Monday, July 29, 2013

Royal Names

I confess a slight tinge of disappointment that the new British royal baby is male. It is remote that His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge will "have issue" in the remaining years of my lifetime, so I won't know if there's woman monarch in the British Commonwealth's future. Britain has always prospered with a female sovereign. Elizabeth I, Anne, Victoria, Elizabeth II--all winners. At least we'll be spared another Henry or Edward, considering that the last two with those names were (in a sense) "losers". I just wonder why the initials of the names of the new prince were chosen to read "GAL"? A subconscious wish to break new ground and give birth to a future queen?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vin Ordinaire

I have never considered myself a connoisseur of wine. I do enjoy two glasses of wine with my dinner, but they are seldom from a highly-rated example of the vintner's art. I can remember only one occasion when a wine seemed really remarkable. Al Chinn & I were having dinner at Masa's in San Francisco about a dozen years ago. It was a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, but I don't remember the year or the winemaker, which in itself tells one something about my lack of appreciation of fine wine. Many's the time I have attended wine tastings and wine appreciation sessions. I can always go through the approved motions, but it's not my everyday style. Wine today is usually so good that it grates a bit when Barbara asks me to pick out a "good" bottle of wine to give her hairdresser. "All our wine is good", I mutter sotto voce. She reminds me that when we were courting I had been buying Oak Barrel bulk wine, which she considered "plonk"--my word, not hers. She would bring a wine such as CĂ´tes du Rhone for us to share, and 44 years later continues to insist that she taught me to appreciate good wine. The truth is that I'm perfectly content to drink wine with no pedigree.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


It was a Tuesday, and I called to make a medical appointment. I was told that one was available "next Thursday". Being a literalist by nature, my first thought was "an opening in just two days time?". Something about the unlikelihood of this made me check. It was "Thursday next week" that was being offered to me. My guess is that most Americans consider "next" in the context of dates to mean "next week". Within the week, the next occurrence of a given day of the week is referred to simply as (e.g.) "on Thursday". Well, I got that right, and set up my appointment for Thursday of the following week.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I use the word "alms" here in a broader sense than is usual, not only for small handouts given to suppliants or in response to church collections, but also for gifts to assorted "good causes." From early childhood, I was trained to put some of my modest pocket money in the collection at church, and I have always felt that I should donate some funds to charity. My wife & I share that belief, I'm happy to say. We live in a Community Property state, and in over 40 years of marriage I have never had any qualms about sharing my earnings with Barbara. We do each have relatively modest amounts of Separate Property, which gives us flexibility when one of us has a favorite cause, not shared by the other. Over the years we have increased the number of causes we support. A few years ago, I suggested that we eliminate one charity for every new charity we supported. The problem is that generous Barbara suggests all the new causes, mainly environmental funds, and her suggestions for discontinuance tend to be church-related charities that appeal to me. We use Donor-advised funds held by the San Francisco Foundation. There's a modest fee for this, which we do not begrudge. The two advantages of this arrangement are that we receive an immediate tax deduction in the years in which we add to these funds, and that we don't need to keep additional records for tax purposes of each individual "grant" we request. The one disadvantage is that the minimum grant is $250, so that we still need to keep records for smaller gifts of (say) $50 or $100. One of our favorite alternative ways of giving away money has been to purchase deferred Gift Annuities. When I was in business, still earning, this allowed us to take an immediate tax deduction, and add to our retirement income. Barbara's pension from her teaching is modest, as is her Social Security income. My Social Security is greater, but I have no pension. Those annuities and some dividend income enable us to be "comfortably off", and continue to give "alms". If I sound smug about this, I apologize. We do believe in sharing our worldly goods, but please don't call us "wealthy" or describe us as "philanthropists". We are certainly not in the "1%". Our way of life is determinedly "Middle Class".

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I have written before about the harsh treatment given to the young soldier who "leaked" classified information. Again, we hear nothing of any disciplinary action against those who "unlocked the gate", allowing an immature young man to have access to some of our country's diplomatic and other secrets. Manning has spent long months in a Marine "brig", often in solitary confinement and deprived of clothing. A judge has reduced the future sentence because of his mistreatment/ He has already pled guilty to certain lesser charges. He is being tried this month on charges that he aided the enemy. It will be a long trial. There are people who have formed "Free Bradley Manning" groups. LGBT folk in particular have made this a major issue. A little common sense would call for dropping the remaining charges, for which it seems unlikely that he'll be found guilty. He should then be sentenced to "time served" for his guilty pleas, and released, IMO. The administration's insistence on a trial while he still suffers in jail.seems vindictive, and leads to speculation that this gay soldier has been the victim of prejudice because of his sexual orientation. J do not consider those who betray our nation's secrets as heroes. There are proper (though not always comfortable) ways to express opposition to secrecy. The saga of Edward Snowden is still ongoing. I am not impressed by his frantic efforts to stay out of custody. I hope he is arrested and brought to trial for his disloyalty. In my "old fashioned" view of morality, it is totally acceptable to disobey a law if so doing (a) does not endanger others, and (b) if one is prepared to accept the consequences. This can be accomplished without endangering National Security. Those who take that course---even if I disagree with them--may be considered "heroes" by many, as they are acting on principle. Edward Snowden does not appear to meet either test.