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Saturday, March 31, 2012

EMINENTLY USEFUL INFORMATION

1.  If it is Leap Year (like this one we're now in), there is a U.S. President Election (6November 2012) and world Summer Olympics (London XXX--#30 if you don't know how to read Roman numerals--Olympiad from 27July to 12August2012, 204 participating entities, 4700 medals).

2.  One of my three cable boxes blacked out this week, so I had it changed.  I did not notice that it showed 480i, and so did the other two I've had for years.  Well, I just learned that the box should read 1080i.  Why?  First, analog sets ceased to be functional three years ago.  480i (resolution of this many lines for regular, meaning old, TV sets--the i stands for interlaced, while p is for progressive scan, only used for the early version plasma screens) is for the older NON-High Definition TVs.  Most of you have by now moved on to HD, so you need to convert your box to 1080i.  Does the picture look better?  Well, the 480i setting looked pretty good to me, actually, but the 1080i should be better, I guess.  Frankly, I couldn't tell much difference, if any, but this could be because these new TVs are smarter than you think and might be automatically converting the signal to 1080i even though the box says otherwise.  But you should nevertheless make this change to 1080i by calling Oceanic at 643-2337 if this is your cable company.  At least the technician on the phone suggested so.

3.  Can you believe that 15 million to 70 million mobile phones are lost or stolen each year?  That 70 million is cited to be phones lost just in the USA, so something is wrong with these statistics.  In any case, that is a lot of pain involved, with the highest loss/stolen rate occurring in cities with the highest crime rate.  Do you have a password for the data you store in your phone?  Yikes, I don't.  Going to have to visit the Apple store as soon as possible.

4.  You've of course heard of Susan Boyle.  Anytime you can one-up Simon Cowell and have him eat his words, although his comeback was priceless, your day is made.  Even Piers Morgan was stunned.  Now, however, Britain's Got Talent has Jonathan and Charlotte.  Jonathan, the male teenage version of Susan (who gets to 51 tomorrow) is 17 years old, while Charlotte is 16 and will at some point just become Jonathan's manager.  Again, Cowell's supercilious attitude is  vanquished.  If you click on their performance, tears will be drawn, guaranteed.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

FOSTER BOTANICAL GARDEN

I was born half a mile from Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, for the past thirty years have lived less than a mile from the park (if you look closely between those coconut trees, you will see not only my building, but my apartment) and never took a tour...until today.  Entrance was free until a few years ago, but now costs $5/person, unless you're from Hawaii ($3).  While somewhat educational, the whole experience was excruciating.

I joined a small home-schooled group of youngsters and their parents.  They (the children) were the most interrogative, touchy/feely, and declarative group I've seen, expressing wonderment at seeds, leaves...anything.  For example, the docent asked them to touch a pod, saying it feels like a rat.  One wouldn't even attempt for fear, and a second indicated she's never felt a rat before.  Curious about them, particularly their enthusiasm and ingenuousness, I stuck on with the tour.

I noticed, though, that they were a bit too regimented, as a parent now and then pulled the child over and carefully lectured, nicely, mind you, on what NOT to do.  Never was there an encouraging word.  My chapter on education on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity... lamented the civilizing 2-5 year olds go through, thus squashing that spark of inspiration.  I wonder if this is endemic in home schooling?

The park was named after Mary Foster, who donated her land to the City and County of Honolulu in 1930.  Located close to downtown Honolulu, across the street from Zippy's, the biggest problem for me  had to do with mosquitos.  I got more stings today than since the turn of the millennium, even though in this period I've been on an African safari and trecked through parts of South America.

Sadly, the Garden was split in two when a freeway came through in 1953.  You would think they'd build a bridge over that piece of land, but 60 years ago I guess environmentalism was not even a word then.

Well, here were the primary attractions (at least for my limited tour--the dosen spent much too long explaining every possible detail over every question, and there were many):

First, the Bodhi Tree.  The small Sacred Fig Tree in front was grown from the large "mother" in the back, which is a fourth generation clone of the original under which Buddha (Prince Siddhartha Gautama) sat in India around 2500 years ago:


Above is our docent, Lana, who is showing nature's largest seed, a double coconut.  Here it is growing on the grounds:


The cannonball tree always amuses me:


Notice the sign, with the children are looking in the wrong direction:


What they were focused on was a chameleon:


That flower becomes a cannonball:


I thought it was especially liberal of the docent to pick flowers and fruits (like tamarinds) to give to the students, and a couple of them had stuffed pockets.  The surprise of the tour, for me, was a cacao plant, from where comes chocolate.  I always thought the pod was like 6 inches long, perhaps 6 inches around the center, and tan colored.  Nope.  Here it is, chocolate colored and as large as a kosher pickle:


Every so often I take a photo of myself:


A breadfruit (still developing):


Here is a strange palm:


And a shaving brush flower:


I found the orchids to be disappointing, for the recent orchid show I attended was a lot more spectacular, and my apartment might even be on par with the following:


At the end I went to visit a yellow Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia chrysantha), a close relative of Pearl's Gold Tree (Tabebuia donnell-smithii):


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

MY FINAL FORTY

March Madness is down to its Final Four.  My pick?  There is just so much hype about Calipari versus Pitino, but all worthy of media play.  Kentucky should beat Louisville and go on to be the final one.

Major League Baseball, if you blinked, just completed two games in Tokyo, with Seattle and Oakland splitting to start the season.  Which is a good time as any to warn you about April 1, coming up this Sunday.

In 1988 when The Tokyo Dome first opened, the Japan Times published on April 1 a story that their new stadium would need to be moved 40 yards north or the Yomiuri Giants would finish last, for the "Big Egg (nickname)" sat on a Shinto Shrine. You would think the proffered solution--filling the dome with helium and floating it 40 yards--would give a hint as to the seriousness.  But, no, I happened to be in the city that day, and while funny, nevertheless caused consternation for a Nation that was not aware of this sort of prank traditionally perpetrated in the USA.  The stock value of the Giants parent company and those associated with the stadium all fell.

Since then, there is something every year, as for example, in 2005, Ueno Zoo announced that they had discovered a giant penguin called the Tonosama Penguin, and said it's favorite dish was white fish with soy sauce.  The accompanying photo was their zoo director, Teruyuki Komiya, in costume.

The American opening day is Wednesday, April 4, but only with one game at the brand new Marlins Park in Miami involving Miami and St. Louis, the defending champion.  As it is known to rain in Florida, the stadium has a retractable roof.  There are only 37,000 seats and the cost was slightly higher than half a billion dollars.  With the humidity and size (340 feet left, 416 ft center and 335 ft right), this is destined to be a pitcher's park.  It is located on the site of the former Orange Bowl in Little Havana, 2 miles west of downtown Miami.

All the above is just to set the state for the rest of my life, which has been divided by various periods of the number four, a bad luck omen in Japan because SHI sounds like death.  Four is also the dreaded number in China.  For example, you never give a gift of four melons in Japan, but mainly, in this specific case, because one musk melon can cost $250.

Anyway, my baby period lasted four years until I went to Muriel Pre-School, when added to my K-6 years at Pohukaina Elementary, gives a sum of eight years.  The odd school terms were Central Intermediate School and McKinley High School, which only lasted 3 years each.  However, my time at Stanford University for a B.S. in chemical engineering and LSU for a PhD in biochemical engineering also only each lasted a bit over three and a half years, but those round off to four.  I joined the University of Hawaii in 1972 and forty years later, still occupy an office on the Manoa Campus.  Wow, it has been forty years!  However, I retired in January of 2000, and it is this final forty year cycle to 2040, when I become a hundred years old, that is the focus of this posting.

During the first twelve years of my retirement, I wrote three books and published more than a 100 articles in The Huffington Post.  My four year period with HuffPo is over, I've graduated, but should I sign on for another four with Planet Earth and Humanity?  Is it worth my while to try to save our globe and society?  My first contribution was on 29April2008, and after 1471 postings, I have a month to decide if I continue for another four, or, perhaps, 24, years when I gain centenarian status (Why not maintain my optimistic nature?).  What do I plan to do over the next 28 years?  I'm not sure, but that is the best part of this all.  I can do almost anything I want.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SOME INTERESTING STUFF

Kenji Sumida sent me the following interesting stuff.  Below are only some of them.  He even is responsible for the title, and said these types of pupus (Hawaiian for appetizers) are what he generally learns from this blog site.  I've actually cited some of them in the past.

1.  Alaska

More than half of the coastline of the entire United States is in Alaska


2.  Amazon

The Amazon rainforest produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen supply. The Amazon River pushes so much water into the Atlantic Ocean that, more than one hundred miles at sea off the mouth of the river, one can dip fresh water out of the ocean. The volume of water in the Amazon river is greater than the next eight largest rivers in the world combined and three times the flow of all rivers in the United State


3.  Antarctica

Antarctica is the only land on our planet that is not owned by any country. Ninety percent of the world's ice covers Antarctica. This ice also represents seventy percent of all the fresh water in the world. As strange as it sounds, however, Antarctica is essentially a desert; the average yearly total precipitation is about two inches. Although covered with ice (all but 0.4% of it, ice.), Antarctica is the driest place on the planet, with an absolute humidity lower than the Gobi desert.


4.  Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria, was flourishing a couple of thousand years before Rome was founded in 753 BC, making it the oldest continuously inhabited city in existence.
(Perhaps you can now better appreciate the land of Bashar al-Assad.)


5.  Los Angeles

Los Angeles ' full name is:
El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula
-- and can be abbreviated to 3.63% of its size: L.A.


6.  New York City

The term 'The Big Apple' was coined by touring jazz musicians of the 1930s who used the slang expression 'apple' for any town or city.
Therefore, to play New York City is to play the big time - The Big Apple.

There are more Irish in New York City than in Dublin, Ireland; more Italians in New York City than in Rome, Italy; and more Jews in New York City than in Tel Aviv, Israel .


7.  Rome

The first city to reach a population of 1 million people was Rome, Italy in 133 B.C. There is a city called Rome on every continent.


8.  Sahara Desert

In the Sahara Desert, there is a town named Tidikelt, Algeria, which did not receive a drop of rain for ten years. Technically though, the driest place on Earth is in the valleys of the Antarctic near Ross Island. There has been no rainfall there for two million years.


9.  Russia

The deepest hole ever drilled by man is the Kola Superdeep Borehole, in Russia. It reached a depth of 12,261 meters (about 40,226 feet or 7.62 miles). It was drilled for scientific research and gave up some unexpected discoveries, one of which was a huge deposit of hydrogen - so massive that the mud coming from the hole was boiling with it.  (I like his photo better than mine.)


10.  United States

The Eisenhower interstate system requires that one mile in every five must be straight. These straight sections are usable as airstrips in times of war or other emergencies.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

IS OUR SUPREME COURT FLAWED?


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is testing the Constitution and seems destined to taint the credibility of the Supreme Court.  The arguments presented today indicate that the five to four Republican majority  will either strike down that law or, at least, the individual mandate requirement, where every citizen is required to have health insurance by 2014.  Of course, it could still uphold the entire package, but that looks like only a 10% betting probability after today.  Short of the latter, the Supreme Court will be challenged as it never has before, and, perhaps, too, the nature of the elections process, as for example, the requirement of an Electoral College.  

This same "pro-Republican political" decision occurred in 2000 when the Supreme Court voted for George W. Bush over Al Gore.  In this presidential election, Gore got 50,999,897 (48.38%) votes, Bush 50,456,002 (47.87%) and Ralph Nader (Green Party) 2,882,955 (2.74%).  In short, Gore won and Nader really screwed up the Democrats.  Theoretically, Ron Paul has the same opportunity to kill any Republican chances this year, but there appears to be a warm accommodation between Mitt Romney and Paul to preclude this potential.

But back to the 2000 Supreme Court decisions (there were three), their effective award of the 26 Florida electoral votes to Bush gave him 271, to 266 for Gore.  All indications are that any recount would "probably" have resulted in Bush prevailing anyway, so the matter then recedes to the fairness and idiocy of an Electoral College, where one DC delegate refused to vote.  The real flaw here was not the Supreme Court, but the electoral process, which was not particularly questioned then, nor much now.

Clearly, the Republicans are upset that the Democratic-controlled Congress (not only was the House run by Democrats, but any filibuster was prevented by a Senate with at least 60 Democrats and Demo-Independents) and White House snuck through the bill in this crucial period to the surprise of many.  The Tea Party and re-gaining leadership in the House, plus the predominance of Republicans as state governors, served to change the rules of the game, leading to this Supreme Court decision-making process.

Is there something that can be done about lifetime tenure, judicial activism, federal-state power conflicts, judicial interference in political disputes, and a failure to protect individual rights.  No.  Will Roe (Jane Roe is Norma McCorvey, yesterday and today) versus Wade (legalized abortion on a 7-2 vote) be reviewed if Republicans suddenly gain control of the House, Senate and White House this year.  Maybe.
Michael Moore, in his documentary, SiCKO, claims that the U.S. is the only westernized country with universal health care.  This might not be totally true, but Fareed Zakaria recently had an excellent article in TIME entitled "Health Care is for Everyone":

1.  Two decades ago Switzerland, a uniquely business-friendly country, to cut soaring medical costs, mandated that everyone had to buy health insurance.  Well, it worked, as it spends 11% of its GDP on health care, lowered their expenses, and everyone seems happy.  The current U.S. government expenditure is 17% of our GDP.

  2.  Taiwan, another strong free-market economy, in the mid'90's, created a universal medical care system and created ONE insurer, sort of like Medicare.  Quality of care is deemed excellent and they spend only 7% of its GDP on this national health program.

  3.  NO OTHER NATION TODAY SPENDS MORE THAN 12% OF ITS TOTAL ECONOMY ON HEALTH CARE!!  Yet, most of these nations have a higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality and more favorable patient satisfaction.
  4.  An MRI in France costs $281...in the USA, $1080.  See a pattern forming?

5.  In the 80's, the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank, whose current poster man is Rush Limbaugh) proposed that everyone be required to buy health insurance like car insurance, while a few years later, Mitt Romney chose this model for Massachusetts, and was praised by New Gingrich.  Ah, but politics!  They all now condemn any national health care program.

  6.  American companies today need to contribute tens of billions of dollars to provide health care for their employees.  With a national plan, they will pay next to nothing, and can better compete against China, Germany, Japan, etc.

Fareed, you make sense.

Sure the Supreme Court is flawed, but our entire government is broken.  Who's going to fix that?  Yet, the USA is the only supreme nation on Planet Earth today, and represents an ideal mix of freedom, economic enterprise and lifestyles.  We'll survive whatever the Supreme Court decides.

I had dinner tonight on my roof and wondered how much Venus and Jupiter had diverged from last week.  The following photo was taken (Moon above, Venus and Jupiter at the bottom), with Holst's The Planets playing in the background:


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