Wednesday, January 31, 2024

That Conspiracy Theory is Crazy....or is it?

Chiefs tight-end Travis Kelce and friend
It sounds like such an outlandish conspiracy theory that one may well suspect that it's a "false flag" planted by Democrats posing as Republicans to make the latter look ridiculous.

The theory, as stated by Scott Ostler of the Chronicle:
Thanks to a host of right-wing news sources with a wide collective audience, everyone with half a brain (but no more) is convinced that the Democratic Party and the NFL have joined in a conspiracy to assure that the Chiefs beat the 49ers.

Major right-wing media influencers, and even a one-time presidential hopeful, are uniting to spread the word of this devious plot, the purpose of which is to provide Swift an even greater platform from which to rock the 2024 vote in favor of Joe Biden.
Even the Wall Street Journal editorial page saw fit to make some remarks:
The story is that the Super Bowl on Feb. 11 will be rigged so that the Chiefs win in a dramatic fashion. Ms. Swift and Mr. Kelce will get engaged. That way they’ll be at peak influence to cut a joint October ad for Mr. Biden.

This is either lunacy or it’s theater. Our guess is the latter. Many of its purveyors well know they’re putting on an act, but there’s fame and notoriety and money to be had from spinning conspiracy theories, the crazier the better.

Yet the paranoia on the right about a romance between the most popular singer in the world and an NFL player does make Republicans seem, frankly, weird.
Frankly, these analysts should look deeper. This could really be a plot by the San Francisco 49ers to get the conservative half of the country to root for them. San Francisco's homelessness, drugs, crime, and filth have threatened to taint the 49ers by their association with the City.

Come aboard the 49ers bandwagon, MAGAns. Don't give Kelce-Swift or Swift-Kelce a platform at the Super Bowl! (Hey, that sounds like a ticket that has greater appeal than the choice this year, and, get this, both will turn 35 by the end of this year.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Introverts: It May Be Their Time

Illustration from Management 30
In the era of look-at-me-ism it's a safe prediction that the spoils will go to people who can attract eyeballs on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. It is a time for showmanship, glad-handers, and pretty people (not an insult, I like looking at pretty people, too).

But in the real world do you want them to be your leaders?

Headline: Why Introverted Leaders Are Ideal for the Postpandemic Workplace [bold added]
in our postpandemic world, replete with remote work, hybrid communication, far-flung team members, artificial intelligence and global disruption, introverts are particularly well-equipped to lead.

That may be hard to believe because of two persistent myths.

First is the widely held stereotype that effective leaders are gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight, even craving that attention. In reality, the social skills that extroverts display aren’t necessarily predictive of capable leadership.

Second is the belief that quieter people lack leadership skills...

Both of these myths ignore the reality that introversion, far from being simply a lack of extroversion, is a distinct set of traits with its own large merits. This was true well before the pandemic, but the remote-work environment illuminated the bias even more and highlighted the need to change our perceptions.
Here are some valuable qualities--a few may surprise--that give introverts an advantage over extroverts in the post-COVID workplace: higher productivity when working remotely, greater capacity to handle adversity, more creativity especially after group meetings, and better resistance to burnout.

Famous introverts include: Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, J.K. Rowling, and Barack Obama. So give the quiet ones another look.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Toughing It Out

I've used 3 out of the 30 tablets
Over the years I've had a few outpatient procedures that resulted in residual pain. The doctors have prescribed oxycodone to be taken as needed, just in case ibuprofen or acetaminophen aren't sufficient to reduce the discomfort to tolerable levels.

The danger of addiction to opioids like oxycodone has been publicized for years, and it's prudent to stop taking it as soon as one can. Now there's another reason to set the bottles aside:

Hidden Dangers of Opioid Epidemic: Study Links Prescribed Opioids to Cardiovascular Disease
They focused on approximately 50,000 patients, 30% of whom had received prescribed opioids, over a three-year period. Those who had received prescribed opioids were significantly more likely to later develop cardiovascular disease (CVD), the researchers found. The researchers also found that higher doses were associated with a higher risk of CVD.
Although the exact mechanism by which opioids cause cardiovascular disease isn't established, it is known that long-term opioid use is correlated with higher concentrations of triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), as well as a higher incidence of atrial fibrillation (Afib).

Doctors prescribe medications because they believe that the benefits exceed the cost to a patient's health, but patients should not be reticent in asking about the side effects. In the case of pain relief and opioids, sometimes it is preferable to tough it out.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Jason, We Hardly Knew Ye

October, 2022: the Bishop installs our new Minister
His ministry began with such promise in 2022. He was young, energetic, and empathetic, especially with Sunday School students. He introduced outreach efforts to the Bayview community and the Peninsula Spanish-speaking congregation, and the church members responded enthusiastically.

Alas, a health problem sidelined him for October. His absence stretched through Christmas. Then it was announced that his leave would extend through the end of February.

Blessing of the Animals, 10/1/23:
his last official act.
At today's annual meeting what we feared came to pass. The senior warden announced that our new rector would not be coming back but return to Minnesota to recuperate. After praying for his health, the congregation voiced concerns about the immediate future.

I looked around the room and saw at least a dozen stalwarts, all of whom led different ministries. They absorbed the news and--it could be my imagination--had a look of determination.

The Treasurer delivered some encouraging information about the 2024 budget. Even with conservative assumptions, the church is likely to run a surplus.

If the past two years has taught us anything, it's that we overreact to news. With a new leader we thought that we would be set for the next 5-10 years, but it was not to be. However, I think we're going to be all right.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

San Francisco Doesn't Look So Bad

...compared to Oakland. Headline:

Oakland crime surge: This major employer is telling workers to eat lunch on site [bold added]
Kaiser Permanente, the city’s largest employer, sent out a memo last month asking employees to stay in their buildings for lunch and throughout the workday, according to a report from KTVU. The memo also directed workers from out of town not to hold meetings in downtown Oakland...

The new precautions come as Oakland residents reel from a 21% increase in violent crime last year over 2022. Robberies climbed 38%, and burglaries increased 23%. For the second consecutive year, the city logged 120 homicides.
Kaiser Center, where I spent many an evening safely 1975-78.
During the mid-1970's I worked more than half the time in Oakland as a junior auditor for a CPA firm. One of its major clients was the Kaiser family of companies, the most notable at the time being Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser Steel, Kaiser Industries, and Kaiser Engineers. All were headquartered in Oakland.

(Digression: it's impossible to overstate the importance of Henry J. Kaiser to the post-war development of Hawaii, to the shaping of health care in California, and even to the nation's history, when his mass production of Liberty ships helped win the War.)

Because of its large Oakland footprint, not to mention its origins in the East Bay, Kaiser is unlikely to depart that benighted city. Nevertheless, if employee safety continues to be a major concern, Kaiser has to be looking at alternatives.

One wonders if Blue Shield is having regrets about its move to Oakland:
A representative of Blue Shield, the health insurance provider that moved its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Oakland in 2019, said Friday that the company would offer “various options” to keep employees safe when they come to the office. Among them: ride-hail services, secure parking and security guards.

Blue Shield asks most employees to come to the office at least twice a month, and for executives to show up once a week.
Within the past decade the Raiders, Warriors, and Athletics have abandoned Oakland. As businesses and workers flee, Gertrude Stein's famous 1937 quote is truer than ever.

Friday, January 26, 2024

In the New Year I'll Be Writing More Letters

I don't care for the mask representations of animals,
which I suppose we're stuck with for 12 years.
Yesterday afternoon the line at the local Post Office was out the door, so I tried again this morning.

At 9:30 there were no customers at all; yes, it's good to be retired, as one can come and go as one pleases.

I told the postal worker I wanted three sheets of Year-of-the-Dragon stamps.

"Anything else?"

Three Global Forever stamps. I had a few late Christmas cards to send to Asia.

She began ringing up three sheets of ten international stamps, which cost $1.55 each.

Stop, stop, just one.

In the New Year I guess I'll be writing more letters to Hong Kong, Japan, and Europe.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Ovarian Tissue Freezing

Oocyte and ovarian tissue cryopreservation (Science Direct)
Most of us have heard about egg retrieval, in which egg cells are extracted from the ovaries. The cells can be fertilized in a lab in the process known as in-vitro fertilization (IVF). They can also be frozen ("oocyte cryopreservation") for future use to extend a woman's childbearing years past menopause.

It now turns out that menopause can be delayed--and fertility retained--through ovarian tissue freezing: [bold added]
[Yale School of Medicine (YSM), Kutluk Oktay, MD, PhD], who developed and performed the world’s first ovarian transplant procedure with cryopreserved tissue for a patient with a medical indication in 1999, sees a future in which healthy women could use this process of freezing tens of thousands of eggs within the ovarian tissue to stave off menopause for as long as several decades—or even prevent its onset altogether.

“For the first time in medical history, we have the ability to potentially delay or eliminate menopause,” said Oktay, who is also an adjunct professor of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences at YSM.
Deciding how much ovarian tissue to extract and freeze is complicated:
The more tissue a surgeon removes, the longer the procedure can potentially delay menopause. However, the removal of too much tissue can lead to early menopause. “This model gives us the optimum amount of tissue to harvest for a person of a given age,” said Oktay.
In addition to extending fertility, delaying menopause may confer health benefits:
Studies show that women who experience menopause later may live longer and have a lower risk for a range of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, retinal disease, depression, and bone loss. However, uncertainty remains over whether later menopause actually reduces those health risks. Oktay hypothesizes that those risks also may be mitigated in healthy women who delay menopause via ovarian tissue cryopreservation.

If risk for such chronic diseases is reduced in healthy women who undergo this procedure, it could be a significant benefit. However, Taylor said that “additional research is needed to determine long-term benefits as well as risks.”
Much more work needs to be done to perfect the model calculations and test their applicability to real world decisions. However, it does appear that the technology will soon exist to extend a woman's fertility--and her life span--by decades, with ramifications that are difficult to imagine.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

It's a Wonderful Country

John Sowell, at the chain's grand opening in Idaho
We went to the San Carlos In-N-Out tonight, like we do once a month, and ordered the double-double animal style (double cheeseburger with grilled onions). I thought I knew the In-N-Out "secret menu" lingo, but I'm a neophyte compared to John Sowell:
“I ordered what I call a 2-by-1, known by In-N-Out as a double-single, two beef patties but only one piece of cheese versus the two on the double-double,” he recalls.

“Animal-style, with mustard slathered patties on the grill, extra of their thousand island spread and pickles. I also asked for cold cheese, so it wasn’t melted on the grill, a whole slice of grilled onion and whole slice of raw onion. And cut in half. Also fries cooked light well which keeps them in the oil about 40 seconds extra. The regular fries, to me, aren’t cooked enough.”
John Sowell is a fast-food superfan, which is a sub-genre of superfandom, who camps out overnight to be the first in line at the opening of an In-N-Out, Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, etc.

Wait of the future
Your humble blogger isn't a snooty gourmand, but I wouldn't wait a couple of hours, much less overnight, for a burger.

However, McDonald's new space-themed restaurant, CosMc's, sounds interesting...

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

San Francisco is the Exception, But Not in a Good Way

Hillsdale Mall: kids, happy faces, greenery
The large Peninsula shopping malls (we've posted about San Mateo's Hillsdale, San Francisco's Stonestown, and San Jose's Valley Fair) all seem to have recovered their pre-COVID crowds....except for the San Francisco Centre, the poster child for San Francisco's "doom loop."
These days, the hushed retail center has few shoppers, and over half of the cavernous 1.5 million-square-foot complex is empty. Nordstrom’s departure in August was far from the only exit: There will be at least five closures in January alone — with Hollister, Aldo, Adidas, Madewell and J. Crew all shuttering by the end of this week. The high-end restaurants under its historic dome are all gone...

[Rachel Michelin, CEO of the California Retailers Association] believes that crime and public safety are San Francisco Centre’s key challenges. Retailers in the mall have told her that they feel frustrated about safety conditions...

Michelin believes that even if a new use is found for the mall, such as entertainment, continued challenges around public safety will persist and hurt future prospects if they aren’t addressed.

“You have to deal with the underlying (issues) — why these stores are closing in the first place,” she said, citing homelessness, drug use and safety.
Like thousands of others, I commuted every weekday into the City and took lunch breaks at the San Francisco Centre and Union Square. COVID put a stop to the commuting, and many office workers have not returned. The Financial District is a pale shell of its former self, and the homelessness, crime, and general filth have drastically reduced the number of tourists.

Lowered tourist and commuter foot traffic appears now to be a persistent phenomenon in downtown San Francisco. As for potential suburban customers, most of us will continue to flock to our own shopping centers that are just off the freeway, have ample free parking, and are much safer for the kids.

I do still hope that San Francisco pulls out of its "doom loop," but time is not on its side as businesses and high-income people continue to leave.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Jeepers Creepers where'd ya get those peepers

(Nan Knighton / WSJ)
I missed this lighthearted animal story from America's biggest city last year:

Flaco the Famous New York City Owl Has Become a Peeping Tom
...her feathered visitor was Flaco, an orange-eyed Eurasian eagle-owl who became a New York celebrity after he escaped a zoo in February and turned leafy Central Park into his home. He’s drawn binocular-toting crowds who couldn’t help but root for a creature, like them, trying to make it in the big city.

Over time, though, Flaco’s behavior has shifted. He’s become a true nosy New Yorker, a bit of a hoot and a real owl about town.

Flaco is a gawker, flying out of Central Park and around Manhattan, sometimes standing outside windows with his beak to the glass, and his large round eyes peering inside.
With a large fan base keeping an eye on his movements, Flaco seems to be fine. Animal authorities will leave him alone unless he shows signs of distress.

Speaking of movements, examination of his droppings shows that his diet includes rats. A win-win for the city that never sleeps.
I wanna wake up in that city, that doesn't sleep
And find I'm king of the hill, top of the list
You're that a number one, king of the hill
Oh, little town blues, they have all melted away
And I'm gonna make a brand-new start of it, right there in old New York
You better believe it, bro
You always make it there, you make it anywhere
Come on, come through, New York, New York

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Remarkable Feature

(Photo by Amitrano/WSJ)
If you want to go to church in person on Sunday but don't want to leave home, you can do so in LA for $38.5 million (and live nicely for the other six days of the week): [bold added]
A Los Angeles compound with a stand-alone chapel is coming on the market for $38.5 million.

The gated property, which measures about 1.4 acres in tony Brentwood Park, has a Spanish Colonial Revival-style house built around 1928, as well as a guesthouse and poolhouse. The chapel was added around 2004 by longtime owners Helen and David G. Price, Christians who became devout later in life, according to Craig McDonald, Helen’s son from a previous marriage. The Mission Revival-style chapel was “a space for them to be able to go and have time and quiet and to study,” he said.
Los Angeles mansion owners can devote a room to exercise, electronics, or Elvis, and no one would notice. But a Christian chapel? That's remarkable.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Extending our Healthspan

"Healthspan:" the number of years we live in good health
vs. lifespan: the number of years we live.
There's an old joke about how running extends one's life--by the number of hours that one has spent running. In other words we may live longer but we won't enjoy the extra time.

But seriously... [bold added]
Americans are living longer, but spending less time in good health.

The estimated average proportion of life spent in good health declined to 83.6% in 2021, down from 85.8% in 1990, according to an analysis of the latest data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease study, a research effort based at the University of Washington.

The decrease of time spent in good health is partly because medical advances are catching and treating diseases that once would have killed us. But it is also because of the rising prevalence, often among younger people, of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and substance-use disorders.
Your humble blogger still includes himself in the majority of people who consider themselves to be in good health. I take medication for diabetes and high cholesterol, but neither has affected normal daily activities (yet). Nor have I experienced cognitive decline, as readers of this humble journal can plainly see.

On the whole, the news is good. Advances in medical science provide the tools to keep aging boomers in reasonably good health into our 80's 🤞. However, having a long "healthspan" will be up to the individual: exercise, diet, and sleep are just the basics. Mental challenges, social activity, avoiding stress, and going to the doctor regularly are also on the list of requirements. It's like a job, only more important because it's life and death.

Friday, January 19, 2024

The fEVer has broken

New EVs in Liuzhou, China (Globe and Mail)
Our suburban cul-de-sac has six homes, and three have Teslas. In the Bay Area Teslas are everywhere and have long ceased to be status symbols.

As we mentioned four months ago, we're having second thoughts about joining the parade, and millions of potential EV-buyers are apparently feeling the same way. [bold added]
Ford Motor said Friday it is slashing production of its F-150 Lightning, the electric pickup that has generated major buzz since its launch nearly two years ago. Tesla in recent days cut vehicle prices in Europe and China, and its stock has fallen sharply this month. Hertz last week said it was dumping 20,000 EVs from its rental fleet, replacing them with gas-engine cars.

Meanwhile, the Arctic blast affecting much of the northern U.S. offered a visceral reminder of one inconvenience of EV ownership: Reduced battery performance in cold weather. That phenomenon has left some EV owners out of juice—and the industry with a jolt of bad publicity for electric cars.

EV sales in the U.S. and globally continue to climb, but the pace of that growth—and the fervent enthusiasm around the EV story—has faded. The long wait lists and accelerated factory schedules that characterized the budding EV market in recent years have given way to a backlog of inventory and downsized ambitions.

Carmakers say they remain committed to going electric while calibrating their plans amid multiplying signs that not as many consumers as anticipated are ready to rush into EVs.

Surveys show many car buyers are interested in the technology, but are hesitant to make the switch because of concerns over charger availability and higher prices.
It's very early, but California's mandate to restrict purchases only to "zero emission" vehicles beginning in 2035 looks like it will be extended, cancelled, or riddled with so many exceptions as to be toothless.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

SF Bus Shelters: More Negatives than Positives

It's much cleaner at Hyde & California shelterless bus stop
A heretofore unnoticed element behind the shabbiness of San Francisco was highlighted by the accidental destruction of a bus shelter.
the shelter at Hyde and California streets had been a dumping site for trash and the frequent scene of drug deals and illegal fires. One unhoused woman lived inside the shelter for months, filling the small space with her belongings, while others camped out behind it, blocking the sidewalk with tents.

But since workers removed the shelter and a nearby trash can after the October crash, the corner has cleared, four nearby business owners told the Chronicle. Years of chaos at the corner have largely disappeared.

The merchants — a cannabis dispensary owner, a hairstylist, a restaurateur and a cafe owner — want the intersection’s northwest corner to remain empty. In a move that rankled some frequent bus riders, they are urging city officials not to replace the shelter.
There's no question that bus shelters provide benefits: protection from the rain, benches that are needed by the elderly and infirm, and maps and schedules. However, when the nearby businesses don't want the shelter rebuilt, an inconvenience to their own customers, then we know that storefront conditions are desperate.

Bus shelters, like other unpatrolled public spaces, attract squatters and/or drug users. Because they provide a modest degree of shielding, they're more attractive than parks or empty sidewalks.

In towns and cities without the City's dysfunction, bus shelters are assets. In San Francisco many are net liabilities and should be removed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Horizontal Levee: Preferable Solution

Foster City levee under construction in 2021
We've been posting about the Foster City levee project since 2016. Now that it's complete, the Chronicle says that our sea wall is the template for the Bay Area for the rest of the century:
the $90 million, 6.2-mile project is worth a visit for anyone wondering what the future might hold — in this case, a glum wall with great public access....

There’s a bleak simplicity to the levee, and its intent is clear — protection from whatever the bay and natural forces might dish out in decades to come.
Illustration by Oro Loma Sanitary District
Not so fast: horizontal levees can also protect Bay communities from floods, have more pleasing esthetics than our sea wall, and reduce algae blooms that are toxic to fish. They're also cheaper to construct.
Instead of a vertical wall to protect against storm surges, Horizontal levees couple traditional levees with a gentle, vegetated slope leading down towards the Bay in order to protect communities from sea-level rise while also removing nutrients from the water. The slope can be built with local materials like dredged sediment overlain by native plants. A buried layer of gravel and sand within the horizontal levee conveys treated wastewater underneath the soil while wetland plants can extend their roots into the permeable layer to get water.
Basically, horizontal levees are constructed marshlands that are built with a gradient and have native plants that filter wastewater. They have their own environmental concerns because of dredging and construction right on the shoreline, but given that the models say that rising seas are inevitable, horizontal levees are a viable, some would argue preferable solution to the Foster City levee.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Pod People

Zenbooth solo pod
Forget open-office configurations; the trend is toward privacy booths.
As Covid-19’s remote-work surge fades, some workplaces are quieter and odder than ever. Employees have returned only to park themselves in deserted conference rooms or sound-muffling chambers. Colleagues grumble about booth-hogging co-workers, and some companies have started enforcing time limits on them.

The pods, some resembling old-school telephone booths, have emerged as one of the hottest segments in the $24 billion North American office-furniture industry.
The portable booths aren't walled or curtained like traditional offices. The main benefit seems to be quiet.
Booth-inclined office workers say their needs have changed post-Covid, and they have a harder time concentrating among noise and distractions.

At CrowdComms, a U.K.-based maker of event technology, managing director Matthew Allen got used to working in near-silence at the office during the pandemic. When colleagues returned, their phone calls—even at normal volume—annoyed him so much he bought a sound-dampening booth.

Though it was ostensibly for the entire office, he soon moved in.
If employees merely want peace and quiet, employers can save themselves the expense of converting to a pod-office by allowing their cubicled workers to wear sound dampening headphones. Some business etiquette rules will have to change, but they have to be modified anyway as people battle over booth reservation times.

Have I mentioned that I'm glad to be retired?

Monday, January 15, 2024

MLK Day, 2024

Today's Google Doodle depicts the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. As a pre-teen, I read about Selma in the two Honolulu newspapers, but it had little resonance.

In Hawaii everyone was race-conscious, but there seemed to be very little overt racism. My eighth-grade (haole) teacher had a theory that racial resentment in Hawaii was defused because each race could point to its own wealthy, powerful representatives (Chinese real estate moguls, Caucasian businessmen, Japanese politicians, etc.). Also, there were very few African-Americans in the islands; most of the ones I saw were in the military, and they certainly appeared "normal", not like the activists who were in the news.

The passions that triggered the civil rights movement and the Watts riots became real when I went to the Mainland for college. Many of my fellow students were obsessed with racial identity; they told me that I should feel angry about the way Asian-Americans were treated, and that white Americans resented all Asians because of Vietnam.

For guidance I turned to the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. They were consistent with traditional American ideals and were a call to action to ensure that all Americans had the rights to which they were entitled under the Constitution. To spur a recalcitrant society towards that goal he fleshed out the theory and practice of non-violent civil disobedience. I came to understand, less than a decade after his death, why he is so revered.

Today Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 95. The assassin's bullet cut short his life at the age of 39, much too soon.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

An Ephemeral, not Eternal, Question

(Image from mereinkling)
Finally, a relevant theological question:

Would Jesus Bet on the Super Bowl? [bold added]
is it a bad thing, or a morally neutral thing, to risk one’s money on a game?

Traditions rooted in the Jewish and Christian scriptures have tended to say it’s a bad thing, but the textual warnings against it are less than explicit. Some Christian moralists have claimed that gambling is wrong because it’s an attempt to get something for nothing.

...But it can’t be right that getting something for nothing is always wrong. If that were so, you would be sinning to accept an inheritance from your parents, or to sell a piece of land at a profit when you didn’t cause its increase in value. The Christian gospel itself proclaims that sinners receive what they don’t, and can’t, earn.

...A better way to think about the moral import of gambling, and by extension the ubiquity of online sports betting, is to consider what it reveals about the gambler. The Hebrew and Christian scriptures warn many times against the excessive desire for wealth.
Gambling is not one of the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth) but like each of the 7DS can be addictive and ruin lives. The gambler loses in the long run (unless he is a disciplined card counter, but I digress...) and is consumed by the desire for money, which is why it's considered an immoral activity.

But back to the original question: would Jesus bet on the Super Bowl?
1) According to the creeds He is more than the Son of God, He is God.
2) God is omniscient, i.e., knows everything, past, present, and future.
3) He is therefore guaranteed to win any bet on the Super Bowl, or for that matter on the outcome of any event.
4) Jesus may well need some money to complete his mission on Earth.
5) Gambling is the quickest way to obtain money (unless working for a living is part of Jesus' mission).

So, yes, in my humble opinion, Jesus would bet on the Super Bowl, but unlike the rest of us wouldn't be watching it to see whether He won.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Not Much to be Proud of

Tua's Facebook photo
I did have a rooting interest in the Chiefs-Dolphins game this Saturday (Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was born in Hawaii, my home state), but not enough to subscribe to the Peacock channel, which had exclusive rights to the game.

My initial take was that the NFL was especially dumb in removing the game from "free" national television, since Taylor Swift's attendance at Chiefs games had been attracting millions of non-football viewers who were hoping to catch a glimpse of her. However, the money Peacock offered was too tempting: [bold added]
The Saturday night contest between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs will only be on Peacock, unless the viewer lives in the local television markets of the respective teams (the game will air free). For everyone else across the country, a Peacock subscription plans start at $5.99 per month...

So why is this game exclusively on a streaming service? NBC Universal paid the NFL $110 million last year for rights to carry a wild card game on Peacock -- a one-year deal.
Our household already subscribes to five streaming services that we don't fully utilize, and Chiefs-Dolphins couldn't justify adding a sixth. BTW, the game itself wasn't suspenseful or well-played; the Chiefs won 26-7 under extremely frigid conditions.

As for Taylor Swift, she was breaking the internet in her custom-made jacket by Kristin Juszczyk, wife of 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Not Just From Enemies But From Friends, Too

It's no secret that Fox News has been emphasizing San Francisco's homelessness, crime, and open-air drug use problems. One response by the City's defenders is that the reports are distorted by political enemies who only want to show the negatives and hide the improvements that have been made.

Jamie Dimon (Chron photo)
However, there have been too many similar accounts from people who are not conservative Republicans. This week JPMorgan Chase CEO and Democratic Party supporter Jamie Dimon, who is here for a health-care conference, spoke about the City's failures: [bold added]
San Francisco is in far worse shape than New York,” Dimon said in an interview Thursday on Fox Business.

“I think every city, like every country, should be thinking about what is it that makes an attractive city, you know, its parks, its art, but it’s definitely safety. It’s jobs, it’s job creation, it’s the ability to have affordable housing,” Dimon said. “Any city who doesn’t do a good job, it will lose its population — just tax more and more, it doesn’t work.”
Keith Lee (Chron photo)
On that same day TikTok food influencer Keith Lee told his 15.6 million (!) followers that he was terminating his Bay Area tour:
the Bay Area is not “a place for tourists right now. … The people in the Bay are just focused on surviving. The amount of tents and burnt-up cars that we saw people living in was shocking to say the least. As an outsider, I wish the city would step in.”
If not corrected, San Francisco's problems will destroy the Progressive dream and prevent its former Mayor Gavin Newsom from winning the Presidency. The exodus of many of its best and brightest people endangers San Francisco's status as one of America's leading cities.

It's easy to dismiss criticism as coming from people who hate San Francisco, but as Jamie Dimon and Keith Lee have shown, calls for change are coming from people who love San Francisco, too.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

The Academy Oversteps and Begins to Pay the Price

Bill Ackman, 57, is a hedge-fund billionaire who made his fortune by taking unconventional short and long positions.

He always gives interesting business-related interviews on CNBC, and that, frankly, was the extent of my knowledge about him.

Until he took issue with the December 5th performance of Harvard then-President Claudine Gay before Congress on the subject of anti-semitism and free speech at Harvard, his alma mater.

The scales had fallen from his eyes:
Twenty-four hours after Hamas attacked Israel, Mr. Ackman “saw students supporting terrorists—Harvard students, no less.” With astonishment that hardened into outrage, Mr. Ackman witnessed 34 student groups at his alma mater “come out to say that Israel is solely responsible for the most heinous acts we’ve seen in modern history.”

Harvard wasn’t the only American campus where students railed against Israel and at Jewish classmates. But Harvard was the place to which Mr. Ackman, an “absolutely loyal alum in all respects,” had given $50 million over the years. “I lecture at the university multiple times a year,” he says, adding that he’s on the dean’s advisory board. Observing the protests, and the Harvard administration’s refusal to curb them, he mounted a mutiny of donors, calling on them to help drive Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, from her job. He feared that her continued presence at the helm would lead angry donors to stop giving. “I am personally aware of more than a billion dollars of terminated donations from a small group of Harvard’s most generous Jewish and non-Jewish alumni,” he wrote on Dec. 10.

