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Friday, May 31, 2013

USA TODAY AND THE HIGH COST OF BEEF?


For the past year now I've been a daily subscriber of USA Today.  Why, I'm not sure, for the information is redundant.   I most enjoy reading it when traveling internationally.  Our "National Newspaper" is approaching a third of a century old,  having been first published/founded by Gannett/Al Neuharth.  It is the widest circulated print newspaper in the Nation.  How many of you noticed that the original logo (left) was this year replaced by a new one (right and above)?

So today, the front page headline article was:


Why?  The current drought has increased feed costs, and reduced available grass.  Hamburger, for example, is now at $3.51 per pound: 


Care to speculate on what $1.25 in 1984 is worth today, including inflation?  $5, yes, five dollars.

The more expensive steak today averages $4.81/lb.  Certainly not a big deal, as people generally buy this food item, anyway, mostly on a whim  or to celebrate something.  In Japan, the best wagyu (left, wa means Japan and gyu is cattle--they can be black or red) beef sells for $500/lb (in a restaurant--below, a typical price in a market is $250/lb), fifty times more than in the USA:


The best of the best is an unbred female cow, where the fat is mostly monounsaturated (which is good) from Matsuzaka, and the animal is only black (left).  I traveled through this area several times on my adventures with Rainbow Pearl International, and can only agree.  It's all in the marbling, which in the U.S. is 6-8%, but in Japan, at least 25%.  More than anything else, this heavenly fat develops from a secret blend of high quality grains, including soybeans.  It is said, save for a limited lifespan, they live the life of an Emperor, being also fed beer/sake and massaged, living a life of total relaxation, listening to classical music.  Hmm...reminds me of myself today.  The most expensive cow in Matsuzaka cost $392,000, and that was in 1989.  Kobe beef, which started this demand, "only" sells for $170/lb.


All the above brings me back to the USA and the debate about grass versus corn fed beef.  First, though, you need to sort through whether you can afford those organic and humane kept cattle, and what breed, like Angus and Wagyu (yes, also sold in the USA, but almost never from Japan).  However, Japan has exported to the U.S. wagyu stock, and the photo above is from the Chisholm Cattle Company in Texas.  Clearly, the fat from grass-fed varieties are safer for your health, with more omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, higher levels of antioxidants and up to seven times more beta-carotene.  For those not into nutrition, these are pluses.  Read the details here.  Thus, grass-fed beef is good for your health and, also, for Planet Earth.  Some of this sounds almost fishy to me, for that Wagyu Japanese beef is fed grain, like corn, and also claims the same features as grass-fed beef in America.  

A surprise to me, but in the U.S., grass-fed beef costs more, plus is tougher and not as tasty (to me, anyway).  Now, which one would you buy?


During my stay with Connie and Harry Olson in Denver last month, we went through this purchase (Whole Foods--and yes, grass-fed was more expensive than corn-fed, by $3/pound--but they both cost in the range of $20/lb) and taste tests.  We had both grilled, and the corn-fed was eminently edible, while the grass fed variety was tough, and not so tasty.  I understand, though, that sirloin tips from cattle less than two years old can be relatively tender.  To give equal time to this option, I send you to Joe Salatin on You Tube.

But, aha, which type of cattle flatulates (farts) more methane, the gas that is featured in THE VENUS SYNDROME?  According to Salatin...this global warming gas released is about the same, whether grass or grain fed.

So to conclude, the inflation adjusted price of beef has DROPPED over the past thirty years.  Why didn't USA Today point this out?

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

WORLD TOUR OF HOKULEA AND HIKIANALIA


Having just returned from My Ultimate Global Adventure (MUGA), it is only appropriate that I post on the four year plan of two Hawaiian canoes on their plan to circumnavigate the planet:  Malama Honua --Care for the Earth--Worldwide Voyage.  MUGA took me over 51 days, 35,354 miles to six countries.  Yes, my carbon footprints were embarrassing.  Hokulea (below, left) and Hikianalia (rightsorry, but I've chosen not to add marks between and above letters), after a series of tests, will sail 47,000 miles, stopping in 28 countries, returning in mid 2017.   I only went to large cities.  H/H will be powered by the winds and sun and spend time in 85 ports, mostly island harbors.  How safe will it be?  The Hokulea has already sailed 138,000 miles.










It was a third of a century ago in 1975 that the Polynesian Voyaging Society of Hawaii built a double-hulled canoe, Hokulea, of plywood, fiberglass and resin.  The craft is 61 feet 5 inches long  with twin masts and can hold a crew up to 16 for long journeys.  Steering is by a long paddle and her top speed is 7 miles/hour.  Navigation is purely by observing nature: the stars, currents and birds.  There was no one in Hawaii with this capability, so the Society convinced Mau Piailug, of Micronesia, who spoke very little English, to teach them.  Five others refused. The first voyage was to Tahiti and back

Hikianalia has electric motors powered by solar photovoltaics, is 72 feet long and was built in New Zealand last year.  The Okeanos Foundation for the Sea paid for the ship.   Hokulea (Arcturus--Star of Gladness) and Hikianalia (Spica) are sister stars that rise together.  Spica is an interesting celestial body:  blue, 250 light years away, the 15th brightest star and part of a binary system (two stars, which can't be differentiated except for slight luminosity shifts corresponding to their close orbits).  Arcturus is 37 light years away.











It was in 1992 that Pinky Thompson, his son, Nainoa, and NASA astronaut, Lacy Veach, classmate of Nainoa at Punahou, planted the seed for the Malama Honua.  Since then, both Lacy (1995) and Pinky (2001) died of cancer.  According to the articles by Gary Kubota of the Star Advertiser and Hawaii News Now:

1.  The effort will cost $30 million.

2.  100,000 students are expected to track the canoe's journey online.  Go to:


3.  400 crewmembers are training to join the sail.

4.  For the next year, the Hokulea and Hikianalia will tool around the Hawaiian Islands, making 30 stops to honor the local communities and show gratitude.  First, Hilo for koa planting and other activities.

5.  Then in May of next year, they head for the South Pacific.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WEEKEND AT THE MOVIES


Just before I began My Ultimate Global Adventure, I went to five movies on the same day.  How many of you can say that?  Surely enough, did not see any films until this weekend, when I went to:

                                        Weekend         Rotten Tomatoes        My
                                        Revenues     Reviewers  Audience    Grade

Fast and Furious  6                 1                72             95               B+

The Hangover Part 3               2                21             88               B+

Star Trek into Darkness         3                 87            89                B-

Ironman 3                               5                78             83                B

The Great Gatsby                   6                50             84                B-

#4 for the weekend was Epic (I avoid animated films.)

None of these movies can be considered as great, but they were all entertaining.  I saw a couple of them in that audio upgraded Titan XC.  Kind of expensive, but why not splurge on occasion?  The sound is terrific, but not much better than my home systems when I'm brave enough to kick the volume up.

Why only a B+ for F&F 3?  Too many car crashes.  Those only upset my equilibrium.  In these days of green screens, computer animation and general safety, they actually used 300 cars, and many, many were destroyed.  The final scene from Fast and Furious 6 was commercially promotive, for driving in Tokyo the Mercedes killing of Hans Seoul-Oh of the good gang was Jason Statham (right, to play Ian  Shaw in F&F 7) brother of Owen Shaw, leader of the heist gang, who was killed in F&F 6.

There will be no Hangover 4, but, you never know for sure.  The script was a stretch, and the film did not meet box office expectations.  Those original Wolfpack four played their parts okay, especially Zach Galifianakis, but Ken Jeong (left) was wonderfully manic and added some spice.  He actually is a medical doctor on a long sabbatical.  Not, not in the movie as Leslie Chow, but in real life.

There most definitely will be a lot more Star Treks, perhaps film #13 in 2015, with #14 squeezed into 2016, the 50th year of Star Trek on television.  The most commanding character in #12 was Benedict Cumberbatch's (right) Khan, a genetically engineered superhuman.  Why only a B-?  I'm not a Trekkie.  

Only a B for Ironman 3?  Lots of high tech and action, good, but I'm at the stage of my life where super-duper performance beyond any reasonable logic leaves me cold.  I dump vampire movies into this pot.  Ben Kingsley was a surprise as the "evil" Mandarin, and you need to see the movie to appreciate this statement.  The acting star no doubt, though, was Guy Pierce
as Aldrich Killian (right, I'm giving this away, but he is the truly bad guy).  Gwyneth Paltrow could well be Iron Lady in the next sequel, but Robert Downey, Jr is indispensable.   He has said he won't be part of Ironman 4, which will be filmed, as #3 has already made more than $1 billion worldwide.  Maybe Downey is seeking more than $50 million for #4.  The real winner of all these Marvel Comic (company formed the year before I was born) movies is Disney, which bought them out.  The list includes Spider Man, X Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Daredevil.  Growing up reading these comics I could never have guessed.

I generally enjoy Baz Luhrmann's opulence and overplay, and Leonardo DiCaprio was fine.  I liked the reality of the ending, but F. Scott Fitzgerald could have had a more twisted and satisfying ending.  He did not write a sequel to The Great Gatsby, so, that should be the end of that.  On the other hand, many of those follow-ups above featured creative modern-day screenwriting.  But Jay Gatsby is killed, so what's the point?  Many English classes read this book, but I never did, and never will.

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Out of nowhere came Hurricane Barbara, just now at 75 MPH and ready to plow north into a mostly isolated part of south Mexico, then, interestingly enough, into the Gulf of Mexico to become.....?


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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CHEF CHAI AND THE GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA

Chef Chai Chaowasaree has had a remarkable career.  He appears all the time on television:  Dining Out with Chef Chai and Passport Hawaii.  He is executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines and designed meals with Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya pairing the wines.  In the 1990's he was one step away from being deported back to Thailand, but got a last-minute reprieve.  How's this for a bio?  He has worked for Hawaii's governor, prime ministers of Thailand and Indonesia and the King and Queen of Malaysia.  

Ed with Chef Chai:


I ordered the group special with a gin martini on rocks, followed by a glass of cold sake, ending with a glass of Sterling Meritage.  The first course was abalone:


The abalone was soft enough, a bit salty and lacked that distinctive taste that can only be coaxed if reduced properly.  An excellent salad was the second course. Below, my steak and Ed's gigantic scallop soup of some sorts:


The desserts of a chocolate crunch and a flight of creme brules might have been the hit of the night:


If this looks sparse, we had just about finished the chocolate and two of the three brules.  Jacob did a wonderful job of tolerating and handling us:


Chai, give him a raise!  We then walked to the Concert Hall.

In 1920 Glenn Miller was the best high school end (football) in Colorado.  That year he started his first band while in high school.    He then flunked out the University of Colorado, played gigs, joined several groups, one, Red Nichols' orchestra, where bandmates were Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa, and also served with the Dorsey Brothers.  Finally, in 1937, he formed his own band, which failed.  A year later, he developed a unique sound, where a clarinet played the melodic line with a tenor saxophone, while three other saxophones harmonized within a single octave.  Tuxedo Junction sold 115,000 copies in one week and Chattanooga Choo-Choo was his first gold record.  However, his theme song was one he composed in 1939, Moonlight Serenade.  There were two films.  Then at the peak of his career in 1942 he left to join the military (Captain Miller below).  Two years later, he disappeared on a flight over the English Channel.

There are numerous conspiracy theories on his death.  Ed mentioned that he heard an Australian pilot indicating that he might have mistakenly dropped a bomb on Miller's plane over the English Channel.  One documented file is that he was on a mission for General Eisenhower to discuss with German generals a peace plan, but was captured and killed.  For the public, he is still officially listed as missing in action.  General Jimmy Doolittle said, "next to a letter from home, (Miller) was the greatest moral building in the European Theater of Operations."  Of course there was "The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart.

Ed had a lot of war stories and mentioned that when he was leader of a squadron on Guadalcanal around the time Glenn Miller was in London, Joe E. Brown (Some Like It Hot  and Showboat) came by for a show, and indicated to Ed that his (Brown's) son was killed on an aircraft carrier before he was able to fly his first mission.  So Ed invited him to join his flight that night.  To make a long story short, higher authorities dinged the plan.

Speaking of Ed, I had his December 7 date all wrong.  He did keep it, but ended up marrying someone else he had known since the second grade.   However, after she passed away a few years ago, he re-entered a close relationship with that first lady, until she too recently passed away.

So, anyway, the Miller Estate authorized various Glenn Miller "ghost bands" since 1946, the first led by Tex Beneke, who, apparently, had no association with Beneke toilet seats, but reached a disagreement with the Estate and went his own way.  There are now various  orchestral versions around the world, the group playing tonight from California.

The 26 performers we saw were excellent and played more than two hours of pure nostalgia, taking Ed back 70 years:


I thought these non-professional three college students playing the Andrews Sisters were the hit of the show.  The hall was just about sold out.  Outstanding meal and concert.  A great night.

Oh, yeah, the Dow Jones Industrial Average again broke its all-time high, up 106 to 15,409.  For the year the Dow has increased 2,305, or 17.6%.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

WHAT TO DO ON MEMORIAL DAY

I've posted on the meaning of Memorial Day on several occasions, and today will again walk up to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) inside Punchbowl (looks like Diamond Head, and is close to my apartment):


Perhaps a mile away, but by the time I get there and back, sometimes, creatively, I'll probably walk five miles.  Before starting my journey, my views towards downtown Honolulu and below that towards the airport:


This is the general direction (southwest) where at sunset over the next few days there will be various conjunctions of Venus, Jupiter, Mercury and Mars.

Twenty five minutes into my exhausting walk, as it was mostly uphill, I see Diamond Head and downtown Honolulu:


A few minutes later I made it to the entrance of the Cemetery:


At the opposite end way in the background is Lady Columbia or Lady Liberty (there is controversy here, but let me not get into it):


The statement is from President Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, who was the mother of five sons thought to have died in the Civil War:

     I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln
It later turned out that "only" two sons died and Mrs Bixby was a Confederate sympathizer.

Here is a view looking back to the entrance from Lady Columbia or Liberty:


There were beautiful flowers:


That is my apartment (tallest one) in the background:


The columbariam area was memorable, for the enclosed sections and concentration of flowers carried an overpoweringly intoxicating fusion of fragrances:


I might also note that I saw a most unusual hibiscus, perfectly hued for this site:


Everyone should visit these memorials every so often to appreciate what freedom means.  Thirteen thousand are interred here and 1.25 million gave their lives creating and protecting our nation, half, actually, just in the Civil War.  A little more than 400,000 died during the Second World War and about 1% of that total more recently in Iraq.  While you can argue that these recent wars were minor, a budget up to $3 trillion was mostly wasted, when much of this sum could have gone to our infrastructure, education, sustainable energy and the environment.  I have become a Peace Monger, and I urge you to click on my Huffington Post articles advocating a 10% Simple Solution for Global Peace.


The day is not over.  In a couple of hours I pick up my almost centenarian friend, Ed Jurkens, for an early dinner at the new Chef Chai located across the street from the Neil Blaisdell Center, then we walk over to a Glenn Miller Orchestra concert with 26 performers.  It is just about sold out.  This will take us back 70 years.  Who is Ed Jurkens?  Well, on December 7, 1941, he had a date with a girl in Ohio.  As a member of the Army Air Corps, he had to report to base because the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.  No problem, he found  her a couple of years ago, and they had their date.  That's Ed Jurkens.

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