Friday, September 30, 2022

Injection No. 4: A Minor Inconvenience

Getting the second booster shot (coronavirus injection #4) was no trouble at all. I made an appointment for yesterday morning at Sutter Health's $200 million facility in San Carlos, five miles from Foster City.

Parking was free at the uncrowded 8-year-old multistory garage.

There was no waiting at the separate structure (picture) next to the main building. Flu and COVID shots were allotted four stations each, and at the moment I was the only customer.

After the injection, there was no requirement to wait. From parking the car to getting back on the freeway the whole process took 15 minutes, an infinitesimal imposition compared to spending an entire afternoon at the Moscone Center 18 months ago.

I'm not particularly worried about dying from the coronavirus, but if I didn't spend less than an hour reducing the risks of long-haul COVID to myself and giving the virus to the vulnerable 70-to-100 crowd, whom I mingle with frequently, then for me the benefits so far outweighed the costs that I would be a dunderhead not to get the booster.

Another cost, however, that shouldn't be overlooked: 24 hours later my arm hurts, and I feel like the flu is coming on. Nevertheless, this reaction is milder than those experienced with earlier shots, and the minor inconveniences will soon be forgotten.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Quiet Firing: A Valuable Advance Warning

Quiet quitting is the new buzzword for an old phenomenon: doing just enough to keep one's job. Many employers notice, and that could lead to quiet firings. [bold added]
quiet firing refers to minimizing an employee’s significance. Companies have always had subtle ways to nudge people out the door. Tactics include sidelining them by cutting responsibilities or denying promotions and raises to make someone miserable enough to leave—what the gang in legal calls a “constructive discharge” and the rest of us know as managing out.
As noted in the quote, these phenomena are nothing new. Workers should always be sensitive enough to the company vibe (it may be the industry, not the company, that is giving off the negative signals) to be on the lookout for a landing spot.

If the timing's right, one can have a new job in hand before the employer issues the pink slip. Then one can receive severance, maybe even collect unemployment benefits and take a break between jobs.

Being quietly fired is a valuable advance warning to prepare for your real firing, which in order to do correctly requires more work than when you were quiet quitting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Dogs of Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park (Google Maps image)
John F. Kennedy drive traverses the entire length of Golden Gate Park. It had been closed to automobile traffic since the beginning of the pandemic, and this year the City decided to ban cars "in perpetuity."

As expected, animals, or at least representations of them, have begun returning.
JFK Drive, SF (Chron photo)
some San Francisco icons from the past have taken up residence — three Doggie Diner dog heads that once loomed over outlets of the long-defunct Bay Area fast food chain.

The 7-foot fiberglass doggie heads, each weighing 600 pounds and sporting a chef’s hat and a bowtie, are camped out on a stretch of car-free JFK between Conservatory Drive West and 6th Avenue. The dachshund heads with their long snouts, sit atop square podiums with a couple of Adirondack chairs in front — and are sometimes surrounded by curious, puzzled or adoring fans taking selfies or touching their noses.

The dog heads, named Manny, Moe and Jack, are hanging out for up to six months in Golden Gate Park...Doggie Diner opened its first branch in 1948 and closed its last in 1986, no longer able to compete with the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King.
I've lived in the Bay Area long enough to have gone to Doggie Diner. Its basic menu of burgers, chile, hot dogs, pastrami, and fries didn't resonate with the late 20th century trend toward low-fat, fresh ingredients. Now that dining tastes have gone back to comfort food, it's not surprising that there are efforts to bring back Doggie Diner.

When and if Doggie Diner returns, I'm definitely checking it out even if it means driving to Napa. Meanwhile, after a three-year absence it's time for another trip to Golden Gate Park to look at the Doggie heads up close and visit the Japanese Tea Garden with its restored pagoda.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Junk Thoughts

The odometer at 27 years--220,044 miles
Although I posted about it in 2018, today is the fifth anniversary of scrapping our 1990 Toyota Camry Wagon (that's September 27, 2017 for the chronologically challenged). The car had given us 27 years of service and 220,000 miles.

The Camry was breaking down every week, and repairs couldn't be justified under any set of cost-benefit assumptions. Luckily, California's clunker buy-back program was paying owners to take old cars off the road.
The requirements were that the car be operating, be at least 22 years old, and pass a visual inspection (for example, minimum of one headlight, one taillight and one brake light). Provided I could drive it to the Buyback scrapyard, the BAAQMD [Bay Area Air Quality Management District] would pay me $1,000.
Just behind the stacks of tires and rusted autos.
The junkyard had been there for decades. It was adjacent to East Palo Alto marsh land, land once considered hostile to development.

Now the land would be worth many millions of dollars to home builders because of the Bay setting and proximity to tech employers.

The marsh land was now an open space preserve and will, along with the junkyard, likely remain unchanged.

Based on past patters of ownership, I'll be back around 2045 when it comes time to scrap our two cars (mfg 2018 and 2019). Governor Newsom, who banned the sale of gas-powered automobiles after 2034, will undoubtedly be disappointed in us bitter-clingers, but since there's no room in my retirement fund for a Tesla I'll have to live with his disapproval.

Monday, September 26, 2022

I'm Going Back Inside

WSJ recommends for a man in his '60's:Jacket, $1,498,
Ralph Lauren; Polo, $1,395, Brioni; Glasses, $795,
Jacques Marie Mage; Boots, $945, Manolo Blahnik;
Belt, $1,050, Hermes. Total $5,683.
Now that they're venturing out again, older men who want to look au courant are making serious fashion faux pas:
“Older guys wearing Allbirds sneakers with jeans, khakis or more formal pants. To be honest, don’t wear them at all—no matter what you pair them with, it won’t look good.” —Cassandra Sethi, personal stylist, Los Angeles

“The client was a recently divorced banker in his late 50s. His hair was dyed too dark for his complexion and he wore baggy sweatshirts and skinny jeans. Plus: a proliferation of jewelry that made him look like he was on several random spiritual journeys.” —José Ramón Reyes, founder of wardrobe consulting service the Custom Project, New York

“There’s nothing more unappealing than an older gentleman wearing an outdated, ill-fitting suit.”—Andrew Weitz, celebrity style consultant, Los Angeles

“In New York, I always notice older men wearing graphic T-shirts and embellished jeans. Those work on younger guys; [on anyone else] it makes you look like you’re trying really hard to dress like the kids.”—Peter Nguyen, personal men’s stylist, New York

“Too-tight clothes! I’m talking to you, Mr. Bezos.” —Michael Fisher, stylist, New York
Not too tight, not too loose, don't dress like the kids.

I don't feel like wasting nearly $6,000 (see picture) on clothes that not only look uncomfortable but will be out of fashion next spring.

I'm going back inside...

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Moment of Truth

Yesterday was a funeral service for a young man, 36, who died earlier this month. I never met him but have known his parents for years. They were reticent about revealing the exact circumstances of his death, and I respect their privacy enough not to inquire directly from them or mutual friends.

The grief was palpable from the three rows of friends and relatives. His father struggled when he gave the eulogy; I told him later how much I admire him.

I thought of Queen Elizabeth and the crowds who attended her state funeral and the millions around the world who watched it on television. I thought how our young man had maybe 40 people attending his service. Like the Queen, he on a much smaller scale had good people who loved him, mourned his passing, and will remember him the rest of their lives.

One key decision when planning an Episcopal/Anglican funeral service is whether to have Holy Communion. The distribution of the Bread and Wine does take time, and the Royal Family was wise to omit Communion with attendance at Westminster Abbey numbering in the thousands. (It's also possible that the ceremony was included at one of the private services.)

On Saturday morning we did have Communion in accordance with Jesus' instruction, included in multiple Gospels, to "do this in remembrance of me."

At all Anglican services the 23rd Psalm is read, as well as the following passage from John 14:
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Whether Queen or commoner, everyone walks through the Valley of Death and at the moment of Truth hopes that there is a mansion waiting on the other side.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

California Premium

California's "price gap" between its gasoline and the rest of the country's is nearing $2 per gallon, the largest in 22 years: [bold added]
Much of California’s high gasoline costs are explainable. The state’s 54-cent gasoline excise tax is among the highest in the country — only Pennsylvania’s is higher. There are also stricter environmental regulations and special fuel blends that prevent rampant smog from accumulating in cities, altogether these factors tack on roughly $1.20 to California’s gas prices.

But the widening gap between what everyone from San Jose to Los Angeles is paying compared to the rest of the country is due to the concentrated nature of California’s oil refineries, experts say. Due to the state’s special gas blend, California is often termed a “fuel island” because nearly all gas sold in the state is refined locally by a handful of companies, including Chevron, Marathon Petroleum and PBF Energy. That means mechanical hiccups at refineries can cause major price spikes not seen elsewhere in the country.
California progressives have imposed a boutique gas formulation and higher gas taxes because they can do so without opposition. These factors have been known for years; for example, in 2019 we posted on this subject when the price gap was a mere $1.40 per gallon.

Undoubtedly the politicians will blame the oil refiners for greedy behavior that is mysteriously absent in the other 49 states. Having neither self-awareness or business experience, the politicians cannot imagine why capitalists don't invest a dime in an industry that they not only have trashed publicly but will regulate out of existence beginning in 2035.

Well, Californians have voted for these policies consistently since the turn of the century, and if they are looking for someone to blame they should just look in the mirror.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Too Much to Swallow

Ebi Shio Ramen (Chron photo)
Like many starving students back in the day, I got through a few all-nighters with the aid of a hotplate and 25¢ packages of ramen.

It required a major psychological adjustment to pay $10-$15 for a ramen bowl when restaurants began offering them in the new century, but the quality of fresh noodles, freshness of ingredients, and complexity of the broths eventually won me over to the price differential. The fare that was being served in the restaurants was completely different from the packaged version.

However, I'm going to have to draw the line at paying $175 for a ramen dinner in San Francisco:
the ticket price at Noodle in a Haystack, opened by married couple Yoko and Clint Tan in San Francisco’s Richmond District in the spring, can seem shocking: $175 for a ramen tasting menu.
Not just ramen: chuka soba (wheat noodles)
The Chronicle's food critic effusively describes the uniqueness of each dish. (Note: I have italicized food-critic prose that I find particularly pretentious praiseworthy.)
...a deviled egg, made from the typical marinated egg you’d see floating in a bowl, repurposed as an hors d’oeuvre. Its yolk was whipped with Kewpie mayonnaise, concentrated fish powder and pickled daikon radish juice and topped with garnishes of fried chicken skin and boba-like marinated salmon roe. Like Willy Wonka’s three-course chewing gum, that single half of an egg seemed to contain a full narrative in itself.

That course has since been replaced with a coat button-sized brown butter financier topped with a fluffy dollop of creme fraiche whipped with smoked soy sauce. The morsel was scented behind the ears with dabs of garlic oil, and it was all finished with a briny plop of black caviar. It’s not so obvious an act of foreshadowing, but it got everyone at the counter cooing with pleasure.

The new menu has also leaned harder into the seasonal produce conventions of California cuisine. A delightful miniature ramen came disguised as a pomodoro pasta, complete with a potent Early Girl tomato jam, a kelp-tomato broth and even some burrata topped with chile crisp oil. The Tans also got on the corn train: For a scallop and sea urchin dish, they pureed Brentwood sweet corn and turned it into an airy, whipped version of corn potage, the French-influenced cream of corn soup that you can buy from vending machines on the streets of Tokyo.
From the description of the hours, knowledge, and skills that go into this dinner the price is merited, I suppose, if one subscribes to the labor theory of value.

Although it's not my cup of tea, things can't be that bad in the City dining scene if there are enough customers willing to fork over $175 for ramen, or $72 for fried rice.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Fishy Emanations

Over 100 years ahead of its time
Lawyers sometimes use logic that's so convoluted that the results seem absurd to us common folk.

Headline: Yes, bumblebees may be fish, California Supreme Court agrees
a state appeals court ruled in May that [the California endangered species act] was flexible enough to allow the state Fish and Game Commission to consider protecting four imperiled species of bees under the category of “fish.”
Sure, it seems crazy, dear reader, but what you're missing is an intermediate species, the Trinity bristle snail: [bold added]
In the 3-0 ruling, Justice Ronald Robie acknowledged that a fish, “as the term is commonly understood ... lives in aquatic environments.” But he said state lawmakers, when they approved the current law in 1984, knew that the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which enforced the law, had found that it protected invertebrates living on land.

The Legislature “could have expressed disagreement” with the department, but instead expressly extended protection to all creatures covered by the law before 1985, including the Trinity bristle snail, Robie said. By the same logic, he said, the law must now be interpreted to allow protection of bumblebees.
Because of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, California has claimed that its jurisprudence is superior.

Well, that didn't last long. Ruminations over a simple mollusc have made the California judiciary a laughing stock.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

San José Civic Plaza

The Rotunda
Though we've gone to downtown San Jose for trade shows, traveling exhibits, and civil ceremonies, we had never visited City Hall.

The buildings were closed last Saturday, and no amount of pleading from a harmless-looking three-generational family, including two small kids, would get us in.

What we could see was impressive--a spacious plaza, office towers, a 110-ft. glass rotunda, and outdoor sculpture. Our nephew, who had started working there in August, promised to give us a tour if we would visit him on a weekday.

However, we weren't impressed by some of the run-down properties a block away from Civic Plaza.

Waterscape has been shut off
Development has been set back because of the coronavirus.
sales taxes in downtown San Jose have plunged 38.5% below their pre-COVID levels, [SJ Director of Development Nanci] Klein said.

“There are areas of the downtown that are really struggling,” Klein said Wednesday during the meeting.
Despite the gloomy statistics, there are hopeful signs of not just recovery but growth. San Jose's shopping malls--admittedly not close to City Hall--are booming. And then there's Google:
Google has proposed the development of a new neighborhood consisting of office buildings, homes, shops, restaurants, entertainment hubs, cultural loops and open spaces where Google could employ up to 25,000 people.

The Downtown West transit village, which would be developed in phases over a period of years, is deemed to be a game changer for San Jose.
Although San Jose suffers from the same homelessness and crime problems as the famous city to the north, San Jose has much less red tape, more can-doism, and more tech-infused energy than San Francisco. If they were stocks, I'd rather put my money on San Jose.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Cleanup in Aisle 70

Castro Valley Trader Joe's after the crash (Chron)
My late father gave up driving at the age of 90. His reflexes and eyesight, especially his night vision, had deteriorated to the point where he knew that there was too much of a risk to himself and others if he continued to drive.

Unlike Dad, some older drivers don't have the self awareness to quit:
The man who rammed his car through the front window of a Castro Valley Trader Joe’s on Thursday, injuring eight people and spilling debris across the floor, was a 90-year-old Hayward resident apparently trying to park.

The accident left a bizarre scene, a 2005 gray Toyota Avalon sitting among red shopping carts and racks of colorfully packaged organic cereal. The eight people injured included a 5-year-old child and a Trader Joe’s employee. Four were taken to hospitals by ambulance, while the other four were treated at the store.

Though the man is not facing criminal charges, the incident represents a growing concern on Bay Area roads, which the California Highway Patrol has begun to tentatively address: the ballooning population of older drivers...

