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Friday, September 19, 2014


Ali Baba of the forty thieves and One Thousand and One Nights was an Arabian tale of the 1700's.  Remember his pre-entrance:  Open Sesame?  Well Alibaba is a publicly traded Hangzhou (China) e-commerce company that today had an IPO opening of $68, but immediately almost hit $100/share, and ended the day at $94 with the greatest opening in the history of the world stock exchange.  A value combining e-Bay and will probably be the result.  While Yahoo owns a 24% stake in Ali Baba, YHOO today dropped 2.7%.  The Dow Jones broke the all-time high for the third straight day, up 14 to 17,280.

Alibaba was founded by Jack Ma (left) in 1999 as a means of selling Chinese products worldwide.  Who is Jack Ma?  Well, his height is just about exactly 5 feet.  Picture a diminutive oriental Gabby Hayes without facial hair.  Ma just turned 50 and is now the richest man in China, with a net worth of more than $20 billion.  He owns 193 million shares of BABA (the stock symbol), or a 7.8% stake in the company.

Keep in mind, though, that this is a company from China, and the government has everything to do with influencing the operation.  There are 27 board members, and guess who dominates?  Anyone who buys shares in the corporation has no vote.  The Board determines everything.

ARASHI is a Japanese boy band formed in Honolulu aboard a cruise ship 15 years ago, so, I guess, they're now men.  They were five "trainees," sort of like the Monkees, and lucked out when their Arashi. the Japanese word for storm, became the theme song for the Volleyball World Cup hosted by Japan in 1999.  In 2010, they did the same for the Winter Olympics held in Nagano.  After the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011 they donated their three-day concert at the Tokyo Dome before 225,000 to the cause.  Here is a half and hour  history of the group.

Well, Arashi is back.  In 2001 they had scheduled a show in Honolulu for November, but that 9/11 terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City cancelled the performance.  Instead, they will be celebrating their 15th anniversary with two live concerts for an audience of 30,000 at Ko Olina.  Almost everyone in the audience will be from Japan, and their presence in Hawaii, even with a 109:1 yen:dollar ratio, has the tourist industry thinking Golden Week.  All hotels in Hawaii are taken.

Here is Arashi's Love So Sweet.  Arashi on tour.

Their first concert was this afternoon in the general region of the Kapolei Golf Course, where I spent a few hours at the Champions Golf Tournament, where Davis Love made his debut.  I walked to the first hole and saw Love pull his first ever drive on this tour into the pond.  However, he made it up on the second hole with a birdie.  However, he fell 9 strokes behind leader Tom Pernice, who finished the day with a spectacular 60.  Here are Love, Jay Haas and Jeff Sluman on the first hole:

It was an absolutely beautiful day, but the temperature was almost up to 90 F.  However, sitting in the shade with a gentle breeze, it was, if anything, a bit too cool.  There must be something to the wind chill factor.  Had a hot dog with a beer, finishing up with a cognac infused cigar.  Great day in Paradise.


Thursday, September 18, 2014


Thomas L. Friedman had a thoughtful article today in the local newspaper:

He cites George Friedman (no relation):
Is the Islamic State really a dilemma for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of energy in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges.

Thus, the best U.S. strategy is:

Doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.

This war in the Middle East is over the soul of Islam.  Yes, the USA is like a lightning rod by poking our nose into their business.  They don't want us there and 9/11 was a statement showing their jealousy of everything we represent.  Thus, if we just simply leave the region, there is good reason we could be left alone.  Sure, every so often there could well be another car bomb or terrorist mischief, but we'd save several trillion dollars by avoiding this portion of the world.  Can you believe this Harvard University analysis that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars will cost us $6 trillion?  That is $75,000 for every American household.  I might further add that we have suffered 5,500 military there have been more than 1.7 million non-American casualties.

Of course, we will never pull out of the Middle East for the following reasons:

  • Israel and Survival
  • Iran and the Atomic Bomb
  • Republicans
  • Military Industrial Complex
You can read World Affairs and The Week for the details.

Ho Hum, for the second day in a row, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke an all-time high, up 109 to 17,266.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014


A lot of ifs, but someday it is possible that up to 75% of the energy utilized by end use consumers could well be electricity.  Air transport will always need a liquid fuel, although hydrogen has been suggested for the long term future.

The problem with wind and solar energies ultimately replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power is that the winds and our Sun come and go.  A cost competitive energy storage mechanism must be developed to enable widespread application of these intermittent renewable energy options.  Here is a graphic from Alt Energy Stocks (where you can get info to invest in this field):

Three years ago the Electric Power Research Institute released a report that summarized the state of of the energy storage market, and indicated that this field was in its infancy:
  • Pumping water up to a reservoir, or pumped-hydro, currently dominates at 99% of the storage market.  The problem is that most of the natural reservoirs are now already in use and the construction of storage for this application is prohibitive.
  • Compressed air is second with 440 MW.  Two and a half years ago I posted on Danielle Fong, a young Canadian entrepreneur who thought she had the cheapest grid-scale storage option with this technology, and helped create LightSail Energy.  Based in Berkeley, California, it has all the support stars in this universe with Vinod Khosla, Peter Theil and Bill Gates behind them. Nothing of import yet, but keep watching her (right).
  • Sodium-sulfur batteries have a grid installed capacity of 316 MW.  Lithium-ion is at 20 MW and has largely been written off as too expensive.
  • If storage prices settle in the $700-$750 /  kWh range, then a 14,000 MW market can be envisaged.  Under $500/kWh and the applications double.
  • However, here is where they're at:
    • compressed air:  $960-$1250/kw, or $60-$125/kWh...which tells me that this report is flawed, for if true, then storage is not now a problem--I SUSPECT THAT THEY GOT THE /kW and /kWh reversed.
    • batteries:  $2770-$6200/kWh
    • flywheels:  $8000/kWh
You think you pay a lot for electricity?  The USA is at around 12.5 cents/kWh, with Hawaii expecting to hit 40 cents/kWh soon.  The world?

And that was three years ago.

Here is how we use electricity in our homes:

Cold countries use the most electricity/capita:
From Wikipedia regarding electricity:
  • Fossil fuels provide the heat for 67% of electricity generated, 16% renewables (but 92% of this comes from hydroelectric facilities) and 13% nuclear.
  • By country (TWh/year):
    • #1  USA  4,369 
    • #2  China  3,457
    • #3  Japan  1,082 
    • #4  Russia  1,040
    • #5  India  830
    • #6  Canada  651
    • #7  Germany  637
    • #8  France  575
    • #9  Brazil  463
    • 10  South Korea  446
  • Relative greenhouse gas emittance (g CO2/kWe):
    • coal  1001
    • natural gas  469
    • geothermal  46
    • solar PV  45
    • biomass  18
    • nuclear  16
    • windpower  12
Let me close with what I think is the ultimate energy storage option:  UNDERWATER COMPRESSED AIR ENERGY STORAGE.  I've long written about the potential of grazing ocean plantships located (and steered) in gyres between the Hawaiian islands, where the wind regimes are at maxima, with a minimum of turbulence (terrestrial wind farms are buffeted by turbulent winds, which cause huge problems with gears and materials) and underwater bladder storage serving as the difference maker.  Read the entire article, but Underwater Compressed Air Energy Storage, a company responsible for this energy bag to the left above, reported:
  • 40% of the world population live within 150 kilometers of a coastline
  • At 400-700 meters, underwater pressure remains almost constant, and each cubic meter of air storage delivers about three times as much energy storage...whatever this means (my comment).
  • If you pump air into a land-based cavern, the pressure will drop with usage--not so for the ocean.
  • Initial applications will be site-specific 2-5 MW commercial opportunities.
  • When you retrieve the compressed air, there is a cooling effect that for mega applications can be linked with ocean thermal energy conversion systems (I made this up, but it makes some sense).
There's more, but you can click on THIS to read the whole article.

THE DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE CLOSED AT A RECORD HIGH TODAY, UP 25 TO 17,157.  This was a surprise because the U.S. Federal Reserve indicated that the near-zero interest rates will begin to rise in 2015.  However, this close showed a drop from a daily high of 17,221 because of uncertainty about the timing of this rate increase..

There is a tropical depression located east of the  Philippines, but which will turn north, become at least a Category 2 typhoon, and roll right over Okinawa then through Japan:

Tropical Storm Polo at 60 MPH will soon become a hurricane, but appears to be weaker than Hurricane  Odile, and will keep just west of Baha as currently projected:


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


On Thursday my posting reported from TIME magazine that Ocean County in New Jersey was the most dangerous in the USA, mostly from storms.  They got to be kidding.  Send the TIME editors to Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii.  This is the most dangerous spot, maybe on Planet Earth, and certainly for potential natural disasters.

Sure, it's no family picnic in Ukraine, about a million places on the African continent, Ferguson, anywhere near an active volcano in Indonesia and much of the Middle East.  However, the natural forces from land, sea and air attacking this northeastern portion of Paradise are singularly noteworthy.

In August, Hurricane Isselle devastated Hawaiian Paradise Park.  Watch the video if you clicked on that link.  And you thought I was exaggerating about this being Paradise.  Okay, to be perfectly correct, Isselle was only a tropical storm when first impacting the island, but right behind was Julio, at peak a monster at 120 MPH.  And, true, Julio fizzled, but the potential was frightening.

During the peak of the storm, the media reported:

Uncontrolled venting of Hydrogen Sulfide gas at Puna Geothermal Venture

While at first glance threatening, it turned out that the concentration of H2S was so low that any personal impact was psychological.  But you certainly could smell that rotten egg pungency...which is, granted, the almost norm.

This whole region is covered with acacia trees, and Isselle exposed the jeopardy posed by this threat. Mind you, there are good (left) acacias and bad (right) ones.  The Acacia koa is prized for bowls, furniture and floors.  This is the most prestigious wood for the finest homes in Hawaii.    Then there is the type imported, and while now an invasive nuisance, it made some sense to bring it here, for this tree grows very quickly with little tending and produces its own nitrogen.

Okay, so far, I haven't made the case for Puna being the most dangerous spot on earth, as that recent photo immediately above looks more like a minor forest fire.  But, there is now lava (that photo at the top of this posting, and more realistically just above what it looks like today) heading for this portion of the Big Island.  Thirty years ago I was golfing at the Volcano Golf Course, the ground shook, and we saw fountains of lave not far from where we were standing.  This eruption has continued and a finger of flow is today heading towards Puna:

Pahoa is the largest and only real town in this part of Puna.  Moving at 100 feet per day, the flow is unpredictable, and might well be within two weeks of covering this town in a worst case scenario.  The scale is for the larger map above, but as of yesterday, lava was three miles away.  However, that is the "city."  Kaohe Homesteads with up to 30 households is within heat distance, a few hundred yards, of this flow, which presently appears to be bypassing this site.  So far, this 31 year old eruption has consumed 214 homes.

Then, when you think it can't get any worse, today, the morning paper had this headline:

     Signs show Mauna Loa is stirring

Kilauea is but a minor protuberance next to Mauna Loa, which rises to 13,658 feet, and since 1843 has erupted on 33 occasions, or every five years.  However, the last time this occurred was thirty years ago when the flow got oh so close to the town of Hilo, and this is what it looked like at night:

Thankfully, the lava stopped flowing and Hilo was saved for the next tsunami.  However, in 1950 Mauna Loa erupted and the flow was towards the Kona side, REACHING THE OCEAN IN A LITTLE OVER THREE HOURS.  Want a scary story that could happen again, read that link.  To the right shows Mauna Loa generously disbursing the flow in all directions.  (Click on it to read the details.)

Luckily, although this has happened before, Hawaiian volcanoes recently have not exploded like Mount St. Helens did in Washington a third of a century ago:

Remember, this whole Puna area is a fault zone, and in  1960 an eruption destroyed Kapoho Village, the other city here.  They tried building barriers and spraying water, but nothing worked. Around a hundred homes and businesses were overwhelmed.  Looking at the top map above, the whole area around the right point got inundated with lava:

Certainly, Ocean County cannot possibly be more dangerous than the Puna Region of Hawaii.  And worse, if Mauna Loa erupts towards Hilo, which is adjacent to Puna, and another monstrous Alaskan earthquake sends a mega-tsunami to that city, again, Puna would become #2 to Hilo as the most dangerous spot on Planet Earth.

Hawaii has no hurricanes anywhere near us, but there is now Tropical Storm Polo at 40 MPH on the heels of Hurricane Odile, but is predicted to "only" skirt Baja, unlike  Odile, which made a turn to the right and went right over this peninsula, devastating Cabo San Lucas, sending 30,000 tourists into temporary shelters.  The cruise industry will certainly be affected and no doubt will skip stopping here for a while.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Edouard is now at 120 MPH, but is continuing to move away from the USA:


Monday, September 15, 2014


For the third straight year, Miss America came from New York.  Above, Miss America 2015 (she reigns next year) Kira Kazantsev being crowned by Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri.  Miss America 2013 was Mallory Hagen (right, in 2010 as Miss Brooklyn and later in 2012).

The State of New York has had record-breaking pioneering contestants:
  • Nina Davaluri was the first Indian-American to win the pageant.  Note that her parents are from India, and she did a bollywood dance last year.  America has grown up.
  • Miss America 1984, Vanessa Lynn Williams, was the first African American winner.  She abdicated when Penthouse published her without clothes, but  she nevertheless went on to become a star, covering a Disney's Oscar original song from Pocahontas, Colors of the Wind, among her credits.
  • Miss America 1945, Bess Meyerson, was the first Jewish-American winner, and the first from New York.

Bert Parks played host from 1955 to 1979, when he was unceremoniously let go, probably because he was 65.  Part of the problem is that the Pageant organizers neglected to tell him he was fired until the media did.

Incidentally, one of the judges this year was Lee Meriweather, Miss America 1955.  She'll be 80 next year.

Miss America 2001 was Angela Baraquio of Hawaii, who was the first Asian-American, first Filipino-American and first teacher to prevail.  That's her today below.

By the way, Yun Tau Zane was 20 years old when she became Miss Hawaii 1948 and the first Asian American to vie for the crown.  Here she is later in life as Mrs. Chee to the right.

Some interesting facts about the Miss America Pageant:
  • The origins go back to 1920 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
  • In 1921 100,000 gathered on the Boardwalk and watched Margaret Gorman (right) win $100.  She was 16 years old.
  • It was shut down from 1929-1933 due to financial problems plus the notion that it promoted "loose morals."
  • The revival in 1933 resulted in Marian Bergeron as the Golden Mermaid.  She was 15 years old.  
  • Rule Number 7 in the '30's stated:  contestants must be of good health and of the white race.
  • In 1944 the  compensation switched from "furs and movie contracts" to college scholarships.
  • Rule #7 was abolished in 1950, however, it was not until 1970 when the first African-American, Miss Iowa Cheryl Brown (right), competed.
  • Women's rights, particularly, descended on the Pageant, and the annual affair lost luster, had difficulty gaining sponsorship, shifted away from Atlantic City to Las Vegas and other venues, and finally returned to Atlantic City, where it is beginning to regain support as the oldest survival show on television.
  • The only requirements now are that she has to be an American citizen female of responsibility between 17 and 24.
  • Talent is worth 35%, while the swimsuit counts for 15% to get into the finals.

I thought third runner-up Miss Florida Victoria Cowen was the best looking (left), but her dancing was mediocre.  She won the state title six days after the contest ended, when organizers reported they had miscounted the ballot.

Worse, Kira Kazantsev's talent, I thought, was a rather homie red plastic cup acoustics rendition of Pharrell Williams' Happy.  On the other hand, maybe that performance epitomizes what America is today.  Anyway, here is Miss America 2015 one final time: