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Saturday, November 30, 2013


I saw three miracles today, all in the American game of college football.  The day began with Ohio State beating Michigan 42-41 by intercepting the ball on the final play, before 113,000 spectators, preserving an undefeated regular season, something deserving of at least a micro-miracle.  Earlier this year, 115,109 was officially announced when Notre Dame visited Michigan.  That was the largest college crowd in history.

Michigan Stadium (above), incidentally, has drawn more than 100,000 for every football game since 1975.  Strahow Stadium (left) in Prague seats 250,000, Rungnado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang can handle 150,000 and Salt Lake Stadium in Calcutta (no, make that Kolkata) has a capacity of 120,000.  The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hosted 400,000, counting people inside the track.

At 289th place is Aloha Stadium with a capacity of 50,000, joined by 30 other stadia.  Anyway, this is where Hawaii competed against Army before a rather sparse crowd. Between the two teams there are three victories, all won by Army.  I should add that Hawaii has about the worst run defense in the world and Army is the #1 running team in all of college football.  Some of you remember I went all the way to Annapolis to see Hawaii lose to Navy.  There was also the none win in Las Vegas.  Yes, I was there, too.

Today started horribly, when Willis Wilson, a reserve running back for the Hawaii team, drowned this morning.  How does a team react to something so tragic?  Well, the second miracle of the day was Hawaii beating Army, 49-42, for Wilson.  In any case, this has to be considered at least a minor miracle, for 1-11 is a whole lot better than 0-12.

The real story of the day was the Iron Bowl, with juggernaut and #1 Alabama against the official miracle team of the year, Auburn.  THE PAST FOUR WINNERS OF THIS GAME BECAME NATIONAL CHAMPS!!  Miracle #3, thus, was Auburn pulling off another (they also did something equally amazing two weeks ago) incredible play at the end of the game to win:  Alabama tried a 57 yard field goal with the game tied 28-28 and one second remaining...but the ball did not quite make it to the goal post, only 8 yards into the end zone, which Auburn freshman Chris Davis caught and ran back 108 yards for a touchdown, with no time remaining, meaning the final score was, then, 34-28:

This epic game for the ages means that if Auburn pulls off another miracle next week, against Missouri, the whole team will attain sainthood.


Friday, November 29, 2013


Of course, the first question should be:  Is there a Heaven?  For the sake of this posting, let us, for now, assume there is some elysian, celestial, paradisiacal place after death.

CNN's Anderson Cooper has a Special Report, To Heaven and Back, at 7 and 10 PM (Eastern time, or 2 and 5 PM Hawaii time) on Sunday, December 1.  This will mostly be about that return from Heaven experienced by orthopedic surgeon Mary Neal (above) in 1999, but more.  Two years ago Dr. Neal wrote a book, Heaven and Back:  A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again.  Four years ago Todd Burpo had Heaven is for Real:  A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, and just last month, Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven:  A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife.  These near-death experiences are not uncommon, but to have two surgeons publish their stories provide some real life credibility.

But what does Heaven look like?

If you're in New York City, you can stand in line for a long time to spend a few minutes at the David Zwimer Art Gallery to view Yayoi Kusama's "I Who Have Arrived in Heaven" Exhibit:

Yes, that's Kusama above.  Somehow, I'm not particularly convinced that she has any pipeline insights into anything like a Heaven.

This is Friday, I should heed the admonitions of my readers to keep my postings as short as possible, but I feel compelled to at least balance the subject.  Most Americans believe in a Heaven:
  • From Gallup poll:
  • A Fox poll says 87%.
  • The True Life in God Foundation reports that 62% believe in Heaven...and think they are going there.
  • Pew survey indicates 75%.
  • ABC poll shows 90% of people in the USA believe in Heaven.

I pointed out this huge discrepancy in my religion chapter in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.  Like it or not, here are my views on the matter of Heaven:
  • Of course there is a heaven, like there is love and the world wide web.  The concept is in our minds, throughout the ether and is as real as life itself.
  • Those individuals in those books, I believe, sincerely portrayed their experiences.  Sure, they went to their minds.  I have dreamt of Heaven in strange, and usually colorful ways.  
  • Love is a chemical reaction, with oxytocin being a key compound in your brain, which can be confirmed through brain scans.  The notion of heaven can similarly be proved to be real by scientists.
  • However, when you die, these chemical reactions stop.  Memories, Heaven and life forever enter the realm of eternal gloom.  I suspect the color of Heaven is black.


Thursday, November 28, 2013


During the past week I seem to have focused on birds:  the Mockingjay, a Pueo and, of course, Turkeys, with today being #3.  So to continue this trend I start today with the Maltese Falcon.

There is that 1930 book by Dashiell Hammet, rated #56 by the Modern Library among the 100 best English-language novels, featuring Sam Spade, for Hammet's birth name was Samuel.  The first Maltese Falcon was filmed in 1931 starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam.  

Little is known of a 1936 Satan Met a Lady, with Bette Davis and Warren William, with the latter playing Sam Spade as Ted Shane.  Click this to watch the whole movie, and Davis actually looked good, while the bird was a horn.

Then came in 1941 the blockbuster, Humphrey Bogart's Maltese Falcon, with Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet (his first film) and Mary Astor as that femme fatale.   This could well have been the first Film Noir (stylish Hollywood crime drama with sexual motivations).  Find Walter Huston in this version.  Rotten Tomatoes had TMF at 100% for reviewers and 92% for audience like.  

Finally, in 1975, The Black Bird with George Segal, who plays Sam Spade, Jr. in a satire.  Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a 57% rating, though the audience liked it, 93%.  Interesting that this version did better with moviegoers, and no one  has s seen it.

Okay, so what exactly is this Black Bird, or Maltese Falcon?

In 1539 the Knight Templars of Malta, paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels——but pirates seized the galley carrying this priceless token and the fate of the Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day——[8]
Introductory text appearing after the film's opening credits

Well, this lead statue is 12 inches tall, weighs 45 pounds and was just sold for $4,085,000 to an unidentified buyer.  This was the one original from the 1941 film.  The Knight Templar's version?  You would think that if you went Malta, there would be foot tall souvenirs of this bird?  Nope.  Apparently, like Dan Brown's Holy Grail, these were mostly convenient historical references to conjure imaginations.

Of all the things, this original figurine apparently was on a piano in a 1932 film with John Wayne (he was 25 years old) entitled Haunted Gold.  You can, actually purchase a lighter replica for $100.

Oh, by the way, there is a $150 million Maltese Falcon, but it's a ship:

While almost a football field length, the largest is the 557 ft long Eclipse, owned by Russian Roman Abramovich (only 47, he started selling rubber ducks from his Moscow apartment--had to link with a bird), worth more than $1.5 billion.

I had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Betsy and Harvey Lee.  Of course, scotch, champagne and white wine preceded and segued into the meal.  Here is Turkey, not Harvey, but the almost totally consumed bird to the right:

Daughter Minda, with May, and Leona:

The astonishing thing is that Minda and I talked at length about 15 Craigside, for she (and note how young she is) and her husband James, are already planning their  future life, and 15 Craigside is something they have already looked into.  Leona was my ride home.  There is benefit to not driving if you drink.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Yes, the East Coast is having a really cool late Fall (for the record, the astronomical winter begins on December 21 and ends on March 19--so if you think its cold now, most of you have a lot more months to get worse--by the way, USA Today yesterday had Naples, Florida as the hottest city in America at 80 F...actually, Honolulu hit 83 F).  As this is Wednesday, "Hump Day," let me again link you to the cool GEICO camel.  By the way, that shirt costs $37.

The University of Hawaii West Oahu athletic teams will be known as the Pueos, which are Hawaiian owls.  Owls are the second smartest bird next to parrots and symbolize wisdom, so that's cool.  However, there is a reason why there is a term called "birdbrain."  Chimpanzees are #2, next to us humans, with parrots at #4 and owls #12.

What is the color of our Universe?  Watch this really cool video on the answer.  Is it black, rainbow or latte?

So the correct answer is Cosmic Latte, but watch that clip.

About outer space, Comet Ison will either make it or not around the Sun tomorrow.  After all, this is merely a dirty dry ice ball (about the size of a small mountain, 3 miles in diameter with a tail said to be 186,400 miles long) making a turn only a million miles from the surface.  If Ison survives, it can became the coolest heavenly event ever (some astronomers have even indicated 15 times brighter than the Moon) or not, with the current science predicting that at best this comet might, just after sunset, rival Venus.

So far, then, this Wednesday has been, with camel, owl, universe and tail of comet, kind of brownish.  But the color most associated with Wednesday is green, so let me skip to the five coolest renewable energy projects:
  • Solar-powered toilet
  • Energy independence on a sausage farm
  • Solar-powered vodka distillery
  • The Driblet
  • The Race to Save the World:  a documentary
Of course, Thanksgiving colors are BROWN and orange, but Hannukah is honored in Blue and White.  So how many of you knew that in 2013, for the first ever since the beginning of Thanksgiving, and maybe last time ever, Thanksgiving and Hannukah, also known as Chanukah (they have the same pronunciation, with a sort of guttural vibe at the beginning), will overlap?  How incredibly cool is that?

We all know that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and as the fourth Thursday of the month.  President Barack Obama today pardoned Popcorn.  While Thanksgiving began with the Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe in 1621, and, perhaps as early as September, it was President George Washington who proclaimed November 26 as the day of thanks.  Later, President Abraham Lincoln in 1963 issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November as the day, making this a national holiday.

But retailers complained to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that in 1939 the fourth Thursday fell on November 30, reducing Christmas shopping by a week.  Yes, in those days the private sector was concerned about profits, and they, too, like today, had some clout.  So FDR had another Thanksgiving Proclamation that year and specifically set Thanksgiving in 1939 to be November 23, pissing off a lot of people, such that many referred to that November 23 as "Franksgiving."  Officially, it was President George Bush the Elder, who in 1989 pardoned the first turkey.

Hannukah is a whole different kind of thing, eight days long because the original ceremony just had enough oil for the holy light for eight days, and beginning around 2,500 years ago during the Syrian-Greek versus Jewish war.  The reality today is that if you light a candle every night during this period, you can go about your normal business...but these sessions provide a great excuse for parties, usually with food fried in oil, such as donuts and latkes (potato pancakes).  Further, can you believe olive oil has been used for millennia?  Presents are also given each night.  On the other hand, here is a really cool way for Jewish parents to maximize the more important parameters of life, such as gratitude, respect and the like.  They're not idiots, you know.

Note that this candelabra, called a Menorah, has room for NINE candles.  Now you know something that can be useful if you are ever on Jeopardy.  Click on this article to find out why nine.  The Huffington Post had a particularly inappropriate posting on hilarious Menorahs, including a Mel Gibson version, plus a special Hannukah bikini show. 

Okay, so about this cool intersection in time when the first Hannakuh candle will be lit on Thanksgiving Day for the first and last time ever, actually, this coincidence will occur again in 2070 and 2165...but never again if the Jewish lunar calendar, which is out of sync, is eventually adjusted to the present solar calendar.  This Thanksgivukkah thanks to Jonathan Mizrahi of Sandia National Laboratories.

How truly cool is this?  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed, again, at a record high, up 25 to 16,097.  Why?  Unemployment claims dropped and the leading economic index went up.  The 10-year treasury note slipped to 2.743%, good for lower inflation rates.  I was going to say, frankly, I'm getting worried.  Should I wait a bit or get out now before something crashes.  But that is not a cool feeling, so let me delay this discussion.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I was sent two bits of information by colleagues, one dealing with an award, and another, a plea for fusion.  Let me start with the First Deep Ocean Water Applications Society Prize bestowed on Yasuyuki Ikegami of Saga University in Hualien, Taiwan by DOWAS President Masayuki Takahashi, formerly from Tokyo and Kochi Universities.  As the two photos sent to me could not be inserted here, let me replace a photo of the three of us when we recently met in Kailua-Kona:

That's Professor Ikegami in the middle.

Chuck Helsley (left), President of Fusion Power Corporation, sent me a paper he and Bob Burke, Chief Technology Officer and Board Chairman of FPC, recently published entitled, Economic Viability of Large-scale Fusion Systems.  Bob and I actually worked at Lawrence Livermore at the same time under Edward Teller on inertial confinement fusion, although we didn't know each other then.  For some reason (Chuck wrote me why), I could not virtually link their paper, so here is the abstract, which apparently is okay to show:

Economic Viability of Large-scale Fusion Systems

Charles E. Helsley and Robert J. Burke Fusion Power Corporation

8880 Cal Center Dr., Ste 400 Sacramento, California, 95826, USA Tel: 1 916 438-6910


A typical modern power generation facility has a capacity of about 1 Gigawatt electric (GWe) per unit. This works well for fossil fuel plants and for most fission facilities for it is large enough to support the sophisticated generation infrastructure but still small enough to be accommodated by most utility grid systems. The size of potential fusion power systems may demand a different viewpoint. The compression and heating of the fusion fuel for ignition requires a large driver, even if it is necessary for only a few microseconds or nanoseconds per energy pulse. The economics of large systems, that can effectively use more of the driver capacity, need to be examined.

The assumptions used in this model are specific for the Fusion Power Corporation (FPC) SPRFD process but could be generalized for any system. We assume that the accelerator is the most expensive element of the facility and estimate its cost to be $20 Billion. Ignition chambers and fuel handling facilities are projected to cost $1.5 Billion each with up to 10 to be serviced by one accelerator. At first this seems expensive but that impression has to be tempered by the energy output that is equal to 35 conventional nuclear plants. This means the cost per kWh is actually low. Using the above assumptions and industry data for generators and heat exchange systems, we conclude that a fully utilized fusion system will produce marketable energy at roughly one half the cost of our current means of generating an equivalent amount of energy from conventional fossil fuel and/or fission systems. Even fractionally utilized systems – i.e. systems used at 25 percent of capacity, can be cost effective in many cases. In conclusion, SPRFD systems can be scaled to a size and configuration that can be economically viable and very competitive in today's energy market.

Electricity will be a significant element in the product mix but synthetic fuels and water may also need to be incorporated to make the large system economically viable. Co-location of large energy consumers such as metal or chemical refiners and/or processors also needs to be considered.

Key words: Economics, fusion, synthetic fuel, energy cost, CO2 utilization 

Their chamber features a hat trick:

Note that not only electricity, but synfuels and water are also potential marketable products.

I still think the direct methanol fuel cell is the way to go for ground transport.

Note that Fusion Power Corporation is touting profitability--FUSION IN OUR TIME--not a 100-year plan.  If you want to read the paper, invest in this effort or desire additional details, please contact Chuck at the e-mail address above.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up to 16,120 today, but settled only up +0.26 at 16,073, breaking, yes, the all-time average.

Tropical Cyclone Lehar is now at 85 MPH, will further strengthen, and slam into India Wednesday night: