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Thursday, April 30, 2009

1B and 1C: AKROTIRI AND DHEKELIA


Bet you never heard of Akrotiri, which is one of the 70 non-nations, and, as evidenced by the flag, a protectorate of the United Kingdom, located just south of Limassol on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. When I visited this island, I thought it only had two political entities, the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turns out, there are four. The fourth jurisdiction is Dhekelia, also serving a similar purpose, for the island once belonged to Great Britain. This is getting tedious, and is one reason why I will from now stick to the 195 real nations, moving on to Albania next.

Anyway, since I'm this far into the analysis, let me continue. Akrotiri and Dhekelia have a population of 15,700 and are used by the UK as military bases. Dhekelia is found just east of Larnaca. The two protectorates are about the size of Washington, D.C. The chief of state is, of course, Queen Elizabeth II. The Euro is used and there is no television station. Their only claim to fame I can find is that Akrotiri has the only remaining colony of griffon vultures.
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The Dow Jones Industrials settled 18 to 8168, while world markets almost all went up. Gold dropped $9/toz to $887 and oil is just above $50 (see graph to right). Well, Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but the good news is that it does not have to liquidate, yet. Chryslers, Dodges and Jeeps will continue to be produced, with a slight delay, perhaps with some government help. GM's decision is a month away. The market symbol F (for Ford), by the way, is now at $5.98/share, about three and a half times what it was at a low last month.

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Tomorrow: Albania

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

COUNTRY #1: AFGHANISTAN




This is a big day for me. Today represents the start of my second year on my daily blog. I have, thus, decided to crystallize the essence of each country, and more, beginning today. Also this day begins Kenji Sumida's dimpled spheroid safari. This undertaking involved two overnight flights in three days for me. It is more than golf, of course, but we will nevertheless hack around nine times over the next seven days, among other things. Anyway, the review of nations will be alphabetical, and I start with Afghanistan.


Called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, it has a history of 5000 years, but was officially founded in 1747, 19 years before the USA. The nation is landlocked, with cold winters and hot summers. A decent website is Afghanistan Online.


The photo above shows Charlie Wilson, congressman from Texas, who helped win the war for Democracy for Afghanistan in 1989, at least according to Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. That is, of course, Tom Hanks, who plays Wilson in the movie, Charlie Wilson's War. But the Taliban prevailed in 1996, only to be overcome by American and allied forces in 2001. Hamid Karzai was ovwhelmingly elected President in 2004. Now, with President Obama focusing on Osama Bin Ladin and the Taliban, while on the one hand there seems to be a growing security, there are whispers of another Viet Nam. To say there are a hundred political and religious parties would not be an exaggeration.

The country is slightly smaller than Texas, with a population nearing 34 million. It is 99% Muslim, with most being Sunni. The literacy rate is 28% and GDP/capita is $800. Life expectancy at birth is 44.6 years. It is the world’s largest producer of opium, gaining revenues of $3 billion/year, a major economic activity for the country.

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Ironically, no oil is produced in Afghanistan and two-thirds of electricity generation is renewable, mostly hydroelectric. You might ask, then, why are we there in greater force? Such are the international politics of war and peace.

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If you plan to go there, the exchange rate of 50 afghanis to the dollar has been relatively steady for several years. You might first, though, want to check the State Department website and other sources on the sanity of such an adventure. Oh, I should mention that the Taliban countersurge began today.

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The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 169 to 8146. At one point, it was up 240. World markets were all positive, save for Sweden. You ask, why are stocks climbing when news continue to be mostly bad? They say that the market does not wait for good news. To some degree, the knowledge level is such that investors know of, or hopefully anticipate, yet announced trends. Thus, when the so called good news arrives, it is already too late for you to invest. Gold increased $6/toz to $926 and oil is back above $50/barrel.

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President Obama's 100-day press conference, which was announced as not a 100-day press report, appeared to go well today. The FOX channel chose not to participate. The early reviews.
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Tomorrow: Akrotiri. Yes, this one is obscure, and you need to be geo-bee champ to be conversant.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

THE WORLD


At the beginning of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, I included the following information (the numbers refer to references in the book):


To begin with, we are fortunate to be here at all. Let us look at the Universe. It is reported: 32, 109, 200

o If the nuclear strong force were 5% weaker, there would be no stars, and if 2% stronger, no atoms. No stars mean no planets, meaning no life. No atoms, same.

o If there were no greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor, primarily) the temperature of our planet would be zero degrees Fahrenheit (remember, ice freezes at 32°F, or zero degrees Celsius), and life as we know it probably would never have formed.

o If there was no water—which has particularly unusual properties—again, no life.

o If there were 4% more oxygen in the atmosphere, there would be no us because the entire planet would regularly be engulfed in flames.

Or something so straightforward as our planets and satellites :168

o If the Moon were smaller, our Earth could not maintain a stable orbit, making the development of DNA impossible, thus, life would not have formed.

o If Jupiter were smaller, there would have been a lot more asteroids around, making life as we know it on Earth difficult because of the frequent large impacts.

o If Earth were a bit smaller, all the oxygen would have escaped by now.

o If our Solar System were not two-thirds away from the center of our galaxy, and instead were closer, the radiation field from the Black Hole supposedly there would kill off life. If further away from the center, there would be an absence of higher elements, again making life unattainable.

Thus, just these simple coincidences, and there are many more, made life possible. This, of course, brings up the notion of an intelligent designer who just had to be around to make this all happen. We shall see in Book 2.

Interestingly enough, in CHAPTER 5, the specter of doom is portrayed in the form of methane as a dangerous greenhouse gas. However, it is reported that the migration of methane into the atmosphere, produced by bacteria, keeps the oxygen concentration relatively constant.197 Much of life is a doubled-edged sword.

You are very lucky, indeed, to even exist as a human. About 100 billion people have lived since the first Genus Homo (early form of our line) about 2 million years ago. In many ways we did come through the equivalent of Eve, possibly through this earliest of moms in Africa, who derived from ape-like creatures, traced back to a period 5 to 10 million years in the past when we broke off from chimpanzees. These primates, of course, originally derived, billions of years ago, from archaea, something like bacteria, considered to be among the first living organisms. Well there are, too, viruses—they invented DNA—but this is already much too scientific.346

Of course, you could easily not have been conceived as a human being. You could have been a microorganism, your best chance for life. Forget about being important or responsible for now. The fact that you are here as a human is a one in 10 to the 34th power probability, that is, one chance in 1, followed by 34 zeroes, or 10 decillion (see APPENDIX A for details on these long odds).

But now that by some major miracle you are here, appreciate the luck of the draw that created your presence. Your life is too, too precious to squander. Do feel guilty or inspired to make that crucial difference for humanity? Let us explore the resource options that will keep you and your future generations going.


So, to begin the program of reporting on Planet Earth and Humanity, our globe is 4.55 billion years old, just about a third the age of the Universe. While most publications cite 195 nations, the CIA Factbook says 265 entities. I toyed with the idea of reporting on all 265, but, after one excursion, decided to focus on 195.

The population of the World in the year zero (birth of Christ) was around 200 million. We grew to 1 billion in 1804, 2.5 billion in 1950, currently have 6.7 billion, and could well increase to 9.2 billion in 2050. Thus, although all reports indicate that our population is leveling off, from today to 2050, our globe will gain an increase of 2.5 billion people, which took from the beginning of our species some 100,000 thousand years ago to 1950 to attain. The Tokyo urban area, at 36 million, is roughly double that of New York/Newark, Mexico City, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Delhi, Shanghai or Kolkata. One-third are Christians and only 14% non-religious or atheist.

The surface of Planet Earth is about 71% water. The U.S. has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ, 200 nautical miles from shore), almost doubling our jurisdictional area, while France is #2. Japan expands its surface control by a factor of 10 with their EEZ. Water and land combined, Russia is the largest country. The United States has jurisdiction over one sixteenth of the land on Earth, and is larger than China. Russia and China each border 14 countries, while 94 nations have no connecting neighbor.

The U.S. has the largest economy, but did you know that in 2008, Macau, Azerbaijan and Angola registered the highest growth? The World Gross Domestic Product in 2008 was $70 trillion ($1.4 trillion to military expenditures), while the market value of traded shares was $67 trillion in 2007. Today, it could well be half that total. Oil consumption, at 85 million barrel/day in 2008, will drop a billion barrels/day in 2009, but should be back up by 2010.

We use more than 3 billion phones, while internet usage should this year approach 2 billion individuals. There are 600 million vehicles on the road.

More than anything else, the world is at relative peace today. The Doomsday Clock, though, remains at 5 minutes to midnight, uncomfortably close to the doom. There remains, of course, that annoying economic collapse, which, hopefully, has already seen the bottom, at least by consumer surveys. Of course, President Obama has been cautiously optimistic, too, so, perhaps, it is now safe to say--although a few members of my Peak Oil/Global Warming Forum would disagree--that the best is yet to come.
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The Dow Jones Industrials started at -85, went positive, then ended -8 at 8017. Gold dropped $4/toz to $894 and crude remained below $50/barrel (see graph at right). The really big news of the day is that U.S. Senator Arlen Specter switched from a Republican to a Democrat (I didn't know he could just do that!), meaning that if Al Franken (D-Minnesota) does get confirmed, as is expected, the Democrats will have a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the U.S. Senate.
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Tropical Cyclone Kirrily is still loitering between Indonesia and Australia at 40 MPH.
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Tomorrow: Country #1: Afghanistan.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

BENEFITS OF THE SWINE FLU SCARE

Beginning on April 29, the first year anniversary of my daily blog, I will feature, alphabetically, each of the 195 countries. I will start tomorrow with The World. Much of this will be from the CIA Factbook. Every country will be featured before the year is over. I hope to improve from the currently 64 countries visiting this site thus far.
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As predicted last week, the world has gone bonkers about the “dreaded” swine flu. People have stopped flying into Mexico. The country closed down their schools. CNN spends nearly half their time on this perceived epidemic. This is because they know that viewers are interested in this developing calamity.

Again, though, let me indicate that at least half a million people are killed annually from flu complications. In the U.S., 36,000 died last year. As Mexico is about a third of the U.S. population, then roughly 12,000 must have also last year passed away from this virus in 2008. This is equivalent to 33/day, or, say, 200 since the scare was announced almost a week ago.

The latest tally amounted to a death toll seemingly approaching 200, although, still, only 26 have been confirmed to have contracted this new swine flu. These numbers should of course increase, but, keep a tab on the relativity to past deaths. Yes, it is suspected that this particular variety might come with a 5% death rate (as opposed to 0.1% for the “normal” flu), but there is usually a kind of reverse contagion: the killer flu viruses are usually not as infectious. The 1918/9 Spanish flu was an exception.

Thus, my prediction is that government will look good by being so proactive to stop this disease in its tracks. But, then, this would have probably occurred anyway if no one did anything. By responsibly announcing this potential pandemic, Mexico will financially suffer, severely. No wonder China was so "irresponsible" about the avian flu, maybe hoping that it would just go away...which is exactly what happened.

If you had been enterprising, you would have guessed that people would stop travelling a bit so airline stocks would drop. Hotel stocks should also have suffered Monday morning. Pork futures would have taken a hit, and the largest supplier, Smithfield, surely would have lost value. Corn, too, which is fed to pork, would have been affected. Crude oil should have dropped. Thus, you could have made a fortune selling short. This happened in 2005 and 2006 with the more serious bird flu

Did this happen today? Of course it did! Smithfield, Starwood and United Air sunk more than 10%. Then again, you should have bought pharma stocks, for they are theoretically in line to supply the cure. GlaxoSmithKline went up 8%. Also, vacation sites such as Hawaii should see a small boost in tourism, as people stop going to Mexico.

If this is all is so predictable, why am I not a billionaire? For the same reason you aren’t. In my case, it is mostly because I mostly confine myself to pontification, not action. I did, though, place a few dollars on Ford when the market bottomed out a month or so ago. This stock has tripled.
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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 51 to 8025. World markets were mixed. Gold also fell, $8/toz to $906. See box on right: oil did sink, and is now below $50/barrel.
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Tropical Cyclone Kirrily at 45 MPH is lurking around southeastern Indonesia.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

MY FINAL SUMMARY OF JAPAN/SEARCH AND MY DAY AT NOKODAI

AGAIN, FOLLOWING THE FRIDAY, APRIL 24, POSTING YOU CAN FIND BOTH THE SUNDAY, APRIL 26, ARTICLE SUMMARIZING THE JAPAN SEARCH, AND SATURDAY, APRIL 25, ITEM ON MY DAY AT NOKODAI

Friday, April 24, 2009

THE SWINE FLU

SOMETHING WENT AWRY REGARDING DATES.  IT HAS TO DO WITH TIME ZONE DIFFERENCES. THE TWO POSTINGS AFTER "THE SWINE FLU" SOMEHOW GOT KIDNAPPED INTO FRIDAY, APRIL 24. THE TWO POSTINGS FOLLOWING THIS ONE SHOULD BE FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 26 (MY FINAL SUMMARY OF JAPAN AND SEARCH) AND SATURDAY, APRIL 25 (MY DAY AT NOKODAI).
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Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity deals with eternal life. One section reports on the Avian Bird Flu (a redundancy, but...). There were five deaths last year and three so far this year. About 60% of those who contract H5N1 die. Serious if you're one of them, but remember 3 and 5 relatively, later, to ONE MILLION. Flu comes from the Italian influenza. It was known long ago as the grippe in France.
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The current swine flu (which seems to have more lately morphed into a combined bird/pig/human/TRex flu--CNN referred to it has dreaded and killer, already) will almost certainly result in world-wide overreaction. As President Obama recently returned from Mexico, watch the media go crazy if he sniffles or has a scratchy throat. Whether it's airport security or whatever, our society today has a tendency to treat any threat with alarming alacrity, usually, uneccessarily and expensively. Just another symptom of 9/11.
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The 1918 Spanish flu was probably an avian flu (although there are some reports that it might have had some swine relationship)  and 1968/9 Hong Kong influenza was a swine flu, causing, perhaps, 50 million deaths for the former, and for the latter, 750,000. One confusion is that avian H5N1, can also be found in pigs, and it is suspected that up to half of Indonesian pigs are infected by this variety, and they, curiously enough, do not show any symptoms. Should you eat pork when you go Indonesia? Well, eating the cooked flesh should not be a problem.
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The current Mexican flu is the H1N1 strain. The death rate appears to be in the range of 5%. The mortality rate for the "common" flu is roughly 0.1%. This possible new pandemic has spread to the United States. It is difficult to say at this point how serious it is, but my wild guess is that it will just be another type of flu without killing tens of millions. In the U.S. alone, tens of thousands (36,000 in 2008) annually die from flu complications. Globally, up to 1 million are killed by some form of flu each year.
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So, before you get too uptight about travelling anywhere or contemplate wearing some kind of mask in public because a few hundred have passed away from the Mexican flu, remember that the world-wide annual death rate from the flu can be up to ONE MILLION. That's the high norm, but hardly a pandemic. Thus, be mildly concerned, but, heavens, don't worry.  All governments will hyper-react to this episode because, first, you can't take a chance, but, two, if less than one million die worldwide over the next year from the flu, they can take credit for responsibly preventing an epidemic.
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As indicated earlier, here is the excerpt from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
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Are We Overreacting to the Avian Bird Flu?

Bird, or Avian, flu, particularly strain H5N1, was first seen in Hong Kong in 1997. The 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 40 million people, was an avian flu virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 150 million birds have been affected. Humans can be infected only by direct contact with the sick fowl.

Let us get the human and cost factors making some sense:

o On September 29, 2005, David Nabarro, the Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, warned that this deadly virus could kill 150 million people.

o On November 3, 2005, the Asian Development Bank warned that the economic damage from a pandemic affecting 20% of the region’s populace could be $282 billion. [148]

o On November 7, 2005, World Bank economists reported that a worldwide epidemic would cost $800 billion, with 100,000 to 200,000 dying in the United States alone. [149]

o CNN reported on February 19, 2006 of a study reported by the Lowy Institute of Australia that as many as 142 million people around the world could die in a worst case scenario, causing global economic losses of $4.4 trillion. [150]

o On March 27, 2006 Reuters reported that bird flu could cost insurers $53 billion. Fitch Ratings indicated that 400,000 deaths could occur in Europe and 209,000 in the U.S. [151]

Well, at least there is some consistency that, perhaps, 200,000 might die in the U.S. But the financial loss ranged from $282 billion to $4.4 trillion.

However, during the past decade, only 321 cases have been confirmed, none in Europe nor the U.S., with around 200 deaths.[152] You cannot catch this flu by eating the flesh of a tainted bird nor from another individual who has this ailment. A first generation vaccine has been developed. That is the good news. Hate to say this, but the volume of the very large injection is more than ten times the dose of a regular flu shot, and only half of you will be protected.[153] Your home state has begun to purchase this vaccine, with your tax contributions, but to inoculate health workers. The quest for a better vaccine, which will take a lot of money, makes sense, but to stockpile something that will soon become obsolete is close to being dumb.

All this sort of reminds me of the town fool, walking through downtown Chicago (or anywhere) banging a cymbal all day. When asked why he was doing this, he said he was trying to scare away marauding elephants. The remedy was effective, but was there a problem?

In counterpoint, every day, more than 3,000 people are killed in car accidents, where during the past nine years since this bird flu was first detected, more than 10 million have died in traffic—versus about two hundred bird flu deaths, versus 200 million sacrificed chickens. Kind of reminds me of shark against mankind. They get, oh, 5 of us every year, but we kill 100 million of those marauding predators (and mostly for the fin). It has been reported that 150 people die each year from falling coconuts…almost ten times more than succumb to the dreaded new avian flu/year.[154, 155] Any talk of outlawing vehicles or cutting down coconut trees? Finally, Time reports that 430 babies die each year from sudden infant death caused by secondhand smoke.[92] Anyone doing any research to find a vaccine to prevent smoking? Actually, from the previous section…yes.

A growing concern is the superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), pronounced as mersa. In 2005, MRSA killed 19,000 (and made 94,000 seriously ill) Americans, a year when 17,000 died from AIDS complications.[156] Hospitals and medical treatment centers are mostly responsible for this problem.

But on May 31, 2006, it was reported that bird flu, that H5N1 type, killed six of seven relatives in remote village in Indonesia, so, maybe, the virus had finally mutated. No, just poor sanitary practices did in this unlucky group. In the weeks following the quarantine from May 22, no additional cases were reported, and a genetic check on the virus indicated it had not mutated. There was a further quip that Indonesia is just, basically, screwed up as a government and can’t seem to organize anything. Now with 75 avian flu deaths as of mid 2007, Indonesia has leaped past Vietnam’s 46 fatalities.[157]

So what is the big deal with H5N1? I don’t know. The only way this specific avian flu can cause a pandemic is if the virus mutates, and while I’ve read reports stating that very few bird flu viruses have ever done this to infect humans, I saw an unsubstantiated newspaper report implying that flu viruses are prone to genetic mutations. What is the reality? Is this yet another example of airport security overkill? Don’t get me started on that one. My simple solution is to be vigilant, but stop overreacting. You might be one of the more than half a billion or so slated to catch the flu this year, but the odds are infinitesimal for you being nailed by H5N1. Okay, it would be smart to avoid chicken farms in the Orient, but don’t let this scare affect your eating habits. About all this money being spent as a precaution? Spend a small percent of it on educating the public about pandemics and continue researching the baselines for a future vaccine, but let’s not get carried away by something that almost surely will not happen.
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My Japan visit has tripled the daily site visits. I guess people must like to read travel experiences a lot more than Peak Oil, Global Warming and Doomsday. Or, maybe I should add more pictures. I'm also up to 64 countries, exactly one-third the membership of the United Nations.
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Well, tomorrow, my final Japan summary and the state of the Search for Kenjiro's Grandmothers. Perhaps, too, an English translation of the article, which appeared today, by Yuya Hatanaka from the Akita Shimpo on the search.
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A FINAL SUMMARY ABOUT JAPAN AND THE SEARCH














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The top photo is of Pearl next to a female Buddha. Nah, Not sure what this was. I wonder, though, how many females are known to have attained
Nirvana.














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The photos above and below were taken at Japanese restaurant on the 38th floor of the building next to the Tokyo Westin with Hiromi and Kenji Hotta (of Nihon University). If my stomach appears enlarged, yes, the trip was very fulfilling and filling.






















Yuya Hatanaka reported on the Search for Kenjiro’s Grandmothers. He accompanied us to the Daisen City Office and various temples in Akita Prefecture on Wednesday, April 22. Hopefully, someone out there will respond.


A few more observations about Japan:

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1. Tatsuko, the Dragon Princess of Lake Tazawa, was not a female samurai.
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2. The 100 Yen stores now charge 105 Yen. We purchased a lot of 10-color ball point pens as gifts. Yes, 10 colors in one pen. Each at a cost of about a dollar. Also, over time, I've noticed that there is a special type of socks, each at a dollar, that comes in a rainbow assortment of colors, is easy to put on and take off, and lasts forever.
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3. Approximately 80% of Japanese women still dye their hair some shade of brown. The male percentage is closer to 20. These numbers seem to be holding.
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4. The latest on Japan's next Prime Minister: Ishihara is too young (51), Yosano is too old (71), Aso is too unpopular and Ozawa is too scandalized. The elections will be held any time from July to October.
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5. Will Japan overreact to the "dreaded" (CNN actually used this term today) swine flu? Well, both Narita and Kansai Airports have thermographic capabilities to measure your body temperature. Thus, if you are flying in from Mexico, you will most definitely be checked, and "processed" if you have a fever. Kansai will also screen American flights.
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6. Over dinner, there were several discussions about rice. My experience with wine tastings is that people (even experts) cannot tell wines apart in a blind tasting. The failure quotient of differentiating among Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is very high. The cheapest wine is manytimes picked as the most expensive, etc. As most know that Niigata rice is the best and Akita's, is, perhaps, #2. With my wine tasting expertise in mind, I suggested that if anyone held a rice tasting of, say, six Northern Japan rices, the failure rate of picking the exact location would be very high. Everyone...everyone disagreed with me, even Pearl. So, I suggested that Akita Prefecture University hold such a taste test. I'll bring with me a California rice, and wouldn't be surprised if this is picked as high as that of Niigata. This would sort of be the rice equivalent of Bottle Shock.
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MY DAY AT NOKODAI


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Pearl and I today journeyed to Tokyo University of A&T (Nokodai) in Koganei to meet with old friends, many who spent assignments in Hawaii. The top photo shows us with Vice President Matsunaga, who was the first International Professor for the Blue Revolution. The next time we see him, perhaps, President Matsunaga.
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The lower photo is Matsunaga with Dean Akinori Koukitu. I presented a one hour lecture on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS. Rather than the usual PowerPoint format, I utilized a town-hall meeting to gain the participation of the audience. My blog page and Huffington Post articles were connected via the internet, so I was able to refer to key postings and topics. A key point I wanted to stress was that each individual can make a difference if change is desired.
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Just because our national government has a certain policy (such as promoting ethanol or opposing global warming) is not reason enough for supporting your country. If you think something is not right, do something about it. The Japan Times today quoted David Suzuki (who was recently polled as the greatest living Canadian):
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In Japan: 'there's a tremendous sense of social conformity, a reluctance to say anything that might get someone upset, or to disagree; that kind of conformity is crippling, because it does not give you an opportunity to change or try other things, when that change is neeeded.'
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This is generally true also in America, and probably rest of the world. On global warming, for example, politics have determined U.S. policy. Same for ethanol, which is misguided.
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All went reasonably well and, I trust, a few in the audience will be motivated to initiate necessary change. The presentation was followed by a campus reception, then dinner at a fabulous Italian restaurant (Primi Baci) in Kichijoji.
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My blog site has now been visited by 64 countries. I'm almost one third there, for there are close to 200 countries.
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The Dow Jones Industrials jumped $119 to 8076, bit lower for the week. Oil is surging again, up nearly $2/barrel to $51.55, while gold also increased, $9/toz to $914.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS: THE TOWN-HALL PRESENTATION

We finally arrived in Tokyo and had an informative dinner with former Mayor of Shima City, Chihiro Takeuchi, and his daughter, Shiori (who went to high school in Canada and is now at Sophia University), Yayoi/Takeo Kondo (of Nihon University) and Masako Otsuka (International Ocean Institute). The dinner was arranged with amazing alacrity by Chisako Takeuchi, wife of Chihiro, a few hours before the event itself. The above photo captures the moment.

Over a period of five hours we discussed how best to cooperate on economic development in Shima City. As the pearl industry is declining, I have long been suggesting that the combination of deep ocean fluids and colored pearls is the solution. Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth provides details.

Next, my town hall presentation to Nokodai on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS.

Place: Conference hall, No. 1 building, Koganei campus Tokyo University of Agriculture & Technology
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Date: Apr 24 (Fri) 15:00~16:00

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The auditorium holds a lot of people, so anyone is invited. For additional information, contact Professor Tadashi Matsunaga at:

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tmatsuna@cc.tuat.ac.jp
81(0)42-388-7020


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The Dow Jones Industrials remained under 8000, up 70 to 7957, crude oil is still below $50/barrel and gold jumped above $900, plus $12/toz to $905.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BACK TO TOKYO

The Sun is out today, but still relatively chilly in Akita. Today, we catch the Komachi to Tokyo, four hours on the same train, for a change. In summary:

1. A good, quick history of Hokkaido can be found by clicking here. Essentially, very, very few lived on this island except for Ainu in the timeframe of Kenjiro’s grandmothers. For example, Sapporo had a population of 13 in 1870. Thus, the search is now focusing on the Akita area.
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2. Akita is known for good rice and, yes, the dog. However, I don’t think I’ve yet to see a real Akita dog. Pearl pointed one out, but it looked to me as too small. Another thing about pet dogs in Japan is that most of them have very short legs, sort of like small dachsunds, but of varied species.
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3. There must be billions of toothpicks all over the ground in Japan, for every time you open up a chopstick, one falls to the floor.
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4. We have been to a whole host of Japanese restaurants on this trip, some very traditional and expensive, and some not. However, save for one, they all played either American or Beatles music. The preferred background sound is soft jazz.
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5. Japan toilets, almost all Toto, are fantastic.
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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 83 to 7887, but world markets were all up. Gold rose $9/toz to $893. Crude remains below $50/barrel (see graph on right).
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE SEARCH IN AKITA PREFECTURE

As pictures can more enjoyably replace words, let me insert a few photos reporting on the pleasures and frustrations of roots searching. The first photo shows Hiromi and Pearl next to the Shinkansen that took us to Akita.

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The second, above, is Hiromi exhibiting how to eat Inaniwa Udon, a local specialty.

Yuya Hatanaka, reporter for the Akita Sakigake Shimpo (the local newespaper) joined us at the Daisen City Office to interview us about the Search for Kenjiro's Grandmothers. He was sufficiently intrigued that he then drove us to the oldest temple in the area, where we thought Fuka Nakayama's koseki was located. Well, we learned two important things. Buddhist temples only keep a record of when important people die, and nothing else. Worse, this first temple did not have any information, so the priest kindly called various other temples and found one for our next visit, the nearby Ganryuji.

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Chief Priest Ryo Sen Hino, me and next priest Kenichi Hino at the Ganryuji are shown below. Their family has governed this Buddhist temple for 415 years. The current one is #18 and Kenichi will be #19. They said that floods have wiped out some of their records, but they did find information about the Nakayama family.



On the grounds of this temple is the headstone of the Fuka Nakayama family, we think.



Yuya then dropped us off at the Akita City Folklore Center to seek any tales of female samurai. We found nothing, but then tromped off to the Satake Samurai Museum, where the staff looked through their books and could not locate a female samurai named Takahashi or Nakayama.

So, what did we learn?
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1. Shinto shrines have no records.
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2. Buddhist temples 0nly keep records of when people die.
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3. City offices only retain records for 80 years. Kenjiro's grandmothers were born almost 200 years ago.

Thus, as they lived so long ago, we are left with potential folk tales and people who might know something. Newspaper reporters from Hokkaido (Sakurai, see blog of yesterday) and Akita (Hatanaka) interviewed us, so it is possible that someone who has a clue might yet read these articles and communicate. There is, thus, hope.

I have concluded that both of Kenjiro's grandmothers never made it to Sapporo, but lived in Akita and/or nearby Senboku/Daisen Cities, or Kariwano. There is also a tale of Tatsuko, the Dragon Princess of Lake Tazawa, a short distance from Akita. That could be a future search target. We are gaining the counsel of Professors Ikuko Iwasaki and Hideharu Takahashi, both of Akita Prefectural University. Pictured below is a photo of the group having an aloha dinner at a traditional, but modern, Japanese restaurant, called I Enjoy.


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The Dow Jones Industrials recovered 128 to 7970. World markets were mixed: down in the Orient and up in Europe. Oil remains below $50/barrel and gold dropped a buck to $884/toz.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

THE SEARCH CONTINUES IN OTARU



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First, the sunrise view from our room at the Grand Park Hotel in Otaru. Across the bay are the snow-covered mountains of Hokkaido. Hiromi and Pearl in the lobby of the hotel.

Today, Hiromi Hotta took us to two temples and a shrine, plus the Otaru City Office to seek details on Kenjiro’s father Gencho, and, hopefully, the two grandmothers of focus
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First we went to the oldest temple in Otaru, and met an 83 year old charming mother of the priest of Soenji (ji stands for Buddhist temple), who pointed us towards Ryutokuji (another Buddhist temple), which was established in 1876, six years after Kenjiro was born nearby. The priest there took the available information, and said that the church would send any follow-up success to Hiromi, but it might take several weeks.

We then went on to the Otaru City Office, got a lot of solicitous help, but they essentially suggested that more than a century was beyond their file capabilities, yet suggested that we go to the city library located next door. It was after noon, so we asked if there was an outstanding restaurant in the nearby area. The information desk recommended the canteen in the basement.

So we walked down, and appeared to be lost, when a well-dressed person asked us if he could be of help. He pointed the right way and, as Pearl and I appeared to be “foreign” began to ask some questions. He (Takeshi Miyamoto) worked for the Hokkaido Shimbun Press, and was sufficiently intrigued so that he asked us if his newspaper could interview me on my search. What a break: if the island of Hokkaido could read of this impossible dream, perhaps someone (like a distant relative) could have some information of relevance. Maybe Hiromi's prayers are having some influence.
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We then went on for our meal. The lunch, tonkatsu, was terrific, for a great price. Unfortunately, soon thereafter, we found out that, this being a Monday, the library was closed.

On then to a Shinto Shrine located close to our hotel, (by coincidence, the Grand Park Hotel is in the neighborhood of Kenjiro's youth, and the whole location is now a gigantic shopping area linked to the hotel) where we found out that Shinto churches do not keep records. Anytime you see a torii (that Pi shaped gate), it is Shinto. However, a young staff member overheard our discussion about our failure to find official government documents (kosekis) because they only kept them for 80 years. Remember, Kenjiro’s grandmothers were both born nearly 200 years ago. After we left, he ran after us to tell us that he, too, had initiated a search for his roots, and encouraged us to be persistent, because he found information at least 150 years old, and we should continue the effort in Akita.

We then went over to the newspaper office, and Norihiko Sakurai (sakusaku@hokkaido-np.co.jp), staff writer, spent half an hour in a conference room with us gaining the relevant information. (See third photo above.) He indicated that he would write an article on my search and took several photos and retained descriptive information. So, who knows, maybe the Ryutokuji priest might find some information, or Sakurai-san’s reportage could lead somewhere. This is appearing more and more like a real detective-movie: failure, followed by an unexpected breakthrough. The novel (or, hopefully, biography), The Search: For Kenjiro's Grandmothers, is taking shape.

We ended the day with Hiromi’s friend, formerly from Chiba, at Happy Science--Kofuku-no-Kagaku (幸福の科学)--said to be the fastest growing religion in Japan (and probably world). Ryuho Okawa, a relatively young man, a Tokyo University law graduate, (the traditional pathway to ambassadorship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) who has now written 501 books (yes, five hundred and one) purporting to be God himself, 23 years ago initiated a new pathway: combining religions for a better world. Sounds, awfully like my Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity, except he is actually doing something while I merely pontificate. Hiromi’s friend, who arranged the gathering at the Otaru Happy Science location, showed us a video of his first English talk, which occurred in Hawaii. I came to a conclusion that we have the same simple religious solution for humanity, except that he thinks he is God and I don’t believe in God. He is clearly brilliant and successful, but I need some valid proof. We have his latest English publication, The Laws of Courage, and I would like to someday ask him some questions.
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Just another day in Otaru. Tomorrow, on to Akita to search for both of Kenjiro’s grandmothers, for our search today provided strong clues that the timing was such that they both probably operated in the Akita region.
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The Dow Jones Industrials sunk 290 to 7842. Something to do with the credit market. Crude oil crashed almost 10%, and the only answer I could find had to do with investors finding safer havens...such as gold, which jumped $16/toz to $885.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

THE SEARCH FOR KENJIRO'S GRANDMOTHERS: SAPPORO AND OTARU















The past two days began a thorough search for Kenjiro’s grandmothers, thanks to Hiromi Hotta’s cousin, Yoshi Kumamoto, and his wife, Kaoru. (shown with Pearl at the Hokkaido Tower at the top photo above). Yoshi is a recently retired architect who worked for Ito on projects such as the tunnel that connects Hokkaido and Honshu, plus the Tokyo Westin Hotel, our residence in Japan, where we house our suitcases and will return to for the final three days.

Yoshi and Kaoru drove us to every possible potential source of information involving the keywords: roots search, Kenjiro Takahashi, Utashinai (from where Kenjiro was sent to American in the 1890’s), coal tunneling, Otaru (where he was born and potential home of his grandmother from his father’s side) and Hokkaido lifestyles from 1800 to 1900.
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The next three photos are Hiromi at Kushiro's, a comparative population table of Otaru and Sapporo (right-most column) and Pat at the Sapporo Beer Museum. The final three photos are Pat at the Historical Village of Hokkaido, Okurayama Ski Jump and Pearl, Kaoru and Hiromi at a snow pile at the Sapporo Dome.

The search started at Hokkaido University, where we visited their museum, library and archives. With the help of the library staff, Hiromi and Yoshi initiated a computer search for books in Japanese. They found a couple of leads, which will later be traced in the archives. I did an English computer survey and found one book on folklore written in 1930. But there was no hint of a possible female samurai.

The most important person in Sapporo appears to be William Smith Clark (former president of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst), an American agriculturist, who helped start Hokkaido University in 1876, the first modern college in Japan to award bachelor degrees. More noteworthy, perhaps, is Governor Kiyotaka Kuroda, who was a co-founder of the university, but also inspired the colonization of Hokkaido.

We then went to the Sapporo Dome, an enclosed stadium that changes the field for their professional soccer (Consadole Sapporo) and baseball (Nippon Ham Fighters) teams, where it is grass for the former and artificial turf for the latter. The top of the stadium is also a tourist attraction with spectacular views. Next was the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium used in the 1972 Winter Olympics and 2007 World Nordic Ski Jumping Championship. Odori Park is just a park over which the ice sculptures are built for their winter festival. By the way, there are still huge mounds of ice all over the city, and it is almost May. The day ended with a lamb (which is the epicurean meat of choice) barbecue and Sapporo beer at the Sapporo Bier Garten. (We had Sapporo ramen for lunch.)

The next day we went to the Historical Village of Hokkaido, which features actual homes and recreations from the mid-1800’s, many from Otaru. The photos, depictions and lifestyle descriptions will be very useful to portray the time of Kenjiro’s grandmothers. We followed with several museums in Otaru (half an hour drive from Sapporo), again providing invaluable visuals of life from 1800 onwards.

The one fact that caught my attention was that in 1870, the population of Sapporo was 13, while in Otaru it was 3169. Today, Sapporo has nearly 2 million and Otaru something under 150,000. In the colonization of Hokkaido, it was decided that the site of Sapporo was more defensible, but people came by boat, first to Otaru, then, eventually to Sapporo. The city of Sapporo was established in 1868. Kenjiro was born in Otaru, moved with his family to Sapporo, then on to Utashinai. More likely, though, his grandmother from his father’s side almost surely lived most of her life on Honshu, as did the mother of his mother, who was from Akita. Thus, the prospects of finding anything in Otaru should be low.

We are staying at the Okura Grand Park Hotel (former Hilton), located in the general neighborhood where Kenjiro lived in his youth. A shrine is in close walking distance where we hope to search through their archives tomorrow, while the Otaru City Office is also nearby. We had zaru soba (70% buckwheat, 30% wheat) today, followed by shellfish and beer. Otaru is noted for sushi, glassware and shoyu containers that do not drip.
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

SHINKANSEN (BULLET TRAIN)



The best train system in the world is the Japanese Shinkansen, or Bullet Train. First conceived before World War II, it officially came into service in October of 1964, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics. What took 6 hours and 40 minutes to get from Tokyo to Osaka was reduced to 3 hours and 40 minutes by 1965.
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There are now 1528 miles of track where trains travel at speeds up to 186 miles per hour. Noise pollution becomes a problem for speeds greater than 200 MPH, so a magnetic levitation (MagLev) system has been tested up to 361 MPH. A project is being contemplated to connect the Narita and Haneda airports with a MagLev system.

Amazingly, after 45 years and 7 billion passengers, there has been no collision or derailment fatality. There have been, however, a lot of suicides--people jumping in front of an incoming train. The average trip has been late/early by 6 seconds. The Shinkansen produces only 16% of carbon dioxide relative to cars. There have been strikes, but they are very, very rare, and nothing like in France and Italy.

Our itinerary from Tokyo to Sapporo took three trains, each lasting from 3 to 3.5 hours, for a total trip time of 9.5 hours. However, while Otaru to Akita would take all of 20 minutes by air, on Tuesday, we will need to catch 5 different trains and enjoy 7.5 hours of travel time.
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But that’s the beauty of train travel: total relaxation in a secure and comfortable environment (Green Car, first class, is not much better than standard trains, but recommended nevertheless), bento with sake, view of Mount Fuji and other snow covered mountains, sakura or fall leaves or whatever is in bloom, purple fields, yellow patches and remarkable coastlines. I am reading Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, a grimy, dangerous recounting of his second train trip from Europe to the Orient. One of my next books will report on the opposite end of the enjoyment spectrum, including the Shinkansen, two Orient Expresses and VIA Rail Canada's Toronto to Vancouver environmental journey. During our entire stay in Japan this time, we will spend about 50 hours on various Japan Railway trains.
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Cyclone Bijli continues to bedevil Bangladesh and Myanmar, orgininally predicted to make landfall and dissipate, but, instead, moving back into the Bay of Bengal and intensifying. It was only about a year ago that Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar, killing up to 150,000.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

NATIONAL INVENTORS' DAY

We are now at the JR Tower Nikko in Sapporo. Tomorrow a report on the Shinkansen.
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Today is National Inventors’ Day in Japan, the day when the Patent Monopoly Act was enacted on April 18, 1885. It is said that Italy started codified patent law in 1474.
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I bet you didn’t realize the U.S. also has a National Inventors’ Day, on February, 11, the birthday of Thomas Alva Edison? He invented the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, printing telegraph and motion picture camera. Of course, most of these specific technologies are now obsolete, but each concept is being constantly refined.
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The “father” of patent law in Japan is Korekiyo Takahashi, the first patent office direcor. Hmm, wonder if he’s related to Kenjiro or Kenji Takahashi. The first patent was issued to Zuisho Hotta, using a lacquer method for anticorrosion of ship hulls. Hmm, wonder if he is related to Kenji Hotta.
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In 2008, Japan, with 28,744 patents, ranked second to the USA with 53,521. Panasonic is #2 in the world, with Toyota #4. Both countries usually annually process close to half a million patents, so the success rate is between 5 and 10 percent.
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An interesting point was made about the lithium battery, the choice for next generation plug-in vehicles. While the GM Volt will use a South Korean lithium battery, the actual patent is Japanese, so in many ways, Japan will have an edge in this future.
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Leighton Chong has an excellent blog on this subject. He and Dan Bent have been organizing an effort to make Hawaii an international center for patents.
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The Dow Jones Industrials rose 6 to 8131, and so did all world markets. Oil stayed above $50/barrel and gold dropped $7/toz too $869.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

CRIME AND WAR (Part 35B)



After two weeks in Japan, today was our first day of absolutely no commitments. We, thus, just did close to nothing but rest, in preparation for our trip tomorrow to Sapporo with Hiromi Hotta to search for Kenjiro's Grandmothers.
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When did the War on Terror begin? The following is partially excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
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September 11, 2001 (above photo from AP/Reuters, when the second plane was just about to crash into the second tower of the World Trade Center in New York City) was not this beginning. Certainly, you can go back to:
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o 1968 Bobby Kennedy assassination,
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o 1972 Munich Olympics massacre,
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o 1979 Iran Embassy hostage crisis,
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o 1980’s kidnapping of Americans in Lebanon,
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o 1983 Beirut bombing of U.S. Marine barracks,
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o 1985 hijacking of cruise ship Achille Lauro and TWA flight 847,
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o 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103,
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o 1993 first World Trade Center attack (which killed six, injured 1000 and caused $300 million in damages),
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o 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and
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o 2000 assault on the USS Cole in Yemen.
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There was never a full confirmation on what the 9/11 terrorists used as weapons. The official release indicated plastic knives and box cutters, but that might have been for legal reasons. There was a stabbing, a chemical weapon was used, a terrorist probably had a bomb and one shot was fired, killing a passenger. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, and were all in large part well educated, skilled, middle-class professionals.
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Thusly triggered, the Iraq war was launched on March 19, 2003, and was essentially over in less than a month. American casualties have now exceeded 4,000, and it is reported that 70,000 civilians have died, although 100,000 could well be more accurate. Yes, it is troublesome and unfortunate that the 100% school attendance during the days of Dictator Saddam is now down to 30%, nearly half the professionals and 2 million citizens have left Iraq, with 2000 doctors murdered since 2003, and worldwide terrorism increasing seven-fold.
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I once lived in D.C., and the firearm death rate of that city is about 80 per 100,000. In the Iraq theatre, this same death rate is 60 per 100,000 soldiers. Yes, less. But I wouldn’t want to live in either location.
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Of some surprise, the number of American soldiers was not at a maximum during the initial days of the war, the peak was reached in August of 2007, 52 months after that. While we will slowly move out, attaining a satisfactory peace will take a long, long, time, way after we leave.
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While it approaches near miracle status that nothing has happened in the U.S. since 9/11, the sense is that the next Al Queda target has to result in a more spectacular message. A nuclear powerplant? Super Bowl?
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The problem with fighting terrorists is that the enemy is scattered. Further, there is no worldwide conspiracy. Yes, the Jihadis, the militant Muslims, seek to control the Middle East, Europe next (and France is already 20% Muslim, and a likely target), then the world. But, as the relatively defined Iraq War showed, it is not a simple matter of blanket bombing the terrorists.
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Al Queda seeks to unify the Islamic community around the world. Should they succeed in their holy war, ultimately, the more conventional, and less irrational, beliefs of the Koran will dominate.This conflict between largely Christian nations and Wahhabi Islam believers will last many generations, and more.
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Europe fought Germany from 1870 to 1945, or 75 years. The Cold War lasted 42 years. The U.S. pullout of Vietnam, a war that was our longest military conflict, was more than thirty years ago. For some, that was the beginning of the conflict with China. When we leave Iraq, this will occur in the infancy of the War on Terror.
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Simple solution for Iraq? Use the India-Pakistan formula, creating at least three sections by religion: Sunni, Shiite and other. Provide equitable land and value relative to population and strength. Have the UN manage the country as three competing democracies, with a referendum every ten years to review the compromise solution. The availability of petroleum revenues will go a long way to insure for cooperation and peace. Over the next century, as oil runs out, it is possible that the entire Middle East could end up being three countries: Sunni, Shiite and “other.” Religious differences—not the dogma—but the deep hatreds, will require several generations to overcome. Thus, how best to have the people police themselves?
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From all reports, only a very few in Germany were Nazis. While many enjoyed the return of German pride, most were too busy with their lives to bother about the rise. of Hitler In fact, there are statements of fact that most felt that their Nazis were a bunch of fools. The people of Japan were not warmongering sadists. While only a few at the top were responsible for 20 million being killed in Russia and 70 million in China, the vast majority, exhibiting their irrelevance, and, maybe more importantly, irresponsibility, did nothing.
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Today, yes, there is some jealousy about the American lifestyle, our arrogance, the fact that we are not Muslim and the loathsome reality that we are camped in their backyard. But most Muslims are, like in Germany during 30’s, just citizens trying to get on with their life. This 99% of the population needs to overcome the fanatical 1%. Political stability and economic success will line that pathway.
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Black and White…fascism vs democracy…imperialism vs democracy…communism vs democracy…terrorism vs democracy...wouldn’t it be a lot better to end all wars, forever? Let us explore how this might be accomplished with a relatively simple solution.
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The Dow Jones Industrials went up 96 to 8125 and world markets also mostly increased. Oil inched just above $50/barrel and gold fell $17/toz to $875.
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Tropical Cyclone Bill formed in the North Indian Ocean, and at 40MPH, is moving north northeast. It is expected to land at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border on Saturday.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

THE END OF SUSHI AND SASHIMI?


On April 15 it was reported in The Japan Times that Bluefin Tuna (BFT) only had three years left. Thus, would this be the end of maguro (sashimi from the yellow-fin tuna in Hawaii) in Japan and the rest of the world? Well, not really, for the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN speculation only had to do with the Mediterranean species, and, perhaps, the Atlantic as a whole. An Australian-Japan partnership has closed the growth cycle of the smaller South Pacific BFT, and the Ultimate Ocean Ranch will someday provide for the future.

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Related web sites will tell you that the Mediterranean BFT actually originates in the Gulf of Mexico, Nobu’s (restaurant in Honolulu and other pricey epicurean locations such as Tokyo, London and New York City) are being cited by Greenpeace for serving critically-endangered seafood and the International Seafood Sustainablity Foundation will get you if you are not careful about what marine species you eat.

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The most expensive BFT sold for more than $173,600 in the Tsukiji Market of Tokyo in 2008. This tuna only weighed 440 pounds (yes, almost $400/pound), although the heaviest ever caught was just under 1500 pounds.

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Well, everything you ever wanted to know about the future of sashimi and seafood can be found in Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. A short article was presented in the Huffington Post on "The Ultimate Ocean Ranch."

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The Dow Jones Industrials crept above 8000, plus 109 to 8030, while world markets were mixed. Gold was up $1/toz to $891. Oil remains just under $50/barrel. Oh, for those in the USA, happy National Tax Form Deadline Day.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ABOUT JAPAN



Above, Pearl in the lobby of the Westin Miyako just before leaving Kyoto, followed by her at one of the Takayama floats kept under cover because of the rain.
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We are now at the midpoint of our Japan adventure and roots search, so an irreverent and irrelevant summary seems appropriate:

1. I still have not seen a fly, ant, cockroach or blood-sucking mosquito, although Pearl did say she saw a giant fly at the Miyazaki Zoo.


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2. One problem with the Japan Rail Pass is that the Nozomi (fastest, most convenient and frequent) Shinkansen cannot be used. Only the Hikari and Kodama (slowest) are available. On a trip from Fukuoka to Kyoto, for example, while the Nozomi is a quick and seamless ride, on the Hikari, you need to change trains in Shin-Osaka for a 14 minute ride to Kyoto. This is a royal pain with luggage. We have, though, easily caught continuing trains with only 3 and 4 minute periods from arrival to next departure because the tracks tend to be logically placed for easy connection. There are no restrictions for trains headed north of Tokyo (to Niigata or Sapporo).


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3. Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, further sealed his doom, for, in addition to a fund-raising scandal, he expressed opposition to President Barack Obama’s policy in the Middle East. Obama is very popular in Japan.


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4. Apparently, the $150 billion stimulus package is spurring a minor comeback for Prime Minister Taro Aso. The program will provide cash benefits to householders: $120/person, except $200/person if under 19 or over 65. Twenty eight percent said they plan to live it up by using the money to dine out and drink real beer. There are some strange and cheaper beers in Japan, but, I can't tell the difference anyway, so I usually purchase the cheapest. Scrapping of an old car and purchase of an environmentally friendly one will gain a subsidy of $2500.
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5. Which leads to an excellent article by Takamitsu Sawa in The Japan Times on “Beyond the gasoline era.” While I have generally deprecated the plug-in electric vehicle, he brings up a few good points:


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.....a. The electricity for an electric car driven in Japan would cost you one-tenth that of an internal combustion engine gasoline (which costs about $3.75/gallon) vehicle. Further, the EV would produce about one-fourth the carbon dioxide.


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.....b. However, you would never recover the extra cost of paying more for the EV, unless there is a generous tax break. That $2,500 might be a difference maker.


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.....c. Electricity for Japan, though, appears to be headed towards more nuclear fission, as there seems to be no developmental activity to capture renewable energy from the ocean, their greatest potential. With leading shipyards to produce grazing plantships for OTEC electricity and biofuels from marine biomass plantations, and an Exclusive Economic Zone ten times larger than already overcrowded lands, I'm mystified about government priorities regarding future energy.


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6. There is a shortage of honey bees in 21 of 47 prefectures (states). Negotiations have been initiated to import bees from Argentina.


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7. At the end of 2008, there were 1710 inmates serving life sentences, a postwar high. Twenty were executed in the 2007-2008 period. Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity provides a solution to crime: Three Strikes and You’re DEAD!

Well, the great weather we have experienced has been replaced by a light, but nearly constant, drizzle, to continue through tomorrow. Thus, the Takamatsu Spring Festival for today has been cancelled. Up to 100,000 visitors have attended this celebration in the past, but today, aside from a varied food and souvenir booths, and lot wet people, nothing. Back to Tokyo tomorrow.
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World markets all rose, except for Japan, Canada and the U.S., where the Dow Jones Industrials dropped 138 to 7920. Gold fell $4/toz to $890. Oil remains under $50/barrel (see left). Well, the Somalian pirates hijacked two more ships and a third was attacked. Thus far, it is U.S. 1 and S.P. 0, as the one American ship they took over was rescued. I guess this a safer world than during the Cold War when we are merely threatened by rag-tag terrorists and pirates, North Korea's glorious leader and a nearless powerless Iranian president. Yet, the Doomsday Clock, which was reset to 17 minutes in 1991 and 9 minutes in 1998, is today at 5 minutes to midnight, meaning the world is in greater danger from nuclear warfare since the end of the Cold War. The Union of Concerned Scientists must know something I don't.


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Monday, April 13, 2009

OUR DAY IN KYOTO












This might have been our most enjoyable day/night, ever. Dr. Masaharu Kimoto (marine resource leader, shamisen expert, teamaster...and much more) arranged for his wife, Mihoko, aide, Mr. Katayama (who is soon to receive his PhD), and translator, Aya, a former Geiko, to take us through Heian Shrine (Pearl/Aya/Mihoko in top photo above), Nijo Castle, The Golden Pavilion (tour guide/Mihoko/Pearl/Aya/Katayama)...soba lunch...and Sanjusangen-do, which houses 1002 Buddhas (where photography is prohibited--wonder how this photo was taken for Wikipedia). This is the site where, Miyamoto Musashi had his famous duel with Yoshioka Denshichiro in 1604. Next door is the Hyatt Hotel.
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We then attended a Maiko/Geiko (in Kyoto, Geishas are called Geikos) stage performance, followed by a fabulous Kyoto dinner, joined by two Maikos (novices learning the trade) and a Geiko, who then all accompanied us to a karaoke bar, where I had a Nikka Tsuru and sang "Blue Hawaii" with Pearl. That's Dr. Kimoto standing to my right in the next to last photo.
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Dr. Kimoto's business associates, Mr. (former Japan Navy frogman) and Mrs. Shimada from Osaka and Mr. (company president) and Mrs. Matsui from Wakayama, who last year had visited Hawaii, also enjoyed the dinner and karaoke. It was a fine reunion, strengthening the potential for future ocean partnerships.
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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 118, then slowly recovered to minus 25, ending at 8058. Oil sunk below $50/barrel (see price on right) and gold rose $13/toz to $893.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

MIYAZAKI TO KYOTO ON EASTER SUNDAY























































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If you have been a tad confused about the actual dates, join the crowd, but this blog is actually being created on Sunday, April 12, in Japan, but it is still April 11 in Hawaii and the rest of the USA.
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EASTER SUNDAY
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Easter is the holiest of Christian observances. There is Christmas, which is generally fixed as December 25, the birth of Christ, or Jesus. But Easter is a moveable feast, and can occur anytime from March 22 to April 25. This year, it is April 12, or today.
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Lent is the 40-day period leading to Easter, when Jesus fasted in the wilderness. This 40 day period is common in the Bible, as for example, the 40 days/nights of Noah and that of Moses. According to surmisals, the Last Supper occurred on Thursday, the day before Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, but resurrected on Easter Sunday. AD 33 was approximately the time frame, but, remember, most of this “history” was written long after it actually happened. A few details were presented in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity, where some skepticism was postulated as to the actual reality. Yes, someone was no doubt crucified, but is the story a brilliant fabrication? Was the beginning of Christianity the greatest story ever created by Man? Next to notion of a God and the Afterlife, of course. Amen.
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For one, there is nothing about Easter in The Bible. Today, in much of the Western World, there are greeting cards, Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies and Peeps.
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Continuing our Shinkansen adventure and roots search, we spent some time at the Miyazaki Zoo, Florante Miyazake, and Seagaia onsen. In reference to the non-biblical photos above, we start with Pearl in her kimono with a view from our room, while the white building is the Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort. Our room is on the 26th floor at the corner facing you. That round spheroid is the fabled Miyazaki orange. Yes, it looks like a regular orange, and, not surprisingly, tastes like one
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We are now in Kyoto.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

SEAGAIA


Every so often in life you stumble unto something and say, WOW! This would be the Sheraton Grand Ocean Resort, or Phoenix Seagaia Resort, in Miyazaki, Japan, located in the southeast corner of Kyushu, nearly 12 hours by train from Tokyo. This is partially why no one comes here, although there is a nearby airport. So WOW can be a mixed blessing, and unfortunately reminds us of our Sheraton Cairo nightmare, featured in Chapter 6 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.
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The resort itself is first class in beautiful natural surroundings. There is something intruding about a skyscraper in nature, but I like it. Pearl poses above from the 42nd floor of the dominant structure. Our room comes with three large picture windows. We could live here forever. Maybe this is heaven.
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Miyazaki Prefecture has just about the same population as Hawaii, about 1.2 million. The Kobe-like beef and chicken are nationally famous. However, being free-range with no hormones, there is an unusual toughness to the fowl flesh. Interestingly enough, local meats tend to be more expensive than imported varieties. Same for the beer. We are nevertheless planning to try Kai tonight, a special attraction featuring local delicacies.
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The Seagaia tourist complex first opened in 1993. Poor timing, for the economic bubble had burst, and in 2002, Sheraton took over the operations. This was a money losing proposition for another five years, but in 2007, finally a profit was turned. The latest economic collapse is, however, unfortunately evident today.
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How can an international convention center and 45 story hotel with monstrous sized rooms, 99 holes (including Tom Watson 27-hole course), tennis center, onsen, ten restaurants, several bars and the largest indoor water complex (which recently closed) succeed so far away from anything significant? I can't imagine how, under current conditions, there can be any hope.
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Yet, the opportunity is intriguing. The shuttered water park, for one, is just waiting for the ideal application. Maybe a marine concert hall? The first meal we had is another example of imperfect excellence. Located on the 42nd floor, the view is incredible, but the decor somewhat reminescent of a stale coffee shop. The food? Memories of the best in Paris...with an Italian flavor. The set menu comes at different prices. They all start with seven (yes, 7) appetizers, focusing on the food of the region: Miyazaki beef, black pork, foie gras, local vegetable in various hybrid amusements. Then the real food arrives, where you have a choice of soups, pastas, entrees, dessert, interrupted with something called Granite, which is like finally shaved ice. The flavor for the day was wasabi citrus. We had too much to drink at the free cocktail party next door, but a nice bottle of barolo would have gone well with this tapa-ish Roman feast.
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The currently compelling draw today is the cost effectiveness High quality at a bargain, for all the restaurants are uniformly outstanding, service at a 5-star level and outdoor activities varied and appealing. Toshitsugu Sakou and Takeo Kondo: Techno-Ocean should explore a future meeting here, for the economics could be enticing. Joe Vadus: bring one of your international ocean gatherings to Seagaia. Mt. Sakurajima is currently erupting, but only Kagoshima is being affected, and Oita is not too far up the road.
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I regret if I'm making this all sound so doomsdayish for the facility because the whole Seagaia experience is wonderful and relaxing. We most definitely will want to someday return, so let me begin my crusade to draw some positive attention. After all, the G8 Nations met here in 2000. Next, perhaps the G20, with the advantage being that no one will be able to find this site to protest.
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But all these comments are after less than 24 hours, so, perhaps, I might adjust my attitude by the time we leave tomorrow for Kyoto.
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