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Thursday, January 18, 2018

HYPERLOOP AND THE FUTURE OF TRAIN TRAVEL

I now and then feature guest posters.  Nearly seven years ago, a colleague of mine at the University of Hawaii, Chuck Helsley, contributed Heavy Ion Fusion.  He is now president of Fusion Power Corporation.  


Last year Jen Miller did 18 Health Benefits of Fish Oil.  Her posting can be linked HERE.


Tomorrow I will be replaced by Frank Apodaca on the surprising benefits of napping, while today, John Hawthorne of IQS Directory provided Hyperloop and the Future of Train Travel.  That's just one example of graphics from his comprehensive treatment of this topic.

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Well, Tropical Cyclone Berguitta did devastate Mauritius last night, and now appears to be strengthening into a Category 2, heading directly for La Reunion.  Eight years ago I reported on my visit to those islands and I have a lot of friends on both.  I wish them well.


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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE POST AND SHAPE OF WATER

Went to my usual double-bill this weekend.  I don't do normal movie reviews, so if you don't want to know what happened, click off now.  I saw:

                               Rotten Tomatoes        MOJO  My Rating
                           Reviewers Audiences

Shape of Water         92            81                15         A-

The Post                   88            74                  2          A-

I might add that Box Office Mojo had Jumanji 2 (The Rock in Hawaii) at #1 and The Commuter (Liam Neeson) at #3.

The Shape of Water was a well-produced film with excellent acting, especially Sally Hawkins as a mute (can hear, but not speak) janitor in a secret 1962 military laboratory, and Michael Shannon as the cruel government official who caught an amphibian man (played by Doug Jones) in a South American river and attempts to extract information from the creature.  

At the recent Golden Globes, Hawkins won for Best Actress, co-producer, director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro won for Best Director, while Octavia Spencer (buddy custodian of Hawkins) and and Richard Jenkins (gay neighbor artist of Hawkins) were nominated for supporting roles.  The film won the Golden Lion best film award at the 74th Venice International Film Festival and Best Original Score at the Globes.

If you haven't seen del Toro's two Hellboy films (2004 and 2008), then you don't know that the monster is Abe Sapien from those releases.  The timing is contorted, but The Shape of Water is sort of a prequel to Hellboy, then again, maybe sequel.  I'm confused.

Anyway, the Hawkins role learns about the humanoid amphibian, and forms a bond.  This is getting complicated, but it is 1962 and a USSR spy in the lab is the chief scientist for this project.  Both (separately) the Americans and Soviets decide to terminate the beast, but this scientist decides to help Hawkins and her friends sneak aqua man away from the high security center.  They succeed, placing the river monster in Hawkins' bathtub with salts provided by the scientist.

The leviathan and Hawkins fall in love and have regular sex.  This is an R-movie, and Hawkins explains to her work friend how.  The amphibian is a special being, for he can cure people by touch.  However, in these apartment conditions, he begins to decline.  He is in the wrong kind of fluid.

Here is where, I'm afraid there is a fatal flaw.  The beastie is caught in a river, which is probably freshwater.  However, he needs saltwater to live.  Ah, give del Toro a bread, that's not a major blunder.

The group needs a few days to weeks (not sure of the timing), but they had to wait until the rains came so that the canal they plan to drop him into opens up into the ocean, which is in direct sight sight.  Rather than have the Americans and Soviets catch up with them, why don't they just immediately drive to the sea and release him?  Makes absolutely no sense.

In any case, Hawkins was found along a river as a small child already not able to speak with those scar marks on the side of her neck that makes you wonder if they were once gills.  A lot of people are shot, including the creature, Hawkins and the scientist, but amphibian man grabs Hawkins and jumps into the canal.  He is able to immediately cure her and himself from those shots, touches her neck to convert them into gills and they live happily ever after.  Yes, there will be a Hellboy 3, and the beast will be back...but with Eliza (Hawkins' character)?

The Post was better than I expected it to be.  I also got educated, for I did not realize that the Pentagon Papers were so significant in our history.  The Watergate incident was an attempt by President Nixon to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked those documents.  He got all his degrees from Harvard up to the PhD, was a commissioned officer with the Marines and today supports Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.  

This secret study (never even told to President Lyndon Johnson) was created by Department of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in 1967, involving 36 analysts, resulting in 4,000 pages in 47 volumes.  Turns out that every White House Administration beginning with Harry Truman lied about Vietnam, and Ellsberg felt that these actions demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by all those Presidents.

So he surreptitiously absconds with the complete set and initially passed most of these documents on to The New York Times.  They began publishing on 13 June 1971, then two more, but President Richard Nixon served an injunction prohibiting further disclosures for something weak, like classified sensitivities. 

Here is where The Washington Post intervened.  This newspaper was just a family operation and not particularly respected.  During their involvement, the paper was in the final stages of going public.  So faced with a decision to further publish these papers at the expense of probably scuttling the financial deal, Katherine Graham (daughter of original owner and wife of former publisher, who had recently passed away, played by Meryl Streep) somehow (she was totally out of her league and a friend of Bob McNamara, who she knew would be devastated) made a command decision to go to press.  I thought her role was weak, but that only underscores her fabulous acting ability.  Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee was also terrific, dynamic, yet carefully understated.  Above, the real Bradlee and Graham.

Steven Spielberg directed and John Williams did the score.  All four, plus the film itself, were nominated for the Golden Globes.  None won.  In the mix was Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), who did well.  Bruce Greenwood looked like and played a fine Robert McNamara.

The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 322 points to close at 26,116, another all-time high.  Yes, there most definitely is an inverse correlation to the travails of President Donald Trump.  This could well be some early signs of Trump's removal.
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The Indian Ocean storm, now a Category 2, turned south, and according to the Daily and Sunday Express:  Tropical Cyclone Berguitta PATH LIVE:  Storm to DESTROY Mauritius and La Reunion:


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

NORTH KOREAN MISSILE HEADING FOR JAPAN...TAKE SHELTER

Amazingly enough, today, which was yesterday in Japan, NHK, the government TV channel...

...warned that "North Korea appears to have launched a missile … The Government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground".

Were you in Japan, if your phone had been linked to NHK online news, you also got this message.  Five minutes later, NHK said, like Hawaii, OOPS.  Well not those words, but at least they corrected this mistake in only a few minutes.  At last check, they were still checking what went wrong.

Hawaii citizens mostly are not all that concerned about an actual nuclear attack from Kim Jung Un.  Like our very own President, North Korea's White-walled Leader seems more buffoon than menace.

But Tokyo is only 800 miles from Pyongyang.  Honolulu is 4,590 miles away.  North Korean missiles have already flown over Japan.  That was in mid-September last year.  The people of Japan are very much afraid of what Kim Jung Un might do.  Thankfully, however, there appeared to have been very little panic because there was a quick correction.  Given the 38 minutes of Hawaiian anxiety, the reaction could have been something closer to hysterical consternation.

But what if that hypothetical nuclear missile had detonated at 1000 feet over Honolulu.  According to the Emergency Management Agency, 90% of us living here would survive.  There are no public fallout shelters, so the best you can do is place yourself in a basement or concrete stairwell.  Thus,  30% of survivors would suffer acute radiation syndrome and from 50,000 to 120,000 receive traumatic burns.  This will be the worse day of your life.

(I later inserted this graphic from the Star Advertiser, providing more details if the blast was over Iolani Palace.)


But, aha, Hawaii is supposedly covered by the current U.S. missile defense system.  Sure, protected, but these interceptors are located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Fort Greely in Alaska.  Vandenberg is almost  2500 miles from Honolulu and Greely is more than 3000 miles away.  Can you imagine someone making a judgement call on whether to fire off those defense missiles in time?  Donald Trump was golfing in Florida when the Hawaii debacle occurred.  I guess he did not have to make the decision to intercept an enemy missile, but no one in the country beyond Hawaii cared that much to express responsibility during those 38 anxious minutes of anxiety.  

See that green dot with the Pearl Harbor notation?  That's the floating golf ball which only takes vacation in Hawaii.  What did it do during the latest crisis?  Nothin that I could determine.

So what does the Department of Defense plan to do about Hawaii?  First, they need to install a $1 billion advanced land-based missile-tracking radar, and if any funds are appropriated today, deployment will be in 2023 at the earliest.  Only after that will the military consider actually installing interceptor missiles in Hawaii.

So here is my quick solution.  Go ahead, do the planning as indicated above.  However, today, relocate a Navy destroyer equipped with an Aegis system.  

As soon as possible install an onshore version, while deploying Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD--the type just provided to South Korea) at the Kauai facility already operational for missile tests.  Sure, overkill, because the odds of any North Korean missile actually arriving over Hawaii are minuscule.  But that is the whole point of international defense politics.  Scare the opponent away.

Why this accelerated program is necessary is because Hawaii is the most vulnerable U.S. target, for any North Korean missile headed for the Continental USA will be destroyed, and Kim Jung Un has another eight years or so to threaten Honolulu should he wish.  If he misses, which will most probably happen anyway, he can say, sorry, that was a test that went awry.

A clear fallout of what happened this weekend is that Governor David Ige will now surely lose his role this November to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who seems to be spurred by support from unions, Inouye backers and former state governors.  A friend of mine, An Wang, once said, "to succeed, work hard and don't shoot yourself in your foot."  While that missile alert glitch was not Ige's fault, it occurred on his watch, and he figuratively shot himself in his foot.  

What a shame.  President Donald Trump shoots himself in the foot every day, and he's still President.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

WE ARE LIVING IN HISTORICAL TIMES

Very little bores me more than history itself.  Sure, World War II and Adolf Hitler combined to make that period especially notable, and the Cold War with the peril of a nuclear winter was fearsome.  But that was more than a quarter century ago, and Russia is today a pale foe of dubious ferocity.  China has no interest in conquering the USA. 

Today, we have the consuming Islamic threat, and while limited to human bombs and similar low-level skirmishes, has the potential to spark another Gulf War and catalyze limited nuclear warfare.  At a more cataclysmic level, we're faced with Kim Jung Un versus Donald Trump and Global Warming. 

Trump, in particular, is especially dangerous to the future of Humanity, for he makes a mockery of anything having to do with the environment.  He pandered to fossil fuel development (moving this year to open offshore oil drilling--save for Florida, where he mostly lives these days) and abrogated the Paris Climate Accord Agreement, while making fun of Kim Jung Un as much as he can, even going so far as to now hate the Wall Street Journal for reporting false news that he has good relations with the Chubby Leader of North Korea.  CNN I can understand, but the WSJ generally admires Republicans. 

Here is my current take on our PUS#45 Donald Trump:
  • He got elected by a previously unimaginable amalgam of anti-Clinton/elite, anti-establishment, xenophobic and American preservationist (supposedly 20% of population--less educated, lower income, immigration skeptics, and, well, racially biased) outsiders.
  • He got just enough votes from this motley crew, that he will not again gain anywhere close to those numbers because his demented tweets have lost almost half of them.
  • Then you add suspicions about his state of mind (see my posting of Fire and Fury), compounding an already known fusion of boastfulness, ego, arrogance, narcissism and misogyny, and you have the most powerful man in the world a finger away from destroying Humanity as we currently know it.
As I posted on Saturday, I already experienced what was kind of a scary moment, that false alarm about North Korean missiles heading to Hawaii.  Actually, I would rate my fear level as two, although the local average of those who got the message must have been something closer to 8, with 9 and 10 being anything from jumping off a cliff to actually doing something you would only if you knew you had twenty minutes to live.    Those above photos over Honolulu are of U.S. nuclear test bombs in the Pacific. 

Why I was mostly non-concerned was that the 15 Craigside announcement system has had so many cry wolf incidents that you really can't take anything coming out of the intercom so serious so seriously.  But I was at least sufficiently jarred to check with the various forms of media.


My larger worry, in any case, is not Kim Jung Un ordering missiles to Hawaii.  Although, if threatened by some coup attempt, he could well order firing off his nuclear arms in spite just to doom his rivals.  In any case, I am a lot more uneasy about my President doing something insanely stupid, which is almost a daily occurrence these days.

Also today there was an op-ed debate in the Star-Advertiser:  Downsize U.S. military in 2018?  You can personally read the con (James Jay Carafano) and pro (John B. Quigly) points of view, but let me summarize (note:  the newspaper mistakenly reversed the logic, so YES means don't downsize, while NO agrees with the question):
  • YES (the italicized comments within the parentheses are mine):
    • Feel free to ignore his tweets, but Trump possesses a remarkable clarity of vision about national security.
    • Trump's strategy is to split the difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
    • We don't have that much military.
    • Over the past four presidents, we have under-invested in our Armed Forces.  (Yes, but the Cold War ended in 1991.  Further see the NO response about much the USA spends on war today compared to other countries.)
    • Military is too small to meet global commitments.
  • NO (my comments are again italicized):
    • There is something called sequestering, which the Congress placed on itself, which limited Defense spending in FY2018 to $590 billion.
    • Congress gave Trump $700 billion, which is causing some legal problems.  The vaunted Military-Industrial Complex got their way.
    • This expanded budget gave the Pentagon more money than what it wanted for equipment and personnel.  The Navy, for example, asked for 8 new ships...and got 13.
    • The current military strategy is higher emphasis on high-tech, but fewer boots on the ground.  The Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy got 16,200 more troops than requested.
    • Russia spends 10% ($70B vs $700B) and China 31% (but 7% compared to the U.S. on a per/capita basis).
    • to quote Quigly:

Our excess is apparent from comparing with other countries. We now spend more on military than is spent by the next highest 11 countries of the world. We account for nearly 40 percent of total world military expenditures.

To repeat, Quigley indicated we spend more on our military than the next 11 (eleven) highest countries, including Russia and China.  And we have no threatening enemy.  According to The Nation just this week:

     Trump Is On His Way to Record-setting Defense Spending in 2018:  as the President doubles  down on wars abroad, companies like Boeing stand to reap billions.

Finally, another piece of history.  On 21 November 2011, the U.S. News and World Report published a debate on the question:


Eight defense spending experts and I (I'm not) were selected to debate this issue.  Votes were compiled.  I lost.  I came in #2 to Representative Ron Paul, who was then a candidate for the Presidency.  Here is my statement.  Oh, Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee also participated.  He came in close to last.  Here is his statement.

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Tropical Cyclone Berguitta's path seems to have moved closer to Reunion:


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Sunday, January 14, 2018

DO YOU BELIEVE IN A SUPREME BEING?


If you believe in a Supreme Being, you are in the majority of people living on Planet Earth.  What amazes me is that ONLY 51% do, and the exact same percentage also in an Afterlife.  However, only 23 countries were polled by Ipsos/Reuters in 2011, including China, which you will later learn, is one reason why these numbers seem so low.  In quick summary:


  • Definitive belief in a God or Supreme Being is highest in Indonesia (93%) and Turkey (91%) followed by Brazil (84%), South Africa (83%) and Mexico (78%). Those most likely to believe in "many Gods or Supreme Beings" live in India (24%), China (14%) and Russia (10%).
  • Those who say they do not believe in God or Supreme Being(s) are most likely to live in France (39%) followed by Sweden (37%), Belgium (36%), Great Britain (34%), Japan (33%) and Germany (31%).

  • If you look closely at these various surveys, you should understand that the actual belief averages vary quite a bit, depending on exactly what question is asked.  In any case, Muslim countries have high belief rates:


    Here are specific countries, including the former Soviet allies:


    However, the younger generation is quickly losing faith:


    Europeans have less belief in God:


    For those who'd rather look at graphs:


    USA beliefs are Muslim-like, from Gallup:


    Americans' Belief in God Using Different Question Wording

    YesNoNo opinion
    %%%
    Do you believe in God?89101
    Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?8992
    GALLUP, JUNE 14-23, 2016

    But the trend shows a decline:


    Americans also believe in angels, heaven, etc:


    For each of the following items I am going to read you, please tell me whether it is something you believe in, something you're not sure about or something you don't believe in.

    Believe inNot sure aboutDon't believe in
    %%%
    God791011
    Angels721216
    Heaven711415
    Hell641322
    The devil611227
    GALLUP, MAY 4-8, 2016

    World belief in a Supreme Being is skewed by China, for 90% don't believe (that graph below should show this figure).  However, this is because Communist rule has essentially banned religion.  I once gave a talk in that country and asked how many of them believed in God.  A few tentative hands went up.  However, I was later told I shouldn't have queried them on this matter because those who believed could well have been reported.

    Also:


    So what's the point to the above?  Well, this is Sunday, and what I learned surprised me.  Oh, one more thing:  the World's Happiest Countries are also Least Religious.  There is something called the World Happiness Index, with following rankings in 2017:
    • #    1  Norway
    • #    2  Denmark
    • #    3  Iceland
    • #  14  USA
    • #  26  Singapore
    • #  49  Russia
    • #  51  Japan
    • #  56  South Korea
    • #  71  Hong Kong
    • #  79  China
    • #  94  Vietnam
    • #108  Iran
    • #145  Haiti
    • #155  Central African Republic

    Method of Happiness/Religious determination:

    The rankings are based on answers to the main life evaluation question asked in the poll. This is called the Cantril ladder: it asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale.



    I guess the USA is somewhat anomalous, for we are very religious, but happy enough to be colored BLUE:

    Yet:

    Anecdotal evidence would suggest that unhappy people are driven to religion, given the fact that when one is unhappy in this life they can embrace the idea that there is something better waiting for them after death.
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    Potentially dangerous Tropical Cyclone Berguitta is heading for Mauritius and Reunion, probably to reach Category 2 hurricane status:


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