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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

NITROGEN: KILLING WITH KINDNESS

Seven years ago Chapter 1 of my book on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity advocated the use of nitrogen to execute criminals.  While the e-version of this book only costs $3.99, you can for free refer to one of my earlier postings describing this "killing with kindness" method of termination.  Nitrogen is 78% of the air we breath.  However, if the concentration exceeds 90%, we essentially just fall asleep and die.  Execution is painless and reasonably humane.  

Humanity has been searching for the best way to end the life of the condemned, and has used suffocation, dropping the body from height, stones, swords, the Scottish Maiden (right, which was invented in the 1500's), Halifax Gibbet, guillotine (it was only in 1789 that Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin introduced legislation in the French National Assembly to more humanely and efficiently carry out capital punishment--and a committee settled on an improved version of the Scottish Maiden--which became known as the guillotine, a bloody technique, but utilized in France until 1977), hanging, firing squad, electric chair and lethal injection.  

Well, it looks we're now back to suffocation, for yesterday the state of Oklahoma overwhelmingly approved the abandonment of lethal injections to instead execute death row inmates using nitrogen gas.  This brings back memories of Nazi gas chambers, but the replacement of hydrogen cyanide with nitrogen could become the acceptable solution.

To quote from my book:

The body feels suffocation only when the carbon dioxide concentration in your lungs exceeds a certain threshold, as when you hold your breath. The beauty of using nitrogen, if you can call it that, is that in a nitrogen atmosphere, you exhale the carbon dioxide normally, but without the 20% oxygen on inhalation. Thus, death is painless without the feeling of suffocation. No state or nation is considering this option, although when I last visited Norway, being discussed was the use of this gas for the humane slaughter of fish. Maybe nitrogen should be used for turkeys and all livestock.

There have been a hundred or so industrial deaths caused by nitrogen.  Further:

In 1981, during final countdown for the Columbia Space Shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center, two NASA technicians entered the aft engine compartment, which was purged with nitrogen to reduce any hydrogen-oxygen build-up, and died in minutes from anoxia (lack of oxygen). Nitrogen has no distinct smell or taste. The same happened to the European Space Agency in 1995 when two more lost their lives from a nitrogen leak into the launchpad.

This is the same shuttle that on re-entry in 2003 disintegrated, killing seven crew members.

In the movie Still Alice, Alice (played by Julianne Moore, who won the Oscar this year for Best Actress), knowing she was soon to become incoherent from Alzheimer's, developed a suicide technique using sleeping pills, which failed.  I've personally been thinking about my end of life, and was told that a whole bunch of sleeping pills and a bottle of vodka would do the job.  Certainly, this would be a lot less odious than a bullet or jumping off a building.  However, anyone can purchase a bottle of nitrogen (oenophiles top a partially used bottle of wine to preserve the taste) and you can figure out how best to engineer the end.  Today, I'm at 15 Craigside, and, well, suicide now become unnecessary.  

So the state of Oklahoma has begun a process that seems destined to be adopted throughout the country and world.  While gas chambers are not new, the replacement of hydrogen cyanide with nitrogen might well become that simple solution.

Let me leave you with the theme from MASH, Suicide is Painless, which hit #1 in the UK in 1980.  An interesting sidelight is that the song's lyrics was written in five minutes by Mike Altman when he was 14 years old.  His father, Robert, directed the film, and said on the Johnny Carson Show that in the 80's he only made $70,000 from the film, but that his son earned millions from the song.


Suicide is Painless was used in the film when camp dentist, Captain Walter "Painless Pole" Waldowski (guy in white), contemplated suicide, becoming the theme for the TV series.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

THE GREATEST DANGER FACING HUMANITY TODAY

Sure, there is global warming, and the potential for gross calamity, and below at the end of this posting is a large list of deaths from a variety of causes, but wars, in general, have served as the primary source of human deaths.  True, The Black Death from 1347-1351 had a toll of up to 200 million, and with the ease of global travel today, there should be concern about a particularly virulent strain of the flu.  But I have mostly made fun of the latest scourges in my Huffington Post article entitled, A Pandemic Worse than the Swine Flu, and recently posted on Why are People Freaking Out about Ebola?  I was right both times, thankfully.

Anyway, global conflicts worry me the most today.  There was World War II from 1938-1945 when up to 72 million might have died.  But China stands out as particularly appalling, for the Mongol conquests from 1206 to 1368 disposed of 70 million, while, and this is a surprise, up to 78 million were killed from 1949-1976 in the Mao Era. 

So what is the greatest danger facing humanity today?  Nope, not ISIS or ISIL or terrorism in general.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the focal point of what can lead to total warfare in the Middle East.

Netanyahu today, defying the White House, addressed the U.S. Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, and gave the speech of his life.  Here are the key factors:
  • In December Netanyahu dissolved their Knesset and called for snap elections on March 17.  His performance today virtually insures that he will continue as prime minister, but their parliament is formed of a bunch of parties, and things are complicated, for his Likud support will get less than 25% of the total votes:
  • Then there is the matter of Republican-Democratic politics.  President Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu on this trip, expressed dismay before the speech, did not watch it and his staff reacted angrily following the spectacle.  Within the hour, Obama did indicate that he read the transcript and agrees with Netanyahu that the U.S.-Israel alliance is unbreakable.  The problem is how best to prevent Iran from getting the A-bomb, and they have differing points of view.
  • The latest deadline for the nuclear agreement with Iran is March 24, which, of course, will be pushed into the future, for Iran will find reason to delay things, and the negotiating nations (U.S., France, Germany, France, Russia, China) are not necessarily all in tune with the USA and Israel.  
  • The problem, then, is not between the U.S. and Israel, so you got to wonder about the intent of Russia and China in this hassle.
  • Further, Iran has already said that a 10-year nuclear freeze is unacceptable, while Senator Diane Feinstein, the Democratic lead on the Intelligence Committee has publicly stated 20 years would be about right.
  • The New York Times explains who wants what, and you can thus appreciate the attitude of Israel.
Which then leads to my fear.  The negotiators will never be able to get Iran to stop building an atomic bomb and gaining capability to launch a warhead.  This might occur soon, like, within as early as a year.   If Israel gets any kind of intelligence of this capability, there is good reason to believe that they would launch a  series of pre-emptive strikes, for there are numerous targets to hit, initiating a Middle Eastern war of unprecedented proportions, which would skyrocket oil prices to $200/barrel.  The world will enter into economic depression, and will not recover for a quarter century.  

On the other hand, there will not be a nuclear winter.  The war will be limited.  And this worst case scenario might not even occur, for the Soviet Union did have an ultimate capability, but did not press that button, and neither has North Korea.  The reason?  The high potential of national suicide.  Iran doesn't have that great a relationship with Russian and China, and would be told that if they tried a nuclear attack, the U.S. would totally devastate that country.  Israel knows that, and need not be so paranoid.

The Union of Concerned Scientists Doomsday Clock is now at 3 minutes, but the recent motivation had more to do with unchecked global climate change.  It was at 17 minutes just after the Cold War ended in 1991 and as low as 2 minutes in 1953 after the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested Hydrogen Bombs.



So this greatest problem today is not at any critical stage of human evolution.  Humanity would survive a Middle East conflagration.  More so, the worst case scenario of an Israeli attack on Iran most probably will not occur.  We can only wait for the future to unfold and hope for the best.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

ARE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS RIGGED AGAINST ASIANS?

A little more than two years ago I posted on two topics featuring Jewish Americans.  First, their dominance in Broadway songwriting.  The second was a lot more sensitive, and had to do with a clear imbalance of ethnic representation in Ivy League schools.  At one time Jews were discriminated against in those institutions, but today, with the leadership primarily Jewish, an absolute reversal has occurred.  There are now "too many" enrolled there, with an almost embarrassing lack of Asians.

Yesterday in the Star-Advertiser, Frank Shyong, a Los Angeles Times reporter, wrote an article indicating that college admissions are rigged against ethnic Asians.  Highlighting a 2004 (note that this was more than a decade ago) Princeton University study on the Scholastic Aptitude Test:
  • African-Americans receive a bonus of 230 points.
  • Hispanics = +185 point
  • Asian-Americans = - 50 points

Mind you, this was some time back, but there is a simple way to test whether there is racial discrimination against Asians.  In California, test scores determine entrance to the top state universities.  There is an overabundance of Asians in those schools, way beyond their average population percentage.  In Ivy League schools, it is clear that certain universities apply other criteria to balance their enrollment. 

Mind you, while school systems around the world, especially Asia, ONLY use college entrance scores to select students, there is some sense to utilizing other parameters, such as potential for leadership and a range of other attributes to determine selection.  In a way, this is what particularly aggravates successful parents of Asian students, for they go way out of their way not only to score well and get good grades, but they also volunteer to help the community, play a variety of sports, hold class offices and the like to improve their chances.

I'll close by inserting a section of the information I used in my posting of two years ago.  Keep in mind that the focus was on Jewish students:
  • Take California:  with 3.3% of the population, 4-5% of National Merit Scholars (NMS) are Jewish; the 13% Asians garnered 57%  the NMS awards.
  • In New York, with 8.4% of the population, 21% of NMS; the 6% Asians got 34%.
  • All things considered, there should be five Asians for every Jew in Ivy League Schools, and at Caltech there are 5.5% Jewish students and 39% Asians, while in the five most selective California universities, 8% Jewish and 40% Asians.  Not so for the Ivies, where the Jewish population is 40% higher.

  • During the 1970's, well over 40% of the top Math Olympiad students were Jewish.  Since 2000 only 2.5% have been Jewish.
  • The most prestigious mathematics competition for American college students is the Putnam Exam.  Prior to 1950, 40% of winners were Jewish.  Since 2000 this percentage declined to 10%, but not one Jewish name in the top 40 students over the past seven years.
  • Regarding the Science Talent Search (once called Westinghouse, now Intel), which has been awarded since 1942, Jewish students got more than 20% of the prizes through the 80's, which declined to 15% in the 2000's, but in 2010 was only 7%.  Then, more recently, only one Jew among 30 awardees.  
  • In the Physics Olympiad, from 25% in the 1986-1997 period, down to 5% during the past decade.
  • There has been no Biology Olympiad Jew the past three years and zero also for the Chemistry Olympiad the past two years.
  • To quote:  "Taken in combination, these trends all provide powerful evidence that over the last decade or more there has been a dramatic collapse in Jewish academic achievement...
  • The suspicion is that Jewish students today are not as diligent in work habits.  Those that did well in more recent academic olympiads were immigrants from the Soviet Union.  Thus, the situation is even worse for "American" Jews.
  • The "white" race has also academically collapsed!!!
The final bullet points out that, effectively, the "white race" of Americans has academically tanked, and college admission officials are reacting to this decline by attempting to balance their incoming class to more closely represent the actual population mix.  Is this what equal rights are all about or not?  It is pretty clear that college admissions are rigged against Asians, and the excuse is that the rights of other Americans need to be protected.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke an all-time high, up 156 to 18,289.  Why?  consumer attitudes have improved and Apple is hinting about exciting new gear to be announced next week.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RIO!

The age of a city, of course, depends on a variety of historical factors.  Honolulu, for example, was settled some time in the 11th century.  Are we, then 1000 years old?  King Kamehameha I headquartered in Waikiki from 1804, so perhaps we are 200+ years old.  Our incorporation date was 30April1907, so that was only a little more than a century ago.

In history texts, the European version of the beginning usually prevails, as for example, the Portuguese arrived in 1502, 500 French colonists in 1555 and the city of Rio was named by Portugal on 1March1565 as Sao Sebastian do Rio de Janeiro.  Anyway, Happy 550th Birthday Rio, which I previously described as "The Happiest and Most Beautiful City in the World."  


Just behind the statue of Christ the Redeemer, I dropped Pearl's ashes.

Click on my posting for why Rio is so happy and beautiful, but, there are several serious problems facing the city:
  • I got bitten on three fingers in a Rio de Janeiro biological park tour by what must have been a spider (recluse?). They all swelled up and looked terrible. A doctor on our tour diagnosed my ailment, and told me to just tolerate it until it ran its course. This could have been fatal, and there was a finite chance that the flesh would continue to decompose, so my survival was especially sweet, for my fingers have totally recovered. (Tauck has subsequently removed this park from their tour.)
  • Copacabana is an exceptional beach, but the past few years have seen mass beach robberies.

However, the country pulled off the 2014 World Cup--even though Brazil got embarrassed by Germany, 7-1, in the quarterfinals, and by the Netherlands, 3-0, for third place--so there is confidence that all will be well for the Olympics.  After a $26 billion make-over,  Rio should be even more beautiful:


Today I went to Lily's 3 year birthday party at Orchids:


My posting yesterday was so memorable, that this morning I arrived into the Marukai parking lot at 7:50AM, and was ready to enter the store at 8 with a dozen others.  However, I forgot my Marukai card, so had to return to my car, and I feared those Japanese beef packages would be gone because of my negligence.  I raced over and came upon:


I purchased three packages:


Just the fat cost $10/pound, while the price of the real stuff went up from $57/pound to $79/pound:


You would think they would spell better for the cost being charged.  I have a few extravagant plans to be exalted in future postings.  Scroll down to my best steak meal, ever.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

POSSIBLY, MY BEST STEAK MEAL EVER!

I'm monthly sent a Marukai membership newsletter.  From February 24 to March 2 they are featuring a Kyushu Fair.  What caught my attention was:

Miyazaki Wagyu feef cattle, raised in Miyazaki Prefecture (near Kagoshima--I'm familiar with Miyazaki because I now and then stay at the Ocean Resort there), have won various awards... including the most honored "National Wagyu Award," which is presented to the best beef cattle once every five years.

In short, their Miyazaki Gyu is superior to all, has a reputation for quality in taste and texture, and was the first Japanese beef to be exported to the US.  Although high in fat content, it is unsaturated, with exceptional flavor.  NO PRICE WAS QUOTED!

Remember, the best Japanese beef in the basement markets of Japanese department stores such as Mitsukoshi sell beef or $200/pound (only because the Japanese yen has fallen--this photo was taken when the yen was just below 100/$, making the price $250/pound).  I was curious what they would be charging here in Hawaii.  So I went to Marukai at Ala Moana and found out that you need to to show up when the product is made available.  And it was uncertain when they would appear, for it comes from the main store on Dillingham.  So I showed up soon after 8AM (when the store opens) yesterday at the main market, found my way to where this meat was sold, and they were all gone, at 8:12 AM.  But an old man was holding the final package, and seemed concerned about the price, so asked me if I wanted it, so I grabbed it and practically ran to check out before he changed his mind.


It says Kagoshima wagyu beef, but Miyazaki is adjacent and this had to be the authentic version.  As you can see, the price is $57/pound, a true bargain compared to $200/pound.  I added to the 1/2 pound steak some fresh shiitake mushrooms from Japan.

I cooked a Niigata rice and opened a bottle of Robert Mondavi 18-year old wine.  Why I still had it is a mystery because this is a cheap wine costing way less than $10/bottle.  
But I filtered it and poured into a decanter.  It was exquisite, if not fabulous:


Thus, if you have the time and space, consider storing some inexpensive bottles. That's my wine cellar to the left, keeping whites at 50 F and reds at 60 F.

I also splurged on some high quality yellow fin tuna for sashimi.  I might add that I had breakfast this morning, went to Marukai, came home,  then went golfing at the Ala Wai Golf Course.  

I walked all 18 holes, missed lunch, and by 5PM was very, very hungry.  Yet, my blood pressure measured 136/74, extremely low under these conditions.  At this stage of hunger I manytimes find myself as high as 180/100.  (An hour after dinner, my pressure dropped to 103/60, indicating that walking on a golf course must be good for my health.)  I'm standing next to Pearl's Gold Tree at the 17th tee.  Anyway, here was my lanai meal:


Perhaps because of the enhanced anticipation, but the steak was the best I've ever had in my life.

Maybe my most memorable steak was more than a quarter century ago at Trail Dust in Denver:


I tried, and could not finish, their 50 ounce porterhouse (Bull Shipper), for $18.99, which came with all the trimmings and free red wine.  Mind you, this was memorable, not tasty, but okay.

You never heard of the top 50 steakhouses in America, #1 being Cut (left, Four Seasons) in Beverly Hills, California.  No Ruth's Chris, Morton's or Hy's.  New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Las Vegas seem to dominate the lists.  I've been to many of them, but the taste of U.S. beef cannot match the best wagyu from Japan.  A close #2 might have been two Matsusaka beef experiences.  For two nights in a row I had that steak at the Four Seasons in Chiang Mai.  In Matsusaka, the mayor of the adjacent town took me to a barbecue restaurant featuring their steak.  Omni beef is also excellent, Kobe seems absent from the the top, and Miyazaki is mentioned as the second largest producer.  


Japanese cows are said to live an emperor's life, which is why they produce the fattest and most succulent flesh in the world. Every cattle farmer in Japan has his own method of indulging their cows, from secret blends of soybeans, tofu byproduct or sake mash in the feed; mineral water to drink; and daily walks and supposed beer massages to encourage fat distribution. Some even play classical music to relax the animals, while making sure they receive plenty of time in the sun.

This quote also goes on to say that Kagoshima (Miyazaki) beef is the highest exported from Japan.  So, Marukai's ad was accurate.  Interesting that Kobe beef is all male, while Matsusaka is all female.  Anyway, my 15 Craigside lanai steak yesterday was the best I've ever enjoyed in my life.

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