Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Upper Crust

I saw it. I wanted it. I can't get it. "It" is Hormel's Figgy Pudding Spam.
Let's start with what's in "classic" Spam: pork, sugar, water, salt, potato starch, and sodium nitrate (a preservative).

The new seasonal Spam includes additional "fig and orange flavors, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and all spice."
This is not your grandmother's Spam. FPS retails at 2 cans for $10 and can only be found at,, and I'm used to paying less than $2.50 per unit for basic Spam at Costco.

Figgy Pudding Spam is beyond my normal price point, but for this I'd make an exception.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Enjoy the Ride

(Merriam-Webster illustration)
This hypothesis makes sense once one thinks about it:

Inequality in Society Drives Stock-Market Performance [bold added]
The argument is pretty simple, as laid out by Jacques Cesar, a former managing partner at Oliver Wyman now leading a research project for the management consultancy: The rich save more and are more willing to take the extra risk of putting their savings into stocks. Mr. Cesar calculates that one household earning $1 million a year would put about 20 times as much into stocks as the total invested by 20 households each with an income of $50,000, based on averages for their income groups, even though their overall income is the same. Raise inequality and demand for stocks goes up, and so do prices.
The rich not only save a greater percentage of their income, they also invest in riskier assets, e.g. stocks, that over time produce a higher return.

Every investor benefits from a rising stock market, but a rich investor benefits disproportionately more, putting even more distance from the rest of society.

The conventional wisdom is that the stock market makes millionaires out of startups' founders and creates inequality. But it also may be true that inequality causes the market to rise. If we do have a "virtuous circle," enjoy the ride

Monday, November 28, 2022

Patty's Floral Designs

The florist in her workshop
In my recent trip to Honolulu I had a late request from California HQ to get some flowers for a friend's birthday. The arrangement should be tropical and not Mainland (roses, carnations) themed. I called Patty, whom I had never met but who had delivered flowers for us over the years.

Context: it was Saturday afternoon, and the flowers had to be delivered Sunday when her store and messenger services were closed.

She said that she could put something together but that I had to pick up the flowers at closing and deliver them the next day. No problem, but after peppering her with questions about overnight storage, I sensed that she didn't quite trust this brown-thumbed delivery person with her pulchritudinous product.

And so it was that I showed up at her store just before noon on Sunday, when Patty was working on weddings in the back room. The delivery went smoothly.

California HQ complained about Patty's cost (over $100) and said that I should have checked out other florists on Saturday.

The complaints stopped when the recipient called to express her happiness over not only the gift but also the manager's effectiveness in getting an employee to work on his Hawaiian vacation. It looks like I get to keep my job.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Back in the Sweaters Again

Foster City lagoon, 7:14 a.m.
The sun rose at 7:02 a.m.

The temperature is 43 °F.

It hasn't rained for two weeks.

It's quiet (but not too quiet).

There is hardly any traffic.

Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Hawaii any more.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Audio Doesn't Equal the Video.

The hearing aids that I got in 2018 have been very helpful.

Every day speech with real people is comfortably decipherable--by the way, have you noticed that old people frequently mumble? that's a subject for another day--but for television I often still must turn on closed captioning. More people with normal hearing are also using the feature.
“If you have people talking or shouting during the adventure scenes, the explode-y sounds are way higher than the dialogue,” said Melanie Brooks, a 43-year-old professional musician in Boston. Catching some of the lines in her favorite fantasy and adventure TV series is hard without captions, she added.

People tend to blame their flat-screen TVs for bad sound. The tube TVs of decades past had front-facing speakers that sent audio toward you, while new, super-thin models have speakers that are behind the screen or point downward, bouncing sound away from you. But your TV is just one of the culprits.

The rest of the problem lies within virtually every other step of the audio process, from a studio’s production choices to the device used to watch the content, said Richard Nevens, senior director of audio-hardware product management at Avid Technology, which specializes in audio- and video-editing tools.
Movie sound technology has outstripped the capabilities of the speakers on home devices, including TV's.

It's a relief that I don't have to upgrade my hearing equipment.

Meanwhile, I'll be setting closed captioning to "on."

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Day of Departure

The cup leaked badly
On the day before my return to San Francisco I cleaned out the fridge, reviewed Mom's tax records, and filled up the gas tank. The next morning was scheduled for laundry, packing the suitcase, and visiting Mom.

But the first thing on the agenda was to walk to the Waikiki Starbucks, which had become part of the daily routine.

That part didn't go well. After a few minutes coffee dripped down my hands and onto my shoes. I checked the lid several times, but it turns out that there was a pinhole leak on the bottom. Auwe!

From the McCully 7-Eleven
After dumping the rest of the cup I stopped by a 7-Eleven to buy an Azuki Bean scone, regretting briefly the enthusiasm for disposing of some tasty leftovers the night before.

Departure day had a few more hiccups: Mom was fast asleep when I stopped at the assisted living facility (we talked on FaceTime the next day, but it wasn't the same), the airport Agricultural-Inspection conveyor belt was broken, causing thousands of pieces of luggage to back up, and not coincidentally my flight was delayed an hour.

It was 45 °F when I arrived at SFO, and out came the jacket that had last been worn when I left San Francisco. I was home.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thankful for the Memories

Today we are thankful for our memories of those who have walked the way with us.

We are thankful that we have become better at distinguishing the important from the unimportant.

And we are thankful that we have learned not to let the unimportant stuff bother us as much.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A Happier Trip

MacBook Air battery had to be done immediately
I have always brought work on vacation.

The habit started in college during my freshman year, when I flew home for the first winter break with the suitcase half-filled with books. My school was on the semester system, which pushed final exams to January.

High-school friends whose colleges were on the quarter system had already completed their finals and had a more fun-filled vacation than I did.

Having cracked open the books on only a couple of occasions that first Christmas, I learned something useful: only bring work that I was absolutely sure I would spend time on. Leave behind anything that could possibly wait.

Speaking of things that couldn't wait, the replacement laptop battery failed disappointingly after one year (the expectation was three). I gave a moment's thought about trying to wangle a free or discounted replacement from the manufacturer, then opted for the speed and simplicity of ordering another one for $45. It arrived the day before departure, when there were a dozen more important things left to do.

And so it was that I spent my first night in Hawaii taking apart the 2014 MacBook Air, putting in the new battery, and screwing it back to together. The battery could run the computer for four hours, and we're good for another year.

Another lesson: getting it done sooner makes for a happier trip

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Few Comestibles

You can't find octopus jerky (right) in California
One of the first shopping expeditions on this Hawaiian trip was to Costco. 90% of the items in Honolulu consisted of goods that were available in California, but I was interested in food, clothing, and gifts that you couldn't get back in my adopted home.

The refrigerated section had lau-lau, poi, kalua pig, Portuguese sausages, and lomi salmon. I picked up a few comestibles to be consumed later on the vacation.

The Hawaii Costco also has seafood jerky that Mainland warehouses don't carry. Fish jerky isn't cheap--between $15 to $20--but I enjoy these much more than beef and pork products that are too heavy and oily for my taste. I threw a couple of packages in the suitcase to bring back.

BTW, I've been shopping at the warehouse stores to buy local products since 2006.

Monday, November 21, 2022

The Rut That I Fall Into

Waikiki's Kalakaua Avenue, like the Las Vegas Strip, is quiet in the early morning. Most of the tourists are still in bed; a few athletic souls under the age of 40 are running along the sidewalks that were packed just ten hours ago.

The Starbucks on Kuhio Avenue opens at 4:30 a.m. It has a steady stream of customers--hotel workers, tourists, and policemen.

One of my favorite pastimes is to stroll the mile from my parents' home to the Starbucks, pick up a coffee, then take a different, longer return route. I'm back by eight, and the whole day is in front of me.

Such is the rut that I fall into when I'm in the Islands, and I've lost the urge to be busier. Don't criticize, dear reader, if you haven't tried it.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Cohabiting in Philadelphia

When our suburban parish created a pre-school in the early 1980's, it was viewed as fulfilling the church's mission "to proclaim the good news" and "care for..our larger community." The financial projections were iffy: no one was certain that operations would break even, much less produce a return on the capital investment in classroom construction.

Over the years enrollment rode the wave of the Bay Area's economic prosperity, the formation of two-income families, and the prioritizing of pre-school education. Today the school has a waiting list and provides crucial financial support to the church.

As mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations shrink, the schools and colleges that they founded have become their financial lifeblood. In return the withering away of the church "parent" often helps the school defray the cost of expansion by offering the use of under-utilized buildings.

One such case is Neumann University outside Philadelphia:
Call it a match made in heaven: Neumann wanted to increase campus housing for students. The Catholic Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia had extra space in their convent.

In August, 40 undergraduate men and women moved into the Our Lady of Angels Motherhouse Convent, at the edge of this small campus just outside the city. Forty sisters also reside in the building...

Campuses around the country have struggled to find enough, and affordable, housing for students. At Neumann, the two groups use different entrances to get to their quarters, so the sisters aren’t in danger of stumbling upon a young man in a towel outside the shower. They don’t share a dining hall for everyday meals, either.
While the main driver is financial, the church and school relationship provides one of the few venues where groups of unrelated people of widely different ages and "lived experiences" can interact regularly:
But sisters and students are now getting in the habit of meeting up for nature walks, trading travel tips, planning knitting lessons, extending occasional dinner invitations and marveling at the lives one another leads.
Financial necessity often brings together strangers who find to their surprise that they have a lot to teach each other.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

I’d Rather Have My Problems Than Theirs

2021: tents along Kapiolani Boulevard, a block from my parents' home
The homeless tents have moved from across the street to our side, albeit two blocks Ewa (that's west, for you malihinis). Overall homelessness is reported to be improving slightly, but statistics don't matter much to individual neighborhoods.

Second cousin's iron bars are to the right of the wall
My second cousin, who owns the building next door, says trespassing is getting worse. She's installing iron gates that, like ours, will be closed at night.

The strip of grass next to the sidewalk (pictured right) is overgrown. A younger relative is supposed to tend to it, but he works two jobs and deserves a break. My brother lent me a trimmer, and I took care of the grass, although not very neatly.

My brothers have done a good job handling day to day operations, but I needed to get a sense of where Mom's finances stood. Besides, it's almost the end of the year when we must prepare her tax returns. The eight-day vacation has sped by quickly, and it's time to plan for the next one.

Friday, November 18, 2022

After the Trimming

The monkey pod tree has undergone more trimming during the summer. The neighborhood coconut wireless says the job cost "in the thousands."

The view is more balanced between the houses and trees. It reminds me of 2015.

2014- Covering the House
2015- After Trimming

2017- Coming Back
2022: Watch out for the "little" bush

The bush that blocked our view of the white house last February has also been removed.

Enjoy the sights after the multiple prunings. Due to Hawaii's tropical weather everything will grow back quickly.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Shaved Ice Goes Upscale

The line stretched half a block to the shaved ice stand, but it wasn't a hot mid-summer day at the beach.

Island Vintage Shave Ice sits next to the posh Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki, the evening was cool, and prices were high (more than $10) for what is basically frozen sugar water with maybe some fruit on top.

Back in my day shaved ice came in one flavor and color, strawberry red, cost ten cents, and was served in a cone-shaped paper cup with a paper straw and flat wooden "spoon" (the kind that used to come with a cup of ice cream).

Now shaved ice has gone upscale, and people drive miles to the North Shore or crowded Waikiki because of a four star review from a Mainlander who's had fewer than a dozen servings in her lifetime.

Nevertheless, one has to applaud any homegrown product that will add tourist dollars to the Island economy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Universal Approbation

14 populations of humpback whales: 9 (blue) not at risk
4 (pink) endangered, 1 (yellow) threatened.
The worldwide humpback whale population has recovered almost completely. However, four of the fourteen populations are still classified as "endangered."

Meanwhile, scientists at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary continue to perform basic research into the species.

Among their findings: [bold added]
Humpback whales, the winter stars of Hawaii’s marine environment, have been arriving and leaving island waters earlier than normal in recent years, according to a trend documented by scientists.

Other recent research suggests there actually may be two subpopulations of humpbacks coming to the island chain, and it appears that the marine mammals take what some might described as an afternoon siesta each day.
Mother and calf at the sanctuary.
Drone and acoustic devices have tracked the whales' movements:
Surprising was strong chorusing in the northern part of the chain, with a region of relatively little whale sound wedged between the area of strong chorusing in the southern part of the chain, including the main islands.

“The structure of the whale population is more complex than previously thought,” Lammers said, adding that it might point to two subpopulations, one tied to the southeastern part of the archipelago and main Hawaiian Islands and one clustering toward the northwestern end.

But to really confirm that, he said, scientists will have to go up there and investigate.

“These data are certainly interesting and motivating us to go out and try to get more data from that area,” he said.

In another area of research, scientists have been studying behavior using suction cup tag monitors that they attach to individual whales. The tags record sound, video, depth levels and movements.

A recent study examined 86 hours of video from 25 different tagged whales and scored activity levels during different times of the day. A distinctive pattern emerged in the afternoon: decreases in activity and surfacing, and more resting.

“It looks like whales have a real tendency to rest between 1 and 4 p.m. This is something that anecdotally people have noticed, but there’s never been any quantitative evidence,” Lammers said.

“This is really new and exciting stuff for us — that we’re able to show these pretty clear patterns of resting behavior in the afternoon hours,” he said. “It’s kind of reminiscent of another species that we have here, the spinner dolphin, which is very active during nighttime hours but then spends its daytime hours more in a resting state.”
Surveillance technologies are controversial when applied to humans, but in animal studies, especially with species that are endangered, they are regarded with universal approbation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Duke's Statue

Duke Kahanamoku was famous during the first half of the 20th century. Starting in 1912, he won gold and silver medals for the U.S. Olympic swimming team.

In his travels the "father of modern surfing" popularized the sport around the world, especially in Australia and Southern California. As its unofficial ambassador Duke gave credibility to Hawaii as a tourist destination.

In the late Fifties and early Sixties my father was a part-time waiter at the Waikiki night club, Duke Kahanamoku's, when my parents were saving for a down payment and putting their kids through private schools.

Dad liked the pay and the atmosphere; Duke would drop by to say hello to the staff and didn't let celebrity go to his head.

Duke Kahanamoku was born in 1890 in the Kingdom of Hawaii, lived most of his life while it was a Territory, and saw it become a State in 1959. He died in 1968 and, though he's remembered by a dwindling number of residents, had an incalculable effect on the history of modern Hawaii.

He deserves his statue.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Blandishments of the Bear

The four most valuable companies on the U.S. exchanges--Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), and Amazon--all enjoyed at least a 6% bump in price last Thursday, when a 7.7% increase in the Consumer Price Index showed that inflation was abating, perhaps moderating future Federal Reserve rate increases.

What gave investors hope was that stock prices continued their rise on Friday, a sign that the bounce may have legs. But your humble blogger has seen--and fallen victim to--"bear traps" before.
A number of investors say they question how long the comeback can last. In previous years, like after the dot-com bubble burst in March 2000, selloffs took many painful months to play out, and the downturn was marked by big swings up and down. That is a cautionary tale for investors hoping that the worst has passed after last week’s stock rally.

“This is typical of a big bear market rally,” said Julien Stouff, founder of hedge-fund firm Stouff Capital. “It is not over.”
My stock portfolio is looking better after one week, but it's still down for the year. I'm not selling, but I'm going to resist the blandishments of the bear by not buying either.

Well, it could have been worse. In my younger, risk-taking days I would have put a sizeable chunk into cryptocurrency. Last week's bankruptcy and hack of a crypto exchange cast such a pall over the industry that it will take a long time to recover, if at all. Over the long haul one can become a successful investor just by preventing disastrous mistakes (mistakes are a given).

Added: The Crypto-Ignorant Person’s Guide To What’s Going On With FTX And Founder Sam Bankman-Fried

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Morning at the Ala Wai

You can see Diamond Head from the McCully bridge
The Ala Wai Canal looks inviting this morning--no, not for swimming--but over the years this frequent visitor to Honolulu has noticed that it is not as odoriferous as it was 20 years ago.

Perhaps it's a seasonal phenomenon. Recent rains have improved the drainage canal's water flow, and the cooler November temperatures are not as conducive to algae growth as summer weather. (Please leave me to my illusions, dear reader.)

Building on Kalakaua & Kalaimoku
Condos are still going up, but there are fewer construction cranes than last year. High interest rates and the not-quite-pre-COVID level of tourism point to a slow economy.

I picked up a blackeye (coffee plus 2 shots of espresso) at the Starbucks on Kuhio & Seaside, one block from the International Market Place. The Starbucks was busy with tourists and hotel workers.

Fortified with caffeine, I was ready for an errand-filled day. Afternoon naps can resume in California.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Back in Rhythm

Marugame Udon, first visited in 2012
The eye test told me that Waikiki tourism is almost back to normal. It's early November, when there aren't a lot of families with children; yet at 8 p.m. there were lines outside popular stores and restaurants.

The ramen and udon restaurants were especially popular. They're not as pricey as the steak and seafood places, and many are rated four or five stars on Yelp.

Cheesecake Factory
The Waikiki Cheesecake Factory is a hit with local patrons.

There is free 2-hour validated parking at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.

Nevertheless, the fact that kama'aina's are willing to put up with the hassle of Waikiki traffic attests to the restaurant's popularity. (I do like the Northern California version of CF, but I don't love it that much.)

Though it was only eight p.m. on Thursday, it was past my bedtime in California. I'll walk back in the morning for a shot of espresso at one of the Starbucks so I can get back in rhythm.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Working on the Drawbacks

Helicobacter pylori, not to scale (Yale illustration)
In our household we are partial to buying foodstuffs with antioxidants. (Antioxidants prevent cell damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and a host of other ailments.)

However, antioxidants also protect some bacteria that are harmful to human health.
A nutrient that is common in the human diet has been found to aid the survival of a cancer-causing bacterium, a new Yale study finds...

The nutrient, called ergothioneine, or EGT, a known antioxidant, was found to protect bacteria from oxidative stress — an imbalance in the body between reactive oxygen species, known as free radicals, and antioxidants — which is a hallmark of many disease-causing infections.

bacteria ingest the EGT nutrient — which is abundant in foods like mushrooms, beans, and grains — to aid their survival. In the case of the gastric cancer-causing pathogen Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium used the nutrient to compete successfully for survival in host tissues.
Because antioxidants provide so many health benefits the answer is not to reduce their consumption but to inhibit their absorption by the bacteria. [bold added]
“We were excited to discover an unconventional mechanism that enables bacteria to withstand oxidative stress during infection,” said Stavroula Hatzios, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and of chemistry in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and senior author of the study.

“Because the protein that bacteria use to take up EGT operates in a manner distinct from that of its counterpart in human cells, we are optimistic that a specific drug could be developed to inhibit microbial uptake of this nutrient,” she added.
Very few scientific breakthroughs are an unalloyed good. The solution is not to go back to the way things were but to keep working on the negative effects.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

No Wondering What's Behind That Door

The flight to Honolulu was full.

I headed to the restroom halfway through the 5½ hour flight. It's best to go before one absolutely has to.

Planning paid off, as an abundance of blue tape signalled that one of the two restrooms in the main cabin was out of order.

I let a couple of people in obvious distress cut in front of me. Standing is better than sitting on a long airplane ride, so it was a win-win.

The rest of the flight went by uneventfully. After my brother picked me up we had lunch at the usual place, then went to see Mom at her assisted living residence.

In the evening the temperature was a cool-for-Hawaii 75 °F. However, to us snowbirds it's positively toasty.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Storm Coming

On Tuesday morning we awoke to an unusual sound, the steady patter of rain on the roof. Water poured from the downspout onto the yard, collecting in spots where the ground had hardened.

The wet weather should continue:
Low-lying parts of Bay Area — including Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose — could receive 1 to 1.5 inches of rain from late Sunday night through Wednesday, while the coastal ranges could get up to 3 inches of fresh precipitation, according to the National Weather Service. To the east, areas of the Sierra above 4,000 feet can expect one to four feet of snow...
I will perform my civic duty later today by voting in person at the recreation center. Does the inclement weather make me regret not mailing in the ballot? No, in fact, the (slightly) increased difficulty raises its esteem, IMHO.

Meanwhile, there's a storm coming.

Monday, November 07, 2022

A Change in Climate

Cold vs heat deaths
Global warming is such a multi-faceted topic and apparently will require such vast societal changes to mitigate its effects that to bring everyone along it requires trust, that is, trust that experts are rigorously adhering to scientific methods of data gathering and analysis.

Climate science has been plagued by alarmism; for decades warmists have been making predictions that don't pan out--for example, 2000's “snowfalls are just a thing of the past" and hockey-stick graphs that purport to show that temperature is rising at an accelerating rate.

Very few of us are climate scientists, but nearly all of us know something about human behavior. If a salesman is caught in a lie or a gross exaggeration, it causes us to distrust what is being sold though it may be a perfectly fine product. Trust won't be the result if climate change activists try to silence dissenters, or don't have better answers than "90% of climate experts believe what I believe."

Bjorn Lomborg ("Climate change is real, but it’s not the apocalyptic threat that we’ve been told it is") is worth listening to because he refuses to accept climate-change declarations that are unexamined. Most recently he took issue with the assertion that human activity is the main factor in the rise in heat deaths: [bold added]
The [Lancet] study offers a frightening statistic: Rapidly rising temperatures have increased annual global heat deaths among older people by 68% in less than two decades...

But while their model for heat deaths is based on solid academic research, the report commits an amateur statistical fallacy by blaming the increase in heat deaths on “rapidly increasing temperatures.”

Annual heat deaths have increased significantly among people 65 and older world-wide. The average deaths per year increased 68% from the early 2000s to the late 2010s. But that is almost entirely because there are so many more older people today than there were 20 years ago, in no small part thanks to medical innovations that keep us alive longer. Measured across the same time span the Lancet maps heat deaths, the number of people 65 and older has risen by 60%, or almost as much as heat deaths. When the increase in heat mortality is adjusted for this population growth, the actual rise that can be attributed to rising temperatures is only 5%.
Asserting that elderly heat deaths have risen by 68% without noting that the elderly population has increased by 60% is a serious omission. And we haven't even considered how warmer temperatures have reduced deaths in seniors:
In the U.S. and Canada between 2000 and 2019, an average of 20,000 people died from heat annually and more than 170,000 from cold. This omission matters even more because cold deaths are decreasing with rising temperatures. Modeling from the Global Burden of Disease replicates the relatively small increase in heat deaths shown by the Lancet, but shows a much larger decline in cold deaths from rising temperatures. Based on today’s population size, the current temperatures cause about 17,000 more heat deaths in older people, but also result in more than half a million fewer cold deaths. Reporting one finding without the other is misleading about the true effect of climate change.
Meanwhile global-warming experts and activists from all over the world are flying to Egypt to attend the United Nations climate change conference, COP27, which starts this week.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Losing My Sole at Church

The uppers still looked ok
When men's wear in the San Francisco Financial District transitioned toward business casual, I bought a pair of Ecco's, the first and most durable rubber-soled dress shoes that I ever owned.

At last night's church dinner that culminated the 2023 pledge campaign, half the right sole cracked off in four different pieces.

The shoes were unsalvageable, and off to the bin they went.

After 25 years of service a broken sole led to an ignominious end.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Off the Tendon Train

2021: beef tendon was $6.99 / pound at 99 Ranch
Economists say that changes in the Consumer Price Index overstate inflation:
[the CPI] omitted consumer substitution [bold added], did not fully account for quality change, and failed to properly reflect the addition of new goods.
Last year the skyrocketing price of steak prompted me to experiment with cheaper cuts, such as brisket, and even specialty cuts like tendon and tripe.

Tendon itself had increased from $5 a pound to $6.99 (pictured), but on a relative cost basis it compared very favorably to $12 steak. Buying tendon instead of rib eye is a textbook example of consumer substitution.

I went to the store last month intending to cook and freeze another batch of tendon, which can not only be delicious when prepared properly but is also a source of collagen that strengthens aging joints.

The $10.99 price, 57% higher than last year, stopped that plan in its tracks.

And so it was that I got off the tendon train and switched to steak. Substitution circled round; I wonder if economists have a name for that.

Friday, November 04, 2022

70 is Just a Number

I vaguely remember my grandfather's big blowout of a 70th birthday party, but it made a big impression on my father.

When he approached his milestone year, the hints became more frequent. And so it was that we reserved a large room at a Waikiki hotel. His party had plenty of food and drink for over a hundred guests. There were speeches extolling his life--as the eldest son I gave the lengthiest one--and entertainment that ended with a ceremonial lion dance.

To give Dad his due, living to 70 was a milestone in the last century. (For the record he lived to 94, and his 90th birthday celebration was indeed a happy affair.)

As for me, a quiet evening at home was all I wanted. A simple dinner of boiled lobster, opening a few presents, and engaging in FaceTime calls with the family were just the ticket.

It's been a busy October, completing the 2021 tax return and organizing two major Outreach events. And I'll have to get ready for next week's trip to Hawaii.

70 is just a number.

To be clear, if I do make it to a hundred, I'll be wanting a lion dance.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Reducing the Risk

Chipping away at the doctor's seven-point to-do list, I took care of #6, flu vaccine, on Tuesday.

It was at the same location, the Sutter San Carlos Health Center, as the COVID booster. The adjacent line for the COVID immunization was ten-deep, but there was no waiting for the flu shot, before or after.

There are no guarantees, but it pays to reduce the risk of incurring or carrying an infectious disease on the trip to the Islands next week.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

The Terminator is Coming

(WSJ graphic)
Seven years ago I laughed at those first videos of "walking" robots falling down. Now there are robots that can run, then transform their legs into flippers and swim.

As minimum wages are forced higher not by the market but by government fiat to "protect" workers, companies are installing robots at a record pace.

The next step is easily foreseeable. Robots, not humans, will be the bosses and even fire people.
In November, International Data Corp. predicted that by 2024, 80% of the G2000—the 2,000 biggest companies in the world, according to Forbes—will be using “‘digital managers’ to hire, fire, and train workers in jobs measured by continuous improvement.”
Scientists have found that human workers [we would never have needed that qualifying adjective in my day] prefer to be criticized or even fired by robots with little or no human characteristics.
When a robot gives employees feedback, [Singapore professor Kai Chi Yam] says, they don’t typically see any bad intent, because they don’t believe the robot has any agency—the ability or the will to exert power over them or harm them. The robot, the employees say to themselves, is just doing its job, Dr. Yam says.

However, when the robot has been given human characteristics, employees don’t respond as well, because they are more likely to think that the robot is out to get them, he says.
Companies obviously have to think through the ramifications. If employees are managed by human-like robots, they'll hide when the regular manager is switched for a machine marching down the hall.

"Run! the Terminator is coming," won't be said only in the movies.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

A Trickle, Then a Stream

(WSJ graphic)
In 2018 we noted the litany of problems afflicting San Francisco--crime, homelessness, drug use, filth, high taxes and regulations--and predicted:
The warning signs are widespread. I don't know what may trigger the fall; perhaps it will be rising interest rates, dropping tech stock prices, or fed-up tourists, but it would not be surprising to see a collapse, and an exodus of individual and business taxpayers, in San Francisco's near future.
San Francisco's maladies have spread throughout California, and the future exodus is now: Business exodus from California is accelerating quickly, according to report [bold added]
Businesses headquartered in the Golden State fled at twice the rate last year than they did in 2020 and 2019, and at three times the rate of 2018, according to a new report from Stanford University ’s Hoover Institution.

While moves by marquee companies such as Tesla, Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which have relocated their headquarters (if not their entire operations) grab headlines, the report found smaller companies are increasingly looking for the exit as well.

“California... is risking its economic future as much smaller but rapidly growing unique businesses are leaving, taking their innovative ideas with them,” researchers Lee Ohanian and Joseph Vranich said in the report.

“Why are companies leaving? Economics, plain and simple,” Ohanian and Vranich wrote.

“California state and local economic policies have raised business costs to levels that are so high businesses are choosing to leave behind the many economic benefits of being in California and move to states with better business climates featuring much less regulation, much lower taxes, and lower living costs.”
The COVID lockdowns were a precipitating factor in the hollowing out of San Francisco. Many middle- and upper-income workers discovered that a fulfilling life could be theirs away from the coastal cities.

Whatever the reasons, the golden geese are leaving and they're not coming back.