Sunday, August 05, 2012

I Live In A Slum

I just learned that, according to various sources, the median home price in Palo Alto, California is somewhere around $2 million.

Those same sources note the median home price in my Zip Code within Palo Alto is a shameful $954,000. My online research also showed the estimated market value of our home is well below the 94306 median.

I am stunned but educated.

I  now understand why some people look at me differently when they learn I live south of Oregon Expressway. I can figure out why the flicker of a smile when I note our home is west of El Camino Real is just a twitch.

I am so ashamed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

No Franc Talk From Romney

I don't much care that Mitt Romney is wealthy. It's no big deal to me that his tax rate is lower than mine. But this $3 million Swiss bank account thing bugs me.

Justified or not, there is something nefarious about an American possessing a Swiss bank account. It says he's hiding something. That Romney declined to include income from that account in his tax return is just plain cheating regardless of the amount.

As for Newt Gingrich trying forgetting to include $252,000 in income on his presidential campaign report -- well, what else would you expect?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Booze, Bullets and Bada Bing

Revelations that Secret Service agents might have enjoyed the favors of a more international roster of prostitutes than earlier disclosed raise important practical questions. And they involve booze and guns.

Americans tend to get all riled up over matters of morality and image and such things. In that context the notion of federal agents cavorting with hookers is worth a dark scowl. But the level of scrutiny into the sexual peccadilloes of hyper-macho guys in a testosterone-fueled profession is misplaced.

Investigators should focus on factors far more serious and relevant to the mission of the agency under fire: How much these gun-toting romeos were drinking and how late they were staying out at night.

No scientific study is needed to conclude that hangovers and exhaustion are antithetical to optimum job performance. And when the job at hand is protecting the president of the United States, it isn't too much to ask that agents exert a higher level of personal discipline than a bunch of plumbing supply salesmen at their annual convention.

It doesn't really matter whether the agents involved had front-line protection roles. Supposedly all their work is important to the mission of preventing harm to the president and other top officials. Missing a detail in a report or blowing off a boring task to nurse a hangover can carry devastating consequences.

When the Secret Service fires agents for hanging out with Colombian or Salvadorian hookers it is attempting to preserve its public image. That is far less important than determining whether the agents involved compromised their mission through their behavior.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pencil Me In

Mellville House
Artist David Reese has written a profound book: How to Sharpen Pencils.

Laugh if you will, but I am sure in my heart Rees' thoughts on the artistry of pencil sharpening will be quoted for years to come. That he is an artisanal pencil sharpener demonstrates his commitment to wood and graphite communications.

Yes, I am, indeed, a pencil person, I have long believed even the most perfect pen has less personality than the five-cent, basic yellow No. 2 we gnawed on as schoolchildren.

The eraserless stick pencil favored by pre-computer-era newspaper editors remains my favorite. I own a small collection of yellow pencils from the San Diego Union-Tribune Publishing Co. and black ones from United Press International. Different in girth and the firmness of their "leads," they each reflect their organization's personality.The Union-Tribune sticks are sturdier and draw a sharper line. UPI's are thinner and wear out more quickly.

When these declining examples of history are trimmed to stubs, I "point"  them one last time and stick them in the pockets of jackets and coats to make sure I will always have something with which to record ideas and the many things I hear and see and absolutely must remember.

One day these artifacts of more halcyon days will disappear into a pile of paint flecks and sawdust. I will be sad. But I will also know that they were used as their creators intended, to communicate and enlighten and amuse. And that will make me less sad.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Must Buy My Car From the Government

As we listen to the Supreme Court arguments on the health care law, understand one point: The federal government already requires each and every one of us to purchase certain products.  Like my car.

I must pay for all kinds of gizmos and features mandated by the feds, including seatbelts, catalytic converters and air bags.

The feds also insist I purchase unleaded gasoline. They tell me I have no choice but to pay for tires that meet specific government safety standards. The upholstery must resist fire of a certain intensity. All of this costs me money and I have no choice but to pay.

And just like health insurance, all of the automotive bits and pieces the federal government orders me to purchase are intended to preserve the health and welfare of me and those around me.

I also know that every one of the 26 state governments arguing against mandatory health care coverage impose specific standards on vehicles that would force me to spend money.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Parents Gone Wild: Pre-preschool

Ventura College
For just $2,555 a month privileged New York parents can enroll their infants in an what amounts to a pre-preschool run by trained teachers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that 300 parents have expressed interest in the 20 slots at the Children's Creative Learning Center and 10 children still in utero have signed up.

The youngest student already attending is 4 months old.

Friday, March 09, 2012


Apple (AAPL) plans to build a $304 million campus in Austin, Texas and more than double its workforce in that estimable state, according to Gov. Rick Perry.

In making the announcement, Perry proudly proclaimed that it was a $21 million taxpayer subsidy that prompted Apple to commit.

That's right. Apple sits on about $97 billion in cash and other liquid assets but felt the need to pick the pockets of Lone Star State citizens to finance its expansion.

It's true that all of Apple's money isn't stashed in a corporate mattress and some of it is needed to smooth out cash flow, meet emergencies and other legitimate purposes. But investor Kurt Shrout writing at the Seeking Alpha site contends Apple could pare its cash hoard down to about $56 billion and still be proportionately as fat and comfy as any of its industry counterparts.

And it could pay for a new Texas HQ with petty cash.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Republicans and Sex

Fresh out of new ideas, Republicans are using sex to keep voters interested.

Vanity Fair
A right-wing radio hosts labels a woman as a slut and a prostitute for wanting to avoid unplanned pregnancies.  A presidential candidate says he would deny an abortion to a girl raped and impregnated by her father. A congressman introduces legislation that would require a metal rod be inserted into the vaginas of women.

I would rather not think about what these folks will come up with when the general election is upon us and things get really serious.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Warren Buffett's Successor Isn't Bill Bucy

The announcement that Warren Buffett anointed a successor as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway set off an avalanche of rumors, most of them ranking me as the No. 1 candidate.

Not true. I'm too busy for the foreseeable future and there's not enough money in the world to get me to move to Omaha, Nebraska. Well, maybe.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Dare You To Find This News Story

"The woman said she found out her house had burned down while watching the news with Maxwell, who told her the house needed to be burned to get rid of his fingerprints..."

OK. It's too bizarre and you have to read it. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Steve Jobs Was More Important Than Me
I know this because the FBI kept a file on Jobs and the last time I checked that sterling law enforcement agency declared it had no idea who I was.

Worse: the file said Steve tended to "distort reality" to achieve his goals and my wife says the same thing about me all the time


Monday, January 23, 2012

Starvation Is Good For Your

Our friends at The Economist report that existing in a constant state of near-starvation will quite likely help you live longer.

How much you will enjoy your life without energy, ravaged by disease and looking like a human skeleton will undoubtedly be the subject of a subsequent story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Note To Delinquents: Man Up Or Shut Up

The California Supreme Court ruled that asking to talk to mom isn't the same as asking to talk to a lawyer.

The decision came in the case of a 15-year-old boy who repeatedly asked to speak to his mother while being interrogated by the cops. The kid was convicted but in his appeal argued asking for mom was pretty much the same as asking for a lawyer, which should have stopped the questioning.

The court disagreed, thereby making it clear where moms stand in the legal world.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Pizza Racism And Bad Taste In New York

Minhee Cho, 24, goes into a Papa John's pizza joint on Manhattan's Upper West Side and the teen-age order taker identifies her as "lady chinky eyes" on the receipt.

Cho Tweets. The Daily News follows up. Details emerge.

The owner fires the order taker while blaming her gaffe on "hip hop culture."

The assistant manager says she hasn't seen the receipt or talked to the clerk, but is sure "they didn’t mean to offend her in any way.”

Cho says she "wasn't super-offended" but still felt a need to chastize Papa John's.

A responding Tweeter asks why she went to a Papa John's while living in the middle of New York City.

And life goes on.