Sunday, July 31, 2022

Woodinville Wedding

The happy couple, the bride's parents,
and her brother and his wife.
It was a beautiful wedding in Woodinville.

They looked too young, but that's a bias brought on by the observer's age since we were years younger when we got married. Come to think of it, I wonder what my aunts and uncles must have thought.

The ceremony was held in the outdoor garden of JM Cellars, one of the well-known wineries in the Seattle area.

The proceedings were short with speeches by the officiant, who is the bride's friend, and the exchanging of the vows.

The dinner--entrees were steak and salmon and, of course, I had both--and congratulatory speeches were held on the patio. By evening the temperature had cooled to the high 70's. Most men doffed their jackets anyway.

As the young crowd danced the night away, we retired to the hotel in Bellevue. It was 10 p.m., still past the normal bedtime.

Tomorrow we would stop by the bride's parents' house and say our goodbyes before the drive back.

The only obligation we had was fulfilled two hours before, when the space beneath the T was blank.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Fading Memory

The bathroom was clean, modern, and well-lit
I spent one summer in the 1960's traveling California with my grandparents. Every 2-3 hours they'd have to pull over to use the restroom. It was a circumstance that I couldn't identify with then, but now I do.

Leaving the house at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, we pulled into the Seattle-area hotel at 10 p.m. The total elapsed time was 16.5 hours, more than the 13 hours estimated by Google and Apple Maps. The excess 3.5 hours were spent buying gas (twice), ordering take-out, and answering nature's call.

We took turns at the wheel but were nevertheless tired when we pulled into the hotel driveway. We couldn't power through like we used to.

Drawer and closet space were minimal, clearly oriented toward the single business traveler. A small fridge, a safe, and coffee maker rounded out the amenities. The free WiFi signal was strong enough, though the hotel suggested an upgrade for streaming video.

But what sealed the deal was the large wall-mounted 4K TV a few feet from the bed, something I've always wanted at home. A cold one from the bar, sports in hi-res, and the powerful air conditioner (it was 90 outside): the day's exertions were a fading memory.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Missing It Now That It's Gone

"The cone. The nuts. The chocolate. The fudge."
Nearly 40 years after its creation, a cheesily-named dessert was pulled from the market...or maybe not.
Unilever, the parent company of Klondike, blamed an “unprecedented spike in demand” and the pandemic supply chain for what it called “a necessary but unfortunate” decision to discontinue some of its products. “Even a beloved item like Choco Taco,” it said.

A spokesperson for Klondike said killing the Choco Taco wasn’t a ploy to sell more Choco Tacos. But within a few days of announcing its demise in the middle of summer, as social media was melting into a puddle of eulogies, the company said it was already “exploring options to bring it back.”
It's clever marketing--if that's what this is--to drum up desire in people who have never tried a Choco Taco (like your humble blogger) by taking away that product forever. Nothing makes the demand spike more than that the product will become, well, nothing.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Hydrogen Power: Not As Clean As You Thought

(Diagram from Cummins)
At first blush hydrogen fuel is one of the obvious solutions to global warming. Per the Department of Energy
Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water [bold added]. Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of domestic resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable power like solar and wind.

These qualities make it an attractive fuel option for transportation and electricity generation applications. It can be used in cars, in houses, for portable power, and in many more applications.
Nothing to worry about, say the experts.
There are two major issues with hydrogen (no, a Hindenburg-like disaster isn't considered to be one of them): [bold added]
Hydrogen itself contributes to climate change when it leaks into the atmosphere. Scientists have long known that hydrogen triggers indirect warming effects in the atmosphere. As the smallest possible molecule, it is difficult to contain.

More, the latest research reveals that—depending on time frame—hydrogen’s warming power is two to six times as great as previously recognized.
The other issue is that the most widespread and cheapest method of making hydrogen fuel is the steam-methane process, which burns natural gas and produces CO2. The other method, electrolysis, can't yet operate at scale.

A business colleague with expertise in the area first told me about hydrogen power 25 years ago. (He now works in the sector.)

The problems of leakage throughout the delivery system and "dirty" production using fossil fuels seem to make hydrogen less promising than other alternative energy technologies. I don't like saying this, but it looks like my colleague is backing the wrong horse.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

“We have to travel now thinking that our baggage is going to get lost”

Orphaned luggage at Heathrow (WSJ photo)
In yesterday's post on the decision to drive, not fly, the 840 miles to Seattle one factor I did consider but failed to mention was that air travel is experiencing a raft of problems due to short-staffing. Foremost is the headache of lost luggage.
Every bag in that ocean of unclaimed luggage we’re seeing on airport floors has a story behind it.

To hear those stories is to understand just how maddening travel has become for many in 2022. Travelers say calls, emails, chats and tweets to airlines about lost bags frequently go unanswered by short-staffed airlines and airports. They hear conflicting information—or nothing—about the bag’s whereabouts.

Efforts to find and retrieve their bags, even when devices like AirTags pinpoint the location, are eating up hours and sometimes days of vacation time. And that doesn’t count the daily shopping trips for clothes until (or if) the bag shows up.

...Yvonne Heerema, senior luxury travel adviser at the Shameless Tourist travel agency, spent the first two days of a June trip to London stressed about three bags that didn’t show up with her family on a United flight from Newark, N.J. (United said it works hard to reunite costumers with lost bags “as quickly as possible.”) Now she warns clients with coming trips to prepare for that possibility. Her tips include packing one suitcase that has a few of each passengers’ items in it and buying AirTags.

“We have to travel now thinking that our baggage is going to get lost,” says Ms. Heerema, who is based in Austin, Texas.
A family member was stuck in a Southern California airport for eight hours while a substitute plane was "on the way." Eventually the U.S. major carrier put him up at a hotel and didn't lose his luggage, so he was one of the lucky ones.

Where was he going? To SFO, 400 miles away. He should have driven.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Car Trip

Today's RT fare for two from San Jose,
nearly as close as SFO, was $1,168, not
enough to change the decision to drive.
Planning ahead for a trip to the Emerald City this weekend, I called around last month for air fares between SFO and SEA.

$1,300 for two round-trip coach fares was disappointing but not surprising; the price of aviation fuel has taken off like other petroleum products. And we're not even including the cost of renting a car.

So we're driving, at an estimated total gasoline cost of $400 at $6 per gallon. Yes, I know I'm excluding the cost of wear and tear on the vehicle, but it's been underutilized at 10,000 miles for 3 years, so I'm not counting wear and tear, insurance, and time to the next service call (an important part of the analysis of transportation assets).

Another negative: the cost of driving will add about 10 hours in each direction.

But look at all the time we'll have to talk to each other instead of texting.

Plus, there will be an opportunity for side trips. I pulled out the old travel maps and guide books. You never know when the GPS might go out...

Monday, July 25, 2022

San Francisco: Exodus of the Rich

(WSJ graphic)
California, and particularly San Francisco, have become undesirable places to live.

The people who pay the highest overall taxes (income, sales, property, gasoline) in the country have to endure a quality of life that is worse than average according to some indicators (crime, housing cost, air pollution). A sampling of previous posts on this blog:
February, 2018: Warning Signs
January, 2020: California Peaked 1-2 Years Ago
February, 2021: Urban Decline and Fall
Today the Chronicle confirmed the suspicion that rich people, those most desired by communities across the nation, left San Francisco in meaningful numbers: [bold added]
From 2019 and 2020, the number of people listed on a tax return in San Francisco fell by 39,202, a drop of 4.5%, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service. Residents who left made an average of about $138,000 per year in 2019, up 67% from the prior year, when departing residents had an average annual income of around $82,000. San Francisco’s net out-migration, which is the number of people on filings who moved out subtracted by the number of people who moved in, nearly tripled in one year...

The total income in 2019 of people who had left the city by the time they filed their 2020 returns was about $10.6 billion, which compares to $3.8 billion for those that came to the city. A net loss of almost $6.9 billion. The net loss in the previous year was also negative, but much less at $2.6 billion, according to the IRS.
Because the City doesn't collect an individual income tax, the effect of losing high-income people will largely be felt by local businesses. (The direct hit to San Francisco government will be in sales taxes, which fell "from $165 million in 2019 to $88 million in 2020," although some effect is undoubtedly due to working from home by out-of-town commuters.)

Perhaps more meaningful to a leave-or-stay decision than any statistic is the perception of how welcoming California is towards successful businesses.

The Progressives who hold sway in the big-city and state halls of power continue to harp on inequality as the source of California's problems. They focus on raising taxes on the prosperous instead of thanking them for their contributions to the community.

Emblematic of this antipathy was the exchange between then-assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Elon Musk, who threatened to move Tesla out of state because of California roadblocks to Tesla operations. After her tweet in 2020 (below), the company, currently valued at $839 billion, moved to Texas. Californians continue to vote Progressives into office, so they must be getting the policies they wanted.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Bishop Andrus Announces His Retirement

In 2006 Diocesan Bishop Marc Andrus lay in front of the
Federal Building to protest the Iraq War. (Episcopal archives)
After 16 years of service Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus has announced his retirement from the Diocese of California:
Andrus, bishop of California since 2006, is best known in The Episcopal Church as a leading voice for care of creation and combating climate change. He has led Episcopal delegations to several meetings of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP, including the 2015 meeting where nations reached the ground-breaking Paris Agreement.

Most recently, Andrus was among a group of bishops who this month persuaded their fellow bishops to approve a “mind of the house” statement at the 80th General Convention underscoring the importance of environmental issues and addressing climate change as inter-connected with most other social justice issues that elicit The Episcopal Church’s engagement.

The succession plan involves a target date of Dec. 9, 2023, for electing a new bishop, followed by a tentative consecration date of May 4, 2024. After a transition period, Andrus said he and his wife, Sheila Andrus, plan to relocate to Virginia by the end of July 2024.
Your humble blogger has often stated his objections to Bishop Andrus' use of his position to insert Progressive politics into the Episcopal church. Moreover, his persistent support of same-sex marriage (which I have supported since 2004 in the secular world) led to hard-line advocacy of that position in the U.S. Episcopal Church, which in turn threatened schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion. To me Bishop Marc was emblematic of Christians who evinced a lack of understanding for other Christians who held different political positions, and who often had substantial Scriptural support for their arguments.

2007: Sheila and Marc Andrus visit a Peninsula parish
But politics isn't everything. What makes Christians--and Episcopalians--different is that they realize that there are more important things to life than politics. When it comes down to it, sincere Christians believe that there are some things that are more important than mortal life itself.

And never once have I heard Bishop Andrus say that the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven will be denied to those that disagree with him. And so, in this time of change and transition, we thank Bishop Marc for his service and wish him and Sheila all health and happiness in the next stage of their lives.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Unexpected Answer

Having heard horror stories about marriage breakups, I would assume that one of the first things to be cancelled would be an advance medical care directive, where one party can make a life-or-death call on the ex-spouse.

The WSJ advice columnist gives an unexpected answer. [bold added]
Now I’ve discovered that my advance medical directive still has my ex-wife listed as my healthcare proxy. Should the situation arise, she can decide whether to keep me alive or disconnect me from life support. Should I find somebody else to take over this role?--Alec

You should certainly keep your ex-wife as your healthcare proxy, and not simply out of convenience or a desire to avoid giving offense.

The doctor and medical writer Jerome Groopman has observed that it is often better for doctors not to like their patients. Why? Because it is difficult to be objective in making decisions for people we are attached to. We make more judicious decisions regarding people we care about less.

In your case, your ex-wife doesn’t care much about you these days. And because of that, should you sustain a serious injury or illness, the odds are in your favor that she will make more rational decisions on your behalf than she would have done during the days when she loved you deeply. Even if you do end up getting remarried, keep her as your healthcare proxy. There is no substitute for the rational coldness that comes from having your ex-wife make decisions for you.

This being said, don’t tempt her too much: Make sure she is not one of the beneficiaries of your will or life insurance.
It's possible for a person to decide that he or she can no longer live with the spouse, yet still believe that the other has integrity and judgment. If there's some trust remaining--as one might have with an intimate friend--and there's some distance between the divorce and the fateful decision, then one can leave the directive in place.

Nevertheless, there are many things that can go wrong, and my advice would be to change it.

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Days Are Long But the Years Are Short

Before entering retirement the priority had to be on finances, that is, making sure that income covered expenses, not only immediately but for the long-term.

Physical changes due to aging have needed to be addressed, too, and more consideration and planning had to be given to diet, exercise, and sleep. Of course, these "burdens" are nothing compared to life while working.

What I didn't think about was how I would respond to removal of the necessity to keep a daily calendar, with its prioritized task list and careful scheduling of due dates.

To the extent I thought about it at all, it seemed that I would be even more productive and efficient, tending to long-deferred home and learning projects. Taking to heart the accounting concept of depreciation, "remaining useful life" of, say, 20 more years instead of 50 years that it was just yesterday, I would surely be more productive now that I'm working for myself instead of others.

But that's not how it's turning out to be. In a corollary to Parkinson's law, retirement activities have expanded to fill the time available for completion. Visits to the gym used to take an hour. Now two- and three-hour walks burn the same number of calories as one-hour workouts, yet I do the former because I find them more enjoyable.

Managing time has become less important though paradoxically the time remaining is shorter.
One of the major joys of retirement has been the luxury of spending more time on those things I look forward to doing, with no deadlines to rein me in, no obligations that require me to make those hard choices about how to spend each day. What continues to surprise me is how many of those activities turn out to be exactly the ones I have been advised to cut back...

While grinding away on an exercise bike or in a gym is always an option, hourlong walks up and down the hills in my neighborhood is my favorite go-to exertion. They stimulate new ways of looking at a particular challenge, including something as simple as coming up with the words to help reconnect with a long-lost friend...

Meal preparation is another area ripe for shortcuts...I could assemble a dinner with almost no prep work to be ready at whatever hour I punch in. It’s easy, but it defeats one of the most enjoyable aspects of cooking—preparing meals with implements that might have been used hundreds of years ago whose sturdiness and texture I can feel as I begin dicing, grating and mixing.
I know these idyllic days won't last. There will come a point when a health scare will force me to dust off the daily planning calendar with its hard deadlines and concomitant stress. Meanwhile, I shall live as if these days will go on forever.
Because we don't know when we will die,
we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.
Yet everything happens only
a certain number of times,
and a very small number really.
How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood,
some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive
of your life without it.
Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that.
How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?
Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
--Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

&copy 2022 Stephen Yuen

Thursday, July 21, 2022

We Are Not the Demographic They Were Looking For

Beyond Menu is a website through which customers place take-out orders. The website and app are useful for smaller restaurants that don't wish or can't afford to build ordering-and-payment features into their own sites.

Your humble blogger is no marketing expert, but the logo "BM" next to pictures of delicious dishes to which he is lactose intolerant does not convey a positive impression.

(NIH: "In the United States, about 36 percent of people have lactose malabsorption.")

