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.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Turkey Day, 2021

It's been 40+ years of trial and error, and it bore fruit in yesterday's turkey.

Think of all the possibilities:
  • Fresh or frozen?
  • With stuffing or without?
  • Turn the bird?
  • Wrap the turkey in foil?
  • Change the temperature during roasting?
  • Brine beforehand?
  • Rub with spices and/or oil?

    Three hard-to-make side dishes were store-bought.
    Each of the above in turn has many options. Stuffing recipes are innumerable, temperature adjustments can be high to low or vice versa, how long before turning the turkey over, if at all, etc.

    My wife's late aunt had a reliable method for keeping the meat moist---cover the turkey with a wet paper shopping bag, replacing it every hour as it dried out. We stopped using that technique when supermarkets switched from paper to plastic.

    Here's the 2021 recipe. On Tuesday wash the fresh turkey, pat dry, and season all over. (I used salt, pepper, and garlic.) Leave uncovered in the refrigerator until ready to cook. On Wednesday evening rub with butter and roast in oven, breast-side down, at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Turn the bird and roast at 400 for 20 minutes. Pour 2 cups wine or apple cider over bird. Adjust the temperature down to 170 degrees and roast for 12-20 hours until inner thigh temperature reads at least 160 degrees. Baste if skin appears dry (I only did this once). After removing turkey from oven, allow at least 30 minutes before carving.

    My limit was one plate plus a second helping of turkey.

    I had to save room for the pumpkin pie.

    I hope you and your loved ones had a Happy Thanksgiving.
  • Thursday, November 25, 2021

    Yakiniku Korea House

    Later today we'll have November's biggest meal, but I can already say that the best meal I had this month was at the Yakiniku Korea House in Honolulu. Yakiniku restaurants are popular not only because meat cooked on a hot grill is always delicious but also because it's fun cooking together.

    We ordered two platters at $70 each for our party of eight. Together with rice, condiments and dipping sauces, the beef and pork belly unleashed the inner carnivore.

    Beef and pork belly (Yelp photo)
    The meal was a blast, literally, because the steam and smoke were so intense that the waiter had to lower the exhaust pipe to eye level.

    Dinner companions asked if we should order more. In my salad days (when I ate much less salad, btw) I would have readily assented, but (sigh) not for me, I answered.

    My birthday was earlier this month, so my brothers paid for everything. Like I said, the best meal this month.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2021

    We Won't Be Starving

    Last-minute Thanksgiving shoppers could find everything in stock at Costco today.

    In fact there's a surfeit, glut, abundance, plethora and every other synonym for surplus, of turkeys at 99 cents a pound.

    I meant to buy a 12-pounder last Friday but only a 20-pound bird was in the display. Spooked by reports of food shortages, I grabbed the tom.

    It does not require a crystal ball to envision lots of turkey a la king and turkey sandwiches in the near future.

    Just in Time

    The recent upward blip in interest rates resulted in Citibank adding 8 cents, more than double the usual, to my largely inactive savings account.

    It was just in time for Christmas shopping.

    As the saying goes, I'll try not to spend it all in one place.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2021

    The Central Valley is Looking Better and Better

    WSJ illustration: blue dots show where Bay
    Area ex-residents are resettling.
    In April we commented on a Chronicle editorial that decried the migration from the coasts to Central California. The Chronicle declared the growth of the suburbs "unsustainable", which struck us as wishful thinking:
    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.
    Six months later the trend shows no signs of abating. WSJ: Californians Flee the Coast to Inland Cities in a Mass Pandemic-Era Exodus
    The pandemic boosted the flow of households from California’s coastal counties to other parts by nearly 50%, postal data show.

    A net 97,000 households left the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and the San Francisco metro area lost about 67,000. The city of San Francisco lost a net of 44,000 households last year, about one-eighth of its total. Many from the city settled in the Sacramento metro area, about 90 miles northeast.

