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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

OCTOBER BONBONS

The first day of October is a rather important day in history:
  • In 1891 Stanford University first opened.  Amazingly enough, my high school, McKinley, in Honolulu, is much older, 150 years old, in fact, beginning in 1865.  As William McKinley did not become President of the United States until 1897 (he was assassinated in 1901), we started as the Fort Street English Day School.  As President McKinley influenced the annexation of Hawaii, in 1907, when the school was moved to the present site, it was renamed McKinley High School.  My graduating class had around 850 students in 1958.  Today, only 450/class.
  • 1903 saw the first World Series, Boston Americans vs Pittsburg Pirates.  The 2014 Pirates are today playing the San Francisco Giants in a wild card game.  The WCG between the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics yesterday was the most exciting in the history of the game.  KC won, but how they did it was through a series of near miracles.  The last time they were in the Major League Baseball playoffs was 1985, and they won the World Series.  It's a long road, though, for if the seventh game is played, that will be October 29, and it has been known to approach 32 F in D.C. on that day.
  • Henry Ford first sold his Model T in 1908 for $825, which would be about $21,000 today. That is Ford with his Model T, which was known as the "Tin Lizzie," for Lizzie was then a slang term for faithful servant.  This car was sold for twenty years, with 15 million rolling off the assembly line, and was replaced by the Model A.
  • The People's Republic of China was established in 1949, headed by Mao Zedong.  Well, they misnamed themselves, as the country should instead have been called the Communist Party Dictatorship of China, for they are today being challenged for democracy by the people of Hong Kong.  An umbrella has become the symbol for freedom, with Tony Christie's Tie a Yellow Ribbon said to be the theme song.  He never did have a hit with this song, but he is British, and Hong Kong once belonged to the United Kingdom.  Tony Orlando with Dawn first made this tune popular in 1973 when yellow ribbons were tied around any tree (although an ole oak tree was the correct one) to welcome back fighting troops.  Actually, the lyrics are about a criminal leaving prison. While there is no link to China, John Wayne did also in 1949 star in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
  • In 1964, Japan's bullet train, the Shinkansen, first began high-speed service between Tokyo and Osaka, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics.  It has carried 10 billion people with ZERO passenger fatalities.  While the highest normal speed is 200 MPH, this train has reached 275 MPH and 361 MPH on their experimental maglev system.  I purchased a one week Japan Rail Pass to see the fall colors next month.  Get the Green Car option, and you can only purchase this bargain outside of Japan.
  • What some consider to be the best sport event in history  (mind you, there are detractors) occurred in the Philippines, the Thrilla in Manila, Ali-Frazier III, when the referee stopped the fight for Ali after the 14th round.     It was 1975, Ferdinand Marcos was still running the country, Ali's mistress caused a scandal, Ali kept calling Frazier a gorilla, the ringside temperature was 120 F...it goes on and on.  WATCH THE WHOLE FIGHT HERE, all 51 minutes in almost high definition color.  Sorry for those irritating boxes.  Joe Frazier passed away at the age of  67 from liver cancer, while Muhammed Ali is 72 and suffering from Parkinson's Disease.
There is more to October 1, but let me end with the stock market.  Four of the worst days have occurred in the month of October, with #2 on 15 October 2008 seeing the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking 733, and #1 on 29 September 2008 at minus 778.  That was only six years ago, at which time I bought.  I did exceptionally well and recently sold everything anticipating the worst this year or next.  The Dow dropped 238 today.   The Depression of 1929 began in October. Watch out!

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Well, Phanfone is now a typhoon at 95 MPH, expected to strengthen into a Category 4, and the current track has moved closer to Japan, with landfall now expected over  Yokohama!


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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

THE HORROR OF VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS

Last year I had a posting entitled, RAINBOWS, KILAUEA AND GOLF.  For reasons that confound me, this entry regularly registers among the top ten viewed for the day.  I don't think "golf" is the reason.  Possibly, "rainbows" might be the attraction, for  TEACHING RAINBOWS is regularly pinged.

I think, though, that volcanoes are the greater allure, for EYJAFJALLAOKULL, KATLA AND KILAUEA has received considerable attention.  People are particularly interested in natural disasters, and volcanic eruptions are constantly occurring.  That's big E to the right in 2010, causing considerable grief to European flights.

The Washington Post recently had an article about why volcanoes are erupting all over the place right now.  Of the theories mentioned, one had to do with a minute change in the rotation of Planet Earth, and second...GLOBAL CLIMATE WARMING!  Love this topic, for volcanic eruptions make for spectacular photos.  So here is another one from Iceland.


The journal, Terra Nova, showed that changes in the Earth's rotation tended to be followed by increases in global volcanic activity.  Basically, cracks are induced due to stress variations and magma rises to the surface.

The greater cause, however, is suspected to be climate change, for historically, the loss of planetary ice not only increases sea levels, but results in a significant spike in volcanic activity.  For example, 19,000 years ago, glaciation was at peak, with even much of Europe under ice.  Mind you, this is a time in history when farming had not yet developed.  Volcanic eruptions became much more frequent.  But it takes time, for it was between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago that the global level of volcanic activity rose by up to six times.  Iceland, already one of the most active sites, in that period was 30 times more active.  Why?  Ice sheets are heavy, where the absence of ice reduces rock stress, allowing magma to ooze up to the surface.  I might add that volcanic eruptions add carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


Activity is waning in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, but has picked up in Iceland (above), Ecuador Indonesia, Mexico, Japan and Hawaii.  Mount Ontake, 130 miles west of Tokyo suddenly erupted this past Saturday trapping 250 hikers:


Thirty six are confirmed dead and 32 are still missing.  Watch this spectacular footage.

There are 110 live volcanoes throughout Japan, and the biggest worry is Mount Fuji, located 60 miles from Tokyo:


While the last major eruption was in 1707, scientists have linked the Great Tohoku earthquake of 2011 to risky subsurface conditions under Mount Fuji and have expressed considerable concern.


The front page headline of the Honolulu Star Advertiser was Kilauea's UNSTOPPABLE FLOW, referring to the molten lava heading for Pahoa.  While the flow has slowed, there seems to be a sense of inevitability that the town will in time be consumed.  No plans are being considered to slow or stop the activity for fear that the damage could occur somewhere else.  That photo shown on the front page was a failed attempt in 1986 to stop the advance into Kalapana using water.

Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes happen right away.  Hurricanes and lava flows are incessant, and all you can do is hope that the storm fizzles or goes elsewhere, and the eruption to stop.  Kilauea (right) has now been exuding molten rock for more than 30 years.  What are the odds?

As I assess this posting, it occurred to me that I shouldn't have used horror in the title, for these two depicted eruptions are almost trivial relative to the truly great ones.  As for example:

  • The 1980 Mount St. Helens explosion, while only producing around one cubic kilometer of material, about one-fourth of a cubic mile, was nevertheless much more severe than Kilauea and Mount Ontake.  Well, actually, I did some research, and it turns out that in 31 years, Kilauea has produced about one cubic mile of lava, so I guess, this is not inconsequential.
  • The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora on what is now Indonesia emitted 160 cubic kilometers, and caused global cooling.
  • In 1783 Laki on Iceland erupted, and killed 6 million people, including a million in Japan (from famine), but less than 10,000 on the island.
  • Between 1650 and 1500 BC, Santorini (today to the right) in the Mediterranean destroyed the Minoan civilization, and cause famine in China, leading to the collapse of the Xia dynasty.
  • Around 70,000 years ago, Lake Toba (over a volcano), also Indonesia, had an eruption that, it is said, killed most of humanity, leaving, perhaps 3,000 humans alive.
  • How they get this info should be interesting, but 132 million years ago, when Africa and South American had not yet separated, there was an eruption of 8,600 cubic kilometers.
So, mentally change "horror" in the title above to "anguish."

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Tropical storm Phanfone is now at 60 MPH, will attain Category 3 strength, head straight for Japan, but, if computer models are right, will pass north of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, and should turn northwest, skirting the eastern coastline of the country:


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Monday, September 29, 2014

HOW YOU CAN BECOME CREATIVE


Is this being creative?  David Brooks of the New York Times today had an op ed on creativity.  In essence, he indicated that creativity doesn't just pop up in your mind.  No, it takes routine, stability, order, repetition. high discipline and all the other synonyms coming from stability.

On the other hand, the blog site REAL SIMPLE says:

I’ve spent the last hour warming up my imagination muscles: I devised 50 new uses for a spoon (drumstick, mini catapult, ineffective shield). I surrounded myself with blue, since a University of British Columbia study showed it’s a creativity-enhancing color. I played the violin as Einstein did. (Actually, I don’t own a violin, so I played my son’s ukulele.) In short, I am using as many creativity-boosting strategies as possible. (Well, I’m not taking LSD, which may have helped Steve Jobs achieve those world-changing insights.)

Further:

My first call is to Rex Jung (left), an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, who specializes in the brain and creativity. He tells me that we tend to think of creative people as churning out one work of genius after another, but brilliance is a numbers game. Creative people tend to be prolific, and usually the misfires far outnumber the hits. “I recently went to a museum in Germany, and they had a Picasso exhibition,” says Jung. “But the paintings were terrible. I think I saw every lousy Picasso out there. He created about 50,000 works, and not all of them were masterpieces.”

Hmm...somewhat similar to Brooks' contention, but can you actually teach creativity.  Yes, says the BBC:

The belief that schools are failing to nurture creative skills has grown in recent years. The educator and author Ken Robinson, for example, argued in an influential TED talk in 2006 that current education practices crush student’s innate creative talents. Robinson clearly touched a nerve – this became the most watched TED talk of all time (see below).
(If you clicked on play, and that did not work, click on that link just above this box.  You can see the talk on a full screen by clicking on that icon at the bottom right.  To return, click on esc at the top left of your keyboard.  By the way, this talk has had more than 28 million pings.)


The School of Life can teach you to be creative.

Einstein said we’re all born geniuses. This is good news: we need all the ingenuity we can get to thrive in our evermore rapidly changing times. So why do we still let ourselves be inhibited by that old myth that creativity is a rare gift? How can we reclaim our creative potential instead?
This class is devised to help us gain practical techniques for improving our creativity through experiment and discussion. We’ll discover how to boost our creative confidence. We’ll explore why intuition, play and daydreaming are essential to innovation. We’ll find out how blocks and boredom can become creative triggers. We’ll take an honest look at what motivation we need to sustain us. And we’ll examine ancient and modern wisdom on how to handle criticism, constraints and failure more easily. 
At the higher education level, creativity institutes seem to be now proliferating:

What kinds of techniques are taught? Gerard Puccio (right) teaches his students that creativity comes in four stages – clarifying, ideating, developing and implementing. Clarifying is ensuring you’re asking the right question; ideating is about exploring as many solutions as possible; developing and implementing are making sure the idea is practical and convincing to others.

And to continue:

Joydeep Bhattacharya (left) of Goldsmiths University in London has shown that people in a relaxed mood are more likely to arrive at creative solutions when problem-solving. And another study by Australian researchers showed people are more likely to solve puzzles lying on their back than standing up. Perhaps it’s because when people are mellow, their wandering mindencourages them to review a diverse array of ideas, rather than get stuck in a more focused, narrow mode of thought.

Christine Kane indicates creativity is a process.  It is slow.  It must be cultivated and allowed to happen.  She even provides 21 ways to be more creative, beginning with "Stop watching TV" and ending with "Stop watching TV."

There are, of course, books and more books.  I won't even attempt to list them.  But who has time to read those.  You want one blog posting to show you the way.  And here they are, above.  The problem is that all of those techniques work depending on time, circumstances and who.  One sure thing, though:  don't just sit on a couch and think.  Maybe the enhancement of magic truffles can jiggle something up there, but you need to be in Amsterdam for that.  

You want my assessment?  There is something to what David Brooks said at the top of this page.  Maybe Malcolm Gladwell's (right) 10,000 hour rule provides a clue.  I've continued this blog site for more than six years now...everyday (well, I skipped a few days while in China because the government largely prevented me from downloading, except I actually found a porthole through Russia for a couple of postings, and, anyway, had more than one article on several days)...and I usually  have no idea what to write about until I start.  Creativity happens when you do things.  The more you do, the more creative  you can be.

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Tropical Storm Phanfon just appeared east of the Philippines, is predicted to attain Category 4 strength and head straight for Japan:


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Sunday, September 28, 2014

SMILE, IT'S SUNDAY, THE WORLD IS DOING FINE...AND THE FOOD IS GREAT!

Mind you, all is not perfect on Planet Earth, but for pure, unadulterated joy, how can you not smile watching on TV the happy exuberance exhibited by the European Ryder Cup victors, and that of their fans at Gleneagles, after trouncing the Americans 16.5 to 11.5.  The crowd chanting Ole Ola, reminded me of the the Brazil World Cup theme earlier this year.  I wonder why this is the first time Scotland, the home of golf, has hosted in 41 years?



Also in Europe, now that Ukraine has lost Crimea, but Scotland failed to attain independence, can Catalonia (Catalunya--that small brown blob in the middle)) succeed in seceding from Spain?  Traveling through that  region, you can sense that urge.  From the bitter rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid (#1 in soccer) to the non-binding referendum scheduled for November 9, action is picking up.  But let me go on record for saying that this won't happen, as it is illegal for any entity to split from the country.  Same for Texas.  Remember the Civil War?  

One point of interest, though, is that while at one time Paris was the world cuisine capital, Catalonia has now overtaken France, particularly now that elBulli has become Bullipedia.  And of all the craziness, Tokyo has more Michelin 3 Star restaurants than Paris.  Anyway, another gourmet list is Pellegrino's 50 Best World Restaurants.  #1 last year was El Celler de Can Roca, located a short distance from Barcelona.  But Noma this year returned to #1.  Here I am with Chef Rene (to my left) and his crew in Copenhagen.

Somehow, I've segued into fine cuisine, so let me continue by noting the following about Pellegrino's list:
  • #13 is Nahm and #17 Gaggan...in Bangkok!  It is said that Gaggan is THE BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD!!!  I guess I'll need to try it when I get to Bangkok in November.
  • The highest rated from the Orient is Narisawa at #14, where I had lunch last year with President of Nokodai, Tadashi Matsunaga, and his wife.
  • The only other restaurant from Japan on this list is Nihonryori RyuGin at #33.  The same day I had dinner there, my lunch was created by Jiro himself, who has a Michelin 3-Star sushi bar next to the Ginza Station:

To appreciate how terrific those restaurants are, French Laundry is #44, and the next best restaurant on the West Coast is Coi of San Francisco at #49.  To close, #50 is Waku Ghin of Singapore, located somewhere near the top of the Marina Bay Sands.


But at the top in the middle there is an Infinity Pool and, yes, that's me.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

HOW REALLY BIG DOES A CALAMARO GET?


Thought I'd begin with a micro squid (above, only 0.4 inch long), known in Italy and much of the cuisine world as calamari (singular should be calamaro).  Squids are unusual beasts with three hearts and the largest eye (10 inches in diameter so it can see better at the dark depths--no, not that micro variety, but the big ones, to come):  



In 2007, off the coast of Antarctica, a colossal squid 33 feet long and just over 1000 pounds was caught:



Well, eight months ago, a giant squid was found in Antarctic waters, only a couple weeks ago thawed out and was found to weigh 770 pounds and measured to be 11.5 feet long, or 13 feet, by another source.  What is confusing is that this giant squid was, in fact, a colossal squid.  The giant is scientifically named Architeuthis dux, while the colossal is Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.

This giant squid below, about 28 foot long, caught in 2004 at a depth of 722 feet off the Falkland Islands, is displayed at London's Natural History Museum.



The bottom photo was taken by Japanese scientists in 2006.  The largest giant squid was 43 feet and may have weighed 2000 pounds.

There are a lot of uncertainties on the size of a squid.  For one, the shrinkage is 20% when kept in alcoholic solutions or frozen.  Second, there is the human imagination.  This is why the beak is used as the means of comparison.  Conveniently, beaks have been found in the stomach of sperm whales.  Here is the beak of a Caribbean reef squid:


That colossal squid, mentioned above and shown below, for example, was 33 feet long, and had a lower beak of 42.5 millimeters.  Beaks up to 49 mm have been found inside sperm whales.


 The colossal beak, is to the left, while to the right is one from a giant squid.   


Colossal squids are said to grow up to 46 feet.  Here is a size comparison (giant to left and colossal to right):


The largest animal to have ever lived on Planet Earth, including all those brontosaurus-like monsters during the Jurassic Period, is, in fact, the Blue Whale, which still can be found throughout our oceans.  Compared to this biggest of beasts, here his some speculation on the size of a CALAMAR0:


There are, of course, exaggerations, starting with Jules Vernes' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Can you believe that film, with James Mason, Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre, is exactly 60 years old?  If, as pictured here, for the Nautilus was 70 meters long, this squid would be about 500 feet in length.  As an aside, the 20,000 leagues term used in the title is the distance Nautilus travelled, for 20,000 leagues = 69,060 miles, and the deepest location under the sea is the Challenger Deep at not quite 7 miles.

Another (you need to click on it to read the details) would be the popular notion and the reality:



Well, what about the Kraken?  A so-called giant octopus a hundred feet across, while touted, it remains mostly mystical.  Nevertheless, two human creations:


The Pacific Giant Octopus, the largest, has been measured at 30 feet across, weighing 600 pounds.  but to finish, it is the colossal squid at 46 feet that is the largest calamaro.

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