Ms. Gay’s resignation on Jan. 2 was a result of her maladministration as well as of convincing accusations of plagiarism in her academic writings.
After reviewing Claudine Gay's, as well as MIT President Sally Kornbluth's and Penn President Liz Magill's, testimony before Congress, Mr. Ackman came to believe that their tepid response to student groups' calls for genocide against Jews was attributable to the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) practices that have pervaded campuses nationwide. On January 2nd he tweeted: [bold added]
Under DEI, one’s degree of oppression is determined based upon where one resides on a so-called intersectional pyramid of oppression where whites, Jews, and Asians are deemed oppressors, and a subset of people of color, LGBTQ people, and/or women are deemed to be oppressed. Under this ideology which is the philosophical underpinning of DEI as advanced by Ibram X. Kendi and others, one is either an anti-racist or a racist. There is no such thing as being “not racist.”

Under DEI’s ideology, any policy, program, educational system, economic system, grading system, admission policy, (and even climate change due its disparate impact on geographies and the people that live there), etc. that leads to unequal outcomes among people of different skin colors is deemed racist.

As a result, according to DEI, capitalism is racist, Advanced Placement exams are racist, IQ tests are racist, corporations are racist, or in other words, any merit-based program, system, or organization which has or generates outcomes for different races that are at variance with the proportion these different races represent in the population at large is by definition racist under DEI’s ideology.

In order to be deemed anti-racist, one must personally take action to reverse any unequal outcomes in society. The DEI movement, which has permeated many universities, corporations, and state, local and federal governments, is designed to be the anti-racist engine to transform society from its currently structurally racist state to an anti-racist one.
Claudine Gay's resignation on January 2nd was only the first battle in what may well turn out to be a long cultural war between wokeness and traditional values. Claudine Gay not only was criticized for her actions as Harvard President but for alleged instances of plagiarism on her scholarly work.

Neri Oxman (WSJ photo)
The Business Insider then accused Bill Ackman's wife, Neri Oxman, for plagiarism on her 2010 doctoral dissertation at MIT. Ms. Oxman apologized.

Bill Ackman, convinced that the source of the Business Insider report was someone(s) at MIT, vowed to develop AI tools to examine a broad swath of MIT dissertations and publications for plagiarism.

Circling back to the three-presidents testimony before Congress on December 5th, MIT President Kornbluth is the only one of the three who still holds office, Penn's Liz Magill having resigned on December 9th. It would be surprising if she lasts out the year.

After the break is the text of Bill Ackman's January 2nd tweet.


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Regulators Gotta Protect Themselves, Too

SEC headquarters (WSJ photo)
The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is the powerful agency that makes financial rules and enforces them, is the victim of a fake tweet that purportedly approved exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that hold bitcoin.
Bitcoin briefly jumped to near $48,000 before [SEC Chair Gary] Gensler said on the social-media network that the message was “unauthorized” and that the SEC “has not approved the listing and trading of spot bitcoin exchange-traded products.” The agency later posted that its account was “compromised.”

“It’s a hack,” a spokeswoman for the SEC said.
Bitcoin prices rose above $48,000 after the tweet then fell below $46,000 after the SEC disavowed it. As of today, the fault doesn't appear to be X's (Twitter's) but was due to the theft of the SEC's login credentials.

Nevertheless, it's embarrassing that powerful government agencies like the SEC, IRS, and FBI have security breaches that give the impression of incompetence and even untrustworthiness.

Update: SEC Approves Bitcoin ETFs
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission voted Wednesday to allow mainstream investors to buy and sell bitcoin as easily as stocks and mutual funds, a decision hailed by the industry as a game changer.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Mountain Lions: the Facts Have Changed

The Mercury News runs a front-page story about the over-estimation of the mountain lion population "by several thousands": [bold added]
The total number of mountain lions is estimated to be between 3,200 and 4,500, which is thousands fewer than previously thought. The count was conducted by state and university scientists who used GPS collar data and genetic information from scat samples to model population densities across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Mojave Desert and Southern California’s patchwork of weedy, fire-stripped wilderness...

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife had for decades estimated that the state’s mountain lion population was roughly 6,000 — even despite relentless vehicle strikes, wildfires and encroachment by land-hungry humans throughout their range.

That old figure was just a back-of-the-envelope calculation without much data to support it,” Dellinger said. “The new, more accurate information we collected will be used to conserve and manage mountain lions more appropriately.”
The updated population numbers increase the likelihood that cougars could be classified as "threatened":
If the state Fish and Game Commission agrees, the state Department of Transportation would not be allowed to build or expand highways in core mountain lion habitat without implementing adequate measures to ensure linkages and safe passage over them.

In addition, large-scale residential and commercial development could be prohibited or limited in mountain lion habitats within a region covering roughly a third of the state.
Two years ago the tony town of Woodside attempted to thwart a State law that mandated denser housing by its claim that such construction would endanger mountain lions. Woodside backed down when threatened by State officials.

