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Monday, December 22, 2014

SOME MOSTLY GOOD NEWS

I continue to collect potential posting issues, and this Monday morning will present some of them here, with a thought that a few could someday warrant a full focus:
  • Tunisia just had its first "free" presidential election, and the winner was Beji Caid Essebsi, who is all of 88 years old.  Tunisia, slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin, is located in North Africa between Algeria and Libya.
  • The Pantone Color of the Year in 2015 is:  MARSALA.  Pantone is a color company in New Jersey.  Surely you missed it, but Radiant Orchid was the trend in 2014 and Emerald in 2013.  

The logic of these selections reminds me of those arcane terms at wine tastings which are mostly meaningless:

I look for ascending color trends, colors that are being used in broader ways and broader context than before… In this case, Radiant Orchid descends from the purple family, which is kind of a magical color that denotes creativity and innovation. Purple is just that kind of a complex, interesting, attracting kind of color… 

[The] back-story to purple is that it inspires confidence in your creativity, and we're living in a world where that kind of creative innovation is greatly admired. In the world of color, purple is an attention-getter, and it has a meaning. It speaks to people, and we felt that it was time for the purple family to be celebrated. That's why we chose the particular shade called Radiant Orchid.
  • Honestly, now, how many of you knew that the countries on our terror list are Iran, Sudan (and only marginally so), Syria and Cuba?  Cuba will soon be removed, but North Korea might be thrown back into the dungeon for their supposedly dastardly deed with respect to The Interview.  Our State Department determines who belongs.  Not sure what blue means, but the dark green ones are the bad guys and light green countries became better world citizens:

  • This must be good news: From the American Bar Association, first year Law School enrollment is at a 40 year low, and total enrollment is at a 27 year low.  There are now 204 accredited law schools.  In 1973 there were 151.  This past year there were 37,924 full-time and part-time law students beginning their studies.  In 2010 there were 52,488.  The drop was not due to law schools raising their standard of admission.  Law jobs are hard to get.
  • Ibuprofen apparently shows potential for increasing your life expectancy by 12 years.  However, don't go out and buy a large bottle, for early studies by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California and Texas A&M University only extended the life span of yeast, worms and fruit flies.  Ibuprofen is a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to relieve pain, fever and inflammation.  For the record, aspirin and metformin (an anti-diabetes pill) also show this quality.  I might add that ibuprofen has been known to aid in the treatment of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.  The speculation is that these drugs interfere with the ability of cells to absorb tryptophan, an amino acid.
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Sunday, December 21, 2014

GOP RESPONSIBLE FOR SONY'S "THE INTERVIEW" DEBACLE

I have tended to, now and then, make fun of Republicans:
Well, this time, the Republican Party was not responsible for the shocking capitulation of the American public and our free enterprise system to a viral act of CyberTerror perpetrated by another GOP, the Guardians of Peace.  I find it astonishing that our country caved-in to a warning by this unknown iGOP to cancel showing "The Interview," a comedy about the assassination of Peerless Leader (he has a bunch of titles) Kim Jong-un.

While Randall Park's parents are from South Korea, one wonders if Seth Rogen (the guy on the left--he co-produced and co-directed this film) could have found another actor who more closely matched the looks and dottiness of the original.  I might mention, though, that Park stars on ABC next month in the first Asian family sitcom in 20 years, Fresh Off the Boat:


When I was in Seoul last year I posted what I thought was a helpful total makeover suggestion for North Korea.  However, I carefully released it just before my plane left Incheon International Airport.  I actually got a comment, which indicated that my effort was COOL.

Returning to the essence of this posting, first of all, the Free World gets threatened about free speech all the time by terrorists.  Remember The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, published by Penguin Press?  Rushdie gained a Fatwa, but has managed to survive now for more than a quarter century.  Little known, though, is that Hitoshi Igarashi, his Japanese translator was stabbed to death three years after the book was published in 1988, Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator was seriously injured in a stabbing, William Nygaard, the publisher in Norway, was shot three times by an assassin (but lived) and a massacre occurred in Turkey surrounding the Turkish  translator, Aziz Nesin, where 37 died.  But the point is that companies and governments mostly thumbed their noses at any Muslim retaliation.  However, that was mostly Europe.  What is it about American for us to react so timorously?

Interesting that prior to joining SONY, current chairman of SONY Pictures, Michael Lynton, was with Penguin.  After watching his interview with Fareed Zakaria this morning, I'm inclined to think that SONY was a victim more than a coward.

Who then should be blamed for this miscarriage of courage?
  • Mostly, by implication, the American public.  I suspect movie theaters, distributors and malls were fearful that the usual suspects (led by mothers) would boycott this film, cutting profits.
  • Those involved with the showing did not want to take a chance on any kind of violence, real or inspired, that might happen.  Lawsuits, you know.
  • The American entertainment industry just plain buckled.  George Clooney circulated a petition in support of SONY, and the A-list backed off from signing.  Not one person wanted to take a chance.
All this is such a shame, for, if North Korea was behind all this, they have nowhere the capability of following up on their threats as, say, Middle East terrorists.  The Korean community in the U.S., especially the second generation, is fiercely patriotic about their American citizenship.  There is no way a North Korean splinter group could survive in any U.S. Korean community.  The FBI would have been on them yesterday.

Speaking of the FBI, the iGOP sent a new message just to them, saying, basically, you are an idiot.
By GOP

The result of investigation by FBI is so excellent that you might have seen what we were doing with your own eyes.
We congratulate you success.
FBI is the BEST in the world.
You will find the gift for FBI at the following address.
Enjoy!
They placed this sarcasm on You Tube, and it now already has 602,000 pings.

Finally, in their relative innocence, Sony Pictures Entertainment must be, in private, smirking at their windfall.  When this film is released, and it will within the month, the first weekend will gain revenues somewhere north of $100 million, when it only took about $75 million to make and publicize the film.

Rotten Tomatoes preview audiences rated this film at 96%.  This is, though, an R-rated action comedy.  SONY might want to spend this festering period deleting the more salacious portions for a PG rating. In fact, a better idea might be to restore some of the more controversial scenes, and release two versions:  PG and R, bordering on 17.  Ah, I can just imagine this:  the film is so successful that it turns out Kim Jong-un, in fact, survives the explosion, and SONY produces Interview 2.


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Saturday, December 20, 2014

BARACK OBAMA HAS FINALLY BECOME PRESIDENTIAL

The first family arrived last night for at least a 2-week stay in Hawaii.  They leave on January 4.  Daughter Malia (below) is now taller than her mother and as tall as her father.  Both are 6' 1" tall, and Sasha, who is 13, where all recent photos showed her a foot shorter than her dad, is catching up.  She is to his right on the right.

Interesting, but after the Democrats got trounced last month, President Barack Obama has finally become PRESIDENTIAL.

First he unilaterally reforms immigration, making the U.S. Congress, especially Republicans, look kind of foolish.  Republicans appear to be a lot more negative about immigration rights, but, a Pew poll last year showed that both parties do not differ much on the issue.  It's more that Congress has found a way to just do nothing and still mostly get re-elected.

Should Jeb Bush beat Hillary Clinton in two years, he is a Republican who will lead the cause for Hispanics, for he happens to be married to Columba Gallo (left), a daughter of a Mexican migrant worker.  They've been married for forty years and have three children, the oldest a lawyer (and clearly with thoughts about a political future) and the middle child, a daughter, with substance abuse problems.

Then earlier this week Obama went where our previous 10 presidents refused to go by restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba,  

Credited was Pope Francis who helped negotiate a prisoner swap.  Royally pissed was Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and son of Cuban immigrants.  Obama was smart enough to caution the U.S. Congress about loosening the economic embargo.  In all this hullabaloo, not once was Fidel Castro quoted.  He is 88 and strangely silent, even though he holds some kind of presidential oratory record of seven  hours.

Obama also chided SONY for their caving in to North Korean cyberterrorists, this particular article from a Russian publication.  I merely expressed my disappointment.  And, get this, North Korea responded by suggesting collaborating with the USA to find the real cyber criminals, or, and this is so typical for them:

If America refuses our proposal of mutual investigation, continues to link us to this case, and talk about actions in response, they (America) will be met with serious consequences.

Oh, will Obama visit Pahoa?  The latest USGS report indicates that the lava flow will reach the Pahoa Shopping Center around New Year's Day.  On the other hand, at the end of October the flow was supposedly two weeks away, as it has been for several months now.  What has happened is that the front cools and stops, but breaks through somewhere upstream, starting a new invasion.

Finally, here is Hawaii's potential Obama PRESIDENTIAL Library:


The design will get criticized for lacking the spirit of Hawaii, but looks good to me.  Anyway, we have no chance of getting selected, for we have no political nor financial clout.  However, it would not surprise me if a concession is offered:  a satellite library.  How else can the Obama's continue to vacation here during the holidays?  The last place they would want to go is Chicago.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

WHY IS WIND ENERGY NOW SO UNPOPULAR?

For reasons that confound me, wind energy has become relatively unpopular.  This renewable option already has technical deficiencies, for our winds only blow part of the time, and at various speeds.  If there are mountains, the profile is turbulent, so that gears and and joints give way.  The power increases with the cube of the velocity, so optimal wind regimes are difficult to find.  Congress treats wind power like a punching bag and environmentalist decry the noise, aesthetics and size.  Mind you, while it does take "bad" energy to manufacture and ship wind machines, once in place, the winds are free, no carbon dioxide is emitted and there is a total absence of nuclear radiation.

I was there at the beginning, which in my mind was 1974, exactly thirty years ago, and to quote from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth:

I left “My Life” (go to May 10 blog) in 1974 on a plane from Washington, D.C. to Denver, Colorado. I drove to the annual conference of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), and arrived just in time to walk into a semi-darkened room of the annual meeting of the Wind Power Division, which had already started. An hour or so later towards the end of the meeting I volunteered a somewhat optimistic statement about Hawaii wanting to lead the nation in wind power R&D, and that I was “asked” by Lou Divone (who then ran the government's wind power office--this is pre-Department of Energy--and who I had just met in the Forrestal Building) to interact with this Division. I don’t think I exaggerated anything and sincerely asked for their help. Half an hour later, I was elected chairman of that Wind Division of the American Solar Energy Society. At that moment I had not yet even seen a windmill in my life. There was an important life lesson learned here, but let me go on.

I followed this ASES leadership role while teaching energy courses at the University of Hawaii and recruiting people to Hawaii to work on this technology.  In 1979 found myself  on staff with the U.S. Senate in DC.  Tom Gray, a House staff member had drafted some wind energy legislation, so I signed on to help out in the Senate, and we succeeded with the Wind Energy Systems Act of 1980.  Tom went on to help found the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and served as Executive Director from 1981-1989. 

Interestingly enough, Ed Ing, General Counsel for Senator Matsunaga, who shared the same office area with me and a few others, went on to become chairman of the AWEA board.  Also, too, his mother recently moved into 15 Craigside, and I sat next to her on Casino Night on Vegas-like 3-card stud.  We both won, but so did everyone else.

I remember three decades ago visiting the Department of Energy Wind Energy Test Center near Boulder, Colorado, where I met the manager, Andrew Trenka.  Not long thereafter, I hired him to move to Honolulu to head the ocean thermal energy conversion program for the Pacific International Center for High Technology.  His crew succeeded in 1993 with a major OTEC facility of 255 kW (gross) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.  More than 20 years have passed by and no one has yet built anything larger.  Anyway, in the 1990's we marveled at how well wind energy had developed, something WE DID NOT IN THE MID-80'S EXPECT.

So what happened to wind energy? Some think, and this is so ironic, environmentalists are the problem.  Apparently, more and more, too, normal citizens are now suffering from something medically termed the wind turbine syndrome.  They get dizzy, mild nausea, insomnia and headaches when they live close by wind farms.  Then, there is the matter of lifestyles.  On the islands of Lanai and Molokai, people have successfully fought off the installation of Big Wind.

Thus, when I saw this article in Wind Energy World today:

What the Senate's Tax Extender Bill Means for Wind Energy

I noticed a comment that kind of says it all:

Ignorance is bliss. With the abundance of information available at your finger tips, you think OS wind costs more than nuclear, not in the build cost, or long term running, disposal and decommissioning. $1 billion plus to build, $1 billion to decommission, no place to dispose of the leftovers. Have room in your basement. The nuclear industry has the biggest subsidy of any of the energy producers, 100% +/- 10%. This doesn't include the cost of the military defense of the areas where they are located. No insurance companies in the country will insure a plant, your tax dollars do, Kind of like the big banks, come out of your pocket on both ends. 
Domestic cats are the biggest killers of wild birds in this country. 
Pesticides are devastating the bee population, 

Ever seen a house with a coal plant on top of it--NO. 
Ever seen a house with a nuclear plant on top of it--NO. 
Ever seen a house with a wind turbine on top of it--YES........... 

Would you live with in breathing distance of a coal plant? 
Would you live with in the radiation zone of a nuclear plant?


The nuclear industry ballyhoos the beauty of a nuclear power plant with this graphic.


However, they  don't say that there could be a cattle ranch sharing the same space with those wind turbines.  Is wind power perfect?  Of course not.  But would you rather live next to the next Fukushima?  Can we totally ignore global climate warming?  Not in my backyard attitudes perhaps best explain why wind energy has become unpopular.  

By the way, if you bothered to read that article cited above, it says that our Congress' recent action only preserves wind energy incentives for a few days more.  This is bad news for the technology.  What more can I say?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

INTERSTELLAR INTERVIEW

No, this is not a posting on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).  Hmmm...is that a double negative?  In any case, it would be difficult to carry on any kind of interview with aliens, unless you can tolerate a wait of more than eight years for any response.  However, today, the top ten candidates represent exoplanets where one conversation will require a time period of from 24  to 980 years.  And, if we luck out with a planet on the other side of our Milky Way Galaxy, that could take 200,000 years, and Homo sapiens were not even close to being a species that long ago.   To the left is the cover of  PROJECT CYCLOPS, the first serious study of this subject, led by friends of mine, Barney Oliver and Jack Billingham, which appropriately leads to dreaming about THE NEXT BILLION YEARS, my time period for fantasizing.

Anyway, the title refers to two films, Interstellar and The Interview.   Let me begin with Interstellar, for this is a convenient segue from SETI.  Last month I was staying in the Sheraton D-Cube City in Seoul, which occupied the top floors of a new megacomplex, where five movie theaters were located on the seventh floor.  Subway lines 1 and 2 crossed in our basement.  I sat in the front row and had a terrific experience.

I won't say much about Interstellar, the movie, for this is now old news.  However, Rotten Tomatoes gave it 73% reviewers and 87% audience ratings.  The film just this weekend, its sixth, in sixth place, made a total of $167 million, and had a budget of $165 million.  While not exactly a blockbuster, it will make enough, so there will be an Interstellar 2, for the ending left a few openings.

What I can report on, though, is going to a movie theater in South Korea.  Here is a blog posting from an American who now lives on a military base near Seoul, and she provides some detail and the following photos (I took none):


Let me explain.  1000 won = $0.91. Or, that combo in the middle of two glasses of Asahi beer with some kind of nachos, costs $16.38.  The top shot shows Jaggermeister Energy Drinks, and the bottom, two kinds of popcorn:  cheese and caramel.  I had mine garlic flavored.

This blogger also indicated that in that country, they preselect their seats weeks and months ahead of time on their computer and few actually stand in line to buy tickets.  I just happened to catch the elevator from my floor, bought my ticket at 10AM,  got my popcorn and Coke, paying a total of $12, and found my seat.  Best as I can tell, no seniors discount, but I see that my 10 AM price was around $5.50 and the usual price is closer to $9.  They have Gold Class seats for $27.30.  Here is where I send you to that blogger to the left (that's Tris, and her blog site is called Six in Seoul), who I learned lives with her Army officer hubby on a base, and they went one night to those Gold Class seats.  They started early with a visit to the Gold Class lounge, which served, for free, the following drinks and snacks:

You can also pay for dinner, and can order a bottle of wine for the movie.  When they get to their super reclining seats there is a buzzer to call a waitress.  Do you think movie theaters in Hawaii and the USA in general are embarrassingly obsolete???  We are just getting around to seeking approvals to serve alcohol in Honolulu.  And as Hawaii and Utah are the only states that prohibit gambling, our Puritanical values might not take that huge step to serve wine in a movie theater.

Now comes to The Interview, and my diatribe that "we" caved-in to cyberterrorists from North Korea.  Well, it was not the USA, but SONY that chickened out, and I guess their headquarters near Tokyo Station were afraid that Kim Jung-un would lob a missile on their building.  But keep in mind that SONY capitulated mostly because American theaters and movie chains first decided to cancel and the company had few options.  By the way, to let the barf out of the bag, as you might never get to see this production, Kim is killed in the film, and here is the video clip showing this all...and only maybe, because this raucous  has continued to censor these video clips.  Katy Perry's Firework provide background sounds.

It's a shame, for the film would have made $200 million this Christmas Week if shown.  Rotten Tomatoes revealed an understandable anomaly:  reviewers - 50% and audiences = 96%.  I'm disappointed.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE END OF ORANGE JUICE AND COFFEE?

Let me answer this question with a NO, but Scientific American is one of my subscriptions, and they reported on the end of orange juice and coffee.  What would breakfast be for most with these demises, although I might have this combination maybe only once or twice/year.  At 15 Craigside I seem now to be in a giant rut:  cereal, plain yogurt, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, pineapple and milk in a large bowl, mostly because the dining room here mostly looks the other way (they really don't want you to take food back to your room for reasons that are beyond my comprehension) when I sneak them out so that I don't have to return the next morning or two.  When I actually show up for breakfast, I have an equally uninspired hot oatmeal with raisins and a juice.  Breakfast is just to keep me alive and blood pressure controlled.

The fear about the future of orange juice is a gnat-sized insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, which has been attacking citrus groves.  The disease is known as Huanglongbing (yes, you can again blame China, for this is a Chinese word for "Yellow Dragon Disease"), and is caused by a bacterium, Candidatus liberibacter, carried in the saliva gland of this insect.  This microbe disrupts the flow of nutrients within the plant:


One solution is a wasp, Tamarixia radiata, that preys on the nasty insect.   The longer term answer is genetic modification, but those are now dirty words in agriculture.  Certainly, there must be something about Japan, for it is one of the few countries without this disease.

The USA produces more than 10% of the world orange juice, but Brazil is more than double our volume.  We are #1 in grapefruit, lemons and limes.


The story, probably apocryphal, is that an Ethiopian goatherd in 858AD noticed that his goats became excited after eating the beans from coffee plants.  Factually, it is generally recognized that the first plants came from Harar in Ethiopia.  It was termed a miracle drug then, and, more and more, medical science seems to now be saying that coffee is "good" for you.


An assortment of insects, like the coffee cherry borer (above), has caused problems.  However, coffee is mostly threatened by a fungus.  The fundamental problem, though, is that almost all the coffee crops originated with a handful of plants from Ethiopia, so there is no diversity of options within the available genes to combat coffee rust.  Global warming also appears to be exacerbating the effect.


Another problem is that very little fundamental research has been undertaken on coffee.  Some years ago I discussed with a researcher in our College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Relations about using genetic engineering to develop a coffee plant that produced a drink that tasted like it smelled.  Note, for example, that tea tends to smell like tea and taste like tea.  Coffee, however, smells great and tastes bitter.  After you add some cream, perhaps a touch of butter, too, and sugar, only then does coffee taste like coffee.  I thus order cappuccino, and add these ingredients.  Anyway, we could not find a source of funding.  I still think that the person or company that finds a genetic solution to this oddity will become very, very rich.

The most popular drink is, of course, water.  Next?  Tea, which is the national drink of China and India.  #3 is coffee, and, you would think the USA is #1 for all the Starbucks.  Nope, we are #25,  consuming about a third/capita as much as Finland.  Cold countries, all in Europe, dominate the top ten. The USA, notwithstanding Hawaii, does not rank in the top twenty in the production of coffee beans. Brazil and Vietnam dominate as #1 and #2.  However, Hawaii Kona Coffee ranks #2 in the world with respect to taste, with Tanzania Peaberry Coffee as #1.

Indubitably, you heard, probably from the movie, Bucket List, that Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee, with beans cycled through an Indonesian Monkey's--Palm Toddy Cat--digestive track.  Only 500 pounds are harvested each year, and a pound can cost more than $500, but Amazon sells it for less than  $400/pound.

I might add that I again had dinner on my lanai last night, and the sunset was above average, the first photo showing the Christmas tree of First Hawaiian Bank:


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