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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SIX WEEKS INTO THE ODYSSEY

Well, I have to eat, and today for lunch I dined with one of the most effective bureaucrats (I need to protect this individual from the fact that he talked to me) in the history of the Department of Energy. Anyone of substance who has interacted with this organization can only have been frustrated. We talked about....oh, oh, I guess I can't say what. There is something basically non-functional about this department, but enough said.

However, I can say that Mr. X shared with me the current respect the top leadership has from the permanent staff who are responsible for making it all work. As terrible as the Bush USDOE might have been, the current Obama USDOE might be worse because so much was expected, and so little is being visionized and accomplished. I can detail the disappointments, but let me stop here, for I have already ticked off too many friends

I can say that at mid-meal, Phyliss Min saw me and we greeted each other for the first time in decades. She was the key Senator Inouye staffer who initiated all those Blue Revolution, hydrogen and other renewable energy projects for Hawaii. She now works for the National Science Foundation.

My dinner tonight was with Tommy and Michael Champ (above). We dined at Proof, ideally located across the Gallery Place-Chinatown exit of the Red and Yellow lines and next to where the Washington Wizards play. Proof, to quote them, is a wine-centric gem featuring Modern American cuisine. It has been awarded 3 stars by the Washington Post. The Champs are regulars here. We basically shared fusion dishes featuring sweetbreads, wagyu beef, artichoke salad, pork, duck, sorbet, sticky pudding cake, and, in my case, complemented with a Tanquery 10 martini, absolutely great Black Ankle Bordeaux blend from Fredrick County, Maryland, a meritage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Fanc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah, resulting in a 14.9% ethanol masterpiece. Can you imagine? A really terrific Maryland wine? All this was topped off with a French Sauternes. Best meal I've had yet in American since I started my trip.

Six weeks into this adventure, here are the highlights, chronologically:

1. South Korea:

Universal Studios will build a $2.7 billion theme park in Gyeonggi Province (37 miles southwest of Seoul). Paramount Pictures and MGM will also construct resort parks in Incheon. Eight such Seoul developments are expected to be in operation by 2012, and fourteen when you count the rest of the country. They hope to attract lots of visitors from China and Japan. HAWAII, WHAT ARE WE DOING?

2. Viet Nam

The trend is promising. China Beach (picture 100 yards of beach extending for 19 miles, a distance from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor and back to Waikiki) alone has a five-star mega resort, with five more being built, including a J.W. Marriott and a Hyatt, plus a casino and two golf courses.

Another way to look at the length of China Beach is a 100 yard wide beach from Waikiki to Wahiawa. This is the type of attraction Hawaii will need to compete against into the future.

3. Cambodia

I always wondered why any regime would want to decimate their population, as in the Killing Fields. Well, this is a quote from the same link as #2 above.

The joker in this deck is China. Remember Pol Pot and the Killing Fields? You ask why did this happen? The people of Cambodia say that this was an attempt to exterminate them to be replaced with Chinese Han, something some say still might be occurring in Western China, and, perhaps, too, Tibet.

4. Amazing Thailand: those temples are extraordinary.

5. India is an experience. Until you've been in a vehicle on the road from Delhi to Agra and back, you haven't really experienced life. Of course, my tossing of Pearl's ashes at the Taj Mahal was the primary reason why I even made this trip. But just surviving this ordeal today was remarkable.

6. Barcelona is fascinating. The three best five restaurants in the world are now in this region. Tragically, the day after I left the city, Mugaritz, the #4 restaurant, experienced a serious kitchen fire.

7. I had the best lunch of my life at the Hotel Konigshof in Munich. I arrived at the restaurant having walked through Fasching, that mind-blowing daytime celebration combining Carneval, Mardi Gras and Halloween held in the city. This is Fat Tuesday, with Brazil and New Orleans spreading the event out for weeks. In Munich, this lasted all of a few hours around noon.

8. In Helsinki I had one of my greatest dinners at Chez Dominique, the #21 best restaurant in the world. More importantly, that day I met with a representative of the Finnish Board of Education and gained a better appreciation of why their educational system works so well.

9. I had two excellent meals in Copenhagen. First, dinner at Umami, of French-Japanese fusion. You wonder why there is not a Finnish meal, or, to come, Danish or Dutch high cuisine, and the answer I got was that people from these countries stay home to eat their food and go out to try the food of the world. As you think about it, when you celebrate an occasion, save for maybe steak, you don't pick a restaurant featuring the food of your home town. Anyway, the second, was lunch at #3 rated Nomo for lunch with Chef Rene, the "best" chef in the world.

10. Amsterdam was extraordinary, probably representing the city of 2100.

11. London Eye


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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 9 to 10397. Except for Hong Kong major markets were all up. The price of oil is now almost up to $81/barrel and gold increased $3 to $1139/toz.

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