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Thursday, January 31, 2013

PETROLEUM, GOLD AND PLATINUM

How does the price of oil compare with gold and platinum?  Here is a time chart showing how many barrels of oil an ounce of gold can purchase:


Petroleum today is almost $98/barrel, while gold ended at $1662/ounce, close to platinum at $1672.  Thus, the ratio is 17, just below what you see on the above chart.

Gold and platinum were both around $300/ounce in 1998 when the real price of oil was at an all-time low of around $11/barrel.


Here are the historic prices of gold and platinum:



In 2008 platinum skyrocketed to just under $2200/ounce because demand exceeded supply, caused by an economic boom, electricity shortage in South Africa and other issues there.  Gold went through this peak in 1980 after the second energy crisis and almost reached  $2200 on an inflation adjusted basis:


This oil/gold ratio, of course, makes no sense in this analysis, because in 2008, when gold meandered around $300/ounce, oil whipsawed between  $145 and $38, or a rough ratio from 2 to 8.

I've been watching platinum because fuel cell electrodes use this metal.  If this market takes off, who knows where this commodity will go.  The driving factor today is South Africa, form where comes 80% of this material.  First there is the political factor, but more importantly today, labor strife.


So should you invest in gold or platinum today?  No, you missed out on that opportunity during the period of the previous presidential election campaign in 2008.  If you see this ratio with oil drop to 10 or single digits, then, perhaps.  But life is not that simple, for gold will shoot up when anything like a recession or depression looms, but oil will then  sink, too, for there will then be a lowered demand.


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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BONBONS FROM SCI AM


You are getting an inside scoop from the February 2013 issue of Scientific American:

1.  You've all by now heard about the Keystone XL pipeline, an issue that President Barack Obama has continued to duck, primarily because of global warming implications.  With John Kerry to become Secretary of State on Monday, it is appearing more and more that the environmental factor will trump need.  The project brings  Canadian tar sands (processed into a liquid) to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.  All the state governors have now approved, leaving the buck on Obama's desk.  The lead environmental organization is 350.org, with an obvious symbolic point that the current carbon dioxide level now approaching 400 parts per million needs to be reduced below 350 PPM.  Compared with normal petroleum, Canadian tar sands double the carbon dioxide emission into the environment.

2.  Have you wondered where our Moon and all the other moons came from?  Here is one current theory.  It's a little convoluted, but, here goes.  Asteroids and other heavenly bodies strike planets with some geological time frame frequency.  These events kick dust into the atmosphere, and because of the physics of particles, becomes a ring around the planet.  Over time, the dust coagulates into a moon.  The larger moons gravitate to the outer orbit.  Mercury and Venus have no moons.  Planet Earth is larger than any moon in our solar system.  Jupiter has 67 moons and Saturn 62.  That ring around Saturn means that more will form over time.  Amazingly enough, most of these moons were discovered since the Year 2000.  Where did planets come from?  You can just about guess.  What about our Sun and all the stars?

3.  At 11 billion miles, Voyager 1 is the farthest manmade object from Earth.  Launched in 1977, we still communicate and it responds.  It takes 17 hours for a message to reach the satellite.  This means that this craft has been traveling at around 35,000 miles per hour.  It will be another 40,000 years before it gets close to a star, Gliese 445, but still 1.6 light years away.  Homo sapiens came to be around that long ago.  


Our closest star is Proxima Centauri at 4.243 light years.  Thus, if Voyager 1 traveled at the speed of light, it would have have already started back to that star on its fifth roundtrip.  Of course, the craft is slowing down and the nuclear batteries will lose power around 2025.  Both Voyager 1 and 2 cost something in the neighborhood of a billion dollars, or around 8 cents/citizen/year.  I would say it was worth it.

4.  Speaking of stars and suns, Planet Earth receives less than one-half of a billionth the energy emitted by our Sun.  That is, for every 2 billion photons, only one hits us.  Someday solar power plants in space located closer to the Sun could well supply all the energy we'll ever need.

5.  You've heard of Lucy, found in 1974, an Australopithecus aferensis, who lived some 3.2 million years ago.  She walked and was believed to be our earliest ancestor.  However, another early woman, Ardi (leftArdipithecus ramidus), was in 1994 found in Ethiopia, and it took 47 scientists 17 years to announce that she lived 4.4 million years ago.  This find, however, is not the ultimate in our search for the earliest common ancestor, as this species existed perhaps as long as 10 million years ago.  The significance of Ardi is that we might not have derived from the chimpanzee.  Actually, Ardi sure looks like a bonobo (below) to me:
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Tropical Cyclone Felleng is at 120 MPH and nicely squeezing south between Madagascar and Reunion:


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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TUESDAY BONBONS

I've been collecting these interesting bits of trivia and news, many from TIME magazine:

1.  Headlines blared that in 2012 military suicides rose to 349, eclipsing battlefield deaths of 295 in Afghanistan.  Terrible, of course, but on the second page of this article in the Star Advertiser, we learn that the civilian suicide rate is, in fact, 43% higher:  military, 17.5 per 100,000 -- civilian, 25 per 100,000.  The highest internationally is South Korea at 31.7 and a few countries in the Caribbean are close to zero.  The rate is much higher for male than female.

2.  One penny costs two cents to mint, while it takes a dime to produce each nickel.  Canada is eliminating the penny next week.  Should we get rid of both?  Take South Korea, though, where you get 1100 won for each U.S. dollar.  They circulate 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 won coins.  Thus, their one won coin is worth less than $0.00001.  Why do they bother?  Not to encourage anything illegal, but some of their coins are accepted in vending machines around the world.  Make sure your fingerprint is not on it, though, if used.

3.  This is just the tip of the environmental iceberg, but 16 of the world's  20 most polluted cities are in China.  The air quality reading at the American Embassy in Beijing last week was 886 (forget about the the dimension, for it is the relativity).  Any reading higher than 300 is hazardous to your health.  I'll be there in a few weeks.

4.  The 35 cubic feet space around a flu patient has 16,000 virus particles.  A cough travels at 50 miles/hour and releases 3,000 droplets containing the flu virus.  A sneeze moves at 100 MPH and expels 40,000 saliva droplets up to 3 feet away.  However, the good news is that the terrible flu season anticipated has peaked.  Influenza rates are dropping nationwide.

5.  American Idol ratings are continuing to drop, but Nicki Minaj is worth a view.  I haven't seen her in blue hair yet, but it's just a matter of time.


No doubt Simon is missed.  Yet, look at is this way.  During the past week, the Wednesday AI ranked #1 and the Thursday AI #2.  #3 was NCIS, with the Pro Bowl #4.  They will be in San Antonio and Oklahoma City this week.

6.  In 2009 there were more guns in the U.S. than people:  114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, 86 million shotguns.  Just about half of American households have a gun.  All that rhetoric to come in Congress and media will result in some control, for 92% favor a background check of arms purchased in a gun store, 58% support a ban on high capacity clips and 56% want to ban assault rifles.  Here is a very effective editorial  compiled by Joe Nocera reviewing gun deaths just this past week.  Republicans will only gain in stupidity (courtesy of Bobby Jindal) if they make too much of a fuss.  Or, maybe they'll draw a line on this issue, for they have already caved in on increased taxes, cuts for defense spending and immigration.

The day ended with Shizuko and Shigetoh Miyachi at House without a Key and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse:



This is the location, of course, where my photo of this blog site was taken.  The green flash was spectacular.  The steaks were magnificent, but the Caesar Salad at Ruth's Chris was particularly outstanding:


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Tropical Cyclone Felleng suddenly strengthened to 125 MPH, and will increase further to become a Category 4 hurricane, but, at this time, appears to be taking the track between Madagascar and Reunion:




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Monday, January 28, 2013

MONDAY BONBONS

I just saw the most pornographic, shocking, funny and surprising film I've ever experienced.  Did you know that Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Dennis Quaid, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Emma Stone, Terrance Howard, Liev Schreiber, Uma Thurman, Jason Sudeikis, Gregg Kinnear, Seth MacFarlane, Naomi Watts Kate Winslet, three real NBA stars and others, are all in this same movie?  No, not Les Miserables.  Nothing to do with a tsunami.  The title is Movie 43,  which got a Rotten Tomatoes review rating of 5%, with an audience liking of 43%.  Reviewers used terms such as scatological,  humiliating and turkey.  I also noticed that there were only three people in the entire theater and the film ended up #7 for the weekend, garnering revenues of a measly $5 million.  You've got to wonder if the producers had strong blackmail evidence to force these actors to appear.

However, the  Washington Post gave the film 3.5 stars, calling it "a near masterpiece of tastelessness."  My warped mind is arguing that, while, yes, disgusting and all that, this might be the most entertaining show I've yet seen this year.  My body is not unlike the United Nations, though.  There is very little consensus, especially when I try to golf.  Sure, it's only January, and  I've "only" gone to six movies, but Hugh Jackman with visible testicles for an adam's apple and Halle Berry making guacamole with her bare and computer enlarged breasts?  Incredible.  When I someday find photos I'll place them here.  Maybe I should go back and take them myself.

Moving on to television, earlier this month I reported on the giant squid.  So I watched the Discovery Channel program on this large ika  last night.  This was the first eyewitness filming of this monster of the deep in its natural habitat, and occurred off Japan six months ago.  The 40-day expedition was led by Dr. Tsunemi Kubodera of Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science.  Here is a photo I took of the beast (at around 2000 feet deep) from my TV set:


The team should be congratulated, of course, for this significant achievement.  Which nevertheless leaves me a bit disappointed, for the "monster" was only ten feet long (it was missing two large tentacles, so the write-up indicated the total length could have been 26 feet).  It appeared that the bait was almost as large.  A 28 footer was caught alive and photographed off the Falkland Islands in 2004, but died the next day.

For the record, the Giant Pacific Octopus could well have an arm span of 30 feet and weigh 600 pounds:


In the entertainment field, Pat Benatar is 60 years old.  She is known for "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," among others, and is currently on tour, with Journey and Loverboy in Moline, Illinois on February 6.








Mick Jagger will be 70 in July, and the Rolling Stones are weighing offers to tour this year.  Neil Diamond celebrated his 72nd birthday this past weekend, will perform in the United Kingdom this summer and return to venues on the West Coast in September.  While she has just about really retired, I think, Tina Turner is all of 74 years old and, after living near Zurich, Switzerland, for almost two decades, just decided to become a Swiss citizen.  Her biggest early hit was "Proud Mary" more than forty years ago.  Watch her sing this song when she was just about to turn 50 in Rio.  To the right at 71.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

USA'S BIGGEST TV EVENT: THE SUPERBOWL

No, today is the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority must be agonizing, as a wet front is moving into our islands.  The Super Bowl is next Sunday, but I thought I'd give you a heads up in case you need to host a party or purchase $70 worth of snacks predicted to be the average Americans (mind you, this is per person) will spend this year just for this occasion.  This bit of trivia came from Jonnelle Marte of the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago.  She also went on to provide 10 Things the Super Bowl won't tell you:

1.  Good luck getting a ticket:  there will be 70,0000 in the Mercedes-Benz New Orleans Superdome (SD).  When did name change happen?  Well, in October of 2011.  MB now has naming rights also to a soccer stadium in Stuttgart and another in Shanghai.  I went to the Sugar Bowl five years ago and this was an incredible experience, for you can actually feel the noise.  Worse, try carrying a hot dog and beer and walk down to your seat.  The stairs are so steep that tripping would be fatal.  This was the home to 23,000 during Katrina just four months earlier, and 10 died here during this ordeal.  It is reported that ticket resales to get a seat for the Superbowl this year begin at $3,300.  Prices rise to $300,000 for a suite.

2.  You're welcome for a stock gain:  companies that advertise gain 1% over the S&P a week after the game is over.

3.  We leave a carbon footprint:  600 tons of greenhouse gases to be specific.  The world average is 6.8 tons/person, but that is for the whole year.  Red is high and green is low.  The U.S.?  23.5 tons.  The worst?  United Arab Emirates at 38.8 tons.

As a matter of perspective, two weeks ago I reported that the Superbowl last year drew 111 million viewers.  However, the World (soccer) Cup was watched by 620 million, and something like the semifinals of the World Cricket Cup had 150 million.  India, by the way, won in 2011, and just yesterday I lamented that when I last was in New Delhi on the day of the 2010 super bowl, there were 3 cricket matches on TV but ZERO super bowl availability in the entire country.  And I was staying in a Starwood property.  Here is a nice bit of trivia to store:  the U.S. is a bit more than 4% the world population, and Hawaii is 0.4% that of the USA.  We tend to overinflate our significance.

4.  We're a blow to productivity:  a billion dollars of wasted work occurs the week prior to the SB as people spend time at work chatting about the upcoming game.

5.  ...and the reason you lost money:  more than $10 billion will be wagered on the SB this year, and, I find this hard to believe, but 90% will lose money.

6.  Ads outshine the game:  which is why companies are willing to spend $3.8 million per 30 second spot, as people, including me, tend to watch the commercials more than the game itself.  In any other TV program, if I pre-recorded, I would whisk through the ads.  By the way, #1 last year was Chrysler, using Clint Eastwood as America's cheerleader.  And, by the way, here is a teaser of commercials to come next week.  In fact here is the Danica Patrick Go Daddy ad.

7.  The stadium may be in the crosshairs:  major studies show that the SB would be an especially attractive target for terrorists.  There is a 1977 film, Black Sunday, where the Goodyear Blimp, piloted by a deranged Bruce Dern attempts to blow up the Miami Orange Bowl during Super Bowl X.  The ending is spectacular.  Yes, you watch the ending here.  I wonder  how many watch just waiting for something to happen this year,

8.  We're an excuse to splurge:  7.5 million will upgrade their TV set, and we will spend $70/viewer on snacks.

9.  The hoopla isn't super for the local economy:  New Orleans spent $85 million to upgrade the Superdome.  The visitors bureau expects an additional revenue of $430 million.  There is a 49 member Hawaii local community for the Pro Bowl, and they expect $25 million in visitor spending today.

10.  Watching could give you a heart attack:  fans of the losing team were 15% more likely to die of a heart attack in the days following the game.  This debatable.  

The game itself next Sunday will feature the San Francisco 49ers versus the New England Patriots.  The emotional highlight is that the Brothers Harbaugh (Mom Jackie, Jim, John and Father Jack) coach the teams.


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Saturday, January 26, 2013

PEARL'S ASHES: #8--Taj Mahal

I've been around the world around ten times.  There was once an airlines called Pan American World Airways.   Pearl and I took our first around the world journey on PanAm01, westward, way back in the '70's.  On 17January2010 I began my global adventure to Vietnam, Cambodia, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, New Delhi, Barcelona, Munich, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, DC, New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  By this day 130 countries had clicked on this blog site and  I was averaging less than 100 visitors/day.  Today, I'm up to 211 countries and 500 visitors/day.

I wrestled with whether I should ask permission from the Indian government to allow me to lay Pearl's ashes at the Taj Mahal.  Then, rationality prevailed and I decided to do all of this surreptitiously, for they would have said no anyway and taken forever to do this.

To minimize customs problems I came up with a solution.  Fill gel caps with Pearl's ashes, for they were the same color of my high blood pressure pill.  I then tossed this capsule at the chosen site.

Thus, today  I continue my future book on Pearl's Ashes with my first international ceremony at the Taj Mahal.  First, though, you need to click on the following postings to get a sense of what I had to go through:

  -  INDIA SUCKS!  (In particular, note that I struck a nerve, as I normally have no comments.  There were 48 responses, most agreed with me and many were really funny.)


I'll take the liberty of just copying part of my 8February2010 blog posting on INDIA IS AN EXPERIENCE:

To begin, can you believe there are 82 HD channels, and at the time of the Super Bowl, there were 6 soccer matches, 2 rugby, 2 badminton, 1 tennis, 1 golf, 1 auto racing, 3 cricket and, on ESPN, a SEC gymnastics competition. NO SUPER BOWL in Delhi. Anyway, I couldn't have caught all of it as at 6:15AM I was picked up for my Taj Mahal encounter, the primary reason why I'm on this trip.

There was a driver of a minivan and a navigator, joined by a tour guide for a person from Sweden, another from Turkey and myself. Remember from yesterday, all this cost me about $50, including lunch.

The drive of 4 hours to Agra was a nightmare. Early in the morning, a red light means please consider slowing down, but, if there appears to be no crossing traffic, whiz through as fast as possible. The 130 mile ride was mostly down a four lane highway, with a few complications. Ox, goat and horse driven carts; wandering cattle and water buffalo; way overloaded trucks; tuk-tuks that carry not two people, but up to 20; congested towns; people running across the street and horrendous air pollution (it was smokey the whole way). For transportation buffs, you will see every possible mode of transport since the dawn of civilization, including trains that seem to move along well and, above, airplanes, which I only imagined were there, for the haze is worse than when the volcano emission envelopes Honolulu.


















We finally got to Agra and went straight to the Taj Mahal. The cost of entrance was about $20 for this and the Red Fort. Frankly, like Angkor Wat, the experience was not awesome. I'm glad I came, I enjoyed the tour, but I was sort of disappointed. These accompanying photos actually show the Taj to be whiter than actual. This is one of the 8 wonders of the world. Time and pollution, though, have stained the white marble. But, after all, this complex is more than 350 years old. I did, however, honor Pearl.















No, I'm not dropping Pearl's ashes, but below is where I selected as her site. I asked around for a possible yellow tree, but could not find one.

















The location is at the base of the kind of pine tree found in Hawaii, plus, next to it, what looked like a lehua blossom found on the Big Island.

There were a couple more incidents, which you can read if you click on this article, but the most exciting part of the whole trip was the ride back to Delhi, all 6 hours of it. This was the equivalent of the road through hell, again, but worse. They say that just at the moment of a catastrophe, time slows, like, say, your car meeting another head-on at 60 miles per hour. To survive in this traffic, the driver needs to be intrepid, no, make that, reckless. He needs to fearlessly pass cars and animals and toot his horn as much as possible. Time virtually stopped for me at least a dozen times today.

The miracle of it all is that not once did our van even scrape another vehicle. I did not see an accident all day. However, an hour into Delhi we ran into an electrical storm. If you never have been through one of these, you're in luck. In one town there was a siren blowing. Maybe tornadoes? Lightning hit a pole in front of us and sparks fell on the road. But, I landed at the Le Meridien, which, I said yesterday, is an oasis.

Job completed, but story not quite yet over, let me now insert the first part of my blog on FROM DELHI TO MUNICH TO BARCELONA:



I left the Delhi Le Meridien at 6:30AM and was taken by a hotel car (free) to the airport. Check in was terrific, for Lufthansa upgraded me to first class.With some trepidation, I nevertheless passed through customs with ease. I was about to have a croissant and capuchino breakfast in the Lufthansa lounge when a uniformed officer asked to see my boarding pass (BP). He then ordered me to accompany him, for there was a problem with my check-in baggage. Maybe another extortion scheme?

I imagined all sorts of worse case scenarios. Maybe someone had somehow snuck in a pound of heroin or a bomb into my baggage. We passed through one security gate, where they stamped my BP. At this point another uniformed officer with a rifle accompanied us. We went through two more security areas, where they again stamped the BP, into the bowels of the airport. Then I thought, oh no, my “India Sucks” blog really pissed off someone and they were going to execute me. However,Cambodia, maybe, but certainly not India. We made it to where bags accumulate, and there was my suitcase. It occurred to me then, what if they never found me before the plane left. This suitcase would never have made it to Barcelona.

They asked me to open it. At this point, I sort of realized the problem. TSA has a key to my type of luggage, but they don’t in India. As I was opening the bag, I was asked if I had a lighter in there. I said, yes, and found it in the bag with my cigars. He huddled with two others and they talked for several minutes. Then they went up to a higher official for several minutes more of animated discussion. I thought, with these histrionics, for sure, another $100 would be necessary. But I would go no higher. Then I saw one of them use a device to evacuate the lighter of the fluid. They gave me back my lighter, I closed the suitcase, they all smiled, so did I, and I left the area, accompanied by my two guards, mildly embarrassed for my unkind thoughts. I had to re-pass through the three security tables, where they again stamped my BP. By the time this was all over, my BP was totally unrecognizable. I was returned to the lounge, where I fixed myself a stiff Bloody Mary, except with gin, as there was no vodka.

In a short while it was about my boarding time, so I left for the gate. There, I learned that there was a two hour delay. No problem, at least I made it this far. Finally I boarded, and the 8 hour flight was about the best I’ve had in all my years of flying.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

BLUE REVOLUTION AND DELTASYNC

Every so often I receive gratifying messages restoring some faith in my efforts to Save Planet Earth and Humanity.  For some reason (which ranges from the fussy cryptographic Google filter to general uncomfortableness of responding to the general public) almost no one comments to these blog postings.  Fortunately, many do send me a personal e-mail.

Today, Rutger de Graaf (above), founding partner of DeltaSync communicated, expressing interest in a partnership for the Blue Revolution.  While I've been writing and talking about this future, Dr. de Graaf has actually done something.  View his presentation on the BlueRevolution.  The sub-heading is:  turning polluting cities into productive eco-cities.  He says, floating food cities will save the world.  Hmm...sounds like me.  We seem to say the same things, like:  we can't use deserts because water is lacking and outer space is too expensive.  The simple solution?  The OCEAN!

BBC News just yesterday reported on his new cities at sea.  Foamed polystyrene connected by concrete.  Brilliant.  His initial focus would be at home in the Netherlands, for about a quarter of the country is below sea level.  Click to read on 10 innovative ideas for life over water as our sea level rises.  Rutger's research company, thus, also specializes in floating urbanization:



de Graaf's floating cities, thus, at this stage, are linked to the existing infrastructure on land:


However, as he perfects his floating urban cities, and the Pacific International Ocean Station develops the marine technology and systems for the open ocean, there will be point in time when our efforts can be combined to finance, design, build and and establish independent floating cities and industrial parks.  There is good reason to believe that DeltaSync and Blue Revolution Hawaii can work with Shimizu to someday soon collaborate on their 100,000 population green float botanical city:


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