A spokesperson for the California Department of Motor Vehicles did not immediately respond to questions about requirements for older motorists; state law mandates drivers who are 70 and older to renew their license every five years, and take a vision and written test, but not a behind-the-wheel test.
Your humble blogger hasn't reached the point where he (thinks he) is even close to being unable to drive, and unless forced not to do so, I'll keep my license as long as I can. The plan is eventually to use the car only in case of emergency and switch to public transportation or taxis for normal transportation needs.

Maybe in ten years owning and/or subscribing to a driverless car will become reality, and that will be another option.

In any event Trader Joe's will have nothing to fear from me.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Looking Up

(Mercury News photo)
As rain storms go, yesterday's was rather modest. The Peninsula got less than a half an inch, and today we'll be lucky to get half of that.
San Francisco and Peninsula: The Peninsula will be rainy with an additional 0.10 to 0.15 inches of rain. Plan on steady rain in the morning, with showers and a chance of thunderstorms by the afternoon. San Francisco will reach a high of 71 degrees.

South San Francisco, San Mateo and Redwood City will be slightly warmer, with highs in the mid 70s. Winds coming from the south west will gust up to 20 mph across the region.
Nevertheless, the first half of this week is a welcome respite from the drought. We turned off the sprinklers, not only to save on the water bill, but to avoid the scolds, one of whom reported us to the Water Department when we had a leaky sprinkler head (hey, next time put a note on our front door, neighbor).

Another benefit of the weather system is that it has supplanted the Labor Day heat wave. Temperatures are a good 30 degrees cooler, which further reduces the outdoor watering requirement.

There may even be a second storm in ten days. The skies are looking brighter by looking gloomy.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Interesting Trend, But I Wouldn't Put Money on It

Pew Research forecasts that Christians will be an American minority by 2070:
The projections, released in a report Tuesday, used surveys and other data to figure out what religion in America would look like in the next 50 years. Pew created four different scenarios for its projections, including if Americans continued to leave Christianity at current rates or if that trend stopped. It found that the number of those with no religious affiliation would grow in all four scenarios.
Three of the four scenarios showed Christians as comprising less than 50% of the population. Only one--Christians will stop leaving the faith (Pew: "unrealistic")--had Christians above 50% in 2070. Even here the percentage dropped from the current 64% to 54% because Christian deaths outnumbered Christian births.

The projections, to be sure, aren't encouraging for Christian denominations, but the actual results never turn out as smoothly trending as the models predict, whether we're talking about climate change, the stock market, or human health. The Pew analysts themselves admit:
New patterns of religious change could emerge at any time. Armed conflicts, social movements, rising authoritarianism, natural disasters or worsening economic conditions are just a few of the circumstances that sometimes trigger sudden social – and religious – upheavals.
In American history there have been at least three "Great Awakenings" from the 18th through the 20th century, when a sizeable part of the population returns to the faith of their fathers because they became disillusioned with the ability of society to prevent natural or human-caused calamities.

I wouldn't count on a 21st century Great Awakening to reignite faith, but it would be foolish to bet against it.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

From Space-Age to Dinosaur

In 1975 Daly City was at the end of the line.
BART celebrates its 50th anniversary with cars that are 50 years old: [bold added]
But half a century later, as the agency celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, many of those same silver-and-blue trains are still chugging through the Bay Area. And keeping them running — even in the country’s technology capital — requires a special breed of ingenuity.

BART mechanics rely on Frankensteined laptops operating with Windows 98, train yard scraps and vintage microchips to keep Bay Area commuters on the rails...

When a BART car runs into trouble, Shawn Stange steps back in time. He pops open a circa-2000 IBM Thinkpad running Windows 98 and opens a portal into the train’s brain — the Automated Train Control system — through the DOS computer language.

Much as if he were conducting a vehicle diagnostic test, Stange uses the software as a mechanic’s roadmap. “This stuff was written so long ago. So you have to take Windows 10 and open up a virtual Windows 98 box and then run the (DOS) program to download the log files,” he said. “It’s primitive.”
From the vantage of 2022, BART runs on obsolete software. However, those "primitive" DOS programs must have been an upgrade to the original control system. The Bay Area Rapid Transit system began service in 1972, and the first IBM-PC with PC-DOS didn't arrive until 1981, nine years later.

The repair men who can fix the cars and the electronics all have gray hair, and their specialized skills are applicable to no other transportation systems. It's a safe bet that that knowledge will be gone in the next 50 years, and it's an open question, given the many changes to come in work, commuting, urban development, AI, and alternative energy, whether BART will be around to celebrate its next 50th anniversary.

Friday, September 16, 2022

A Rōsui By Any Other Name

At any age it's nice to have people who care (WSJ photo)
When my father passed away in 2019, the cause of death was listed as congestive heart failure. But we knew that the underlying reason was an attack of shingles that had hospitalized him a few months earlier.

Although the doctors declared him to be "recovered" from shingles, all his systems were weakened. He had become vulnerable to any infection or health problem that he might well have fought off a year earlier. Before shingles, he was "younger than his age;" after, he looked like his full 94 years.

More doctors are moving toward listing "old age" as the cause of death.
When a very old person dies without any obvious trigger, should doctors try to come up with a cause? Or is it acceptable to say that the person died of old age?

Doctors are increasingly going with the latter. The third-most-common cause of death in Japan last year was rōsui, a word that combines characters meaning “old age” and “decline.” It is generally translated as dying of old age, and it accounted for more than one in 10 deaths, trailing only cancer and heart disease.

“We would say these days, ‘She had all sorts of conditions but since she was old, let’s say she died of old age,’ ” said Akihisa Iguchi, a gerontologist and emeritus professor at Nagoya University. He said families are usually fine with that.
The basic arguments for and against "old age" as a cause of death are fairly clear:
It also gets at the choices families and doctors face when an elderly person grows frail, perhaps suffering from a variety of ailments that aren’t individually life-threatening. They must decide how aggressively to treat those ailments and how to ensure the person’s comfort.

Putting the name of a disease on a death certificate—such as respiratory disease or pneumonia, both on the U.S. top-10 list and common among the elderly—prompts questions about what was done to treat that disease. Death from old age, by contrast, suggests a kind of inevitability.
As for me, I'm not opposed to "old age" as the reason for my cause of death because at that point I won't care.

However, while I'm still breathing--and sentient--please spare my feelings by not saying that I'm suffering from old age. Use WHO's phrase, “aging-associated decline in intrinsic capacity.” Science-speak has a way of mellowing the harsh.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Pressure Cooking

The winner, flanked by her proud grandparents.
Last night was the first time I had watched MasterChef, and I did so under the urging of a finalist's grandparents, who are good friends.

The three contestants all worked under tremendous pressure, not only preparing each dish from scratch within a strict one-hour limit but having to answer questions on camera while they were furiously engaged.

Our friends did a good job of keeping the outcome to themselves for nearly a year, though it wasn't hard to guess from their reminders to watch the show.

When their grandaughter Dara Yu emerged victorious, it was a redemptive moment for a young woman who as a teenager lost her father tragically.

Life has ups and downs, and at the tender age of 20 (when filmed) Dara already has had more than the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Worth 10,000 Words

Picture is better, but TikTok (below) is best (WSJ graphic)
Airlines have installed larger overhead bins to accommodate more bags. However, there is an optimal way to place the bags to use the space efficiently. [bold added]
A growing number of planes have larger, drop-down bins, which fit one to two more bags each and reduce the number of gate-checked bags...But the new bin math only works if bags are placed a certain way, and the new way of doing it is another snarl in an already stressful travel journey.

The bags should be stowed on their side, not flat, as is the norm with older bins. Major U.S. airlines have plastered stickers in the back of the new bins depicting the proper position. Flight attendants on many airlines make repeated announcements about turning the bags onto their side, sometimes comparing the ideal bin layout to a plate of tacos.
Your humble blogger wasn't getting it from a verbal description ("stowed on their side"), and the "taco" or "book" metaphors improved understanding marginally.

United Airlines produced a TikTok that explains overhead-bin fitting clearly in ten (10) seconds. Can a PhD thesis be far behind?

@united Answer @im_siowei had to show our new overhead bins some love #travel #traveltiktok #luggage #comedy #unitedairlines ♬ Up and down girl - mik :-))

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

So Sad Because They Got What They Wished For

(Chronicle image)
A Chronicle poll finds San Francisco residents filled with "pervasive gloom": [bold added]
Roughly one-third of the respondents said they were likely to leave within the next three years. A large majority, 65%, said that life in the city is worse than when they first moved here. Less than one-quarter of respondents said they expected life in San Francisco to improve in two years. More than one-third said it would worsen.

San Franciscans were largely in agreement about the city’s biggest problems: Homelessness took first place, followed by public safety and housing affordability. When asked if, three years from now, those problems would be significantly less severe, nearly 70% of people said either “slightly likely” or “not likely at all.”
The overall population of San Francisco fell during the pandemic, and a disproportionate percentage of the departed consisted of those most able to fix the City's problems, i.e., the young and the wealthy.

San Francisco hasn't hit bottom yet. We know this because the proposed nostrums are simply more of the same; spend more money on more redistributive programs that expand the bureaucracy. As we noted in April
George Christopher lured
the Giants from New York.
the San Francisco voters seem to approve these policies on homelessness and crime because they keep re-electing leaders who spend $billions and not only do not fix the problems but make things worse.

George Christopher (1907-2000), the last Republican mayor of San Francisco, left office in 1964.

As a believer in democracy, I say let's continue to give the voters what they asked for, good and hard.

Monday, September 12, 2022

When I'm Bad I'm Better

(WSJ illustration)
We are bad at being bad.
So many of us are terrible at being terrible. As our children venture off to school, sports, dances and music lessons, we implore them: Just try something, keep practicing, you’re only a beginner. And yet, faced with evidence of our own mediocrity, we wilt in embarrassment, avoid the thing or quit altogether....

Ms. [Karen] Rinaldi, whose experience led to a book about what you can learn from wiping out, recommends asking yourself: “What is it that you’ve always wanted to do or try but were too afraid?” Whatever it is, she says, start doing it. Should you struggle, embrace the fact that you’re a beginner.
The onset of middle age brings the realization that one will never...[fill in the blank] one's lifetime. The "never will" tabulation expands slowly, then acquires "never will do as well again" activities. The latter list includes, for your humble blogger, such disparate items as golf, chess, violin, and financial analysis.