If environmentalists are serious about the importance of species protection, this new mountain-lion population report should cause them to back Woodside when and if it tries to halt housing construction again.

It will be very interesting if the State ultimately values housing construction over animals, because that will show that the Endangered Species Act is not absolute, which opponents will exploit not only in California but throughout the nation.

Monday, January 08, 2024

The Cock of the Walk

In the buildup to the college football national championship tonight, sportswriters are always searching for new angles. Here's one: Michigan coach's Jim Harbaugh's chickens. [bold added]
Harbaugh is a serious backyard chicken farmer.

“Chickens have made the cut into his pretty small circle of important things in his life,” said Jay Harbaugh, his eldest son and the Wolverines’ special-teams coordinator...

The chickens have become a welcome distraction for Harbaugh during a season that’s been full of them. Michigan has faced two separate scandals and NCAA investigations. Harbaugh’s own future in Ann Arbor is once again the subject of speculation, as professional teams with head coaching vacancies curry his favor for the third consecutive winter.

When it seems like everybody’s out to get Michigan (this year’s team has adopted the slogan “Michigan vs. Everybody”), Harbaugh can count on the undying loyalty of his flock. “There’s times when I’m doing good things for other people, and they’re not as happy to see me as my chickens are,” he said in November.

The Harbaugh chicken coop dates back to 2020, when the family purchased seven chicks—one for each of the coach’s children—just before Easter during the early days of the pandemic shutdown.
The jokes write themselves ("cluck management" WSJ drawing, above right).

On a serious note high-powered individuals often find solace in animals, who unlike two-legged creatures, give them unconditional love.

(photo from KJCT8)
Now that Jim Harbaugh's team, the Michigan Wolverines, won the national championship tonight, it's very likely that several billionaire NFL team owners will want him to be their head coach next year.

At the age of 60 he's about to reach his beak.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

That Old Time Religion

Children's Christmas pageants are now done
before Christmas instead of January 6th
Christmas was simpler when I was a child in the '50's. The tree, lights, and presents were all put up or purchased in the two weeks before Christmas. On Christmas morning I opened maybe three gifts and was lucky if they weren't all clothes. If I did get a toy, book, or game, it was the focus of my attention for the next several months.

December 25th marked the start of Christmas, not its end like today. The tree stayed up through the 12th day, and the 13th was January 6th, Epiphany, the next season on the Church calendar. Speaking of church, there were many services to attend; on December 24th there was afternoon worship for kids and a midnight mass with the adults dressed in finery. The Christmas Day morning service fulfilled our church obligations, then we were off to various gatherings on both sides of the family.

I miss the traditional Christmas.
The 12 days of Christmas run from Dec. 25 through Jan. 5, with that last evening called Twelfth Night—the evening before Epiphany. It’s a time for skits, with a Lord of Misrule appointed to lead the festivities: an evening of “cakes and ale,” as Shakespeare has the drunken Sir Toby proclaim in his own “Twelfth Night” play.

Advent—from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Eve—is a penitential season: a lean time for reflection and confession to prepare believers for the immensity of the birth in Bethlehem. But over the past 150 or so years, Christmas has eaten up Advent, gobbled it down with turkey giblets, and hammered it flat with clove-studded hams. The celebrations have reached so far up the calendar that Christmas arrives as an exhausting end of the season rather than its penitentially anticipated beginning. The partridge in a pear tree is supposed to arrive Christmas Day, not Dec. 14.

The actual Christmas season moves from Christmas to the Feast of St. Stephen on Dec. 26. And then the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children slaughtered by King Herod. Then the Feast of the Holy Family, then Hogmanay, the Feast of St. Sylvester. The Solemnity of Mary, the Feast of the Holy Name, and all the rest.
I also want to reclaim January 6th from political partisanship as the Feast of the Epiphany, but that's another discussion.

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Hot Take

20 years ago there was only one ramen offering on Costco's shelves. Today I counted at least a half-dozen Asian dried noodle products.

Unfortunately, my increasingly sensitive digestive system won't allow me to sample most of them, especially Samyang's Buldak Ramen: [bold added]
Now, [Kim Jung-soo] is CEO.

Behind the 59-year-old’s rise is the unlikely success of a brand of instant ramen she created herself. The noodles are so spicy that many people can’t eat them. Today, packages of the company’s “Buldak” noodles—literally “fire chicken” in Korean—have landed on the American shelves of Costco, Walmart and Albertsons. They will soon arrive in Kroger supermarkets, too.
Kim Jung-soo developed the spicy ramen after observing the popularity of spicy fried rice in Seoul. Her product development skills helped make Samyang become one of the 100 largest companies in Korea and relegated its 1998 bankruptcy to the past.

In a society where it's rarer to find a woman CEO than in the U.S., the 59-year-old Kim looks much younger than her years and will likely lead the company a long time.