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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

THE PEAK OF MY LIFE

What can be better than walking 9 holes at the Ala Wai Golf Course.  With me were Paul Yuen and Pepper Shiramizu.  Paul was a past dean of engineering at the University of Hawaii and Pepper was for a long period secretary to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.  Both Paul and Pepper have had some challenging health problems the past few years, so golfing with them was pure joy.

I then returned home, took a long bath with a Yoichi 20 year old on rocks, the BEST SCOTCH in the world.  I then went to my roof and had a butter yaki of a Costco rib eye with sweet Maui onions and string beans, some Castello blue cheese and a glass of Stanford Alumni Governor's Selection Ridge Line Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.


It was sunset, so I had a special La Aroma de Cuba Churchill cigar with a Louis XIII cognac to watch the stars.  I listened to my iPod music via a Bose wireless speaker.  Just as the Moon appeared (three days before full), on came Honolulu City Lights with the Beamer Brothers, Pearls favorite song.  The next, and this is on shuttle, so the sequence is random, was Hanohano Hanalei by Bunny Brown and the Hilo Hawaiians, which took me back to Kilauea, Kauai in 1962, exactly half a century ago.  Then, Ginza Kan Kan Musume, one of my favorite songs, which I can't sing, but  which Tadashi Matsunaga's (president of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology) Mamasan at his favorite Ginza bar in Tokyo sang to perfection.  This song was popular just after World War II, and brought me back to my youth.  Two more photos:


This was that perfect moment when memories flooded back.  Life cannot get any better.  I'm healthy, with no worries and will be golfing this morning.  I'm surely in heaven and life can't get any better.  I'm at the peak of my life.


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Also good news, Typhoon Saola is now at 75 MPH, and will strengthen, but is now appearing to just skirt north of Taipei, turning left and making landfall over Wenzhou, reasonably south of Shanghai and Zhoushan, where I have a lot of colleagues:


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Monday, July 30, 2012

MAHALO

When you're retired, the smallest thing becomes a mountain because stress is relative.  Any new minor pain anywhere in your body and you think the worst.  My frontal lobe was seriously being challenged.  A leaking toilet creates mental havoc.  

I once ran a sugar factory, and there are various ways to say this, but one is to "never fix anything that is working."  Well, I've had both a washer/dryer (W/D) and side-by-side freezer-refrigerator (F/R) that have both performed flawlessly for 15 years.  As an engineer, I find this amazing.  But, then, you think, maybe my luck will soon run out, so wouldn't it be smart as a wise act of preventative maintenance to maintain zero defects by replacing these appliances, now.  So I went to Best Buy / Pacific Sales and within minutes purchased new ones.  



I was soon to leave on a long trip, so I delayed delivery until six weeks in the future.  Upon return, expecting a call on a Thursday as to when they would be delivering the next day, I waited.  Kind of reminds me of the joke about this soldier who drops off a pair of civilian shoes to be fixed, but is sent to war in an emergency.  A year later he returns, with the ticket.  Says the proprietor, after rummaging around in the back, "it will be ready next week." Worried by the late afternoon, I call them and learn that, sorry, someone in the meantime had bought my washer/dryer (what!!!) so the next shipment might arrive in a month or so, maybe.  Irritated, I drove to the store to express my annoyance and  arranged to have the W/D replaced with another one from another company that was in stock.  Unfortunately, it is in the warehouse of a competitor.  But my untrustworthy sales agent indicated it would be a simple matter of e-mailing a request and I should know for sure in a few days.  Can you believe anything of what I am saying?  Anyway, delivery did come the following week.  Here is where the nightmare started.

First, they had to remove the handle on the F/R to squeeze it into the kitchen.  If the appliance had been a sixteenth of an inch deeper, this would have been impossible.

Secondly, if you live in an apartment (my apartment looking down from my roof), there are two valves each opening and closing the water flow to your W/D and F/R.  The deliverers do not touch those valves.  That is the apartment owners responsibility.  After 15 years, both valves are frozen.  It is even worse for one valve, as the handle to turn it is missing.  Those deliverers can only wait 15 minutes before they take everything back and charge you for re-delivery.


So I did a very, very stupid thing.  I used a pair of pliers to try to turn the valve with no handle.  This breaks a seal and water begins to spurt into the room.

Let me backtrack six months and summarize that my neighbor two doors down the hallway suffered a water leakage caused by a plumber and just recently had everything again okay.  The damage to his apartment (he had to move into a hotel for a month) and the one below must have been in six figures.



With this thought in mind, my heart almost stopped and brain went into panic.  The apartment only allows stoppage of water flows once a month, usually at 9AM on a Wednesday.  Emergencies can be very expensive.  For those two valves (because another couple of bolts appeared to be locked) to be replaced, the entire water supply for the building has to be shut off.


This is where I got really, really lucky.  I caught the elevator downstairs and saw in the lobby both the chief security officer, Russ, and maintenance man, Don.  This might happen once a month.  I explained my problem, they winced, kind of scolded me and raced to action.  Russ said there was a plumber on the 11th floor and he would see what he could do about getting him to quickly come to my apartment.  He directed Don to go up to a side valve on my floor and close the valve to all the refrigerators, hoping no one would complain for a short stoppage.  In the meantime, this I did not know, but there are two bolts that can stop the flow of the hot and cold water lines so that the valve to the W/D can be fixed.  I couldn't turn them and neither could the deliverers.   However, Russ took his turn and succeeded.  Those heroic actions enabled work to proceed on the W/D, but the plumber was in the middle of fixing something else, so it took almost half an hour to look at my problem.  The Pacific Sales people actually waited during this period, which was also unexpected.


Louis, the plumber, was an angel.  He quickly replaced the important valve to my F/R (and the fact that he was carrying a spare was a miracle), and did enough for the W/D that on first load everything worked.  Everyone was happy and the deliverers left.  While, as would be expected, it took forever for the freezer and refrigerator to cool, there was no food spoilage through this ordeal. Even the icemaker worked on first try.

Well, this was not the end of the nightmare, as the next day, on the second load, I saw water on the floor, which meant something was leaking from the washer.  I arranged for Louie's company to return, and Otis changed the valve and found a faulty rubber washer connecting the line to the W/D.  He also better balanced the washer, so, finally, I can now sleep comfortably.

Q (building superintendent), I really appreciated what Russ and Don did, far above their call to duty.  Mahalo  (thank you in Hawaiian).

Louis, you and your staff were wonderful.  Mahalo.

There is a third mahalo, for the other day I noticed that the symbol for low tire pressure showed in the dashboard of my Honda Fit.  This car is not quite four years old, but I have seen that symbol four times, the previous three when the Honda mechanics found a screw, nail and piece of metal in the tires.  So this fourth time I did not bother to determine which tire was faulty.  I immediately around mid-morning drove to Pflueger Honda Downtown, where I bought the car.  K.C. listened to me and led me to the waiting room.  Five minutes later he returned and asked when was the last time I added air to my tires.  I said several months ago, and really meant the time of the last flat, which could have been six months or more.  He said that all the pressures were between 26 and 28 and that he aired them up to 32 and all should be fine.  He indicated that the symbol lights when the pressure drops to 27 pounds per square inch.  He indicated that I should return there every two months to have someone top the pressure up to 32.  FREE!!  Both for this fix-up and future air.  I didn't know they had this service.  He said that many of those air pumps at service stations have added coin operated versions.  So big MAHALOS to KC and Pflueger Honda Downtown.  I might finally add that their service personnel is so much better than Servco's.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

DEB, DAN, AND PAT AT MORIMOTO WAIKIKI

Unfortunately, Debbie at the last moment could not join us, but her husband, Dan Bent, and I went to Morimoto Waikiki for a feast.  They are my neighbors and take care of my plants and fish when I'm away.  Some day I'll say more about Deb, but Dan for a little more than a decade was the U.S. Attorney in Hawaii.  We were both on the Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge campus a little more than half a century ago.  He was in mechanical engineering and I was in chemical engineering.  He went on to Georgetown Law School.  He is now into dispute resolution and intellectual property.  Dan and I belong to the Gourmet Philosophers, a small group that eats and philosophizes

Well we had their chef's omakase (meaning  you accept what is served) special with two expensive bottles of sparkling water.  I also had a small decanter of sake.

The meal started with:

#1  Toro and hamachi tartare:


Those are minced raw yellowtail and fatty tuna, with various almost neutral condiments in the middle.  I'm only recently leaning in the direction of NOT overpowering raw fish with gobs of wasabi, for the purpose, I guess, is to savor the taste, not to drown out the fishy taste.

#2  Hot oil sashimi of Kona Kampachi:


The fish could have been better seared by the hot oil, and the taste was too bland.  On the other hand, maybe that was the point.

#3  Bagna Cauda, a Piedmont (Italy) fondue:


The "fondue" is a dipping sauce of garlic, anchovy and olive oil.  This also could have been much hotter, but I rather enjoyed this dish.

#4  Foie gras chawanmushi:


This was my highlight of the night.  What is under the foie gras (literally, liver from a fattened goose, now illegal in California) is a custard.  Surely, there must be a way to fatten liver without being cruel to the bird, which is all so ironic because you will inhumanly eat it anyway.  Next:

#5  Intermezzo of konbu cha, or sea kelp tea:


Dan liked it, but I found the taste to be like salty tea with a seaweed flavor.  It was a nice break.  Next came:

#6 A selection of nigiri sushi:


That huge chunk of wasabi you see shows that I haven't yet totally converted.

#7  The grand entree finale featured a pan roasted lobster (I had a teriyaki cod), wagyu (expensive Japanese beef from Australia) and ginger pork:


Each course can, if desired, be embellished with gourmet terms, as, for example, that lobster came with a garam masala spice mix (a blend from India), the meat with Maui onion jus (by-product juice from the preparation), and the pork with a peanut sauce, pear marmalade and macadamia nuts.  But this is as far as I will go tonight.  The above actually shows some asparagus, but that is because I forgot to take a photo of this dish and borrowed the above from a Morimoto review.

#8  The dessert was supposed to be kabocha soufflé and Okinawan sweet potato ice cream, but we asked our server to pack it for us to take home to Debbie:


They served us the ice cream anyway.  Dan also missed taking a shot of the main entree, but we remembered to get this final photo.

The restaurant was quite filled.  I wondered how these ordinary looking people could afford the price, for the bill was substantive.  They were probably mostly tourists out on a binge.  But, of course, it was worth the food, service and company.  Such splurges don't occur that often and these extravagances make life worthwhile.  After all, the end is relatively near.

We did discuss religion and the afterlife, and my sense is that Dan and I share similar beliefs on faith and food.  He did though mention something about some great cuisine being served in some of the cheapest hole-in-the-walls (or perhaps more appropriate term) throughout Honolulu, especially Kalihi.  He will invite me to lunch to expand my epicurean experience.

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LONDON OLYMPICS FINAL RACE: THE MARATHON

First, I did fix myself a Badminton (scroll down to my post yesterday) after I returned from walking 18 at Ala Wai yesterday:


Amazingly enough, I had all the ingredients.  But I do have a dozen different Johnny Walker scotches, so I had little doubt.  Flowers are optional.  I did not provide exact details yesterday, so here they are:




A Maraschino cherry is advised, which I quickly eliminated, for the concoction was too sweet as it was.  Next time, Roses Lime Juice will be helpful.

So, about the London Olympics, let's go back to the beginning.  If there is a race with historic Greek roots, it is the marathon.  The Modern Olympics began in Greece in 1896.  This final race of any Olympics since then commemorates the deadly race in 490 BC of Pheidippides from Marathon (the battlefield, and, thus, the name), a distance of around 25 miles, to Athens, where he announced to the Assembly, "νικωμεν’--we have won (defeating the invading Persians), collapsed and died.

You would think that the Athens race would have established the marathon distance, but, no, it kept changing until the "unofficial" Athens Olympic Games in 1906 (note that this was out of sync by two years) set it at just over 26 miles.  Notable was the first participation by an official USA delegation.  In 1908 the eruption of Mount Vesuvius relocated the Olympics from Rome to London.  As was reported, because the race began at Windsor Castle, the organizers had to add 385 yards to where King Edward VII would be sitting in White City Stadium, etching into posterity 26 miles plus 385 yards as the official marathon distance, as illogical as it might be.  An American, Johnny Hayes. won, only because the first person to cross the line, Dorando Pietri (above right) collapsed several times and was finally helped to the finish.

There are now 500 marathons annually held, with the Honolulu Marathon among the top ten.  According to AskMen and Runner's World, London's is #1, and they only first held this event in 1981.  There is something about the historic background that provides an ethereal aura.  Thus, these marathons for the summer games should be magical.

In London, the women's marathon will be run on August 5, while the men's will on August 12 start at 11AM (midnight Hawaii time / 6AM New York).  Much of the race will be run on the streets of London, so this will mostly (you won't be able to see the beginning and end in person, except with tickets and on TV) be free for the viewing if you are short of tickets.  To the right, Mary Keitany and Wilson Kipsang of Kenya with Prince Harry.  They won the April London Marathon, so their favorite status below could just be the confidence they provide from having recently run and win here, for the following is from Sky Bet, a British on-line betting site.

Favorites are:

Women

Mary Keitany (Kenya)               11/8 (42%)
Tiki Galana (Ethiopia)                5/1 (17%)
Lilya Shobukhova (Russia)       13/2 (13%)
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Shalane Flanagan (USA)          10/1 (9%)

Men

Wilson Kipsang (Kenya)            5/2 (29%)
Ayele Abshero (Ethiopia)           5/2 (29%)
Abel Kirui (Kenya)                     4/1 (20%)

The top six men are all from Kenya or Ethiopia.  However, favorites rarely win.  The last woman to do this was Rosa Mota in 1988.

Can't leave, though, without a final series of photos, for no one officially responds to these postings, but personal comments (granted, all from the male gender) seem to favor my treatment of women (the men also participate, but there apparently is no interest for their visuals--until someone so comments) beach volleyball:



They are China's Zhang Xi above, followed from the left by Russia's Anna Vozakova and Anastasia Vasina. Women's beach volleyball has become a big hit in London, and a very hot ticket.  Huge availability for the men's competition.  The cost ranges from a low of around $70 to a high of  $700 per seat, same as the women's tickets, which, of course, are sold out.

So why is women's beach volleyball so popular?   Well, for one, my photos, but, also, Prince Harry has promised to attend the women's finals at 9PM (10AM Hawaii / 3PM New York) on Thursday, August 8.  For more shots, click on Mirror Sport to view the olympians from Great Britain.

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Oh, oh, Tropical Storm Saola is now expected to strengthen to a Category 3 just before it begins to affect Taipei:


The expectation is a grazing of Taiwan, then on to the general region of Zhoushan and Shanghai, a relative rarity for this area.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

NO KIDDING, BADMINTON CAN BE INTERESTING

Badminton is like a miniature tennis game with a net 5 feet one inch high, played with a shuttlecock (bird or birdie) instead of ball, which cannot be bounced.  Of course it was invented by the British, in the mid-1700's, but in India, and more specially, in the garrison town of Poona.  The game is called badminton because on return to Great Britain, the Duke of Beaufort's Badminton House (or Manor) in Gloucestershire, 23 miles from London, seemed to be associated with rules development.  Interestingly enough, the Duke was also credited to have invented the Badminton:  gin, midori melon liqueur, blue curaçao liqueur and lemon juice.  Got to try this tonight.

The original bird was fashioned using a champagne cork adorned with feathers (16, but now you have what is on the right) and is one-eleventh the weight of a tennis ball.  The battledore, or racket, is about a third to a fourth as heavy.  An ace is not common, even though the shuttlecock has been clocked at 206 miles per hour (a tennis ball only travels as high as 164 MPH, but a golf ball has been measured up to 200 MPH).  It is said that NASA's Mercury capsule was designed using the principles of this birdie, but, I guess, backwards.  


One point about safety is that the shoes are different, with no lateral support.  This is because there is a lot of lateral (sideways) movement in the game, but a sudden move can sprain your ankle with the wrong shoes.  Footwork is key in this game.  Yonex seems to have captured the market in badminton shoes.  The #1 Amazon.com shoe is half the cost of the #2, and the #4 is only $12.79.  On the other hand, want the best?  Try the Yonex SHB 86EX for $140 (left).

There is the World Cup for international football, Super Bowl for American professional football, but three cups for badminton:  Thomas (men, left), Uber (women, right) and Sudiman (mixed).  The top ten men are all from Asia save for Peter Hoeg Gade of Denmark.  The top women are also mostly from Asia, with Germany and Denmark represented.  Denmark had the top mixed couple last year, but is now #3 to two Chinese pairs.

In badminton, there are five Olympic golds, including one for mixed doubles.  Tennis and sailing also feature mixed competition.  

The top badminton player of all time, and favored for the gold in London, is Super Dan, or Lin Dan of China (left).  If you're American or European, this could get boring pretty quickly, as China, Indonesia and South Korea have won 23 of 24 gold medals in the sport.  But, aha, Tony Gunawanan won the gold in the 2000 Olympics for Indonesia and is now representing the USA.  He will team with Howard Bach (originally from Vietnam) in the doubles competition.  Unfortunately, they already fell today to South Korea.  The only other American who qualified is Rena Wang, who was born in Pasadena and is a senior at UCLA.  She is coached by Tony, and don't expect much, as she is ranked #59 in the world.  She first plays on Monday.


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Tropical Storm Saola, east of the Philippines, will strengthen into a powerful typhoon and head straight for Taiwan, threatening Taipei by mid-week.


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Friday, July 27, 2012

TEARS AND LAUGHS FROM THE OLYMPICS

First, congratulations to me, as my readership passed 300,000 yesterday, and from 207 countries.

But to the London Olympics, yes there were a lot of tears from the 1972 Munich massacre, and, apparently, the Opening Ceremonies won't spend even a minute to commemorate the 40th anniversary, for key political interests from the Middle East would not be happy.  Terrorism is a real concern, for it was the day after London was selected in 2005 when Islamist terrorists killed 52 in that city with bombs.  

Speaking of the Opening Ceremony (9PM UK time, which is 4PM New York time), a billion around the world, live here and there, will see it on television, but not in the USA.  NBC will show this event at 7:30PM, depending on where you live in the country.   You would think that this should then be at least 1:30PM Hawaii time, because of the six hour difference.  But, no, our local NBC channel airs the Opening Ceremony at 5:30PM.  To view in 3D, apparently, I will need to wait until 11PM tonight.  Why???

NBC this weekend announced the top 30 Olympic moments, hosted by Bob Costas (who has indicated he would be remembering the '72 tragedy).  I watched it, and, you know what dominated?  Tears.  There was crying all over...from gold medalists, spectators, and, even me.  There will be a lot more, especially during the award ceremonies.

But enough of that.  This is the first Olympics for tweets (if you're confused, yes, it's Twitter, but what you send is a tweet), and already, Voula Papachristou, Greek triple jumper, has been left home for her racist tweets:

Commenting on the widely reported appearance of Nile-virus-carrying mosquitoes in Athens, Papachristou wrote: "With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!".

The one that made me laugh came from Stephanie Rice of Australia sending photos of herself in a bikini, for which she was roundly criticized.  A response: 

That photo is absolutely scandalous.  She has so little on she could be mistaken for an Olympic beach volleyball player.

Those are the USA beach volleyball Olympians below:


Stephanie got in trouble two years ago, when she wrote "suck on that, faggots," after Australia beat South Africa at rugby.  As you can't see her face above, here she is publicly apologizing:


Holly Mangold is 5'8" and 350 pounds (43 pounds heavier than her brother Nick, who plays for the NFL New York Jets), a super-heavyweight American weightlifter who was the first of her gender to play official high school football in Ohio.  She is known for bawdy comments.  Here is a safe one:

I love my body.  I think it's perfect.  I don't know what my personality would be like if I wasn't so huge.  

View a video about Holly and how she became an Olympian.

By now you've missed the Opening Ceremonies, so it's no scoop to indicate that Roger Bannister did NOT light the Olympic Torch, for seven young athletes nominated by past British champions did.  Highlights featured a history of Great Britain and a soundtrack of historic British rock, with an apparent parachute landing by James Bond and Queen Elizabeth.  Paul McCartney completed the entertainment:


Not quite Beijing, but there were fireworks at the end of the three and a half show.  Well, you can now watch all this in 3D on channel 1202 in Honolulu at 11PM.


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

OLYMPIC SABRE: MARIEL VERSUS SADA

There are 530 (or 529--for the first time more women than men) USA olympic members.  One is selected by them to carry the American flag in the Opening Ceremonies.  Chosen was a 5'8", 168 pound, female.  Hmm...at my heaviest three years ago, I was that height and weight.  You never heard of her, for she is a fencer.  She won the gold in 2004 mostly because a Nigerian fencer dropped out and she was next on the ratings list.  To the astonishment of many, she got the gold in women's sabre.  In Beijing 2008, she was not favored, but got the gold again.  This year she is the expected to hit gold.  Her name is Mariel Zagunis.

However, she should be worried about her teamate, Sada Jacobson, graduate of Yale who earned a law degree from the University of Michigan, and won the bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008 (losing to Zagunis).  Sara tells the story:

When the three medal winners finished their group hug, a gentleman in the front row, moved by the show of emotion, reached into his pocket and produce a neatly folded white handkerchief, handing it down to Jacobson. Her silver medal still hanging around her neck by a bright red ribbon, she laughed, dabbed her eyes and handed it back. The man laughed with her and dabbed his own eyes. Moments later Jacobson thought, "Maybe I should have kept it." But by then the hanky, full of her tears, was back in the pocket of former president George H.W. Bush.[20]  The United States swept the event, with Zagunis winning the gold, Jacobson the silver, and Rebecca Ward the bronze.[20]


Now that you will be watching fencing, click on it to find out when.

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