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Sunday, September 30, 2012


I'm normally getting ready for my Fall around the world journey, but I have already laid Pearl's ashes at all the the sites on my list, so I decided to instead only attend my Stanford 50th Anniversary reunion, which included the football game with Arizona on October 7, then on to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, joining Ed Jurkens and his brother Bill.  Perhaps more important than that reunion is the balloon festival with Ed, for we have been talking about this for some time and he must be approaching 95, so both are just about final opportunities.

Alas, I got this sudden request to remain in Honolulu that weekend, so am instead, now, making the rounds of three hotels in Honolulu:  the Moana Surfrider (oldest hotel on the Beach at Waikiki--which was last week), the Kahala Hotel (this weekend, to participate in the annual gathering of the local Chaine des Rotisseurs) and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (brunch at Michel's and dinner at La Mer--I'll report on these meals next week).  Heading towards my third millionth mile for Star Alliance, while there will never again be another 50th reunion, frankly, I much rather these days stay home, anyway, avoiding the hassle of travel and saving a lot of money.

Chaine des Rotisseurs is a gastronomic society said to be linked back to 1248 in Paris and King Louis IX.  However, more accurately, this eating club was re-founded in 1950.  There are bailliages (chapters) in 70 countries, with 7,000 American members.  The terms are French and I am a chevalier, which is a French nobleman of the lowest rank.  My colleague at the University of Hawaii, Bruce Liebert, has a rank of Bailli Provincial, which must be the equivalent of grand leader for Hawaii, as his photo is the largest of all the officers in the Hawaii chapters.  I should know all these terms as French was my PhD language, but that was 40 years ago.

So Friday night I checked into the Kahala Hotel.  Here is my first view:

To the extreme right is the beginning of Diamond Head and that driveway is where you valet park your car.  We are located on the other side of that volcano from Waikiki.  Then, there is the ocean view:

Chaine had a reception Friday night, but I was previously signed up for a Pacific Buddhist Academy annual awards dinner next door at the Waialae Golf Course Clubhouse, so, on balance, I actually "saved" $40.  Blue Revolution Hawaii had a table...

...for one of our board members honored was Fujio Matsuda:

I participated in my first Chaine event in some time at the Saturday soufflé and beaujolais culinary adventure at Hoku's.  As you can see, I was the only non-female (photo by Mirella Monoscalco):

Christel Yount on the left helping Patissiere Michael Moorhouse.  Frankly, I thought this was to be just lunch, but it was a cooking class, so I now know how to make soufflés.  Can you believe that you need to heat the mixture to exactly 249 F?  They were very generous with the wine, which was dangerous, for I skipped breakfast to await this feast.  However, nothing was consumed until the end when we had assorted cheesy things and soufflés, with more beaujolais.  I enjoyed the experience.

The highlight of the weekend was the Assemblage Reception and Gala Julia Child Tribute Dinner.  And, yes, I can confirm that Bruce Liebert is the highest ranking Chaine in this whole region:

Bruce is wearing that costume only for the very formal induction ceremony.  You can appreciate that champagne is prominent in the process.

I was rather negligent in taking photos during the meal, so our first course, gougere of gruyere cheese and seared foie gras, will be shown if someone on my table someday sends a shot.  Qi Marie and John White might respond.  The wine was an excellent 1996 Lamothe Guignard Sauternes. Most on the table questioned the appropriateness of a sweet wine at the beginning, but I thought the perfect balance with the foie gras was ideal.  Then came a coquilles Saint-Jacques a la provencale, fortunately for me because this dish is built around scallops, and these were rather large.  However, I was halfway through when I finally remembered to take a photo:

The wine was a 2007 Nicolas Joly Sacres Savennier, and no one on the table ever heard of it.  So I went to see Patrick Okubo, the Grand Sommelier of this Bailliage, and he said this was a French chenin blanc, which in California is a sweetish wine, but in France, very dry.  Next was a chilled green asparagus veloute (basically a cold soup):

A super 2009 Long Depaquit Moutonne Chablis Grand Cru, a French, meaning no oak storage, chardonnay, was served.  While they pour around 3 ounces, you can always later ask for more, which I did on several of these wines.  This is the point where a sherbert comes, and the presentation was exceptional:

The premiere was a boef a la bourguignonne, beef braised in burgundy wine, which I found amusing because this was also the final entre at the Pacific Buddhist Academy dinner last night.