Additional note: the meaning I'm attributing to "BM" is only the fourth most popular definition, so perhaps it will recede even further as geezers pass from the scene.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Terms of the Conversation

Ann Hsu (Chron photo)
Ann Hsu, who was appointed to replace one of the three San Francisco school board members recalled in February, is herself being asked to resign for saying [bold added]
one of the biggest challenges in educating Black and brown students was their “unstable family environments” and “lack of parental encouragement to focus on learning.”
She is accused of making "racist" statements, which fits the definition of racism if she is generalizing individual attributes ("unstable family environments") to every member of a racial group. IMHO, this is no different from saying that blacks are disproportionately poorer than whites, therefore all whites discriminate against all blacks or therefore society should make reparations to all blacks.

Your humble blogger much prefers that society judge, reward, and if necessary punish people based on their individual circumstances.

(Chart from U.S. Census)
However, if the rules of conversation about race mean that we have to look at group properties, then Ann Hsu has plenty of evidence to support her statement. For example the 2020 U.S. Census showed that the overwhelming majority of white (76%) and Asian (87%) children lived in two-parent households, which are only a minority of black households (38%).

The National Center for Education Statistics, a government agency, produced similar numbers in 2016:
In 2016, the percentage of children living with married parents was highest for Asian children (84 percent), followed by White children (73 percent); children of Two of more races, Pacific Islander children, and Hispanic children (57 percent each); and American Indian/Alaska Native children (45 percent). The percentage was lowest for Black children (33 percent).
Because of the high correlation between family stability and educational achievement, it's not a great leap to claim that one is a major cause of the other. (If other factors are key, then propose, quantify, and test them.) Of course, coming from a two-parent household does not guarantee high achievement, while many kids who are raised by a single parent are enormously successful; these statistics mean little when it comes to predicting the outcome for a specific child.

But if people insist on talking about group outcomes--and by implication doling out benefits purely due to membership in a group--then group characteristics, including behavioral tendencies, are fair game.

Ann Hsu should not retract her statement, unless all parties agree to stop making generalizations about race.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Switching Back to Cash

Mailed on June 29th. Still no acknowledgment.
Upon receiving donation requests from charities to which I want to make a token contribution, I'll throw a $10 or $20 bill into the pre-addressed mailing envelope.

Gone are the days when this former auditor would write checks for even small amounts; the cost of printed checks and the additional bookkeeping weren't worth the money and time.

But what if the cash gets misdirected? Well, if the charity doesn't return an acknowledgment then I'll never donate to them again, but for the record all of them have returned a letter, and it's comforting to know that their cash receipts systems appear to be working.

I also now pay cash for magazines that offer very low starting rates.

(I made the mistake of registering online with two periodicals, which I couldn't do without giving them a credit card, and, you guessed it, they automatically renewed the subscription at a much higher rate. They did so once, I cancelled after the renewal period, but they got me.)

Recently Wired started mailing its issues after being sent $10, but Forbes hasn't acknowledged the $10 that was sent in June. In fact Forbes just sent another request yesterday, July 18th.

I'll give Forbes a few more days to initiate the subscription before concluding that this venerable icon of capitalism has leaky internal controls.

Monday, July 18, 2022

$20,000 Trash Cans That Probably Won't Solve the Problem

"Salt and pepper"--one of 3 designs (SF Public Works)
San Francisco has become the poster child for urban dysfunction.

A city like Detroit, where the collapse of its major industry led to decades-long impoverishment, is explicable; but San Francisco with its tech wealth, highly educated population, and cultural riches seems helpless to fix its homelessness, crime, and drug problems.

San Francisco can't even keep its streats clean and is experimenting (again) with a solution to filth: the $20,000 trash can.
San Francisco will try out six new models after spending 3½ years working on designs and $550,000 on a pilot program that seeks to fix the problems with the city’s current bins, which critics say are one culprit behind the city’s notoriously dirty streets. The green Renaissance models often overflow and are easily broken into, sometimes causing a bigger mess...

As a possible replacement to the current bins, Public Works is sending three custom-designed prototypes made by local companies and three off-the shelf models to locations around San Francisco.

Each custom prototype costs more than $10,000 — with one $11,000, another $18,800 and the third topping out at $20,900 per can. Last year the city said they would try to only spend $12,000 per prototype after pushback. Once mass-produced, each can would cost between $2,000 and $3,000 each.
Your humble blogger can see why the cans are so expensive, given that they are one-off prototypes and have custom specifications. [bold added]
Public Works officials...needed a can small enough to fit on a narrow sidewalk, secure enough so that someone couldn’t break in and with an opening slim enough so that people couldn’t reach inside to scavenge. The can had to hold a 32-gallon container, an electronic sensor that sends alerts when the bin is full and a recycling compartment on top.
San Francisco incentivizes scavenging because of its bottles-and-cans payouts, which far exceed the economic value of recycled materials. This payout structure in turn causes the overturning of trash cans, a contributor to dirty sidewalks and the source of the requirement to secure the cans and prevent reaching inside.

IMHO, as the Progressives like to say, the entire system is broken, and this $20,000 band-aid won't fix it.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Seven Dirty Words -- In Retrospect Not So Restrictive

George Carlin (Reuters photo)
This week marks the 50th anniversary of George Carlin's “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," which your humble blogger won't delineate here but can be quickly found with an Internet search.

Knowing the culture of 1972, one can easily guess at a dozen that could be on the list---George Carlin's seven will be a subset--and all refer to sex or excretory functions whose utterance horrified polite society. You still shouldn't say any of them in church, but they are increasingly used in musical lyrics and entertainment.

The bluenose old ladies who once dictated the rules of language have been supplanted by the latter-day Red Guards pouring out of our colleges to police what can't be said (e.g., "all lives matter") and what one must say (e.g., "black lives matter") to avoid shunning.
Maybe Carlin’s gift to the world wasn’t identifying the hypocrisy of having words you can’t say on TV but pointing out that shutting down words or ideas or thoughts is destructive to a free society. He’d probably be aghast at the state of social-media censorship today. If the price of our freedom is that someone may take offense, Carlin surely would think that’s worth the cost. I’d agree.

Thanks to censorship and technology, the public airwaves have been greatly diminished. Car radio moved to SiriusXM and Spotify. Television moved to cable and satellite and Blu-ray. Now it is all streaming and anything goes. I still think youth need to be protected, but good luck with that. Eight-year-olds with smartphones can hear the forbidden words daily. I laugh at Netflix’s kid-magnet warnings: “Gore, Language, Smoking.” Even Disney isn’t as family-friendly as it used to be.

Carlin died in 2008, as cancel culture and campus safe spaces for the anxious were beginning to become widespread. Today, there is a long list of things you can’t say, including “all lives matter” and “chief” and “birth mother” and even “master bedroom.” Goodbye discussion and thought. Then add sports-team names and wrong pronouns on playgrounds and shoot, we miss you, George Carlin.
After seeing how the new Puritanism works, a world where George Carlin can't say seven dirty words doesn't seem as restrictive.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Fair Weather + Shirt

The Giants (46-43) are 13 games behind the Dodgers(59-30), yet the bleachers were filling rapidly an hour before game time. It could be the dedication of Giants fans, or the perfect weather (69 degrees, sunny), but the likeliest motivator was the free aloha shirts given to the first 20,000 to enter Oracle Park.

Someone close to me suggested that I could leave after obtaining the colorful garment. No sirree, if I left now these would be the most expensive aloha shirts in the closet at $100+.

Besides, I'm not just a fair-weather fan. Admittedly, the weather is pretty nice...

Update: the Giants won 2-1 on a balk in the 8th inning:
Former Giants reliever Jandel Gustave balked home Wilmer Flores with the go-ahead run and San Francisco held off Milwaukee 2-1...Crew chief Bruce Dreckman said plate umpire Pat Hobert noticed a “start and stop” by Gustave in his motion, terming it a “textbook balk.”

Friday, July 15, 2022

It's Normal

(Mondo illustration)
There is a new generation of investors who have never known a bear market, the kind that grinds you down, the kind that makes you swear that you will never buy stocks again.

There is a generation of workers who think that they are in such high demand that they can tell their bosses that they will work from home whether the bosses like it or not, and that the company needs to support certain political movements over the objections of some customers, suppliers, and maybe a few co-workers.

The environment is changing. High-flying stocks have crashed, inflation has raised the expense of living, and workers are being laid off. [bold added]
Tech workers used to asking for the moon are starting to hear an unfamiliar word as startups and giants such as Google and Microsoft get more cautious: No.

For much of the pandemic, tech companies big and small went on hiring sprees where would-be employees could name their price and expect rich, work-from-anywhere perks. Now, as fears of a recession loom, more employers are scaling back or freezing hiring, rethinking how many of their positions should be remote and in some cases even rescinding job offers.

Microsoft Corp. this week said it would lay off a small percentage of its staff, following earlier layoffs at Netflix, Coinbase Global Inc. and Twitter Inc. Alphabet Inc.-owned Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai also told employees this week the company would slow the pace of hiring for the rest of the year. And the head of engineering at Meta Platforms Inc., parent of Facebook, told his managers to identify and report low-performing employees to manage them out.
It's premature to say that layoffs will be widespread. My own take is that job markets have become normal.

The bottom 10% will be dropped, the top 20% will be promoted or hired away, and the fate of the rest will follow the fortunes of their companies. The workplace will be seasoned with a little fear that, if layoffs occur, finding another job may not be so easy. It's not new, kids, it's normal.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Radio Shack v 2.0

After nearly 40 years the Foster City
Radio Shack closed in 2016.
We lamented the apparent demise of Radio Shack in 2015 but reports of its death may be premature: [bold added]
Retail Ecommerce Ventures in 2020 bought the rights to the brand in the U.S., Canada, India, Australia, Europe and China, along with related websites, for an undisclosed price. RadioShack at that time was operating as an online retailer but still had a network of stores with independent owners. [Brand marketing executive Abel] Czupor said the brand has licensing agreements with RadioShack locations.

The retailer in recent months has launched a cryptocurrency exchange platform. It plans to vastly increase the inventory on its site, including merchandise related to crypto. And it wants to revive its stores with new products such as videogames and “other trendy items,” Mr. Czupor said, to attract a wider base of consumers.

RadioShack is also examining further blockchain initiatives, according to Mr. Czupor.

The company isn’t ruling out again stocking goods that would appeal to engineers, once a staple. “We always hold true to our roots, and if that involves bringing back transistors in the stores, then so be it,” Mr. Czupor said.
Radio Shack stores are a shorthand way for movie makers to place a scene in the late 20th century. In 2019's Captain Marvel the heroine crash-lands into a shopping mall containing a Blockbuster Video Store and a Radio Shack. (These retailer outlets no longer exist, but they were ubiquitous in 1995.) Radio Shack and its Realistic electronics are prominently featured in the Netflix hit Stranger Things, which is set in the years following 1983. In science fiction shows of that era, techie characters are always running down to the local Radio Shack to build devices that will save the day.

In 2022 the new Radio Shack group has been producing edgy not-safe-for-work tweets in an effort to drum up visibility. The new business is focused on crypto, which seemed like a brilliant idea one year ago. However, the recent crash in cryptocurrencies and the bankruptcy of crypto companies bodes poorly for this strategy.

For nostalgia's sake I hope that Radio Shack comes back, but it's much more likely that I'll only see the brand in the movies.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

San Francisco Decline Confirmed

(Graphic from Daily Mail)
San Francisco's population fell 7% (874,000 to 815,000) from 2020 to 2021. The biggest decline was in white young adults: [bold added]
Among those age 25 to 29 who identified as female, white and non-Hispanic, the population dropped by 26%. White men of the age group saw nearly the exact same decline.

The data shows that young people in general were more likely to leave the city. The city lost about 20% of all residents age 25 to 29 over this time and 15% of those 20 to 24.
As for those whose numbers grew,
The groups with the largest gains were Asian men and women between 70 and 74 years of age, whose estimated numbers increased by 8.4% and 9.5% respectively. This could be partially due to San Franciscans aging into those groups, as the 65-to-69 Asian population stayed essentially flat and the 60-to-64 population dropped.
Young people, white or otherwise, fled San Francisco in disproportionate numbers. They make up the future workers and upstanding citizens who will run things and pay taxes.

Meanwhile, San Francisco's gains in the elderly cohort point to ever-increasing demand for services. (Previously we had commented on the grim outlook for baby boomers who need caregivers.)

Two years ago we said that if San Francisco were a stock, we wouldn't be buyers, and this stock hasn't hit bottom yet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Starbucks May be Slightly Woke, But It Isn't Crazy

Your humble blogger enjoys a peaceful
cuppa joe outside the Foster City Starbucks
Starbucks is closing 16 stores not for revenue or profitability reasons but because of employee endangerment:
Starbucks said it would permanently close six stores each in the Seattle and Los Angeles areas, two in Portland, Ore., and single locations in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. by the end of the month.

The company said it received reports from workers about incidents that they said involved drug use by some customers and in some cases, members of the public, in certain locations. Starbucks said it would transfer employees to other locations when it permanently closes the stores.
Clearly, calling in law enforcement didn't help, and writing off 16 stores for a wealthy corporation like Starbucks shows how dire the safety problems were.

By the way, do these locations have anything in common?

City                              When Last Republican
                                          Mayor Left Office

Los Angeles                             2001
Philadelphia                             1954
Portland                                   1980
Seattle                                     1980
Washington, DC              Zero GOP Mayors

Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy our crime-free suburban Starbucks, where the police officers arrest people for misdemeanors and which is a five-minute walk from the police station.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Going Uncomfortably into that Good Night

The boomer puzzle.
The decline of family connections and traditional social organizations (churches, Elks/Kiwanis/Freemasons, etc.) heralds a grim future for many baby boomers: [bold added]
According to the American Association of Retired Persons, 70% of people over 65 will need long-term services and support, but many won’t get it because there aren’t enough caregivers. This shortage, the AARP says, is going to get worse in the next decade. There will be a national shortage of 151,000 caregivers by 2030...

In “The Silken Tent,” Robert Frost praises a person who is “loosely bound / by countless silken ties of love and thought.” Unfortunately, an increasing number of elderly Americans lack these ties; they are childless or live far from family. Many also are unaffiliated with a church or synagogue.....

According to a Harvard study, 58% of Americans over 80 live alone. “As the baby boomers cross into their 80s over the next 20 years, the numbers of single-person households among the oldest age group will grow dramatically, from 4.7 million households in 2018 to an estimated 10.1 million in 2038.” And many of them are likely to suffer from cognitive decline. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “It’s estimated that as many as half of people 85 years of age and older have dementia.
The boomer generation in our family has been lucky so far. We have reasonably good health for our ages (61-72) and financial resources are adequate. On the other hand, none of us has more than two children, and the "silken ties of love" aren't the thick safety net that our parents had.

Pursuing professional success and keeping families small was a trade-off that most boomers made, and I suspect many of us have regrets about that choice.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

You Can See It if You Look for It

Plumb bob and line (Beddingfield photo)
Today's reading:

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said,
"See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."----Amos 7:7-9
I didn't know much, nor cared, about construction through the first 30 years of my bookish life but over time grew to appreciate the skill of those in the trade. Even more astonishing were the feats of the engineers who built the seven wonders of the ancient world without the benefit of modern technology.

One essential tool that dates back thousands of years was the plumb bob, the weight that established a vertical "plumb line." (Today we use spirit levels which reveal the vertical and horizontal through air bubbles in liquid.)

The plumb line is an irresistible metaphor for the steadiness of God's word in a world of confusion. It's a metaphor that is not fully appreciated until one tries to build something without a tool that brings one back to the straight and vertical path.

Fun Fact: the original weights were made of lead (Latin: plumbum), hence the origin of plumb bob, plumb line, and lead's chemical symbol Pb.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

A Small Gesture

(WSJ illustration)
Determined to follow the rules of business etiquette, I responded to every telephone message and letter request at the beginning of my working career.

But the 1970's were a lifetime ago, before email and telemarketing, before real and electronic in-boxes overflowed with messages from people and bots who don't know me personally. So now I don't answer every communication, but I do always call back people I know--even if the conversation may be unpleasant.

That's why it's disappointing that businesses--who supposedly adhere to higher standards than individuals--now "ghost" job applicants:
Sounds like you’ve been ghosted. Most people have heard this term in connection with social situations and online dating. Unfortunately, it is an ever-growing trend in the business world as well.

According to research, 73% of employers admit to having willfully ignored job candidates. This behavior has negative consequences not only for candidates but also for employers: A job seeker suffering from feelings of social rejection—and who likely missed opportunities to interview for other positions while waiting to hear back from a particularly desired employer—may turn to social media to complain publicly. The result is reputational damage to the company that can have a real negative impact on its ability to recruit down the line.

Ghosting is hurtful and unprofessional, but you may be able to put your negative experience to use. What if this is one way for the company to show you its real face? The company may have done you a favor, as you likely won’t be happy in a place that signals arrogance and little desire for long-term affiliation.
To the people in charge of hiring decisions: please treat job applicants the way you wish to be treated yourselves. If you're not going to hire them, let them know so they won't waste time waiting by the phone or mailbox. They did go through the trouble of filling out your job application, which in many cases is time-consuming.

And don't decry the meanness and cruelty in the world if you're not going to make this small gesture yourself.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Hope for the Sea Around Us

Anchovies at Bolinas Lagoon (SFGate)
Global warming Climate change is supposed to poison the oceans, but so far that 2003 model prediction hasn't conformed to reality. In fact, the opposite may be happening.

Sea life is thriving off the coast of Northern California.
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.
Helicopter photo of Antarctic fin whales (YouTube)
Fin whales (only blue whales are larger) are returning to the coast of Antarctica.
Large numbers of fin whales have returned to their ancestral feeding areas near Antarctica for the first time since hunting of the animals was banned almost half a century ago, scientists said in a paper published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

The unexpected finding offers a hopeful sign not only for efforts to conserve the giant animals, according to the researchers, but also for the health of the ocean ecosystems in which they live. Whale feces fertilize microscopic plants known as phytoplankton. Those are eaten by tiny, shrimplike animals known as krill, which in turn sustain dolphins, seals, penguins and other marine species...

The population of fin whales in the Southern Hemisphere has reached nearly 8,000, the study showed. That is up from about 3,000 when the International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium on hunting of the whales in the Southern Hemisphere in 1976. Whaling before that time killed an estimated 700,000 fin whales.
There be dolphins here (WSJ photo)
Dolphins are coming back to the East River:
Partly because New York City waters aren’t as foul as they once were, dolphins have been visiting in greater numbers of late...

Scientists believe the marine mammals may be arriving in warmer months in pursuit of one of their favorite foods, the Atlantic menhaden, which are congregating in the area thanks to robust conservation efforts. The waters surrounding the city are cleaner now than at any time since the Civil War, said Ted Timbers, a spokesman for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.
"...since the Civil War"--the baby boomers' yearning for Walden (1854) may not be a pipe dream after all.

Unlike some climate-change alarmists, your humble blogger won't be so bold as to claim that three data points prove a hypothesis. However, they are an indication that the situation isn't as dire as the alarmists claim, and that there's hope that some of the damage is reversible.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Admirable From a Distance

Yesterday I took a walk in Ryan Park, which was crowded with hundreds of Canadian geese.

They were rooting about, looking for the leavings from the crowd of picnickers who had come to watch the fireworks on Monday.

Dozens were waddling on the sidewalk. I could walk right up to them, though when I did so they would turn their head to glance at me sideways in case I was one of those children (or peculiar adults) who liked to chase futilely after winged creatures.

Each generation of ducks and geese becomes less fearful, probably because they've learned that humans are much more likely to feed than threaten them.

The fear went both ways. There were so many waterfowl that images from Hitchcock's The Birds rose unbidden from memory.

I quickened my pace and walked home, taking another route.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Homelessness Moves to the Capital

Sacramento encampment (Calif Globe)
California's homelessness problem is not confined to the coastal cities.
But the city of Sacramento actually has more unsheltered homeless people — and a higher share of them compared with its population — than San Francisco, according to just-released data.

Within the city limits of Sacramento, just over 5,000 unsheltered people — those living in vehicles and tents — were counted in a new homelessness report, compared with about 4,400 people in San Francisco.

But with Sacramento’s population of 525,000 versus San Francisco’s 874,000, that works out to a rate of 952 per 100,000 in Sacramento versus 503 per 100,000 for San Francisco.

