Saturday, September 30, 2023

Dianne Feinstein (1933-2023)

It was a quiet Monday after Thanksgiving in 1978 when the news came over the radio: George Moscone, the popular Mayor of San Francisco, had been shot and killed. Supervisor Harvey Milk was also assassinated, and the killer was ex-Supervisor Dan White. Dianne Feinstein, the President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, became the acting mayor.

As junior staffers for a Fortune 500 company in Menlo Park, none of us lived in San Francisco or followed its politics. George Moscone was well-known, Dianne Feinstein's name was familiar, and I had never heard of Harvey Milk or Dan White. All that changed on that tragic Monday.

In the weeks ahead Mayor Dianne Feinstein spoke often to the media. She wasn't polished like her predecessor, but she spoke simply and honestly. A political star was born.

She won two consecutive terms as Mayor. After leaving office in 1988, she lost to Pete Wilson in the 1990 governor's race but was elected to the Senate in 1992.

Dianne Feinstein had a long and distinguished career in the Senate but for me her most memorable moments occurred during the tumultuous days in 1978. R.I.P.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Mystery Ducks

In the fountain by the Apple Store a mother duck and nine ducklings splashed merrily.

I wonder where they came from. The nearest body of water is Laurel Creek, a quarter-mile away.

The ducks would have had to traverse parking lots, busy streets, and a major shopping center.

While the ducklings have feathers, flying here would be hazardous. And the chance that they would settle in a man-made fountain seems remote.

Frankly, I wonder if they were placed there. Ducklings mature in 2-3 months, at which point this family should join the ducks and geese in the Bay marshlands four miles east. Yet ducks seem to show up regularly, else why go through the trouble of making a sign?

Their presence is a mystery.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Happy Days of Yore

Alumni Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham) and
Henry Winkler (the Fonz) - WSJ photo
WSJ editorialist Matthew Hennessey has a problem with pre-teen TV: [bold added]
like most parents, my wife and I are always on the hunt for “safe” shows for our kids to watch. Tween programming is as vapid as ever, but these days it comes with a distinct woke overlay. Pronoun preaching and climate propaganda have replaced slapstick and potty humor. None of that works for us.
His solution? "Happy Days," currently found on Amazon Prime. Mr. Hennessey's son especially likes the Fonz.
“Happy Days” was a half-hour situation comedy on ABC from 1974-84. Created by Garry Marshall, the show was set in Milwaukee and revolved around the middle-class Cunningham family, Howard and Marion and their children Richie and Joanie. Minor characters, Potsie and Ralph Malph, palled around at Arnold’s Diner, but the star was the Fonz...

It’s impossible to overstate the cultural importance of the Fonz in his time. He was the biggest thing on TV, which was the biggest thing in leather jacket and tight jeans he was as cool as they come. The Fonz was a light caricature of the greaser archetype—slick, tough, a chick magnet. He rode a motorcycle and spoke in an incongruous Brooklynese (the mid-’70s were the height of the “Italian Stallion” phase of American masculinity). His cartoonish catchphrases—“Whoa!” “Sit on it!”—were ubiquitous.
"Happy Days" (1974-84) for me fell in that too-busy-to-watch-TV period after graduation but before kids. I did tune in occasionally to spinoffs Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy, notable for the off-script improvisation by Robin Williams, as well as the H-D mother ship, but none of it was must-see programming worthy of being recorded on the new VCR.

"Happy Days" appears to be enjoying a revival. It didn't jump the shark after all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Target Throws in the Towel

Target announced the closure of three (3) Bay Area stores:
Target announced Tuesday that it planned to close three of its Bay Area stores next month, citing “theft and organized retail crime” that was “threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance,” the company said in a statement.

On Oct. 21, the company said it would close its San Francisco store on Folsom and 13th streets. In Oakland, Target will close its store on Broadway and 27th Street, its only location in the city, according to its website. The Target in Pittsburg on Century Boulevard is also closing.

Thirty-two Target stores will remain open in the Bay Area, the company said.
Before Target conceded defeat, it "invested in various security measures, including hiring guards, locking up merchandise and training employees in self-protection and de-escalation." However, the frequency and severity of crime in San Francisco, Oakland, and Pittsburg (pop. 77,000) forced Target to throw in the towel.

Nothing is locked down in the San Mateo Target
We go to the Target Store in San Mateo 2-3 times a month. It's less than two miles from our house, and we are regular users of its pharmacy and optical department.

Nothing is locked down, not even the alcohol, and shopping is a pleasant, safe experience.

It's puzzling why anyone who can afford to move out of the city hasn't done so already.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Sam Wo Restaurant: It Lasted Longer Than Expected

At the new location on Clay (Chronicle photo)
We first posted about the Sam Wo Restaurant in 2003, lamented its closure for health and safety reasons in 2012, and lauded its re-opening in a new location in 2015.

However, the 117-year-old Chinatown institution may finally close for good due to reasons familiar to many small family-owned enterprises: the aging of its owners and their inability to find members of a younger generation to run the business.
[David] Ho has run the restaurant for more than 40 years, working long hours in the kitchen by himself during the throes of the pandemic. [Co-owner Steven] Lee said Ho has been talking about retiring for years, but recurring health issues and the impact of the coronavirus accelerated his decision. Ho will stay until the lease is up...

David Ho (with daughter
Julie) looks tired.
Malcolm Yeung, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, said a closure would be a major historical loss for the neighborhood.

“Sam Wo is a legacy business,” he said. “So Sam Wo closing means that Chinatown will lose a little piece of what makes Chinatown ‘Chinatown.’ ”

To Yeung, the news is not necessarily a reflection of a struggling Chinatown, but rather a “bigger existential crisis for our community” — the lack of a next generation willing and able to continue longtime restaurants. (Neither of Ho’s children, despite working at the restaurant, will take over the business.)
Sam Wo meant more to my father, who passed through San Francisco during the War, but I'll be sad to see it go, too.

Monday, September 25, 2023

"What can your manager improve on?"

(grosum image)
About 30 years ago the Human Resources (formerly Personnel) function steeply ascended in importance. For the first time workers had to fill out forms evaluating their bosses.

The change was spurred by the publication of books about how excellent companies "treat[ed] rank and file employees as a source of quality," or a new appreciation of the costs of employee turnover.

Sexual harassment, typically of female workers by male bosses, was raised in the public consciousness by the 1991 Clarence Thomas Senate hearings. Bad publicity and legal liability were the consequences if organizations did not police their managers.

Those who were halfway up the pyramid, like your humble blogger, found the process to be exasperating. Not only did I have to compose upward feedback very carefully as a matter of self-preservation, I had to respond to workers' criticisms--thankfully there weren't many--with an action plan. (All this was on top of the annual evaluations--written and in-person--that were crucial to determining raises, bonuses, and promotions.)

It appears that employees are still agonizing over giving feedback on their bosses. [bold added]
Everyone seems to want our take these days. We’re subjected to quarterly 360 reviews, weekly pulse surveys and drive-by requests for input by the coffee machine. It’s part of a longstanding shift from command-and-control leadership styles to more collaborative ways of running companies, says Doug Stone, who teaches conflict management at Harvard Law School and co-wrote the book, “Thanks for the Feedback.” A lot of it stems from employees who have demanded more of a voice…even if another app wasn’t what they had in mind.
It's a wonder that companies get any real work done.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Something for Everyone

Millet's Man with a Hoe, circa 1862
The Gospel lesson from Matthew, Chapter 20, was the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the one that ends with the oft-quoted "the last will be first, and the first will be last."

It's about how the landowner pays workers the same amount at the end of the day, regardless of the time they started.

Preachers love this one, because it tells newcomers that they will be rewarded even if they come to church late in life. Our priest said that he interpreted the passage to be about God's generosity with His love.

My wandering mind, of course, turned to political philosophy.

Could God be a socialist? Each laborer received one denarius though some worked one hour and others the entire day. This is an example of the equality of result beloved by socialists.

Could God be a capitalist? Those who worked the whole day grumbled that they should have gotten more. The landowner replied, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?" In other words they were happy with the pay in the morning, and a deal is a deal. Capitalism is underpinned by mutual, voluntary arrangements that, once they are agreed to, are enforceable by the law of contracts.

Also, the landowner continued, "Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?" That's capitalism at its core.

As often happens, Jesus had something for everyone.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

For the Rest of our Lives

Our Peninsula neighborhood three years ago
One summer in Los Angeles was enough. The cleaner air indicated that the SF Bay Area was a more hospitable place to live.

I've never regretted that decision, made over 40 years ago ("when you come to a fork in the road, take it"-Yogi Berra)

The recent spate of hazy days is reminiscent of that LA smog. Air quality has flattened, or even gotten worse, all over the country:
increasing pollution from wildfire smoke has reversed or stalled air-quality improvements in 41 of 48 states, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Health professionals have improved their understanding of the dangers of wildfire smoke.[bold added]
Particles from these emissions pass through the body’s defenses and bury themselves deep in the lungs, where they can cause a variety of acute and chronic health problems, especially for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

To separate wildfires from other sources of particulate pollution, the researchers from Stanford and Harvard universities devised a method of identifying wildfire particles using satellite imagery to trace the path of the smoke. They combined this information with data from nearly 2,500 ground-based air-pollution sensors collected by the EPA from 2000 to 2022...

Smoke from California wildfires coincided with an 18% to 22% spike in cases of invasive fungal infections in 22 hospitals across the state, according to a May study published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health. Researchers found that fungal spores in the soils of California are lofted into the air by wildfires. When inhaled, the spores can lead to Valley fever, an infection that can cause respiratory symptoms including cough, fever, chest pain and tiredness.
On smoky days we wear masks outdoors, not because of the coronavirus but to protect lungs. Tests at the allergist have revealed that our respiration has weakened considerably over the past 20 years.

Both wildfires and protective masking, sadly, will be with us for the rest of our lives.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Accountants Go Where It's Greener

(Rasmussen image)
Last year the WSJ noted that accountants were finally getting their due: [bold added]
A deepening shortage of accountants is driving a growing number of companies to raise salaries or seek temporary help to strengthen their finance teams amid a slowing economy
But companies aren't moving fast enough to reverse the exodus.
More than 300,000 U.S. accountants and auditors have left their jobs in the past two years, a 17% decline, and the dwindling number of college students coming into the field can’t fill the gap...

