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Wednesday, May 4, 2016


A few months ago when I was in Dubai I indicated that it:
  • Already had the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa--830 meters or 2722 feet), and is constructing a taller one (right) as a gift to the city to open for their 2020 World Expo (Dubai hosts).  Height?  To be after announced after completion.
    • Changsha in China three years ago broke ground for a building ten meters taller than the Burj Khalifa, but bureaucracy got in the way, and the project appears to have been stopped.
    • Saudi Arabia will have a 1001 (3284 feet) meter high tower by 2020 in Jeddah, called, appropriately enough, Jeddah Tower.

    • Ah, but Dubai is planning for Dubai City Tower in 2025, also known as Dubai Vertical City, to be 2400 meters or 7900 feet tall.  
    • A mile is 5280 feet and the top of the spire of the Empire State Building in New York City is all of 443 meters or 1454 feet high.
  • Already had the largest shopping center in the world and is building a bigger one.  Dubai Mall, with 1200 stores, gets 75 million visitors--more that the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls and Disney World, combined.  The next one will be called Mall of the World:
  • Already is the busiest airport in the world (Heathrow is #2) with 70 million passengers, and will add concourse D this year to handle a total of 90 million passengers, then expand to 100 million by 2020.
Well, solar energy fans, Dubai will soon have the largest solar power plant in the world at 800 MW:

This facility will produce electricity at the lowest rate in the world:  3 cents/kWh.

Anyway, that was the announcement.  The reality is that the first module will only be a 200 MW. concentrated solar system, for an ultimate 3000 MW solar park.  The winning bid by Masdar (owned by the Abu Dhabi government) and a Spanish company FRV, which is now owned by Saudi Arabia.  You will note a general absence of Western countries in these competitions.  UAE / Saudi Arabia beat the Chinese bid (JinkoSolar) by 19%, but only because the government will be financing the system.

China has the biggest solar PV park at 850 MW, while the U.S.'s Ivanpah Solar (thermal) Power Facility is rated at 392 MW, and Morocco just turned on the first phase of its concentrated solar power plant, 160 MW towards 580 MW.  These solar maps show the highest solar potential sites are Africa and the Middle East.  They are finally beginning to wake up.

I will tomorrow report on my fantastical life, and on Friday continue my series on Humanity's Greatest Challenges by focusing on outer space.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016


A few times/year I get eclectic and write about Baroque music and even Shakespeare.
The outer space segment of Humanity's Greatest Challenge will come in two days, for tomorrow I will report on the largest solar energy project in the world...located in Dubai.

But today is the 22nd anniversary of Classic Arts Showcase (CAS).  As far as I know, I'm the only person in Hawaii who watches this program.  It's in low definition, Channel 53, Oceanic, from 6AM to 8AM on weekdays, sometimes.  Also, whoever is managing this program in Olelo regularly screws up, for the shows are many times repeated.  For all these years CAS has produced three 8-hour blocks every day, so there should be almost 25,000 original mixes.  Just this annoyance of Olelo makes me sometimes want to switch to Dish Network, for their channel 9406 covers this program 24 hours/day, every day.   500 stations carry CAS in the U.S. and Canada.  You can also go online.

Mind you, I don't watch CAS all that much.  As I rest in bed in the early morning after I wake up, I jump around the news/sports and other channels, turning to 53 when everything else is uninteresting, which is most of the time.   

What I enjoy is the unexpected pleasure of:

Mr. Rigler was a businessman, a World War II veteran, and a philanthropic lover of the arts who sought to increase that audience in a world that was rapidly discarding classical works in favor of newer mediums and technologies. Mr. Rigler and his business partner Mr. Deutsch invested in a number of classical arts endeavors, notably the New York City Opera and the Kennedy Center in DC, and their estates and the Foundation are what enable the 24-hour continuous CAS programming with no begging.  (Rigler to the left, Deutsch right, with Beverley Sills in the middle)

CAS was modeled after early MTV, to show continuous video clips in random order, with the exceptions being that there are no hosts, VJs, or commercials of any sort, and it seems to have maintained its exact format for all these years. As a lover of classical music, and especially classic dance and theater styles, I get easily exhausted by all things modern, and I often run to CAS as a fast-acting balm, an instantaneous relief that's always there for me.

