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Saturday, October 25, 2014

IS THIS THE END OF PAHOA?

Last month I posted on THE MOST DANGEROUS SPOT ON PLANET EARTH.  The town of Pahoa was speculated to be as soon as two weeks away from inundation by lava.  Then last week, in PART 2, it was still two weeks away from doom.


Well, Apaa Street has already been crossed and chances are that, by the time you read this, at least the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station has already been destroyed, for the flow is moving at up to 15 yards/hour.  No doubt Cemetery Road has also by now been crossed.  This photo was taken yesterday, with the transfer station and road to the right:



Some argue that waiting for the inevitable is at least better than being instantly buried by pumice, as happened on 24 August 79 to Pompeii from Mount Vesuvius.  This town was five miles from the eruption and was covered by ten feet of ash.  I toured the site, two centuries later.  It was worse, for Herculaneum was overwhelmed by 66 feet of pyroclastic flow.  Among those killed was Pliny the Elder, author of Natural History.


Then, of course, more recently, on 18 May 1980, Mount St. Helens, located 96 miles south of Seattle, exploded.

Fifty seven were killed and 185 miles of highway were destroyed.  The elevation was reduced from 9677 feet to 8356 feet.

Mind you, while recent Hawaiian volcanic eruptions have been relatively benign, with moderate flows of lava,  two millennia ago, Kilauea had a devastating explosion almost as large as that of Mt. St. Helens, and in 1790, Kilauea exploded, killing, perhaps, hundreds of people in opposition to future King Kamehameha.

Kilauea might have crowned Kamehameha.  In 1924 there was also a deadly explosive eruption of Kilauea.  Rocks as heavy as 16,000 pounds were thrown a mile from the center of Halemaumau (right).  Day became night in Pahala, a town I lived in 40 years later.


Here is a Hawaiian Volcano Observatory site to link with to gain the latest info.  Further, you can contact:

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
by phone at: (808) 967-8862
by web at: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php
County of Hawai'i Civil Defense
by phone at: (808) 935-0031 (7:45 am - 4:30 pm)
by web at: http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/active-alerts/

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Amazingly enough, Ana is still a hurricane at 75 MPH, now located almost dead north of Kauai, and heading for Vancouver Island.  I yesterday said Victoria Island, but I meant the city of Victoria.


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Friday, October 24, 2014

A MILLION DOLLAR APARTMENT FOR ONLY $799,000!!!

As any regular reader to this site must know by now, my apartment, Craigside Penthouse A2, is still for sale.  Well, actually, not mine anymore, as I endowed this property to the University of Hawaii to initiate a Blue Revolution program.  There was an open house on October 5.  Most of those who came were my friends, not the best buyers.

A second open house was scheduled for this past Sunday, but Hurricane Ana cancelled that event.  So, Sunday, 2-5PM, October 26, was selected, and the question was how much to drop the price.  Then, suddenly, a larger penthouse on my floor was announced for sale, at a price of $799,000.  The three next photos are for that other apartment, and they look gorgeous.  While I have the better view, how could such a great, recently upgraded apartment, be put up for sale at such a low price?  

So we dropped mine to $750,000.  But, I then noticed, reading their listing, that it was a leasehold.  So on the recommendation of my real estate agent, we decided to match the $799,000 price.  This had something to do with a Bank of Hawaii loan officer to be present on our floor this Sunday afternoon.  I don't quite understand this logic, but, I'm not a real estate agent.  

While of course there are a couple of individuals within the University of Hawaii Foundation who excel at what they do, what has troubled me most during this period, perhaps, is that the UH, which now owns this apartment, has shown zero entrepreneurial spirit.  You would think they would at least e-mail something out to their mailing list to spark interest.  I would almost be surprised if anyone from that institution even shows up for this upcoming open house.  There is a total lack of enthusiasm.  I'm puzzled and disappointed.

Interesting that I recently talked to another owner of a similar apartment on my floor, and he basically told me that he will not be able to move again, for his also is leasehold, and the only way to sell it is to bring the price down so outrageously low that it would be idiotic.  Thus, that other $799,000 apartment on my floor, if it were fee simple, like mine, would probably command a price way in excess  of a million dollars.

There is a lease to fee conversion law in Hawaii.  Basically, though, the landowner can legally refuse to participate, or, at least delay doing anything.  One of the better decisions I ever made was to pay this not-insignifant amount to convert.  But that was more than a decade ago.  Now, those in Craigside apparently don't have that option.    Lease terms for my building will expire in two years.  A 2007 Star Bulletin article indicated that a crisis was looming in the real estate market, and many would become homeless, for they wouldn't be able to afford the demands of the renegotiated lease rent, or just plain be kicked out.

Thus, here are your choices on our floor.  Buy that great and larger penthouse and hope for the best in your future negotiations.  However, that would be like having a home next to a rumbling volcano.  Clearly, the most sensible choice should be a slightly smaller apartment with a better view, but, one that is fee simple.  So if you want a bargain, buy my apartment, now.  See you on Sunday (park on the street, or under the building, entrance from Nuuanu Avenue, just past Judd Street) afternoon, 2-5PM.  And, yes, I'm having another wine fest, with some fine scotch.  Here is a Zillow summary, with a photo of my apartment:


If you live here, you will have a lifetime supply of rainbows and sunsets:


Amazingly enough, once Hurricane Ana is now a tropical storm at 60 MPH, actually located  north of Hawaii...heading for Victoria Island, Canada.

Yikes, I just noticed that the last new country to visit this blog site was Guinea, where that New York doctor with Ebola had just visited.  Anyway, I'm up to 216 countries.  Wonder if anyone out there on Planet Earth wants a fabulous fee simple apartment in Paradise?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

WHAT TO SAY AT YOUR NEXT COCKTAIL RECEPTION OR DINNER CONVERSATION

Here are a few bits of information you can casually toss out at your next cocktail reception or dinner conversation:

1.  The price of butter, $2.8225, is at an all time high, topping the $2.81 in 1998.  While statistically correct, the worth of $2.81 (relative to purchasing power) today is $4.02.  So, even though at a record high, butter today is cheap!  Cheddar cheese also hit a high.  However, don't now get into the dairy business, for in 2009, butter sold for $1.09/pound, and it cost more to produce this product than the return revenue.

2.  Guess which country will pay $300,000 for just one rhinoceros horn?  Not China, but Vietnam.  While only 15 or so horns were poached in South Africa annually from 1990 to 2007, in 2012 the number reached 688, resulting in two rhinoceroses killed every two days.  People in Vietnam think imbibing rhino horn powder cures cancer.  One treatment can cost $2,000.  During the past five years, the number of millionaires in that country has grown by 150%.  The desired alcoholic drink of the rich is a cocktail with this powder...to enhance virility.  Oh, it also helps preserve your liver.  Rhino horn is now more expensive than cocaine.  The attitude?  In Vietnam you can buy anything for money.  The last rhino in Vietnam was killed for its horn in 2010 and Mozambique just earlier this year lost its final animal.  The numbers in Zimbabwe and South Africa are declining because of poaching:


3.  Our unemployment rate is declining, recently sinking to 5.9%:

While Hawaii is down to 4.2%, North Dakota is at 2.8%.  The highest is Georgia at 7.9%.  Around the world:
  • Zimbabwe  70%
  • Turkmenistan 70%
  • Tajikistan  60%
  • Mozambique  60%
  • Djibouti  59%
  • Namibia  51%
  • American Samoa  50%
  • Senegal 48%
  • Nepal  46%
  • Kosovo (Serbia)  45%

The lowest:
  • Cambodia  0% (0.1%)
  • Qatar  0.3%
  • Thailand  0.56%
  • Kuwait  1.5%
  • Guernsey  1.5%
  • Tonga  1.1%
  • Papua New Guinea 1.9%
  • Singapore  1.9%
  • Macau  2%
4.  Yesterday I wondered why anyone voted Republican.  Here is another piece of news that should gall you.  American companies:
  • were responsible for 33% of federal taxes in 1952.
  • Are paying 14% of federal taxes in 2014.
  • Accumulated $1.8 trillion in profits just in the second quarter of this year.
How?  Congressional loopholes.  The Republicans will most probably control both the House and Senate next year.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WHY DOES ANYONE VOTE REPUBLICAN?

Frankly, I'm confused.  Republicans seem to like fossil fuels, not care that much for the environment, want to cut taxes for the rich, disdain the poor (which includes most of us), promote wars and love guns.  They will maintain control over the House and are projected to take over the Senate next month.  But how can this be when they have the lowest favorability rating in history:

There are some social issues like family, abortion, same sex marriage, religion, etc., that seem to favor Republicans.  Maybe that's the difference not revealed in polls.  Certainly, it seems like the White House has fumbled the Ebola non-pandemic and healthcare in general...but they really haven't.

However, most voters probably want a change because they perceive that our economy is rotten and heading downhill.  They believe the Grand Old Party (GOP, or Republicans) can do a better job here, by a margin of 39% to 31%.  Yikes, remember, they support the rich.

Is all this sensible?  I think not.  People can be analogized to sheep.  Many actually believe what they see on TV.  Republicans do a better job at swaying the public through commercials that exaggerate the truth and distort reality.  People remember them.  All this is occurring with a media that leans in the direction of liberals (Democrats).  Amazing.

Or maybe I should be focusing on all those not quite Republicans and quasi Democrats, known as Independents.  There are more of them than Republicans and Democrats:

The prime example is President Barack Obama.  He saved the country and world from a possible depression, thus engineering a huge budget deficit, which, if you've not noticed, is not a campaign issue anymore. Why? Because our deficit is dropping, and rapidly.  He got us out of the Middle East War.  Yet, he is blamed for the mess with Syria and the handling of ISIS, two manini issues.  People still seem to hate Obamacare, even though, by all measures, it's working, and will only get better.  Our economy is the best in the world, and although the stock market had a recent minor correction, we are doing great compared to Europe, Russia, China, Japan and rest of the world:


Note, particularly, that the presidential approval rating has been dropping since Obama first took office.  Hey, he won a Nobel Prize and is a heck of a lot more popular than Bush the Younger with countries around the world, though maybe not so for Muslim regions.  Is this because he is doing a terrible job as president, or mostly a perception because of politics?  Is this because Obama is not 100% White?  Read editorials by Joe Klein in TIME and Paul Krugman in the New York Times.  This is a puzzlement.

Could Republican political strategy be the reason why they will control both houses of Congress next year?  Whatever the Republicans are doing, you got to give them credit for overcoming common sense and  true reality.  What are they doing, anyway?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN OCEANIA AND THE ORIENT?

In two weeks I embark on my regular Spring adventure, this time through Oceania (New Zealand and Australia, although the term generally includes all the islands in this general region) and the Orient.  In advance, I thought it would be of interest to highlight what's newsworthy these days in that portion of the world.

Best as I can tell, nothing much is happening in New Zealand.  Some of the headlines include:
Remember that 20-year drought of Australia?  Well, that's over.  California?  Still suffering.

The primary news item in the Orient has to do with the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.  To summarize:
  • On 1 July 1997 the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China.
  • Hong Kong retained much of its freedoms.
  • Changes were cosmetic, like new flag (previous above, new below), etc.
  • However, in small ways, you could see the screws turning.
  • A recent adjustment had to do with electoral reforms, essentially, China would largely determine who could run for office.  The current lightning rod has to do with the Chief Executive, but there is the additional matter of  the Legislative Council also being vetted. 
  • What is the point of voting if all your choices will have pro-China inclinations.
  • On 22 September 2014, the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism began protesting.
  • On September 28, protesters began blocking streets and occupying them.
  • There was some teargas and other measures taken by the government, but China has been relatively subdued about a counter reaction.  
  • This community attitude is hardly unanimous, as polls indicated that "only" 59% were supportive of the students. 
  • Tonight, five Hong Kong officials, led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (above right), squared off against five students dressed in black T-shirts that read FREEDOM NOW.  Everything was covered live on television.
    • These were not government officials from China, but Hong Kong residents running the city.  
    • The students beseeched these officials to become heroes and support the cause.
    • The government debaters basically indicated that they have no power and China controls everything.
    • One point of view is that, if allowed to proceed as currently edicted, this was at least a step towards democracy, as each citizen will still be able to freely vote...for the candidates blessed by China.
My take?  There will eventually be minor adjustments on how candidates are selected.  Will this be the future of China?  WILL STUDENTS LEAD THE WAY?  Clearly, Beijing is especially worried about how this issue will inflame mainland China students.

The fourth largest country, Indonesia, yesterday inaugurated a new president, Joko Widodo.  Jokowi, a 53-year old businessman, who usually travels in tourist class on commercial flights, and is now running 13,000 islands inhabited by 252 million people, 87% Muslim, more in number than any country in the world.  Because of deforestation, Indonesia is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and, ironically, because of those islands, the country that could most be devastated by sea level rise.


Switching to Thailand, the country continues to be under military rule.  Thursday is Chulalongkorn Day, a national holiday.  Also known as Rama V, he was that outspoken son of Yul Brynner (when he played the King of Siam) in the King and I (watch this clip, and you will know which one will become Rama V).  At least all should be calm when I get to Bangkok.  I might try Gaggan, said to be the best Indian restaurant in the world.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's popularity is finally declining.  The nuclear disaster at Fukushima is only getting worse.  The update today (which is already tomorrow in Japan):
  • Radiation levels in the drainage ditch were the highest since monitoring began.
  • The government limitation for strontium, which causes bone cancer, is 30 Becquerels/liter.
  • The measurement was 140,000 B/l.
  • The ditch is about a thousand yards from the sea.
  • More than 100,000 people are still restricted from returning:
    • The cost of clean-up could cost $500 billion.
    • A French study put a bad case financial disaster of $7.53 trillion at their Dampierre nuclear plant, a secret study which was just leaked.
    • You think the Fukushima cataclysm might eventually exceed a trillion dollars?
The past couple of times I visited Japan I went to Fukushima, but probably won't this time.  Why.

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