Total Pageviews

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

DISS AND DATS for Your Next Cocktail/Dinner Discussion

During the past week I've had four postings on the general subject of Homo sapiens and aliens.  Well, two Harvard researchers, Abraham Loeb, professor and chair of astronomy, and Shmuel Biala, a postdoctoral scholar at the Harvard Smithsonian Center, believe that the mysterious object called Oumuamua (which means distant past or scout or first distant messenger in Hawaiian, which was discovered using a Haleakala Observatory telescope), which whisked pass our space last year, might have been an alien spaceship.  That is an artist's impression to the left, clearly not drawn by either of them.

The asteroid or comet or alien-made object had an unusual trajectory and speed adjustment possibly related to solar sails, that prompted this surmisal.  While NASA has not officially commented on the Harvard assertion, Professor Loeb is quite distinguished, and has published over 700 scientific papers.  One could say he almost looks like an alien.

However, NASA did report on 10 things about the mysterious Oumuamua.  Just one, it was traveling too fast--196,000 MPH--to have originated in our solar system.

So much for science.  Ever wonder what happened to Imelda Marcos?  You know, the wife of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  For one, she is now 89 years old and still a congressional representative in her country.  More recently, she received a minimum 42-year sentence for graft.  The cases go back to 1991, or was it 1968?  Anyway, she has avoided jail and is planning to run for governor of Ilocos Norte next year.  Here she is with part of the 1200-pair collection left behind when she and Ferdinand escaped to Hawaii in 1986.

The future of the Navy is being tested in Hawaii.  Called the Sea Hunter, it is a medium displacement unmanned surface vehicle.  Note the term "unmanned."  It is expected to cross the seas without a single crew member.  Said Fred Kennedy of DARPA:

The U.S. military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing ‘king’ and ‘queen’ pieces on the maritime chessboard with lots of ‘pawns,’ and [the drone program] is a first step toward doing exactly that.

I have half a dozen more of these, and will release them over the next couple of weeks.  I could finally add that the woman in red, Milania, is now the controversial partner in their marriage, and Donald is said to be in a cocoon of bitterness and resentment from the Republican losses, especially the House, now that they can open the door to the Mueller investigation.  Did you know they have separate bedrooms?  That's old news from March on 2017.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018


As we approach Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share something to do with pumpkin pie.  First, in follow-up to my Bruno Mars posting last week, the Star-Advertiser reported that he donated 24,000 Thanksgiving meals to the Salvation Army, symbolic of his 24K Magic Tour.   Then I just happened to see this on Quora:

Lucinda Price
Lucinda Price, MS Earthquake Engineering, Stanford University

I can’t speak to Harvard, but assume it’s similar to Stanford. I’m an alumni interviewer for Stanford. Over 50% of those I interviewed were extremely well-qualified but less than 10% were actually admitted. Those admitted were a) brilliant students and b) truly inspiring. They literally made me want to be a better person. I was honored to listen to them for an hour about their philanthropy and accomplishments. I was in awe. One had used her local network to sell artwork of the homeless at top dollar to raise more than $20k for the shelter. She provided the art supplies and ran the art classes at the shelter. She started the classes not to make money for the shelter, but rather she thought it would be therapeutic because art was for her. She wasn’t swayed by nay-sayers about her age or lack of influence or talent or it would be too dangerous or a waste of her time. She followed her heart and amazing things happened. She knew that we make our own luck.
Unique, successful, sincere, and creative philanthropy was KEY to getting in.
I have previously posted on the difficult Stanford acceptance process and how a broken wrist was the key to my successful application.  Well, those above stories jiggled an experience that was deeply embedded in my memory, and I think now this something else might have been the real reason why I was accepted.  I was borderline okay in grades, SAT scores, public service and such.  But nothing special.

In those days when I was thinking about applying to colleges...and this was half a century ago...philanthropy wasn't even on my radar screen.  However, when I happened to write my essay for the application, the McKinley High School Aztecs Hi-Y club to which I belonged just had a disastrous Thanksgiving period selling pumpkin pies for our coffers.  We miscalculated by around 50 pies.  We could each pay for two and take them home, but someone (not me), came up with a brilliant idea that could have been pivotal to the rest of my life.  Why don't we give them to charitable organizations?  So for Thanksgiving Eve we all went around to the Salvation Army, Palama Settlement and similar organizations to donate them.  There was no intention to gain any particular credit, but somehow, the local Advertiser found out and published a short article.  My whole life possibly changed, and I'll need to find out who wrote it.

I expanded on this "debacle - good cause" in my essay, and might have exaggerated the reality.  (I don't have a copy because the one I sent was the only one produced.)  It's possible something like this made the difference.  

While I was totally out of my element on campus, as I was clearly inferior, I thoroughly enjoyed life there, matured well and somehow graduated, taking with me the prime reason for success:  CONFIDENCE.  I guess I wasn't much of a distinguished graduate, for I don't know of any McKinley High School senior following me who went to Stanford for freshman year.  Several to graduate and professional schools, but not straight from high school.  At least that experiment worked for me, and because of pumpkin pies, the future of the Blue Revolution or hydrogen might now well be on its way to saving Planet Earth and Humanity.

I'll end with another Quora entry, although he is talking about graduate school entrance:

Christopher VanLang
Christopher VanLang, Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, Stanford University

From first-hand experience, yes you can get into Stanford with a 3.7 GPA.
I only had a 3.7 GPA. They took me. I also had terrible GRE scores. By most of the statistical metrics, I really wasn't a strong student. Even the NSF and NIH clarified in great detail that I wasn’t a “stellar student”. In addition, I know that other students had worse numbers than me.
But I would like to say that many of the other factors made me an interesting candidate. Why wouldn't they? When we do our own selection of undergrads, the general rule of thumb is that the best student is a “strong B+ student”. The perfect student is someone much more unreliable.

Interesting that my degree was also in chemical engineering, and there is some truth to that final paragraph, but the competition for entry into the freshman class these days is unreal:

MIT, Stanford, and every member of the Ivy League, with the exception of Yale, set record-low rates for admission to the Class of 2022.

Out of the group of 10 schools, Stanford was the most selective, with an admissions rate of 4.3 percent. For the fifth year in a row, Stanford had a lower rate than Harvard, which accepted 4.59 percent of students who applied—marking the first time the College has ever dipped below 5 percent.

Next week I'll give particular thanks to pumpkin pies.  It's scary how one seemingly insignificant event, and a disaster at that, can positively affect the future of one's life.  You just don't know if that cockroach (in A Sound of Thunder it was a butterfly) you stepped on will determine whether intelligence will expand beyond Planet Earth.  And maybe this all doesn't matter.


Monday, November 12, 2018


My two films this weekend were both enjoyable:

                                                     Rotten Tomatoes     Box Office  My Rating
                                                Reviewers  Audiences

Bohemian Rhapsody                 62                93               2               B+

Can You Ever Forgive Me?       98                88             12               B

Box Office Mojo had The Grinch at #1 by a large margin, but they couldn't pay me enough to go see that production.  Reviewers did not particularly like Queen (about this rock band, with the life-focus on Freddy Mercury), but audiences loved Bohemian Rhapsody.  Yes, Lee Israel (she was the real-life subject matter, a rave hit for reviewers) was #12, but in week #4 theaters are only now picking up Can You Ever Forgive Me?.  

BR was a production mess, first announced in 2010 with Sacha Baron Cohen set to be Freddie Mercury, Queen lead singer.  Cohen wanted the film to be adult-oriented, with the band desiring a family-friendly approach.  He was replaced by Rami Malek in 2016, and Bryan Singer became director.  Two weeks before filming ended Singer was fired and  replaced by Dexter Fletcher.  Singer remained on film credits as the director only by some legal requirement, with Fletcher being executive producer.  While Malek sang some parts, Queen songs were generously used, with Marc Martel also filling in where necessary.

The matter of Mercury's sexual orientation was an issue, with his first girlfriend, who became a life-long acquaintance, mostly right.  Bisexual or gay, and probably the latter, the timing and matter of AIDS and partners were criticized.

Freddie Mercury was born in 1946 as Farrokh Bulsara from a Parsi family in Zanziber (now part of Tanzania), moved to India and finally Middlesex, England in his late teens.  At the age of 12 he had a Mumbai school band playing Little Richard.  Although with an art degree, he was a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport when he helped form Queen in 1970 and wrote most of the big hits (Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Little Thing Called Love and We are the Champions).

The story could have been told better, but the audiences and I thought well of the film.  The climax was how in 1985 Queen came together again and  into Live Aid.  Mercury died of AIDS at the age of 45 in 1991.  Here is their full 24 minute 36 second set.  The movie performance was, actually, even better, with Malek striking as Freddie Mercury.  From Wikipedia:

Queen's twenty-one minute performance, which began at 6:41 pm, was voted the greatest live performance in the history of rock, in a 2005 industry poll of more than 60 artists, journalists and music industry executives.[18][19] Queen's lead singer Freddie Mercury at times led the crowd in unison refrains,[20] and his sustained note during the a cappella section came to be known as "The Note Heard Round the World".[19] The band's six song set opened with a shortened version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and closed with "We Are the Champions".[2][21][22] Mercury and fellow band member Brian May later sang the first song of the three-part Wembley event finale, "Is This the World We Created...?"[22]

Live Aid, a fundraiser for African poverty assistance put on by Bob Geldoff (left) and Midge Ure (right), mostly for Ethiopia, occurred on 13 July 1985 in both Wembley Stadium (72,000) in London and JFK Stadium (100,000) in Philadelphia, plus other sites throughout the world, drew a satellite audience of 1.9 billion across 150 nations, and ended with We are the World in Philadelphia, written and organized by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.  

Live Aid raised $127 million and We are the World another $63 million, today worth closer to half a billion dollars.  All that occurred a third of a century ago.

One final matter about BR, Harry Styles of One Direction has been mentioned to play the Mick Jagger role in a Rolling Stones biopic.  I would not be surprised if Rami Malek (right) takes on that role.  He has the looks, style, chemistry and, now, notoriety.

After all that, how can I possibly say anything meaningful of Can You Ever Forgive Me?  Well, let me start with Melissa McCarthy, comedian, film star and best thing to happen to Sean Spicer, former White House Press Secretary.  Surely you've seen her Saturday Night Live performance?

Anyway, the movie was about a nasty biographer who became obsolete. T'was a mostly stressful, depressing and uncomfortable setting for a film about a forger of deceased authors who got caught and convicted.  However, this story became another real-life book, returning her to prominence, leading to this movie.   

McCarthy shows she has another side to her acting talents.  A surprise was Richard Grant, like Malek, an English actor born in Africa.  You've seen him before, but never knew it.  I'm exaggerating, but  he's been in a hundred films and you'll see him again in Star Wars:  Episode IX.

You'll accept CYEFM if you like scotch on rocks, a comeback, cats, good acting and squalid lives.  BR I liked a bit more.  The two highest films opening this weekend are Widows and Green Book.


Sunday, November 11, 2018


The first tailgate party probably occurred in Green Bay, Wisconsin just about a century ago when Packer fans started the tradition in back of their pick-up trucks.  However, Ivy League schools like to say that they were doing that long before.  Grilling of meats and alcohol are synonymous with this social event.

My first exposure was as a graduate student at Louisiana State University.  In my days, you saw a lot of men in jackets/ties and women in gowns at the actual football game.  They probably came from fancy tailgates.  Our group of married students generally convened at one of our apartments on campus, as complexes were across the street from Tiger Stadium.  

247Sports surveyed the national scene, selected the top 25 college tailgates and placed LSU at #1.  At the other end, #25--which is still pretty good, as there are 774 such institutions in the USA--was the one I attended in September, Army West Point (my meal below).

Most tailgates are held outdoors, but I've re-invented the celebration.  Mine are held on my lanai or  next to  the TV set, and I'm alone.  The standard version is in the midst of thousands in the hot sun, rain, cold, dust, wind....  Here are three I've had this past week, two on the same day, and none for football.

Let me begin with a new kind of "tailgate," for the Midterm Elections, something which occurs at all campaign headquarters, which was this past Tuesday.  This was a lunch, and the featured items were beyond the budget of  those political ones:  o-toro (fatty blue-fin tuna) and grilled Costco blue plate ribeye steak, with a few choice libations:

Then for dinner that day, my tailgate was in prelude to the University of Hawaii women's basketball team opening game, against Pepperdine.  Doesn't look like much, but this was foie gras spaghetti with a salad, and the leftover 2001 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon from lunch.  My next four-case batch from Stanford arrives in a couple of weeks and I've recently been imbibing aged varieties to make room in my electrical wine cellar.

This was the best wine I've had in years.  How often can you afford a 17-year old classic?  Unfortunately, I got a headache.  There must have been a lot of impurities that added to the bouquet and taste.  The Rainbow Wahine also lost the game.  However, I think this team will in time find a defensive strategy that will make for a successful season.  Why?  There are a dozen average players, some still out with injuries, who all play decently well.  They will press the entire game to make that difference.  Numbers will wear out talent.

My tailgate #3 was before the opening night of the University of Hawaii men's basketball team, against the University of Portland.  Featured was Japanese home-made sushi, with o-toro, ikura (salmon eggs), miso soup and avocado:

That is about the most expensive bottle of sake you will ever see.  Avocado?  Consumed within the Korean spicy seaweed, the avocado passes for o-toro.  With this type of nori, you don't need to season the rice.

After beating Portland, things look good for the future, including last night when we humbled Humboldt State by 44 points (we now have three 7-footers and an excellent new 3-point shooter--Eddie Stansberry), I had a Louis VIII cognac, and pondered whether I should have that cigar in crystal.  For the record, I might not have because smoking is not allowed here.

What is this?

See that spot below the screen?

While not a tailgate, the 15 Craigside Photo Club had a special thank-you bento luncheon for Scott Kubo, our Honolulu Museum of Art mentor, here with club leader Irene:

If you think all we have here are parties, you would be mostly right.  The photo club, in particular, provides much of the displays decorating our walls and organizes regular photo-shoot outings.

The Indian Ocean region is heating up: