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Friday, November 27, 2009

COSTCO SENSORY MAKE-OVER



There comes a time in one's life when some decisions have to be made about how you perceive and interact with the world around you. Depends on how philosophical or technical you want to get, there are at least 5 senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. I'm doing fine with the first three, but have had glasses for at least 35 years.

A few years ago I happened to be walking by the Hearing Aid Center on the ground floor of the Ala Moana Building, and walked in to get my hearing checked, for free. Randy Wohlers himself did the testing. He had a micro camera linked to a TV set and showed me how shiningly clean my ears were. This was a revelation, because I feared the worst from all the sweat and sunblock that I thought were clogging my hearing canals. He indicated that the skin grows outwardly, so this was expected. Further, he said my hearing was borderline, but not bad enough for a hearing aid. Great.

Well, two weeks ago, I was walking on campus with Milton Staackmann of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, and he raved about new hearing aids he just got from Costco. I've notice that I more recently had to ask people to repeat their questions, and this hearing defectiveness was especially troublesome trying to make conversation in the back of a moving automobile or when someone asked me a question in a large auditorium.

So, I went to Costco and found out you had to make an appointment, which I did. I was checked a couple of days later in rather scientific fashion and learned that my problem, which is normal for people my age, was with the higher frequencies. So, I got what turned out to be Milt's type of hearing aids, picked them up two days ago, and am very pleased. It feels comfortable, and I can better hear birds in trees and make more intelligent conversation, as tested over a Thanksgiving meal yesterday. The batteries are said to last a little more than a week and only cost 30 cents each at Costco. I hear that the price is three to four times higher elsewhere. Costco wants you to keep returning. The total cost was around $2700. Oh, if you happen to lose your hearing aids, just come in and ask for another pair. No charge!

While there I asked about transitional and photochromic glasses for which I paid a mint a couple of months ago. As I have several long trips upcoming, I thought it was smart to get a second pair for much less than half the cost of my traditional source. The spectacles are not as light, but those polycarbonate lenses tend to scratch easily. My new ones I think are made of glass.

Anyway, I now have all five senses working well, thanks to Costco. Let's see, now, I next need to improve my golf game.

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As I indicated yesterday, there was a chance of a truly Black Stock Market Friday, for there is slightly more than a one in three chance that Dubai could default on loans. Whew, the Dow Jones Industrials only fell 155 to 10,310, for much worse was expected. European markets mostly increased, while those in the Orient all fell. Gold sunk $17/toz to $1177, while oil dropped to $76/barrel.

From my Chapter 6 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was formed in 1971 after Britain left the Persian Gulf. There are seven states (Bahrain and Qatar almost joined, but decided to go independent that same year) and you know of only two, as described below. It’s an Islamic country with hereditary leadership. The population is around 4.5 million, where in the 16-65 age group, there are 2.75 males to each female because 85% of the population are foreigners, mostly laborers. The GDP/capita is $42,275 and is ranked #3 by the CIA Factbook to Luxembourg and Equatorial Guinea (no, you don’t want to go there), but #12 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


Abu Dhabi is the capital and one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates. The city has a population of 2 million and is actually an island. It is said to be the richest city in the world. Each natural citizen is worth an average of $17 million. In 2008, this emirate announced a $15 billion clean energy and hydrogen program, a breakthrough, being the first major Arab commitment to solar energy. The first paved road came in 1961, but in 2011 will open the $200 million Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry.



Dubai, the other known emirate, has no personal, corporate nor sales tax, and, surprisingly, less than 6% of its revenues comes from oil and natural gas. The 9/11 twin World Trade Center towers had 110 floors, while the tallest current building (in Taiwan) has 101 floors at a height of 1671 feet. The recently competed Burj Dubai, to be occupied within two months, has 206 floors and is 2684 feet tall, more than a thousand feet higher than #2. The Burj was built at a cost of $4.1 billion. (Going back in history, the Great Pyramid of Giza, with a height of 455 feet, had the title for almost 4000 years, until around 1300 when the Lincoln Cathedral was built in England.) Samsung, from South Korea, which constructed the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur and Taipei 101, handled the construction. To discourage competitors, Al Burj, on the Dubai Waterfront, has been proposed to be nearly 1000 feet taller. Looks like this skyscraper will now only be a memory.


It was a quarter century ago that I landed in Dubai, or was it Abu Dhabi, when Pan Am had a

world route. I did not see anything of consequence then, but, certainly, times have changed the landscape, and I look forward to returning to the United Arab Emirates in the Fall of 2010 and stay at the Burg Al Arab, while also venturing forth to Abu Dhabi to discuss plans for Masdar City, the presumed greenest city in the world to be readied for operation in about a decade. Now, who knows about even this adventure.


Dubai is not an independent country, chances are that the King or some organization in the UAE will bail them out. Dubai's debt to GDP ratio is 1.48, while that of the UAE is only 0.22. (Remember that the U.S.'s is about 1.0 and Japan is at 1.7.) With specific banking exceptions (Japan and the United Kingdom, plus, Citigroup of the U.S.), the world should weather this debt default problem.


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Tropical Cyclone Nida is still at 150 MPH, but weakening and will move away from Japan.


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The 126th nation just visit this site:

GABON POPULATION: 1,485,832



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Background
Only two autocratic presidents have ruled Gabon since independence from France in 1960. The current president of Gabon, El Hadj Omar BONGO Ondimba - one of the longest-serving heads of state in the world - has dominated the country's political scene for four decades. President BONGO introduced a nominal multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s. However, allegations of electoral fraud during local elections in 2002-03 and the presidential elections in 2005 have exposed the weaknesses of formal political structures in Gabon. Gabon's political opposition remains weak, divided, and financially dependent on the current regime. Despite political conditions, a small population, abundant natural resources, and considerable foreign support have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous and stable African countries.

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Remember how I indicated that China could run into problems attempting to exploit resources in Africa? Add Gabon to that list.


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