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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

COUNTRY #178: Greenland

Welcome, country #178:


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Greenland, the world's largest island, is about 81% ice-capped. Vikings reached the island in the 10th century from Iceland; Danish colonization began in the 18th century, and Greenland was made an integral part of Denmark in 1953. It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973, but withdrew in 1985 over a dispute centered on stringent fishing quotas. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament; the law went into effect the following year. Greenland voted in favor of increased self-rule in November 2008 and acquired greater responsibilty for internal affairs in June 2009. Denmark, however, continues to exercise control of Greenland's foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in consultation with Greenland's Home Rule Government.

Map data ©2011 Geocentre Consulting, Tele Atlas - Terms of Use

There are several unique features of Greenland;

1.  Largest island.

2.  Least dense population.

3.  Given self-governance by Denmark in 1979.

4.  Highest suicide rate (with  teens in particular vulnerable):  twice that of the next highest, Japan.  Why?  Guns are generally available (hunting mentality) and it really gets depressing in the winter.

5.  Richie Cunningham--that character from Happy Days-- spent two winters here.  No, not Ron Howard, he was smart enough not to be sent there.

6.  If all the Greenland ice melted, our seas would rise by around 24 feet.



Yes, according to Doug Carlson in his Hawaii Energy Options blog site.  Thanks, Doug, but visionaries need to be right, at least occasionally.  Here is my record:

1.  In the mid-seventies, I predicted that, given biomass, methanol would prevail over ethanol.  Wrong!  I also gave the highest priority for Hawaii to find an alternative pathway to jet fuel and the current jet liner that support our only real industry, tourism. Very little has happened, although I can hope for some eventual success from algae bio jet fuel and Rinaldo Brutoco's (right) Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper.  In any case, we had to begin the effort a third of a century ago, and have not.

2.  When I worked in the U.S. Senate (1979-82) I helped write the original legislation for OTEC, hydrogen and wind power.

  a.  The bill predicted that in 1998 we would have 10,000 MW of OTEC power.  Today?  Zero...but I have hopes for the Lockheed Martin venture in Hawaii.  Keep at it, Doug.

  b.  The hydrogen economy was another bill of Senator Spark Matsunaga.  Sorry to say that my current sense has hydrogen still far removed from real commercialization.  I still think this sustainable gas has promise for aviation, but I worry about those romantics who truly believe that they will make a profit out of hydrogen powering vehicles today (or the next decade or two).

  c.  Wind power is the only renewable option that is competitive, but mostly because of current government incentives.  Worse, the rate of wind energy expansion dropped last year.  Some day, I see the ocean between Oahu and Molokai, plus Maui and the Big Island, as ideal sites for this option, because this is where the wind regime is best with minimal turbulence.  In any case, when I helped draft this legislation, I had no idea that it would be this successful.

  d.  I've been advocating the 10% solution for peace, and no one listens to me.

  e.  I thought the biomethanol economy with the direct methanol fuel cell was the best pathway for ground transport.  The Farm Lobby has prevented this from happening and the Obama administration only prioritizes the plug-in electric car.

  f.  I recommended that Hawaii host the 2020 World Expo, for this was the only way our mass transit project could reach fruition.  Not one indication of interest.

Oh, well, at least the the Blue Revolution, with proposed Pacific International Ocean Station, is showing some movement, and, perhaps, like Nostradamus, it will be another half a millennium before any of my ideas attain an kind of reality.

The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 128 to 12,570, as world markets also all went up.  Gold, however, dropped $4/toz to $1535 and petroleum went up, NYMEX now at $103/barrel and the Brent Spot at $117/barrel.


Monday, May 30, 2011


Our summer season is bookended by Memorial Day and Labor Day.  First commemorated in honor of those Union soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War, after World War I, the day was extended to Americans who died in all wars.  Memorial Day was once called Decorations Day on May 30, and became a three day weekend in 1971 by the action of the U.S. Congress.  Senators Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka have repeatedly introduced measures to return the event to May 30.

President Barack Obama of course paid honor to the fallen at the Arlington National Cemetery and there was that traditional concert on the Mall last night.  The Indianapolis 500 was yesterday and the Coca-Cola 600 stock car race occurs today in North Carolina.

Yesterday began my fourth year with the Huffington Post, and my peace articles have a special kind of relationship to this day.  As Senator Spark Matsunaga dedicated his life to peace, I, too, will continue my almost Man from Mancha-esque efforts to convince Barack Obama, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping that they have a higher calling.

So pay your respects, in Hawaii with a lei (here Punchbowl, photo by Barry Vukkanuk), have a barbeque and appreciate freedom.  Peace need not necessarily come with the lost of lives.  There is a better way.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Music Festival

The 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Music Festival started on Thursday with a concert by past winners, two days of workshops, a night
honoring lifetime achievements (above) and the 34th annual awards tonight.  Napua Makua of Maui won Favorite Entertainer of the Year and two other awards (plus her album cover), but Hilo's Mark Yamanaka won just about everything else.

Johnny Lum Ho mentored both.

Click on song of the year Kaleoonalani (name of  his young daughter) from Yamanaka's debut album of the year Lei Pua Kenikeni.


First, say good morning to my water lilies:

1.  From Wired:

    a.  The Great Tohoku Earthquake had a magnitude of 9.0.  The 1995 Kobe Earthquake, which caused damages of $100 billion, was rated at only 6.9.  Aftershocks of the recent quake I trembled through in Tokyo reached 7.1 and 7.0...and caused no damage.

    b.  A 20 inch flatscreen TV set cost $1200 in 1999.  You can purchase one today for as low as $84.  Not as spectacular, but still amazing, in 2000, a 25 inch TV set cost $4,000.  The price is now below $500.  A 55 inch TV in 2005 cost $4500.  Today?  $700.

2.  When I was in high school (in 1958), a can of 3 tennis balls cost $3.    If this price had risen as the Consumer Price Index, the can should cost $18 today, and using the relative share of our Gross Domestic Product, $94.  But an incredible thing happened:  tennis balls still cost $3 for a can of three balls, and $2 when on sale. Interestingly enough, tennis balls do cost $20 in Europe, if you believe that link, but the reality is that 4 balls cost around $10, still a lot more than in the USA.  I remember buying a Jack Kramer tennis racket for $25 in those early days.  The top seven brands today range from $170 to $200.  In other words, while tennis rackets increased in price even more than the CPI, the price of the balls did not change, and, in fact, slightly dropped.  The reason why?  I don't know.  Does anyone out there have a clue?  I wonder if the cheapness of balls today has anything to do with the fact that we have no great tennis players anymore.  The highest rated American is someone called Mardy Fish, and he is at #10.  Anyone heard of Mardy Fish?  That's him above to the right.

Lunch consisted of shoestring onion rings doused in canola oil and a Heineken draft at Counters Kahala.  I then went to see two films:

1.  13 Assassins:  the most action-packed, gory, new Japanese samurai film I've seen in decades, and not only because it is the only one I've viewed in this period, for it was way over the top of all such films I've ever seen.  Based on a true incident from 1835, the killing of sadistic 24 year old Lord Naritsugu, who could well have become the next Shogun, insured for continued peace in Japan.  A third of a century later came the end of the "samurai" with the Meiji Restoration.  Rotten Tomatoes reported that 89% liked the show.

One of the value specials is a kid's drink/popcorn/candy for $6, which I had between the showings.

2.  Of Gods and Men:  for a total change of pace, one of the most boring 122 minutes I've spent, featuring Trappist monks in Algeria (1995--a true story) mostly doing Gregorian chants, which was the best part, as it took me back to my Stanford days when our eating club, wearing hair shirts, competed and won first place in an annual campus singing festival.  79% of viewers liked it, according to Rotten Tomatoes.  As long as this film has been playing, the theater was more than half full.  It won the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.    Thoughtful is an apt characterization, and there was a lot of meaning to mostly nothing, symptomatic of religion and some French cinema.

Once Super Typhoon Songda cooled off into a depression and will totally miss Fukushima.  Three were killed in the Philippines and Okinawa reports a few casualties, but I think they were injuries, not deaths nor McDonald's signs.


Saturday, May 28, 2011


Last weekend, the latest version of Pirates of the Caribbean ranked #1, with box office revenues of $90 million.  Two new films, which I just saw, will overtake Pirates this week: The Hangover Part II, and Kung Fu Panda 2

Hangover II, like I, is gross and entertaining, but instead of Las Vegas, takes place in Bangkok, one of my favorite cities.  I never saw the first Panda, but except for falling asleep twice, somewhat enjoyed the second.  I guess I'm not a big fan of cartoons.  

Rotten Tomatoes rates II at 94% and 2 at 87%.  The originals were 87% and 83%, respectively.  Which will be #1 this week?  Hangover II, I would guess, might reach $125 million (over 5 days), and Panda 2 (also 5 days) at something around $100 million (because kids will flock in with their parents over the weekend).  Why less for Panda?  I sat at the end of row one in II because the theater was filled at 12:30PM (and the last two showings that day were already sold out), and there might have been only 25 in the audience for 2, in a very large auditorium.  But this was a Friday.

Reviews for Hangover II have been mixed:  bad, neutral and almost good.  It's nearly impossible for anyone to get too carried away with a repeat of a scatological movie.  All said about Panda is good, maybe even better than the first one.

There will almost surely be a Kung Fu Panda 3, maybe with Chuck Norris.  Yes, there will also probably be a third Hangover, this one most probably in Rio, but, who knows, maybe Hawaii, New York City / D.C., Amsterdam or Mosow.  A spin-off with Ken Jeong (hosted the latest Billboard Awards) is being discussed.

I favored Hangover not because of any licentious quality, but maybe the appearance of Jeong (he's got to learn to relax), Mike Tyson (singing), and because one of the characters (Ang Lee's son, Mason) was a Stanford student.  Coincidentally, I am just now reading the May/June issue of Stanford, where I learned that:

1.  Japan is home to more Stanford alumni than any other foreign country.

2.  My chemical engineering department at this school used the latest X-ray flourescence technology to show that those marble Greek statues you see in museums were originally colored over to represent reality.  Did you know this???  There have been reports on this colorful surprise.

3.  34,348 applied this past year and 2,427 were accepted, an admission percentage of 7.1%.  Harvard was #1 with 6.2%, Columbia 6.9% and Yale 7.4%.

Oh well, anyway, it's a long weekend, so go to a movie.  Also new this week (though most probably won't show yet at your local theaters) are:

3.  The Tree of Life (Brad Pitt, Sean Penn)
4.  We are the Night (another vampire flick).
5.  The Wave (high school experiment in Palo Alto on totalitarianism that went haywire, updated to Germany today)
6.  How to Live Forever (sounds like my Chapter 2 in Simple Solutions for Humanity on eternal life).
7.  Tuesday, After Christmas (a Romanian film).
8.  Hello Lonesome (about lonesome people).
9.  Puzzle (Faye Dunaway, Roy Scheider...newly restored 1970 movie)
10.  The Abduction of Zack Butterfield (female sexual psychopath kidnaps a 14 year old boy).
11.  Tied to a Chair (how a near hopeless housewife saves a city).
12.  United Red Army (Japanese movie about the Red Army).
13.  Zindagi Na Milegi Donbara (from India, where three friends go to Spain and Egypt and...).

By the way, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris opened last week (not in Hawaii yet) with Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, and is said to be his best in a long time.  However, Rotten Tomatoes only gave it a 75% rating.

Typhoon Songda (also known as Typhoon Chedang), has weakened to 85 MPH, and is just about making landfall over Miyakojima, the solar island of Japan. Sunday on to Kyushu and Monday over Tokyo and, maybe, Fukushima.  However the cooler waters will further reduce Songda into a tropical storm by then.