Total Pageviews

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WELCOME READER #200,000

As I was about to begin writing my blog today, #1438, incidentally, I noticed that the total pageviews had passed 200,000.  No, #200,000 was not Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine, but if it was you, let me know.  In any case, something over this number have visited, and from 200 countries, no less.  There are 246 Google entities (as for example, Antarctica has a country code of AQ), so I have 46 to go.

Thus, rather than create just another informational article, I thought I would today summarize this blog site, and provide a guide to using it.  In the beginning, I maybe got 20 pings/day.  The recent daily average has been around 400, with the 27February2010 blog gaining 3912 visitors and the 11March2011 post receiving 2309.  You might recall that the former date was the day of the Great Chile Earthquake and the latter the Great Tohoku Earthquake, with subsequent tragedies of tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Part of the uptick is that I was asked by the Huffington Post to report on the tsunami coming to Hawaii (Chile...Japan), and those who read those entries no doubt showed some curiosity about this web page.  The problem was that I was in Amsterdam for the Chile event and in Bangkok for the Japan disaster.  However, CNN very thoroughly covers these catastrophes, so I was possibly better positioned to report on these developments from my exotic hotel room, for many of my friends in Hawaii had to evacuate and were not in regular communication, having escaped to the hills.

So, to begin from the top, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY was created to provide information on renewable energy, ocean resources and the environment, providing updates of my three SIMPLE SOLUTION books.

Perhaps these subjects are inherently boring, but my friends kept telling me they much rather enjoyed tales of my eating and traveling and enjoying life, so I have expanded coverage to anything I wish, especially as Book 2, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity, dealt with a range of subjects having nothing to do with energy and the environment.  Ninety percent of the time in the morning when I first sit at my computer, I have no idea what would be the subject for the day, with today being a typical example. This leap year day, that milestone 200,000 was the spark of inspiration.

Then the total pageviews followed by SOME HUFFPO AND BLOG POSTINGS OF POSSIBLE INTEREST.  In the right column are various energy statistics which are constantly changing.  I guess it is no surprise that fossil fuels dominate and the grand total of non-hydro renewables is about 2%.  China uses more energy than the USA, and combined our two countries account for 40% of all the energy used.

This blog emanates from Honolulu, Hawaii, thus the time and date.

SEARCH THIS BLOG is an especially valuable option, for you can type in key words, click on Search, and they send you to my postings most related to your interest.

TRANSLATE TO YOUR LANGUAGE is amazing, for you can just click on your flag of choice, and this column is instantly translated into that language.  Actually, colleagues have informed me that the state of the translation remains infantile.

The VIEWERS box lists the number of visitors from those 200 countries.  I find it remarkable that ONLY one-third of those who have read this page are Americans.  There are two visitors entries because some time ago, this service disappeared, so I added a second one.  Then the original returned, so I kept both.  They are largely redundant.

LINK TO JOOBLE is just a favor to a stranger who asked if I could list their search engine, so I said okay.  I imagine I will delete this link sometime soon.

WE MUST TAKE ACTION ON GLOBAL WARMING NOW does a weak job of balancing the reality of climate change.  I believe what is happening is real and that we are largely responsible.

How Much Does Gasoline Cost is a real time indicator of gasoline prices in the USA.  Just follow those directions to find out what the prices are in your state or the nation at large.

This is followed by the WTI Crude Oil price.

Of particular interest should be the future price of petroleum.  Click on FUTURE PRICE OF OIL and you will be transported to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  If you do, you will note that the projected price in December of 2020 is expected to be an amazing $89.82/barrel.  The WTI today is $107/barrel.

Then comes the DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE and Our National Debt.  You can click on the U.S. National Debt Clock to find out that this number shot past $15 trillion.  However, I have a totally different view on this national issue.  I don't think we have a problem, and you can read my Huffington Post article on this subject entitled:


A particularly useful link is found in CALCULATE THE CURRENT VALUE OF MONEY.  If you want to know what a dollar a hundred years ago is  worth today, click on Measuring Worth, and find values between $17 and $389, depending the parameter of comparison.  Actually, I will need to update to a newer version because this calculator is only good up to 2010.  You can add an inflation rate of 3% for 2011.

Next, some ALL TIME NUMBERS related to high and low prices of petroleum and gold, then the 30 year mortgage rate range.

You can find previous articles in the Blog Archive listed in reverse chronological order.  Just click on the titles to transport yourself to that posting.

Finally to the right is something ABOUT ME.  Best to Google my name for more info.  

Now moving to the text portion, I CAPITALIZE THIS BECAUSE THERE ARE HARDLY ANY COMMENTS TO MY BLOG.  AT THE VERY END OF EACH ARTICLE IS A BLUE COLORED 

0 comments  (or whatever number in the rare even that there is a response)

I very much would like your input, so just click on that link and send in your comments.  Perhaps so that you can feel secure, take a chance, just say "HI" for now.  Thank you.

Oh, below this article is the posting from the previous day...and so on.

-
The Dow Jones Industrials fell 53 to 12,952, with world markets also mostly down.  But my oh my,  gold crashed $75/toz to $1711, and platinum minus $29/toz to $1692.  How appropriate, as my blog yesterday focused on these two metals.  The reason looks like the premise for a movie, as a cartel raid was the cause.  

-

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PLATINUM GOLD ARUGULA

You know a lot about gold.  I report on this precious metal every weekday, and summarized everything you might want to know about it as a lead-in to my Book 2 chapter on religion.  But we know so little about platinum.

I have valued this element because it remains essential to the future of fuel cells.  Bet you didn't know that:

  -  There is so little of what is known as "Rich Man's Gold."  Roughly, industry refines 1 pound of platinum to 17 pounds of gold to more than 100 pounds of silver.

  -  All the platinum ever produced would fit in an average home, approximately a cube 20 feet on each side.  All the gold mined would fill about a third of the Washington Monument.  Still not much if think about it.

  -  Gold is heavy, but platinum is 11% denser.  Thus, imagine a cube only six inches on each side.  The weight in platinum would be that of an average man.

  -  You get one pound of platinum for every 20,000 pounds of ore, and the extraction process takes as long as six months.

  -  50% of the platinum annually produced is destroyed by industrial use.  Almost all the gold is kept.

 -  One-fifth of everything we have has platinum or was manufactured by a process requiring platinum.    This metal is used in catalysts, fuel cells, hard disks and jewelry.

  -  About 10 million pounds of gold is stored in Fort Knox (left).

PLATINUM IS NOT STORED.  Thus, if "something" happens, the price of this precious metal will skyrocket.

Considering all the above, you would think platinum would cost a lot, lot more than gold.  Nope.  Here is the historical comparison:


How many of you knew that their selling prices have been very similar.  Since 2009, gold has been slightly  more valuable than platinum, and prices today were (per ounce):

  -  silver      $    37
  -  platinum $1721
  -  gold       $1786

There is a punchline to all this.  HAVE YOU CONSIDERED INVESTING IN PLATINUM?

Now, about arugula.  First, there is no relationship among gold, platinum and arugula.  I picked ten leaves from my roof garden today, and, save for a couple of standard ones from another pot, my giant arugula were all longer than 10 inches:


This is a yardstick, and the longest leaf had a length a tad over 15 inches.  Compared to a "normal" arugula, the giant width (6-inch ruler) borders on scary:


They taste the same.

While on the roof I took a photo of my plumeria:


and one of six blooming water lilies:


-
The Dow Jones Industrials rose 24 to, tada....13,005, finally a close above 13,000 since 19May2008.   The first time was in April of 2007, and the Dow went on to hit an all-time high of 14,165 in October of that year, dropping to a recent low of 6547 in March of 2009.  World markets were also almost all up.  The WTI Cushing dropped two bucks to $107/barrel, while the Brent Spot went up to $123/barrel.

-
A storm popped up just west of Madagascar, will strengthen to hurricane force and head towards South Africa.

-

Monday, February 27, 2012

OSCAR, ROONEY, AUDREY AND TITANIC IN 3D


By now you know who won the 2012 Oscars.  As predicted (or just scroll down to the next posting), The Artist won the important ones.  

Every so often a striking contrast just appears out of nowhere.  My most stunning moment last night was seeing Audrey Hepburn.  Well, she passed away 19 years ago, so who was this actress?

Well, actually, this is Rooney Mara, that Dragon Tattoo Lady.  One of her great grandfathers is Tim Mara, founder of the 2012 Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants, while one other is Art Rooney, who founded the past champs, the Pittsburg Steelers.  Thus, ROONEY MARA.  She has an older sister, Kate Mara, who appeared in Brokeback Mountain and the 24 series on TV.

While Rooney will appear in two more of the Girl trilogy (there have now been four, for the first three emanated from Sweden, from where the book came), you can only wonder if, perhaps, in the future she will be singing The Rain In Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain or Moon River.





















It's entirely possible that you might not remember Audrey Hepburn.  Here she is with Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.  Who will play Peck, or George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's or Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady?

Another bizarre anomaly has to do with the Academy Award Original songs.  The first ten Oscars went to:

  The Continental
  Lullaby of Broadway
  The Way You Look Tonight
  Sweet Leilani
  Thanks for the Memory
  Over the Rainbow
  When You Wish Upon a Star
  The Last Time I Saw Paris (here is the original Ann Southern version from Lady Be Good)
  White Christmas
  You'll Never Know





The above compares to:

   2011  Man or Muppet (only two songs nominated--this poster is from Poland)
   2010  We Belong Together  (from Toy Story 3)
   2009  The Weary Kind
   2008  Jai Ho
   2007  Falling Slowly
   2006  I Need to Wake Up
   2005  It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp
   2004  Al Otro Lado Del Rio
   2003  Into the West

You've never heard of any of them.  Finally, fifteen years ago in 1997, there was My Heart Will Go On from Titanic, to return as a 3D movie in April.  How far has original film music dropped with  It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp?

-
The Dow Jones Industrials stayed steady at -1 to 12,981, with world markets mostly down.  Gold fell $6/toz to $1768, while the WTI Cushing is at $109/barrel and Brent Spot at $123/barrel.

-

Sunday, February 26, 2012

MOVIES! MOVIES! MOVIES!


This has been my year of going to the movies, for I have seen at least 50, probably more, and those were actually in theaters.  I also have NETFLIX (which I find sorely wanting) and HBO/Showtime (comes with the apartment).  A typical year these days experiences 1000 new full length films/year.  About the cost, I look at it this way, one night in a typically expensive hotel these days costs $500.  I spent less, much less, on those films than one night at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.  This hotel was the star of Lost in Translation.

There is a huge disconnect between those films people like me go to and the Oscar nominees, none which made the top ten.  Incredibly enough, The Smurfs is the only movie in this top ten that was not a sequel.  Worse, #1, the last Harry Potter, made $1.3 billion, while the grand total of all nine Academy Award flicks earned less than $0.6 billion.  In most ways, a sad, sad, year.  I might add that I walked out of   Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (tedious), was close to doing this for The Tree of Life (The Most Boring Movie I Have Ever Seen), could not muster the interest to bother with The Help and was truly disappointed with The Artist, which will win a bunch of awards.  

Tonight at 8:30PM ET on ABC, watch the Academy Awards, starting four and a half hours earlier with the Academy Awards Preview Show, and at 7PM ET with the Red Carpet Walk.  To be held at the Hollywood and Highland Center Theater (Kodak went bankrupt), Billy Crystal will moderate, and a billion viewers might be watching.  Suggested by Louis Mayer of MGM, the first ceremony occurred in 1929, where best picture was Wings, with Clara Bow (left), and introducing Gary Cooper.  Appropriately enough, they had an affair.  I didn't know Gary Cooper was that old, but he was born in 1901.

TV came in 1953 and Alaska finally got it live only last year.  Hawaii, still, sees this program four hours late, beginning at 7:30PM HT.   6000 members of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences vote, and, for the record, 94% are white, 77% male and 86% 50 or older.

I had a rather comprehensive summary of Oscar and the Academy Awards last year, so let me stop here and do you an especial favor by not making any predictions.  I guessed pretty well last year and will only be disappointed tonight.  Well, let me recant.  Sasha Baron Cohen will walk the Red Carpet as the Dictator:  


And I hope The Descendants wins something:


-

Saturday, February 25, 2012

THE FUTURE OF FINE CUISINE

For most, the ultra gourmet life is a vicarious fantasy.  It need not be, for even I, a retired educator on a limited pension, now and then can splurge on various once in a lifetime meals.  I do because I'm old and can almost see the light at the end of life.

Here are some basics regarding extravagant eating.  First, these experiences are very expensive.  Count on spending something in the range of $300 to $500 person, with modest wines.  When you travel to the major cities of the world, though, hotels generally cost the same, so look at it this way:  for just the equivalent of an evening in your hotel, you can indulge in, perhaps, one of the greater adventures of your existence.  

This general spending philosophy also works when faced with any guilt feeling about purchasing that great new golf driver.  So I bought a Cleveland with a 39 ounce Miyazaki shaft, and now drive the ball, surely, at least a few feet further.  It only cost as much as a typical hotel room for one night.  

At one time, Paris and various other smaller cities in France and, too, Belgium, were the epicenters of great dining.  No more.  A posting earlier this month was entitled:

JAPAN HAS MORE THREE STAR MICHELIN RESTAURANTS THAN FRANCE!


Mind you, three stars are the max on the Michelin scale.  However, Japan is not the new center of epicurean splendor.  It is Spain.  

Much of the credit is given to Ferran Adria, of the late elBulli in the town of Roses in Catalonia.  Late because he closed his restaurant on July 30 of last year, and expects to open a creativity center in 2014.  Many of the currently top chefs spent time here, including the #1 in the world, Rene Redzepi of Noma, the #1 restaurant on the Pellegrino Top 100.

Part of the shift from French to fusion and molecular gastronomy is because the former featured centuries old menus, heavy in sauces and cholesterol.  I began to experiment with fusion perhaps a couple of decades ago when I asked the Concierge where was the latest synthesis of local  and international food.  Click on this link to some of my more recent ones:  Italian-Japanese, Korean-French, and Japanese-French.  Generally, the most successful combinations involve French, so their reputation has evolved.  Many of these fusion chefs trained in Paris, although Spain is catching up.

The hottest trend has to do with the science and technology of cooking.  Click on this piece from the Smithsonian.  Then invest in Modernist Cuisine (for 2,438 pages, only costs as much as one night in the Tokyo Park Hyatt...$625, but you can get it for $450 if you order now from Amazon.com, and shipping is free).  The latest kitchens now use centrifuges, liquid nitrogen, a welding torch, vacuum pumps, freeze dryers, ultrasonic homogenizers, and a few more gizmos you will only find in a top chemistry laboratory, as well as chemicals such as methocel and calcium lactate.  You get foam, gels and spheres.  All these newfangled notions give you hot and cold tea (in one cup), pop tart veges and dessert in a bubble.  Pork might be served pink (for trichinosis is no longer a concern in developed countries), but they are very very careful about any salads, for fear of E. coli.

According to the Gayot guide, here are the top ten restaurants in the USA for MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY:

   The French Laundry (French--Yountville, California)
   Alinea (Modern American--Chicago, Illinois)
   wd-50 (Contemporary--New York, New York)
   Moto (Eclectic, Chicago, Illinois)
   Nine-Ten (La Jolla, California)
   Hugo's (Contemporary--Portland, Maine)
   AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean (Vietnamese--Costa Mesa, California)
   Vu (New American--Marina del Rey)
   Baume (French--Palo Alto, California)
   Lounge ON20 (American--Sacramento, California)
   
In addition to the above, there, too, is a return to your roots as another new pathway, featuring authentically traditional preparations using local ingredients.  Although Chef Rene (second from right) studied under Adria, the theme at Noma is simplicity, with little of that foam stuff.  Some of those "local ingredients," however, are in the realm of weeds and branches, with maybe too much vinegar, so I was not all that excited about all the served dishes.  However, this is the #1 restaurant in the world, located in Copenhagen.  

Oh, I might finally add that many of these next generation eating establishments create works of art, such as this masterpiece by Chef Atala from DOM in Sao Paulo:


So, what is the future of cuisine?  If you can afford it, try any of the above, at least once.  In any case,   I do, though, now use less sodium, have a lot more fruits/vegetables and increased the ratio of seafoods.  A balanced and meager diet is best for longevity, scientists say.  Most important of all, though, don't get too hungry!  At least my body gets very angry when not fed.  Finally, most deaths occur when one just awakes, so be careful, and at least eat something small as soon as possible, but not too much, for obesity begins with a hearty breakfast.   But, I do live to eat, and  enjoy an occasional Whopper or Rainbow Drive-In bento plate or Zippy's meal, maybe even too much, actually.  

For certain, I will continue to maximize my enjoyment of life by continuing to seek new adventures in fine cuisine.  With pal Ed Jurkens, we have just about tried all the steak houses in Honolulu.  I am now officially a Chaine des Rotisseurs, where Bruce Liebert (right) is the Bailli Provincial, representing something like the Grand Poobah of the Hawaii gourmet society,   On my next global adventure in April, I will seek the best in Japan, Europe and Las Vegas, for all of a sudden, here is where some of the greatest chefs have come.

-

Friday, February 24, 2012

IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF PEAK OIL?

But first, it is Friday, and my weekend began beautifully with a glorious Honolulu sunrise:

and smiles from my flowers:

But to the question above....NO!  Yes, there has been a bump in world oil prices, but this has mostly been stimulated by a terrible European economy and the concern about whether Israel will attack Iran, as underscored by the price differential of the European Brent Spot $127/barrel and American WTI Cushing $108/barrel.  This spread is a relatively recent phenomenon:


As recently as September of last year, the price was below $80/barrel (WTI). That horrendous spike to $147/barrel was three and a half years ago, but the price dropped to $36/barrel only six months later:


While the only certainty on oil prices is the uncertainty, chances are that oil prices will soon return to $100/barrel levels for the WTI.  Unless, of course, Israel does bomb nuclear targets in Iran.  Then look for $150/barrel, for a short while, anyway.  The selling price of oil will continue to depend on geo-political factors...until PEAK OIL.

Keep in mind, though, that the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has petroleum on:

  November 2012   $110/barrel
  December 2020   $  86/barrel

Yes, $86/barrel almost nine years into the future!  These are serious investors who are not the least concerned about Peak Oil.  Of course, if you buy at $86/barrel today, and Peak Oil results in $200/barrel oil in December of 2020, you will make a killing.

As an aside, Madeleine Austin today sent me a New York Times article written by Tom Ridge and Mary Peters entitled:


The Methanol Alternative to Gasoline

The bottom line, they report, is that methanol from natural gas costs $1.13/gallon, and, while this fuel has only half the energy content of gasoline, methanol, after taxes, profits, etc., should cost $3/gallon at the pump.  

However, my crusade for biomethanol (methanol from biomass) is not to burn it in an internal combustion engine, but to power the car with a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC), which would take the vehicle five times further than one running on lithium batteries.  And the reason why methanol is better than hydrogen is that, first, one gallon of methanol has 1.4 times more accessible hydrogen than a gallon of LIQUID HYDROGEN.  Do you know how much liquid hydrogen costs?  That is #2, plus #3 is that there is no significant infrastructure for a gas (as opposed to liquid) delivery system.  Click on this analysis by Sandy Thomas (above left), president of H2Gen Innovations, then extend this argument to a fuel cell powered by biomethanol.

Finally, and for reasons that mystify me, there is almost no appreciation of the fact that methanol is the ONLY liquid capable of being directly and efficiently (well, someday, perhaps) processed by a fuel cell.  So why don't we do this already?  Because the Farm Lobby (and, maybe, too, oil industry, for they have long been fearing this methane to methanol option to prematurely replace gasoline) prevented the Department of Energy from conducting much research on the DMFC.  But the concept is real, for Toshiba is already marketing a DMFC for portable applications, and there are finally signs that the Department of Energy might now be considering this alternative.

Since the mid-70's I have been advocating a biomass to methanol economy to power a DMFC for ground transport.  I see enough movement now that in a decade, this will finally happen, which is an optimistic statement, for commercialization of any new energy option usually takes a quarter century.  Read my Huffington Post articles on this subject:


-
Economy to be later completed.

-

Thursday, February 23, 2012

HOW TO START A BILLION DOLLAR PROJECT

In times of desperation, government can do  amazing things, as for example, the Manhattan Project (to beat Hitler to the Atomic Bomb) and Apollo to the Moon (to catch up with the Soviet Union during the Cold War).  Today, short of an imminent attack from outer space aliens, there is nothing on the horizon compelling enough to evoke total world cooperation to accomplish magnificent objectives.  Global Warming, for example, will not be taken seriously enough for any kind of major united effort because the sea level is rising too slowly and hundreds of millions just won't perish one hot summer.  

It's bad enough that they are all broken in their own ways anyway, but scratch any federal government from taking a leadership role to save Planet Earth or inspire Humanitarian enterprises.  Local governments are hopeless and industry deals mostly with profits in the shorter term.


As recognized in Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, this only leaves philanthropic options for grand opportunities.  Understandably, the very rich tend to mostly take on charitable or health challenges of the needy, as the guilt complex is real.  The morality of feeding and extending the lifetime of the abject is in itself  debatable, for a few have philosophized on the true value of prolonging subsistence level existence.

So are there, then, more meaningful and glorious aspirations?  Population control is fraught with moral dilemmas.  Environmental and specie protection causes are already overly subscribed.  Paul Allen made an attempt in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
Somewhat along the same theme is the imaginative vision of the Thirty Metre Telescope, expected to cost somewhere in the vicinity of a billion dollars.  Simply enough, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation committed $200 million, and things began to move.  What will be observed?  Well, maybe some clues will be gleaned regarding dark matter/energy, perhaps more exosolar planets could be detected, or science will "see" closer to the edge of the Universe.  That's it?  Well, this is at least somewhat romantic and better than spending $3 trillion on the Middle East wars.

Wouldn't it be more productive to seal your (note:  this is particularly for billionaires) legacy with an international effort to develop clean energy, sustainable food crops, green chemicals, hydrogen, next generation fisheries, marine biomass plantations and exciting new futuristic habitats, while remediating global warming and preventing the formation of hurricanes, all in the same transcendent adventure?  Now that it has been largely determined that space is passe (no sense wasting any more money until China makes a threatening move), and the $150 billion International Space Station an official white elephant, the time has come for the International Pacific Ocean Station, the initial stage launching the Blue Revolution at sea.  The rendering above is Shimizu's Green Float environmental island.

Barron's has a list of 25 best philanthropists. Interestingly enough, #1 are Pierre and Pam Omidyar (left) and #7 are Bill and Melinda Gates.    You can further scan the list of Forbes' Billionaires (Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu is #1, by a wide margin, while Paul Allen is #56 and Gordon Moore is #268) and more immediately in the Pacific,  Japan's (#1 is Masayoshi Son) and South Korea's (#1 is Lee Kun-Hee) Top Ten Billionaires, China's 400 Richest (#1 is Liang Wengen, and there are 135 billionaires), and Hawaii's Richest People (#1 is Pierre Omidyar, who is #145 on that Forbes list).  Of course, it is all in who you know and how you can make your dream theirs.

-
The Dow Jones Industrials rose 46 to 12,985, with world markets also mostly up.  Gold increased $3/toz to $1778, while oil is creeping up, with the WTI Cushing at $107/barrel and the Brent Spot at $126/barrel.

-

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW...

Yesterday was the peak of Carnival--Shrove Tuesday...Pancake Tuesday...Fat Tuesday...or Mardi Gras (the French translation of Tuesday Fat)--the day before when Lent begins, which is Ash Wednesday, today.  Above, from Rio and below, New Orleans:


In Rio, almost all the parades occur in a stadium, Sambodromo:


But in New Orleans, they wend their way through various parts of the city.  I spent 3 1/2 years in Louisiana, so I several times experienced Hurricanes (it's a drink--I still have the glass) and tossed beads (also  a few of them, too):


The most popular song in the New Orleans version is "Go to the Mardi Gras."  One of my very favorite movies was Black Orpheus (1959), which took place during Carnival in the '50's.

Ash Wednesday begins the 40-day liturgical period of fasting and prayer, a most appropriate re-start to the Republican Primary debate, which continues tonight from Mesa, Arizona (sponsored by CNN from 8PM eastern time).  Which candidate will show up, I wonder, wearing a cross on his forehead.  If either Romney or Santorum makes only one serious gaffe, it could all be over for that person.  How's that for pressure.

Next Tuesday (February 28) will continue the embarrassing survival series in Arizona and Michigan, with Super Tuesday the following Tuesday (March 6) involving Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia.  The Hawaii caucus is on March 13, and the Northern Mariana Islands end it all on July 31.  By the way, while Rick Santorum has caught up in the polls with Mitt Romney, and actually leads four states to three, he today stands at #4 in secured delegates with 9, compared to 91 for Romney.


Girl Scout cookies are now on sale!  They took out all the trans fats.  Thin mints are the most popular, and Savannah Smiles (above, lemony) the newest.  Prices differ from place to place and you can't yet order online.  It is not tax deductible if you eat it, but is if you donate them back to the Girl Scouts.  Seventy percent of sales remain at the local council.  200 million boxes are produced annually and Jennifer Sharpe (right, with her mother) in 2008 sold 17,328 boxes.

How did she do it?  According to her mother, this shy girl just sat at a street corner in Dearborn, Michigan, every day during the cookie selling season and did her best.  No great network system, no help, except from her mother.

They're against Atlanta tonight, but you can watch the New York Knicks, with Jeremy Lin, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, play the Miami Heat, with Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, on TNT tomorrow night (Thursday, February 23 at 7PM, eastern time).  Miami is on a seven game win streak, expects to be in the NBA finals, and win.  Miami won at home almost a month ago by ten points.  But that was before Super Lin.  The Heat are rated #1 in the NBA, wile the Knicks are #10.  There are rumors that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama might be in the crowd.

And speaking of the current President, watch him sing during "In Performance at the White House:  Red, White and Blues" on PBS this coming Monday, February 27 at 9PM eastern time.  He was handed the mike by Mick Jagger and came through with "Sweet Home Chicago," joining B.B. King.  Will President Obama make an appearance with Al Green on American Idol?

The previous night, Sunday, February 26, features the Academy Awards on ABC at 7PM ET, hosted by Billy Crystal, his ninth time.  I can't believe that The Artist will win more Oscars than it should.  This was a very creative but average film.  It would be especially terrible if Jean Dujardin beats out George Clooney for Best Actor.

-
The Dow Jones Industrials slipped 27 to 12,938, while world markets were also mostly down.  Gold jumped $21/toz to $1778, while the WTI crude is at $106/barrel and Brent spot at $123/barrel.  Many are predicting $130/barrel by this summer, and Republicans are hoping for $5/gallon gasoline.

-