Monday, September 30, 2013

Purple Fuzz

This is one of my favorite photos of the year. I left it huge, so clicking on it ought to be worthwhile.

Enjoy.

Mexcan Sage, Salvia leucantha

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Too Much Kindness

I like Megan McCardle. Well, I like her writing and, by extension, I'm guessing I'd like her as a person. She's got a typically good analysis of the Detroit pension mess over at Bloomberg which describes how the pension trustees handed out extra money to the retirees because they felt like it. However, Megan is too logical to understand that what the trustees said was exactly what they meant.
It’s very hard for me to attribute this to something benign, like total economic illiteracy or gross inattention to their responsibilities as pension trustees. I can’t imagine that anyone who can read and do basic arithmetic ever thought that draining off the “excess earnings” in the good years could result in anything other than exactly what it has wrought: a pension fund so disastrously underfunded that it may not be salvageable. No, wait, that’s too kind: they were also draining off … what should we call them? “excess non-earnings”? in years when the economy was melting down, the Dow Jones was trading for less than a Mickey Mantle rookie card and the region’s chief industry was teetering on the brink of extinction. What could they possibly have been thinking?
Megan read precisely what they were thinking and refused to believe it.
“People were having a hard time, living hand-to-mouth, and we thought we would give them some extra,” Ms. Bassett said.
Ms. Bassett cared. That's all that mattered. Ms. Bassett, like so many progressives,  felt certain that the excess money she was handing out would be replaced somehow. "How" didn't matter when she saw "need." That "how" hasn't turned up for any of the other cities or counties or nations where this same sort of thinking has predominated didn't matter either and that's the point Megan is missing.

If you had asked the people in Detroit or Greece or Japan why they handed out money they didn't have and were never going to earn, they'd look at you like you were crazy. Yes, there was graft and corruption and power-hungry political demagogues, but the folks making the financial decisions are all living on a foundational principle of caring. Caring and kindness trumps math. You can see it over and over again, whether it's in Obama's speeches or the harangues of your progressive friends on Facebook and Twitter.

So, yes, Megan, you're absolutely right. They can read and do basic arithmetic. They just don't think those things matter as much as compassion.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Arguing Politics Is To Miss The Point

Last night, my wife and I went to parents' back-to-school night at our daughter's public high school. A couple of the teachers had tangentially political comments to make and one looked like a cartoon character you'd draw of a crazy progressive who waited tables at UCSD's Che (Gueverra) Cafe. Every teacher we met was solidly progressive. I'm certain that, given the political leanings of the education industry, the same little dramas were being played out all over the country.

As I sat there, I thought how surprised these people were going to be when the roof caved in on them. In Chicago, for example, the school system is down $1B and is about to go bankrupt. That led to a very simple thought that, because of articles of secular faith adhered to by the progressives, was probably a complete mystery to the teachers.

The government is simply too large for society.

Really, it's not any more complicated than that. Commercial enterprises pay for the State and if the State gets too big, you have what we have right now - monster debts and deficits leading to school closings, infrastructure rot, pensions reneged and so on. That the progressives fight for more spending and resist the cuts shows how they're a religious movement and not a philosophical one.

When you argue in favor of smaller budgets, the dialog usually goes something like this.
The government is too big.

OK, what would you cut?

Well, we're going to have to cut entitlements because that's where most of the money is being spent.

You'll never cut entitlements. They're too politically popular. In fact, here's a list of Republicans who vote for entitlements all the time.
Which is beside the point.

"The government is simply too large for society" is not a debate issue, it's a mathematical fact. As Detroit is showing us and Japan is about to, to argue politics is to miss the point. Popularity doesn't pay the bills, tax revenue does. If you don't have the income, you can't spend it.

Somewhere out there in the past was a turning point where we as a society decided we didn't need to balance our budgets. I wonder what that was. Keynes, perhaps?

Oh well, it was a nice run while it lasted.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Miracles

So I'm a scientist and engineer by training and practice. I never really believed in all that mumbo-jumbo mystical stuff. I went to church on Sundays and sent my kids to Catholic school, but I rolled my eyes when people got supernatural on me. Still, I bought the concept and performed the rites.

I was in my late 40s when I experienced a miracle. I have no doubt what it was, Who it was or what it meant. Well, to be perfectly honest, I laugh sometimes as the meaning becomes deeper and I realize how shallow my previous understanding was, but jeezey moe, it was God interacting with me, just how deep can I be expected to go to comprehend all the things He was trying to tell me?

When I hear atheists talk about there being no proof of God, I feel like I'm talking to a person who has never left Kansas telling me there's no proof that the Pacific Ocean exists.
"Dude, it's right here. I swim in it. I dive in it. One of our sons surfs in it."
"It's all explainable through science. You are only imagining it."
Sigh.
I was blessed enough to be given proof. It's more than metaphysical.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

You Probably Need To Pacify The Area First

On Twitter, I read through a particularly nasty exchange where some Tea Party type was told, in essence and with a lot of profanity, that they were a heartless scumbag because they wanted to cut government spending. My first response, which I did not post, was to ask, "Is Detroit compassionate?" That's an old theme here at the 'Post - it's not compassion when you go bankrupt, it's actually quite the opposite.

That led me to scope out the Detroit Free Press on line to see how the Motor City was doing these days which led me to this article on street light repair. Detroit's got a lot of infrastructure rot and self-inflicted damage that city crews are valiantly trying to fix. Not everyone is joining in the effort, however.
Although several residents said streetlights are needed in the east-side area, one man suggested keeping them in place could prove challenging.

“You know, it’s a start. ... But then again ... if you get some young guys that are selling drugs out here who don’t want streetlights, they’ll shoot them out,” said David Adkins, 47, who lives on Tacoma, which is part of the east-side project area.
Confronted by this situation, my thought would be to pull all repair crews and occupy and control the area first. If you're so short of money that you can't do all basic repairs or pay full pensions for retirees, it makes no sense at all to fix things only to have them wrecked by the residents. That's like setting fire to what little money you have.

So that's where things stand. They've run out of money to do all the necessary repairs and are faced with trying to extend services into what is effectively hostile territory. That's quite a harvest for the compassionate and open-minded who spent the place into bankruptcy and discarded traditional, nuclear-family-based morality.

Given their budget situation, a Starter Army is probably all they can afford. Still, they could do worse. When it came to pacifying barbarian lands, these guys were pros.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fun Google Music Trick

I just went over to my Google Music account where I've got thousands of songs stored. I looked at my individual songs and then sorted by the number of times I've played them. It turns out that the Monkees are still my favorite, but the Newsboys are almost as popular. Farther down the list, there are some Rolling Stones and swing music, but the list is dominated by the Monkees and Newsboys.

I'm now listening to the list in order. It's way cool. I'm going to make a playlist of all the songs I've heard 10 or more times. It will be eclectic, but it should be full of teh awesome. At least for my taste. :-)

Give it a try!

Update: OK, this is just too weird. The music doesn't flow at all. It goes from mid-60's pop to modern, Christian hard rock to swing to ...

Video Of The Day

I saw that I'm practically copying Dean's post title. Sorry about that, old boy. I suspect my content's a bit different.

Dig this.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rejected West Side Story Lyrics

When you're a Jet
You're a Jet all the way
From your group health plan
To your 401K
You're welcome.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Getting It Back With Interest

Last week I worked at Catholic Charities again, helping the poor and homeless get food. If you ever get a chance to do this, I'd highly recommend it. It's more fun than you can shake a stick at*. I met a guy who had just gotten out of prison and was looking for a start on his new life. I also got to meet several Chinese people and had a great time working through our menu translation. Smiles and laughter all around.

It's definitely worth your time.

* - Properly formulated: More fun than at which you can shake a stick.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Japanese Companies Are Quietly Protecting Themselves

... by getting some of their money out of the country.

A while back I posted links to some alarming commentary about Japan from hedge fund manager Kyle Bass. His takeaway: if you're invested in Japan, get out now. It turns out Japanese companies are doing just that. They're not in an economic boom, so they're not flush with profits, but thanks to the Bank of Japan printing money like mad and making it available and insanely low interest rates, they've got money to spend. They're spending it overseas.

Real estate in Viet Nam.
Japan currently tops the list of 47 countries and territories investing in Viet Nam’s real estate. According to statistics from the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Viet Nam attracted a total of US$12.63 billion of FDI in the first eight months of this year, a rise of 19.5 per cent over the same period last year.
Assorted businesses in Thailand.
Incoming non-portfolio investment reached Bt278.6 billion in the first half of this year, with Japanese projects accounting for 54 per cent of all foreign-owned projects and 66 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI).
Despite having a trade deficit, they're on a record pace for investment outflows.
“In fact, Japanese FDI recorded its biggest monthly outflows from Japan ever in July (JPY3734bn or USD37bn)”.

“If Japanese firms keep investing outside Japan at the current pace, FDI outflows this year could exceed the previous record amount in 2008 (JPY13.2trn)”.

“While FDI is expected to remain elevated, the Japanese trade deficit is estimated to have widened in August”.
They're bringing their money to the US as well.
Softbank Corp. (TYO: 9984), the Japanese mobile network operator, is in the process of completing its acquisition of Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE: S). Earlier this week, Dish Network Corp. (Nasdaq: DISH) dropped out of the fight for the third-biggest U.S. wireless carrier and Softbank now hopes the deal will clear its final hurdles by the beginning of July. Once completed, it’ll mark the largest Japanese acquisition of a U.S. company in more than 30 years.
This would make perfect sense and be a sign of stability if Japan was experiencing tremendous growth and was seeing wild inflation in asset prices at home, but they're not. They've had deflation for quite some time now and their economy has been stagnant for nearly 20 years. To me, this looks like the smart money is getting out while it still can.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Feeling Temporarily Underbussed By The Pope

Yesterday's papers ran stories of an interview with Pope Francis with excerpts talking about how the Church needs to stop yapping about things like gay marriage, contraception and similar minor issues and focus instead on spreading God's love. I had three reactions in succession.
  1. Seriously? We need to stop talking about gay marriage? I've been pretty active in the Church for decades and gays and contraception are not things we talk about voluntarily. The topic is being relentlessly rammed down our throats. Even with all the popular culture emphasis on semen-coated feces* being indistinguishable from our children, we still don't talk about it at Mass. I'm pretty confident that of the last 50 homilies I've heard at Mass, the topic of gays came up in no more than three sentences and those as a member of a set of examples of self-worship. We don't bring the topic up on our own.
  2. OK, I get it. Even if the topic is brought up, it's still a peripheral one. Just because some dingbat starts baiting you with, "Have you finally stopped hating gays?" it doesn't mean you need to respond. Dismiss the subject and move on to the things that matter. It's not that important. If it were, we'd have been talking about it already. See #1.
  3. Duhh, it's the press. Who knows that the pope really said. The press is so gay-besotted that the pope's quote could easily have been taken out of context, blown up, printed on poster board, stapled to a long pole and waved around. I've seen a few references on Twitter and other blogs that this is exactly what happened.
At a higher level, all popes are tough dudes. That's part of the reason they get the job. I don't mean tough for non-Catholics, I mean tough for the faithful. #2, whether that's what Pope Francis really meant or not, is the correct response and it's very, very hard to do.

Focus on Christ's love and God's forgiveness. Got it. Will do, sir.
* - Yes, I know this is terribly crude. However, I'm trying to get with the spirit of the secular science crowd and call things by their proper name. You wouldn't want to be a prude, you know.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yep, That Was Me

Driving in to work today, going through a residential area, I came up on what looked like the crumpled body of a little creature, the size of a cat or possum.

If you're wondering who that was in the car near you saying, "Awww, poor thing" about a bathmat laying in a heap on the street, that was me.

Hey, even bathmats need sympathy sometimes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Should I Give Apple Access To My Medical Records, Too?

... actually, ObamaCare will take care of that problem by digitizing and centralizing the stuff so that's probably a lousy title. Oh well.

Walt Mossberg has his standard Apple fanboy column up today, this one praising the new iPhone and its fingerprint technology. Subtitle: "Fingerprint Technology, New System Make the 5S the Leader of the Smartphone Pack." Walt must never have heard of the NSA.

I'd have to be completely out of my mind to have my fingerprint stored on my phone. Yes, yes, I read about how the fingerprint will only be stored on the CPU and won't ever, ever, ever been shared with anyone else. I'm supposed to trust that? When every big company out there owes its existence to the government, those promises automatically come with expiration dates. The instant some government agency decides it wants access to that data, all they have to do is threaten to enforce this or that regulation on Apple* and poof! no more promise of fingerprint data security.

No iPhone for me, thank you very much.

* - Given how much power has been ceded to the bureaucracy, they can simply rewrite rules to punish defiant companies. No Congressional action is required.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Microsoft Update Drives Me Bonkers

Maybe I just don't know how to use it.

I've got a PC that I had to wipe clean and restore from a restoration partition this week. No problem. All the data was saved and the apps can be reinstalled muy pronto. The restoration took almost no time at all. (Thank you, Dell!) What killed me were the Windows updates. The cycle went something like this.
  1. Boot
  2. Open Windows Update
  3. No updates needed!
  4. Click on "Check for Updates"
  5. Wow! I found some critical updates. Should I install them?
  6. Yes
  7. Download and install
  8. You need to reboot. Want to reboot?
  9. Yes
  10. Go to #1
Why isn't there just a "Bring my computer up to date" button? There was no reason for me to be involved at all. The thing could have gone through that whole iterative process on it's own while I went off and did something more rewarding. Instead, I was up until about midnight nursing the thing.

The sooner Adobe Creative Cloud is available on a Chromebook, the better.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Your Science And Engineering Fact Of The Day

The battery in a 2001 Nissan Altima can be replaced in the time it takes to drink one Newcastle Brown Ale.

You're welcome.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Confronting Mechanical Mortality

The FredMobile, my 2001 Nissan Altima, isn't long for this world. There, I said it. No matter how hard it is to admit, I'm going through the stages of grief dealing with my upcoming loss. I think I'm at the "That's not my oil leaking, that must be another car that parked there" stage.

I wandered around a local Nissan used car lot and the fellow helping me confirmed my fears when he showed me their boneyard of trade-ins fated for auction. 12+ year old cars that have more than 175,000 miles and have been left outside all their lives are worth almost nothing and all need thousands of dollars worth of work to keep them on the road. They were uniformly beaten up and looked a lot like the FredMobile.

I'm hoping I can squeeze another 25,000 miles out of it without putting any money into it. I think it's time to make sure I've got AAA roadside assistance.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It's Not Funny Any More, It's Just Sickening

I've read a lot of the breathless gasping about President Faculty Lounge and Secretary Botox falling down a flight of stairs over Syria but as it goes on and on, it's not interesting any more. A train wreck is fine at a distance and for a moment, but when you get to actually dealing with the real wounded, it's not amusing, it's a horrifying grind.

Yesterday, I saw a WSJ headline about Secretary Botox meeting with his Russian counterpart to discuss this Syrian chemical weapons farce and read a couple of quotes where he acted like something real was going on and he was being all stern and tough with Assad and Putin. It was nauseating. Everyone in the world knows this is a charade in the purest sense of the word. That is, this is not a figurative or allegorical charade, it is, quite literally, play acting on all parts with America as the butt of the joke.

It's going to go on and on and on.

As we were driving around Cambria over the weekend, my wife asked me what I would do about Syria if I were Obama. At the time, I would have backed off the whole thing, blaming congress and fed some long-dead racism case file from the FBI to my lapdogs in the press. I would have gotten Syria off the front page as fast as I could and replaced it with an expose of a 3-person Idaho skinhead movement. We'd all be back to talking about how whitey hates dark-skinned people like we should.

Now because Secretary Botox is an idiot, Syria is going to be thrust in our faces for who knows how long, each day worse than the previous one. It's going to be like hearing the same knock-knock joke over and over and over again with us as the punchline.

All of the right wing bloggers who have used words like "incompetent" and "unprepared" to describe Obama over the last several years were right all along and it's obvious to all. That was fine to type on the keyboard, but the true horror of living under such an administration is going to be worse than you had imagined. It's not prose any more, it's real.

Secretary Botox. Our point man on Syria. We're screwed.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Putin Was Just The Mopping Up Operation

... the Battle for Syria was lost when we withdrew from Iraq.

Assume Obama and Kerry hadn't spent the last month hitting each other in the face with cream pies. Assume for a minute that Obama's soaring rhetoric convinced America to pinprick, err, surgically strike Syria. If either Syria had retaliated in some way or Assad had fallen and it looked like the Al Qaeda goons in the rebel armies were going to grab mustard gas stockpiles, then what? There's no way to follow up on this without the fabled Boots on the Ground.

Just where were we going to stage such an invasion? At sea? With what?

How do you inject, say, 100,000 troops into Syria with no land borders on the place? Syria is geographically large and the damage from either a collapse or a significant retaliation wasn't going to be contained by drone strikes. Not only was nothing prepared for these eventualities, it's not immediately obvious that anything could be prepared. For one, we managed to vacate the best place of all to stage such a force - Iraq - and for another, we've got nothing like the kind of fleet required to support such a massive invasion from the sea.

Everyone wants to focus on the gossipy part of the collapse. Putin dunked on Obama, Putin wrote a snarky op-ed, Obama gave a lousy speech, Kerry rotated his feet through his mouth on a daily basis, Chuck Hagel smeared library paste all over his sleeves while working on his construction paper art project and so on. It's irrelevant. There was no practical way to follow up on the strikes and our enemies all knew it.

The speeches and idiocy were just decorations. The real failure occurred when we gave up on bases in Iraq. Without them, all we were ever going to have were speeches and a couple of cruise missiles. That's no deterrent to a guy who's willing to gas thousands and others who are willing and able to support him.

This is what landing 100,000 troops looks like.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

You're Nothing Special

... so saith our Secretary of State*, Vladimir Putin.
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.
Snarking aside, that editorial was about a thousand times more coherent than anything coming out of Laurel and Hardy. When I read it, I thought I could see Russia's motivation in supporting Assad. The last thing they want are more weapons in the hands of Islamofascists, finding their way into Chechnya and Russia.

Just what the heck America is trying to accomplish remains a mystery.

* - At least I think that's his title. Since he's running our foreign policy, that's got to be his position, right?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Buy The Newsboys CD

No, really. Go buy it.


I got it on a whim off a Pandora playlist and so far I've loved every track.

Now stop reading this and go buy the CD.

The Model UN At Punahou School Was Never Like This

... where Billy gassed some of the second graders and then Joey stood up for him and made a total fool out of Jane and Walter as they bumbled around trying to do something about it until Wayne, Barbara and Massoud all quietly left the room to go watch Spongebob Squarepants.

When they got older, international relations seemed so easy in the Ivy League faculty lounges.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'm Going To Turn Into A Criminal

I swear, that little sticky tape they put at the top of CD jewel boxes is enough to make me start pirating music.

Maybe You Can Hear This

... I know I can't. I've tried several times today to make it through this song, but I keep getting interrupted. Enjoy it for me.


Monday, September 09, 2013

What If The Russians And Chinese Shoot Down Some Of The Tomahawks?

The Tomahawk cruise missile is a relatively slow flyer. Like the V-1 of WW II, military aircraft of today are faster than it is. Given that they have to be fired from naval platforms of known locations in any attack on Syria and given that Chinese and Russian warships outfitted with surface-to-air missiles are in the area, what happens if the aforementioned use the cruise missiles like skeet shooting targets?

What if the Chinese and Russians have aircraft in the air and relay targeting data to Syrian anti-aircraft missile batteries? Is that a provocation? An act of war? A humiliation we'll just swallow?

Would we go to the UN and demand signal inspectors examine captured, raw RF data logs in order to determine who tipped the Syrians of and then demand a strongly worded letter against the Russians and Chinese, both of whom are on the Security Council?

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Montana De Oro Tide Pools

Yesterday we went south from Cambria to hike around in Montana De Oro State Park. It's not a very big park, but it's got enough to keep you busy for the day. The land is coastal desert, a lot like the canyons around where we live in San Diego. The coast, however, is quite rocky, very different from the soft, sandy beaches of home. The tide pools are plentiful and dramatic.

A cool, murky day added to the mystery and romance of the pools.
In San Diego, at least around La Jolla Cove, it's a decent swim to get from the shore to the kelp beds when you go diving. Here, there are any number of places where you'd be out into something interesting within a short distance from shore. The water's colder so you'd need a heavier wetsuit, but the sea life would have to be different, too. I might give diving a try the next time we come up.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Seaweed Pressed In Glass

... at least that's what this looked like to us. It's actually a seaweed assortment growing off the pylons of the pier in San Simeon Bay. I felt like the plants had arranged themselves perfectly for our viewing pleasure.

It's as if they were showing themselves off, hoping you'd select one of them to take home.

Everything You Need To Know About AT&T U-verse

So we finally managed to wrestle AT&T to the ground and get the Interweb Tubes turned on here at the rental. Well, "turned on" is probably not the right phrase, given how often this comes up:

My favorite part is the URL. HURL01. Hurl, indeed.
Fail.

On the plus side, we hiked in Big Sur yesterday at Salmon Creek and got some nice waterfall photos. We've got an ocean view here and I captured the sunset yesterday, turning it into a 1-minute video. The photos are something I can probably share while we're here, but the video will have to wait. Uploading a 30MB file to YouTube through this DSL connection has almost no chance of success.

Friday, September 06, 2013

I Have No Choice But To Go Out Into The Real World

We're spending a long weekend up in Cambria. We have rented a perfectly lovely house that has excellent ocean views. Well, except for the fact that the ocean views they showed on the Internet had the numerous telephone wires Photoshopped out. Still, it's a beautiful place.

I would include photos, but there is no Internet service. Thanks to AT&T, there are so many locks on the Internet access that it has been impossible to get on.

Flipping through the DirecTV channels last night, we found nothing but porn and horror movies. Aside: what is wrong with you people? How in the world can there be enough demand to support 34 porn channels? And how many disembowelments do you need to see?

Meanwhile, the sports channels have all been disabled. That means we won't be able to watch any of the World Cup qualifiers this weekend. At least, until they can manage to get the Internet working.

That means we are just going to have to go out and hike in Big Sur. I feel so incredibly put out.

:-)

Seriously, though, I hope you have an equally enjoyable weekend. I'll try to share some photos later.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Green, Leaf-shaped Grasshopper

We found this handsome chappie in our back yard the other night and he held still for me while I fried his retinas with macro, flash photos. The poor thing has a confused look on his face as if to say, "Why do you keep doing that flashy thing to me?" My favorite part is the leaf-texturing along his sides. He's not just leaf-colored, he's leaf-shaded. Well done, sir!

I left the photos large so they might be worth a click. I'm hoping Tim could do a quick ID here. I started to peruse the bug guide, but ran out of time.


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

We're Not Going To War In The Classic Sense

... we're just going to shell them for a while from a bunch of warships off their coast.


It's a fine distinction, but I think you can see what John Kerry's getting at.

Fortunately, neither Syria nor their Hezbollah allies are capable of formulating a retaliatory response. I mean, really, what are they going to do, blow up some American civilians somewhere? It's not like these are the kind of guys who would do that sort of thing. No, I envision them sitting in the corner with their hands folded neatly on their laps, thinking long and hard about what they've done.

Tierrasanta September Sky

We had some dramatic clouds for Labor Day, so I did a 30 minute video, condensed down into 30 seconds. There's a full HD version available at YouTube. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Amazing Cat Behavior Of The Day

Dig this.

Uh-Oh Of The Day

Kyle Bass is pessimistic about Japan.

Convincingly pessimistic.

Fortunately, his doomsday scenario won't come to pass until private entities start dumping Japanes bonds (JGBs).

Uh oh.
Japan’s public pension fund, the world’s largest, said it has been selling domestic government bonds as the number of people eligible for retirement payments increases.

“Payouts are getting bigger than insurance revenue, so we need to sell Japanese government bonds to raise cash,” said Takahiro Mitani, president of the Government Pension Investment Fund, which oversees 113.6 trillion yen ($1.45 trillion). “To boost returns, we may have to consider investing in new assets beyond conventional ones,” he said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Obesity In The Hood

Earlier this weekend, we were shopping at the Ikea in Carson, CA. It serves a polyglot clientele and I was struck by the number of morbidly obese, mid-20s women with kids walking, err, waddling the aisles. None of them had wedding rings, so feel free to insert the standard Scratching Post moralizing here. I spent a little time googling the issue and came up with this as the standard explanation.
After the 1992 riots, city government made it a priority to bring full-service grocery stores back to South and East L.A. neighborhoods, and though there were some successes, most of the stores that did open closed soon after. Now, there are 60 full-service grocery stores in South L.A. serving an average population of 22,156 residents per-store, compared to 57 stores in West L.A. that serve only 11,150 residents on average.

While the disparity in access to healthy food is undeniable, the potential solutions are more debatable – how can the city, and the residents of South and East L.A., attract grocery store chains?
Which is answered in the next two sentences.
Why can't a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's turn a profit in traditionally underserved areas? If they build the markets, will the customers come?
The analysis of the situation always assumes that the residents want to have a healthy diet, but don't have access to it. That seems to defy business logic. The numbers above show that if there was really a demand for the product, the stores would open. Grocery store chains are pretty sophisticated operations and they don't leave much on the table when it comes to making profit.

This parallels the education argument in the same neighborhoods. When poor performance is seen, all kinds of explanations are trotted out with the exception of: they just don't care.

That explanation would seem to fit all the facts.

Image from this post which itself has a related story.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Father John

I am blogging from my Galaxy S3 while parked outside a person's house where my wife is inside bringing Communion to the homebound. I spent the morning watching English Premier League soccer and wasn't quite sure what I would post to the blog today, but God provides.

One of the things that always struck me about Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II was how they gave their bodies completely to Christ. They did not end there ministries until they were physically unable to go on. It was a fantastic example to the rest of us of how to completely devote ourselves to God.

At our parish we have a very elderly priest named Father John. He is old and infirm he struggles to walk and most of the time he is in great pain. He said Mass this morning for the first time in probably two months. There were other priests who could have said Mass in his place, but he chose to do so. I don't know what his motivation was, whether it was something he loves to do and wanted to do again or whether it was an act of devotion. Whatever his reason, it was tremendously inspiring and moving.

His homily was given in a clear, ringing voice and spoke of humility. He spoke with humor and feeling. It was great.

You don't always need to look to famous nuns or popes for inspiration. Sometimes a simple parish priest will do.