    In Southern California, the center of the state’s shift, the Inland Empire had a net gain of 25,000 households last year, according to the postal data. That figure doesn’t count immigration, a longtime source of new Californians.
    Roseville, near Sacramento, has some nice stores
    but I doubt they'll be hit: too many guns and
    Republicans, and the people support the police.
    As if to put an exclamation point on the pay-more-get-less life by the Bay, organized smash-and-grab gangs attacked pricey stores in multiple cities the past weekend.
    “It was a wild weekend,” (Alameda County Sergeant Ray] Kelly said, referring to sprees in Hayward, Walnut Creek, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco, where roving bands of thieves swarmed into stores, grabbed as much merchandise as they could carry and escaped in getaway cars.

    In Oakland the caravans grew particularly violent, as police encountered hundreds of drivers roaming the city on Friday, seeking out cannabis businesses for attempted theft, authorities said.
    And why should the gangs worry? Property theft less than $950 is only a misdemeanor, so hardly any victim bothers reporting it. And if you're unlucky or stupid enough to get caught, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin ended cash bail for all criminal cases, so criminals will be out in no time.

    This weekend, for the first time in two years, I'll be visiting the Sacramento area, where life seems more civilized.

    The Central Valley is looking better and better.

    Monday, November 22, 2021

    Around the Ala Wai

    The Ala Wai Golf Course
    Two Fridays ago our part of the city was in the high 70's with a light breeze, cool by Honolulu standards. It was a perfect morning to walk around the neighborhood.

    Reality: the Waikiki Library was smaller than I remembered.
    The Ala Wai golf course is an almost totally flat public course ideal for beginners and oldsters. Constructed in 1931 on the mauka side of Ala Wai Canal, it could never be built today given the price of Waikiki real estate.

    Near the southern end of the golf course is the Waikiki Library, where I occasionally did my homework. Before there were computerized databases, one could sometimes find a book that had been checked out of the Main Branch downtown.

    The Ala Wai Canal was looking especially fine. Sometimes the air hangs heavy and the water stagnates, but not today. The final two mile straightaway went quickly, and I was home in time to pick up lunch for Mom.

    Sunday, November 21, 2021

    Old Times Sake

    On Tuesday I put on the standard-issue wired headphones (see following post) and embarked on a 4-mile stroll around Ala Moana.

    Skipping Waikiki, I walked past the boats in the Ala Wai harbor and dreamt briefly of the benefits and costs of owning one. Nope, not even if I had the money.

    View of Diamond Head from Magic Island.
    For old times' sake, I took the loop around Magic Island. My father would often walk the path while I, going a little faster, would circumnavigate Ala Moana Beach Park.

    We would meet at the car, then drive across the street to the shopping center and relax with a coffee at the Food Court.

    The Food Court in the COVID era has been stripped of half its furniture, and Dad would not have found it as inviting.

    Across Kapiolani Boulevard was Don Quijote. I was refreshed by the air conditioning inside but didn't buy anything, not being inclined to walk the final mile carrying a bag of groceries.

    The traffic was much heavier than when I was a kid, but now there are four more stop lights along the way to make the crosswalks less hazardous. In 20 minutes I was home.

    Saturday, November 20, 2021

    Before It Was Cool

    iPhone + factory headphones
    Inexpensive, old-fashioned, hard-wired headphones are cool:
    Fashionable young celebrities including Bella Hadid, Lily-Rose Depp and Zoë Kravitz have been photographed strutting around town with blatantly corded headphones...Apple corded headphones go for just $19, and those from other brands can cost even less. For disorganized types, corded headphones are easier to keep track of and needn’t be charged. Plus, some folks have vague, pseudo-scientific objections to “radiation” that they associate with wireless pods.
    I've had wireless pods fall out of my ear on the street and in bathrooms, and what happened next prevented me from wearing them again...'nuff said about that. The corded buds also drop out but don't reach the ground.

    And there's no worrying about bluetooth radiation, which scientists say is harmless, but scientists have been known to change their minds.

    I switched off the AirPods when the airlines were adamant about turning off wireless transmissions from all devices. Not having to worry about earpieces running out of juice during a five-hour flight is an under-appreciated benefit of wired headphones, and I continued to use them even after AirPods were permitted to be used during flights.

    Choosing what best works for you, and not trying to catch up with a trend, makes for a happier life.

    Friday, November 19, 2021

    Zillow, (Dis) Continued

    (Photo from Star Tribune)/td>
    Last week we opined that Zillow's house-flipping business failed because it placed too much faith in its computerized decision-making programs:
    The algorithm needed to incorporate additional data--the kind of data that's hard to obtain--and Zillow needed to test the program on a much smaller scale before it bet the farm. They had the courage to pull the plug before it took down the company, and it's likely they'll be back some day, probably with a "money" partner that will provide the risk capital while Zillow provided the smarts.
    A WSJ follow-up story confirms that the algorithm failed to take into account market nuances and adds that these flaws were exacerbated by the rapid shifts--both up and down--in real estate markets brought on by COVID-19: [bold added]
    Computer-driven analysis has become mainstream in stock and bond markets, but buying and selling single-family homes has proved a trickier proposition. The real-estate market varies widely by city, region and type of property, with a range of aesthetic, social and other factors playing into Americans’ home-buying decisions.

    Zillow also overstretched its staff as it tried to catch up to competitors and disregarded internal concerns that it was overpaying for homes, according to former and current employees. It operated in an unpredictable housing market, with the pandemic fallout helping to spark the biggest housing boom in a generation. And Zillow suffered from supply-chain and labor issues that slowed its ability to renovate homes quickly...

    An unexpected surge in home prices and sales during the pandemic made it harder to predict the market. Buyers began giving priority to space and location in unusual ways.

    “That shift in buyer preferences is extremely hard for a machine-learning model to incorporate,” said Dave Meyer, vice president of data and analytics at BiggerPockets, a real-estate investing website.
    The final nail in the coffin was trying to catch up to the competition just as the market was turning:
    Zillow put together a plan to speed up the pace and volume of home purchases, dubbing it Project Ketchup—which employees took as a play on the team’s mission to catch up to Opendoor. Zillow planned to buy more homes by spending more money, offering prices well above what its algorithm and analysts picked as market value, people familiar with the matter said.

    In the second quarter, Zillow Offers bought more than 3,800 homes—more than double the previous quarter. In the third quarter, it bought 9,680 homes. The company was buying so many homes that its overstretched staff started running behind on closings and renovations, people familiar with the matter said.

    It struggled to find contractors and renovation materials amid a broader labor and supply shortage. That meant Zillow was in danger of sitting on homes for longer, adding to insurance and debt bills. It also meant many homes bought during the summer would likely have to be sold in the winter, when the housing market is usually weaker.
    As for damage to the overall company,
    The company’s market cap, which closed at a peak of $48.35 billion in February, is now around $16 billion.
    Their misguided efforts to improve matters led to a disaster in less than a year. Fortunately Zillow had the courage to face up to its mistake and change course before it lost everything.

    Thursday, November 18, 2021

    Keeping Her Safe from Spam Musubi

    Mom's assisted living facility serves healthy, balanced meals chopped fine to reduce the risk of choking in the elderly residents.

    They do permit outside food to be brought in (we do cut it up, but not as granularly as the facility), so I picked up Hawaiian food for her lunch and dinner.

    Impulsively I grabbed a spam musubi for her afternoon snack.

    It was only later, as I was cutting and sorting the food into containers, that I noticed that the spam musubi should be consumed by 1 p.m. and could not be used for her snack.

    Without hesitation I ate it. Anything to keep her safe.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2021

    Diamond Head at Dusk

    When I was 8 years old, I did a lot of walking. Back then it was to pocket the 10 cents(!) that my parents gave me for bus fare.

    Now I walk primarily for the benefits of exercise. Within a 2-mile radius of the old homestead there are many sites (sights?) I had never seen, including this view of Diamond Head from Ft. DeRussy beach.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2021

    Something Different

    At the Don Quijote store the eye-catching Candy (eyecandy?) banner suggested, "Sometimes it's good to try something different." None of the candies was familiar to me.

    The Nobel's Times. looked intriguing, and I bought one.

    Juicy Tidbits

    Are you disappointed with the Nobel-Prize-winning New York Times?

    Get The Nobel's Times instead!

    It's not just lemon, it's Super Lemon!

    When you pierce the crust of Lemon Taste Powder, bite through the mantle of Mild Lemon Candy, and reach the core of Super Lemon Candy, you too will exclaim, Oh! Juicy!

    At $2.99 a package The Nobel's Times is a better value than the New York Times.

    It's made in Japan and has the highest quality. There have been no recalls or retractions.

    It will leave a sour taste in your mouth, but unlike the New York Times you will be smiling afterwards!

    Monday, November 15, 2021

    Her Nobility Gives It Resonance

    My home parish--where I was baptized during the Eisenhower Administration--looked the same as it did five months ago. Worship protocols are stuck on COVID.

    Everyone was masked, every other pew was blocked, and the offering plate placed at the entrance was not taken to the altar during the Offertory section of the service. The lady minister brought the wafers to each communicant, and everyone waited to consume them at the same time.

    Today the Episcopal Church in Hawaii remembered Queen Liliuokalani, who became a church member in 1896 after the Kingdom was overthrown. The dethronement of the Queen in 1893 and her imprisonment was such a naked power-grab by American sugar growers that the U.S. Senate and President Grover Cleveland refused to recognize the newly created Republic of Hawaii until the exigencies of the Spanish-American War made annexation inevitable in 1898.

    Queen Liliuokalani and the Hawaiian people were not uncivilized savages, a characterization that was often used to justify colonialism. She was highly educated, fluent in English and led a government that followed the Western model. Moreover, she was Christian, and her faith was sorely tested by those who abandoned the teachings of their missionary fathers for the sake of wealth and power. Though she resisted annexation, she finally relented because of the destruction an armed rebellion would bring down on her people.

    It's safe to say that Liliuokalani's nobility of character in the face of vastly superior power is an important reason why the Hawaiian sovereignty movement has such resonance.

    She was also a gifted composer who wrote some of the most well-known numbers in the Hawaiian songbook. Below is the Queen's Prayer:

    Sunday, November 14, 2021

    Waikiki on Saturday Night

    Waikiki on Saturday night was crowded with tourists, musicians, and shoppers.

    A group of anti-vaccination-mandate protestors marched up and down Kalakaua Avenue. Their demographic diversity--old, young, black, brown, white, mixed, male, female, indeterminate--would have warmed the heart of any diversity and inclusion officer, but only if the group had advocated one of the causes on the approved list.

    I stopped at a couple of shops and made a small contribution to the Hawaiian economy. As they say in Vegas, someone's gotta pay for the lights.

    Saturday, November 13, 2021

    Zillow: Too Early, But They'll be Back

    (Photo from Star Tribune)/td>
    We've been regular users of Zillow since 2016. It has a trove of real estate information, useful for checking on the value of one's own home, the cost of homes in areas that we might want to move to, or market rents in every zip code.

    However, one would be crazy to make a purchasing decision based solely on Zillow's algorithms. One can't know the "feel" of a house or a neighborhood, or whether the roof might leak or the pipes need replacing, without a viewing by a real human being and/or inspector.

    Zillow thought that its valuation algorithm could be relied on to buy houses en masse to build a house-flipping enterprise. Now it's getting out of the business.
    Zillow Group Inc. reached a deal to sell about 2,000 homes from its ill-fated house-flipping program, the company’s biggest bulk sale as it starts unloading thousands of homes and terminates the business...

    Zillow’s home-flipping practice involved buying homes, lightly renovating them and then selling them quickly, making money on transaction fees and home-price appreciation. The company and other iBuyers used an algorithm to make home-price estimates and determine what to pay home sellers.

    Zillow said last week that it was shutting down the business because it couldn’t accurately predict future home prices and was losing too much money. The company expects to record losses of more than $500 million from home-flipping by the end of this year and is laying off a quarter of its staff.
    I confess to feeling a bit of schadenfreude that a successful (up to now) tech company got a little too big for its britches, but I think they were on the right track.

    The algorithm needed to incorporate additional data--the kind of data that's hard to obtain--and Zillow needed to test the program on a much smaller scale before it bet the farm. They had the courage to pull the plug before it took down the company, and it's likely they'll be back some day, probably with a "money" partner that will provide the risk capital while Zillow provided the smarts.

    Note: here we know all about being too early. Foster City was the headquarters of Webvan, the highly-touted grocery delivery business that failed nearly 20 years ago.

    Friday, November 12, 2021

    Homelessness in Hawaii: Living with It

    Tents along Kapiolani Boulevard, a block from my parents' home
    We first posted about homelessness in Hawaii ten years ago. Since then the tents have gotten closer. Two years ago they were seven blocks away. Now they're just across the street.

    Some official sources say that the homeless population is going down: [bold added]
    Overall, there were 6,458 people experiencing homelessness in Hawaii on one night and about 57% of those individuals were unsheltered. The statewide homelessness rate for 2020 was about the same as 2019, but has decreased since 2016.
    Others say the count is much higher:
    Hawaii’s Homeless: Estimated to be around 15,000 homeless individuals in Hawaii
    Perhaps the disparity can be explained by analysis (date of sampling, self-reporting vs. outside observation, etc.), but from a personal perspective it doesn't much matter. The problem is getting closer to home, so we will continue to subscribe to the monitored security system that my father had the foresight to install in 2012.

    As with many problems, history has shown that we cannot rely on the government to solve homelessness, it's fruitless to get angry, and we have to do the best we can to find a way to live with it.

    Thursday, November 11, 2021

    Tesla: It Makes Sense in Hawaii

    The Tesla showroom in Waikiki wasn't busy on Wednesday night, but don't go by appearances. Tesla is the luxury car leader in Hawaii:
    Tesla is also far and away the most popular luxury car brand in Hawaii with a 40% market share, followed by BMW with 18.7%, Mercedes with 13.3% and Lexus with 7.8%. And Tesla enjoyed the second-largest increase in new retail light vehicle registrations, trailing only the Lincoln.
    Living on the Mainland, we are years away from buying an electric vehicle, primarily because they are range bound. Despite the vaunted infrastructure bill, I don't believe that charging stations will be widely available across the country any time soon. For at least the next ten years gas stations will continue to be ubiquitous, and so will be the information signs posted on the nation's highways. When I see a "Next gas in 30 miles" sign, and I'm down to a quarter tank, I know what to do. Not so much with an EV.

    In Hawaii Teslas and other EVs make sense. The average road trip is 30 minutes or less, making it very unlikely an electric vehicle will be stranded. If we ever moved back, a Tesla would be one of the first purchases we make.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2021

    Slow and Safe Travels

    The ticket agent asked to see my vaccination credentials, but he didn't want to see the copy on the iPhone or even the real card itself.He wanted the information from the Hawaii Safe Travels website.

    The State of Hawaii has imposed a 21st-century version of "show me your papers." Last week I had uploaded the image of my vaccination card and re-typed the information (location, dates, provider name, etc.--absurdly redundant with OCR) on various input blocks. To Hawaii it wasn't reality unless it was in digital form.

    And so it was that after the baggage was checked and the boarding pass printed there was just one more thing.

    I typed in the Safe Travels URL on the iPhone, logged in with the userid and password, then answered the familiar questions (are you sick, have you been in contact with anyone who has COVID, etc.). One would think that Hawaii could have created an app with Face ID to ease the hassle of logging in, but one would be wrong.

    After pressing "submit" (thinking sardonically upon the several meanings of the word), I received a QR code that acknowledged my legitimacy. The agent gave me the precious wristband that told Hawaii officials that I was cleared to enter.

    The take-off was delayed one hour because the catering truck was late. A long day had just gotten longer.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2021

    Infrastructure Spending: Hoping for a Different Result

    From July 22nd: Lake Oroville reservoir
    Government spending programs are signed to much fanfare, yet always seem to fall short of their goals (or eventually succeed at multiples of the original cost estimates). Your humble blogger nevertheless hopes that the infrastructure bill will produce some progress at improving California's water storage capacity. [bold added]
    In California, where a historic drought has depleted reservoirs, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado said infrastructure money is needed to help fund new places to store snowmelt from the local mountains and to repair canals, levees and other methods of conveyance, which are crumbling or in other disrepair. Ms. Hurtado’s Central Valley district has been hit hard with water cutoffs to its big farming sector, and she said some small towns there face possible loss of drinking water due to the shortfall.

    “If we don’t act now, it is going to be just catastrophic for mankind,” said Ms. Hurtado, a Democrat.
    Maybe there's hope after all: a Democrat used the traditional "mankind" instead of "humankind", and she did not refer to "catastrophic" climate change but water shortages that everyone, global warmists or not, can do something about.

    Monday, November 08, 2021

    The Learning Trap

    (Image from very well mind)
    Berkeley psychologist Alison Gopnik showed experimentally that children were willing to take greater risks than adults for the sake of gathering information. [bold added]
    We used what’s called a “learning trap.” When we grown-ups try something new, from oysters to opera, and get a bad result, we usually won’t try it again... If we quickly conclude that all oysters and operas are indigestible, and reject them ever after, we will never learn that the world is more complicated than that. A stale clam or lame Aida may keep us from ever discovering the delights of a sparkling Belon oyster or a scintillating Magic Flute.

    When you give 4- and 5-year-olds exactly the same problem, they behave very differently. They are irresistibly drawn to see what the new blocks will do, even though they love the stars and know that they risk losing them.

    But just as grown-up prudence may have drawbacks, childhood curiosity has advantages. Children gathered much more evidence than the adults and were much better at learning. Most of the children did figure out the right rule. However, they earned fewer stars than the grown-ups.
    The grown-ups were less willing to experiment because they did not want to lose what they had, while the children were more willing to sacrifice their possessions for knowledge. (One can't over-generalize from this experiment, however, because anyone who has any experience with children knows that they often will fight very fiercely over toys and desired foodstuffs.)

    Almost always dismissing ideas because of similarities to things that have failed in the past, I have to fight against the tendency to fall into the Learning Trap. At the same time there is much truth in the quote misattributed to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As winter approaches, I have less time to waste on repeating mistakes.

    Wisdom is knowing when people, situations, objects, and ideas are fundamentally the same..or different.

    Sunday, November 07, 2021

    Hawaiian Time

    This morning I performed the annual ritual of turning the clocks back for one hour as California switched from Daylight Saving to Standard Time.

    Our household still has analog clocks that don't adjust automatically. I am fond of their look, which offsets the inconvenience. And I can feel the time of day reading a clock face; a digital readout doesn't resonate as deeply.

    Hawaii never adopted Daylight Saving Time and doesn't have to go through the semi-annual springing forward and falling back. Hawaiian time is constant, yet unhurried. I am going to the Islands later this week and can already feel the temporal tension dissipating.

    Note: Hawaiian Time is often used as an excuse for being tardy, but holding Arbor Day in November, seven months after the rest of the country, is extreme.

    Saturday, November 06, 2021

    Burglars Caught and Released: the Policy San Franciscans Voted For

    Partial snapshot of Tyler Howerton's arrests
    Your humble blogger stopped posting on property crime in San Francisco nine months ago. The City didn't seem to be doing anything to stem the tide, and, of course, crime has escalated. We're starting to follow the issue again because there are faint glimmerings of a shift in attitudes.

    The Chronicle highlights the futility of San Francisco's soft-on-property crime approach. Police arrested Nicholas Tiller and Tyler Howerton for stealing expensive bicycles. [bold added]
    According to documents reviewed by The Chronicle, both men had extensive criminal histories: Howerton had been arrested seven times on suspicion of burglary since 2019; Tiller had been arrested 13 times in burglary cases since 2013. Both were on probation at the time they were apprehended last week.

    What to do about the two men is a quandary for a city pursuing criminal justice reform while debating how to manage rates of property crime that for years have been among the highest in the nation...Last week, Superior Court Judge Brian Ferrall ordered Howerton released from jail with GPS monitoring...

    Tiller remains in jail. Attorneys representing Tiller and Howerton declined to comment.
    In San Francisco burglary is a lucrative occupation because, if caught, the perpetrator is released to steal again. Many thieves have upgraded their skills and equipment because the rewards have become greater, while the risk of imprisonment has nearly disappeared.
    the crimes are serious, but not violent. The perpetrators are often methodical, repeat offenders with tools and expertise. They know how to drill holes and use wires to open garage doors; they don’t have the desperation of people who steal packages from porches, or even of the drug store shoplifters who grab toiletries from shelves and toss them into garbage bags.

    And in the case of the most recent arrest, both defendants have long rap sheets. Tiller even made headlines in 2016, for participating in a robbery of the Make a Wish Foundation at 400 Market St. and stealing — among other things — a scooter autographed by former Giants right fielder Hunter Pence.

    Boudin and other policymakers believe that incarceration fails to address the root causes of property crime, such as poverty and addiction.
    A sensible counter-argument is that incarceration keeps them from robbing more people and may even have a deterrent effect on others criminals, actual and potential.

    But San Franciscans disagree with the latter point of view. They keep voting in the Progressives who created the "humane" policy of repeatedly releasing people like Nicholas Tiller and Tyler Howerton to ply their trade. As we said last year, they're getting what they wanted, good and hard.

    Friday, November 05, 2021

    To the End He Knew What He Was Doing

    He quit to spend more time with his family (Chron)
    Perennial All-Star catcher Buster Posey is retiring. We have followed his career since he was called up briefly to the San Francisco Giants at the age of 22 in 2009.

    In 2010 he was National League Rookie of the Year as he helped lead the Giants to their first World Series title since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. Long-time fans were incredulous and grateful, but the moment wasn't too big for Buster:
    After the all-night celebration following the Giants' National League Series victory, veteran Aubrey Huff gave advice to rookie Buster Posey as they headed back to the room.

    Huff: Don't think this happens every year, kid.

    Posey: Why not?
    Two World Series championships followed in 2012 and 2014, then the nearly inevitable injuries and aging-out of the championship roster. Only Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Buster Posey remained from the glory years.

    Most unexpectedly, the Giants won the Western Division title in 2021 with a franchise record 107 victories. Though they lost to the Dodgers in the playoffs, the Giants' performance had fans dreaming of the club being in contention for years to come. Buster Posey's retirement makes those dreams unlikely, but no one's angry at him. He earned every penny of his 8-year $159 million contract and is going out on his own terms.

    Thursday, November 04, 2021

    Longer Lasting

    The new Mac is tempting.
    An overarching environmental ethic should be not to throw away anything that can be employed usefully. Not only does following this principle preserve the landfill, it delays or even eliminates the pollution behind making a new item.

    And so it was that I opted to replace the battery of the 7-year-old MacBook Air instead of buying one of the fancy new MacBooks.
    These laptops balance high performance, portability and power savings in ways we just haven’t known in previous Macs and Windows machines.
    The downside of the new Macs: they start at $1,999, but the one I wanted had added memory and an upgraded processor and would set me back $3,000.

    The new battery arrived in two days. It was a $50 item which was shipped to Amazon's warehouse long before "supply chain problem" became a term in the popular consciousness.

    I opened up the back using torque screwdrivers that came with the battery and put in the new unit.

    Obeying the startup instructions to operate the computer until the battery drained completely, then charging it to 100%, I hope to get another three years out of the replacement.

    A new Mac would have given me a thrill, but not having to spend $3,000 imparts a longer-lasting satisfaction.

    Wednesday, November 03, 2021

    The Butterflies Return

    Santa Cruz Monarch butterfly (Chron photo)
    In an unexpected development global warming, the bête noire of environmentalists everywhere, may be responsible for the resurgence of the monarch butterflies in Monterey County:
    conservationists estimate the current population that has arrived in its annual wintertime migration to the California coast to be around 10,000 compared with 1,900 last year.

    One possible reason for the rebound: this year’s drought, since warm and dry conditions in early spring can help with their migration...

    Though the reason for the rebound isn’t known, [biologist Emma] Pelton said scientists such as Arthur Shapiro at UC Davis have found correlations between drought years and a boost in butterfly populations, at least for butterflies at lower elevations like monarchs.
    (Photo from Siberia Times)
    Opinion is overwhelming that global warming is normatively bad, but impartial analysis makes it clear that there are significant beneficiaries, specifically Russia and Canada, if temperatures keep rising: [bold added]
    Let’s state the long-term truth no diplomat would: The world’s two largest countries are also among the two biggest winners from climate change.

    They are already among the top energy and food producers in the world, and with warming temperatures they can more easily access even more energy and produce quantum leaps more food. Oil may be getting cheaper, but agrobusiness is a surging asset class. According to New Scientist magazine, a 4 degree Celsius rise in global averages temperatures would decrease agriculture yields in today’s other leading states such as the U.S., Brazil,China, India and Australia. Meanwhile, Canada and Russia’s ramped up industrial farming industries could be the breadbaskets for the planet. They are the hydro and food superpowers of a dry and thirsty planet.
    The land area of the contiguous 48 states is approximately three (3) million square miles, while Siberia's is 5.1 million. If only a fraction of the latter becomes arable due to global warming, it will more than offset farmland losses in the rest of the world, and we're not even taking into account the gains from Canada.

    And if the above seems too left-brain for you, dear reader, isn't it great that the butterflies are coming back?

    Tuesday, November 02, 2021

    Sandwiches on Sunday: Normal is Still Far, Far Away

    Seven people gathered at the parish hall on Saturday to assemble 80 bag lunches. It would be their fourth and final Sandwiches on Sunday for the year. Volunteers had other things to do on Halloween, but on the bright side they didn't have to work on the last weekends of November (Thanksgiving) or December (between Christmas and New Year's Day).

    We were finished in the record speed of an hour, because I've gotten better at taking inventory and didn't have to run to the supermarket.

    On Sunday the sandwiches and the water were set out on the tables of the Redwood City community center. Within a half an hour everything was gone. Most of the 50 people served asked for an extra bag, and we were happy to accommodate them.

    The next sandwich-making is January 30th. The last time we served hot lunches was December, 2019, and the community center director said she didn't know when COVID-19 safety protocols will be lifted.

    We had been running low on bulk supplies like brown paper bags (500 count) and plastic sandwich bags (300 count) and had been delaying replenishment in case we went back to normal cafeteria-style meals, but it looks like normal is still far, far away.

    Monday, November 01, 2021

    Jim Cramer Moves Markets

    Jim Cramer on CNBC's Squawk on the Street this morning, 9:36 EDT:
    Pepsi has so many new drinks, they're so incredible. I had the G2 after working out today. I said "Wow, that is one special group of chemicals."
    On the way back from my morning walk, I'm gonna get me some of that blue juice to wash down the meatless breakfast patty.

    Taking care of myself and the planet at the same time.