Archive for the ‘Other’ Category.

Bleg: A Reliable LED Christmas Light String for All-Year Outdoor Wrapping of a Tree

The subject says it all.  I have wrapped this damn ironwood tree twice and both times the lighting has not lasted.  Since a lot of lighting is designed for holiday use of 3 weeks a year, even something designed for 5 years of life dies in 4 months of continuous use.  For those who do not know, an Arizona native ironwood is gorgeous, one of the most sculptural trees I know of, but it is covered over every single surface with the sharpest thorns imaginable.  I lose a pint of blood every time I wrap this sucker so I want this to be the last time.

Luxardo Cherries Are the Bomb

If all you know about maraschino cherries are those unnaturally red, sweet ones you buy in the grocery store, you are missing out.  Luxardo cherries are fabulous and have pretty much nothing in common with those other ones.  They are fabulous in most cocktails, but I love them with bourbon drinks.  I even use them and some of the juice them come in to mix with bourbon to make a quick and easy old fashioned.  Amazon has them in jars and cans but be prepared, they are expensive.

Things Guaranteed to Make Me Do the Opposite

When the first words of an incoming phone call are "Do not hang up..."

I Feel Like Maybe I Have An Addiction Problem If I Am Seeing This on My Diet Coke

One Unintended Consequence of the Transgender Movement for Women

I am not particularly in opposition to or enthusiastic about the current transgender movement.  On one hand, I have no problem with people managing their lives however they wish.  I met Dr. Renee Richards in 1982, for example (she was coaching a Princeton tennis player I knew) and liked her.  Deirdre Mccloskey is freaking brilliant, I wish I had met her.   On the other hand, as with most social movements on the Left nowadays, mere tolerance and live-and-let-live acceptance is not enough -- the movement demands complete conformity, and mercilessly shames anyone even the least bit slow to discard 5000 years of social norms around gender.  And the movement tends to descend into self-parody from time to time, such as demanding that tampons be provided to people who cannot possibly have a menstrual cycle.

Anyway, most of that is beside the point and is just background to an issue I was reminded of this weekend when I was visiting San Diego.  As many of you know, my company operates public parks and campgrounds for the government.  As such, we were largely subject to Obama-era orders that in Federally-owned bathrooms, people had to be allowed to use the bathroom that matched whichever gender they self-identified as (not necessarily the one matching their birth sex).  Unlike in past rules, there was no requirement that the person had taken any surgical or hormonal steps to transition -- only a self-declaration was required.

I will have to admit that the most entertaining part of this new requirement was explaining modern gender theory to my employees and managers, who tend on average to be over 65-years-old and without a college degree.  There were a lot of wide eyes and "wtf' expressions in the room.  Their main concern seemed to be potentially allowing male sexual predators into the women's room.  I explain to my employees that the extra risk here is trivial for a variety of reasons, but mainly because in practice this comes up vanishingly few times.  There just are not that many transgender people in the world, and campground bathrooms have never been targets for a lot of sexual predation.  Every single time I can remember our employees even being asked about our policy it turned out to be an activist testing us, probably to see if they could create grounds for a lawsuit.

From my experience, then, most public fears about transgender bathroom rules have turned out to be overblown. But, it turns out there is one issue that no one is talking about that could be a real, though not particularly serious, downside for women.  Let me explain.

The one major change in the public bathroom world as a result of the transgender movement is the accelerating shift from having multi-stall female and male bathrooms to having single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms.  If bathrooms are all single-stall, then all the culture wars over gender and bathrooms are completely sidestepped.   Every public bathroom I have seen a government agency build over the last 5 years has been of this new design, and our company's policy is only to build this sort of facility rather than the old two-sided male/female bathrooms.  Here is an example from new construction at the children's pool in La Jolla:

OK, I am going to have to criticize one gender here but since I am going to criticize males, I will be OK.  Men's bathroom habits are terrible -- we tend to pee all over the place.  Even if the median guy is careful, the marginal guy is not and makes a total mess.  We had this problem when my kids were young -- my wife would ask me to take our toddler daughter to the men's room with me and I would tell her that was impossible, that the men's toilets were likely awful.   I can say from experience from cleaning over 1000 public bathrooms a day that men's rooms take way more cleaning than women's rooms.

So if one has these single stall bathrooms, they have to be cleaned a lot.  On busy days, our staff cleans ours 4,5,6 or even more times a day.  But there are many public agencies that apparently do not have the focus or resources to clean on this kind of frequency.  The City of San Diego, or whoever cleans these bathrooms in La Jolla, clearly does not clean enough, because these bathrooms were disgusting.  I did not really want to go in there and I could stand and do my business.  My wife would never have gone in there.

So there you have it women -- something else to look forward to.   That irritating long women's room line may become a thing of the past, but it could be replaced with much dirtier bathrooms.

 

My Favorite Hawaiian Shirt Maker

I was going to post my Friday Hawaiian shirt, but I have come to the conclusion that I look like a serial killer in selfies.  Perhaps I need to do the teenager thing and practice a selfie pose.  Anyway, instead, I will post my favorite shirt-maker, which is Tori Richard.  (I am wearing this one today, which has a puckered fabric I like).

One downside of a lot of Hawaiian shirts is that I don't love the fabric.  Even my Tommy Bahama shirts, which are expensive, give me problems (the raw silk gets really stiff if I wash it and hang it out to dry -- my wife says ironing it would soften it but forget that).  Tori Richard shirts feel great and though they are not on the wildest end of Hawaiian shirts, they look great.  I like the fit of the orange label, which are more tailored than the typical Hawaiian shirt.

You Have to Respect Hawaiian Shirt Friday...

...even if you work alone in a one-person office

When Your Dog Is 90% Hair

About once a year we have to go beyond getting the dog trimmed and let her be shaved in order to get rid of a bunch of matted fur  (we are not very good at brushing her but to be fair she does not do it either).  She is a lot cooler in summer this way but I worry about sunburn.  Before and after:

It is interesting, for a couple of days after she is shaved she acts super-vulnerable, like a person walking around naked or who has body image issues.  Don't worry, it grows back fast.

Personal Umbrella Insurance - Consider It If You Can

Some time ago I was sued by a large corporation over a negative review I posted on this site.  The case was eventually settled, and I am not allowed to talk about the terms or mention the company's name any more.  But I will say the review is still up and unchanged and sits on the first page of results on Google for that company's name, so draw what conclusions you may.

But the case generated over $50,000 in legal expenses for me.  I probably would have paid that out of pocket just because I am curmudgeonly and was not going to back down, but in fact the legal costs were 100% covered by my personal liability and umbrella insurance.  Basically an umbrella means that if anything goes over the coverage limits of your policies, or slips through the cracks of your policies' various coverages, the umbrella kicks in.  The cost for the umbrella is close to a rounding error on my other insurance costs.   I am not even sure I asked for it initially, my helpful insurance guy just threw it in there for a few extra bucks.

A lot of people have to knuckle under to bullsh*t legal threats from corporations and the wealthy (think about all of Donald Trump's silly libel suites) because they can't afford to fight.  Arm yourself with the financial tools to fight such things.  Now, there may be (as with most insurance) good versions of this policy and bad ones.  I am sure we have some insurance folks in our readership who can say more in the comments.

The Culture That is Ausralia

Australian man successfully checks single can of beer on his flight.

Wow, This is My Life

This is pretty much a re-enactment of every discussion I ever have with my wife about our social calendar, with me as the dude on the right.

 

My New Pet Peave: Uber Drivers Who Stop For Gas After Taking My Job

Third time in a row I have had an Uber drive stuck at 5 minutes away from me for 20 minutes, with their car sitting right on top of the nearest gas station.

Quest Complete, Achievement Unlocked

About a year and a half ago when I was in Asia, I saw a lot of folks has laundry racks that were essentially lifts, where one could put the laundry out to dry and then lift it up out of the way.  I thought this would be awesome for our laundry room, which unusually for a laundry room has a 12 foot ceiling.   Since we live in Arizona, I hand a lot of things like my cotton shirts to dry, it reduces the wrinkles and in our 4% humidity it tends to be bone dry after just a few hours.

But it was impossible to find one in the US.  I even had a contest on this web site to try to find one, with no real luck.  So after nearly a year of searching, multiple false starts, language issues, shipping issues, disappearing orders, and a general contractor who had absolutely no idea how to install the thing, we finally meet with success:

It is awesome for us -- lowers to about 5 feet above the ground to make it easy to hang things on it, and then raises high enough that the laundry clears me head.  Down & Up:

      

I'd buy the US distribution rights for this thing if I thought anyone else had similar applications for it over here.

Our New Favorite Gift - Spicy Tequila

It is possible to buy all sorts of infused liquors nowadays, but I have never seen my personal favorite sold in stores -- red pepper infused Tequila.  We first had margaritas made from pepper-infused spicy tequila in Pacific Beach at a restaurant called JRDN and since then it has been a favorite of ours.  Not finding any in stores, we make our own, cutting up 5-6 small red dried chili peppers and leaving them in the tequila for 1-5 days -- the length depends on how spicy you want it and how fresh the dried peppers are.  The first time you do it, you need to try it frequently as the spiciness is unpredictable.  Also, you may want it spicier for drinks where it gets diluted (e.g. margaritas) vs. just drinking straight.

My current favorite every day, reasonably-priced tequila is Cazadores (the one with the stag on the label).  IMO, it is way better than some more famous, and more expensive, brands like Patron.  The gift bottle show above was Cazadores Extra Anejo infused for about 4 days.

If I really want to blow it out, my favorite sipping tequila (do not make a margarita out of this stuff unless you light cigars with hundred dollar bills) is Clase Azul Reposado.  Pero, es muy caro!  If you do light cigars with hundred dollar bills, you can try the Clase Azul Ultra, but I have never had more than a taste given that it goes for thousands of dollars a bottle -- sort of neck and neck with a 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle.

PS-  as with most things that are harmless and enjoyable involving alcohol, this is probably illegal somehow.  Please do not turn me in to the FDA or BATF.

Darwin Award in 3, 2, 1....

Awesome Web Site - Radio Around the World

This is a pretty cool site - spin the globe, click on the dots around the world, and listen in on local radio.  There are other web sites with links but I find this interface way more fun to play with.

Finally, Passing the Mantle of Responsibility to the Next Generation

Years ago I got tired of store-bought cards and cards with pictures of the family taken at Disneyland or skiing or whatever, so I created my own holiday card.  We got positive feedback, so I did another (past examples here, here, here).  I kept on with it, though over time it became a burden -- the weight of it would hit me about November 15:  What am I going to do next year for a card?

But this year my daughter, who is off to art college in Pasadena this January, picked up the mantle and drew our family portrait for our card.  Wow, what a relief.  I feel like a tired 16th century farmer whose son just grew old enough to do the plowing.

So Merry Christmas, or happy whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year.

xmascardforprint2

PS -- OK, I don't want to nitpick, but I guess the 16th century farmer probably criticized the straightness of his son's furrows.   She made the drawing square, which necessitated a square envelope, which in turn cost us 20 cents extra in postage for each since square letters take special handling at the post office.  But it was a small price to pay.

Update:  To the comment that the choice of 16th century for my farmer analogy was sort of random, I happened at the time to be listening to yet another in the Great Courses series (love them) and it was just discussing agrigulture in the 16th century.

Fashion Advice: This Sweater is A Total Chick Magnet

OK, normally I would tell you that the first rule of Coyote Blog is to never take fashion advice from Coyote.  But this is an exception.  Ignore it at your peril.

Being happily married, I have no use for random female adoration, but for those in search thereof, I can tell you from personal experience that this sweater is a total chick magnet.  The last couple years, I have never gone out in it without several women taking me aside and telling me what a great sweater this is.  Via amazon

Costumed Run at @RunDisney

My daughter and I would feel weird at this point to run a 10K or half-marathon without costumes.  For the Marvel #DoctorStrange10K  today at Disneyland, she made a cute Thor costume and I made an Ironman outfit.  Actually I did not bother very much with the rest of the costume details because I spent all my time geeking out over making the lighted arc reactor.  Eventually, I ended up with a very light design using an electro-luminescent panel with an inkjet-printed overlay on transparency film.  I had to hump the battery pack over the whole course but it was not too bad.

Update:  Per several suggestions, a pocket in the shirt for a smartphone with the image of the arc reactor on the screen does not work well.  The phone is too heavy and unless the shirt is really, really tight, it flops around when running.  The EL panel is super light, and the main weight of the battery can be on the belt.

Southern California Real Estate Question

A few months ago I helped my son shop for an apartment in San Diego, where he is working for Ballast Point Beer.  Currently I am helping my daughter look for apartments in Pasadena, where she may be attending art school.  In both cases we found that small studio apartments often have higher rents than one- and sometimes even two-bedroom apartments in the same complex (and with the same fit and finish, amenities, etc.)

What the hell?  I understand that there may be more demand for studio apartments in these neighborhoods among young singles than for larger apartments, but once one sees the studio for $2200 and the one-bedroom for $1800, why would one still choose the studio, which might be half the size?   Ease of cleaning?  Is there some artificial demand from some government or financial aid program that will only pay for studio apartments?  Do Chinese students come to the US and suddenly get agoraphobia from an apartment that is too large?

Best Lego Kit Ever

My daughter and I had a lot of fun putting this together.  The back side is a sort of playhouse, with lots of little references to various Disney animated movies.

We Need A Word For This. Maybe the Germans Have One

The estate process for my parents is finally coming to a close, and we must do a final cleanout of their residence in preparation for selling it.  I ended up with 6 boxes of stuff I shipped to my house that I would classify as "things I really don't want and will likely never look at or use but I can't bring myself to throw away."  My mom's faded wedding dress is in this category, for example.  I need a word for this kind of item.

Typically what happens with this stuff, at least in my case, is a sort of time-based triage process.  I will store it, let 5 years or so go by and at that point, having never accessed any of it, I will get rid of a portion.  My school textbooks steadily vanished in this manner.  Rinse and repeat until the problem with the hard core of assets we can't bring ourselves to shed is passed onto our kids.  Or until something is old enough to migrate from old junk to valuable antique.

I did find a pretty cool, large award certificate my grandfather won at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, which I think I will frame.

If You Want to Worry About Something Other Than This Election....

From the WSJ:

A Midwestern metropolis is under attack from an unseen enemy, with victims pouring into doctors’ offices and pharmacies with telltale wounds.

“Right now I don’t even want to go outside to get the paper,” said 82-year-old Chuck Heinz, a retired manufacturing manager whose upper torso is peppered with dozens of welts.

Megan Kinser, who has been attacked at least two dozen times, goes out only when she has to. “It makes me nervous,” said the 32-year-old pharmacy assistant.

The culprit: Pyemotes herfsi, otherwise known as the oak leaf itch mite.

The eight-legged pest causes intense itching in humans. Native to Central Europe, researchers believe it made its U.S. debut in the 1990s in Kansas City and has since spread to many parts of the Midwest, with outbreaks happening every three to eight years. Nearly invisible to the eye at 1/100th of an inch, the mites are back in full force.

“You can’t see them, they’re microscopic and before you know it they’re under your skin,” said Jared Mayberry, marketing director of Ryan Lawn & Tree in Overland Park, Kan.

People are being told to wear hats and cover most of their skin when they go out and to jump in the shower as soon as they go inside. And to avoid walking under red oaks, particularly pin oaks.

But with at least 3.5 million pin and other red oak trees in the Greater Kansas City area, according to a 2010 estimate by the Agriculture Department, that may be easier said than done.

The arachnid becomes of most concern to humans in the fall, after it spends all summer feasting on the larvae of a gall midge, a fly that nests in oak leaves.

The itch mites eventually tumble to Earth this time of year—as many as 300,000 a day per tree.

It Is All About Mix

After 20+ years of technical, economics, and business analysis, I will offer up my best piece of advice to young data analysis folks looking to make an name for themselves:  Focus on the mix.  Or more particularly, changes in the mix.

The mix of what?  It could be most anything.  Here is a recent example from economics, arguing that the slowdown in wages is in part due to a mix shift in the country's employment to lower-paying industries.  In the corporate world, it could be the mix of markets, or customers, or regions.   Typical metrics used in the business world almost always miss mix.   In a large aerospace company, we had the irritating situation that the profitability of every single product line was rising at the same time revenues were rising but overall profitability was falling.  The problem was the mix.  The most profitable product lines were all on older aircraft, ironically because they were the least reliable (aerospace parts companies have traditionally operated on a razor and blades model, so that more failures let one sell more really profitable aftermarket parts).  As airlines modernized, our mix shifted to new product lines which were less profitable.  This difference in profitability was also due to a mix shift -- since newer products were way more reliable, more newer aircraft in the fleets shifted the mix from aftermarket sales (which were astoundingly profitable) to OEM sales (which were often made at a loss).

The Lifestyle Charity Fraud

For decades I have observed an abuse of charities that I am not sure has a name.  I call it the "lifestyle" charity or non-profit.  These are charities more known for the glittering fundraisers than their actual charitable works, and are often typified by having only a tiny percentage of their total budget flowing to projects that actually help anyone except their administrators.  These charities seem to be run primarily for the financial maintenance and public image enhancement of their leaders and administrators.  Most of their funds flow to the salaries, first-class travel, and lifestyle maintenance of their principals.

I know people first hand who live quite nicely as leaders of such charities -- having gone to two different Ivy League schools, it is almost impossible not to encounter such folks among our alumni.  They live quite well, and appear from time to time in media puff pieces that help polish their egos and reinforce their self-righteous virtue-signaling.  I have frequently attended my university alumni events where these folks are held out as exemplars for folks working on a higher plane than grubby business people like myself.  They drive me crazy.  They are an insult to the millions of Americans who do volunteer work every day, and wealthy donors who work hard to make sure their money is really making a difference.  My dad, who used his substantial business success to do meaningful things in the world virtually anonymously (like helping save a historically black college from financial oblivion), had great disdain for these people running lifestyle charities.

So I suppose the one good thing about the Clinton Foundation is it is raising some awareness about this kind of fraud.   This article portrays the RFK Human Rights charity as yet another example of this lifestyle charity fraud.