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Monday, December 31, 2012

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME BY 2020


I've regularly provided my ten top accomplishments and/or predictions for that year or next on December 31.  Two years ago I shared my top ten of 2010.  Then there were my prognostications a year ago, and even though I missed a couple, and a few were interjected to make fun of these things, I was nevertheless astonishingly accurate on some incredible accomplishments.

This time, I'll tell you what to expect over the next eight years, to the year I want to survive:  2020.  My version is not as expansive as H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come, which predicted the next 173 years from 1933 when he published the book.  There was an interesting, maybe even gripping, 1936 film (yes, this is the whole 96 minute movie) starring Raymond Massey, beginning with a Christmas Noel.  The closed captioning was hilarious.   Come to think of it, this flick should be shown every Christmas...but never is.  Then, a truly junk sci-fi movie in 1979 based on this tome, and given a 20% rating by Rotten Tomatoes.  This book and films showed the suppression of religions and how technology can save the world.  Hmmm....

In my prophecies this time I won't necessarily predict the exact year, for that would be foolhardy.  Anyway, here are my top ten visions between now and 2020:

10.  Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, will escape Syria, and soon, or be killed.  Chances are, he will be maintained in a United Arab Emirates luxury refuge or a protected compound close to London (his wife is from the UK).

9.  The U.S. will leave Okinawa.  Of course, we should also escape from Japan, Germany and South Korea, but give us a few more decades.  World War II has only been over for two-thirds of a century and Korean War for just about 60 years.  As of today, here are where our troops are located:



8.  The National Ignition Facility (left) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will attain net positive with laser fusion.  Remember?  Fusion is the process our Sun and all the stars use by consuming hydrogen to produce solar energy.  The problem is that the Hydrogen Bomb is also fusion, and controlling the reaction will be a monumental challenge.    ITER in France, the magnetic confinement scheme, will not in this timeframe achieve anything.  Commercial fusion should be attained sometime before 2100, and with a lot of luck or dire need, maybe 2050.

7.  It had to take the horror of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, but gun control legislation will be enacted by the U.S. Congress, and probably in 2013.  However, neither the White House nor Congress will have the guts to even suggest a serious discussion  about repealing the Second Amendment.  There are larger issues than gun control, and, perhaps this is now that searing moment in our history and present to re-adjust the flawed package of our Constitution, Bill of Rights and amendments.  Over the past two centuries, these remarkable documents created by our founding fathers (no females and all white) have well served to make us become what we are today.  However, times have changed.  Can you imagine NASA not having the capability of correcting the course of any of our space adventures?  2013 would be nice, but an effort should be made to, by 2020, hold a National Constitutional Convention to enhance our governing capabilities.  Term limits?  Lobbyists?  Congress certainly won't do this.  If two-thirds of our state legislatures approve, both the White House and Congress are bypassed to schedule this CONVENTION.

6.  The USA, according to the International Energy Agency, will become #1 in oil production by 2020:


How? Mainly through fracking (the red part above).  Yet, there are contrarion viewpoints, too.  If there is no serious carbon tax (and there won't, so go to #1 to see what then could happen), by 2020, the levelized cost to produce electricity will settle in the range (2012 dollars) of:
  • coal = 10 cents/kWh (but dirty)
  • cleaner coal = 15 cents/kWh  (this is still not carbon capture and storage--CCS)
  • CCS coal = 20 cents/kWh
  • nuclear = 15 cents/kWh (if anything new actually gets built)
  • wind = 10 cents/kWh
  • solar PV = 15 cents/kWh

About PV, the cell modules of large systems will drop to 50 cents/watt.  However, the total installed cost for these utility scale farms will be around $4/watt, meaning that the actual PV cell cost would be only 12.5%.  Thus, if these solar conversion materials drop to zero (and they won't), the absolute lowest cost (including labor, insurance, construction materials, etc.) PV systems will not drop below 10 cents/kWh, and could will be as high as 15 cents/kWh for homes.  When you crank in the intermittency and coverage for less than one-third of the day, the economics become debatable  Of course Federal and state tax credits will disappear during this interval.  One final point  is that the utility company will tell you that your roof modules will not power your home if there is a total blackout, say, caused by a hurricane, even when the Sun is shining.  One option is to include batteries to cover nights.  But the life cycle system cost then could well double.  What I don't understand is why an automatic switch of some sorts is not not part of the circuit so your PV modules can at least power your home in the daytime.

