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Sunday, March 29, 2015


Since 1985 the U.S. expense of attending college has jumped by 500 percent, and tuition keeps rising. For this year, the average cost of attending a typical state college was $23,410, with $46,272 for a private institution.  You read that we don't have enough students in science and engineering.  Well, for one, you need to study harder for those pathways, and two, should expect to pay $5,000/year more for this privilege.

"Outstanding student loan balances reported on credit reports increased to $1.13 trillion (an increase of $8 billion) as of September 30, 2014, representing about $100 billion increase from one year ago," the bank said in its latest report on household debt and credit.

All the above can be depressing for any family with hopes and dreams of a better future.  More so is the below:

Somehow, though, more are graduating from high schools and universities:

Mind you, not everyone should go to college.  Some will be happier with technical and service skills, and, of course, neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs actually graduated from any university.  Yet, a college degree will substantially improve your status in life:

Clearly, if you are really, really smart, with a great high school record, a straight A average, served as student body president and quarterback of your state championship football team, with only limited parental support (less than $60.000/year), all of top higher education institutions will pay for your entire college experience, room and board included.  Read my posting on HOW TO GO TO STANFORD FOR ALMOST FREE.  

But, let's face it, most of us are merely average.  How then can you afford college?  In our country, read this article for institutions which charge no tuition.  How many of you have ever heard of Deep Springs College in California?

Each of its 26 students receives a full-scholarship valued at over $50,000 per year. Students work, at a minimum, 20 hours per week on the ranch or farm, or in positions related to the college or community.

Want to go to Harvard?

Beginning with the Class of 2016, families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute from 0% to 10% of income, and those with incomes above $150,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more than 10%, based on their individual circumstances.

But there is a problem, for:

Harvard has a 6% acceptance rate and a 97% first-year, full-time student retention rate. SAT test scores (25th/75th percentile) are as follows: Critical reading: 690/790; math: 700/800; and writing: 690/790.

Anyway, check out a range of colleges throughout the USA for values.  Some of those listings make no sense, for here, Kiplinger rates the 25 best low debt and high return on investment universities.  Caltech, also known as the California Institute of Technology, is rated #1.  To quote:

Average Student Debt: $13,442
30 year net ROI above non-degree holders: $1.99 Million
We hope that this list of the best value universities is of great help to you as you conduct your search for the best matching college program for you. For further reading, please see: 25 Best Value Colleges 2014 and 30 Best Affordable Online Colleges 2014.
The problem is that the odds on your getting into Caltech are like winning a national lottery.  And if you do, you will still pay $53,000/year to try to academically survive.  I almost went there.

If you want FREE tuition, several countries in Europe now don't charge to attend, and teach courses in English.
  • Germany now is a tuition free country.  Why do they bother subsidizing foreigners?  It is said that the international mix makes for a better educational experience:
Americans can earn a German undergraduate or graduate degree without speaking a word of German and without having to pay a single dollar of tuition fees: About 900 undergraduate or graduate degrees are offered exclusively in English, with courses ranging from engineering to social sciences. For some German degrees, you don't even have to formally apply.
  • Finland
This northern European country charges no tuition fees, and it offers a large number of university programs in English. However, the Finnish government amiably reminds interested foreigners that they "are expected to independently cover all everyday living expenses."
  • Norway
Norwegian universities do not charge tuition fees for international students. The Norwegian higher education system is similar to the one in the United States: Class sizes are small and professors are easily approachable. Many Norwegian universities offer programs taught in English. American students, for example, could choose "Advanced Studies for Solo Instrumentalists or Chamber Music Ensembles" or "Development Geography."

  • Brazil
Some Brazilian courses are taught in English, and state universities charge only minor registration fees. Times Higher Education ranks two Brazilian universities among the world's top 400: the University of Sao Paulo and the State University of Campinas. However, Brazil might be better suited for exchange students seeking a cultural experience rather than a degree.

So how might you live and eat while not paying any tuition?  Well, try Study Abroad.  Also homestays, farmsteads, hostels and a variety of experiential and cheaper independent options.

I've merely scratched the surface.  For the adventurous, there are numerous options for education beyond high school.  If you really want to go to college, you can find a way.  Here are five suggestions, including serving your country.


Saturday, March 28, 2015


To maximize your longevity, drink some alcohol, with a cup of coffee, plus, do exercise:

  • Overweight  (mind you, not obese) people live longer than those underweight!
    • This is nothing new.  Click on a six year old article, but general info has been around for a decade.
    • Maintain a body mass index of between 25 and 29.  How to calculate your BMI?  Click on this.  Whoops, my BMI is 24.  Hmm.....normal is, apparently, not good:

Underweightless than 18.5
Normal18.5 to 24.9
Overweight25 to 29.9
Obese30 or greater

  • Does this mean if you do have three drinks/day, a cup of coffee can reduce your potential for liver cancer.  YES!!!   If you read that article, a fine point is that you can have three drinks, but have that cup of coffee.  My recommendation, though, would be, sure, go ahead, if you're not driving, have your two drinks, but keep it at that, plus have a cup of coffee anyway.   Also, exercise and fish consumption reduce your risk of liver cancer.
  • After decades of telling us that milk will keep us healthy and fat will kill us, now they tell us that every glass of milk a woman drinks each day increases her chances of dying by 15 per cent and saturated fat has nothing to do with heart disease.  Oh, and EXERCISE is especially good for you.
That ocean storm east of the Philippines remains a tropical storm, but Maysak is soon to attain hurricane strength, and could well attain Category 4 power.  The current predicted track is towards Manila:


Friday, March 27, 2015


A 2010 Pew Research Center report indicated that 79% of Americans believe in miracles.  55% of Americans are convinced there are religious miracles, a 22% jump since 1992.  Why this increase when more and more are turning away from organized religion?  The report cites Oprah.

Let me start with sainthood.  The Catholic Church has had 2,565 official saints.  It is speculated that a little more than 100 billion people have ever lived on Planet Earth.  Say half of them came after Jesus Christ, when the Catholic church was formed.  Then, you have one chance in 20 million to become a saint. As around 15% of the world is Catholic, your odds improve to one chance in 3 million if you're Catholic.  Both Jesus' parents were made saints, this is why there are so many schools named St. Mary's and St. Joseph's.  

I bring sainthood up because a saint needs to perform two miracles to become one.  In addition, of course, to being venerable, pious and having the faith.  Mother Theresa was beatified, meaning she was credited for one miracle, but might never attain sainthood, for she is said to have lost her faith.  Like belief in God and the Afterlife, countries vary widely:

You ask, why is the percent at 55 in the the first paragraph and 72 in this bar graph, when this figure was supposed to increase in this two decade period?  Such is the nature of religion and surveys.  This is not quantum physics, which, by the way, is a lot more arcane than religion.  For example, we can only discern 4% of matter/energy, as 96% of everything has never been detected, and is temporarily known as dark matter and dark energy.

Now that you should be sufficiently confused, let's go back to becoming a saint.  Most canonization (the second step to become a saint) miracles tend to involve "saving" a life, usually through prayer, although Jesus walking on water  has been mentioned as an example of a religious miracle, but not one particularly useful for sainthood.
Read my chapter on the Golden Evolution in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity for details, although this blog site serialized the book, beginning with Part 2.  The pages on modern miracles are found here, first written in 2007 when I started my experiment with razor #1.

I dropped this modern marvel a year or so later, it broke, so I bought a second Schick.  Now in daily use for at least six years, it looks cruddy, but still works, and well.

Mind you, there is something called the Infinity Razor, which can be purchased from for $4.24, using "carbon injected steel technology to create blades so sharp they never get dull."  My chemical engineering PhD knowledge tells me that some corrosion should have occurred by now to my blade, but, no, it still works, and, therefore, this must be a modern miracle.  You can Google reviews of the Infinity razor, and I suspect Gillette and Schick got their staff to talk stink about this threat.  I've never bought the Infinity version because my Schick still operates well.

Why do I bother to bring this subject up today?  Well, half my daily readers are new to this site, so I'm just educating a whole new generation of viewers to this astonishing facet of our lifestyle.  I've suggested to many of my friends to either verify or dispute my claim, but no one has yet bothered to try.

For the second modern miracle, I advance that incredible soap between the bedsheets (place that bag which holds the bar safety pinned to the bed, to be covered by the sheet) system that prevents leg cramps.  I quote from my book:

It sounds looney, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but  a true miracle is that urban legend: a bar of soap between the bedsheets will prevent leg cramps. There is something about getting older and lying horizontal. My wife and I, now and then, no, make it frequently, used to suffer from painful cramps. That bar was placed a few months ago, and, amazingly, no leg cramps.  Place the unwrapped soap in a cloth bag under the bottom sheet at the bottom of your bed.  For some reason, Dove and Dial, apparently, don't work. Ann Landers a long time ago mentioned this solution, and so do some doctors. What is the explanation? No one knows. There is no scientific proof. But it works. It’s a puzzlement, or miracle. Maybe there is a God. Hopefully, this crack in rationality will lead me to an afterlife.

I still use the same bar in the same sack and it still works.  I don't remember the last time I had leg cramps in bed.  It also serves as a useful navigational tool to inform me that I'm in the middle of the bed to minimize falling to the floor when I sleep.  Even Snopes is mystified.  Got to be a miracle.

Just a 50 MPH ocean storm far east of the Philippines, Tropical Storm 4 looms to become a very powerful typhoon and head for the Philippines:


Thursday, March 26, 2015


Wow, I've gone more than a week without an energy posting.  Renewable Energy World this morning had an edifying article on the matter of China and coal:

You hear assorted rumblings emanating from China, and air pollution is but one fearsome problem.  China:
  • added 15.1 million new cars last year 
  • has 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world
I can keep citing statistics (note the face masks), but let me just say that the air they breathe in Beijing during the month of January averaged 196 micrograms per cubic meter.  This measurement did not come from the government, but the U.S. Embassy.  So what, you say?  The air in U.S. airport smoking lounges averaged about 167 mg/cubic meter!  

So back to China and coal:
  • January is a particularly bad month, but for the year, the air in Beijing was twice (86) the allowable national standard (35).  90% of Chinese cities failed to meet national standards.
  • There are four major  Beijing coal power plants:
    • one was shut down last year
    • two more stopped production last week
    • the final one will terminate operations in 2016
  • These electricity generation facilities will now use natural gas.
  • About two thirds of China's electricity comes from coal.  This figure is 30% in the USA.
  • From 2003 to 2013 global coal demand grew by more than 50%, with China the main culprit.
  • I find this hard to imagine, but by the end of this year, over just a two-year period,  China will close 2,000 coal mines.
  • China's carbon dioxide emissions DROPPED by 2% last year.
  • Nuclear power is experiencing a re-birth.  A Fukushima or Chernobyl in China and, well.....
  • Coal is rapidly being replaced by hydro, wind, solar and natural gas.
There was a particularly interesting comment by a reader, who sarcastically remarked that natural gas is mostly methane, which, molecule for molecule, is at least twenty times worse than carbon dioxide in causing global warming.

An obvious point, though, is that global warming does not provoke governments to take giant leaps for the sake of humanity.  People dying from air pollution, now that's another matter.

The USA  can't be so smug, of course, for we produce a lot more carbon dioxide/capita than China.  An interesting bit of information:  since 1991 there have been 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change--only 24 reject humans, us, as the cause.

Here is a poll conducted by The New York Times/ Stanford/ Resources for the Future:
  • 78% of Americans believe global warming is serious, with 10% saying not serious at all.  Regarding "not serious at all," 22% Republicans and 4% Democrats.
  • 28% of Americans believe they will not be hurt at all personally if nothing is done to reduce global warming, 44% Republicans, 14% Democrats.
Republicans just are not convinced.  So what appears to be happening is that air pollution and, can I dare say it, yes, good sense by the masses, seem to be affecting fossil fuel use.  Interestingly enough, my previous energy/environment posting last week was entitled:
Maybe the Republicans have it right.  They are not concerned, and their damned attitude appears not to be endangering society.  Something is wrong here.

Here is an international tally regarding the perceived threat of global warming:
  • Afghanistan  19%
  • China            21%
  • India             29%
  • Russia          39%
  • Denmark      40%
  • Norway        43%
  • Germany      60%
  • USA             63%
  • Argentina     71%
  • France          75%
  • Brazo;          76%
  • Japan            80%
  • S. Korea       80%
  • Greece          82%
  • Portugal        85%
Thus, regarding global warming and carbon emissions control, Asia, Europe and South America are concerned, Americans are relatively so-so, Scandinavian countries even less so, with China, India and a few countries at war not caring much.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Hy's Steakhouse on the first floor of the Waikiki Park Heights Hotel on Kuhio Avenue has been around since 1976.  The original Hy's opened in Calgary, Canada in 1955.  Hy Aisenstat was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, and he opened Hy's Steakhouse over a women's clothing store, knowing nothing about running a restaurant, with  help from his girlfriend, who later became his wife.  His three sons now run six operations in Canada.  I actually dined at this original soon after the Hy's in Honolulu opened.

We've started a new tradition at 15 Craigside.  This was our first fine dining outing, where our shuttle took 14 of us, led by Program Manager Cookie (in white to the right below):

Audy Kimura has been with the restaurant, I thought from the beginning, but when I went up to talk to him, he said he has been entertaining here only for 20 years or so.  His signature song is Lovers and Friends, for which he won four Na Hoku awards in 1984.  Can you believe that was almost a third of a century ago?  He wrote the theme for Hawaii Goes Fishing and Battery Bill.

It's a good thing we all dressed up (dining at 15 Craigside is usually shorts and slippers for men), for Hy's now has a strict dress code:  you need collared shirts and shoes to be admitted.  Actually, this standard will be enforced from April 1, as I didn't have any collar on my t-shirt.  But I did wear shoes.

Of course, Hy's features steaks:

We sat next to the grill and were first served their famous hot cheese bread, and got a second series of baskets:

I had a Peju Syrah, pleasant, except that two glasses cost $40 and I can buy ten bottles of Merlot or Cabernet at Whole Foods for that sum.  My first course featured escargots, which were excellent.  I then followed with a good enough Beef Wellington (the foie gras was almost nonexistent) with baked potato:

Henry across from me is the Poker Commissioner at 15 Craigside.  He has a special liking for steaks, and recommended Signature for a future outing.  I finished with a coconut creme brûlée and double expresso.  Had to take a photo of the flower girl:

I was the only one who expressed anything opprobrious about the price, and everyone enjoyed this official 15C excursion.  Next month, 53 By the Sea (below) for lunch and Royal Garden for dinner.