes for the privilege of living and working in your precious highrises.

As COVID-19 taught us, we don't need to go to the City for leisure. As more employers move out, we won't have to go to the City for work, either.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Looks Like Wood

An iron horse that looks like wood
A cool Tuesday morning was an excellent time for a stroll to Starbucks. I had always driven past the new condo developments and had not noticed the sculpture by the side entrance to one of the buildings.

The seahorse had been placed without any attempt to show it off; the brown fence wasn't the optimal background, IMHO, but what does this left-brained numbers guy know about esthetics?

There was no sign, hence no name for the work or clue who the artist was. The seahorse itself was an iron alloy painted brown, which is an inspired choice as the creeping rust blends with the fading color.

Finishing his coffee and rumination about unimportant questions that he will never seek the answers to, the humble blogger rises from the outdoor table at Starbucks to head home.

Monday, April 26, 2021

San Francisco Has a Font (and I Don't Care)

Added to the list of things that I never knew were needed: San Francisco finally has its own font.
The old embossed typeface
The font is inspired by San Francisco’s old embossed street signs, distinctive black-on-white steel markers that began appearing in 1946 and were prevalent in the city in the 1960s and 1970s.

The bubbled-out letters can be seen in archive photos, movies such as “Bullitt” and “Vertigo,” and almost every episode of “The Streets of San Francisco.”
According to designer Ben Zotto
Fog City Gothic (photoshop)
The [old] typeface was embossed in metal, and what happens is the edges get softened, and they paint the sign on top so it looks different from different angles.

That’s what I wanted to capture. Bold and blockish, but soft around the edges. I called it Fog City Gothic hoping to evoke that feeling.
Eh, the San Francisco font is fine.

Your humble blogger knows what he doesn't like: at one extreme he shuns letters that are too squarish and on the other he always switches from fonts that have a lot of curly cues. Fog City Gothic falls within the vast middle that is acceptable, and some people like the designer obviously care, but I just don't.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Totems of His Life

St. Francis in the Desert, Bellini, ca. 1470
Professor William Wallace, as art teachers are wont to do, asks us to pause and notice everything included in St. Francis in the Desert: [bold added]
A rocky escarpment dominates the right half of the picture, evoking—despite the painting’s current title—La Verna, the mountainous retreat in Central Tuscany where Francis received the stigmata (Christ’s wounds from the Crucifixion). A woven wattle gate closes the entrance to the saint’s dark grotto cell. A grape arbor shelters a well-constructed lectern desk and plank bench. Reading and meditation are aided by the clasped, leather-bound book; vigilant skull; thin reed cross; and a bell waiting to be jangled by its knotted string. The cast-off wooden clogs suggest we are on holy ground, prompting us to note Francis’s bare feet, and perhaps to search for evidence of the stigmata.
Professor Wallace goes on to comment about every object in the painting to foster an appreciation of the work. The artist's method is consistent with Renaissance portraiture, which not only depicted the individual but also his or her interests, life history, and/or status.

Francis of Assisi rejected his family's wealth (in the upper left "the world he left behind: a medieval town with arched gateways and crenellated walls") and embraced a life of absolute poverty. He preached a love of animals and all of God's creation. At great personal risk he visited and tried to convert the Sultan of Egypt in the midst of the Crusades. He founded the Franciscan Order, which continues to have enormous influence in the Catholic Church.

Giovanni Bellini had a lot of material to choose from when he rendered St. Francis and the totems of his life. Pre-COVID-19, St. Francis in the Desert would have merited scarcely a glance from your humble blogger. Now that priorities have changed, I can spend a little more time appreciating art.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Not Completely Woke

Calhoun College was renamed
after Grace Hopper, computer
scientist and USN rear admiral
In 2017 Yale renamed Calhoun College [one of its 14 residential colleges] because of "John C. Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery."

In 2018 numerous Yale students and alumni "expressed outrage" against the nomination of alumnus Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court--not to mention tried to get Law Professor Amy Chua fired for her support of Justice Kavanaugh.

For the record your humble blogger agreed with the Calhoun change but was appalled at the way leftists went after Brett Kavanaugh on the uncorroborated recollections of a questionable witness.

The fact that the woke press, so diligent with digging into the past of non-Progressives, dropped the subject as soon as Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in, is a strong indicator that they knew the whole thing was a sham. Frankly, I'm still interested in finding out if there was something to the story, and, if there is not, who instigated and promulgated the fake narrative.

There's a distinct difference between marshalling facts to prevail in an argument--as in the case of Calhoun/Hopper--versus making up stuff in order to win the day. There's enough of the latter going on everywhere, and Yale students, especially the elite at Yale Law, ought to know better.

It was refreshing to discover, however, that Yale has remained true to liberal principles by honoring a distinguished alumnus even though his family is the epitome of the New England blue bloods that were instrumental in founding the country.

