Thursday, June 30, 2022

A Wealthy State of Mind

One way for a San Franciscan to become wealthy: leave.
San Francisco residents say they need $5.1 million (including the net value of their home) to feel wealthy: [bold added]
Respondents to the 2022 Modern Wealth Survey said it will take an average net worth of $5.1 million to be considered wealthy in San Francisco in 2022, compared to $3.8 million in 2021 — that’s an increase of 34% in one year, and more than double the national average. In 2020, respondents said it took $4.5 million to feel wealthy in San Francisco. The nationwide average also increased from 2021 to 2022, but by only 15%.

To be “financially comfortable,” a San Francisco resident would need a net worth of $1.7 million, versus $1.3 million in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2020. Nationwide, respondents said it takes $774,000 to be financially comfortable.
Being financially wealthy is subjective. For us it wasn't a specific number. We got there a few years ago when income exceeded expenses and appeared that it would for the foreseeable future, even allowing for emergencies. It helped a lot that we have a middle-class lifestyle and that the house was paid off in 2016.

A good chunk of our assets is in the stock market, which has fallen by 21% in the first half of 2022, the worst drop since 1970. We're being squeezed on the other end, as inflation over 8% has caused expenses to rise alarmingly.

I'm beginning to feel nervous....and not so wealthy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

"Just Totally Healthy Ocean Out There Right Now"

Upwelling (illustration from Visualizing Science)
Global warming Climate change is responsible for heating the oceans, but scientists are now saying that it's the reason for ocean chilling.

The Pacific Ocean near San Francisco has been the coldest it’s been in more than a decade.
a weather buoy at Bodega Bay recorded water temperatures as low as 47.8 degrees on June 21, the coldest it’s been that day for over a decade. That compares with a mean over the decade of around 51 degrees for June, typically the coolest month for that buoy, and other buoys in the area have shown similar trends. It’s been so cold that some fish appear to have been staying in the warmer waters of the bay...

Such cold spells this time of year are a unique feature of the Central California coast. They are triggered by high winds that stir up cold water from the deep in a process known as upwelling...

Upwelling delivers essential nutrients particularly to what are called forage fish, like sardines and anchovies, said [Monterey Bay Aquarium researcher Henry] Ruhl. Over time, salmon get pinker and richer-tasting from their abundant diet, and whales come close to shore to feast on anchovies and krill. With more to eat, seabird populations can boom, and kelp forests, the vital habitat for marine life that have recently been decimated by climate change, grow stronger.
Fish, plants, marine mammals, and birds are all prospering:
Upwelling delivers essential nutrients particularly to what are called forage fish, like sardines and anchovies, said Ruhl. Over time, salmon get pinker and richer-tasting from their abundant diet, and whales come close to shore to feast on anchovies and krill. With more to eat, seabird populations can boom, and kelp forests, the vital habitat for marine life that have recently been decimated by climate change, grow stronger.
Anchovies are so plentiful that seabirds can't eat any more and are dropping them during flight. Fish are "raining from the sky."
Local fishers and researchers are blaming seabirds that, because of an explosion in the anchovy population off the coast of the Bay Area, now have more fish than they know what to do with...

According to [Fishing Association President Larry] Collins, the water this year is the coldest local fishermen have seen in a long time, and the anchovies are a testament to that.

“It's just totally healthy ocean out there right now. I heard guys telling me about pelicans that, instead of diving to fill their mouths up, they’re just skimming the water and getting full mouths of anchovies,” Collins said.
"La Niña should last through the end of the year," which means cool oceans and wet weather in the near future.

With any luck we will get real rain, not just fish, falling upon our heads this winter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Casual Insouciance

Despite impressions from news reports, Northern California residents have not been subjected to one long, unrelenting heat wave.

Which means some early morning walks start in the 50's (sweater on) and end in the 70's (sweater off).

The WSJ helpfully offers tips on how men can look fashionable while lugging around a superfluous garment. [Note: blogger's comments in italics.]
1. The Not-So-Cold Shoulder

Consider this preppy option, which also suggests that your childhood hero was Stan Gable, the preppy hero in the "Revenge of the Nerds."

Sure, the look is cool, but a lot of heat is trapped by draping the sweater over one's shoulders. A classic case of form over function.
2. Tied and True

Master this casual classic by knotting your sweater just above the hips with the back folded.

Bonus: it acts as a built-in cushion for those slab-like outdoor coffee-shop benches.

This is the easiest-to-tie and coolest, in a temperature sense, option. However, the knot will loosen several times in an hour.
3. Chest Bet

Favored by the TikTok set, a knit that's knotted across the torso says "I'm carefree and stylish." Plus, if you injure your arm, say, skateboarding, you've got an instant sling.

Not only is this the most time-consuming configuration to affix properly, but it's only worth the trouble if I were trying to impress those who are 50 years younger. "But when I became a man, I put away childish things (1 Cor 13:11)."
4. Draggadocious Approach

Relaxed and utterly unsanitary, this tactic relays that you're so chill (or absent-minded), you don't care if your knit gets caked in sludge. Wearing a sweater post-drag is not advised.

Given the number of Bay Area creatures that have zero gastro-intestinal discipline when using the sidewalks, you'd better be wearing a single-use sweater if you employ this technique.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Will the Dip Stick?

For the first time in a month, I paid less than $6 a gallon for gasoline.

This could be one of those good news/bad news moments, the good being that gasoline prices have peaked, and the bad being that a recession is becoming more probable.

Headline: Consumer Sentiment at Record Low Is Another Ominous Sign for Economy
The University of Michigan’s gauge of consumer sentiment reached a final reading of 50 in June. That was the lowest reading on record going back to 1952, and down from both an initial reading earlier in the month and May’s 58.4 reading.

A souring mood for consumers, who face the highest rate of inflation in four decades, is a concerning sign because household spending accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic output. Retail sales fell in May, the first decline this year, and job and wage growth slowed last month. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal have raised the probability of recession.
When consumers think that a recession is on the horizon, many will cut back their spending to build a financial cushion, all but ensuring a recession will occur. We may even see sub-$5 gas, but it won't be because more supplies are coming online but because the economy is slowing.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Miasma of Emotion

The priest mused about anger during the entire sermon.

Angry people were all over television raging about Supreme Court decisions, House committee hearings, war in Ukraine, social justice, etc. etc. He wouldn't condemn anger itself. In some cases it's justified, he said; it was a motivation to action. But he's found that if he holds on to anger long it makes him less effective.

For the past decade I've stayed away from television political channels, even those which favor my politics. The "debates" always favor one side of the issue, and opposing speakers very rarely present the strongest arguments for the other side.

But the worst thing about TV political channels is that they personalize issues by running and re-running video clips about injustices done to individuals.

(Image, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
If a network wants to strengthen immigration enforcement, it shows innocents who have been killed by illegal immigrants. If a channel wants to promote abortion rights, it features first-hand accounts of women who suffered horrifically before 1973, when the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade. We can't help but be angry at people who directly or even indirectly result in others' suffering.

That's why I obtain news that has a political dimension from printed media and website articles. There's a better chance that some rational thought will poke through the miasma of emotion.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.--------Galatians 5:19-21

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Klamath Tear-Down: Trust the Cost-Benefit Analysis

(Chronicle map)
California has dire need for both water and electricity. Hydroelectric dams provide both, and do so without producing carbon emissions. One would be hard pressed to find a more beneficial example of human engineering.

At first blush it doesn't make sense that four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River will be torn down.
the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history is expected to begin in California’s far north next year.

The first of four aging dams on the Klamath River, the 250-mile waterway that originates in southern Oregon’s towering Cascades and empties along the rugged Northern California coast, is on track to come down in fall 2023. Two others nearby and one across the state line will follow.
Environmentalists and fishermen are eagerly anticipating the restoration of the Klamath chinook salmon run, which once totalled in the hundreds of thousands but is now 10% of that number. But the principal reason for the tear-down is that the cost of maintaining aging dams exceeds the benefit of electricity generation, and "the dams are not used for irrigation, municipal water or flood control."
The plan to raze the dams is the product of at least 20 years of debate over what to do with the river’s old and increasingly problematic infrastructure.

Owned by power company PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, the dams have long needed major upgrades, including fish ladders, which are believed to cost more than the dams’ worth as hydroelectric assets...
Despite the cost-benefit analysis, some residents are reluctant "to surrender any power source and [have] less water available for fighting wildfires." We just have to trust that Warren Buffett's company knows what it's doing, a good bet based on Mr. Buffett's past record of determining value.

Related: in 2018 Stanford University brought together environmental groups and hydropower interests, who are known for their vehement disagreements, to discuss how to generate more electricity while improving the health of rivers. They already can point to some successes.

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Shoe Drops

Early detection of pregnancy will be more important (WSJ)
In 1973 nine men on the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that there was a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

On June 24, 2022, six men and three women justices in a 6-3 decision overturned Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a 2018 Mississippi law:
Although the case before the court involved a 15-week ban, the overruling of Roe gives states broad latitude to regulate or prohibit abortion as they see fit. Many conservative-leaning states are poised to tighten access further, while some liberal ones have established permissive abortion regimes under state law. The decision could become a major issue in this year’s elections, as state and federal lawmakers look to position themselves in a post-Roe world.

Almost half the states have laws in place or at the ready to curtail or outlaw abortion, while others have laws that would preserve its legality. Questions on whether and how to limit abortions are expected to continue roiling state legislative debates.

The ruling, one of the most consequential in modern memory, marked a rare instance in which the court reversed itself to eliminate a constitutional right that it had previously created.

The decision also is a defining moment for a Supreme Court that is more conservative than it has been in many decades, a shift in legal thinking made possible after President Donald Trump placed three justices on the court. Two of them succeeded justices who voted to affirm abortion rights.

In anticipation of the ruling, several states have passed laws limiting or banning the procedure, and 13 states have so-called trigger laws on their books that called for prohibiting abortion if Roe were overruled. Clinics in conservative states have been preparing for possible closure, while facilities in more liberal areas have been getting ready for a potentially heavy influx of patients from other states.
The political battle now shifts to the States, which have a patchwork of laws ranging from a a near-total ban on abortion to allowing it up to childbirth. We discussed the map on May 3rd.

Just a few comments on this decision, which will undoubtedly cause millions of words to be generated in the months to come:
  • The leak of the draft opinion on May 2nd, whatever the leaker's motive, has had the benefit of removing the shock of surprise. Organizations, governments, and interest groups have had time to prepare for the after-effects of Dobbs.
  • The majority of Americans, IMHO, remain somewhere between the extreme positions and do not relish the prospect of abortion once again elevating itself to the top of national discussions.
  • The counter-argument is that, unlike other subjects, abortion never really went away after Roe; we won't like the heat for the next 3-5 years, but maybe things will cool off after legislators pass or reaffirm laws post-Dobbs, the people react, and the laws are adjusted again.
  • My very long view is that technology will defuse the downsides of pregnancy, childbirth, and child care that are the principal reasons for having an abortion. Eventually there will be a societal consensus that there should be more help given to mothers, and advances in medical science up to and including growing fetuses in the lab will eliminate the physical burden of pregnancy. In a hundred years people will wonder what the fuss was about.
  • Thursday, June 23, 2022

    Stephen Curry is Finally Slipping

    Steph Curry, the greatest shooter in NBA history, didn't perform well at the Great America basketball booth, thereby proving that these games are "rigged."

    Any rumor that his performance suffered due to days of hard partying after Monday's parade is just idle speculation.

    Alternatively, maybe the pressure of winning a big stuffed animal was too much for him to handle.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2022

    Eataly, San Jose

    In case you didn't know the cuisine that Eataly serves
    Chronicle food writers have been effusive about Eataly, which just opened its ninth U.S. food hall in San Jose.
    it’s Italian food heaven, and it’s finally here. The epic, three-story Italian food hall’s first Bay Area location opens at the Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose at 5 p.m. on June 16. If the yearslong anticipation is any indication, there will likely be throngs of people waiting in line.

    With two restaurants, a cafe, gelato shop, bakery, butcher, seafood counter and market stocked with thousands of imported Italian goods, there is no other food hall like it in Northern California.
    I happened to be in the area on Monday and had to check it out. Eataly spans three floors at the Valley Fair mall, and the "throngs" were such that foot traffic had to enter at the ground floor and all other access points were exit-only.

    It looks empty but the next reservation was Friday
    There was an hour wait for take-out, and the sit-down restaurants were completely booked. We're just here to shop at the market, we told the man at the entrance. We hurried up to the second floor, which was all wine:
    Shelves stocked with over 1,200 wine labels stretch to the ceiling inside Eataly’s wine shop on the second floor. Everything is imported from Italy, from small-production sparkling wine to Lambrusco and a wide selection of Barolo.

    (Chron photo)
    Bottles range from $20 all the way up to $1,000 for rare wines stored in a temperature-controlled room. There’s also a small selection of liquors — grappa, amaro, limoncello — and local beers.
    On the top floor was the market, a wondrous display of Italian comestibles. Fresh meats, produce, breads, pasta and cheese were either made on the premises, imported from Italy, or sourced locally.

    We didn't buy anything; the local Whole Foods' selection is much more limited but is enough to satisfy our untutored palate.

    It's problematic whether Eataly is going to make it in the long run. The buzz is enough to make it a shopping and dining destination for several years, but Bay Area shoppers are fickle.

    Sony's Metreon Center opened to great fanfare, as did Union Square's FAO Schwarz, over 20 years ago.

    Since those halycon retail days the Metreon has been sold and resold, while FAO Schwarz declared bankruptcy and closed its store.

    Commercial space, already costly in the Bay Area, is very expensive when companies like Sony, FAO Schwarz, and Eataly customize their spaces to attract upscale crowds.

    The trick is having them come back over and over to buy their expensive wares.

    We won't be in that group but do wish them well.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2022

    Anyone but the Current Incumbent

    (Image via Opindia / YouTube)
    The WSJ editorial page is more honest about what Democratic power-brokers are trying to do than the Party is with its own membership. President Biden has been a disaster, Democratic leaders don't want him to run again, and it may be difficult to push him off the stage. [bold added]
    The New York Times kicked off the kicking with a story quoting various progressive sages suddenly admitting what everyone has known all along: Mr. Biden is the oldest serving U.S. President at age 79, and he’ll be 82 when he finishes his term. He looks and sounds every bit his age. This declaration of the obvious has now moved along the progressive media chorus line to the Atlantic, with a piece that asserts “Let me put this bluntly: Joe Biden should not run for re-election in 2024. He is too old.”

    These stories treat this as a revelation, as if Mr. Biden suddenly showed some dramatic decline. The truth is that the President demonstrated he had lost a verbal, and maybe mental, step in the first Democratic candidate debate in 2019. He hasn’t improved. Democrats admitted it privately at the time, but they rallied to him during the South Carolina primary when it looked like he was the only Democrat who could hold off the nomination of Bernie Sanders and defeat Donald Trump.

    The rest of the campaign was a long apologia for Mr. Biden’s strategy of limiting his public exposure by campaigning in his Delaware basement. Covid-19 was the perfect excuse, and woe to any journalist who dared to ask if Mr. Biden wasn’t the same man we knew as Vice President. The subject was taboo.

    This was one of the great free campaign passes in history. Ronald Reagan’s age was a subject of agonized media concern when he ran for President at age 69 in 1980. He was roasted after he stumbled in the first debate against Walter Mondale in 1984, and he had to defuse the media and public doubts with a quip about Mondale’s “youth and inexperience” in the next debate.

    The Gipper was three weeks shy of 78 when he left office, which was younger than Mr. Biden was when he entered the Oval. If the President runs and serves a second term, he’d be 86 on his final day in the job. But Mr. Biden was needed to defeat Mr. Trump, and so all of this age business had to be ignored in 2020.

    Why the Democratic turn now? One obvious answer is that the President is down in the polls, and his low approval rating may cost Democrats control of Congress in November. The problem can’t be the party’s ideas, or Mr. Biden’s adoption of the Sanders agenda after he’d campaigned as a moderate. The problem has to be Mr. Biden. He’s suddenly not up to the burdens of the Oval Office that have aged even younger men. He can’t make the case for his ideas. He’s overwhelmed by crises.

    You almost have to feel sorry for Mr. Biden, who saved his party from Mr. Trump but is expendable now that he’s a political liability. You can almost hear Mr. Biden shouting at his staff: Where’s the gratitude? You think Bernie or Mayor Pete would have beaten Trump? I’m the guy who saved democracy.

    Mr. Biden can be stubborn, and as anyone with older parents knows, taking away their car keys can be a difficult conversation. The President may not want to leave town as easily as some Democrats want him to.

    All the more given the lack of obvious Democratic alternatives to Mr. Biden in 2024. Vice President Kamala Harris would run in a millisecond, but nothing she has done or said since her emergence on the national scene suggests she is up to the Presidency.

    The obvious candidate "far from Washington"
    Democrats know this, which you can tell by all the stories earlier this year about her political struggles. That’s the Beltway insider way of preparing the field for other candidates to consider running. Not that Pete Buttigieg will need any coaxing.

    Such is the price of nominating Mr. Biden with so little scrutiny about his capacity for the Presidency. Perhaps Democrats will avoid a drubbing in the midterms, or he’ll rally after the election by using a GOP Congress as a foil. But Democrats may want to begin looking for candidates far from Washington if they want to retain the White House in 2024.
    California's governor---handsome, young (57 when he takes office in 2025), Washington outsider, liberal but not woke--checks off the WSJ's boxes. True, the governor will have to explain why following California's energy policy was the reason gasoline prices have doubled nationwide, and why more people are fleeing the State than entering it, but at least he can give a much more coherent answer than the current incumbent.

    Monday, June 20, 2022

    Far from the Madding Crowd

    Stephen Curry enjoys the moment (Chron photo)
    Not too proud to admit that we hop on the bandwagon for local sports teams, we attended the first San Francisco Giants championship parade in 2010.

    The enthusiasm for 2022's Golden State Warriors title was equally strong, but, as we noted last week, a lot can happen in ten or twelve years.

    The members of our household have various COVID-19 co-morbidities, and optional gatherings such as today's Warriors parade are off-limits.

    Weighing benefits and costs--and abiding by the results of that analysis--is a sign of maturity, but a part of me misses the younger person who was more of a risk-taker.

    The consolation is that videorecording technology is improving substantially every year, and now I have nine hours of parade footage to watch over the next several days.

    Sunday, June 19, 2022

    Uneasy is the Head that Wears a Mitre

    Justin Welby (WSJ photo)
    Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

    He has his work cut out for him trying to avoid schism in the Communion. [bold added]
    But as he prepares to receive Anglican bishops from around the world in England this summer in what is known as the Lambeth Conference, he faces a likely boycott by conservatives, including leaders of African churches that are among the largest and fastest-growing. They refuse to join progressives, led by the U.S. Episcopal Church, who support marriage or blessings for same-sex unions and the ordination of openly gay clergy...

    Unlike Pope Francis, who holds ultimate authority over Catholic teaching around the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no formal power over the autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion. He relies on dialogue and compromise, which so far have proved inadequate to Anglicanism’s seismic rift...

    Archbishop Welby in Kenya, 2013 (WSJ photo)
    The bishops of Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda—who represent an estimated 44 million of the world’s 100 million Anglicans, according to the World Christian Database—have said that they won’t attend this year’s conference in England unless Archbishop Welby excludes provinces that allow marriage or blessings of same-sex unions or the ordination of openly gay clergy.

    They want him to invite as full members conservative churches that have split off in reaction to liberalizing moves in North America, Brazil, New Zealand and the U.K. Archbishop Welby has declined to disinvite the former or invite the latter except in some cases as observers.
    Your humble Episcopalian, a supporter of secular same-sex marriage, sees both sides in the discussion about whether Anglicans should bless these unions. I don't want to get into the theological arguments but will note the irony of a small band of mainly white, highly educated Progressive elites who want to force millions of non-whites to adopt beliefs that are anathema to them. From 2016:
    Let's step back from our narrow Eurocentric perspective. The Episcopal Church comprises less than 3% of the Anglican communion. The continent where Anglicanism is growing the fastest---Africa---is home to substantial populations that regard homosexuality not only as evil but as a sin punishable by death.

    What would their reaction be to an Anglican church that performed same-sex weddings as a sacrament, that is, the equal in importance to Baptism and Holy Communion, in their community?

    To put other Anglicans’ lives at risk to proclaim a value that is recognized by a minority of the world’s population is the height of arrogance. (Interestingly, the Episcopal Church decries this “Imperialist” behavior when Western society promulgates capitalism or traditional Christianity or democracy in the Third World.)

    Saturday, June 18, 2022

    California on the Precipice

    Lake Tahoe is shrinking (Chron photo)
    We take a break from looking at our incredibly shrinking stock portfolio to worrying about the apocalyptic summer in store for Californians: [bold added]
    This year’s extraordinarily dry, warm weather, which is expected to continue in the coming months, is stoking fears of a multitude of problems: increasing water restrictions, extreme heat, blackouts, wildfire and smoke — potentially all of the above in one vicious swoop...

    Already in California, climate volatility, as palpable as it’s been, has joined the list of reasons people cite for wanting to move away, after soaring home prices, high taxes and traffic. The state’s population, which had grown for decades, dropped in each of the past two years.

    “We have people say they’re concerned about drought, they’re concerned about wildfire,” said Scott Fuller, founder of, a 7-year-old real estate company that helps people relocate. “We’ve had clients say this is literally the final straw.”
    And we haven't even mentioned the danger that most concerned us during the last century: a major earthquake.

    Should the latter happen, that really will be the last straw for millions of soon-to-be ex-Californians. Will the last one out the door please close the lights, if they're not out already?

    Friday, June 17, 2022

    Ten Years Later

    In March, 2012 we went to a sports memorabilia store in Burlingame to get Stephen Curry's autograph. He was a skinny, relatively short (6'3"), 24-year-old point guard for the lackluster Warriors, who had missed the playoffs for the past five years.

    Stephen Curry was an excellent shooter but had never made the All-Star team in three years in the NBA. He was always getting hurt and would undergo ankle surgery later in 2012. It was questionable whether the Warriors were going to extend his contract. Let's go meet him before he leaves the team, said the youngster. And so we did.

    With the NBA Finals MVP award (NY Post photo)
    Update: Stephen Curry’s all-time legacy is undeniable — and growing
    [In the series-clinching Game 6 against Boston] Curry had 34 points, seven boards and seven assists, finishing the series averaging 31.2 points, six boards and five dimes to earn the MVP award. It was the last missing piece from his trophy case after four titles, two scoring titles, an MVP and All-Star MVP.

    He joins Durant, James, Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal are the only others to have done so.
    A lot can happen in ten years.

    Thursday, June 16, 2022


    (Garfield Center)
    Happy Bloomsday!
    The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am on 16 June 1904 through to the early hours of the following morning.

    Celebrations often include dressing up like characters from the book and in clothes that would have been the style of the era. One of the hallmark fancy dress items of Bloomsday is the straw boater hat. Celebrations come in many different forms like readings, performances and visiting the places and establishments that are referenced in the book.

    The Bloomsday Breakfast is another common celebration, which involves eating the same breakfast as Leopold Bloom consumes on the morning of 16 June. This includes liver and kidneys alongside the typical ingredients of an Irish fried breakfast.
    James Joyce (1882-1941) has been hailed as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and Ulysses is his greatest novel. It was required reading in high school English and college literature; in both cases many weeks were spent deconstructing its meaning.

    Ulysses was heavy going for your humble blogger, who had difficulty appreciating stream-of-consciousness writing. However, one benefit of slogging through Ulysses was an early realization that I wasn't cut out to be a liberal arts major. I wasn't interested in chasing down obscure allusions and mapping out similarities to the Odyssey.

    It was much later in life that I read Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Both were written in a more conventional narrative style, and the short stories and novel are, IMHO, more readable. Now that I have the time, maybe I'll give Ulysses--and Leopold Bloom--another shot.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2022

    Not Everything is Fake

    A teacher and her daughter in need(?)
    I thought that this was a scam immediately after reading it on Nextdoor.
    I need your help. I am a [name of school withheld] teacher and a single mom leaving an unhealthy relationship. I have no family in the area, both of my parents are drug addicts with mental health problems, and I’m all I’ve got.

    I came to Belmont with my now-ex from across the country 6 years ago, and I can’t afford to live here on my own. I need help affording the move to Richmond, VA. I’m so close to my goal. It won’t cover all of the costs, but it sure will put a dent in them. My daughter and I would be grateful for any help you can provide. Thank you so much!
    The post ended with a link to a GoFundMe account.

    Apparently, the message is not fake because there are real people who know this teacher and who have been on Nextdoor for years, according to their postings. A couple examples of their responses:
    Ms. --- We fondly remember you teaching our kid, and we are so sorry to hear about this situation. Donating to help, and wishing you all the best. Please let us know if we can help in any other way.

    Done! You were wonderful teaching my son last year in hybrid kindergarten (Nathan F) and I’m so sorry you are going through all this. Good luck with the move!!

    Wait a minute.... you are moving? But I still have another son to go through [name of school], I was hoping he would be in your class at some point... 😕
    The teacher answered each message and she herself has been on Nextdoor for 19 months.

    It's still possible that this is a scam: she could have set up fake "parents" over the years, or she could be lying about the reasons for getting out of town. Furthermore, what's she got going in Richmond, VA, because it's certainly not family. But these possibilities are unlikely, since such long-term con skills would seek a bigger payoff.

    As of this writing, the GoFundMe account has raised $11,660, overachieving its target of $10,000.

    As for me.....“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” --Mark 9:24

    Tuesday, June 14, 2022

    Don't Tell Me Your Feelings

    (WSJ illustration)
    Writer Caitlin Macy laments the current tendency to reveal emotions about "everything that comes your way": [bold added]
    in the last decade a giant lovefest has taken over our day-to-day interactions so thoroughly that to abstain from appending heart emojis to everything that comes your way leaves you feeling sidelined and defensively out of tune. Remember “Mean Girls”—the movie, yes, but also the phenomenon? Nowadays the average teenage selfie post is met with reactions that run the gamut from “Luuuuuv!” to “Beauty!” to heart emojis to “Worship!”

    ...Now [college] applications all insist that you “tell us about your passion.” As with teenage Instagram posts, the pressure to be passionate encourages the applicant to flaunt and exaggerate, to make grandiose claims—to remain, in other words, a hyperbolic adolescent rather than taking a step toward becoming an adult capable of seeing one’s own life in a broader context.

    Companies, too, as we are continually reminded, are passionate—about client service, retirement portfolios, lawn care. Never mind that what’s actually wanted is competence. And when you think about it, a corporation bragging about its passion for the service it’s providing suggests unstable—maybe even unhinged—leadership: Passion by its very nature is short-lived. It flames, and then, presumably, the fire in the loins for supply-chain optimization goes out.
    Passion is over-admired as inspiration; it "flames," then goes out, and little is actually accomplished. When a person is truly passionate about something, she would be more successful channeling those feelings into a course of action, then using that passion to keep her going through the inevitable low points.

    Go ahead and indiscriminately "like" or "heart" everything you see on social media if you must. Just remember that things which are given away are not highly valued.

    Monday, June 13, 2022

    Attack on Councilman "Tied to His Ethnicity"

    Millbrae City Councilman Anders Fung and his family were physically attacked over the weekend: [bold added]
    Sutro Baths
    A Millbrae City Council member enjoying a Saturday afternoon walk with his family near San Francisco’s Cliff House said he suffered a head gash and neck injury when assailants flung a concrete block down at him.

    “We went out to Lands End for a little family hiking; it’s a beautiful place,” Anders Fung said in an interview Sunday evening. “Then this big concrete block landed on my head and I instantly fell to the ground.”

    The attack occurred as Fung and his wife and two children were heading down a steep trail to the ruins of Sutro Baths at Lands End. The injuries included a two-inch gash on the top of his head.

    "Two young men in hoodies" (Facebook)
    At first the councilman thought it was an accident, but other smaller objects followed. His wife saw what Fung in a Facebook post described as two “young men in hoodies.”

    “When my family confronted the perpetrators demanding them to stop, one of them gave my family an obscene hand gesture,” Fung wrote.

    They then ran off. Fung said he had no doubt the assault was racially-motivated.

    After the family recounted details of the assault to U.S. Park Police Fung was taken by San Francisco fire fighters to the emergency room of California Pacific Medical Center. In addition the head injury, which doctors closed with a half-dozen metal stitches, Fung wrote that his injuries included “a cervical disc herniation around my neck.”
    The Chronicle didn't print the above photo which was posted to Anders Fung's Facebook page, nor did it publish additional details of the suspects' appearance or speech patterns, which could easily be obtained from interviewing the Fung family.

    Maybe the reasons are innocuous, or maybe the suspects don't fit the narrative of those who commit hate crimes.

    Sunday, June 12, 2022

    Interest Rates and Housing Prices

    The unit is on the 2nd floor.
    In yesterday's post I noted:
    We are already seeing early signs of a recession with layoffs in tech and a cooling housing market (mortgage interest rates have risen above 5%).
    Saturday's mail included a flyer for a new listing in a nearby development.

    A two-bedroom, two-bath condo has been offered at $829,000 (pictures right) when one year ago similar units had sold for over $1 million.

    But could a mortgage-rate change by itself explain a $200,000 drop in price? Yes.

    The table below compares the monthly payment on a $1.02 million property versus one that costs $800,000. Both are financed with an 80% 30-year loan, the former at 3% and the latter at 5%.

    The 20% down payment is $44,000 ($204,000-$160,000) less on the lower-priced example, but the focus of this exercise is the monthly payment.

    (Of course, in real life a $44,000 down payment difference can be a huge factor.)

    There's less than a $5 difference in the mortgage payments, confirming the effect that interest rates have on the size of mortgage loans and ultimately real estate prices.

    The drop in house prices will be felt immediately after existing "loan-lock" commitments expire, and the ripple effects through construction, labor and the building materials supply chain should manifest before year end.

    The coming slowdown in real estate is obvious, while the ultimate recessionary effect on the economy is unclear. Let's hope that the battle against inflation succeeds, else the cost will not have been worthwhile.

    Note: below is a chart from the St. Louis Fed. It shows that mortgage rates have risen from 3.0% to 5.2% during the past year.

    Saturday, June 11, 2022

    They Learned Nothing from the Experience

    Now that's a hockey-stick (WSJ graph)
    The 1970's-type inflation that we've been predicting for over a year is here with a vengeance.

    U.S. Inflation Hit 8.6% in May: Energy, groceries, shelter costs drive fastest rise in consumer-price index since December 1981
    U.S. consumer inflation reached an 8.6% annual rate in May, its highest level in more than four decades as surging energy and food prices pushed prices higher...

    May’s increase was driven in part by sharp rises in the prices for energy, which rose 34.6% from a year earlier, and groceries, which jumped 11.9% on the year, the biggest increase since 1979. But inflation pressures were distinctly broad-based in May, said Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

    “Inflationary pressures were seen nearly everywhere,” she said.

    Prices for used cars and trucks—a key engine of the past year’s inflation surge—rose 1.8% in May from April, reversing three months of declines. Shelter costs, an indicator of broad inflation pressures, accelerated on a monthly basis in May and were up 5.5% compared with a year ago.

    Airline fares rose 12.6% on the month, the third straight double-digit rise.
    The younger folk who have never lived through high inflation may be forgiven for not seeing the warning signs, but the gerontocrats who run the country have no excuses.

    But wait--it could get worse. We are already seeing early signs of a recession with layoffs in tech and a cooling housing market (mortgage interest rates have risen above 5%). The dreaded stagnation + inflation = stagflation is possibly looming. It will require skilled economic leadership to engineer a "soft landing," i.e., reduce inflation without cratering the economy.

    Based on their performance so far, how would you bet, dear reader?

    Friday, June 10, 2022

    It's Everywhere

    50 years ago I became friends with a group of evangelical Christians. They were nice people, law-abiding, hard-working, but they had one bee in their bonnet that I had difficulty accepting: they saw the devil in everything.

    Thank goodness we're more enlightened today. We now know that systemic racism, not fictional Satan, is everywhere. For example, take a simple package of tea.

    White tea, without evidence, is declared to be "more beneficial" than green tea. And note that black tea hasn't even entered the discussion.

    On the front of the package "white" has the larger font.

    White dominance is easy to see once you look for it.

    Thursday, June 09, 2022

    Chronicle Editorial Board: Spinning for Progressives

    The Chronicle is feeling what he's feeling.
    We're used to reading editorials where writers cherry-pick facts, misrepresent the positions of opponents, and warn of apocalypse if their advice isn't followed.

    But at least major newspapers don't make up facts that are foundational to an argument, or so we thought until we read the Chronicle's take on Chesa Boudin's recall (yesterday's post below). [bold added]

    Editorial: No, California didn’t just send a message on crime — only voter apathy
    Voter turnout was barely at 26% in San Francisco the morning after the election. It was even worse across most of the state. Sure, ballots will continue trickling in for days. But the story will stay the same.

    Voters weren’t “desperate for change,” as one Los Angeles Times website headline put it. They couldn’t be bothered...

    But it was apathy and resignation, not overt anger or a definitive vision, that ruled the day in San Francisco and across California in Tuesday’s election.
    But is the Chronicle correct about voter apathy being high?

    In an election-analysis article, the same newspaper says that the turnout to recall Chesa Boudin was higher than in 2019, when he was elected.
    Unlike Tuesday’s election, which ended up being largely about a single candidate, the 2019 election asked voters to cast their ballots for the mayor, D.A., city attorney, public defender, sheriff and several other races in the year before a presidential election...the Department of Elections is now anticipating turnout among registered voters to hit 46% — higher than the 42% rate seen in the 2019 election, and a lot higher than the 36% rate for the February school board recall.
    As of this writing 123,926 votes have been counted, and 74,335 (59.98%) of them were to oust Chesa Boudin.

    When all the mail-in votes are finally tabulated, the total is expected to be above 200,000.

    The same chart for 2019 shows that Chesa Boudin was elected because he received 68,575 votes (35.71%) out of 192,053, the leader out of four candidates through "ranked choice" voting.

    With only 57% of the 2022 ballots counted, there are already more "no" votes against Chesa Boudin than voted for him in 2019.

    Sounds like the San Francisco electorate is getting less apathetic, but we're not professional interpreters of facts like the Chronicle editorial board.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2022

    Two-and-One-Half Years Was Enough

    Chesa waved at cars. The voters waved back. (Chron)
    When Chesa Boudin was elected to the office of San Francisco District Attorney 2½ years ago, we half-jokingly asked if San Francisco was headed in the same direction as Caracas.

    Since then his Progressive policies have failed so miserably in the eyes of San Francisco voters that they weren't willing to wait until November, 2023 but removed him from office in yesterday's recall election.
    San Francisco voters overwhelmingly voted to remove District Attorney Chesa Boudin from office on Tuesday, favoring a recall effort that argued his progressive reforms were too lenient and made the city less safe.

    Boudin trailed by about 20 percentage points Tuesday evening, according to the latest figures from city elections officials. Around 60% of San Franciscans who cast ballots voted to recall him...

    Boudin was part of a wave of progressive prosecutors who took power in American cities, channelling the energy of the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Boudin eliminated cash bail, which favors wealthier defendants; helped divert more defendants to treatment instead of trials; and pursued criminal prosecutions against nine police officers.
    As expected, the Boudin campaign blamed Republicans. Even the San Francisco Chronicle was incredulous:
    Boudin blamed the recall on conservative forces, pointing to the fundraising against him, but only 7% of voters register as Republican in San Francisco. Rather, he split Democrats in a city where many residents are frustrated with chronic problems, including high rates of burglary and drug overdoses.

    Some of the recall team’s most vocal advocates were Democrats, who said they believed in Boudin’s overarching goals but said his leadership had created an office in disarray and a system that let offenders off without meaningful consequences.
    Since the rest of us in the Bay Area had to accept Chesa Boudin's 2019 election, we tried to make the best of it by satisfying our curiosity about "anti-carceral" policies. Would devoting more funds to mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness reduce crime?

    Each side tried to show statistics in their favor, but the public perception was that there was an explosion in lawlessness across the board.

    As for your humble blogger, the 18-year-old Toyota Camry has become less reliable. I'm looking forward not having to drive it whenever we go into the City.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2022

    As I Perused the Voter Information Guide

    Going through the CA Voter Information Guide, I came across this gem (right) of a statement from a gubernatorial candidate who I never heard of.

    Should I reward such juvenile expression with a click to her website? Yes.

    Mariana Dawson has an interesting grab bag of policies, both left (rent freeze, student loan relief, nuclear-free California) and right (reinstate death penalty, pro gun rights, anti-Critical Race Theory).

    In a May 27th announcement she announced that she's no longer a candidate:
    I'm officially ending my campaign for the 2022 Governor's race, and refocusing on running next year in a recall election.

    We're exiting this race because my main signature gatherer went rogue and demanded I support the Republican party.

    I refused.

    “F all politicians” includes their political parties, whether it’s the Democratic Party or Republican Party. I want no part of their political civil war.
    Elsewhere on her website she says she's not a millionaire, and she's not taking donations. You may have observed that she's expecting a recall election next year, at which point she'll run for governor!

    Well, first impressions can be wrong. She's far from the worst candidate we've ever seen.

    Note: this is an example of why I don't do early voting. Late-breaking developments, such as a candidate's withdrawal, could change one's decision. I'll head down to the Recreation Center and cast my ballot this afternoon.

    Monday, June 06, 2022

    They're Not Stupid

    Two people sleeping at Kuhio Beach, Waikiki
    The Honolulu Star-Advertiser runs an evergreen headline (right):
    East Honolulu’s percentage of unsheltered homelessness in 2022 has grown to 24%, or 575 of the 2,355 unsheltered homeless people recorded during the March 10 Point-in-Time count, a gain of 6 percentage points from the 2020 count and a 10-percentage-point rise from the 2019 count.
    The article covers the usual subjects/solutions of building shelters, buying unused land, increasing rental assistance, and lamenting the high cost of housing.

    But the interesting part of the story to your humble Honolulu-born blogger is that the homeless population is migrating from the residential and industrial sections to East Honolulu, which includes Waikiki.

    And why not? if you are going to be homeless, you may as well live in a tent on the nice white-sand beaches that tourists pay $thousands to see; there's a better chance that a few will slip you a few dollars on Kalakaua Avenue than on North King Street. Some homeless may be mentally ill, but they're not stupid.

    Related: economist Scott Sumner uses similar logic in explaining why the homeless prefer to live in high-cost California: "homeless people in Arkansas are already homeless, so [by moving to LA] they benefit from all of the positive factors that make LA a desirable place to live, without the drawback of paying high prices for an apartment."

    Sunday, June 05, 2022

    Churches and States

    Patriarch Kirill (WSJ)
    Three years ago the Ukrainian Orthodox church split off from the Russian Orthodox church. "Putin bitterly resented" the separation, which may have been a factor in his decision to annex portions of Ukraine. [Note: in Ukraine "almost two-thirds of Orthodox churches are still formally aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church."]

    After it began, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox church has supported the invasion to such an extent that it threatens a division in the wider Eastern Orthodox church:
    In sermons broadcast on dedicated Orthodox TV channels and YouTube, the 75-year-old patriarch, who has led the church since 2009, has portrayed the war as a holy struggle against the West to preserve what he calls the russky mir—Russian world—uniting East Slavic lands including Ukraine under Moscow’s spiritual and political fold. The concept, which the patriarch has espoused with particular fervor since 2012, is an undercurrent to much of Mr. Putin’s rhetoric...

    Outside of Russia, the patriarch’s loyalty to Mr. Putin has aggravated splits in the broader Eastern Orthodox community of some 220 million faithful. In the face of criticism, he has doubled down. Returning to the Armed Forces Cathedral on May 8, he gave another sermon dismissing as nonsense the accusations that his speeches are militaristic and calling on Russians to “consolidate all our forces, spiritual and material, so that no one dares encroach upon the holy borders of our fatherland.”

    European Union officials said this month that the bloc is considering sanctions on Patriarch Kirill, including a potential asset freeze and travel ban, for his role as a leading advocate of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
    The war has revived rumors that the Russian Patriarch was a KGB agent:
    Born Vladimir Gundyaev, Patriarch Kirill is widely believed by many church historians to be a former agent of the KGB, where the president himself served...

    Patriarch Kirill was born in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in 1946. After he graduated from the Leningrad seminary in 1970, he rose in the church’s ranks and joined the foreign-relations department, a position that allowed him to take frequent trips abroad at a time when fellow Soviet citizens were banned from doing so.

    Evidence from Soviet-era files that emerged publicly in the 1990s suggests that Patriarch Kirill was a KGB agent with the code name “Mikhailov.” While he isn’t named directly, several documents refer to a “Mikhailov” who represented the Russian Orthodox Church at the Switzerland-based World Council of Churches, traveled to international church conferences and provided information to KGB handlers. That lines up with the biography of Patriarch Kirill, who was just 24 when he became the church’s representative to the WCC in 1971.

    “There’s absolutely no doubt that Kirill was an agent of the KGB,” said Felix Corley, a U.K.-based author who has researched KGB links to church leaders. By the late Soviet era, it was typical for senior leaders of the Orthodox Church and other faiths to work with the secret police, though the degree of collaboration varied, Mr. Corley said.
    The separation of Church and State in America is a constant irritant to political activists of all stripes. Church leaders run the gamut of politics, from opposition to the use of American troops to abortion, from preaching against economic inequality to transgender philosophy, from supporting freedom of speech to decarbonizing the atmosphere.

    The separation of Church from State can be frustrating, but Russia has shown what can happen if the separation did not exist.

    Saturday, June 04, 2022

    The Ride is Bumpy, so What?

    I'll take "Things People do in Texas that I Can't Imagine Them Doing in California," Alex.

    ----Guadalupe River, New Braunfels, TX via Vacation Secrets on Facebook

    By the way, Californians, Texas has a drought, too.