The total count of homeless people in the city of Sacramento was not available.
San Francisco has had to deal with large numbers of homeless for years, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent developing a shelter network. A major part of Sacramento's problem is due to a recent housing-price escalation resulting from people moving from the coast to the Central Valley.

IMHO, Sacramento's problems are more easily fixable because there's more land to build housing and homeless shelters, and job holders will find it easier to make a rent payment (a one bedroom costs $1,302 and $2,225 in Sacramento and San Francisco, respectively, per the Chronicle). In addition, Sacramento doesn't have the same Gordian knot of San Francisco regulations that prevent things from getting done.

Let's hope California's capital city shows us the way.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Function Over Form

It works, and there are no leaks.
In 2012 I replaced the corroded faucet in one of our bathrooms with upscale $200 fixtures (pricey ten years ago) that looked nice but became harder and harder to turn after only a few years. Worse, parts were hard to find, and the faucet was difficult to repair because the home handyman had to go underneath the sink in order to loosen and tighten the handles.

So I spent this holiday weekend installing a new faucet. (I actually consumed more time hacksawing off the old one.)

Gone was the desire to look at fancy fixtures. Easiness of installation and repair was the priority; in the future cartridge replacement will be done from the top of the sink.

Beauty lies in simplicity, not shininess.
Fulfilling the criteria was a Price Pfister $100 model. Your humble amateur do-it-yourselfer took his time--three hours--making sure that the spout and handles were straight, the hot and cold lines weren't crossed (been there!), and teflon tape was wound around each thread to protect against leaks.

I'll spend more for quality and beauty, but in the future the form of a mechanism will take a distant backseat to function.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Independence Day, 2022

Hillsdale Blvd, the busiest street in Foster City,
was closed to traffic next to Ryan Park.
After a two-year hiatus the Independence Day festivities returned to Foster City bigger than ever.

The roads surrounding Ryan Park were closed to traffic.

The viewing areas in the park have become so desirable that the City has implemented a reservation system, and families began setting up their tents before noon.

By early evening seats were at a premium, and some fireworks-watchers sat on a curb across the street, almost as if they were at a parade.

Except for the little kids who ran freely, the crowd respected each other's boundaries. It was a traditional assemblage; beer was everywhere, and I couldn't detect a whiff of marijuana.

After enjoying the ambience of a warm, humid, music-filled walk in the park, I headed home for a barbecue dinner.

The fireworks show would end close to 10 p.m., past bedtime, and I need my beauty sleep. I missed the show, but I could hear it a mile away. Maybe next year....

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Another Reason to be Unsettled

Attendance was higher than normal during the long weekend.
On Friday, June 24th, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The following Monday the Episcopal Church issued a warning to its congregations throughout the United States.

federal officials noted an emergence of “credible security threats” prior to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and have reached out to faith communities, including The Episcopal Church, to urge increased vigilance.

Canon [C.K.] Robertson says:

“They did not share specific intelligence, but rather asked all of us both to be cautious and to use our platforms to encourage peaceful responses to the decision.

The goal in all this is certainly not to incite panic in any way. But in light of the violence and tragic shootings we have continued to witness throughout the United States—including in one of our own churches—it is appropriate for all of us to be more intentionally alert in the days and weeks to come. This can mean churches connecting with local law enforcement about increased patrols, noting any unusual activity around them, and perhaps creating an emergency preparedness plan, if one does not already exist.

Again, the goal is not panic, but awareness and preparedness. For this reason, we have shared with you information that we received directly from federal authorities, with their request to pass it on to you and your congregations.”
There have been isolated reports about damage done to Catholic churches in other states but none recently concerning the Episcopal Church. Nevertheless, this unsettling news just gives us another reason to disregard the instruction to welcome strangers.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.----Hebrews 13:2

Saturday, July 02, 2022

I Went to a Political Rally and a Game Broke Out

Brianna Turner (left) - WSJ photo
Politically active athletes have given up boycotts in favor of preaching their message when they visit states whose politics they abhor: [bold added]
State boycotts have quietly faded from popularity as a tactic, say activists, including those who successfully got NCAA and NBA events yanked from North Carolina six years ago over a law requiring people to use the public-facility bathroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

These days, activists have pivoted to accepting that such events will go ahead—while pressuring athletes and organizers to use the money and attention generated to support their cause. It’s a demand that could end up being even more challenging for teams and leagues.

As the abortion fight shifts to the states following last week’s Supreme Court ruling, that’s the approach that politically minded athletes are taking too.

For example, Brianna Turner, a power forward for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, said that, rather than declining to play in areas with abortion restrictions, she wants to use her presence to promote her point of view.

Blocking events “is a tactic, but I think that maybe even better would be playing in the games and wearing shirts on the sidelines that say, like, ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘abortion rights are human rights,’” she said. Other ideas, she said, included using media availability around games to only talk about the issue.
I suspect that even some abortion-rights supporters just want to enjoy a game with their kids without being forced to explain what the rape-and-incest exception means.

We've already seen what excessive wokeness does to movie box office and TV ratings. If professional sports leagues want to turn off some of their audience, it's their right, so they should go for it.