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Saturday, May 31, 2014


Hilo Bay was the aloha setting yesterday for 29 dedicated crew members.  It was more than a year ago that I posted on the upcoming world tour of the Hokulea (left), a replica of a wa'a kailua, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, and Hikianalia (right), the larger and younger escort vessel:

Hokulea, built in 1975, is named after the star Arcturus, which passes directly over the Big Island.

Hikianalia, built in 2012, is name after the star Spica, which breaks the horizon with Arcturus in Hawaii.

                                             Hokulea      Hikianalia

Displacement                       12.5 tons       30 tons
Draft                                      2' 6"              6' 5"
Weight                                  7 tons           10 tons
Carrying capacity                  5.5 tons        20 tons
Cost                                      $125,000*     $ 1 million
Mast height                           31 feet          40 feet
Beam                                    20 feet          23 feet
Length                                   62 feet         72 feet
Main sail                               300 sq feet   400 square feet
Water carried                        250 gal         220 gal

*About $0.5 million today.

Over the next three years the canoes will travel west the equivalent of twice the circumference of Planet Earth on 25 legs, visiting 85 ports in 26 countries.  The return will be dependent on the weather and potential tribulations like major ocean storms, pirates and gigantic tankers.  Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson (here with wife Kathy Muneno, news anchor for KHON2, and one of their twins)  will be the navigator and lead for at the least the first leg.  While he is 58, many of the 300 sailors scheduled to join the journey are under 30.

No instruments will be used.  Sailing by the stars means, to get to Tahiti, Thompson (who from 1976 learned from Mau Piailug of Micronesia) will need to traverse a distance from Maine to San Diego using Polynesian navigation:  sun, stars, winds, clouds, seas, swells, birds and fish, but add astronomy, intuition and everything else.  Speed?  Watch something in front of the craft, count the seconds, and divide by 25 to get speed in knots. How would you like to be the person in charge of distance traveled.  One degree off, and they could be in Antarctica.

You can track the global adventure of the Hokulea and Hikianalia at the web site of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

The world tour will cost more than $12 million.  Funds to complete the journey are still being sought:
  • Hawaiian Airlines provided up to 32 million miles of travel for the crew.
  • Outrigger Hotels and Starwood each offered half million dollars,
  • Matson will ship anything for them.
  • Bank of Hawaii, $100,000.
  • Office of Hawaiian Affairs, $300,000.
Hokulea has already travelled 140,000 miles over the past 39 years.  This next 50K will be a worthwhile challenge, bringing Aloha to the World.


Friday, May 30, 2014


Fridays and Saturdays are the slowest days for this blog site.  I thus attempt to experiment on those days.  As most people who know me lament the length of these daily musings, I have created something called bonbons, usually short and light information gems, mostly in frivolity, like those chocolate creams.

Clint Walker of Cheyenne fame is 87.  Keir Dullea, that youngish space pioneer of "2001:  A Space Odyssey," is 78.

Heard of Yeni Sleidl, the 23-year-old Weed Fairy from Seattle?  She passed out 50 fliers in her neighborhood over the Memorial Day weekend, each with a nugget of marijuana, but might not be aware that in the State of Washington:

You can have this marijuana on your person, but can’t open it, display it, or use it in public.

Unlike in Colorado, Washington has not yet started selling the stuff.  Where did she get this weed?  Perhaps she had delivered to her a sample ($70-$90 per quarter ounce--either she's quite affluent, or those nuggets must have been micro-sized), which, apparently, is not illegal, but will become so when the state gets around to licensing retail outlets.  In case you haven't been keeping up with this topic, you can probably make 15 joints out of a quarter ounce.  Stay tuned for Yeni's dalliance into the world of civil infraction.  Further, the first legal business license was issued in March to begin cultivating Mary Jane.  There were 22,200 retail applications, and 334 pot shops will eventually be approved.  The first could well open next month.

There is a local matter of selecting the next University of Hawaii president.  I  have served on various searches for deans and higher academic officers.  They were all flawed in some way, yes the candidates plus the committees, but more so, the process.  It is too complex to detail this here.  It is very difficult to find the right person for any leading position.  President of a university might be the most onerous of them all, for that individual needs to deal with an impossible range of constituencies.  Let's face it, the current search has failed.  To end up with David Lassner (right), who is the current acting-president, when on first appointment it was at least hinted that he wouldn't be considered for the full role, and Army General Frank Wiercinski, who has never ever been associated with any academic institution, as the best the world has to offer, is embarrassing at best.  There is only one solution today:  start over and name Lassner as the continuing interim-president.  Why?  The latest news today indicates that the Board of Regent will not give the selectee a defined contract, at a mediocre salary and no vote of confidence.  Ridiculous!!!

China is continuing to loosen up on their one-child policy.  Click on that for details, but this shift will mean 2 million extra babies per year (a lot more than the total population of Hawaii at 1.4 million), where 2013 saw 18.5 million births.

The reason for this relaxation is that the country is getting too old.  Can you imagine China with fewer people than the U.S. (314 million)?  Here is the difference between one child and two (note:  depending on the country, it could take more than 3 births per female to attain stability--the replacement rate is probably around 2.2 for China, thus the decline to less than a billion in 2100 even if every female delivers 2 children):

The column to the right, of course, is in billions.  In my incursions into China I noticed what should have become a motivational problem.  As there is only one, this child is over loved, catered to, spoiled and more.  I wonder how productive they have become?  Here are the fertility rates for the World:

For that one person who made it this far, notice that red dot in the midst of aqua and green?  Of all the countries, that is Afghanistan at 6.16 births/women.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit another all-time high today at 16,717.  Why?  Don't know.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

TRANSITIONS: Part 12A--Return to the University of Hawaii--The Pacific International Center for High Technology Research

Two and a half years into my Senate assignment, I received a letter from President Fujio Matsuda of the University of Hawaii.  He basically said, a long time ago the UH only allowed him a three year leave, so that must be the policy, or something like that.  Senator Matsunaga had given me a rather hefty raise in anticipation of this ultimatum.  However, I did not want to give up tenure, and, frankly, it was time for me to strike out on my own. so I went home.  I never did, but I should have thanked Fuj, for the 80's and 90's at the University of Hawaii were my most productive.  This three year experience in the U,S. Congress provided the base from which I could develop a fabulous academic career.

The difficulty I had in this transition had to do with real estate.  Early into our stay in Skyline Towers (interesting how things have changed, for this luxury complex is now dominated by Muslim owners, and it is reported they cheered 9/11), we saw an ad for a lottery (these were the days when demand far exceeded supply in DC) for those desiring to live in Montibello, a future condo to be located on the only hill south of Alexandria:

With the Potomac River to the right, the apartment I "won" had a view of the Washington Monument.  We kept visiting the site to see the building grow.  A particularly attractive feature was that the new Yellow Metro Line terminated at the development as the Huntington Station, and was to open just about when we had access to Montebello.

Unfortunately a month before our move, I got that fateful letter.  To make a long story short:
  • Our Honolulu condo, Coronet, was leased for another six months.
  • We had to sell our unit in Skyline Towers.
  • We had to sell our unit in Montebello.
I returned a few weeks early to find something, and my real estate agent, Stan Lizama, indicated to me that an interesting penthouse just was made available an hour ago.  So we went to Penthouse A2 in Craigside, and I immediately decided to purchase it.  The building had just opened, the partners only owned the Penthouse A units, but one of them just put his up for sale.  We had special house rules on our floor, which still prevail.  That was 32 years ago.  After a couple of trying years, I was able to sell the other three properties.

A few months before I left DC, the new dean of engineering, Paul Yuen, dropped by my office, and we brainstormed the thought of creating our own funding agency.  We wanted it to be international to focus on technology transfer.  Here is how the organization unfolded:
  • I asked Senator Matsunaga to give a talk to the American Society of Civil Engineers, proposing this concept.
  • Governor George Ariyoshi liked it, and submitted a bill, calling the organization the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (which should have been called the Pacific International Center for Technology Transfer).
  • Various Hawaii Senate chairmen, Ben Cayetano, Richard Matsuura and Ann Kobayashi, and the Hawaii House, supported the bill, and at the end of the session we had a sum of money to start  PICHTR.
Click on PICHTR to read the details.  However, I repeat from one of my earlier postings (with a couple of updates) just one of a hundred things we had to do for PICHTR:

During the mid-80's I visited Tokyo a number of times, giving speeches at various universities and  government agencies about PICHTR.  One meeting in particular was key, for Professor Yasuo Mori of the Tokyo Institute of Technology accompanied me on a visit to Ambassador Mike Mansfield (left).  Senator Matsunaga, who was a former colleague in the Senate, had alerted Mansfield about this meeting, so the Ambassador magnanimously let us use his limousine to take us to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and, further, asked his secretary to call that office to announce our arrival.  We were royally welcomed by a host of officials, taken to a conference room, where the director of Second North American Desk scolded us for twenty minutes.  SCOLDED US FOR STUPIDITY!!!   This never happened again in my life.

Essentially, he said we were doing this all the wrong way, and what we had to do was ask President Ronald Reagan to tell Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone that our countries should work together on this project.  Before I could ask any questions, he stormed out of the room and the meeting was over.

Luckily, the assistant, Shinichi Nishimiya (left, who is today the Japan Ambassador and Counsel General to New York City--he was named the future Ambassador for Japan to China, but a few years ago, soon thereafter, suffered a heart attack and instantly passed away) , was present, and he asked that we later meet to discuss this matter.  On the ride back to the American Embassy, I was distraught, but Professor Mori was in awe and ecstasy.  This is where experience and cultural differences come into play.  Mori said this was the first meeting he had ever been in with a Japanese government official where he told us exactly what to do.  But, sure, what were the odds of a Democratic senator getting a Republican President to do anything?  Anyway, I did a couple of days later have a long three hour lunch with Nishimiya and briefed him on the effort.  Very unusual meal, for we started with a bottle of white wine, and finished with cognac while the staff was just standing, waiting for us to leave.  This was lunch.

A few months later, in 1986, Senator Matsunaga, a Democrat, voted with the Republicans on a free trade bill.   President Ronald Reagan rewarded Matsunaga by asking him to catch a ride with him to the Tokyo G8 Summit.  Matsunaga's administrative assistant called me and asked what favor should Matsunaga ask of the President.  I indicated OTEC and PICHTR would be ideal.

On Air Force One (the plane itself is now at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley) Matsunaga wanted to ask the President to support a U.S.-Japan project on OTEC, but Donald Regan guarded the door to the President's area.  When Regan went to the restroom, Matsunaga knocked on the door.  Nancy answered, and Ronald was putting on his pants, but they told him to please come in.  Matsunaga gave them a book of proverbs and asked the President to please support the OTEC/PICHTR project.  Returning, Donald Regan was in controlled fume about the nerve of Matsunaga to bother the President.

Unfortunately, Reagan was already showing symptoms of dementia, but fortunately, National Security Agency head John Poindexter (right) was present.  His grandfather was a former governor of Hawaii (in fact, he was the governor who telephoned President Franklin D. Roosevelt about 7December1941 attack), and with a wink, Poindexter indicated to Matsunaga that he would follow-through.  Surely enough, in the meeting with Nakasone, the first item on the agenda was the PICHTR OTEC project.  They agreed in principle to cooperate.  The interpreter was Shinichi Nishimiya, who, when he returned to his office, wondered what to do, as no money and period were mentioned.  So he arbitrarily wrote in his report that Japan would provide a million dollars/year for eight years towards the PICHTR OTEC project.  Every penny was awarded.

During my decade or so as Vice President of Development (Paul was President), the programs I directed secured approximately $50 million in grants, mostly to build an OTEC plant (left) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority and a biomass-to-methanol facility (right) at the HC&S Paia sugar factory on Maui.  The key members of those teams went on to work for the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute of the University of Hawaii, and are still there.  I might add that during this period PICHTR did not pay me a cent, although I did have a generous travel budget, one reason why I am currently headed for 3 million miles on Star Alliance.

PICHTR still functions today and provides funding for technology transfer.  Included among their current projects are:
  • Energy Excelerator
  • Hawaii Health Information Exchange
  • Hawaii Technology Development Venture
  • National Disaster Preparedness Training Center
  • UH-PCSU - Environment, Ecosystem Management and Conservation
In many ways, they remain poised for another glorious attempt to Save Planet Earth and Humanity.

NEXT:  Part 12B--Development of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Well, in the USA, Barack Obama is still president, although Gallup has his job approval at 43% and Rasmussen says 49% of U.S. voters approve of his job performance.  On the other hand, Australians last year ranked Obama as the most admired world figure.  However, #2 was Julia Gilliard, who no longer is prime minister.  Amazingly enough, last year, compared to Russia, China, the European Union and Germany, Obama was #1 among these other world leaders in approval:

I didn't realize Vladimir Putin was that unpopular in his country.  However, you got to wonder who Gallup polled, for:

The results of the poll, conducted by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) earlier this month, showed that Mr Putin’s approval rating had increased from 82 per cent to 85 per cent since April, and by more than a third since the beginning of the year.

By the way, candy tycoon Petro O. Poroshenko will become the next president of Ukraine.  He is a pro-European billionaire, and bested former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.  Poroshenko's victory speech had at  his side, leader of the street protests, former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko.

Presidential politics, Egyptian style, is efficient.  Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi removed elected President Mohammed Morsi in a "popular revolution," not, according to el-Sissi, a military coup.  Today is the second day of presidential voting, which the Muslim Brotherhood is boycotting, and it will not be a surprise if he wins, in fact, it will be a shock if he loses.  However, maybe military rule is best today for the country.

The king of coups, however, is Thailand.  Since 1912, there have been 30 attempts.  Since  1932 there have been twelve successful coups.  The latest is not a military coup, according to the Thai Army.  Mind you, soldiers now carry roses, but it was, for martial law was declared last week.

Heading this all is General Prayuth Chan-ocha.  He kind of looks like FM el-Sissi and appears to have the same hat.  I was in Bangkok around a quarter century ago when there was another military coup, and, as the Thai and American governments could not officially communicate, I helped serve as a courier of information between the U.S. Embassy and the Thai equivalent of the Department of Energy.  Made a lot of good friends and we later worked out a research and education exchange program.

The latest effort to depose Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (left) resulted in 30 killed, 700 injured and my early departure from Bangkok last month.  Yingluck's brother Thaksin also experienced an Army takeover in 2006, after which he went into exile.  It's as simple as this, their beloved 86 year old King Bhumibol Adulyadej (who is Rama IX and has ruled for 68 years--Yul Brynner's King was Mongkut, Rama IV), the Thai Army and the "ruling class (oligarchs)" are comfortable with each other.  Thaksin's rule was supported by the poorer and downtrodden throughout the country.  The traditional order has now been restored.

How are the tourists doing?  Visitors are down, and the curfew from 10PM to 5AM is generally being followed, but click on this article for the exceptions...and there are many.  The military won't allow anyone to close the international airport, so feel free to go.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TRANSITION: PART 11--On to the U.S. Senate

I was working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory during the summer of 1979 when I got a call inquiring if I would be interested in a position with U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga, as Dr. Takeshi Yoshihira (here to the left with his wife Elva and son David, a Navy Captain, in 2001--my recollection is that Tak was the first American of Japanese extraction to graduate from Annapolis), Matsunaga's energy specialist, had indicated he had decided to return to Hawaii.  Talking to Cherry Matano, Senator Matsunaga's Administrative Assistance, if I wanted to be picked up when I arrived, I was told to land at National Airport (it was renamed the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in 1998), for the second energy crisis was at peak and gasoline was a scarce commodity.  National is about ten times closer (3 miles - 26 miles) than Dulles International Airport.

Moving a household is always painful.  We leased our apartment in Honolulu and purchased one in Skyline Towers in Falls Church, where across the street one way was Arlington, and the other, Alexandria.  However, parking was a problem, so I had to catch a bus to the Metro in Ballston, then on to Union Station.  

I reported to the main office in the Russell Building, and they showed me to my office across the street, where, of all the pleasant surprises, my officemate was Bill Baldwin, the plantation manager who  had introduced me to Pearl.  He had retired and joined Sparky as his Sugar Man.  In the next office sat general counsel, Ed Ing, who nearly two decades later became Chairman of the Board of the American Wind Energy Association, and later, Harvey Meyerson (who actually came from Representative Cecil Heftel's office), who wrote The Mars Project.

Next to my job at Hutch in the sugar industry, this was my second toughest.  You show up at 9-ish AM, but many times come home at 9-ish PM.  There are receptions to go to two or three nights a week.  You must wear a jacket and tie, with real shoes.  You never catch up responding to constituent mails, but quickly learn how to write really fast.  There were times when a floor speech was needed in half an hour, or less.  And it has to be ABSOLUTELY correct, for this is eternally in the Congressional Records (actually, you can later go back and amend anything).  You seal relationships with "friends" in the U.S. Department of Energy and other departments.  Staff in the U.S. Congress become lifelong partners, and even some Senators.

I was totally intimidated at the beginning, but quickly learned.  My first day at work, Senator Matsunaga asks me how he should vote on a crucial issue.  Turns out that, with rare exceptions, all Senators and Representatives vote exactly how his specific staff tells him to vote on any issue, in committee and on the floor.  I think this was incredible, but I don't once remember advising him in a manner that was embarrassing.  Considering that I was guessing most of the time, I place this performance among my finest.  In fact, I would categorize this as a major miracle.

I helped write original legislation for hydrogen, ocean thermal energy conversion and wind power, all becoming law, setting the stage for these national programs.  I still remember advising Sparky to stop by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on one  of his next visits home, and he did.  Upon arriving in DC, he told me to draft a hydrogen bill.  I asked, how is this related to fusion, and he said, idiot, a renewable energy hydrogen bill.  Apparently, the people at Livermore wanted something like this to balance their Death-Ray and other exotic nuclear exploits.  Lockheed Martin, it turned out, with former President of that company, Willis Hawkins, and Dan Brewer, who wrote the definitive book on Hydrogen Aircraft Technology, providing expert advice.  The result was the Matsunaga Hydrogen Act.  One major reason I was sent to Congress was that many of us in the '70's realized that Hawaii was so dependent on the tourist industry, that we just had to find a replacement for conventional airliners.  While this legislation resulted in the $2 billion National Aerospace Plane, nothing much has happened since our original success in 1980's.

How our Congress works is that the private sector provides the experience and knowledge to write most of the legislation.  Then they testify to support it, all the while providing campaign funds to make sure their supporters get re-elected.  This is where I got to realize that certain industries almost totally controlled Congress and the White House.  For example, even though the Cold War ended more than two decades ago, we keep expanding our defense budget because of the Military-Industrial Complex.  President Dwight Eisenhower, as you know, in his final speech in 1961,warned us of this danger.

After three years of this rather stressful experience, but balanced with Concerts on the Mall, forays into New York City, tulips, fall colors, cherry blossoms, incredible meals subsidized by lobbyists, and all the pomp and circumstance of DC, where I watched Ronald Reagan on one of his State of Union Addresses in the U.S. House, went to the White House, attended a Supreme Court session, and I can go on and on, the University of Hawaii informed me that, after three years, I had to return or lose tenure, I came home to Hawaii.

Next:  my most productive years as Director of Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and Vice President of Research for the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research.

In case you were wondering, Hurricane Amanda is a hurricane no more.