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Saturday, January 1, 2011

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME IN 2011 AND BEYOND

What can we expect this coming year?  Your guess is as good as mine, but before sharing my ideas, this new year started with fireworks over Honolulu, such as happy faces.

Then, this morning, I was greeted on the roof by the smiles of so many flowers, here in the middle of winter, starting with the State of Hawaii flower:

A couple of orchids:

Two water lilies:

Even some blue flowers:

Plus a few edibles, starting with a hot pepper:

Chives:

Basil:

And arugula:

After a visit with my plants and fish, I continued my first attempt to make ozoni, which began last night by warming a can of sliced abalone-like shellfish (including the fluid) with sake, some water, three different kinds of konbu (macroalgae); dried scallops (the key to taste), ika (squid), and katsuo (tuna) soup base; and shiitake mushrooms/water chestnuts.  Ozoni was originally pepared for samurai, so I felt compelled to make an attempt for my great-great- grandmother.  This soup for the first meal of the year differs from place to place, and my original special now joins my list of zip-lock tsukemono, roast turkey and other culinary creations.

I wasn't about to pound some rice to make mochi, so bought a two layer version protected in plastic from Marukai.  If you've had difficulty opening anything these days from Best Buy, you can't believe the machinations the Japanese concocted to prevent you from getting to this $1.50 item.  Using three advanced tools, I finally succeeded, then tried to fry it in butter.  This took half an hour, for you don't want to burn the butter too much, and...well, eventually this mess went into the pot with a further addition of some Chinese cabbage and American spinach.  I don't like this annual vegetable called mizuna which is pretty standard if you want something authentic.

I served this ozoni in a white bowl with chopped green onions and had it with some leftovers (korean garlic chicken, pork barbecue, not sure what covered with seaweed, yellow-fin tuna sashimi and ahi poke) taken home from a New Year's Eve celebration last night, plus a junmai daiginjo sake and St. Pauli Girl beer from Germany.

Oh, yes, my half dozen predictions for the future:

1.  Peak Oil will not occur until there is a cataclysmic event, such as Israel bombing an Iran nuclear site.  The Chicago Mercantile Exchange has oil futures at $94.50/barrel in December of 2011, but less than $94/barrel in December of 2012.  Petroleum today is $91.20/barrel.

2.  2010 was the hottest year on record, but that will not stop Congressional Republicans in general and Democrats from fossil fuel states from preventing, horrors, anything like a carbon tax or cooperating with the world to take precautions for global warming.  Even tea growers in India are blaming climate change for lackluster tea taste.  Don't count on anything enlightening occurring in Congress this year or next.  House Republicans might succeed in watering down Obama's health plan, but this too will be going nowhere.

3.  Statistically, there should not be another 8.5 earthquake or stronger for another 20 years.  The Chile tremor in February was rated at 8.8, which was not even close to the most powerful ever, also in Chile, of 9.5 in 1960.  Unfortunately, isn't it amazing how a hundred year storm can happen the following year again? More ominously, there have been four 8.5 and greater events since 2004.  Such is the nature of Mother Nature and natural disasters.  [An earthquake struck Chile on 2January2010, but at most scored a Moment Magnitude of 7.2.]

4.  I worry more about hurricanes, but it is appearing that the city of Honolulu is protected by those mountains of Maui and the Big Island, for all of these storms forming near Mexico come from the east and many fizzle anywhere close to those islands.  Heading more southernly, then Kauai comes at risk.  There seems more recently, though, a tendency for a few major hurricanes forming just south of Hawaii and moving north and west.  That could be disastrous if northern tracking dominates.  Hurricane Ioke in 2006 thankfully moved northwest, becoming the most powerful storm in the Pacific, ever, reaching 220 MPH.

5.  The United States will not totally return all troops home from Iraq or Afghanistan for a long time to come.  We won those wars, but continue to remain in Japan (33,000), South Korea (29,000) and Germany (57,000).  WHY???  Note that we lost the Viet Nam War and have zero presence in that country.  Maybe we should lose those Middle East conflicts, where we still have 50,000 in Iraq and 100,000 in Afghanistan.

6.  If the above prevails, the American economy should continue to rebound and hopefully show an unemployment rate just below 9 % at the end of 2011.  Hawaii tourism should also improve, but fear that ultimate coming doom when oil shoots up to $150/barrel and higher.  With Senator Dan Inouye as chairman of Senate Appropriations and President Barack Obama in the White House, we need to position Hawaii now as the national Apollo-like symbol for sustainable resources.  Is this happening in cooperation with industry for a multi-billion effort?  Yes to some degree, but no in reality.  We are only halfway focused on renewable electricity and ground transport.  Nothing much is happening for sustainable aviation, the lifeline for our local economy.

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