5.  We won't send any humans to Mars, and neither will the Chinese.  We should stop sending anything expensive anywhere into space until we can afford to...say around the Year 2200.  The International Space Station will be abandoned.  Hate to say this, but no alien signals will be intercepted and translated.  No flying saucers will be captured.  If there is no new Cold War, with China this time, NASA will further diminish.

4.  The Pacific International Ocean Station will be commissioned, and dedicated to Guy Toyama.  This milestone will launch the Blue Revolution.


3.  There will be small wars, of course.  Terrorists will continue to cause minor havoc now and then, but nothing like 9/11.  There should be general peace on Earth, for China will not want a Cold War.   Russia will continue to decline and Europe will maintain their basket case status.  China will have enough problems of their own and Japan will not recover from Fukushima for a long time to come.  There will be increasing turbulence in Asia, for incoming leaders of China, Japan and South Korea will tend to be more nationalistic.  While, lifestyles will continue to decline in the USA, we will still rule supreme.  Mind you, the Military-Industrial Complex, fossil fuel industry, banking alliances and Farm Lobby will not just disappear.    Next president?  Wouldn't that be something if Angela Merkel survives through 2016, Hillary prevails, and both Japan and South Korea elect female leaders.  More hope for wider global peace then.

2.  The Chicago Mercantile Exchange has petroleum at $85 in 2020 (and $85 through December of 2021).  Governments and industry mostly believe this and plan accordingly.  Nowhere over the next 9 years has the CME predicting oil to be more than $92/barrel.  Sure, the U.S. will be better able to buffer international bumps.  However, I remain of the opinion that the price of oil will jump beyond our current level, perhaps to $150/barrel, and, maybe even $200/barrel, as soon as today, but certainly, by 2020.  Whether it's Israel bombing Iran, which will provoke another Middle East war, or whatever (and no one really knows what), petroleum supplies will be crippled, and the price will skyrocket.  What happens next is also predictable.  The world economy will go into depression, then oil prices will drop to $35/barrel, or less.  None of the renewable energy facilities will be able to compete, and the shift back to the fossils will again occur (as it did in 1998):



1.  As fossil fuels continue to be combusted, global warming will be shown to be the nightmare too many thought was a liberal hoax.  Mind you, between now and 2020 the sea level will not rise even an inch.  The average global temperature will not increase even one degree Celsius.  Hundreds of millions will not die one hot summer.   Yet, watch 131 years of global warming in 26 seconds, and imagine the next century.  I particularly worry that methane emanations from the melting Arctic tundra and coastal regions with marine methane hydrates could well trigger the beginning of The Venus Syndrome.  It's not too late to do something about this, and the clear answer is a severe carbon tax.  Our elected leaders fight to see who will be tossed over the fiscal cliff, China and Japan squabble over a couple of obscure islands while expanding their war budget, Republicans continue to make fun of the subject, fossil fuel companies expand their exploration and PR budget, and local communities protest over wind farms, biomass facilities and geothermal development.  What a shape to come for Planet Earth and Humanity.  Then again, I could be wrong.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

THE STORY OF CHAMPAGNE



Champagne has been around from the 5th century AD.  While the beverage was first produced in France, the Romans might have had more to do with the origination.  For the record, French Benedictine monk Dom Perignon did not invent this drink.  For one, he lived in the period around 1700.

Most countries have now pretty much accepted French pressures that only those sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of the country, east of Paris, and north of Burgandy, can be called champagne, although there are exceptions here and there.  In Spain, this general bubbly wine is called cava, in Italy it is spumante if made from the Muscat grape and prosecco if from the Glera grape.  In Russia it is called shampanskoye, which means champagne.  

The French primarily use Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  Traditionally, there is an initial fermentation, followed by a second, with a freezing process for removing the sediments.  You cannot find real champagne less than three years old, and the quality is carefully maintained.  The bottle of Dom Perignon I just purchased was dated 2003.  There are more than a hundred champagne houses.  The prestige champagnes are Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siecle, Moet and Chandon's Dom Perignon, Pol Roger's Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill and Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne.  There is pink champagne, influenced by the Pinot Noir grape.  From USA Today, Americans are getting into the spirit:



My initial experience with champagne was in college more than half a century ago when really cheap California sparkling wines could be called champagne.  They generally were sweet and easy drinking.  I recall  my freshman roomy and still good friend, Jim Seger, setting an imibibition record of 16 glasses at a party in San Jose.  We all woke up in Toyon Hall the following morning and thought we had died, as our Stanford campus was blanketed with several inches of snow.  Using wheelbarrows (how we found shovels and a wheelbarrow is a story for another time), we made snowmen in rooms of "friends."  I guess we did not lock our doors in those days.

As  a matter of fact, I still prefer California sparkling wines to the fermented smell or musky odor of the expensive French versions.  Interestingly enough, I invested in one of my friend's, Phil Bossert's, wine importation company some years ago where one product was a RED sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir.  It could not be called champagne because the processing occurred in Germany.  That is my ultimate:  a heavy bodied, Bourdeaux-type wine with bubbles.  Can you imagine the market for this elixir in China?  I await the day when I can watch my Hawaiian sunset over a flute of this bubbly, smoking a Churchill cigar that smells like pipe tobacco, sipping a cup of coffee that tastes like coffee.  None of this exists today.

I once thought more expensive sparkling wines had smaller bubbles.  Well, it turns out this is actually true!  Also, remember that story about being able to get drunker faster with champagne than wine?  Amazingly enough, this is also true.  Then, of course, that tale about the traditional champagne glass moulded from the left (close to her hear) breast of Marie Antoinette?  Also true.  However, while we did suck up this potion from these types of glasses (as in that San Jose misadventure) a half century ago, everyone now uses those long, tall, thin flutes.  I have a series of these Riedel glasses starting with the Year 2000 (right) to the present.

The alcohol content of most sparkling wines is in the range of 10-13% by volume.  14% and the bottle pays higher taxes in some locales.  The standard pour should be five ounces.  Conveniently, the medical profession says ten ounces per day of wine is ideal, which is the equivalent of two bottles of beer and two 1.5 ounce shots of scotch.  The world is not fair. This only applies to males.  For women, divide by two.  The why is too complicated to attempt here.

You can keep good champagne for a very long time.  A bottle of 1825 Perrier-Jouet (right) stored at 52 F was recently opened and tasted okay.  Two bottles are left.

Thus, everything you thought about champagnes might well have been wrong.  Now, do it right!

To prepare a bottle, don't place it in a freezer.  You are encouraged to chill it in salt saturated icy water to lower the temperature as much as possible.  Then, using a towel around the bottle, carefully (people have lost their eye), ease off that wire cage and foil (this is the tricky part because you need two hands), making sure that this lethal weapon is pointed in a safe direction, for this bullet can fly off at 50 miles per hour for 50 feet.  Grab the cork with one hand and turn the bottle (yes, turn the bottle, which is cold and slippery--so keep using the towel) with the other.  Have a glass handy to pour, just in case the bubbly was not cold enough.

There are two more techniques..  Go down to your cool cellar, grab a real saber, then swiftly chop off the top close to the cork.  In planning for his company, Phil Bossert and I were treated to this ceremony in Luxembourg at a foie gras restaurant which had its own goose farm.  I did wonder, though, about shards of glass.  However, this is a time tested method, and it is wiser not to have the champagne too cold, for you want to lose that initial surge to remove those pieces.  There is a less exciting way by using the back of a butcher knife.

Of course, there are numerous health benefits.  Your brain can better cope from a stroke, and there are hints that Alzlheimer's and Parkinson's patients can be helped.  I don't want to be a ninny on this, but my posting on diacetyl suggested that any white wine actually might induce Alzheimer's and dementia.  Maybe bubbles make that crucial difference.  More evidence from Reading University, where polyphenol antioxidants in champagne, as in red wine and chocolates, reduced the effects of free radicals.  Also, sparkling wine strengthens the walls of your blood vessels.  Plus:  lowers blood pressure and boosts your mood.

The best Sunday brunch is served at the W Hotel in Walker Hill, Seoul.  They feature Veuve Clicquot.
Drink all you want, for that is the only way you can feel like your bill is justified.  Sort of reminds me of flying First Class.  I carry an attitude that every drink I don't drink is money wasted.

My uncle Paul consumes half a bottle of champagne every day.  He is nearing 95.  Well, anyway, that bottle of Andre above is in his honor.  Usually, champagne is drunk on special occasions, such as my golden anniversary less than a week ago.  Ships are christened and racing car winners are so sprayed.  I think those victorious female golfers are spattered with club soda, but that one to the left at the recent U.S. Women's Open certainly looks like champagne.  Anyway, tomorrow, New Year's Eve, is the biggest night for champagne.  

TOMORROW:  my annual grand summary--The Shape of Things to Come by the Year 2020.

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Tropical Cyclone Freda is now up to 120 MPH, and is projected to affect New Caledonia:



However, while Freda is expected to weaken, the eye will steamroll along the western coastline of the main island.
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

MY MOST POPULAR POSTINGS FOR 2012

The following postings were the most visited this year.  Not quite sure what those numbers to the left actually represent (the higher the number, the more popular), as my daily average this year is close to 400 links, about half new visitors each time.  I also am still not sure which subject is the most popular, as my renewable energy ones sometimes do well, but usually don't.  People seem to like whale sharks, trivia, my travels and restaurants, flowers and general entertainment.  There is not much interest in global warming and the environment.  The total pageviews are up past 400,000, and 209 countries have visited.  

How's this for exotic locations?  The following sites have visited for the first time these past few days:

December 21, 2012 Tirana,  Albania First visit from Tirana!
December 18, 2012 Republika Srpska,  Bosnia-Herzegovina First visit from Republika Srpska!
December 18, 2012 Binh Dinh Province,  Vietnam First visit from Binh Dinh Province!
December 17, 2012 Daman and Diu Union Territory,  India First visit from Daman and Diu Union Territory!
December 14, 2012 Sanliurfa,  Turkey First visit from Sanliurfa!
December 14, 2012 Karzhali,  Bulgaria First visit from Karzhali!
December 14, 2012 Laane-Viru,  Estonia First visit from Laane-Viru!
December 14, 2012 Manabi,  Ecuador First visit from Manabi!
December 13, 2012 Shaanxi Province,  China First visit from Shaanxi Province!
December 11, 2012 Kirkuk,  Iraq First visit from Kirkuk!

(For those new to all this, click on the titles below to reach the actual article.)

5592      3/1/12     CAN THE WHALE SHARK REPLACE CATTLE?



2320     9/16/12     SUNDAY BONBONS



2019       1/15/12     MISS WISCONSIN IS MISS AMERICA



1943         5/3/12     COUNTRY #203: SOMALIA

These are Somali nomad girls.



1874       3/16/12     HONOHONO AND CATTLEYA ORCHIDS



1683   11/13/12     SKYFALL



1030     5/22/12     GEOTHERMAL ENERGY TODAY



973         1/4/12     THE CONTINUING REPUBLICAN SURVIVAL SERIES



851       6/24/12     WHERE ARE THE OSAKA WHALE SHARKS???



824       3/22/12     HAWAII WORLD EXPO



795       3/23/12     INTERESTING TRIVIA



741         3/7/12     WHY CAN'T IRAN HAVE ITS OWN ATOMIC BOMB?



739       3/19/12     IS THERE HOPE FOR THORIUM?



715       4/29/12     AMSTERDAM IS ASTONISHING



693       8/14/12     IS THIS, FINALLY, THE END OF DENTAL CAVITIES?



530       2/17/12     MORE INTERESTING FACTS



509       4/20/12     SENDAI AND FUKUSHIMA



507       3/18/12     BIG BAND VOCALISTS



496     11/7/12     WHAT FISCAL CLIFF?



494       1/29/12     THE MAN WHO SAVED AMERICA AND THE FREE WORLD?




481       8/30/12     BUTTER IS, AGAIN, BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Two kinds of margarine are at the top and left.  The pad of butter is to the right.



459         1/7/12     A SIMPLE SOLUTION FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE



436       4/24/12     ULTIMATE MEALS



392       4/12/12     COUNTRY #201: Papua New Guinea



384         8/1/12     BACK TO THE LONDON OLYMPICS



373         8/5/12     CURIOSITY LANDS ON MARS TONIGHT!



356       1/28/12     CAN OTEC MITIGATE GLOBAL WARMING?




356       1/19/12     YU DARVISH



335       3/25/12     60'S POP, ROCK AND SOUL



332     10/12/12     OTEC TODAY



327       2/12/12     THE GRAMMYS...ADELE...AND GOODBYE WHITNEY AND GLEN...



314       1/17/12     SOME INTERESTING FACTS



312         3/2/12     DOES 5-HOUR ENERGY WORK?



308       4/11/12     WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF WIND ENERGY?



292       2/28/12     PLATINUM GOLD ARUGULA



277       6/21/12     MY MOST MEMORABLE LUNCH



269       4/15/12     A MONUMENTAL WEEK



263       5/16/12     WORLD RENEWABLE ENERGY FORUM: STEVEN CHU AND SANT...



260       4/27/12     FLORIADE 2012



246         1/5/12     SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS: Why Do We Spend So Much o...



244       3/13/12     SETTI



243       2/15/12     DOES DANIELLE FONG HAVE THE ANSWER TO THE SOLAR/WI...



238       5/15/12     COUNTRY #205: MAURITANIA



231       1/27/12     A POSSIBLE CHINESE SOLUTION FOR ALZHEIMER'S



219     11/12/12     IN REMEMBRANCE OF PAUL AND GUY



218         5/6/12     THE WONDERS OF MESQUITE



217       5/23/12     WAYS THE CRUISE INDUSTRY CAN REDUCE ITS FOOTPRINT



216       2/27/12     OSCAR, ROONEY, AUDREY AND TITANIC IN 3D



212       6/30/12     MEGA TSUNAMI TO WIPE OUT FLORIDA?


208     10/16/12     IVORY HUNTERS



207     11/9/12     FISCAL CLIFF: Part 2



197       1/23/12     KUNG HEE FAT CHOY



191       1/13/12     SOME GOOD NEWS ON FRIDAY THE 13TH



184       4/26/12     TULIPS OF KEUKENHOF



182         5/4/12     THE LATEST ON OCEAN THERMAL ENERGY CONVERSION



181         6/4/12     WHY IS HAWAII USING SO MUCH FOSSIL FUEL?

This is a direct methanol fuel cell from Toshiba.



181       7/17/12     HOW TO LOSE 10 POUNDS IN THREE MONTHS

No, not Viagra, but Belviq.



181       5/18/12     WORLD RENEWABLE ENERGY FORUM: OTEC



179       5/29/12     MEMORABLE WOOWOOS (also known as HOAXES): Part One...



178     11/5/12       HOW CAN WE REDUCE OUR MILITARY BUDGET?



177         8/6/12     OLYMPIC BABES IN LONDON




175       5/26/12     MEMORIES OF FISHING IN HAWAII



173         2/2/12     AN UPDATE ON LOWERING YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE AND LOW ...



171     11/15/12     MORE BONBONS: Wine and Basketball



168         7/3/12     THE MIRACLE CALLED SINGAPORE



166         8/9/12     NAGASAKI, HIROSHIMA AND FUKUSHIMA TODAY

That's me standing next to a mock up of Fat Man, which exploded over Nagasaki.



162       7/12/12     GREAT IDEAS



162         4/4/12     WHY IS THERE SO MUCH INTEREST IN THE WHALE SHARK?



161     12/16/12     MY FAVORITE SINGERS: Jackie and Carly Rose



125     11/33/12     PEARL'S ASHES: #2: Mauna Kea




124     12/27/12     FISCAL CLIFF: Part 3

That fiscal cliff is built on the fear of our national debt, which ALWAYS jumps during a major war:




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The storm in the South Pacific suddenly became Tropical Cyclone Freda at 115 MPH, and will further strengthen, but should the  weaken before approaching New Caledonia.



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