Why I'm Not Ready to Have Kids

Boy's Screaming Kills Chickens

BEIJING, Jan 24 (Reuters Life!) - Hundreds of chickens have been found dead in east China -- and a court has ruled that the cause of death was the screaming of a four-year-old boy who in turn had been scared by a barking dog, state media reported on Wednesday.

The bizarre sequence events began when the boy arrived at a village home in the eastern province of Jiangsu in the summer with his father who was delivering bottles of gas, the Nanjing Morning Post reported.

A villager was quoted as saying the little boy bent over the henhouse window, screaming for a long time, after being scared by the dog.

"One neighbor told police that he had heard the boy's crying that afternoon and another villager confirmed the boy screaming by the henhouse window," the newspaper said.

A court ruled the boy's screaming was "the only unexpected abnormal sound" and that 443 chickens trampled each other to death in fear.

The boy's father was ordered to pay 1,800 yuan ($230) in compensation to the owner of the chickens.


Save the John Barleycorn!

John Barleycorn is Closing!

The John Barleycorn, one of San Francisco's hidden gems for nearly 40 years, is being forced to leave. Luisa Hanson, the new owner of the property at 1500 California Street, the building which houses the Barleycorn, refuses to discuss any renewal of the lease, which expires in June.

Read the whole story and do something about it: www.savethebarleycorn.com

Make sure to read about the history of this place. We can't let it go!!!

And where will I go to have random drunk regulars hit on me in front of a wood-burning fire while eating a Front Room pizza?


We All Need a Drink

So it doesn't belong on the Soundtrack to my Soul, but it does need to be listened to by all--I just heard Terri Clark's new song for the first time:

Turn on the TV
More crime in the streets
More trouble in the middle east
And fires out west

Politicians slingin dirt
Got descension in the church
Another law suit in the works
Man you talk about a mess
Too much tension between miss liberty and the eiffel tower
Its about time we all made up at some big happy hour

I think the world needs a drink
I think enoughs enough
Shes been spinnin around so long i think she's pretty wound up
Calm down, sit back, relax
Tear up the contracts and save the ink
Yeah I think the world needs a drink
I bet we'd get somethin done
Over 2 for ones
Rubbin elbows with the big guns
Wouldn't that be cool?

Call all the rich and the poor
The peace keepers and the warlords
We'll cut some deals over nothing more
Than a shot of 90 proof

There ain't nothin wrong a few cold beers can't iron out
In fact you tell me just when and where and I'll buy the first round
I think the world needs a drink
I think enoughs enough
Shes been spinnin around so long I'd say she's pretty wound up
Let's all calm down sit back relax
Tear up the contracts and save the ink
Yeah I think the world needs a drink
Hey let's all calm down sit back relax
Tear up the contracts and save the ink
Yeah I think the world needs,
Dont you think the world needs a couple drinks
I know I do
Yeah thats right


People Who Suck at Their Jobs

Dude, I would so be a better choice than this chick mentioned on wnbc:

A grants administrator for the Rockefeller Foundation was convicted Wednesday of stealing $421,000 from her employer by looting a matching gift program that triples donations made by employees to nonprofit charities.

Cheryl McEwan was found guilty of two counts of second-degree grand larceny and six counts of filing false business records after her second trial on those charges. Her first ended in a hung jury in November. McEwan, who earned $80,000 a year at the foundation, faces up to 15 years in prison on each second-degree grand larceny charge, the top counts, when Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Kahn sentences her Feb. 28.

From 1998 through 2004, McEwan, 51, falsely reported that she had written personal checks for donations to Green Sphere, an environmental charity. She then submitted the receipts for her donations to the foundation. A Green Sphere founder, Frank Melli, would cash McEwan's checks, apply to the foundation for the triple matching gift and kick back McEwan's donation and more, prosecutors said. The defendants stole $188,500, prosecutors said.

Does she know how lucky she is to work at the Rockefeller Foundation? Seriously? And she didn't think they'd find out? Blah.

Hire me. I'll take $80k to help give money away. And, I'll actually give it away.


Real Estate

I constantly complain to outsiders about the cost of living here in San Francisco. I believe, though, that my mouth has just been shut for me:

A 77 square foot (and no, I'm not forgetting a third digit) former storage room is for sale as a $335,000 apartment in London.

For comparison sake, in San Francisco, $335,000 will get you a 700-800 square foot 1br condo. In southern Missouri, that much will buy you a two story 5 bedroom house with a large yard.

Dude...if it's longer than 11 feet, I wouldn't even be able to lay width-wise in it.

So no more complaining about costs from me. For awhile. :)


Six Degrees of Usefulness

USA Today Reports:

Kevin Bacon has a confession.

That silly Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game? The truth is, he's no good at it. "It's confusing," he admits. "I can't remember all the movies I've been in, so I surely can't recall someone else's films." The object of the game is to connect any famous person to Bacon within six steps.

Finally, after a decade of living with the Six Degrees curse ("I always thought it would just go away, along with the Pet Rock"), Bacon has discovered a way to make the phenomenon rise above being an annoying gimmick.

A year ago, he bought the domain name SixDegrees.org. And on Friday, the actor will be at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, to launch SixDegrees.org, an online charitable-giving site that is inspired by his namesake game and driven by today's obsession with celebrities.

Read more!

With the success of MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, and the like, I can only imagine good things for this. My Six Degrees badge will follow soon!

Another View on Gates

The Economist reported on the leader of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Patty Stonesifer in article yesterday:

BEING called “incredibly disingenuous” by the Huffington Post, an influential blog, cannot have been how Patty Stonesifer expected to mark her tenth anniversary in charge of Bill Gates's efforts to make the world a better place. But these are strange times for the chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable institution accustomed to being showered with praise. Two recent articles in the Los Angeles Times accused the foundation—the world's wealthiest, with assets of $32 billion—of profiting from investments in companies whose activities contribute to the very problems the foundation is trying to solve (poverty, debt, disease and so on). This prompted an avalanche of media comment along the lines of “giving with one hand, taking with the other”.

Meeting the straight-talking Ms Stonesifer, it is hard to imagine anyone less disingenuous. This is easily the most hostile press coverage of the foundation in the decade since Mr Gates asked her to take over the day-to-day running of his foundation, shortly after her departure from a senior post at Microsoft, his giant software firm. But, she says, this is the price—a “small price”—that the foundation has to pay for having come so far during that time. “We have become the reference point for all the interesting questions in philanthropy,” she says. And whether a charitable foundation should use its portfolio of assets to reinforce the thrust of its giving—or “mission-related investing”—is, she says, “certainly an interesting debate”.

Many American foundations are jumping on this particular bandwagon, either by screening nasty firms out of their share portfolios, trying to improve bad firms through shareholder activism, or accepting lower financial returns in pursuit of a double or triple bottom line that takes non-financial results into account.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of this plays out.


New Orleans Transplants

I will always be bitter that my hometown boy left his wife for another woman, but I have to admit that Brad Pitt is doing great things now that he's with Angelina Jolie. The couple just bought a house in the French Quarter. (The article announcing this used the term "mansion", but since I've moved to San Francisco, it seems silly to call anything that costs only $3 million more than a simple house.) This really could be one of the greatest advances for the Katrina Recovery effort. As a couple that's so active in helping those in need, Pitt and Jolie have already invested in reconstruction efforts in the Lower 9th Ward. If they're faced with it every day, they just might do all they can to fix it.

You can read the whole AP article at myway.

And maybe New Orleans will knock a bit of the LA out of the Missouri boy turned cheating ass and get him back on the right track.


Investments: Good or Profit?

In Life of Pi, a character states that "...the Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims...". Bill Gates has seemingly found a compromise by achieving greater profit for his company and working toward greater good with his personal foundation. The recent issues regarding the foundation's investment choices, however, call into question this compromise.

An article in the Financial Times last week went so far as to say that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "snubbed" the whole movement of socially responsible investing in their philosophical statement posted on their website.

Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, on Friday delivered a snub to the ethical investment movement by saying his foundation should concentrate on grant giving, rather than judging the social impact of businesses in which it invests.

In a statement on its website, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic body with $35bn in assets, ruled out screening companies in which it invested based on factors such as their environmental record or lending policies.

I believe the FT article goes a bit far in its interpretation of the statement, but it does raise a major question: Can ethical investing lead to good returns, or does it intrinsically lead to lower returns than investing without consideration of ethical factors? Can the greater good and the greater profit coexist?

This is a question Pete and I have addressed several times. He owns stock in Mobil. Should we at some point get married, I would then own stock in Mobil. This is a question for me. The first part of the question is whether Mobil is even actually an ethically questionable investment. It may very well not be for me, and I would need to do a great deal of more research before determining that for myself. For the sake of argument, however, let's assume that this stock is bad. When it then becomes shared stock, do I ask Pete to sell and invest in something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy? This stock put him through college. This stock might just sustain him (or us) in retirement. Do we give up that return to be better people? Do we have to give up a return at all? Investment experts are all over the place on this issue. The Financial Times quotes two with very different opinions:

The official [of the Gates Foundation] said: “We focus our energies on the investments we can make through our programmatic work, because that is how we can have a direct and dramatic impact that will improve people’s lives.”

Penny Shepherd, chief executive of the UK Social Investment Forum, said: “This is a rather out-dated perspective. The evidence is that you can invest responsibly without damaging your financial returns.”

However, Danny Truell, chief investment officer at the Wellcome Trust, the UK’s largest medical charity with a £14bn endowment, endorsed the Gates’ approach, arguing that focusing on ethical investment would sharply limit returns.

And even if ethical investments do limit returns, shouldn't we do it anyway? I'm not sure how I feel about the average joe's investments, but Bill Gates is THE leading examble of charitable giving in our time. I feel very strongly that Gates, as this role model to the rest of the world, SHOULD be making socially responsible investments. I think people in his position have to make a compromise. Perhaps the returns are somewhat lower, but is that really going to hurt the charities? In my January 8th post, I quoted an LA Times article that stated that Gate's giving in the Niger Delta was less than half of his investments in companies that contribute to the pollution and other problems that affect the people in the same region. So how do we solve this dilemma?

This time around, it seems we're not getting the answer from Gates.


Gates Addresses the Issue

In response to the criticisms made of the Gates Foundation investments, Many papers reported that the foundation is reassessing its investment policies. The LA Times reported:

In a significant change, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it would review its investments to determine whether its holdings were socially responsible.

In addition to what it called a continuing review of "our approach to investments," the foundation said on its website, "we will review other strategies that can fulfill a social responsibility role, both in terms of their aspirations and in understanding the impact that they may have."

...In its website statement, the foundation said it would establish a procedure in which the founder and his wife would personally assess its holdings and matters of social responsibility. "We will … formalize the process," it said, "by which Bill and Melinda Gates analyze and review these issues."

Experts in socially conscious investing said the development would probably cause other foundations to rethink their endowment policies. The David & Lucille Packard Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, both among the nation's 10 largest, said Wednesday that they too were reevaluating their investments to assess social and environmental effects.

..."They have become the face of philanthropy for the country, if not the world," Gunderson said. "The move you saw today is the kind of socially responsible reaction that the Gates Foundation will consistently engage in … because they recognize their impact on all of philanthropy."

But just a few days later, the chief executive said the foundation is NOT planning this change. Again, from the LA Times:

Despite recent statements that it planned several changes, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will keep its current approach to investing its endowment, Patty Stonesifer, its chief executive, says.

It would be naive, Stonesifer said in a letter published today on the editorial page of the Los Angeles Times, to think that changing the foundation's investment policy could stop the human suffering blamed on the practices of companies in which it invests billions of dollars.

Stonesifer wrote in response to an investigative series published by The Times last Sunday and Monday that showed that the Gates Foundation, founded by the chairman of Microsoft Corp., reaps vast financial gains from investments in companies that contribute to the human suffering in health, housing and social welfare that the foundation is trying to alleviate.

In a more personal article, the Gates Foundation Chief Executive speaks out:

In the recent coverage of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's investments, The Times implies that we have made secret investments. We have always been open about the investments we make. Every corporate stock and bond we invest in is listed on our public tax forms, which are posted on our website going back to 2002.

The stories you told of people who are suffering touched us all. But it is naive to suggest that an individual stockholder can stop that suffering. Changes in our investment practices would have little or no impact on these issues. While shareholder activism has worthwhile goals, we believe a much more direct way to help people is by making grants and working with other donors to improve health, reduce poverty and strengthen education.

Bill and Melinda Gates have always reviewed investments and will continue to do so. To explain our philosophy and clarify how we make decisions, we have posted a statement on our website, gatesfoundation.org.