On the bright side the fear of looking bad---pride's first cousin---has waned, and after retirement I've become a better cook, a more careful reader, and a more motivated do-it-yourselfer (within limits). None of these "talents" accrete social-status credits, but it's more than a fair exchange for a contented life with no expectations.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Ministering in Manhattan

Conservative ministers adhere more closely to traditional morality and do not find much fertile soil in California and New York. However, one such pastor has attracted followers in Manhattan: [bold added]
Dr. [Timothy] Keller, 71, has earned a wide following for his erudite and engaging teaching of the Gospel. Since he founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989, his appeal to young, educated professionals has helped it grow from a few dozen members to more than 5,000 weekly attendees across three locations. His sermons, which address believers and nonbelievers alike, are available on a podcast that over 2.5 million people download each month. He has also written more than two dozen books on subjects such as God, death, marriage and meaning; his new book “Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I?” will be published in November.

Dr. Keller’s model of evangelism is often described as “winsome.” He avoids talk of fire and brimstone and never raises his voice. Instead he uses logic and the occasional joke to make a case for the Christian worldview: “You can’t prove it but you can reason for it,” he says.

He likes to point out that both theists and atheists operate in the absence of proof, and that all values and worldviews demand some faith. For example, Dr. Keller argues that the secular concept of human rights makes little sense “in a universe in which there’s nothing but the material, everything is a product of evolution and all morality is relative.” Why, he asks, should we care if someone else suffers? How do we know the difference between right and wrong? The view that all human beings are “precious and equal in dignity,” he argues, comes from the idea of “a personal God who made us all in his image.” Dr. Keller therefore worries about the fate of morality in a world without God.

Though he is theologically conservative, Dr. Keller is wary of calling himself “evangelical,” largely owing to the term’s political implications. “It creates images in people’s minds that don’t fit me,” he explains. Although the Bible teaches that we should welcome immigrants and help the poor, he notes that it doesn’t specify whether government should be big or small, or whether taxes should be high or low. Thus Christians shouldn’t feel they are obligated to vote for either Democrats or Republicans. He adds that politics are creating serious fissures within the church. “People are walking away from each other,” he says. “It’s quite painful.”
For at least 15 years the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of which I am a member has espoused political positions indistinguishable from the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Now that the bishop has announced his retirement, my hope is not that his successor's politics will be closer to mine but that we will find a bishop who is less concerned with preaching about politics at all.

Outside the walls of the church the airwaves are filled with opinions about Caesar and who the next Caesar will be. Dr. Keller, who by the way is a registered Democrat, and 5,000 Manhattanites prefer to talk about God instead.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Queen of Hearts

1954: Winston Churchill, Charles, Anne (WSJ)
The world spins on, but days after her death Queen Elizabeth II still commands space on front pages and magazine covers and lead minutes on broadcasts.

And deservedly so.

She has been in the public eye since the day she was born, her life spanned nearly a century, and she conducted herself throughout with dignity and refinement. Her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, and her 15th was Liz Truss, whom the Queen appointed two days before she died.

Hers was a life of pomp, circumstance, and privilege, yet few would view that as acceptable payment if it meant perpetual responsibility and never-ending scrutiny.

It's difficult to put into words what she meant not only to Britons but her admirers around the world. From an American-British citizen:
2022: Liz Truss (WSJ)
Queen Elizabeth’s great gift was her ability to maintain that affection over so many decades, many of them very difficult for her country. She did this by being constantly present in the nation’s life without ever seeming overbearing, and by taking care to stay out of politics.

This allowed her to ask for, and receive, the love of her people without demanding of them the impossible—toleration for a suffocating presence or assent to political positions they might not share.
Peggy Noonan:
She wanted to be a queen the country adhered to and was proud of, so she maintained dignity. She knew her role. She didn’t show moods or take sides, never tried to win the crowd, didn’t attempt to establish a reputation for wit or good nature. She was in her public dealings placid, as a great nation’s queen would be.

...The great of Britain have been talking for years about how sad it will be when she departs. They’re about to be taken aback by how deep and pervasive the mourning is.
I shall not look upon [her] like again.---Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

Friday, September 09, 2022

Getting There

Following my annual physical exam of five years ago the doctor gave me four instructions, three of which continue (marked "2017", right), after this year's physical.

The fourth, weight loss, was stricken from the current list because I had dropped a few pounds since 2017. Also, the A1C had fallen from last year's 7.8 (7.0 is the red line for diabetes) to 6.3, which is still too high but much better.

Then he added four items: colonoscopy, skin exam (to check out moles, spots, and tags), COVID booster (the last one was in December), and the annual flu shot.

He asked when I had gotten my last tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (TDAP) shot. It was administered before I got my driver's license, I said, so his nurse gave me an injection straightaway.

We scheduled the next appointment in September, 2023. I like his optimism.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

We Will Miss Her More Than We Realize

The Queen's coronation, 1953 (photo from Royal Family website)
There are significant events from 1952, my birth year. Ike was elected, the Korean War continued, the U.S. set off the first hydrogen bomb—-but for my money the most significant event in retrospect was Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne.

Today Queen Elizabeth II passed away. Through all the tumult of the past 70 years she was rock-steady in her demeanor and graciousness. We will miss her more than we realize.

The Queen's platinum jubilee, 2022 (photo from Royal Family website)

Beaten by the Heat

In the process of emptying out.
There must be a corollary to “when it rains, it pours,” for instance “when it’s dry and hot, cooling equipment goes kaput.” It doesn’t have the same pithiness, but you get the idea.

Our 19-year-old Samsung refrigerator failed on Monday night. After spending Tuesday taking out the back panel, looking at the coils and fan, we reluctantly concluded it was the compressor. A search of the Internet revealed that the part was not available anywhere.

While we’re looking for a new refrigerator, we are dumping all the spoiled food and preserving what we can in the garage fridge.

We didn't need much of a push to forego cooking this week because of the 100-degree weather. Now circumstances have made the choice obvious.

"To beat the heat, go out to eat." That's better.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Geese: Going Where They're Not Wanted

Ryan Park in July
Although I've been walking Foster City's trails and sidewalks for decades, only recently have waterfowl feces become a noticeable problem.
Foster City has a poop problem, and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

For years the Canadian Goose population has multiplied in the city, which sits right next to the bay and has several parks along a central lagoon that attracts waterfowl from all over. The increase in Canada geese has also brought with it poop in parks, streets and waterways, sparking complaints from residents fed up with the unwanted feces and want the city to manage the geese population.
The City has been mulling "several non-lethal and lethal means" of reducing geese, but an initial proposal to cull 100 geese has been stymied by another group of residents who are opposed to any solution that involves killing birds.

Your humble blogger lives far enough away from the lagoon that the geese haven't posed a significant problem, and I'm content to let the politics play out among those who are most concerned.

However, I do have a relevant historical observation. At one time there were colonies of feral cats living in San Mateo County near water's edge. They were descendants of house cats who were released into the wild by negligent owners. Their numbers increased because of the Bay's plentiful food sources.

The Homeless Cat Network initiated Project Bay Cat to reduce the feline population and even received help from bird lovers who had a common interest in protecting wildfowl from feral cats. Through its program of Trap-Neuter-Release, the cat population was reduced from several hundred to a few dozen who lived out the rest of their non-fertile lives in the wild. Project Bay Cat declared success and was disbanded 4-5 years ago.

Colonies of feral cats bring their own set of health and animal-welfare problems, but one problem we didn't have when they were around was too many geese in Foster City.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Hot, but Take a Breath

Registering 114°F after being parked in the sun, the
car "cooled" to 102°F after I drove it for 15 minutes.
The heat dome settled over Northern California on Labor Day, resulting in all-time high temperatures:
Californians endured another straight day of searing temperatures on Monday as this summer’s heatwave shattered records — with Livermore’s mercury hitting 116 degrees, the highest ever recorded, Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield registering a blistering 117 degree, and Gilroy registering 112 degrees, breaking its previous daily record of 106 set in 2020...

At its peak, the South Bay saw some of the most extreme temperatures in the region Monday. Along with Gilroy, Redwood City registered 106 degrees, beating the previous record of 97 set in 1983, according to the National Weather Service. San Jose even saw the highest temperature ever recorded on this date at 104 degrees, breaking the previously held record of 99 degrees in 2008.
The outdoor thermometer registered 102°F in Foster City and reminded me of the hottest days in Los Angeles in 1974 when I took a summer job. In those days I had to wear a suit into the office and drive a car with no air conditioning.

From the breathless news reports one would think the sky is falling, but really, this isn't so bad.

Monday, September 05, 2022

Labor Day, 2022

My office view, 2010: I didn't mind coming in.
On Labor Day, 2022, employers are pleading, demanding, and even subtly threatening their employees to make them come back to the office.
After months of encouraging white-collar employees to return, or attempting to coax them back with free pizza, warm cookies and catered lunches, many executives now say they feel emboldened to take a tougher stance. No longer can workers merely come to the office if they so choose; this fall, executives say, attendance is expected and the office resisters will be put on notice.
With fear of the coronavirus fading, employers think it's time to recapture the benefits of working in the presence of others:
promoting collaboration, energizing the corporate culture and helping younger employees connect with colleagues
Companies who have the capability are trying to persuade with data:
Some are linking identification-badge swipe data with separate metrics to show whether employees who go to the office regularly are more productive and engaged, said Zig Serafin, chief executive of cloud-software company Qualtrics, recounting an experience of one of the company’s clients.
Some kind of hybrid schedule will probably be the norm. Take Apple, for example:
Apple Inc. set a Sept. 5 deadline for corporate employees to be in the office at least three days a week, marking its latest return attempt after COVID-19 spikes delayed its plans several times. The company will require employees to work from the office on Tuesdays, Thursdays and a regular third day that will be determined by individual teams. That is a shift from Apple’s original plan, which called for in-person work on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Your humble blogger put in at least 37.5 hours per week for 40+ years at five different employers' locations, so it's difficult to work up sympathy for a new generation who won't go back in, especially if they accepted the terms of their job pre-pandemic.

That said, this manager was flexible with granting time off when staff had to go to the doctor or pick up kids, as long as the work was of acceptable quality and completed on time. My key realizations were: I did not want to look over the shoulder of staff closely, whether they were in or out of the office. My function was to teach, review their work, and trust them to come to me with problems and questions.

The most important decision, by far, was the hiring one. If gotten right, everything falls into place, including asking people to return to the office after Labor Day.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Changing Our View

Eclipsing our differences (WSJ image)
For time immemorial our species has stood in awe of nature. And that emotion, psychologists aver, affects behavior toward others:
A new paper in the journal Psychological Science, by Sean Goldy, Nickolas Jones and Paul Piff at the University of California, Irvine, suggests there is at least one psychological way that celestial events can indeed influence us. When people gaze up at an awesome sight like an eclipse, the researchers conclude, they become more humble and caring when they look down at their Twitter feed.

The researchers took off from earlier studies that Dr. Piff did with Dacher Keltner and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley. In one study, people were shown videos of earthbound awe-inspiring sights like a towering tree, a sublime landscape or an erupting volcano. Afterwards they felt less significant themselves and more caring toward others.

In another study, researchers placed students in front of either the majestic Berkeley Eucalyptus Grove or a tall but boring campus building. A confederate then came by and dropped a bunch of pens on the ground, apparently by accident. The awe-struck students in the grove put more effort into helpfully collecting the dropped pens than did the students by the mundane building.
December, 1972: Apollo 17's "Blue Marble"
Additional support for the Awe => Humility => Caring connection came from a comparison of millions of tweets from those who were in the path of an eclipse and those who were not.
they also used more words expressing social connection, like “care” “love” and “thanks,” and they expressed more humility and tentativeness, saying “maybe” or “perhaps.”
The second age of space travel does not seem to be as marred with criticism as space travel was during the Sixties. As mankind slips the surly bonds of earth and explores the wondrous, dangerous, and awe-ful universe, perhaps human beings will be prompted to set aside their differences and be more aware of how much they have in common with each other.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Brand Loyalty

Apple's computer dashboards are fine, but if this is its real
auto dashboard it still needs work (Mercury News photo)
Apple's brand loyalty is such that new-car buyers would immediately consider buying an Apple Car, although Apple has never confirmed that it is even looking into producing one. [bold added]
Strategic Vision just released the results of an annual study that this year reached 200,000 new-vehicle owners. For the first time, the consulting firm included Apple among the more than 45 brands it surveyed consumers about. The findings: 26% said they would “definitely consider” buying a set of wheels from the iPhone maker, behind only Toyota and Honda. And 24% ticked the top box (“I love it”) when asked their impression of the quality of the brand, beating all others by a wide margin...

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has reported Apple is shooting for a fully autonomous electric car and aims to have one ready around 2025...or the time being, at least, Apple lacks an industrial partner. But one of the companies it knows best — iPhone assembler Foxconn — recently acquired a former General Motors assembly plant in Ohio from struggling startup Lordstown Motors. That factory is big enough to easily make 400,000 vehicles a year.
One rendering of an Apple Car (vanarama)
Unlike other product announcements, Apple couldn't possibly keep an Apple Car secret. It will need to be tested on public roads for years. (Google's autonomous car trials have reportedly been conducted over 12 years and 20 million miles.)

Once seen, a real car can never live up to what people imagine it to be. Will there be enough Apple loyalists to make the Apple car a success? Maybe, but they should probably buy the extended warranty.

Friday, September 02, 2022

A Smart Move

(Illustration from
Most middle-class Americans have a simple estate profile.

Assets may include a house, retirement accounts, stocks, cash, and personal effects. Beneficiaries of the estate are typically family and charities.

Even with such straightforwardness, there is still a smart move to make on income and estate taxes. Where possible, charitable bequests should be made from 401Ks and IRAs, while assets that have gone up in value ("appreciated assets") should go to the heirs.

This is because IRA and 401K distributions (unless they're from Roth plans) will be taxable to the heirs, while on the sale of the house or stocks they will only have to pay income taxes on the appreciation after the death of their thoughtful relative. (The charities don't pay taxes in either case.)

There are also the advantages of efficiency and flexibility.
there are two big benefits to making gifts at death using traditional IRA assets.

The first advantage is tax efficiency. Donors of traditional IRA assets at death can win an income-tax trifecta—no tax on contributions going in, no tax on annual growth, and no tax on assets at death...

The second advantage of leaving traditional IRA assets to charities is flexibility. Wills are often drawn up years before someone dies, and circumstances change. As a result, the donor may want to name different charities or donation amounts.

Making these changes is often easier with traditional IRAs than a will.
Let's say that you have a $100,000 IRA and that you wanted to leave $20,000 to your alma mater. You could create a new IRA, name its beneficiary as Old Blue College, and fund it with $20,000 from your existing IRA, leaving the remaining $80,000 for existing IRA's beneficiary. And you could do that without hiring a lawyer to rewrite your will.

You spent a lifetime earning, saving, and building an estate. Spend a few hours seing that thousands of dollars from that estate go to who you prefer, not the government.