The Kahala version was smaller, not as dark brown and much, much saltier.  I preferred the previous night dish far better.  The wine was a Burguet Gevrey Chambertin Mes Favorites VV (a pinot noir, or burgundy).

A University of Hawaii colleague, Kusuma Cooray, in the culinary arts, sitting on our table, won a gold medal for extraordinary service to the organization:

You get something to place on your ribbon for various events, and my slate is nearly empty:

We then went upstairs for dessert (fruit flambé) and a 2008 Huet Moelleux Trie Vovray, a nice sweet wine.  Had an extended chat with Christel Yount about her travels.

But this was not all, for the next morning I ordered a Japanese meal, not as expensive as my $100 and $60 Four Seasons Hualalai breakfasts, but close:

You can only barely see it, but in the middle bottom is a small bowl of something called natto.  This is fermented soy beans.  I've avoided this foul-smelling and sticky breakfast item all my life.  However, I courageously today followed the advice I remembered from Kenji Hotta of Nihon University about stirring the beans a hundred times.  I did, tried it and was pleasantly surprised.  The smell was not the best, but the taste reminded me of soy beans, and a tad bitter.  Finally, note the beer.  This is a 17 ounce Koshihikari Echigo from Niigata, Japan.  I did not realize that some beers are made from rice, and this one from Koshihikari, which is the #1 brand in the world.

The weekend was just fabulous.  Return next week for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Michel's and La Mer.


Saturday, September 29, 2012


A half century ago, I got to know the originators of Project Cyclops, Barney Oliver of Hewlett-Packard and Jack Billingham of the Ames Research Center.  They had led a NASA-sponsored workshop on "The Next Billion Years,"  which determined that for $10 billion (today worth $50 billion), they could build 1000 100-meter antennas to search the sky at the waterhole to detect emissions from advanced civilizations.  What if the solution to world peace, cure for cancer or clue on how to bottle fusion were beaming in, sort of like CONTACT, the book by Carl Sagan and movie with Jodie Foster?

After becoming involved with NASA's Earth 2020:  Visions for Our Children's Children, in 1974, I was inspired to spend the summer of '76 at the Ames Research Center on Project Orion, for the key question in those days was:  Are we the only solar system in the Universe?  Our group of 19 faculty members from around the nation were brought together to suggest how best to detect an extrasolar planet.  Today, the following planets seem possible for life:

It's taken all these years, but a number now approaching 1000 planets has been confirmed.  The progress on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, however, seems to be getting nowhere with minimal funding, and might take all of a billion years to finally detect alien life.

In the meantime, Ray Kurzweil has also been thinking big, and with his followers, a billion year plan for humanity is being generated.  I interacted with this group at the Singularity Institute's gathering in San Francisco two years ago.  Basically, the story goes like this.  Our Sun will expand and evaporate our oceans in a billion years, so if Mankind does not leave Planet Earth, that could be the end of intelligent life.

Some of this thinking exists in efforts like the Mars Project.  I was at one time somewhat supportive, for it was U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga who advanced this concept in his book by the same name.  Arthur C. Clarke of "2001:  A Space Odyssey" fame, wrote the Foreword.  That was thirty years ago when I was working in his D.C. office, and Harvey Meyerson, whose desk was next door to mine, ghost wrote that book.  However, Senator Matsunaga was a peace advocate, and you'll note the subheading:  Journeys Beyond the Cold War.  He felt that if two competing powers worked together on a monumental enterprise, the foundation would be established for peace.

However, priorities change with time, and it makes no sense for American taxpayers to largely fund a $500 billion boondoggle to send astronauts to another planet today.  Kurzweil's billion year plan, of course, I'm sure won't hint at such a misadventure now.  Some day we will need to leave Planet Earth, but we have time.  Our species has only been around for 50,000 years or so.  Maybe we can begin to get serious about a real Billion Year Plan to save us in about, oh, 50,000 years.  That would still leave 9,999,950,000 years to get us to an extrasolar planet.

In the West Pacific, Typhoon Jelawat remains on a path to cruise over Tokyo Sunday night, but only as a tropical storm.


Friday, September 28, 2012


It was not too long ago that Honolulu at night was blue, for the lights were mercury vapor.  The first album of the Beamer brothers was entitled Honolulu City Lights and released in 1978.  But the the city was already transitioning to orange, sodium vapor lights.  Today, at night, Honolulu is not blue, but orange:

Hawaii became associated with the color blue mostly because of our blue waters.  Here is my island, Oahu, by NASA (above).

Perhaps Blue Hawaii became popular from the song by Bing Crosby from the 1937 film, "Waikiki Wedding."  That clip shows Martha Raye when she actually was good looking.  But the version I sing in karoake bars is by Elvis Presley, from the movie "Blue Hawaii," which in 1962 debuted on the island of Kauai, where it was filmed.

The following year, Pearl and I moved to Kilauea, Kauai, where much of our night life centered around the Coco Palms, the wedding scene from the movie from Blue Hawaii.  Unfortunately, Hurricane Iniki 20 years ago devastated the island, including this hotel, and it remains closed, regularly announced to be restored.  They will celebrate the 50th anniversary of this film on Saturday (tomorrow5:30-9:30PM) at the Kauai Marriott Resort if you're interested.  I would have been tempted to fly over to Lihue for that event, but, alas, I have a series of gustatorial treats at the the Waialae Golf Course Clubhouse and Kahala Hotel, where Chaine de Rotisseurs, first formed in 1248, celebrates our annual Hawaii gathering.  My posting this weekend will provide a few details.


Once Super Typhoon Jelawat is now down to a Category 3 at 120 MPH, but will only be a tropical storm when the eye floats over Tokyo early Monday morning.  Jelawat went right through Naha, but there seem to be no reports of much damage.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS: The Bailout Bill Passes Congress, President Signs the Legislation, and the World is Saved. Not.

Every so often I continue the serialization of my third book,  SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS.  This posting from the Huffington Post occurred four years ago when the world was on the threshold of a Great Depression.  Barrack Obama was running against John McCain, and the terrible economy gave Obama the edge to prevail a month later.  Thus, compared to those days, the economy today is humming.  However, there is another dynamic at work this year:

The math basically works like this: if the Dow Jones industrial average goes up in the period from roughly Labor Day to Election Day, the incumbent president or party will likely retain control of the White House. If stocks head south in that key period, the challenger will likely stage an upset win.

So what is dominant?  The dramatic improvement over four years or that Labor Day to Election Day period?  If the Dow remains above 13,000 (it was 13,0020 on Labor Day this year and closed at 13,412 yesterday), this double advantage should seal it for Obama.  However, if the Dow sinks over the next month, who knows what will happen IF the economy as determined by the stock market is that important.  

So what's driving Romney.  Even though Obama is well ahead of Mitt Romney today, remember that just one week before the 1980 election, Jimmy Carter was in the lead over Ronald Reagan, 47% to 39%.  What happened?  Reagan rode the worsening economy wave and won in a landslide with the highest number of electoral votes by a nonincumbent presidential candidate.  Anyway, here is that historic article:

On 6October08 the Dow Jones Industrial Average at one point in the day crashed 800 points, again, a historic high, but settled at minus 370.  Thus, I had to comment, so my HuffPo of 7October08 expressed some sarcasm to those decision-makers not listening to me.  I blamed eight years of Republican rule, for their policy is to keep their hands off business:  let the free market economy rule.  Well, that was at the root of this great recession.

The Bailout Bill Passes Congress, President Signs the Legislation, and the World Is Saved. Not.

Well, on Monday, October 6, that crucial first Wall Street operational day after the rescue, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped a tad more than 800 points at one point--once again the worst one day drop in history--but settled at only minus 370, at 9956, about 30% lower than a year ago. For about the tenth time this past month in my daily blog I again underscored the danger of metastability. The fatal fear is that we are losing control of prices.

Reassuring, though, that the German, Paris and Tokyo stock exchanges have also all sunk 31% this past year, with London at minus 27% and China (Shanghai) a staggering minus 67%. They, too, all are bailing out banks and other financial institutions. Thus, you can't really only blame Wall Street, the White House, Congress, McCain and Obama. This seems to be a world-wide phenomenon.
Interestingly, precious metals have also dropped in the 30-70% range the past few months, even gold. Usually, investors switch to very low interest federal bonds or gold in time of coming crisis. Gold did rise a few percent today, but remains below what it was this past Friday. So there is some uncertainty in this reactionary front complicating the tea leaf readings.

The U.S., of course, sets the tone for the globe, and eight years of Republican free market policies no doubt laid the table for the crunch. The Bush Supreme Court aided by preventing state regulators from mortgage loan oversight (April 2007 decision). From all perspectives, this "keep the hands of government off business attitude" is the root of our financial crisis.

Ominously, my HuffPo prediction of $75/barrel oil seems to be happening, as NYMEX crude futures slipped below $90/barrel to $88.51/bbl, while the Brent Spot is now at $83/bbl. The growing world recession is reducing consumption, so there is weakening competition for the available oil. OPEC President Khelil today predicted that oil prices will continue to drop next year. Will we see $50/bbl oil in 2009? If so, don't be surprised if all those already announced billion dollar renewable resource projects begin to lose financial support. We saw it when Reagan became president in the early '80s and a decade ago when the price of oil (in real dollars) hit an all-time low. Here we go, back to the past again. See Chapter 1 in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. That's why it's ominous.

Comments (4):  Again, I quote from one of my responses—

I'm gratified that I have helped influence the thinking of at least one person out there. Only 6 billion or so more to go. I was surprised at the presidential debate today for Obama to actually state that energy was his #1 priority, especially with crude oil back down below $90/barrel. Maybe there is hope! Did you see those instant reactions to nuclear energy? Every time McCain touted this option, both men and women showed instant negative reactions. There seems to be a strong undercurrent of concern about this option. Likewise, when both mentioned renewable energy or doing something about global warming, the curve jerked upwards. Thus, the support is there. Unfortunately, the will is lacking. That has been the lament of all my HuffPosts. The simple solution, however, I still think, rests with those newfangled virtual The Huffington Post.

Well Super Typhoon Jelawat slightly strengthened to 155 MPH, just 1 MPH away from Category 5 status:

Just a week ago, the strongest storm of the year, Super Typhoon Sanba, earlier at 175 MPH, struck Naha,Okinawa.  Today, Jelawat, slightly weaker, but still monumental, will not only make landfall over Naha, but through the next few days, also roll over all of Okinawa, then, by early Monday morning, in a weakened state, affect Tokyo.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I got fusioned out and will spend the day posting significant things about today.  As best as I can tell, though, nothing important happened on September 26 throughout history.  However Johnny Appleseed was born on this day in 1774 as Jonathan Chapman, and he actually did spread apple nurseries throughout the Midwest.  However, this was because real estate values were enhanced with these trees.  He ended up owning several nice plots in Indiana and Ohio.  

However, here is what they don't tell you in nursery school.  Enjoy a 1948 Disney animated short, the The Legend of Johnny Appleseed, although you got to wonder about the research, for his apples were basically inedible, as only grafted ones are sweet.  Johnny's apples were made into cider.  A 2000 version was a bit more accurate.  Fort Wayne, Indiana, celebrates Johnny Appleseed Day, but that occurred this past weekend.

Oh well, so much for history.  As far as today, I also can't find anything happening of particular relevance.  So let me bring you up to date on some unimportant things:

1.  CNN reported Lady Gaga posted some nearly nude photos of herself and that she had gained 25 pounds just over the past few months.  I thought she suffered from bulimia or anorexia?  Did you know her name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta?  According to Forbes, she made twice the amount of any female woman in music last year.  $90 million.  Taylor Swift was #2.  Gaga's "Born This Way" opened at #1 on Billboard and stayed there for a month last year.

2.  The best two NFL teams today are the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons. Huh?  The two worst are the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.  About right.

3.  The top three national bestsellers are all by E.J. James:  Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.  I have about a dozen books yet to read and the thought of buying one of them was really low on my priority list.  Then  I read a review by lazaraspaste (I think that's her name--and you won't find this view in any normal newspaper), who hated the book.  Now I'm thinking, maybe.  Lady porn?  Actually, the New York Times lists A Wanted Man (Lee Child, but who is really British author Jim Grant) as #1 and Delusion in Death (J. D. Robb, but, why they do this is mystery, is Nora Roberts) as #3.  Man is the 17th Jack Reacher novel.  Reacher is strong and knows weapons, but uses physics to kill bad guys.  He is fictionally 6'5" with a 50" chest, but Tom Cruise, who is 5'7", will play the part in an upcoming movie, One Shot (book published in 2005).  You never heard of Jack Reacher, but will, after this movie.  Delusion is the 44th (#45, Calculated in Death, will be released in February) installment of Robb's death series, this one featuring spectacular public deaths confronting a female New York police officer, Eve Dallas, and her husband, Roarke.  The series is coming to a close soon because it will end when Eve becomes pregnant.  But the first one, Naked in Death, was published in 1995.  She's getting pretty old.  Do you see a trend here in bestsellers?

4.  Forgive me, I'm from Hawaii, but there is yet another TV series filmed on my island, to be first aired tomorrow (Thursday on ABC) night, 7PM in this state.  Last Resort is a geopolitical thriller which occurs in the Indian Ocean (they must have an island there that looks like Oahu), and is about the USS Colorado (the last naval ship with that name was a battleship decommissioned after WWII), a nuclear-powered submarine.  Can't tell you the whole story, but, what you will see is this rogue crew, still patriots, taking over an island and calling it a new nation.  My early reading is that in this pilot, they nuke Pakistan.  The series stars Andre Braugher as the sub commander.  His first role was in Glory (1989), and he has been kicking around TV land since. Next, he will be in a movie to be released next year, Baytown Outlaws.  Maybe like Lost, also filmed in Hawaii, they'll synthesize a hit.

5.  This is a scientific blog, so let me end by asking you how many water molecules are required to make ice?  The answer is, around 275 molecules.

Super Typhoon Jelawat weakened into a Category 4 at 150 MPH, might roll right over all of Okinawa beginning tomorrow (Friday, Japan time), then, after losing hurricane strength, approach Tokyo by Monday morning:


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This Part 4 of my series on fusion:

Cold fusion is a room temperature nuclear reaction concept which had incredible potential for humanity, but has been rejected by mainstream science.   While there are variations (bubble and muon) of the theme, the effort that captured world attention was the announcement by electrochemists Stanley Pons and  Martin Fleischmann on 23March1989 about their tabletop experiment.  They claimed excess heat and production of neutrons and tritium.  This result could not be reliably repeated.  Reaction and condemnation were swift, as eight months later physicists nailed the coffin on what they called pathological science.  I still think this dismissal was premature and the peta-system (relative to ITER, for example) remains hopeful for a breakthrough in the future.  "Something happened," and in my mind, we don't yet know what.

A thought that occurred to me about how fusion might be stimulated at room temperature, and something that definitely should be explored, can be drawn from lightning bolts.  Recent experiments have shown that thunderstorms can generate x-rays, gamma-rays, and, even, anti-matter.  Astrophysicists once thought that only solar flares, black holes and supernovas could sufficiently accelerate electrons.  Well, if something so simple as atmospheric electricity can do so much, it is just a matter of time before someone smart enough can repeatedly accomplish this in a simple laboratory.  Benjamin Franklin, incidentally, might have first initiated this search.

First, how can cold fusion work when the temperatures and pressures are so low?  Well, I can get very mathematical and scientific, but let me just say that the process of electrolysis in a simple beaker using heavy water (deuterium oxide), utilizing a palladium electrode, can "theoretically" overcome nuclear repulsion.  Palladium somehow also provided a special catalytic role in a manner I can't understand.

In a way, I was there at the birth of this hypothesis and reported on those days in Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.  I actually hired an electrochemist to pursue this track:

The university hiring process is time consuming, bureaucratic and tedious.  Many, many months, more than a year, usually, to meet all the requirements.  On April 19, less than a month after this announcement, I hired Bor Yann Liaw, who had just obtained his PhD under Bob Huggins of the Stanford University Materials, Science and Engineering Department, specifically because he had just that special talent to initiate work in the field of cold fusion, and just happened to be visiting Hawaii.

Nearly a quarter century later, Dr. Liaw occupies the office next to mine on the Manoa Campus. Interesting that his son is now a student at Stanford, and two others I recruited, Luis Vega and Steve Masutani, both staff members of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, also have sons attending Stanford.  While Liaw is no longer actively involved with any research on cold fusion, he regularly updates me on the state of the field.

There are three scientific points of view:

  -  Physicists, who deal with fusion at a hundred million degrees Kelvin and pressures a hundred billion times what we face, and deal at terra scales with facilities like the Large Hadron Collider and ITER:  they don't believe and are large thinkers.

  -  Chemists, who can identify with desktop experiments:  they can believe and many of them don't mind developing something of value for humanity.

  -  Engineers:  who like to make things work:  they're willing to believe and feel compelled to doing innovative things to produce useful commodities and services for society.

Returning to the story of cold fusion, the field effectively died, where two Department of Energy (remember, their national laboratories are essentially dominated by physicists) panels, in 1989 and 2004, largely dismissed cold  fusion.  However, the window was left ajar in the more recent review for funding small experiments.  In 2009, the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society (of course) hosted several sessions on the concept.  To minimize controversy, they now call it low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR).  Well, nothing much came from this gathering.  But about a year ago, CBS News provided details on the E-Cat, a cold fusion machine in Italy.  Just last month, U.S. News and World Report headlined:  New Burst of Energy Could Bring Cold Fusion to Front Burner.  NASA has filed two patents and is working with Boeing for aircraft applications.  Stay tuned.  For up to date info, check with Cold Fusion Times and  Cold Fusion Now.

All I can say is, back to the Renaissance Project.  Plug-in EV's are not doing well and no one seems interested in my direct methanol fuel cell, so, what about a cold fusion powered car?

Finally, here is a fusion process that works, my sunset tonight:

Super Typhoon Jelawat, still at 160 MPH, is predicted by Stars and Stripes to weaken and strike Okinawa on Saturday, moving on to Kanto (Osaka/Kyoto):


Monday, September 24, 2012


Today my intent was to report on either heavy ion or cold fusion.  However, my 24-hour day as a Waikiki tourist did not end until 1PM today.  Scroll down to my Hawaii Five-0 experience and a wagyu dinner at the Moana.  Anyway, I had a great 9 hour sleep last night, something I try to do a lot, but only succeed once a month.  I then picked up some buffet breakfast food (free), and had the best brunch I've had since my $60 Japanese breakfast at the Four Seasons Hualalai.

That's the award winning Stanford Alumni 2002 Ventana Gold Stripe Chardonnay, something I've been keeping just this type of occasion.  While chardonnays are generally drunk early, this decade old bottle was just perfect with an eggs benedict topped with salsa and pesto, accompanied by a Portuguese sausage and fried white fish, with  hash brown potatoes and two croissants.  

I then decided to go swimming on Waikiki Beach, my second time in twenty years.

My shorts were slipping, but, hey, I'm not experienced at this.  Then, on my way to my car parked at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel, I just had to take the following photo:

I'll end with some photos sent by David Ikegami, hot air balloons at Capadoccia:

I'm still mulling over whether to join Ed Jurkens and his family at the Albuquerque Ballon Fiesta from October 6-14.  Hawaii plays away at San Diego State on October 6, so it is enticing to fly to Albuquerque after that.  Next an incredible scene from China (Zhangye, south of Mongolia):

Finally, 10,000 migrating rays (Holbox Island, Mexico):

In the East Pacific, Hurricane Miriam became a 120 MPH Category 3, but should weaken before plunging into Baha:

However, in the West Pacific, Super Typhoon Jelawat is now at the max, a Category 5, at 160 MPH, and has significantly changed its path towards Taiwan, but is projected to slightly weaken and veer north to Naha, Okinawa: