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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

MUGA Day #36: Denver to San Francisco

On the way to the Denver International Airport we stopped by Steuben's for the Olson's to have their lobster sandwich.  I had a French Onion Soup, salad and habanera corn:


I also had a bottle of beer brewed a few blocks from this restaurant, which is derived from Boston on Boylston.  Thus, the lobster sandwich.

Checking in was a breeze, and on my way in the United Club, I noticed that it costs $395/year to be a member.  I got a lifetime subscription for flying 2 million miles.

This  United Airlines flight from Denver to San Francisco had their new DirectTV system.  If you're in economy, there is a charge, I think.  I hope this is merely an experiment, for there are huge flaws:

1.  In row 1, the TV screen is way too small.  They need to have a screen at least four times larger in area.

2.  The right side of the earphone did not work.

3.  The 100+ live TV channels, just like cable, featured only New York City stations for the news.  They need to expand the selection to the arrival city.

4.  Worst of all, I wanted just to rest and listen to some music.  No can do on DirectTV.  You would think that a simple button could allow access to the normal audio channels.

To their credit, they were showing some fairly recent movies.  Hopefully, these bugs will eventually get worked out.

I might finally add that the deluxe cheeseburger with some kind of chicken soup, a small glass of red wine and a Heineken meal was quite good.  Tomorrow my day in San Francisco.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

MUGA Day #35: My Day in Denver

I'm staying at Connie and Harry Olson's home just outside of Denver.  Here they are to the left on my roof for dinner last year.  In my first 15 hours in Denver, I actually slept for 13 hours.  I have never in my life had so much sleep.  I must have been exhausted, being 14 hours away from Beijing four days ago and 8 hours from Frankfurt three days ago.

Connie is a practicing psychologist and has worked at Rocky Flats and for Coors here in Colorado.  In Honolulu, she was acquainted with Linda Yamamoto, my cousin, who also is a psychologist.

Harry was the Spark Matsunaga Fellow in Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of Hawaii and headed the geothermal program for the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.  For a decade or so he explored for geothermal potential on the East side of the Big Island.  We also dabbled a bit on the prospects of drilling for hot water near Makena on Maui for resort potential.  Harry, Mike Cruickshank and Charles Morgan helped establish the Department of Interior's Marine Mineral Technology Center at the University of Hawaii.  They were interested in deep seabed minerals, where rare earths are now of potential value:


Today we had lunch at the Elephant Bar:


Then Harry and I caught the RTD from near his home into Union Station in Denver.  Hard to believe that the high-rises of Denver below are at least ten miles away:


This was the first regular day of operation for this W (for West) line.  The cost was $4/person, one way, although on the return we paid $2/person as seniors.  Connie, though, who couldn't come with us, said she thought the cost should have been $1.10.  There are now six lines.  The W line has stops at Sport Authority at Mile High Stadium, or something like that:


This is where the Denver Broncos of the NFL play.  This line also stops at The Can, where the Denver Nuggets NBA franchise performs, and Union Station is a close walk to Coors Field of the Rockies baseball team.  This 16th Street makeover is working out wonderfully.  I stayed at the Sheraton ten months ago a mile or so away on 16th from Union Station, but a free bus service runs quite frequently from Union Station to just past the Sheraton.

For dinner we satisfied our debate on the best steak.  We went to Whole Foods and got two kinds of rib eye:  the corn fed one on the left and grass fed version on the right:


Now, which one would you prefer, the well-marbeled to the left, or lean meat on the right?  To my disbelief, the one on the right, the grass-fed rib eye, cost $3/pound more.


Connie said the corn-fed cattle are not humanely treated, while the grass-fed ones are free to roam, so in the interest of these animals, she consumes (although only rarely) the lean, tougher steak, and doesn't mind paying more.  Harry leans in her direction.  I thought their grass-fed steak looked puny, and "my" marbled steak tasted better, plus, it was cheaper.  Okay, I must admit that the extra fat in my steak shold unhealthier.  About the ranch treatment factor, well, it's something to consider.

I might finally add that there is something called wagyu beef from Japan (left).   The best sells for $250/pound, and looks a lot closer to my steak than the Olson's.  There is also no inhumane treatment, for some of these cattle are massaged and fed beer. Sometimes known as Kobe, but also said to be better from Matsusaka and Omi, medical studies apparently have shown that this specific cattle has a genetic disposition that yields a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and, the marbling has a higher ration of monounsaturated fats relative to American beef fats.  However, all signs indicate that the Kobe beef sold in the USA is NOT the right one from Japan.  In fact, most of wagyu beef in the U.S. is from the U.S.

Tomorrow, I'm off for San Francisco.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

MUGA Day #34: DC to Denver

I arranged for Super Shuttle (they operate out of 35 airports and I've had good service from them at other locations) to pick me up this morning for a total cost after tip of $35.  The taxi coming in to town was $75.  I'd recommend this shuttle, but arrange for an earlier pick-up because you could well be the first one on the van, and after a search for half a dozen others, you might still be in the District after an hour.

This a pivotal decision day for me.  My very first posting occurred on 29April2008.  If I continue, I'll be entering my sixth year with Google.  Not one person has told me, don't quit, what you do is too important and too interesting.  On the contrary, a couple of close friends who actually read my blog indicated that they could understand why I might want to move on to other things.  

I did terminate my Huffington Post articles after exactly four years and more than a hundred postings.  It was like graduating from college.  I felt I contributed doing it, but they don't pay you anything.  My sense right now is that I will continue on with SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY until My Ultimate Global Adventure (MUGA) is completed, then I'll decide if I might want to terminate or not.  Maybe I'll look upon this effort as finishing up graduate school, as the total time from freshman year to PhD was seven years.

United's Club is a composite of their Red Carpet Club and Continental's President's Club.  The huge difference is that beer, wine and many other alcoholic drinks are now free.  I tend to tip a buck, as you do when you are on a slot machine in Vegas, but you don't need to do this.  Remember how the Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Frankfurt had a dozen or so different kinds of peanuts and snacks?  United's has none, zero, at least at 11AM.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

MUGA Day #33: Further Adventures in DC

I only had a few hours free today so I walked around my old office area, starting with Union Station, visited by 40 million/year:


Philip Hart Senate Office Building, where I toiled:


A few yards away, the Capitol:


Across the street the Supreme Court:


The Washington Monument, being repaired because of severe damage caused by the 2011 5.8 magnitude earthquake:


There are tulips and azaleas everywhere, including this darkish variety:


Every couple of years I return to this city, and usually have Gloria's triple martini at the Vaduses.  Here,  Joe, Gloria and the McLains, Cliff and Judy:


We returned to Normandie Farms:


I've been eating too well, so this is all I had:


Escargot and Caesar salad, while the others mostly had prime rib to celebrate Prime Rib Day today.  The highlight of the encounter, of course, was the discussion.  I was overmatched on gun control, but held my own on biofuels from solid waste.  We wondered where were the ocean visionaries today.  We could not name one up and coming Spilly or Craven.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

MUGA Day #32: My Day in our Nation's Capital

The weather today was fabulous.  Sunny, with the temperature up to almost 70F.  Tulips are in bloom.

Washington, DC is my third home.  #1 of course is Hawaii, while #2 is the Bay Area, for I went to school at Stanford, worked at the NASA Ames Research Center and spent two assignments at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  At the end of MUGA (My Ultimate Global Adventure), I have a ten day period planned for a mini-class reunion in Napa, following a week of golf in that general region.

Pearl and I spent three years in D.C. working for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga in the 1979-82 period.  I arrived during the heat of the second energy crisis, and left when President Ronald Reagan decimated the national solar program.  Both oil and gold prices rose to the highest level (in 2013 dollars) in history in 1982.

We lived in Falls Church, where across the street one way was Alexandria, and the other, Arlington.  The commute to the Senate was too painful, so we entered a lottery for an apartment to be built on the only hill south of Alexandria where the Yellow Line was to terminate.  We won and our apartment would have had a view of the Washington Monument and the Potomac River.


It all came together (apartment and Metro) in 1982 when the University of Hawaii told me come home or lose your tenure.  So we returned to Honolulu.

I took a quick walk this morning to the White House:


There was only one protester:


She was pleading for Peace.  Sometimes I feel like she does.  No one seems to be listening.


 I then had lunch with Claudia and Suresh Patil at Prime Rib (did you know tomorrow is Prime Rib Day?), Zagat's #1 rated steakhouse in D.C.  This was our first time here (they also have restaurants in Baltimore and Philadelphia).  We were impressed.  The Patils had a $28 lunch special of a salad, entre and dessert.  They chose the house salad, flounder and creme brulee and key lime pie desserts:


I had a Lehman Shiraz, Caesar salad, prime rib (it was a very, very large piece) and creme brûlée, with a cappuccino.

The whole bill for the three of us with this posh decor and prime location was less than many of my lunches on this trip.  This was among my three most enjoyable meals, enhanced by the discussion I had with the Patil's, who moved here from Honolulu eleven years ago.  Their two children work very close to their home in Reston, with their daughter high up in the Lockheed Martin administration.  She was the first person through her parents to send me LM's agreement with China on OTEC.  LM cancelled their 10 MW OTEC project in Hawaii.  Click on that link to read the details.

I had dinner with Michael Champ at Jaleo, mentioned by the Washington Post to be the best tapas restaurant in the country.  This rather large establishment was packed with people, where it was difficult to even walk around.  After a long wait we finally got our table, and when  we had completed our discussion to Save Planet Earth and Humanity, it was midnight.


 Consider that yesterday I started six time zones away and 12 hours only three days ago, it was a miracle I was still coherent.  Mike has had a remarkable career, with a PhD dissertation building ponds, and now at the twilight of his career, building ponds and solving the world's water problems.  His Lexus license plate reads DoctorPond.  In between, though, he did everything else from teaching to working for NOAA, the DOD, NSF, etc. to flying around the world. 

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

MUGA Day #31: Frankfurt to DC

For those new to this series, MUGA is he acronym for My Ultimate Global Adventure.

The Style Section of the International Herald Tribune had a cutting edge article on "The New Sao Paulo."  This was one of my stops last year, where I had a memorable meal at DOM.  The same edition had an even better one on "The Reincarnation of Seoul."  Knowing now what was said, my two days there would have been different.

I really hesitate to share this paragraph because it borders on the absurd.  My engineering mind says there is no afterlife and all those paranormal phenomena are essentially bunk.  However, more recently, I've noticed that when I tell my mind to do something, it sometimes works.  My body is like the United Nations, every part is its own nation, and they don't sometimes work together all that well.  Golf is a prime example where no matter what I say, it doesn't matter, there is little coordination.  However, I've found that sometimes simple health strategies do lead to a positive conclusion.  Last night I awoke to a sore throat.  In the past, this would almost surely have lead to a cold or flu.  So I convinced my mind to tell the rest of me that we've seen this virus before (even though this was just made up), so every action should be taken to eliminate these invasive alien viruses.  An hour of intense thinking led to me going to the bathroom to spit out what looked like phlegm.  The white corpuscles had done their job.  There was a slight fever, and some coughing, but I was able to go back to sleep.  Then, this morning, I felt a tad weak, but essentially okay with no sore throat.  I don't want to cough on the plane, as my flight leaves in a few hours to Washington, D.C.  Was this a dream?  No, I think I really mentally stopped a cold from forming.  I tried Google and couldn't find anything even remotely credible to what I'm saying.  Anyone else ever tried this?  Oh, that brain diagram is just an unnecessary diversion.  I didn't focus on any one part of this organ, but maybe I should experiment with this concept by targeting sites to improve my golf game.

I checked into Lufthansa four hours early, hoping for an extraordinary First Class Lounge.  It started rockily, for I was told, after getting my boarding pass in all of one minute, to bypass immigration, take the escalator down one floor, walk to the end of the taxi queue, through the taxi parking lot, and enter the next building.  After five minutes of  observing where taxi drivers eat into an area of an airport that one never sees, and asking a Lufthansa pilot where the First Class Lounge was located (he wasn't sure), I finally somehow made it to a building that showed some promise.  If it were raining or snowing, I'd be wet.  Entering the door, there was an empty room with nothing but an elevator.  No signs.  So I caught it up, was warmly greeted and entered the best First Class Lounge ever, even exceeding the Uber Silver Kris Lounge of Singapore Airlines.  However, Thai Air shuttles you to their First Class Lounge.  Lufthansa needs to upgrade this part of the experience.

There was a full kitchen to order whatever you wanted, from Western to Asian.  I had a simple egg over easy with one piece of bacon and some baked beans, with a Bloody Mary.  I noticed that the list of champagnes and wines was remarkable, plus there was a wide assortment of single malt scotches.  I had a 21 year old Aberfeldy.  A bottle costs around $135.

I hooked up my computer with ease, the first time on this trip.  Everything worked well, and the speed was really quick.

I still have two and a half hours before my plane departs, so I wonder what else I'll be eating and drinking.  The snack selection is excessive:


There is another section for the same great mac nuts I had on my trip from Beijing to Frankfurt.

The room is shifting from breakfast to lunch, and someone just placed a menu on my table.  There is now available for your pleasure: parma, jamon iberico, a wide assortment of vegetables, seven kinds of salads, Scottish smoked salmon and nine types of desserts... to accompany two soups, including Tom Ka Gai (Thai chicken soup with coconut milk), and Seared Filet of Beef, Wiener Schnitzel, Ravioli ai Fungi, Chicken Penang, Classic Beef Wok and Grilled Pike Perch.

Well, I decided to have the Thai soup, to which I added some Johnny Walker Blue Label and had a glass of Taittinger.  The soup was so good that I had the second soup, some garlic thing, and added a small seared filet:


I could also have gone to the food bar:


There is a very large cigar smoking room here, with free cigars and free cognacs:


I gave it a thought and felt that the horrible smell on my clothes would not be worth it.

Half and hour before flight time, we were driven to our waiting Boeing 747-8, their newest plane:


There were only two of us in First Class.  The menu was very similar to the flight from Beijing to Frankfurt, plus I was already stuffed.  So all I had was the caviar...


...champagne and a spot of vodka.  I didn't eat this all for fear of getting sodium poisoning.  Eight hours into the flight I picked at a Japanese box of sushi, with some hot soup and hot tea, plus a glass of beer.  I watched German and French films.  My first view of the USA was New York City in the background:


The plane landed at Dulles, and the whole process only took a few minutes for me to catch a cab into D.C.  However, this cost was $75.  I also found the worst St. Regis in the world, the one in DC, where I am staying.  If the Beijing St. Regis is a 10, this one is a 3, or less.   It is old, there are no evening cocktails, no free breakfast, no water in the room, no room slippers, nothing.  However, it is one block from the White House and next to the McPherson Square and Farragut North Metro Stations.  The Washington Monument can just about be seen in the extreme right side of my hotel:


Plus, there were several receptions going on, so I stepped into one and had a glass of Chardonnay.  One thing I learned in my years here is to look official while you walk right past the check in list...or, if that looks too challenging, look lost and wander around.  This second method also nicely allows you to cut in line if there is one for the best food.  Either of these two techniques should work most of the time.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MUGA Day #30: My Day in Frankfurt

People from Frankfurt are called frankfurters.  Likewise, hamburgers are those from Hamburg.  Frankfurt Airport is home to 500 companies with  more than 70,000 workers (half with Lufthansa).

 The city of Frankfurt (Cathedral dedicated to Saint Bsrtholomew finished in the 15th century) has a bit more than 700,000 living here, although the urban area has more than 2.3 million, and the metropolitan region is approaching 6 million.  It is the financial and transport center of Germany, has 12 of the 13 skyscrapers (more than 150 meters or 492 feet tall), and is the richest city in Europe by GDP per capita.  Frankfurt is ranked as the #7 most livable city by Mercer.

Taking a cue from Grant Burgess, a colleague from Scotland who seeks food named after the city (i.e., frankfurters from Frankfurt), I asked my concierge where was the best restaurant to have this sausage and what alcoholic drink should be drunk with it.  A frankfurter has the official name of frankfurter wurstchen, is filled with pork and was trademarked in 1860.  It is about the same color, but is a little skinnier and tad longer than an American hot dog.  Unfortunately, there is also frankfurter rindswurst (which might be fatter, as to the right), made of beef, and whole slew of frankfurter stuffs (for example, frankfurter kranz is a cake) that have nothing to do with a sausage.  Anyway, Gerbermuhle was recommended, and he marked an X on my map.

If I had simply gone there, had a frankfurter, and drank some apple wine (wine made from apple, around 6% alcohol), there would be no memorable experience.  But life is not so simple.  

First, I got off two train stops too early because this urban transport system, to me, is confusing, and worse.  For example, what is written on the train map is not shown when the train enters the station.  You have no idea where you are, unlike in Beijing, where their subway announces everything in Chinese and English, has a real time electronic board throughout the train showing where you are, and clearly marked in large print throughout the station in Chinese and English is the name of the station, and the next one.  From the airport to the middle of Frankfurt (7 miles), the trip cost around $6.  In Beijing, for this distance, it would have been 30 cents, 20 times lower.  Plus, the Chinese trains are relatively up to date and clean.  Not the same for Frankfurt's system, and the trains were dirty.

In mild panic, I got off at Hauptbanhof (which is the largest railroad station in Germany) instead of Haupwache.  So, walking to my restaurant took forever.  Walked by the Willie Brandt Plaza to the right.  However, when I got to the X spot, the whole area was excavated.  What happened was the city renamed some streets, which never got brought up to date on the map I was presented.  My concierge missed by about a mile.  After frantically trying to figure out what to do, I hailed a taxi, (which I didn't know is just not done in this country), taking me to this restaurant for $8.  

The travails continued in Gerbermuhle.  I ordered a Frankfurter Cheese, which was the closest thing to what I thought was that sausage.  The waitress confirmed that this dish included a frankfurter.  But that is because we didn't communicate well.  I also had a plate of white asparagus with butter, an apple wine and a glass of beer:


You see something missing?  No frankfurter, for it turns out that Frankfurter Cheese is a cold cheese in vinegar topped with raw onions (on the left).  There is also a "funny" smell and taste which did not agree with me.  After a while I wondered when the sausage was coming, so I asked the waitress, who indicated that the cheese was the frankfurter cheese.  But she finally understood, and brought me a frankfurter:


I show my famous thumb to give a sense of proportion.  The perspective of the shot is why the top looks smaller than the bottom.  I thought it was amusing that they used Heinz mustard.  In any case, this was the best frankfurter I've ever had.  The whole meal cost around $40, but only because those asparagus spears were priced at $26:


Can you imagine a plate of asparagus just about equivalent to all that food at Maison Boloud

All in all, I rather enjoyed my German meal.  Not sure if I would ever come back to Gerbermuhle, for it is not close to any subway station and does not serve the standard frankfurter as a mentioned menu item.

My walk back was an adventure, and took approximately four miles because I headed for the wrong train station.  Looked to me like there was a goodly number of cherry blossom trees in bloom (see photo at the top):


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