Hrrrrrmmmmmmm. What's next?


Life of Pi

I don't like castaway novels. (Ironic coming from someone who LOVES Lost.) I hated Robinson Crusoe. I have yet to read Moby Dick and no intentions of doing so. I never liked that Sole Survivor book. I'm just not a fan of reading about someone lost at sea and trying to make it back to civilization. Somehow, I find it boring.

Life of Pi is a castaway novel. The main character spends most of the book on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Life of Pi is different, though. Life of Pi is an amazing tribute to the beauty of life--stretching across science, religion, and art. This is an incredible story, not only of the will to survive, but of the minutae that represent the very basics of life.

I, as the avid reader who hates these kinds of books, LOVE this book. I couldn't put it down. No dullness, no waiting, no terrible desparation. This novel, full of suspense, operates under a veil of hope that shines through every page.

Please read this book.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams."

"All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive."

"...the Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims..."

"Which is the better story?"

Silly Murders

Parking really is a hot commodity in the Bay Area!

An article in the Chronicle:

33-year-old Oakland man was gunned down in a "silly" argument over a parking space at his apartment complex, police said today.
"It's just silly that this resulted in a homicide," said homicide Sgt. Tony Jones. "A guy parks in the wrong parking space. They argue. A gun comes out, and a man is dead."

Did he really just use silly and homicide in the same sentence?


Rules of English

The question came up today at work as to whether we are offering a grant toward the cost of a project or towards the cost of a project.

The ever handy google answered quickly, of course.

While we individually vary in how we use this, many of us tend to say add the s due to pluralization in the sentence.

For example, we say "grant monies toward the cost" or "a grant towards the cost". Apparently, this change is totally unnecessary. Both forms of the word are correct, with the s not creating a plural or singular form because the word is used as a preposition.

EnglishRules.com does point out, however, that Americans tend to use "toward" while Brits tend to use "towards". Just another example of their fancy schmancy English adding extra letters and such (e.g. colour, dialogue, cheque).

You learn something new every day.


Socially Responsible Investing

I give Pete crap about having stock in Mobil, but I have to say i don't think that's nearly as bad as huge public figures investing in hypocritical ways--like Bill Gates. Sadness.

Dark Cloud Over Good Works of Gates Foundation

An excerpt:

The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe.


How Capitalism WILL Save the World

Bloomberg offers one example:

The Office of Economic Opportunity -- a $150 million plan to offer innovative solutions utilizing private resources to help New York's poor.

Bloomberg for President?

The Cost of a Human Life - The Philanthropic View

Peter Singer (I've always thought of him as "the ethics guy") wrote a fabulous article on the value of human life versus the way we give to charity. He makes two strong assumptions that should then lead to a pattern of giving:

1. If we were to place a number on the value of a human life, it would surely be in the millions.

2. All people are created equal.

Singer attempts to determine an appropriate amount of giving that would even out the discrepancies between intrinsic worth (which should be equal) and actual net worth in dollars (bill gates vs. you or me). He points out that Gates has given away nearly 35% of his total worth, while former partner Paul Allen, the 5th richest man in America, has given only 5% (although that 5% reaches over $800 million). Should we all strive to be like Gates? or is 5% enough? Who would tell Paul Allen that $800 million is not good enough?

Singer then goes through various income brackets and argues what they could reasonably give, pointing out that the richest of the rich (the top .01% of taxpayers) could reasonably give 1/3 of their income and still be super wealthy. The rest of the top .1% could give 1/4. The top .5% could give 1/5, and the rest of the top 1% could give 15%. If the then remaining top 10% of taxpayers paid a traditional tithe of 10%, a total of $404 billion could be given to those in need. Singer admits the scale could be steeper, so that the rich pay more and the comfortable pay less, but regardless of the scale, this is only asking the top 10% to pay a relatively small amount. But it adds up to so much!!! And this is only from America. If the rich in other countries did the same, think of what could happen to global poverty!

He says so much more, but the point is made.

I personally believe very strongly in a capitalist society, but have always felt that includes the generosity of the rich to the poor. If only the richest of the rich took heed and followed Singer's plan to share brotherly love, capitalism could still lead to the greatest cure for social problems in our times, too.

The challenge is on, rich folk.