1948: Babe Ruth meets the future president
Headline: Yale Baseball Field Named in Honor of George Bush ’48
...historic Yale Field, which has hosted the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams, will be named George H.W. Bush '48 Field in honor of one its most accomplished alumni, George Herbert Walker Bush, who captained the Yale baseball team in his senior season...

Bush started his Eli career as a first baseman in 1945, after serving his country as a naval aviator during World War II — the youngest in the U.S. at that time. After remarkable service to his country, he returned to the baseball diamond and the classrooms of Yale.

He went on to earn a degree in economics in less than three years, and was elected captain of the baseball team in his senior season. Bush helped his teams to two College World Series, in 1947 and 1948.

After graduation, Bush began working in the Texas oil business, and, in 1966, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, launching his career in public service. He served as ambassador to the United Nations and to China, and then as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Under President Ronald Reagan, he served two terms as vice president. In 1988, Bush was elected the 41st President of the United States.
It's good to know that George H.W. Bush's character and record of accomplishment triumphed over the disadvantage of his heritage.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Bottom Story of the Day

Our TP inventory
Last spring we were concerned about the Fear of Running Out. We and millions of others apparently have stopped worrying.

Drop in Toilet-Paper Demand Prompts Kimberly-Clark’s Worst Sales Drop in a Decade
It is a sharp reversal from 2020 when the world’s consumers, stuck at home and hyper focused on cleaning, drove a 6% increase in organic sales for the year as they loaded up on paper towels, cleaning products and other household staples. Consumer-tissue sales last year rose 14%...

Demand for toilet paper shot up in the outbreak’s initial weeks, doubling in the second week of March, and remained elevated throughout most of 2020. Americans spent more than $11 billion on toilet paper last year, up from $9 billion in a typical year, according to NielsenIQ. If the current pace holds, 2021 sales would be less than $9 billion.
We carry our stock of paper goods at higher levels than we used to and no longer wait for a sale to load up, partly because there are fewer sales anyway. This is the same psychology that makes us fill our gas tanks at the one-half mark instead of waiting for the needle to drop below a quarter-tank.

When Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble start having sales on TP again, then we know we're back to normal.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Re-use and Re-cycle

Today we're recycling.

Herewith an excerpt from the Earth Day post 10 years ago:
Many in the community took to heart the admonition to "reduce, reuse, and recycle" by donating household articles in the "free-cycle" area, which was largely picked clean by day's end. Most items were in good condition, but attendees were on their good behavior and didn't appear to be overly grabby despite everything being free.

The church booth was crowded in the morning.
Community organizations such as our church were permitted to sell goods for fundraising purposes. (All our proceeds went to hunger and education charities.) Keeping in mind the 3 R's of Earth Day, we applied heavy discounts from the start because we didn't want to have anything left at the close. Children's books at 3 for $1 moved quickly, and everything else was between 50 cents and $2.

Like last year, Earth Day in-person festivities have been cancelled. Let's hope that we'll have something new to write about on Earth Day, 2022.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

San Francisco: Not Knowing or Caring that Business is Melting Away

Though it's tempting to comment on the issues of the day, your humble blogger refrains because they're all very thorny and not amenable to quick takes in a blog post. Whether we're talking about racism in all its manifestations by every racial group, or climate change, or artificial intelligence, or the coronavirus, or illegal immigration, or the rise of imperial China, they'll take decades to resolve.

One thing is certain, our government will waste $trillions; there's little agreement on defining these problems and how solutions will be measured. [For example, is global warming fixed when North America is buried in snow? Or is police violence against Black Americans solved when there are zero Black deaths in a year? (there are obvious answers to that one, such as completely disarming the police or not trying to arrest Black suspects.) ]

Ice cream entrepreneur gets the cold shoulder
Back on planet Earth, millions of ordinary people are just trying to make a living, like Jason Yu, who wanted to open an ice cream shop in San Francisco: [bold added]
Yu was featured in this [SF Chronicle] column in October after spending 16 months and $150,000 trying to open Matcha n’ More at 20th and Valencia streets and having little to show for it...

But sadly, there will be no grand opening for Yu and his ice cream shop — and no sweet ending to his bitter tale. After another six months and another $50,000, Yu has abandoned his plans.
It's difficult to imagine an American city that has more obstacles to starting a business:
Yu’s plans sounded sweet back in late 2018 when he decided to open a shop serving green-tea-flavored soft serve ice cream. He spent several months searching for the perfect space and landed on the 20th Street site in June 2019, signing a lease for $7,300 a month. He hired an architect to draw up plans to upgrade the electrical and plumbing systems, build a front counter and install kitchen equipment. He planned no structural changes or modifications to the building’s exterior...

Yu won approval, but then got stuck in the city’s never-ending web of securing permits. The Department of Building Inspection’s online permit tracker shows Yu faced 15 hurdles to secure his permits including getting the sign-off from a host of departments. The last to weigh in was the Department of Public Health, which said in December its review was complete, but that Yu owed more money in permit fees before the department could give the OK.

That’s when Yu started having second thoughts. Even after spending $200,000 on rent, an architect, a lawyer, equipment and fees, he’d still need to pay at least $120,000 in construction on his space. And he knew he’d have to hold his grand opening in the middle of a pandemic when capacity is still limited.

Was it even worth it? He finally decided it wasn’t.
San Francisco won't change because the Progressives who dominate the City haven't worried about political competition for half a century, and the bureaucrats who are beholden to them know that they'll never be fired (unless they speak out against Progressive rule).

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Normal is When Spam Sales Resume

One of the minor downsides of COVID-19 is that Costco no longer has sales on such essentials as toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

To certain households like mine another essential is Spam. Costco used to have a sale in March and September. This picture from five years ago (April 9, 2016) shows an eight-pack of Spam to be $19.99 - $5.00 = $14.99. Well, they still sell it for $19.99, but there hasn’t been a sale for a year and a half, before the pandemic.

We're down to sixteen (!) cans, the oldest of which expires in August, 2023. I suppose I can hold out a little longer before having to stock up on Spam at the retail price.

C'mon, vaccines, do your magic.

Monday, April 19, 2021

New Taste on the Block

Trader Joe's Umami seasoning
It took a hundred years for a "new" taste, umami, to be acknowledged by food science. [bold added]
In 1907, while enjoying a bowl of soup made with dashi broth and kombu seaweed, the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda had an insight that would change the culinary world. He noticed a taste that wasn’t sweet, salty, sour or bitter.

Ikeda gave this hard-to-describe savory taste a name—umami—and went on to identify the specific amino acid that triggered it.

Scientists in Europe and the U.S. remained skeptical about whether umami really was a taste until a receptor for it was discovered on the tongue almost a century later, in 2000. Today, it is taken for granted by most scientists and chefs...
Now kokumi has come on the scene.
Trader Joe's umami seasoning and
garlic sprinkled on beef ribs:
maybe they'll have kokumi.
The newer taste, kokumi, is even harder to describe than umami, but it is potentially just as important for understanding how and why we enjoy food. In Japanese, the term koku describes foods that have the kind of mouthful “thickness” often imparted by fats—what English speakers might describe as rich. “It feels like a physical sensation,” says the culinary scientist Joshua Evans. It works “by coating the mouth and becoming more intense and being extended in time.” When asked what foods have koku, Japanese food experts list wild boar, adult wasps, duck eggs and aged sake, as well as long-simmered and fermented dishes.

Koku reflects a sensory experience most closely allied with touch, influenced by aromas and textures. Adding the Japanese suffix -mi, meaning taste, highlights the specific taste detected by the tongue. The precise nature of kokumi remains the subject of great debate among sensory scientists and chefs, in part because it can’t be detected on the palate on its own; rather, it modifies other tastes and flavors.

The earliest kokumi research focused on the contribution of garlic to foods. In 1990, Japanese scientist Yoichi Ueda discovered that if he added diluted garlic to two types of soups, people eating them would describe having more sensations associated with kokumi. Subsequent research isolated amino acids in the garlic that seemed to cause the effect, including glutathione.

A Japanese lab claims to have identified the taste receptor triggered by glutathione, and scientists elsewhere have discovered that glutathione and other compounds appear to trigger kokumi in yeasts and in other foods. These include long-cooked meats such as chicken in chicken broth; some cheeses, such as Blue Shropshire, Gouda and Parmesan; and fermented foods like beer, soy sauce and fish paste.

Some sensory scientists remain skeptical. Paul Breslin, a nutritional sciences professor at Rutgers University, contends that the term kokumi will be difficult to understand and use “until the scientific and nonscientific community can agree both on its definition and on the prototypical eliciting stimuli”—that is to say, until we know more.

For all the uncertainty, kokumi has two potentially important implications. The first relates to our understanding of human evolution; the second, human health—especially efforts to create foods with fewer calories but more flavor. In both cases, kokumi may provide a kind of missing link.

Our ancestors didn’t have to be able to give kokumi a name or know its chemical sources to enjoy it. Our own research suggests that one key to the adoption of fire by humans, and the invention and adoption of fermentation, was the flavor of cooked and fermented foods. It is known that humans (as well as dogs, gorillas and chimpanzees) prefer cooked foods over raw foods. Humans also tend to prefer many fermented foods relative to their raw counterparts. But it has long been unclear why.

One possibility is that humans evolved a preference for complex aromas and the experience they contribute to flavor. Uncooked meat and rotten meat that is full of pathogens both tend to have simpler aromas than cooked meat or meat that is fermented and full of beneficial fermentation microbes. It is also notable that cooked meats and fermented foods tend to have kokumi.

We might picture an ancient human ancestor holding up a piece of meat that has been cooked on the fire, pleased by its aromas but also by the rich mouthfeel of its kokumi. Our ancestors didn’t have to be able to give kokumi a name or know its chemical sources to enjoy it.

Chef-researchers employed by top restaurants, such as Nabila Rodríguez Valerón at Copenhagen’s award-winning Alchemist, are now eagerly experimenting with the ways in which kokumi could be featured in modern meals to make foods that taste rich but are low in fat. A recent study by Ciarán Forde at the Clinical Nutrition Research Center in Singapore discovered that if the amino acid associated with kokumi is added to beef broth, particularly in combination with umami flavors, consumers perceive the broth to be richer and to have more calories.

Many traditional recipes from cultures around the world appear to already take advantage of this kokumi effect. For example, adding onion and garlic to soup stock to give it a fuller, deeper flavor. Often recipes start with a step in which chopped onions are soaked in fat or oil, in effect amplifying the flavors of those fats and oils. Kokumi is a taste that asks us to think of food holistically.
At least it's organic
Cooking in fat and oil makes dishes taste better, though traditional food vocabulary--sweeter, saltier, etc.--is inadequate to describe what made the food more enjoyable. Now we know that it was umame and kokumi.

However, I'll probably pass on the wild boar and most definitely the adult wasps. (By the way, how did "Japanese food experts" know that adult wasps are redolent--food critic word--with kokumi?)

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Woman Sits Alone

The Queen has 16 "regnal titles". In Great Britain her regnal title is:

Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

On Saturday she was a 94-year-old widow, sitting alone in St. George's chapel, mourning the loss of her husband of 73 years.

Among the nearly 8 billion people in the world, Queen Elizabeth II is without equal in rank, wealth, and privilege. Those who have ideological blinders find it impossible to look beyond the symbol. But the vast majority, I hope and believe, see the person, remember their own sorrows, and share the heartbreak.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

They Got Sent to the Principal's Office

SF schools Superintendent Vincent Matthews:
the adult in the room (Chronicle photo)
This headline reflects the sentiment of nearly everyone, regardless of political affiliation:

SF schools superintendent agreed to stay if the school board behaves [bold added]
When San Francisco public schools Superintendent Vincent Matthews agreed to stay on the job for another year just a month after announcing his retirement, he didn’t ask for more money. He demanded that the school board behave.

The seven-member board is expected to vote on an amendment to Matthews’ contract Tuesday, which calls for the school board to be prepared for public meetings and refrain from creating new programs or mandates unrelated to reopening schools until they are fully back to in-person learning.

The new contract would shift the balance of power to the superintendent, giving him nearly full discretion over hiring and firing.
We've written before about the SF education clown show that was focused on renaming the schools instead of re-opening them, and it's about time they have an adult in the room.

They don't administer corporal punishment to the kids anymore, but what about incorrigible adults? Just asking.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Hair Tells the Story

Gray can look good though (CNN photo)
The coronavirus has caused death, unemployment, mental depression, weight gain, and isolation from friends and family, but let's not forget something that matters to thousands of people, namely premature graying: {bold added]
Across the Bay Area, residents are reporting an invasion of gray hair — with whole patches growing out of their parts, seemingly overnight skunk stripes, and even beards that have grown almost completely white. The phenomenon has also coincided with another physical effect reported by many: hair loss.

For the many people who have skipped regular hair care or salon appointments during the pandemic, the presence of gray hair may be simply what was hidden underneath, said Dr. Shadi Kourosh, a dermatologist at Harvard Medical School. But widespread graying is also happening for those well below the ages they would normally expect to see gray. Hair is generally said to gray prematurely when it happens before the age of 20 in people of Caucasian descent, 25 in those of Asian descent and 30 in those of African descent.

...A team of researchers at Harvard found that in mice, stress activated nerves that triggered the fight-or-flight response, which then caused damage to stem cells that differentiate to create specialized cells called melanocytes, which produce the color we see in our hair. The study, published in Nature, found that stress caused those cells to deplete, and the effect was permanent — and resulted in gray.

Those melanocytes naturally die off in the aging process, experts say, but it seems stress can sometimes speed up the process. Scientists have long pointed out the link between stress and other ailments, including inflammation, weight gain, insomnia or even overactive immune response.
Hair tells the story of my year: mostly
intact with a few streaks of gray
The year-long lockdown has been detrimental to everyone, but to introverts like me the stress (whisper) has actually gone down.

Not having to get dressed up to go to a meeting (Zoom meetings are much more casual), not fighting traffic, and having fewer appointments on the calendar make for a more pleasant daily routine.

Don't misunderstand--I do want things to get back to normal--but life during the lockdown had a few upsides.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Apple Woods

Conservation Intl: "Mangrove forests cover just 0.1
percent of the planet’s surface but store up to 10
times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests."
Apple is planting forests to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere:
The tech giant, Conservation International and Goldman Sachs have launched a $200 million Restore Fund meant to remove "at least" 1 million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year by investing in forest restoration projects...

The firm wasn't shy about its dependence on this project. It estimated that it would only cut 75 percent of its emissions by 2030 through improvements to products and the supply chain, and carbon capture would be necessary for the rest.

1) Normally your humble blogger looks askance at projects that stray far afield from a company's line of business. However, a successful company like Apple is allowed some leeway. Besides a $200 million investment represents only .01% of Apple's market capitalization.

2) Apple can forecast that nine years from now it will significantly fall short of its carbon-neutral goal. That's confident planning.

3) I worked in a vertically integrated (planting trees, harvesting, saw mill operations) forest-products company for five years and learned how a well-managed operation can be both profitable and sustainable. And that was before the benefits of carbon-capture became important.

4) Many environmentalists have realized from years of wildfires that the philosophy of keeping human beings away is not the best way to preserve nature. Apple wants to invest in "working" forests, in keeping with its history of practical environmentalism.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Dispensing with Money-Management Cuteness

After the third iteration the tax returns came back from the processor and for the first time in memory they were done by April 11th.

Now that we've simplified our financial accounts and gotten out of pass-through businesses that never made much money but always mailed us the K-1 forms late, the tax stress is gratifyingly confined to the first four months of the year.

Because this year's due date is May 17th, I toyed briefly with the idea of sending in the California 540 now, because we're getting a refund, and delaying Federal 1040 until May, because there's a four-figure balance due.

Dispensing with money-management cuteness, I went to the Post Office and sent in both returns. Not wanting to stand in line twice was one reason, and not having to worry about a must-do item on the calendar was the other. As one gets older, reducing stress during the time we have left has become more important than money.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

California: Number One No Longer

Steve Breen/San Diego Union-Tribune
All the signs were there, now it's confirmed: California is not the best place to start a business. [bold added]
Washington, Texas and Florida are the best states to launch a technology startup, beating California’s Silicon Valley, according to a new index that ranks the vitality of national and global innovation hubs...

The Draper Innovation Index grades U.S. states and countries world-wide based on a range of local factors that its developers say support a healthy startup ecosystem. They include regulatory, economic, investment and workforce trends, along with less common indicators, such as openness to cryptocurrencies. Sources of data include the World Bank, the United Nations, the Nasdaq Stock Market and dozens of other private- and public-sector organizations.

The grades are then distilled into three broad categories, each with a separate rank. They include trust and transparency in local governments, the potential for development opportunities, and an overall rank based on the balance of all factors combined.

China, for instance, ranks second for emerging opportunities, but drops to 51 for government quality, according to the index. Its overall rank is 13. The U.S. tops the rankings in all three categories...

Although California scores high for its thriving tech sector, the state’s overall grade is weighed down by red tape, high taxes and other state regulations, [venture capitalist Tim] Draper said.
For decades Silicon Valley companies have expanded in other States for the reasons cited above--lower taxes, regulations, and labor costs--but the dam started to break when venerable California enterprises like Hewlett-Packard and Oracle undertook the costly process of moving their headquarters.

There is no credible challenge to the progressive politics that have caused talent and wealth to flee, so look for California's downward slide to continue.

Monday, April 12, 2021

When Gaining Weight Wasn't a Problem

In a world where one is forced to be a locavore, where there is no refrigeration, and where starvation is a much more severe problem than obesity, the cook has very different priorities.

Ladies and gentlemen, a 1750's recipe book from Yale's Rare Books Library:

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Peace Be With You

Today's Gospel lesson (John 20:19-31) was the well-known story of Doubting Thomas, but the priest chose to focus attention on the first five verses that were about God's Peace.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
The disciples feared being found by the Jewish leaders, who would not hesitate to imprison or kill them. Today, despite our immensely better circumstances, we are plagued with our own sets of anxieties. The Peace of God remains as relevant as ever.

The priest said that meditation and music bring him peace. I find that breathing exercises, playing an instrument, and listening to an audiobook have a calming influence.

This afternon I went for a walk and felt better...

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Doing His Duty

Prince Philip (21) in 1942
For decades there have been a raft of movies and books about women who labored behind the scenes during great historical events. Usually men took the credit for their work, and the women, unacknowledged, took their place in the background. Values may have changed over the decades, but one that hasn't is the special regard for those who strive for the greater good without seeking praise for their own contributions

If we honor those self-effacing women, what shall we say about Prince Philip (1921-2021) who stood in the shadow of Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years? The Prince consort knew his duty to be loyal, supportive, and in the background. It wasn't easy for a young man of accomplishment:
In 1940 Prince Philip joined the Royal Navy, serving with distinction in World War II in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. During a 1941 battle off the coast of Greece, his skillful manning of his ship's searchlight helped his crew sink two Italian cruisers in five minutes, [biographer Ben] Pimlott writes. In 1942, at the age of 21, he was one of the youngest officers ever named first lieutenant and second-in-command of a destroyer.

He began wooing Princess Elizabeth in earnest toward the end of the war...Around the time of his marriage to Elizabeth in 1947, Prince Philip became a naturalized British citizen and was named Duke of Edinburgh.

When Elizabeth became queen in 1952, Prince Philip gave up his active naval career for full-time royal duties, serving as his wife's consort and as patron to charitable organizations. Asked about his life in a 1992 interview, he betrayed some regret about the trade-offs. "I didn't want to be President of the World Wildlife Fund," he said. "I'd much rather have stayed in the navy, frankly."
Before the war Philip's life did not conform to the stereotypical image of a royal life.
Philip had a relatively rough childhood. While he was still an infant, a Greek revolutionary court sentenced his father, Prince Andrew, to banishment for life for disobeying a miltary order during a battle with Turkey. That forced the family of seven to flee the country...

They lived an "impoverished" life in exile in a house provided by a relative on the outskirts of Paris...

Prince Philip's father effectively abandoned the family when the prince was 9, and his mother suffered a nervous breakdown and spent many years in mental-health clinics.
Philip married into privilege, perhaps the most archetypically privileged family in the world. Membership, however, comes at a high price, and, as younger family members have shown, a price not everyone is willing to bear. Philip accepted his responsibilities for nearly 100 years. R.I.P.

Friday, April 09, 2021

A New Director, That's the Answer

Shireen McSpadden (Chron photo)
Shireen McSpadden is the latest person tasked with solving San Francisco's homelessness problem: [bold added]
Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that Shireen McSpadden, the current executive director of the Department of Disability and Aging Services, will take over May 1 and oversee a department with around $600 million in funding to help the city’s more than 8,000 homeless people.
My calculator shows that $600,000,000 ➗ 8,000 = $75,000 per homeless person per year.

Real-estate website Zumper says that, as of April 9, 2021, a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco rents for $2,600, which is $31,200 annually. If the $75,000 were spent directly on a homeless person, there would seem to be ample room for not only shelter but food, clothing, and medical care.

In SF the cops advise homeless people
not to leave but to keep a safe distance
Despite the immense sum being spent, your humble blogger is 100% certain that no progress will be made in reducing the numbers of the homeless in--let's set a target--three years. That's a very safe prediction, based on the City's record of spending ever-greater amounts on an ever-increasing homeless population.

I hope I'm wrong, and good luck to Ms. McSpadden, whom I hope negotiated a good severance package going in.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Hawaii No Ka Oi (Not)

(Image from CPA Practice Advisor)
Tax practitioners breathed a sigh of relief when the IRS extended the filing deadline for 2020 individual tax returns to May 17, 2021. More importantly, the April 15th payments due, if any, were also extended to May 17th. (In normal years the returns can be filed as late as October 15th if a simple extension form is completed, but the final payment must be made on April 15th nevertheless.)

Generally speaking, the States followed the IRS' lead in postponing the filing date and payments. Below is the ranking of States, including the District of Columbia, starting with those who are the most considerate of taxpayers' needs to the one which is the least accommodating.

The Best: States with No Individual Income Tax

Postponement to July 15

Postponement to June 15

Postponement to June 1

Postponement of Returns and Payments to May 17 (37 incl DC)

Postponement of Payments to May 17, Return Due April 15

Interest and Dividend Filing plus Payment Due on April 15
NH (does not tax wages but does impose a flat tax on interest and dividends)

The Worst: No Postponement of Returns or Payments After April 20

From Governor Ige's website: "After careful consideration, the Hawaii State Department of Taxation has decided not to extend the Tax Year 2020 filing deadline. Taxpayers must file their returns by April 20, 2021."

Everyone, professional or amateur, who prepares tax returns does the Federal Form 1040 first, then completes the State return off of the Federal data.

By not budging on the April 20 due date Hawaii is forcing State filers to complete the calculations on the Federal return before they have to in order to determine the payment owed to Hawaii in April. And if they haven't finished by April 20th, to be safe they probably will significantly overpay Hawaii when they file the Hawaii extension and plan to get the refund later in the year.

Well, Hawaii hasn't relaxed its quarantine requirements even if inbound travelers have been vaccinated, so its inflexibility toward tax deadlines is not surprising.

That's the Aloha spirit!

Related (3/10/21): Hawaii Senate passes what’s poised to be the nation’s highest income tax. Someone has to pay for all the empty hotels.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

California: Imperialists of the 21st Century

I've contributed to the Pomo Indians' welfare
at the River Rock Casino, Geyserville
There is no question that the taking of lands, the breaking of treaties, and the general treatment of Native Americans are a stain on the history of the United States. That legacy is reflected in the statistics: as of 2018 Native Americans have the highest poverty rate and lowest educational achievement of all minority groups.

Nevertheless, there are signs of hope:
Thanks to legislation such as the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, the Tribal Self-Governance Act of 1994 and generations of advocacy, Native American communities have greater control over their own land and resources and have experienced an increase of federal recognition of their tribal governments.
Annual gaming revenues have climbed every year to $34 billion in 2018 and have provided a source of earned wealth to many tribes.

One might expect that the Progressive State of California would not only be respectful of Native American rights but also support gaming as a means to economic self-sufficiency. But one would be wrong.
the tribes must periodically negotiate renewals of casino agreements with the state, and after five years of unsuccessful talks, five small tribes filed suit in 2019 accusing the state of demanding changes in policies outside the scope of the 1988 law, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Judge Ishii
California attempted to make casino renewals contingent on the tribes' bowing to California law on social, environmental, and liability matters. U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii, a Clinton appointee, said that [bold added]
state negotiators had exceeded the scope of the law by demanding tribal enforcement of state court orders for child support and spousal support in divorce cases.

He said state negotiators may have also crossed the law’s boundaries by seeking tribal compliance with a wide range of California laws — on wages, discrimination, environmental review of land use and construction projects, and suits for injuries on tribal property...

Ishii said the federal law on tribal gambling contracts allows negotiations only on issues related to gambling on the reservations and not on other matters subject to tribal self-government.
Progressives claim that white patriarchal society foisted its alien values upon indigenous peoples, but give Progressives absolute power, which is what they enjoy in California, and they have shown themselves to be as disrespectful of tribal sovereignty as the imperialists of the 19th century.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Answering the Trap Questions

Out: build a better (mouse)trap. In: avoid
trap questions. (Korn Ferry photo)
Leaders of major companies are more highly compensated than ever. To be fair, their jobs are also more complicated than ever.

They have to answer to a multitude of constituencies ("stakeholders"), some of whom are concerned with matters other than revenues and profits. The slightest verbal miscues, even not saying something, can put a CEO's job at risk.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a master at answering the "trap question." Here's an example of one from last month's Stanford economics conference:
"Let’s talk a little bit more about equity. Before the pandemic, the world was facing big challenges: climate change, structural racism, economic insecurity, wealth inequality and more....What is the responsibility of the corporations, particularly the underlying connection to racial justice in the U.S. and elsewhere?”
Before reading Mr. Nadella's answer, how would you respond, dear reader? All the problems on the list are intractable, beyond the capacity of even mighty Microsoft to solve. Also, "responsibility" is a trap word: if he says Microsoft is responsible, it can never succeed; if it is not responsible, he will sound callous.

Here is Mr. Nadella's answer, as described by WSJ writer Andy Kessler:
Mr. Nadella isn’t CEO of a trillion-dollar company for nothing. Coolly and calmly, he explained that “the social purpose of a company is to find profitable solutions to the challenges of people and planet,” crediting Oxford economist Colin Mayer for the definition. “Driving broad economic growth is perhaps the biggest thing that a company can do,” Mr. Nadella added. “In order to have the pie distributed evenly, the pie should first grow.”
As Andy Kessler explains:
finding “profitable solutions” is—shh, don’t give it away—basically the same as Milton Friedman’s “the social responsibility of business is to increase profits,” except with the crowd-pleasing word “planet” tacked on.
IMHO, public figures aren't liars when they say they are against climate change, racism, etc. However, they couldn't have gotten to where they are without a single-minded dedication to their business, their personal skills in sports or entertainment, or whatever else got them to the top of the heap.

Besides obeying the law, all other considerations are nice but secondary, and too many distractions could jeopardize their primary mission. Invest in social-media consultants, practice using words like "systemic racism", "sustainability", "equity", and others that placate the woke, and carry on.

Monday, April 05, 2021

A Little More Humility

Philipp Strack
Yale Professor of Computer Science and Economics Philipp Strack on his research into prejudice: [bold added]
Recently I’ve been researching how to explain prejudice in society. In a working paper with Paul Heidhues and Botond Köszegi, we explore the idea that overestimating yourself can generate prejudice. Suppose I think I’m great, even though I’m not; when I look at my outcomes in life, I am unhappy and think I deserve more. To explain why I’m not receiving what I think I deserve, I may believe there is discrimination against me. This leads me to overestimate discrimination against the groups I’m a member of, while underestimating discrimination against groups with which I compete.

This can create prejudice and specific patterns in people’s beliefs. For example, if you ask Black and white people which group is discriminated against, there are huge gaps between the perception of different groups. The same is true for men and women. But standard theories of discrimination — that people discriminate because they don’t like certain groups, or believe them to be less qualified — don’t predict these large differences in beliefs about discrimination across groups.
While there have been voluminous studies on discrimination and prejudice, this is the first time I have read about research into how an individual's mis-apprehension--specifically he thinks he is better than he is--of his own abilities exacerbates prejudice against other groups.

A little more humility is in order, not only from an ethical and philosophical standpoint, but because it will lessen intergroup conflict.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Easter, 2021

Noli me tangere (Do not touch me). Magdalene
mistakes Christ for the gardener. Fontana(1581)
Death loomed over the lives of the ancients. Existence was focused on finding the next meal and avoiding the predations of nature and fellow human beings.

In a world where the average life expectancy was about 30 years, there was wonder in the Resurrection, a wonder that has all but vanished.
Especially today, it is imperative that Christians recover the sheer strangeness of the Resurrection of Jesus and stand athwart all attempts to domesticate it.
In the 21st century the miracle of Easter has been normalized by science, science fiction, psychologists, Jungian philosophers, historians, and anthropologists, all of whom have alternate explanations for the Resurrection.

The distractions and busy-ness of modern society have pushed aside deep thoughts about life, death, and the meaning of it all. However, in recent years an increasing number of my contemporaries have passed away. Over the past twelve months alone I've mourned the loss in absentia of Jan, the wife of a business colleague; Marc, whom I played bridge with on CalTrain; Richard, the husband of my cousin; Mike, who ran the Toulouse office; Judy, who always volunteered for charity; and Wayne, who let me read his comic books in 4th grade.

After a lifetime of ignoring the Resurrection, I am thinking about it more and more.

Sunday morning is cold and overcast, so I'm posting this photograph of the lagoon from three days ago. Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Clash of the Franchises

Godzilla and Kong face off at sea
Your humble blogger was a paying customer for monster movies back when the giant city-destroyers were played by actors in rubber suits. So when Godzilla and King Kong were rebooted in a MonsterVerse series of movies, I was all in.

Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) are escapist fare that balanced personalities--and the vast majority of women--might find alarming.

I only watch these movies over and over because I marvel at the advances in special-effects technology, not because I have an unhealthy fascination with skyscraper-sized creatures.

Film critics who like scripts to have some intellectual depth
(WSJ: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Review: A Mental Mush of a Monster Mash,

Chronicle: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is a disappointment. It’s even a little depressing)
don't like Godzilla vs. Kong much, so I did anticipate disappointment about seeing the fourth movie, now streaming on HBOMAX for the month of April in what could be the final chapter of the MonsterVerse series.

No worries, I liked Godzilla vs. Kong. It had continuity with the previous movies and impressive special effects. Also (spoiler alert), the scriptwriters resolved the conflict between the two "apex" predators Kong and Godzilla without killing either of them.

Both had been shown as entities who could have empathy with human beings and were certainly morally superior to the evil monsters they had fought in earlier films. Each had their own fan bases, and, most importantly, the franchises could continue.

I think I'll watch it again...for the special effects, of course.

Friday, April 02, 2021

It was the Toddler's Fault

There are some people and organizations whose power over other people's lives is so great that we are forced to pay attention to their every utterance, for example, POTUS, the Pope, and the leaders of China and Russia.

It's easy to forget them after the Cold War ended, but the Strategic Air Command has the ability to destroy the world.

A Sunday night tweet alarmed some people and puzzled everyone else. [bold added]
Chuckle? Hide in a bunker?

The social media world wasn’t quite sure what to do when the Nebraska-based U.S. Strategic Command tweeted out a bit of gibberish Sunday night on its official Twitter account....

Thirty minutes later, StratCom issued a follow-up tweet apologizing “for any confusion” and asking that the previous tweet be disregarded...

the Command’s Twitter manager was working from home when he stepped away from his computer with the Twitter account open.

You can guess what happened next.

His child, who is described as “very young,” sat down at the keyboard and started playing with the keys — and then, somehow, hit “Send.”
Good thing the toddler couldn't access the arming and launch codes, right? Right!?!

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Fake and Funny

Today is April Fool's Day, and the web is rife with hoaxes that are variations of fake pictures, videos, words, in fact any information that can be digitized. (Google's April Fool's "MentalPlex" antic is from the year 2000.)

Personally, I most admire practical jokes that were concocted before the Internet era, such as the famous Caltech pranks that included assembling a running Model T Ford in a dorm room, or the one where a student's door was plastered over so his room "disappeared."

The following isn't really an April Fool's joke because it originated a month ago and (almost) everyone knew it was fake from the beginning. WSJ: Stressed Over Getting Into College? Just Invent Your Own School
In the Reddit chatroom the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
Southern Rhode Island Institute of the Arts is the most exclusive college you’ve never heard of. Why? It’s not real.

It is, however, perfectly suited to this high-anxiety moment for high-school students around the country waiting to find out if they have been accepted to college. The fake school’s founders channeled their college admissions stress into inventing a university of their own.
High school seniors from different parts of the country were commiserating over the stress of college admissions, and SRIIOTA was born. The website material grew spontaneously as more participants added to the joke.

Boomers shouldn't worry: the country is in good hands.