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Saturday, September 27, 2008


While much of what is presented in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth transpired in Hawaii, and, more specifically, largely at the University of Hawaii, this is a guide for anyone from any State and any Nation on how to make a difference. While the examples are taken from the world of academia, the strategies should conveniently extend into the real world, for the intelligence and dedication quotient elsewhere surely cannot be as high as what I had to face. Your success quotient should improve relative to lowered competition, but you can further enhance your potential by simply adhering to a few simple attitudinal principles.

I’ve always been strongly influenced by colors. I still marvel at the beauty of a rainbow. In Nuuanu where I live and Manoa where I work, I see a rainbow almost every day. The full spectrum represents the importance of a balanced life, advantage of broad skills and an open attitude. The consequence is Rainbow Vision.

Surveying my life, I’ve found that my greatest accomplishments came as a necessary reaction to failures. Mistakes, bad fortune, whatever, are, in reality, a beneficial stimulus for success. There is something about embarrassment, physical ailment or hopelessness that forces you to try harder, think out of the box, maintain perseverance and strive for triumph. In a way, then, this book is for those who have something yet to prove. Some of you might have been a loser most of your life, or, perhaps, unlucky.

The example I like to use is that in the 8th grade, I remember taking a standardized test that showed I ranked in the bottom 10th percentile in verbal ability, meaning that more than 90% of my classmates were “smarter” than me in English skills. This was confirmed in my junior year of high school when I took the practice college board exam, did well in math, but, again, scored in the bottom percentiles of the verbal portion.

There were two crucial factors. First, I had Mildred Kosaki as my English/Social Studies teacher. Something she did as a teacher woke me up on what I wanted to be. Second, in the spring of 1957 I broke my wrist playing basketball. In those days, many, during the summer months, labored in the pineapple cannery. This I could not do, so I decided to extend what Mrs. Kosaki kept preaching, and memorized the vocabulary words in a red and blue college board preparation book. They say that you cannot improve your test scores much, but I am living proof that you can. My 200’s or so verbal score more nearly tripled into the 600’s when I took the real college board exam in my senior year. I recall, for a reason that still mystifies me—for I never before had the guts to run for any office of any kind, and never have again—I ran for Senior Class Vice-President, and faced three female opponents. I guess it was more the gender ratio advantage, but the cast I wore I think served as an identifiable macho symbol, and I won. My VPship made me chairman of the graduation exercises, and I somehow prevailed in having Mildred’s husband, Richard Kosaki, who was a fresh political science professor at the University of Hawaii, as our Commencement speaker. Normally you provide a really old important person this privilege. (Earlier this year, exactly to the day, a half century later, Dr. Kosaki sent me a copy of his commencement address, and that, also, of the student speakers.)
In 1972, when I joined the faculty of the UH, Richard was an important administrator. He created the community college system and was Chancellor of the main campus. You see where this is headed? One thing leads to another. I would never have been accepted into the California Institute of Technology had I not improved my Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, and probably not into Stanford University if I did not show any leadership skills. Thus, breaking my wrist catalyzed a whole range of opportunities. Again, misfortune can be an opportunity, but you need to personal take advantage of this stimulus.

This second example sounds too much like bragging, but it has to do with underdog status, not giving up and compassion. The most noted public school in Hawaii is McKinley. But that is because it is one of the oldest. The nationally respected private school is Punahou (Barack Obama, Michelle Wie, Steve Case, etc.), which always provides a number of students each year to Stanford. I’m sure there must be some, but I honestly don't know another person from McKinley, before or after me, who went to Stanford as a freshman.
Well, a couple of my close friends played on the tennis team, so, as they were desperate, I was coaxed into joining them some time in my junior year. Only my left wrist was broken, so I could still use my right hand. Picking this sport up for the first time, I think I must have played something like 698 out of 700 days over the next two years, and when the first season started, I was third singles, which meant I was the 5th best player on the team. (I might also add, no one used sunscreen in those days, so I am now feeling the effects.) I’m going on pure memory here, but we normally did not win any matches against Punahou. They gave scholarships, and almost all of them had been playing forever. Well, I proceeded to lose 6-0 and was behind 5-0, when something happened, and I eventually won the match. That was the pinnacle of my tennis career, and you would think giving the full effort was the point, and to some degree it should be, but I also a couple of weeks later slaughtered someone from another private school 6-0, 6-0, and this was, actually, the more important lesson. My opponent was so distraught and embarrassed—the difference here being that people were watching—that I learned never to again humiliate anyone at any time. These lessons come from experience and provide something called maturity.

Anyway, for the rest of your life, you can do it the right way, or make everything worse. This best way, I’ve found, only depends on one simple solution: good attitude, with a sincere desire to help others and work with them for a better--you, humanity, whatever.

Part of life, of course, is that we all have ups and downs. Some things will go wrong no matter how successful you are. On any given day, the worst baseball team can beat the best, Chaminade can embarrass Virginia in college basketball and your toilet bowl could overflow.

So, if you have an IQ (yes any kind of intelligence), started at a low socio-economic level, and have some physical, ethnic or cultural defect, this book is just for you. Should you be so lucky as to start with more, than you already have an advantage. It will merely be a matter of absorbing the essence of the message and lessons to succeed in your quest by thinking simply with good conscience.

Some might be intimidated by the arena in which I operated, for how many will grow up to be a full professor in engineering, plus a research director of a sustainable resource institute? There is something chosen to being entrusted to do good things for humanity. I received a wide variety of communications from those in the nuclear industry, academics from China, mining engineers from Australia, specialists from companies and those from the military-industrial complex, all wanting to work in solar energy. Yes, life is unfair, and, there are already too many who are just plain dissatisfied…but it could be worse. Remember, the most awful of conditions can serve as the basis for your legacy.
Jangmi, now a Category 5 Super Typhoon at 155 MPH, will skirt the northern Philippines and, after a slight weakening, will slam into south Taiwan with very high winds and up to 3 feet of rain. Two other disturbances are also forming, one in the South China Sea, which could run into Jangmi, and another south of Guam that could well become a typhoon.
Tropical Storm Kyle should become a hurricane within 24 hours, but will soon hit colder waters, weaken, and head, as earlier mentioned, into the Maine/Nova Scotia region. Four tropical waves are being watched, with the one in the Atlantic off Africa showing the most promise for hurricane status, and another off the Yucatan Peninsula only feared to bring rain to Florida.
From all reports, Congress will come to consensus by Sunday and vote on the financial bailout package on Monday. Who won the first presidential debate? By most accounts reporting on public polls...Obama.

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