The huge gap between companies that need accountants and trained professionals has led to salary bumps and more temporary workers joining the sector. Still, neither development will fix the fundamental talent pipeline problem: Many college students don’t want to work in accounting. Even those who majored in it.
Accountancy requires hard work, long hours, attention to detail, and skill with numbers. People who have the ability and motivation to succeed in the field can earn more in other professions while working normal hours. (Son, let me tell you about the New Year's Eve I had to take inventory in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere...)

Conditions have improved since I was a junior auditor back in the 1970's, but apparently not that much.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Sleeping is not an Old Person's Game

(Pokémon Sleep images)
The growing research on the importance of sleep to health has resulted in a plethora of advice on how to fall and stay asleep for the recommended 7-9 hours.

The doctor said that there are medications available, but I'm foregoing that solution unless the problem becomes more acute, say, if I can't sleep for more than five hours a night.

As in all matters of health, like diet and exercise, there are now people who are obsessed with sleeping well. [bold added]
for millions, chasing winks with the latest sleep-measuring technology has become a nighttime sport, complete with sleep scores and strategies on how to best sack the competition. Some people are even, well, losing sleep about whether they are sleeping up to their full potential...

[Mike Skerett] has deployed tactics including blackout curtains and taping his mouth shut to max out his sleep score on Whoop’s app.

“I can see that on days when I tape my mouth during sleep, I have a 7% higher recovery score in the morning than on days when I don’t,” he says...

“I am disciplined and competing my ass off to get somewhere between eight and seven hours every night,” Michael Gervais, a performance psychologist who advises chief executives and Olympic athletes, said on his podcast recently.
The Apple Watch, which records the duration of each stage of sleep (REM, core, and deep) provides all the monitoring I require.

"Competitive sleeping," two words that I had never seen paired until this moment, sounds counter-productive because of the heightened effect that competition has on heart and brain activity.

A related point: if we're advised to turn off all our devices before going to bed, how is Pokémon Sleep going to help?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


(Image from weworkremotely)
Back in my day (OK boomer) we compartmentalized, that is, we didn't bring our personal problems to work. Compartmentalization was a societal value: employees wanted privacy, and employers were happy to comply. Managers were taught to evaluate workers on their performance only and ignore the personal stuff.

Then we de-compartmentalized. Over time it became acceptable to discuss family, health, financial, and even political issues, and the red lines between work and personal life were all but obliterated during COVID.

We are now seeing the beginnings of a pushback. Boundaries are re-appearing in worker-to-worker relationships.

Headline: Nobody at Work Wants to Hear About Your Student-Loan Payments
College debt is a new third rail in the workplace. The payment restart [after the COVID payment holiday] is proving more contentious than the halt at the onset of the pandemic...

Though some debt-free colleagues feel pity—and think student-loan forgiveness would be good for the economy—others can’t stand to hear griping. They tell me they know there are borrowers who didn’t understand what they were getting into and that student loans can be most cumbersome for people who didn’t finish their degrees. Yes, they’re aware that debt, or the absence of it, is often a function of privilege.

Mostly they view the college-debt crisis as a morality play. They did the right thing, paying back what they owe or making good decisions to avoid debt. Others should do the same or face consequences.

Better think twice before lamenting your loans in office chitchat.
For the record I had student loans from both college and graduate school. $10,000 seems like a pittance today, but that amount was over half of my annual first-year salary. I feel empathy but not sympathy for those who are saddled with student loan debt and poor job prospects.

If I were working today, I'd like more compartmentalization, please.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Cruel Donuts

A couple of Sunday afternoons ago we had a hankering for doughnuts. Yelp disclosed that the only doughnut shop within a five-mile radius was Cruel Donuts in a shopping center off Old County Road. It's next to the Caltrain tracks, complete with a laundromat and gas station. I had never stopped there in the 50 years I've lived in the Bay Area.

The young Asian lady was closing the shop and had run out of doughnuts, so I bought a couple of glazed twists. She threw in an extra one because I didn't get what I wanted and/or she was going to get rid of it anyway. No matter, I always appreciate a kind gesture.

The twists were light and not too sweet, greatly exceeding expectations for pastry sold in the afternoon.

The shop was empty when I returned at 11 this morning. I ordered a mix of regular and chocolate glazed doughnuts, a dozen for $20, which were placed in an expensive (for doughnuts) pink box with the bakery's name written in a distinctive flourish.

The inside of the box was not plain cardboard but colorfully printed with the message "Be Kind." The marketing for this doughnut shop deserved a closer look.
Cruel Donuts needed to stand out from the noisy crowd and not just be another California donut shop. Inspired by the French Cruller and 80s hit “Cruel Summer,” the woman-owned shop owner wanted to become an Instagram-worthy destination spot for San Francisco foodies...

The millennial pink and “signature” sweetness brand vibe carries through the bright and clean aesthetic of the shop interior concepts, to help encourage foodies to share on social.
The doughnuts were delicious, by the way, and the main reason I'll be coming back.

Note: the "Cruel Summer" that inspired the shop's name is the Bananarama 1983 song, not the Taylor Swift hit which has the same name.

Monday, September 18, 2023

No Good Deed

First Church of Christ Scientist in June (Merc photo)
No longer used as a house of worship in San Jose, the 1905 Christian Science church was sold to China-based developer Z&L Properties in 2014. Z&L proposed to restore the structure and build adjacent high-rise housing. The project stalled, and the landmark was covered with tarpaulin.

Nine years later, the tarp was in tatters, and exposure was ruining the building, which has been called "the worst blight in the city."

Attempts to force a sale or even to have San Jose seize the property will take many months, if not years; Zhang Li, the head of Z&L, is under house arrest in London and has been accused of bribery and fraud on another project in San Francisco.

Patching the church after the tarp was removed
Jim Salata, whose construction company had worked on the property years earlier, had seen enough. He had his company remove the tarp, repair the roof, and board up the windows.
So Salata, who had done some work with Z&L inside the church and knew the combination for the gate lock, orchestrated the removal in late August of the tarp, scaffolding, debris, plastic contamination, cooking equipment and a generator. He and his crews cleared away fire hazards such as dry vegetation, made repairs to the roof and boarded up broken windows.

“Somebody had to do something about this,” Salata said. “The city of San Jose has allowed Z&L to let this property become blighted for years. Nobody from the city has called. Nobody from code enforcement has called. Nobody from the city is asking for advice about the next steps.”
Jim Salata and his company likely won't receive a nickel for their work. However, city officials are thinking about compensation. [bold added]
Officials may impose a fine on a construction executive whose crews removed an unsightly, tattered tarp that had covered a historic downtown San Jose church that’s fallen into disrepair...

“I know Jim Salata means well, but a crime is a crime,” said San Jose City Councilmember Omar Torres, whose district covers most of downtown San Jose. “We were told by city staff that Salata trespassed.”
Thus it was and ever shall be: no good deed goes unpunished.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Parking Lot Sale

The left-overs 
At the church parking lot sale the good stuff, like never-used appliances, went quickly. 30 years ago I would have pulled out my wallet, but getting rid of material things is now priority #2, just behind health

Half the items eventually sold, and the rest were put in a corner of the parking lot to be given away by mid-week. Fortunately, rain is not in the forecast.

Proceeds of approximately $1,600 will be split between the church and Episcopal Relief. From a pure dollars and cents standpoint the reward may not have justified the labor input from a dozen volunteers, but as churchgoers know, money is not the measure of all things

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Better Than a Policy of Neglect

SF Civic Center was once a nice area, too (2022 Chron)
When San Francisco cleaned up the area surrounding the Dreamforce conference Marc Benioff asked, "Why can’t they do it every day?" He was correct: the fix was only temporary.
[The homeless] did seem to get the message from the endless streams of police, smiling city street ambassadors and security forces that they should steer clear for now.
Said 66-year-old Jan Weith, who moved a quarter-mile away to Powell St.,
“Can’t wait ’til this thing is over and we can get back to normal.”
Sweeping a problem under the rug doesn't cure the problem, but it does make highly trafficked areas look nicer.

There's a parallel in my hometown, where the homeless have been cleared out from expensive Waikiki. Within a few blocks from my parents' middle-class neighborhood, a half-mile from Waikiki, is always a cluster of tents. They move every few months, which is an indication that the police do monitor the situation.

Monitoring encampments and sprucing up an area for a week aren't solutions, but they're an improvement over the policy of neglect that has ruined sections of once-beautiful cities.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Musings at the Dog Park

At the Foster City Dog Park dogs who are 25½ pounds are out of luck. They are neither "small" (25 pounds or less) nor "large" (26 pounds and over), so they have nowhere to go.

I blame the signmaker, who may have thought that weight was only measured in whole numbers. He probably has never been on a diet.

On the other hand, there were no visible weight-patrol officers in the Dog Park, or even a scale to verify entrance requirements.

Measurements like weight are not objective but a man-made construct. If a small dog identifies as large, he's entitled to his truth.

Don't be species-ist.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Potemkin City

Marc Benioff (Chron photo)
In our day trip yesterday your humble blogger didn't see the urban decay that has characterized recent accounts of San Francisco.

Billionaire Salesforce founder and San Francisco native Marc Benioff hinted that the City had been cleaned up for the Dreamforce conference:
“When the city of San Francisco wants to look good and look shiny and safe, it can do it,” he told reporters at the event. “It looks great. It looks very safe right now.”

“Unfortunately, the city doesn’t always take itself as seriously as it does during Dreamforce,” he said. “If they can do it for Dreamforce, why can’t they do it every day?”

Benioff did not say whether Dreamforce will return to the city next year, after previously saying that the 40,000-person conference could move if it is affected by the city’s homelessness and drug-use issues...

Security was robust on Tuesday and Wednesday around Moscone Center, with police officers patrolling the area and event staff vigilant about confirming attendees’ badges and inspecting bags for electronics at security checkpoints on Howard Street.
It's disheartening that even San Francisco's biggest fans like Marc Benioff are skeptical about whether leaders can fix its problems. On the other hand it's encouraging that when the City "wants to look good and look shiny and safe" it still can. It's unclear how it will turn out, but I'm an optimist.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Giants v. Guardians: Unexpectedly Pleasant

There's no substitute for travel if one wants to get a full sense of a place. In this case I'm not talking about visiting another country or another State, but just spending time in the maligned City by the Bay.

It was a perfect day to take in our one Giants game of the season. Highway 101 North from the Peninsula was moderately busy at noon, a sign of returning commerce, but still not up to the levels of 2019.

We pulled into Oracle Park's Lot A, a quarter-mile south of the stadium. The Mission Bay district, formerly the land of railyards and industrial warehouses, has been transformed with residential highrises. The UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay opened in 2015 and the $1.4 billion Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors, opened in 2019.

McCovey Cove behind right field and the O'Doul Bridge
There was nary a homeless person or drug dealer in sight as we walked with hordes of fans over the draw bridge and to the south gate, both of which were named after baseball legend Lefty O'Doul. Except for areas under construction, the sidewalks were pristine and wide. Perhaps by coincidence there were friendly patrol officers all around Oracle Park

We got to our seats at the bottom of the first inning, and the Giants were already trailing the Cleveland Guardians by a score of 4-0. The Giants looked lifeless; by the bottom of the 7th, with a score of 5-2 and taking into account the Giants' month-long lack of hitting, we talked about leaving after the 8th. But to everyone's surprise
Wednesday, the Guardians led the entire way until the eighth when their lead evaporated with one swing of J.D. Davis’ bat. His three-run homer tied it and San Francisco went on to win 6-5 in the 10th on LaMonte Wade Jr.’s late-afternoon heroics, a sacrifice fly to left with no outs.
The Giants won on a walk-off sacrifice fly, an unexpected outcome just three innings ago.

In fact the whole pleasant experience today was unexpected. Maybe next year we'll sign up for two games.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Half a Brain is All I Need

(Part of) our brain is in the Cloud
In 2018 I tried to buy the maximum memory of 512GB for a new iPhone XS Max but had to settle for the 256GB model in inventory.

Five years later the XS Max is only 40% filled. I didn't create as many files or download as many apps as I thought I would, but the main reason the extra storage is unnecessary is that I've transferred most of the files to Apple's iCloud. (Our subscription costs $9.99 per month for 2TB, which can be shared among the family.)

The larger iPhone capacity was unnecessary because some of the tasks could be offloaded to Apple's network.

It turns out that there's a biological parallel: the human brain has shrunk over the past 5,000 years. [bold added]
But a growing body of evidence suggests our brains recently changed in an unexpected way: They diminished in size sometime following the end of the last Ice Age.

“Most people think of brain evolution happening in this linear way. It grows, plateaus and stops,” said Jeremy DeSilva, a professor of paleoanthropology at Dartmouth College. “But we’ve lost brain tissue equal to the volume of a lime—it isn’t a tiny little sliver we’re talking about.”

The precise timing of that post-Ice Age brain shrink has remained a mystery until now. A group of researchers led by DeSilva used a mixture of fossil and modern specimen data to pinpoint that this loss of gray matter happened between 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, according to research published in June in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Many anthropologists had initially posited the changes coincided with the advent of agricultural practices around 10,000 years ago, and a global shift away from hunting and gathering.

The more-recent dates from DeSilva’s group point to booming eras for ancient civilizations in North Africa, the Middle East and South America—complex societies that they think may have played a role in the shrinkage.

They hypothesized that human societies got so cooperatively organized in the past 3,000 years that we began relying on what researchers call collective intelligence.

“It is the idea that a group of people is smarter than the smartest person in the group,” said James Traniello, a biology professor at Boston University and one of DeSilva’s co-authors. “So basically, if you live in a group, you solve problems more rapidly, more efficiently and more accurately than what’s possible for any individual.”

Traniello said the inspiration for applying this idea to why human brains may have shrunk came from “ultrasocial” insects such as ants. Ants form highly cooperative societies in which division of labor has favored smaller-brained individuals due to an advanced level of social organization.

The researchers suggested that perhaps our need to maintain a large brain—to keep track of information about food, social relationships, predators and our environment—has also relaxed in the past few millennia because we could store information externally in other members of our social circles, towns and groups.
We don't have to hunt to survive, so it's logical that our senses--and the related parts of the brain--don't have to be as acute as they once were. Nor do we have to store as much knowledge in our head when we can rely on other people, books, and the World Wide Web. The extra brain cells are not needed.

However, I'm still going to try to get the 1TB version of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Annual Check-up

I checked off a couple of items on last year's list, but the doctor added some to take their place.

The #1 goal, lose 10 pounds, is an old friend. I blame the post-COVID bounce in socializing and trips to Hawaii.

Monitoring blood pressure is a new addition. The readings have been climbing over the years, and weekly home measurements will help him decide whether to put me on medication when I come back in three months.

One health worry that's no longer on the list: last month's colonoscopy removed five non-cancerous polyps. I won't have to schedule another one until 2027.

It could have been worse, so I'll take it.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The House is Just a Metaphor

In Chapter 6 of “12 Rules for Life" Jordan Peterson is not really talking about organizing your stuff.

Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World
If you are suffering—well, that’s the norm. People are limited and life is tragic. If your suffering is unbearable, however, and you are starting to become corrupted [by thoughts of revenge], here’s something to think about.

Consider your circumstances. Start small. Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you? Are you working hard on your career, or even your job, or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down?

Have you made peace with your brother? Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect? Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being? Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities? Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members? Are there things that you could do, that you know you could do, that would make things around you better?

Have you cleaned up your life?

If the answer is no, here’s something to try: Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong.
It's easy to place blame on other people, the environment, or bad luck, and in truth a reasonable person must acknowledge that miserable circumstances are often caused partially or even mostly by outside factors over which we have no control.

But we can't get to a better place until we clean up the clutter in our emotional house.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Cash: Still the King

You still need to carry both
Square has expanded beyond its roots in mobile payments and now offers an array of services, such as inventory and payroll, to businesses. The risk to small enterprises is that their dependency on one provider like Square could be disastrous when the provider shuts down:
During what would become an hours-long [Thursday noon - Friday morning], nationwide outage of payment system Square...restaurants and bars throughout the Bay Area who rely on Square to take payments were left frustrated and scrambling. Many posted to social media, telling customers to bring cash.
Contingency planning is often neglected, and this experience should be a wake-up call to small businesses to work on back-up plans.

But customers need to be prepared, too. I've had to pay cash on two different occasions this year when the systems on fast food franchises went down. As noted earlier this year,
My thicker wallet undoubtedly reflects personal insecurities. I carry at least $100, 1 debit and 3 credit cards, a driver's license, a gym membership, a health insurance card, and an auto club card.
It has to be said: every small business I deal with--independent restaurants, dry cleaners, and hair salons-- prefers cash. When I handed a cab driver cash instead of the credit card he was expecting, his eyes lit up.

So carry a little green in your wallet: it insures against system outages, and it seems to make merchants happier!

Friday, September 08, 2023

An EV Will Have to Wait

Filling a tank is easy, charging a Tesla needs parking instructions.
Buying an electric car has been the medium-term plan, but lately I've been having second thoughts that have nothing to do with range anxiety.

Operating an electric car means learning a new way of performing basic functions, like opening the door, turning on the "engine," and braking. [bold added]
On the Ford Mustang, you press a circular button on the door and it pops open.

On the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, the handle is flush with the car and pops out when the car is unlocked. With the Tesla Model Y, you need to push in the wide part of the handle then pull the longer skinnier part toward you. Thankfully, there’s a GIF for that...

Instead of a physical key fob, Tesla provides a hotel-style keycard. You can also use Tesla’s smartphone app as a key. As soon as you open the Model Y’s door, the touch screen powers on and you can operate all controls...Ford, Hyundai and Kia stick to start/stop push buttons. There are key fobs, but you can also set up the apps as keys...

OK, you know how traditional automatic-transmission cars creep forward when you take your foot off the brake? That generally isn’t the case with EVs. To move, you tap the accelerator. (Even in reverse, which can be a little unnerving.) As soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, the car slows and brakes on its own. You only hit the brake pedal itself if the car isn’t slowing quickly enough. Most EVs let you do “one-pedal driving”—that is, driving with only the accelerator.
In our three-car non-EV family it's already crucial to be aware of which car I'm driving. The oldest, a 2004 Camry, doesn't have infrared sensors that trigger beeps when the car gets too close to a stationary object or pulsing sounds when a vehicle or pedestrian approaches. I've caught myself counting on a warning light in the side view mirror, then remembering to turn my head to check the blind spot in the old car.

If I got used to driving an EV, I'd have to remember that our ICE (internal combustion engine) cars won't automatically brake when I take my foot off the gas pedal. The variation would be extensive if we got an EV, so for safety's sake, we'll wait until more user-friendly and standardized controls are developed.

[Side note: why don't we at least get rid of the pre-sensor pre-GPS 2004 Camry? We need an old car to drive into and park in San Francisco, where windows are smashed and catalytic converters are cut off with impunity.]

Thursday, September 07, 2023

They Want More Than You Can Give

(NYT image)
Slightly unexpected, but this finding comports with my own experience: [bold added]
A large number of employees leave soon after their first promotion, according to new data from payroll-services provider ADP. Analyzing the job histories of more than 1.2 million U.S. workers between 2019 and 2022, the ADP Research Institute found that 29% of people quit their jobs within a month after their first promotion. It estimates that the departure rate for similar workers who weren’t promoted was 18%.
People quit their jobs for a host of reasons--whether they're successful at their current employer or not--but it may seem puzzling that the recently elevated have higher turnover than other employees.

In my case I knew after a year that working as an auditor for an accounting firm was not for me, so I finished the two years necessary to fulfill the CPA licensing requirement, spent another year in Taxes, then departed for a bump in pay. Shortly thereafter, I began managing people. Doing that in real life was far more complicated than what was taught in a business course.

One of the reasons for leaving after a promotion is that the new job often includes supervision of others. Without training, new managers often flounder. In addition supervision has only gotten more complicated in the COVID era.
Managing teams has gotten tougher with hybrid and remote work, and many new managers are caught in the middle, balancing bosses’ desire for buzzing offices with employees’ desire for greater autonomy.

“They’re sort of left on their own to adopt a whole new style of management that for many of them is very foreign,” says Heather Barrett, a director at Gallup, who co-wrote the research report.
Maybe the real story isn't lack of training but how no one, not the supervisors or the supervised, has people skills any more. Combined with high expectations and lack of patience, discontent is high.

In the age of virtual communication working conditions have never been more accommodating, but unhappiness has never been higher.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

I Wonder if the Bed Vibrates

Part of the $4,500 package (WSJ)
Here's another Korean activity that might catch on internationally--"hotel" wedding proposals that cost thousands of dollars, not including the ring: [bold added]
29-year-old office worker [Oh Hae-rim] did have her heart set on one luxury: a night at a swanky hotel where her future husband would pop the question...

Everyone prefers a hotel proposal,” Oh said. “It’s every woman’s dream.”

Oh’s boyfriend chose Signiel Seoul, a luxury hotel, which sells an “Eternal Promise” package with flower decorations and Champagne that starts at $1,200 a night. She snapped a photo of the rose petals and candles that her boyfriend prepared, and posed in front of “Marry Me” letter balloons holding a bouquet of flowers. She placed a blue Tiffany shopping bag containing a necklace next to her in the photo. Oh, for her part, gave her intended a fancy watch.

More than 40% of South Korean women want their wedding proposals to happen at a hotel, according to a recent poll by a local matchmaker. More than a third of men, in the same survey, cite “financial burden” for not wanting to propose.
Young husbands-to-be, who likely don't have a lot of won lying around, are usually the ones who pay for the proposal:
Kim Jae-hyun was stunned when his girlfriend showed him a photo of a Chanel handbag her friend received when getting proposed to at a hotel. “I started calculating how much it would all cost in my head,” he said—probably at least $3,000.

Over drinks, Kim and his friends, some married, others not, discussed whether they could afford a Chanel bag, and if it was really necessary for a proposal. His single friends thought a sincere expression of love before asking would be enough. His married friends disagreed, arguing Kim might hear about his lack of proposal panache the rest of his life.

He originally planned to propose this summer. But now he has decided to wait until the end of the year. “It will give me some time to save up,” Kim said.
Kim, listen to your married friends and spend the money. You might live another 60 years, and most assuredly you will get more than $50 of grief each year if you didn't make her proposal dream come true.

Best wishes, by the way.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Presidential Material

He does look presidential
I'm entranced by the idea of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) becoming President just for the confusion that it would engender.

There may be no practical difference between "Whitehouse says" and "the White House says," but copy writers would have to guard against using phrases like "Speaking from the White House, Whitehouse..." or "Invited to the White House by Whitehouse..."

If he's going to get to the presidential mansion, Senator Whitehouse should avoid sillinesses like accusing a Supreme Court justice of "improper opining":
Mr. Whitehouse is famous for publicly examining Brett Kavanaugh’s high-school yearbook for subtle messages of, well, we never could figure it out. And now he says Justice Alito committed “improper opining on a legal issue that may come before the court” in his recent interview with this newspaper [the WSJ]...

Our favorite line in Mr. Whitehouse’s letter says that “at the end, Justice Alito is the beneficiary of his own improper opining.” In other words, how dare Justice Alito defend himself from unfair attacks by Mr. Whitehouse, whose real goal is to coerce the Justices into doing his political bidding.
Senator Whitehouse didn't just say it but wrote a letter to Chief Justice Roberts complaining about Justice Alito's "improper opining." The Chief Justice is now obliged to compose a letter in return, and I'd give a penny, or even two, for his thoughts.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Good Reasons to Stay

Less than a 10-minute walk from our home.
A San Francisco couple in their late 60's weighs the pros and cons of moving back to the Midwest. The negatives about San Francisco have been publicized for years, but it's rare to hear about the positives.

Many of Karen Yoder's reasons for remaining in SF are similar to mine for staying in the Bay Area. (These I have highlighted in yellow.)
We still have so much to do before we leave San Francisco, and we finally have the time and ease of mind to do it.

We’re within a 15-minute bike ride from major museums, concert halls, theaters, sports stadiums and other cultural offerings we seldom visited before. I’ve mapped out the free-admission days at the Asian Art Museum and the DeYoung Museum.

We really should attend the renowned San Francisco Opera at least once. And we never get enough of Giants games, sitting on the upper deck looking down at first base and out over the bay, our bicycle in free valet parking.

We want to explore more streets by bike, climb all the beautifully tiled stairs up the city’s hills, discover more hole-in-the-wall restaurants and find the best fresh fish in Sunset-district markets.

We have a network of friends, built up since we arrived in 1989, and a strong church community. Some of those friends live in our immediate neighborhood, which has a small-town feel. We run into acquaintances on the sidewalk, shopkeepers know us and a neighbor keeps us abreast of our block’s news when she walks by with her dog.

Within an easy walk [blogger's note: or ten-minute drive] are three grocery stores, our hospital, a library, a post office, a live-music venue and dozens of restaurants and coffee shops. Our “pantry,” as we call it, is the corner store across the street.

A few blocks from our house begin the car-free paths leading through Golden Gate Park and to the Pacific Ocean, where other cyclists recognize us and wave.

And all that’s just in the city. We frequently bike across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County or south down Highway 1 along the ocean. The Sierra Nevada are about a three-hour drive away.

We also have unfinished business: We want to continue our research on our 1893 house’s history, according to which the first owners emigrated from Eastern Europe and had a business in the Gold Country before settling in the city. The next owner kicked out his mother-in-law, who then sued him. The house begs us to tell its story.

Meanwhile, we’re sharing its charm with others. We open the door to friends nearly each week for dinner and an evening of quilting. We offer it as a space for fundraisers, music performances and seminars. We greet curious tourists from our stoop and give them a quick history of our block.

Why would we want to leave now?

Well, for one, as a reader writes to remind us: “San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the country.”

That may be true for housing costs and taxes, but our remaining mortgage payments are low. As retirees, we don’t have some expenses that make living costly, such as school tuition. We seldom eat out. We ditched our car during the pandemic and maximize senior discounts.

I could go on.

It’s a dilemma. I love San Francisco, and I love Kansas. I share the sentiments of author Allen Say, who has straddled lives in Japan and California. In his children’s book “Grandfather’s Journey,” he writes: “The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.”

We’re beginning to talk of a hybrid solution: Sell the house, move to a small condo, and divide our time among the city, Kansas and travel.
We like our doctors and know how to get around the area. More than that, we know how to get around our house. The ability to find light switches and the refrigerator in the dark should not be underestimated!

Finally, we're lucky that economics is not the prime motivator that it is with many people. We enjoy a beer-budget lifestyle and are unlikely to outlive our savings.

Relocating to a cheaper area just to leave the kids a bigger estate is not a good enough reason to move. Yes, we're aware of other reasons, but this is not that post.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Truth and Consequences

Today the priest spoke about Matthew 16, one of the more challenging Gospel readings. Jesus tells the disciples of His fate: "great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."

Peter tries to deny the prophesy---as any of us would to a friend or relative who predicts catastrophe for themselves--but Jesus adamantly rejects Peter's good intentions: "“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me."

When we believe a truth and state it forcefully, it can rupture relationships and jeopardize our comfortable lives and jobs. Speaking the truth will set us free and likely allow us to live our best life in the long run, but it is not easy to do.
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? -----Matthew 16:21-28

Jordan Peterson's Rule 8: "Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie"

"At the beginning of time, according to the great Western tradition, the Word of God transformed chaos into Being through the act of speech. It is axiomatic, within that tradition, that man and woman alike are made in the image of that God. We also transform chaos into Being, through speech. We transform the manifold possibilities of the future into the actualities of past and present.

To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being. Truth builds edifices that can stand a thousand years. Truth feeds and clothes the poor, and makes nations wealthy and safe. Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become a partner, rather than an enemy. Truth makes the past truly past, and makes the best use of the future’s possibilities. Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.

See the truth. Tell the truth.

Truth will not come in the guise of opinions shared by others, as the truth is neither a collection of slogans nor an ideology. It will instead be personal. Your truth is something only you can tell, based as it is on the unique circumstances of your life. Apprehend your personal truth. Communicate it carefully, in an articulate manner, to yourself and others. This will ensure your security and your life more abundantly now, while you inhabit the structure of your current beliefs. This will ensure the benevolence of the future, diverging as it might from the certainties of the past.

The truth springs forth ever anew from the most profound wellsprings of Being. It will keep your soul from withering and dying while you encounter the inevitable tragedy of life. It will help you avoid the terrible desire to seek vengeance for that tragedy—part of the terrible sin of Being, which everything must bear gracefully, just so it can exist.

If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth. If you cling desperately to an ideology, or wallow in nihilism, try telling the truth. If you feel weak and rejected, and desperate, and confused, try telling the truth. In Paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That is what makes it Paradise.

Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie."

Excerpt From: Jordan B. Peterson. “12 Rules for Life.”

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Not Tending to Basics

Check 5378 for $320 mailed on 8/5, bank account not cleared as of 8/21
The license and registration fees were due by August 22nd so I mailed the check to the DMV's Sacramento post office box two weeks early.

I do pay bills electronically, but for payments that have tax consequences (part of the license renewal is personal-property tax, which may be deductible on Schedule A) I like to write an old-fashioned check. It's nice to have a copy of the cancelled check to show the IRS in the event of an audit.

Aware of the security risk from dropping off a letter at a mailbox, I mailed the DMV payment from the Foster City Post Office on August 5th.

On August 21st I checked the bank account online. The check still had not cleared the bank.

The problem lay with the DMV cash receipts system or the U.S. Postal delivery system, but it wouldn't be wise to invite a late-payment penalty and try to appeal it. So I paid the fee on 8/21 directly using a Discover credit card.

Sure enough, California and the USPS didn't lose the check. It was deposited on August 31st (above) and I have a credit balance that I hope will get back in a month or so.

People disagree about many aspects of government, but the vast majority, I suspect, want government systems to work quickly, effectively, and honestly. An accurate cash receipts system is basic to organizations, and the structural principles were known decades before electronic data processing (EDP) was ubiquitous.

I worry about a California government that's always working on the next big thing and not tending to basics, like handling checks or verifying unemployment claims (EDD fraud is $32 billion). No one pays the penalty for the systems falling apart, and no one gets promoted for tending to them.