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Sunday, April 26, 2015


Royal Garden, located on the third floor of the Ala Moana Hotel, was the third dining out event for 15 Craigside.  Previously, we went to Hy's Steakhouse and 53 By the Sea.

As you walk in, you are tempted by plates of dried abalone, scallops and mushrooms:

Which gives me an opportunity to share a story of a dining experience I had in Hong Kong around a quarter century ago.  Luis Vega and I walked into the Regent Hotel (which is now the Intercontinental) and had lunch in their Chinese restaurant.  We ordered a few dishes and each had a bottle of beer.  One of the features, half-dried abalone, had a price in taels, a weight measurement used for precious metals.  We thought that was odd, but did not think much of it until the bill came:  $180, which has a value of $325 today.  We were expecting to pay, perhaps, $50, or less.

First, remember that Royal Garden is a Chinese restaurant, and, true to normal character, the service, with the exception of one individual who must have been sent to a Dale Carnegie course, was surly, but yet essentially efficient.  Second, this establishment is well known for dim sum, which is served at lunch.  Thus, our dinner here was lonely, for there weren't that many customers in a rather cavernous room.  Our table:

You can't see the drinks too well, but there was a corkage charge of $25/table, not per bottle, so we brought bottles of Johnny Black Label, Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, Sanford Chardonnay and Bailey's Chocolate Mint Cream, the latter donated by Gene Kaneshiro, who lives at 15 Craigside.

We pre-ordered a nine-course dinner, which began with minced pork served on lettuce:

Then came the dried scallop soup, which wasn't as intensely terrific as I expected:

You ask, why scotch?  In earlier days of Chinese banquets in Honolulu, there was always a bottle  of Johnny Black Label at each table as a symbol of success.    Red Label would have been an insult.  You were supposed to place a tablespoon or two into the soup.  There are dinners I've had in the Orient where every course was toasted, but, usually, some type of brown Chinese wine made of rice is used.  Scotch is usually at 80 proof (40% ethanol), while wine is "only" 25 proof (12.5% ethanol--but can range from 10% to 20%).  Thus, scotch is not used for toasting, for that can get lethal.  A bottle of scotch is no longer used at banquets because of stricter DUI laws.

The third dish was Honey-glazed Walnut Shrimp, which I let pass because of my allergy.    #4 was Roast Pea-Par Duck, which was excellent, although I have no idea what pea-par means:

The Sizzling Boneless Short Ribs with Bell Pepper, Onion and Black Bean Sauce was not sizzling, and, in fact, was barely warm, but almost okay.  #6 was Boiled Ranch Chicken in Chicken Broth  with Mustard Cabbage, and was quite good:

I have a bone to pick with #7, Braised Mushroom with Cabbage:

It was tasty and all that, but, after you place the mushroom on your plate with a spoon, it is essentially impossible to use those large, plastic Chinese chopsticks in a fail-safe manner.  While I didn't actually see anyone drop any mushroom unto their lap, I finally solved the problem by using my fingers.  The House Fried Rice had shrimps, and the meal ended with Red Bean Soup, Lotus Seed and Lilies, although I did not observe anything that had any kind of resemblance to lilies.

Didn't get his name, but he was the only staffer here who had any kind of non-negative personality.  The whole meal, not counting the drinks we brought, amounted to $37/person plus tax and tip.  We voted to give 20%, but when the bill came, they only added 15%.  At Hy's we were ready to reward 20%, but the bill arrived with an 18% tip.  A good part about these meal outings is that the 15 Craigside van takes us there and picks us up:

We all agreed that this dinner was a very positive experience.  On the evening of Friday, May 8, we are scheduled for Sarento's, located on the top of the Ilikai. We requested the room that has this view at sunset:

I return from Kenji's Safari (where we will golf for five straight days in Napa) that afternoon.

Remember, if you're interested in going on an around the world trip this Fall, you are invited to my presentation this week:

     15 Craigside Place 
(up Nuuanu Avenue, one block past Judd Street,  turn right just before the cemetery and the security guard will tell you where to park)
     The Theater
     Wednesday, April 29 at 3:30PM


Saturday, April 25, 2015


Recently, Rifle, Colorado, at 325 watts/person, proudly announced that it was #1 in solar energy.  Turns out that the city government installed a 3 MW solar PV system, and, with a population of less than 10,000, it suddenly did become #1...of minor American cities.   The photo at the left was taken in 2011 and represents 0.858 MW.  Here is a more recent shot of their Clean Energy Collective: (hmm, looks the same to me)

About who is #1, if an isolated mansion for one person installed a 10 kW solar power array, it would then be rated at 10,000 watts/person, or 30 times that of Rifle.  Take the concentrated solar power facility at Ivanpah. rated at 392 MW (or 392,000 kw or 302,000.000 watts), the largest of its kind in the world.  As far as I can tell, Ivanpah is a Ghost Town, with a population of zero, so the w/person is infinity.  Critical articles have appeared using terms like death ray.  So let me quote:

While some have exaggerated claims about bird impacts, in fact, Ivanpah reported only 321 avian fatalities in this post construction analysis between January and June 2014, of which 133 were related to solar flux.  When considering the impact our technology has on birds passing through the concentrated sunlight, or solar flux, it is important to keep in mind the leading annual causes of bird deaths include 1.4-3.7 billion birds being killed by cats, as many as 980 million birds crash into buildings, 174 million birds die from power lines and up to 340 million birds perish from vehicles/roads. 

But returning to who is #1 for per capita solar, Hawaii is #1 for major cities with 265 watts/person.  #2 is San Jose with 97 w, Wilmington at 96 w and San Diego 81 w.  However, as much as we are dwarfing all other cities, the future is in doubt:

Why has there been a decline?  Hawaiian Electric Industries is worried about grid stability.  According to former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu:  this is "another  bullshit argument."  The situation could, however, get worse, for about the most chintzy utility in the USA regarding residential PV is  NextEra of Florida, which is in the process of purchasing HEI.  But this might not be all that bad for Hawaii ratepayers, for NextEra has data to show that centralized solar farms are more cost effective than home installations.  They will support solar, but only those production sites they can control.


Friday, April 24, 2015


A third of a century ago when I was working in the U.S. Senate, I promised myself that when I returned to Hawaii I would spend my Friday lunches at the beach.  Well, I didn't exactly do that, but today is Friday and I thought I'd buy a bento lunch, bring a bottle of beer and sit in a recliner under a coconut tree to watch surfers and Diamond Head on Magic Island:

Here is another view.  I'm having my lunch of chicken nishime and shoyu pork above the "n" on Magic Island.  The surfing is occurring at the "K" representing Kahanamoku Beach.  Some wedding photos are being taken, and Diamond Head is hazy because of the volcanic haze emanating from the Big Island.  This must be a belated honeymoon, for a small child is with them.

The waves were head high and the Hawaii Surfing Association State Championships were being held.  Just as I was beginning my meal, a  babbling homeless person walked up and stood a few feet from where I was sitting.  I thought of giving him my bento plate, but he walked away.  I thought I was thus safe, but fifteen minutes later he came back, but seemed preoccupied with taking to himself, then again walked away.  There are flaws in paradise.

There were, of course, weddings.  They drive up in stretch white limousines:

Yes, I should do this more often.

My bento came from Don Quixote, which is a Japanese department-type store.  I noticed a wagyu Chuck Steak for $14/pound, so bought it with a plate of sashimi:

As this was a Japanese steak dinner, I had a Kirin Beer and some Nigori (unfiltered) Sake.  The meat was well marbled, but, seriously, this is a piece of Chuck Steak.  It was mostly tough, but there were portions of tenderness, and the taste leaned in the direction of the $57/pound Japanese wagyu steak I had in February.  I might try experimenting with this steak in the future.


Thursday, April 23, 2015


I recently noticed a 4-year old posting about global warming in SKEPTIC, a blog site of the Skeptics Society.  The executive director is Michael Shermer, a regular contributor to SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.  To quote:

Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse “skeptic” with “cynic” and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.

You can read the entire article from SKEPTIC entitled, How We Know Global Climate Warming is Real, written by Tapio Schneider, (Professor of Climate Dynamics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Director of the Linde Center for Global Warming Environmental Science at the California Institute of Technology), but here is my quick summary of a portion with copious quotes, using his visuals:
  • ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE CONCENTRATIONS are higher today than at any time in at least the past 650,000 years.
  • They are about 35% higher than before the industrial revolution, and this increase is caused by human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Figure 1. Carbon dioxide concentrations in Antarctica over 400,000 years
  • Click on those graphics to actually read them.  A few explanatory parameters:

  • Here, the growing complexity of climate change models:
  • Sea level is projected to rise 0.2–0.6 meters by the year 2100, primarily as a result of thermal expansion of the oceans; however, it may eventually reach values up to several meters higher than today when the disintegration of glaciers and ice sheets contributes more strongly to sea level rise. (A sea level rise of 4 meters would submerge much of southern Florida.)
There were 123 comments, mostly supportive, but many inane, and possibly representative of other kinds of skeptic groups, those funded by the fossil fuel industries.  How do I know this?  When I published my climate change articles in the Huffington Post, I noticed similarly insulting responses.  

I was able to trace some of them, and they emanated from organizations like the Heartland Institute.  While direct funding from these companies have now been refined and shielded through third parties, it is pretty clear that  the widespread disinformation campaign is continuing.   A quote from Wikipedia:

In the 1990s, Heartland worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question serious cancer risks to secondhand smoke, and to lobby against government public-health reforms. Starting in 2008, Heartland has organized conferences to discuss and criticize the scientific opinion of global warming.

Since publication of the above article by Professor Schneider, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year completed their Fifth Assessment Report,* a monumental effort of 800 of our very best climate change scientists, and the warnings are even more severe.  Who should you believe, the conscientious conclusions of scientists or the disinformation supplied by the fossil industry?
*Unless you enjoy reading the full Tax Code, you will not want to peruse the whole report.  Okay, I'm exaggerating:  tax code = 73,954 pages, IPRC #5 = only around 2000 pp.  However, here is a summary for policy-makers (only 32 pp), which is still formidable, but colorful.  By the way, last month was the hottest March on record, even though portions of the East Coast of the USA experienced record cold temperatures


Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Girl Crazy produced an amazing list of future superstars.  Few identify this broadway show and subsequent films as products of the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira.  First performed in 1930, 85 years ago, in the Alvin Theater, this musical made stars of Ginger Rogers (who was 19) and Ethel Merman (22, in her debut).  Incredibly enough, the opening night pit orchestra had Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Red Nichols, Jack Teagarden and Jimmy Dorsey, with conductor George Gershwin, who died 78 years ago at the age of 37 from a brain tumor.  Remember, this was the time of our greatest depression, and seats sold for as low as 25 cents.  The average price last year on Broadway was $103.88.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any original recordings nor clips, but here is Ginger Rogers (left) singing Embraceable You nearly half a century later, and But Not For Me, in a 1978 recording.   Ethel Merman (right) with I Got Rhythm on TV, and at the Tonys 42 years after her original performance.  Another popular tune was Bidin' My Time by The Foursome.  There was a quick 1932 movie which lost money.

In 1943 the second film had Judy Garland playing the composite of what Rogers and Merman did on Broadway, with Mickey Rooney, in their ninth of ten pairings, June Allyson, and Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra playing themselves.  Fascinating Rhythm was added.  Judy Garland sang Bidin' My TimeBut Not for MeI've Got Rhythm and  Embraceable You.

Watch the full 1 hr 39 min Girl Crazy online, for free.  As this posting is all about nostalgia, here is an innocent Judy singing Zing Went the Strings of My Heart just before she starred in The Wizard of Oz.

It took just about half a century, but in 1992 the show became Crazy for You on Broadway, winning Best Musical, having added Nice Work if You Can Get It and They Can't Take That Away from Me, the latter from the 1937 Shall We Dance, starring Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire, their seventh collaboration.  The latest roadshow toured the USA last year.  Cincinnati Music Theater has performances of Crazy for You next month.  They've added Someone to Watch Over Me, originally performed by Gertrude Lawrence in 1926.  There were so many versions, but Frank Sinatra is remembered for his rendition.

One of Susan Boyle's albums was entitled Someone to Watch Over Me.  And if you've never seen her in what has become the most stunning talent performance on TV of all time, you absolutely need to click on THIS, featuring Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan.  How did I get here?  Anyway, all those songs came from George and Ira Gershwin.