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Saturday, June 29, 2013

MY WAIKIKI MINI-VACATION: Sheraton and La Mer

From the Royal Hawaii I walked over to the Waikiki Sheraton and, after some discussion, was finally provided a suite.  Nice persistence manytimes works.  The reason why I had difficulty is that the suite upgrade was only a request, and I later saw an email indication that my request failed.  This will also be the case for the Moana Surfrider tomorrow.  Wonder if I should again play that nice persistency ploy.

The Waikiki Sheraton, with 1695 rooms on 31 stories, is the second largest in Hawaii, next to Hilton Hawaiian Village (3,000 rooms), which is just outside of Waikiki.  Amazingly enough, the Sheraton has no really great restaurant, catering mostly to the comfortable, but not the luxury class.


My Sheraton suite is huge.  It takes forever to get around the various rooms.  Even the bathroom is bigger than a typical hotel room in Japan.  The view from my fourth floor ideally points in the Diamond and Pacific Ocean direction, were it not for all those coconut trees:

Better yet, this hotel has improved the amenities for Platinum members.  After check-in they send you to a special room, where a paper bag is provided, allowing you to fill it as your gift.  If you pushed it, you could stuff in two champagne bottles, but I took only one, and added an assortment of chips and several energy bars.  Also, their Executive Club on the Penthouse is now called the Leahi Club and my status allows for free beer and wine, in addition to a nice buffet.  Others pay $35 just to enter.  The view is spectacular:


Only peanuts because next is La Mer at the Halekulani.  This is the entirety of Waikiki Beach:


That pink building is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, where I stayed last night.  The Westin Moana Surfrider, my Sunday night hotel, is halfway up Waikiki Beach.  This is an interesting photo because the shiny area is a perfect mirror image of the other side, Ewa towards the Honolulu Airport:


This is the largest executive club in the Starwood family. The buffet was very adequate, with a full salad bar and two entree items, one being a snapper dish.  You can ask for 90+ Wine Spectator wines for an added fee.

La Mer remains, to me, as the best restaurant in Hawaii, but perhaps now next to Vintage Cave.   They stopped giving that free initial champagne.  I ordered a Talbott Chardonnay and a Margaux Bordeaux:


I had the Menu Degustation, which began with a green asparagus vichyssoise, which was pleasant, followed by a foie gras with shiitake mushrooms, which was fabulous.  The abalone meuniere could have been further dried to get that abalone taste, which was missing:


The morel gnocchi was excellent, with a clarified sharpness that surprised me:


The filet of prime beef with foie gras, truffle spiced mashed potatoes and Perigueux sauce, was the highlight of the evening:


At this point I was already approaching supersaturation, so I asked for the rest of the courses to be delivered at the same time: warm comte cheese with shaved proscuitto, halzelnut cale with tomato ice cream, coconut with matcha (green tea) and mint sponge, plus petit fours:


You can't get the sense of the creativity involved with each, so here is just one:


I was entertained by the Sunset Serenaders and Radasha Hoohuli, Miss Hawaii of 2006:


That's House without a Key, of course, and that catamaran at the top is the Mai Tai, which should have been there yesterday (scroll down to the next posting):


But that was not all.  The Sheraton gave me a free drink at Rumfire, so I had a Waikiki Sunset:


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MY WAIKIKI VACATION: Royal Hawaiian Hotel

On the spur of the moment yesterday, I thought, why not spend a weekend in Waikiki.  Play tourist without having to fly to Hawaii.  

So I called the Waikiki Sheraton about what a Kamaaina (local) rate would cost on Saturday night.  The best price I could get was something close to $850/night because they were just about booked.

This shock inspired me to contact the Starwood Executive Club, to further inquire.  They were very accommodating, as for 16,000 points (I have more than 100k) I  learned that I could get a room on Saturday at the Sheraton, plus for $180 and 15,000 points, a room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for Friday and the Westin Moana Surfrider on Sunday.  I also got credit for three stays, which I'm accumulating to maintain Platinum status.  Then I was asked why I wasn't using my suite upgrades. Suite upgrades?  Apparently I had ten on my record and some were beginning to reach the deadline.  So, for those same rates mentioned, I got all upgraded to suites.  These are generally the last to go because they cost so much.  Thus, this will be a review of the best Starwood Waikiki suites.

All three hotels charge a $30 resort fee, which means free parking, and for me breakfast, free internet, and, at the Royal Hawaiian, a bottle of sparkling wine.  The Sheraton and Westin are yet to come.

Checking in was a breeze.  The Royal Hawaiian suite was quite large.  One TV set did not work, but I have two.  A lamp was broken, which is dangerous because the bulb is hanging out of the socket, and you can't see this as  you reach for the switch. The ice machine on this floor was broken.  The shower is very badly designed, and, can be lethal. The view was into a garden, and when I opened the curtains, the window was blemished with a gigantic bird crap.  They must be following me.  Click on my experience on Lanai two weeks ago.  The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific, or Pink Lady, because it is pink, first opening in 1927 and updated three years ago.  Tripler Hospital is also called the Pink Lady, for they share the same color:


Well, I also got a certificate for a Mai Tai at the Mai Tai Bar:


This bar claims to have invented the Shirley Temple Cocktail when she stayed here in the 1930's.  Chasen's of Beverley Hills is generally given this credit.  The drink is a non-alcoholic mix of ginger ale (sometimes lemon-lime soda is used), splash of grenadine and topped with a maraschino cherry.

I've never seen Waikiki Beach so crowded.  Tourism must, indeed, be doing well.  My table bordered Waikiki Beach, and the surf was up with a hundred surfers:


And I didn't realize that the foot of Diamond Head had so many coconut trees.


For dinner I went to Restaurant Suntory, a few minutes walk away, mostly to check if my bottles of Yamazaki single-malt and Tanqueray gin were still there:


My favorite bartender, Daryl, who has worked here since 1990:


The original owner of Restaurant Suntory, who has since passed away, has bottle #1.  The recently deceased Senator Daniel Inouye had bottle #2.  I have a number adjacent to them.  I ordered an ochazuke with maguro (yellow-fin tuna) and an individual teppan-yaki with angus beef:

This was the most satisfying meal I've had in some time.

As mediocre as my stay was here, the staff was wonderful.  When I asked to remain in my room until 4PM, the concierge said my suite was already taken for early check-in, but they would just set up another room for me if I wanted.  Return tomorrow for the Waikiki Sheraton and La Mer.  Then Sunday at the Moana.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL, BUT WE SEEM TO BE DITHERING


Let me close the week by concluding my reportage on  global warming:

1.  Mauna Loa Observatory on 4May13 measured 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.  This is the highest reading in 3,000,000 years.  In the sequence of human evolution, Australopithecus began appearing 3 million years ago.  On the top graphic, that is the human-like form nine images left of modern man:


No, that individual did not actually measure this concentration.  There are scientific techniques for making this comparison.

2.  This past week, the Yale Project reported:
  • Thirty-eight percent of Americans rewarded companies for taking steps to reduce climate warming.
  • Half of Americans at least occasionally consider environmental impact when deciding whether or not to buy a product and two-thirds say this is at least somewhat important.
  • Only 10% of Americans have bothered to contact a government official about global warming in the past year, and less than 10% of the public has done anything like volunteering time or donating money for the cause.
  • Thirty-three percent of Americans are disengaged, doubtful or dismissive about global warming.  Forty-two percent are either alarmed or concerned.  A quarter is cautious. 
3.  NASA and NOAA indicated that 2012 capped the hottest decade on record for global temperatures.Since 1880, the temperature has increased 1.4 F, and every year has been above average since 1996.  The American record for surface temperature was 54.3 F in 1998.  2012 broke that record by an entire degree Fahrenheit.  Said James Hansen (he is 72 and announced his retirement earlier this year after 46 years with Goddard) of NASA:


  Not only did [the U.S.] break the record for the warmest year, we literally smashed the record.

Any doubts about global warming?


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

IT WAS HOT IN THE USA TODAY, AND WILL GET HOTTER YET!

Let me continue my treatment of global warming with a map of the highs in the USA today:


(CLICK on the map to actually read the numbers.)  Not all that bad, actually, for:
  • the all time high for Death Valley (elevation -282 feet) was 134 F  (which is now considered to be the high for Planet Earth) on 10 July1913, just about a century ago, and it only went up to 122 F today, highest in the Nation.  
  • Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming got down to 38 F early this morning.  
  • Phoenix got up to 115 F, with 120 F expected on Saturday, not quite the 122 F record, but Sunday will be higher yet.  
  • Las Vegas only went up to 111 F, but 117 F is predicted for Saturday, which would tie their all-time high, and Sunday could be yet higher.
  • The highest for Hawaii occurred in Pahala (elevation 850 feet) on the Big Island in 1931, reaching 100 F.   Today was a comfortable 83  F with comfortable winds at the Ala Wai Golf Course.  Honolullu actually went up to 95 F in 1988.
So what can the USA expect over the next few days?


Thus, Death Valley could approach the highest temperature ever recorded.  Global Warming?  Well, the all-time high was recorded in 1913.

Around the world, Nokkundi, Pakistan only reached 118 F, Dal Bandin, Pakistan 117 F and In Salah, Algeria 116 F.  These are highs for tomorrow.  It is minus 88 F in University Wi ID 8904, Antarctica, but only minus 22 F in McMurdo, Antarctica.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

FINALLY, SOME MOVEMENT ON ADDRESSING GLOBAL CLIMATE WARMING...MAYBE

There is a tug of war between industry and government on the matter of global warming.  Barons of the private sector require virtually immediate results, or profits, whereas federal bureaucracies do have the luxury of acting for the longer term, as long as the next pivotal election is not compromised.

Five years ago, my Huffington Post article on:


pretty much explained it all in the United States.  Europe is not that much different, although they appear to be, in general, a tad more environmentally responsible.  China and India are driven by the need to economically catch up, so scientific logic is almost meaningless, something also essentially true in the USA, for disinformation campaigns bankrolled by the fossil industry actually work.  

A year after my contentious HuffPo, I penned:


Suggesting that a CARBON TAX was politically suicidal, so why not play the semantics game and call the whole thing a CREDIT program for the benefit of taxpayers.  Of course, it's the same thing!

So the years went by and nothing happened in the U.S.  Why?  The voters did not care, as underscored by the following Washington Post poll earlier this year:

2013-04-22 priorities
Global warming is at the bottom of the priority list.  Note also, in tune with my above HuffPo, the difference between Democrats (26%) and Republicans (7%).

So, it's no great wonder that President Barack Obama yesterday, realizing that there is no hope in Congress, and with the freedom to take action, for he doesn't have to run for office again, played the only card he had to preserve a shred of a possible environmental legacy:  he announced a curb on electrical power plant emissions to reduce global warming. 

What's behind this all is that the Clean Air Act a half century ago gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to control air pollution.  So last year the EPA promulgated rules, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down.  But the Supreme Court, which earlier already upheld the right of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, agreed to consider reversing this lower court decision, which holds up capping emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in 28 states whose pollution blows into neighboring jurisdictions.  According to the White House, this program would prevent 34,000 premature deaths and provide $280 billion in economic benefits.  These court cases are oh so confusing, but Obama is using his bully pulpit to incite the masses to also influence this upcoming Supreme Court decision.

Those Supreme Court decisions of late have been like a roller coaster ride.  First, they shocked the Nation last year by preserving Obamacare, then yesterday they turned back the clock on voting rights, and today bolstered gay marriage rights.  So what will they do about global climate change?  Remember, this is a conservative, or Republican, court.






 A typical sunset tonight;


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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

OUR RAPIDLY CHANGING WORLD


1.  I bought a SONY camera which is rated at 20.5 megapixels.  The memory card is a standard 8 GB.  I can take approximately 1250 shots.  Technology is whizzing past me.  Lexar now sells a 256 GB memory card, which is good for 40,000 photos.  It costs $900.  The Defense Advanced Projects Agency is using a 1,800 megapixels camera to peer down on us from space.


2.  How sober are designated drivers?  The latest info says that 40% of them drink before driving, and around half are at 0.5 grams per 210/liters, where .08 is the maximum threshold.  There is a move to drop the 0.8 down to 0.5.  Of course, any bit of ethanol can begin to distort your capabilities.  Here is the latest device (there are five of them in different colors), called the FLOOME, from Italy.  Costs $80.  No need for batteries, for you plug the results into your smart phone, which knows your gender, height and weight, then, if necessary, helps you contact a cab or personal connection.  There is a removable mouthpiece, so any number can be tested by cleaning it.

3.  In 1960 the cremation rate was 3% in the USA.  This figure has jumped to 42% today, and will reach 50% in 2017.  Mississippi is the low at 16%, while Nevada is already up to 74% (Hawaii is #3).  One reason why:  cremation costs $2,570, and you can get a decent urn for $100, while burial is at $7,745, then you need to purchase a plot, and put up a headstone.  TIME calls cremation the New American Way of Death.  Cremation rates:

  Japan        99.85
  Denmark   76
  UK            72


4. Do you worry that the "new" Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is perhaps not quite 30 years of age?  Two years ago I proposed to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, a plan for their energy future when I was asked to help review their future.  He is 61 years old, and just handed on the Emirship to his 33 year old son, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (left).  Tamim's older brother gave up his seniority.  A lot more peaceful this time, as Hamad bin Khalifa overthrew his father in a coup 18 years ago.  The new Emir's claim to fame is that he orchestrated bringing the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.  He has been on the Olympic Committee for more than a decade now, and is aiming to gain the Summer Olympics in 2024.  


Chances are very good that their citizenry will not be as fussy as that of Brazil.

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It is now Hurricane Cosme, now at 80 MPH.  However, this storm will fizzle in a few days.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

MONSTERS, SUPERMAN, ZOMBIES AND THE DOME


I generally avoid films featuring animation (thus skipping Monsters University, which was #1 for the weekend), vampires, zombies and comic book supernatural abilities.  Well, I went to two  of them anyway this weekend, but more for the technology:

                                Rotten Tomatoes
                             Reviewers  Audience   Technology

  World War Z            67             86           RPX and 3D

  Man of Steel            56             82           IMAX and 3D

WWZ came in #2 and MOS #3 this weekend.  RPX is the acronym for Regal Premium Experience:









The sound was louder, but the screen was not quite giant.  However, World War Z was entertaining and tense, with a sundry of technical flaws.  You've heard of avian flu.  People afflicted can infect others, and a certain percentage dies.  World War Z has nothing to do with a real war.  Brad Pitt plays a United Nations World Health Organization staffer asked to risk his life to find patient zero responsible for a pandemic where the victim becomes a zombie who runs around moaning and biting others, who then become zombies, and so forth.  Pitt fails, but there will be a World War Z2, and, in fact, a trilogy is now being considered.  Paramount was this film, Mission Impossible 5 and GI Joe 3 on tap for 2015.   I guess zombies are better than vampires, although that could well be WWZ4.  (Sorry, couldn't get rid of the following space and I'm due somewhere now.)
Man of Steel is about the beginning of this superhero.  The IMAX and sound system were special, with the seats vibrating more to create that effect.  That's Steve Reeves from the TV series to the left, and the darker Henry Cavill today.

Krypton is dying through resource management stupidity (not unlike what is happening to our planet with global warming).  Interesting that these people look exactly like us Earthlings.   However, compared to us, they are all supermen and superwomen. They also ride giant drangonflies because they can't fly on their planet. Through all this chaos, Krypton's resident brain, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife (Ayelet Zurer) have a real baby (too confusing for me to explain why this is extraordinary).  They send off their child as a newborn baby in a spacecraft to Planet Earth.  Nothing is shown about what must have been a magical ride from Krypton, or how long it took, but who, apparently, safely lands on a farm in Smallville, Kansas, and found by Kevin Costner (Earth father, Jonathan Kent).  and Diane Lane (Earth Mother, Martha).

Named Clark, the youth grows up confused and only once uses his powers to save a school bus.  Later, one particularly confusing coincidence is that he just happened to be working as an itinerant laborer in Alaska when the U.S. Government finds a 20,000 year old spacecraft from Krypton…pretty much in Clark Arctic backyard.  Let's see now, the budding Superman arrived 33 years ago.  The ship 20,000 years earlier.  Maybe here is where I might have fallen asleep, but, somehow, Clark finds a secret entrance, enters and, with a key placed by his birth father in the baby’s compartment, unlocks a hologram where he is told by his father the full story.  I guess Jor-El could gave transmitted this information to their 20,000 year old scout ship.  However, nothing is explained.  A little while later, this spacecraft flies away without Clark.  Huh?  Where did it go?  Really confusing, just like this narrative.  I must have missed a clue or two somewhere.

The S, incidentally, symbolized HOPE on Krypton, so Lois Lane (Amy Adams) just nicknamed him Superman, in contrast to the comic book series where there was a love triangle:  Lois loves Superman, Clark Kent loves Lois and Lois is kind of out to lunch.  Amy as Lois knew from the beginning.  How anyone could be so unconscious that Clark was not Superman was one of my grievances about the shallowness of comics.  At least the film had some sense.

Superman's real father (Russell Crowe) and Earth father (Kevin Costner) kept repeating how Kal-El (Clark's given name on Krypton) would Save Humanity on Planet Earth.  So why was he eternally limited to fighting Lex Luther, Atomic Skull and assorted villains in the dinky fictional town of Smallville, Kansas?  There are larger global problems.  Clues about MOS 2 and MOS 3 litter the movie.  Perhaps, maybe, Superman and Batman in the same film?  I'll make sure to skip that one.

Oh, yes, can't leave without a few words about CBS's Under the Dome showing tonight, 10PM EDT and PDT, 9PM in Hawaii.  This is the latest Stephen King novel made for movie or TV.  He is an executive producer, but the boss is Steven Spielberg of Dreamworks.  This book was only published four years ago, is 1,100 pages long, and as King can be quoted, killed a lot of trees.


I won't play spoiler (for this you can click to Wikipedia, which does give everything away).  But I can say there will be a lot deaths.  Some have speculated that King wanted to highlight the Bush-Cheaney relationship, warn about global warming and sustainability and dabble with the cannibal mentality.  It is all that, of course, and should keep you occupied this summer on boring Monday evenings for 13 weeks.  Of course, you can also use your DVR to skip the commercials and watch on boring Thursday nights.

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The tropical depression west of Mexico now has a name, Cosme, and at a strength of 55 MPH, is heading towards Hawaii.  Tomorrow Tropical Storm Cosme becomes a hurricane, but by Thursday should begin weakening.


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