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Friday, July 31, 2009


The top photo above was just sent by Sue and Bill Rayner, who live on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I would have thought their backyard would have been too cold for such a delicate flower.  

Pearl and I had lunch with the Rayner's and Jim Seger a few years ago at Julia Child's restaurant of the American Insitute of Wine and Food located in Napa Valley.  Bill was our next door neighbor and Jim was my roomate while we were freshmen at Stanford.  We were planning to have a 51st year reunion in a week.  Incidentally, the movie, Julie and Julia, opens today in a few markets (Hawaii, next week, I think), starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, and follows the life of Julia Child.

The lower photo was just taken a few minutes ago:  a sunburst with the State flower of Hawaii.  Actually, to be perfectly correct, the Rayner's hibiscus, with the complementary red, looks like the official version.  My hibiscus has only yellow.  That sunburst looks exactly like the one I gave Pearl 27 years ago.  By the way, does anyone know what is the official name of this flower?  I scanned Google, and can just about confirm that it is not called a sunburst.  I last saw it elsewhere at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. 
The Dow Jones Industrials remained positive today, up 17 to 9172, for the best July in 20 years.  Markets in the Orient increased and Europe was mixed.  Crude oil jumped close to $70/barrel, and the Dated Brent Spot is now at $70.50/barrel.    
As mentioned a couple of days ago, that disturbance south and east of Hawaii became Tropical Storm Lana.  It is expected to strengthen into a hurricane, but pass south of Hawaii over the next couple of days.  I worry, though, about hurricanes suddenly turning north, as was the case for Iniki in 1992:  

However, the waters are cooler closer to Hawaii, so, perhaps, we should do fine, and the really good news is that Lana, once at 60 MPH, as of this writing, is down to 50 MPH.

Yet, the hurricane that truly frightened me was Ioke, which formed in August three years ago just south of Hawaii while I was writing my chapter in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth on hurricanes.  Ioke moved west, began to turn north towards Kauai and then kept going west for more than two weeks, attaining Category 5 status, maxing out at 160 MPH.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


The following is a note I sent out to a few colleagues to both alert them to the rescue of the hydrogen budget, but, also, to serve as a guide on how to develop successful programs. Various chapters of both SIMPLE SOLUTION (Planet Earth and Humanity) books provide similar stories for ocean resources and marine bioproducts.

Dear Colleagues:

The U.S. Congress apparently has rebuffed Secretary Chu and reinstated the hydrogen budget (see below). The USDOE sacrificed hydrogen because it was too long term. However, I suspect they also wanted to repudiate President Bush, who had supported this option. But even his administration did this not because of the promise, but to serve as a smokescreen to delay increasing the CAFE standards.

Anyway, in 1979 when I began drafting the hydrogen bill, Senator Spark Matsunaga was wise in insisting that the introduction be bipartisan. Political control of the White House and Congress shifts, and you always want the leading party to advocate your cause.

Secondly, the hydrogen bill was created at a time when there was no budget for this technology. Last year, the hydrogen budget was larger than the solar budget. We inserted a clause creating the Hydrogen (and Fuel Cell) Technical Advisory Committee, which reported both to Congress and the Department of Energy. This dual pathway offered certain privileges that were not available to any other renewable energy system.

Finally, the nature of the political process is such that industries are very effective lobbyists, and you want them to be promoting your program. Thus, Matsunaga further encouraged me to make sure that a respectable industrial group get formed to interact with Congress. Thus was born the National Hydrogen Association (NHA). Part of all this is discussed in Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. After we (EPRI actually took the lead...another key point, don't do it yourself, just orchestrate) formed it, I served a couple of board terms in the early days. Associated with the board (or in an advisory capacity) are former congressmen who chaired the key committees. Without the NHA, Secretary Chu would have prevailed. Congratulations Jeff, Debbie and the whole crew.

Thus, as you proceed to create new programs in next generation fisheries, biofuels from algae, the biomethanol economy and whatever else, keep in mind that these initiatives will be a lot more successful in the long term if there is a solid foundation for political and industrial support. Good luck!

The Dow Jones Industrials rose 84 to 9154, reaching during the day at the highest level since November. Gold increased $5/toz to $935 and crude topped $67/barrel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009



1. Our economy will recover by next year. Tourists will return and all will seem well. Unfortunately, in five to ten years will come $150+/barrel oil, and the price of jet full will make travel to Hawaii prohibitive. My daily blog of July 21 provides the gory details, but emphasizes one point: if we want to minimize the length of the predicted local depression, we must work together and we must do it NOW!

2. Among the predictable things to come then will be legalized gambling and the first signs of the Blue Revolution with a Disney at Sea. I say, bring them on now.

3. By 2050, Hawaii will largely have sustainable electrical and ground transport systems, but air travel will mostly remain non-renewable and expensive.


1. Sonia Sotomayer will easily be confirmed as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice within the week.

2. A medical reform package will pass by December, but it will not be an optimal plan. Obama will annually attempt to improve the program.

3. The Congress will pass a cap and trade carbon dioxide measure to provide the Obama Administration an air of progressiveness for the upcoming December Copenhagen climate change conference. The problem is that the package will be so useless that the world will set it aside for something hopefully better. China and India will remain recalcitrant. Copenhagen will be nice but hardly sufficient.

2. I would recommend that we declare victory in Afghanistan and leave by 2012, also.

3. Iran will begin to develop a nuclear capability and Israel will overreact by bombing likely sites. They have no other choice.

4. There are only two solutions to peace in the Middle East. Israel is totally decimated by nuclear weapons or, over the next century, democracy prevails.

5. Since I seem to be focused on the Year 2012, President Obama will host the G9 countries that year (G8 plus China). In any event, 2012 will be an interesting year, which is a kind of Chinese curse. Oh, THE VENUS SYNDROME will predict the end of life as we know it in 2012. We hope to publish by 2010.


1. The world will not come to an end in 2012. Hey, that will be a novel.

2. There will be a hot summer before 2015 when devastating hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones will cause half a trillion dollar in damages (Katrina alone was tabbed at $125 billion), plus millions will perish from global heating. Only then will the world take serious steps to minimize the Global Warming.

Have a great rest of your life.


The Dow Jones Industrials were wallowing until the final hour, when it made almost a 60 point surge to end up minus 25 at 9072. Crude oil crashed 6% to $63/barrel and gold dropped $11 to $928.


There are no cyclonic storms anywhere in the world today. However, the spot that shows the most potential is south and east of Hawaii at 132 West above, and if something forms, if it tries to go North, it will hit cooler waters.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The following continues the serialization of Chapter 2 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

Artificial Life
While the term, artificial life, coined in 1987 by Christopher Langton at his first “International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems,” seems more linked to computer systems, I will focus only on the bio-option. In Chapter 4 on Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, we will return to the matter of what is intelligence and whether life on Earth is all that there might be.


J. Craig Venter—high school dropout, surfer, and Navy veteran of Viet Nam, who went on to gain a PhD from the University of California at San Diego and become head of Celeria Genomics, a private group that sequenced the human genome in a dead heat with the international, government-supported project—announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2003, this time, to create a new type of bacterium using DNA (deoxyribonucleic acidmanufactured from basic chemicals. They also had hoped to produce hydrogen, sequester carbon dioxide and clean up the environment, like of nuclear wastes. This organization, the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, includes Nobel laureate Hamilton O. Smith, an expert on genetic science. Their engineered microbe could well be dual purpose: make hydrogen and absorb carbon dioxide. They are dealing with the matter of creating life itself


Venter’s team selected Mycoplasma genitalium, whose habitat is in the genital tract of humans, not because this is where life begins, but more for the microorganism’s simplicity and fragility. They don’t want a super bug to escape into the environment and eat up the world. Emblematic is that the very first attempt at formulating artificial life will be a genetic microorganism to produce hydrogen.


Success was attained in 2003 with the creation of an artificial virus. Venter said they only took two weeks to accomplish this task. What they did was fashion a synthetic genetic map, or genome, of an existing virus and implanted it into a cell. The virus supposedly became biologically active and reproduced.  But is a virus alive? No.


In October of 2006, Venter filed an application to patent this first artificial microbe. The U.S. Patent Office published on May 31, 2007, the application (#20070122826). This man-made organism was called Mycoplasma laboratorium. But, almost predictably, the field went somewhat berserk with challenges from those worried that God now had a competitor to others with scientific and ethical concerns. A more apt tag was also stated regarding Venter’s venture: the Microsoft of synthetic biology.


The Dow Jones Industrials slipped 12 to 9097, while, except for Japan, world markets all dropped.  Early in the day, the DJI sunk nearly 100, but recovered.  One of my stocks, Microsoft, showed a gain because a deal is anticipated tomorrow with Yahoo on an internet search/advertising partnership.  Google sunk 5, about 1%. Crude oil decreased into the mid-$66/barrel range and gold fell $14/toz to $939.


Monday, July 27, 2009


My Huffington Post article on the swine flu about seven weeks ago indicated that, worldwide, there were 500 new cases and 3 deaths each day. Turns out that is exactly the situation for the USA today. The global statistics are 1500/day with 9 deaths/day. Compare this with 1,000,000 flu cases/day and 1000 deaths/day from the “common” flu, and there are three points that can be made:

1. Relative to the flu, then, swine flu remains in the noise level.
2. However, the fact that the incidence of new cases has risen by a factor of 3 is a concern, with the more dangerous season still to come.
3. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention surmised that, actually, there have thus far been more than a million cases, just in the U.S. The official reported total as of today was 43,771 cases, so something makes no sense here. This article goes further to state that U.S. health officials strengthened their recommendations for seasonal flu vaccines on Friday, saying all children aged 6 months to 18 years should be immunized -- especially because of the H1N1 flu pandemic. However, in the very next sentence is the following: the seasonal vaccine provides little or no protection against H1N1 swine flu. Thus, you need to read this article to try to make any sense of it.  If you figure it out, let me know.
What is the status of a swine flu vaccine to protect you? Well, it's apparently now on trial, and the federal government has already spent more than a billion dollars to purchase a sufficient quantity for all of us. The problem is one of timing and priorities because the availability is to some degree being delayed by production problems. The companies making this vaccine are Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline and Solvay. Check out their stock values since the scare began.
Two months ago, there was about a one chance in a hundred of you dying if you contracted the swine flu. Today, this number is less serious, as one in 150 now pass away. However, only one in a thousand succumb to the flu, so you don’t want to take a chance on getting the swine flu.
So, the concern I have repeatedly brought up is the matter of overreaction. I still think this is the case, and wonder why the World Health Organization, in particular, is making such a big fuss about it. But people are worried, and what is a billion dollars to prevent a pandemic when we are spending a trillion to help Wall Street?
The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 15 to 9109, with world markets almost all also up. Crude oil remains in the $68/barrel range and gold increased $3/toz to $954.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I received the following e-mail today from Pearl's cousin Nancy Kelly, who lives in Hilo.  They worked for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga,

Hi Pat:
Funny that you mentioned the flower blooming.  I had planted some "sunflower" seeds a month or so ago with Kacelyn and at that time I thought of Pearl because I recalled her telling me she liked yellow sunflowers.  A few very skinny scrawny plants had emerged and on Friday morning I happened to look out in the backyard and was surprised to see a bright yellow blossom.  It was nearly perfect and was so bright facing the morning sun.  Yes, I do believe she's up there somewhere.
With aloha,
This reminds me of my only experience growing sunflowers.  I was a trainee at the Kilauea Sugar Company (on the island of Kauai:  the introduction of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth describes my life there) in the early '60's.  I challenged the plantation agriculturist as to who could grow the largest sunflower.  I haven't the faintest idea what I did right, for we used the same seeds, and I had never before grown any flowering plants, but my crop grew at least 12 feet high and produced incredibly large sunflowers.  I had to use bamboo poles to hold them up.  The circumference of the sunflower seed portion (yes, real sunflower seeds that you could eat) was up to 53 inches around, or a diameter of nearly 17 inches.  Most sunflowers, including the petals, are smaller than half that size.  I still have a photo of that monster in case there is any dubiosity.  Of course, I would need to find it and I'm not sure exactly where it is.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I wanted to point out at Pearl's gathering the story of a flowering plant.  In one of the photos below, Pearl is posed with a sunburst, or whatever it's called.  Twenty seven years ago I saw this unusual plant with no leaves and just one flower.  So I delivered it to her after her breast cancer surgery.  I told her that as long as the plant lives, she will, too.  She took good care of it and gave keikis to friends.

Well, yesterday, if you noticed, this same plant began to bloom.  Thus, Pearl must be somewhere up there.  I'll need to revise my Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.
For completeness, let me report that on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrials rose 24 to 9093 and oil is now up to $68/barrel, with gold at $951/toz.
Ninety-five countries have now visited this site:  3412-95-461

Friday, July 24, 2009


Pearl was born in Hilo on 11July39 and left us on 19July09.  Friends and family celebrated her life today.  

Her ashes will be scattered on Mauna Kea. 

The Pearl Foundation will be formed to plant that yellow tree (or trees) pictured above as a living memory.

Aloha, Pearl.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I continue excerpting Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:


There is no scientific meaning for germs, which are single-celled and commonly thought of as bacteria. Also add archaea, only discovered in the ocean in 1977. Even if viruses are supposedly not alive, throw this group of microorganisms into the germ pot. There are single-cell fungi and protozoa, so they can be added, too.

These microscopic life forms appeared as long as 4 billion years ago, represented the only life for up to 2 billion years, and, actually, still rule Planet Earth, as it is reported that there is more mass in “germs” or micro-life than all the macro-life (humans, other animals, trees, whatever you can see that lives). There are studies showing that there is about the same amount of plant biomass as bacteria (about 2 billion tons each), but there is very roughly the same mass in archaea and viruses compared to bacteria, so germs still dominate. For the record there are 700 million tons of domesticated animals, 500 millions tons of krill (those small shrimp-like creatures eaten by whales and fish) and 250 million tons of us humans.

Every time you go swimming, consider that just in a liter of seawater live more than 20,000 different kinds of bacteria. Or everytime you kiss, don't think about the 40 million bacteria in a milliliter of saliva. There are about a billion different kinds of bacteria. If a virus had the shape of a baseball, a bacterium would be the circle around the pitcher’s mound and a human cell would be in the range of the ballpark. As a virus requires a host, it has to invade a microorganism, human or any life form, to survive.

Most of you don’t realize that:

o You harbor 100 trillion bacteria in and on you, but have only around 10 trillion cells of your own, thus, you host many times more germ cells than your own. Before you get too revolted, per above, your cell is much larger than a bacterium.

o You have probably up to four pounds of bacteria in your gut, and could have nine pounds total. Yes, this is most disgusting.

o Some of your personal cells have formed a symbiotic relationship with these germs, and, there are growing theories that they, in fact, now affect the nature of genes.

I've recently been writing about BOOP and MRSA, but, 99%+ of germs are good. While viruses exist only by attacking and nourishing themselves on living cells—thus, they are the natural predator for bacteria and you—there are no known pathogenic archaea. Some viruses, though, are used in gene therapy, so there is some good here. You will more and more see these beneficial germs in your diet. From baby food to yogurt, there are now more than 150 probiotic and prebiotic products in your supermarket.

The Dow Jones hit an 8-month high by jumping 188 to 9068. Ford was up to 7 for a while. Remember, I told you to buy when it was 1.9? Oil also increased to $67/barrel, but, I guess maybe the recession has bottomed, for gold fell $1/toz to $950.


There is some activity south and west of Hawaii, but no one seems concerned at this time.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


During the past year I have focused on this blog to link with a few friends and the Huffington Post, a most interesting concept in these days when your delivered newspaper is going bankrupt, to interact with the world.  I have now posted about an article a week since I joined the list of reporters a year or so ago.  I urge you to peruse the following and click on your desired topic of interest (in chronological order).


The Dow Jones Industrials dipped down 35 to 8881, while gold edged up $3/toz to $951 and crude settled at $65/barrel.
That disturbance southwest of Hawaii is still expected to move east northeast.