CAS could cut back on telling who they are and how everything is free and how great Rigler was, by about a factor of ten.  But this break allows me the freedom to switch back to real time for a short while.  Anyway, like this blog site, CAS might now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, for Lloyd Rigler passed away in 2003, and left enough money for maybe twenty years, which means there might only be seven years left.  So find out how you can watch Classic Arts Showcase.


Monday, May 2, 2016


There are dozens of lists addressing Humanity's Greatest Challenges.  Let me cite just one from the Millennium Project:
15 Global Challenges (get details by clicking on any one)
You no doubt never heard of the Millennium Project, but it's been around now for a decade, and involves the United Nations, Smithsonian and futurists.  Of course we need responsible organizations to take on these challenges, but trying to deal with the above, in toto, while necessary, for everything is connected to everything else, is essentially a hopeless task, similar to my trying to Save Planet Earth and Humanity.

Globaltopia whittles the 15 down to 10.  However, study groups trip over themselves just trying to agree on the problems and how they are connected.  So, over the next couple of postings, I will just provide a few simple solutions to the ones in my region of expertise.

First of all, society never solves much of anything unless there is a true crisis, such as World War II, the Cold War, ozone hole and the Great Depression.  
  • Thus, global warming will remain an issue until hundreds of millions suddenly perish.  A 5 cent/pound carbon dioxide credit will solve the problem, but we have a world political / free enterprise system that effectively prevents progress for the sake of economic profit. 
  • Our population will continue to increase until universal economic development is attained.  This might take another century.
  • The problem is whether at some point there will be a tipping point to temperature or number of people at which peak the simple solution will come with a lot of anguish when billions actually perish.  
A corollary matter is who will pay for these simple solutions.  If the Middle East wars will cost us $6 trillion, one source is to use those funds in the future through the avoidance of such needless excursions.

Thus, I'll skip over population, democracy/war/peace, global climate change and most of the 15 above topics, for they are intractable and not worthy of my time, or yours.  Tomorrow I'll take a look at outer space and suggest what is a waste of time and where might come opportunities for advancing our society.  Then, I'll propose our oceans as the true next frontier for economic progress.  Energy?  Sure.  Human genomics. Of course.  Artificial intelligence:  boon or bane?  The list remains endless.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

EYE IN THE SKY: Drone Warfare

Eye in the Sky is a highly rated R film showing how much of future wars will be fought, like a video game from your living room.  Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave it a 94% rating, and 87% of audiences liked it.  If you want the standard complete review, click on Godfrey Cheshire's critique or

Helen Mirren is good, but miscast.  How often do you see an active 70-year old British female colonel?  Alan Rickman was also fine, but too a tad old, at 69, to be a British general.  He recently passed away of pancreatic cancer.

The stars of the movie were drones, with the beetle perhaps the most fascinating.  There was also a hummingbird.  

But the reality is that these flying "camera" are not yet ready for active duty.  The high definition quality of each scene seemed too good to be true, but, then again, Google has you covered, sometimes in real time, and you might not know about that.  I wrote in "google map, 15 Craigside Place," and, whoa, I can see my parked car.  No beetle yet, though, to catch me punching out this posting.

The operation was world-wide:
  • Target:  al-Shabab militants in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Control centers:  Whitehall in London and military base in Sussex
  • Drone technology:  U.S. Military personnel in Las Vegas (they were the pilots who pulled the trigger to send the missile) and Honolulu (facial recognition technology)
No Western boots on the ground, for the only human in imminent danger was a Somalian working for a British spy agency.

While technology took center stage, the all-pervading purpose had to do with the morality of drone warfare.  Remember, just last month, a U.S. drone strike killed 150 or so "terrorists" in Somali.  You're never quite sure these days of who really died.  And we're not supposed to be at war there.

The British used American technology, but life is not so simple.  A good part of the beginning showed a typical Kenyan suburb family where a young girl is careful about using a hula hoop, for it is now appropriate for children to have fun in this neighborhood.  So just about when a long fought decision to send a missile to destroy a house where two terrorists were being fitted with vest bombs gets a go, this girl sets up a table to sell home-made bread right next to the target.

American decision-makers had no problem with giving the approval, for these terrorists could well kill hundreds, so in war you take a few losses.  The British, at the almost every level showed a higher humanity, but more, probably, to cover themselves in case of failure.  The American Secretary of State, found playing ping pong in Beijing, called his UK mates wusses for not proceeding.  This process took up most of the movie:  trying to connect with the British Prime Minister and such for the okay.

The American "pilot" in Las Vegas essentially refused to pull the trigger, for there was an 85% chance that the girl might not survive.  But the chain of command found a way (mostly pushed by that old female colonel) to drop the odds to 45%, in sequence two missiles were fired from a drone, killing the terrorists...and little girl.


Saturday, April 30, 2016


Let us go back to the Summer of 1963 when out of nowhere Kyu Sakamoto's Sukiyaki hit #1 on the Billboard 100, and stayed at the top for three weeks.  Why?  No other Japanese song had ever tracked on Billboard, and 53 years later, there has not been another.

Japan was finally recovering from the devastation of World War II, but there was constant rioting by Japanese students exhibiting dissatisfaction about America's continued presence in the country.  Interesting now that they want us to stay.  Tokyo was a year away from hosting the 1964 Summer Olympics.  Anyway, the song evoked the hope for a fresh start:

Walking along, looking up, so that the teardrops won't flow out of my eyes / I look back on a spring day on this lonely night / A good fortune is beyond the clouds / A good fortune is beyond the sky / So I'm looking up and I'm looking forward, imagining that good fortune in the future.

The problem in the USA was that the whole thing was sung in Japanese and no one had the faintest idea what it meant.  Says how much lyrics dominate over words in songs  The Japanese title means I Look Up When I Walk.  Has nothing to do with food.  Here is the English translation.

In 1985 when he was 43 Sakamoto boarded Japan Air 123 at Haneda.  It never made it to Osaka, for 12 minutes into flight part of the tail of the Boeing 747 ripped off and the passengers endured 32 minutes of agony before the plane crashed, killing 520, the deadliest single-craft accident in history.  Amazingly enough, four survived, and here is an account of what happened.  I had a friend who was just late for this flight and insisted on being let on.  They denied him, so at the gate he wrote an official letter of protest.  He still has it.

The only Japanese song that was composed in Hawaii and became popular in Japan is Francis Zanami's, Wakare No Isochidori.  That album above can be purchased from, used, for $1.96.   Click HERE to access all the songs from the Club Nisei CD. Amazon sells the CD to the left for 99 cents.  There is something to this song that brings tears to my eyes...but I don't know why.  Zanami's Hawaii hit became popular in Japan in 1952. Unfortunately, three years earlier, a heart attack killed him at the age of 34.    He is the third person from the left in the top row below.

I had to find this photo because there are several reports that he died at the age of 44.  However, as shown above on his gravestone at the Moiliili Japanese Cemetery, he passed away in 1949 at the age of 34.

Another song that I sometimes ask the Mama-san in Japanese karaoke bars to sing is Ginza Kan Kan Musume (here by Jane Itai, neeJane Yoshino) of Hawaii.  The original was sung by Hideko Takamine in 1949.  She came from Hakodate and was considered to be the Shirley Temple of Japan.  The movie version of Takamine (right) with Shizuko Kasagi.      

Without  a doubt the all-time #1 song in the world, from South Korea, by Psy, is Gangnam Style.  It was released on 15 July 2012, immediately hit #1 in Korea, by November of that year passed Baby by Justin Bieber as most watched video, and when I clicked on today, made me the 2,565,138,956th viewer.

Baby is not quite yet up to 1.4 billion, and has fallen to #9.  #2 is, not kidding, Wiz Khalifa - See You Again ft. Charlie Puth from the Furious 7 Soundtrack at almost 1.7 billion.  So I spent many minutes going down the list, and saw at 282 Whtney Houston's I will Always Love You with 256 million, at 387 Michael Jackson's Billy Jean with 209 billion and #700, Weird Al Yankovic's White & Nerdy  with 105 million.

Here is an Obama impersonator, Prime Minister David Cameron's parody, and again...and Psy teaching Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon how to dance to that tune.  When I visit Seoul next month, I'm staying in a next generation hotel which will allow me to catch the elevator to the basement, get on Line #2, quickly taking me to Gangnam, where I will buy a few shirts.  I live an exciting life.


Friday, April 29, 2016


15 Craigside has a Photography Club, inspired by Irene Zane and guided by professional photographer Scott Kubo of the Honolulu Museum of Art, once known as the Honolulu Academy of Arts.  The Museum is 89 years old and has a 50,000 arts collection.  I once lived across the street.  We do things like have a photo-shoot at the Honolulu Zoo, where my most impressive photo was of this mother crane (note her egg):

We get together for lunch once a month on a Sunday.  Our assignment for this Sunday is to pick an object in our environment.  We are today surrounded by the blooming Gold Tree, so that will be my focus:

The taller building behind 15 Craigside is 2101 Craigside, where I lived for 32 years.  That is Sanju Pavilion to the left.

As many of my readers know, the Gold Tree has appeared on numerous occasions in this blog site, including this past Sunday.  That is because when my wife Pearl passed away I went around the world trying to identify it, but it turned out that her sister in law Gwen, who works at a biological park, found the answer.  So I decided to try to plant some of them.  I wondered why she loved this tree, and I think stumbled across the reason.  Growing up, she went to Hilo High School, and there is a giant Gold Tree close by, as shown here to the left.

So on her second celebration of her life the family planted a Gold Tree on Mauna Kea because every morning growing up she could see this tall mountain from their kitchen:

Alas, it did not do well at all.

However, I bought a hundred of these saplings and gave them away to her friends on the Big Island, plus a copy of the yellow-colored SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS in her honor.

Then, I thought, maybe golf courses would like them.  So, working closely with Councilman Dennis Onishi (in the middle to the left) of the Big Island, both the Hawaii and Honolulu County City Councils approved planting these trees in tribute to Pearl.

Here below at the Hilo Municipal Golf Course:

The Ala Wai Golf Course ceremony was organized by Garrick Iwamuro (Honolulu C&C Golf Course Administrator, left in the above photo with Councilman Onishi, who, I might add is Pearl's cousin):

KHON2 covered the event, and even Kelly Simeck did some shoveling.

Then two days ago I heard that some Gold Trees were in bloom at the Ted Makalena Golf Course, where 20 or so Gold Trees were also planted, so off I went to play there.  Between the 7th and 8th holes are these blooming Gold Trees.

However, I chatted with the course administrator, Chad, and he thought these might have been planted earlier.  Anyway, someday our municipal golf courses will be filled with yellow flowers in April.  At Makalena, I happened to also see this cousin of the Gold Tree, a Tabebuia, which was purple:

The flower shape and size of the two trees are identical.

When I made the decision to follow through with the above, I also thought about the Jacaranda, because Pearl also admired them, and this flower comes with a particularly fragrant aroma.  Coincidentally, when we planted Pearl's Gold Tree at the Hilo Municipal Golf Course, there was already a large Jacaranda right adjacent.

As the Gold Tree appears to be having difficulty growing at the Ala Wai and Makalena Golf Courses because of high saline soil, perhaps I'll someday follow-up with Garrick to try some Jacaranda.  Jill Wagner of Future Forests Nursery:  how will Jacaranda's do in a slightly salty environment?

I dropped off Pearl's ashes at the airport at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, where Jacarandas were in abundance:

Jacarandas can be found in Kona:

This one is supposedly a hundred years old.  When I drove up to Haleakala to view the sunrise, I noted a lot of Jacarandas in bloom:

Perhaps, then, to Pearl's Gold Tree will someday be added Pearl's Purple Tree.  Not a bad combination, for these are the colors of LSU: