Total Pageviews

Monday, March 30, 2015


Today, two natural disasters, one, an ocean storm already showing to be catastrophic, and the second, a volcanic eruption that seems to be stalling.  Five months ago I posted on:

Well, apparently not, for the U. S. Geological Survey changed the alert level from warning to watch.  This was the danger then to the right.  As recently as March 10, there was still serious concern, below::

However,  while there remain breakouts upstream, Pahoa appears now to be, at this time, not directly threatened:

Kilauea (from where the Pahoa flow emanates) has been constantly providing lava for around a third of century now, and I was there on 3 January 1983, golfing at the Volcano Golf and Country Club, when the first eruption occurred very close to where I was playing.  However, in most ways, what is happening in Hawaii is almost insignificant, for there is considerable world volcanic activity today.  Here is a widget providing details:

  • Pacific Ocean:  26 other volcanoes have ongoing eruptions, including Ngauruhoe in New Zealand, where I stayed at a hotel on its slopes a couple of decades ago, and was concerned about steam and smoke blowing out from the peak.  This is a more recent photo, but very close to what I saw.  I was there on a geothermal project, for Hawaii and New Zealand have very similar underground conditions.
  • Italy:  Stromboli and Etna are two of four currently active.
  • Iceland:  eight volcanoes are erupting.
  • Indonesia:  27 volcanoes are active, including Krakatau (was once called Krakatoa), now underwater (right), which in 1883 killed more than 36,000 people, and perhaps triggered the Dark Ages.
  • Pacific Ring of Fire:  35 volcanoes are currently erupting, including Sakurajima, next to Kagoshima.
  • Multiply the above by two and you have close to the total of those volcanoes on Planet Earth either actively erupting, or recently so.  
  • Wikipedia has a smaller list of erupting volcanoes, and I count 43.
It was 79AD when Mount Vesuvius suddenly dumped superheated lava over Pompeii.  So, yes, that fate appears to have been avoided by Pahoa.  But the slow and agonizing wait is not quite over, for Kilauea remains quite active at the source of exuding lava.   Authorities caution against overconfidence, but there is now, most definitely, a lower stress level, for the once imminent movement near the village seems to now be cool and immobile.  

Super Typhoon Maysak, at 160 MPH, with gusts approaching 200 MPH, is causing serious havoc through the Federated States of Micronesia, where more than 100,000 live on 607 islands.  Chuuk was yesterday, Yap is next, then on to the Philippines, where the current track appears to be slightly north of Manila:



Here are a few noteworthy items to start off your Monday:

1.  Floyd Mayweather is expected to earn $180 million for his fight with Manny Pacquiao on May 2 in Las Vegas.  If the fight lasts one minute, that means he will be making $10.8 billion/hour, win or lose.  While most of the revenues will come from pay per view, to cost more than $100 to subscribe, the cheapest tickets for the live performance in the MGM Grand Arena will start at $1,500, and go up to $7,500 at ringside, if you can get them.

2,  When the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded nearly thirty years ago on 26April1985, the fallout spread the equivalent of 400 Hiroshima bombs.  However, up to 166,000 might have been killed in Hiroshima, while the direct death toll at Chernobyl was 31.  But subsequent cancer deaths attributed to the accident ranged from tens of thousands to a million.  The current cost to Belarus is around a quarter trillion dollars.

But the Fukushima nuclear debacle of 11March2011 released the equivalent of 6,000 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs.  Cost?  From $1 trillion to $10 trillion.  As a French study pegged a worst case scenario in that country of a nuclear power plant catastrophe at $7.5 trillion, that range seems in order.  That's the Chernobyl sarcophagus being built above, with an expected completion date in 2017.  Russian wordsmiths have named it the New Safe Confinement structure.  Five years ago I wrote in the Huffington Post:  Why Worry About Fukushima When Hiroshima and Nagasaki are Safe?  Now, can you appreciate the horror of your typical nuclear power plant cataclysm?  With terrorists roaming the world, how safe would you feel living close to one of them?

3.  Not a great way to start a Monday, so, tune in to the GoodNewsNetwork, which reported that 220 years ago today, Ludwig van Beethoven, at the age of 24, made his concert debut as a pianist.   The New York Times placed him second to Bach as the greatest composer of all time, with Mozart at #3.   Beethoven began to get deaf around 1796 and finished his First Symphony in 1800.  Some have ranked his 3rd, Eroica, as his best.  
Certainly, the most memorable is the 5th, for during World War II, the short-short-short-long rhythmic pattern corresponded in Morse code to the letter V for Victory.  By his mid-40's Ludwig was almost totally deaf, yet composed some of his greatest works including the 9th Symphony (with Ode to Joy, of course, being the final movement--listen to this one hour six minute version) at the age of 54.  He passed away at 57.    Oh, the life expectancy in 1850 was 38.  When Mozart died at the age of 35 in 1791, that was about the average.  During that period, the life expectancy in India was around 25.  Today, the USA is #36 in the world at 80.  Angola is about half that.

How did I get here?  To close, a typical Beethoven Top Ten.  And another list of ten.

Typhoon Maysak is now up to 110 MPH, has devastated Chuuk and heads for Yap.   Maysak will strengthen into a Category 4.  The current track should take the eye north of Manila.


Sunday, March 29, 2015


Since 1985 the U.S. expense of attending college has jumped by 500 percent, and tuition keeps rising. For this year, the average cost of attending a typical state college was $23,410, with $46,272 for a private institution.  You read that we don't have enough students in science and engineering.  Well, for one, you need to study harder for those pathways, and two, should expect to pay $5,000/year more for this privilege.

"Outstanding student loan balances reported on credit reports increased to $1.13 trillion (an increase of $8 billion) as of September 30, 2014, representing about $100 billion increase from one year ago," the bank said in its latest report on household debt and credit.

All the above can be depressing for any family with hopes and dreams of a better future.  More so is the below:

Somehow, though, more are graduating from high schools and universities:

Mind you, not everyone should go to college.  Some will be happier with technical and service skills, and, of course, neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs actually graduated from any university.  Yet, a college degree will substantially improve your status in life:

Clearly, if you are really, really smart, with a great high school record, a straight A average, served as student body president and quarterback of your state championship football team, with only limited parental support (less than $60.000/year), all of top higher education institutions will pay for your entire college experience, room and board included.  Read my posting on HOW TO GO TO STANFORD FOR ALMOST FREE.  

But, let's face it, most of us are merely average.  How then can you afford college?  In our country, read this article for institutions which charge no tuition.  How many of you have ever heard of Deep Springs College in California?

Each of its 26 students receives a full-scholarship valued at over $50,000 per year. Students work, at a minimum, 20 hours per week on the ranch or farm, or in positions related to the college or community.

Want to go to Harvard?

Beginning with the Class of 2016, families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute from 0% to 10% of income, and those with incomes above $150,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more than 10%, based on their individual circumstances.

But there is a problem, for:

Harvard has a 6% acceptance rate and a 97% first-year, full-time student retention rate. SAT test scores (25th/75th percentile) are as follows: Critical reading: 690/790; math: 700/800; and writing: 690/790.

Anyway, check out a range of colleges throughout the USA for values.  Some of those listings make no sense, for here, Kiplinger rates the 25 best low debt and high return on investment universities.  Caltech, also known as the California Institute of Technology, is rated #1.  To quote:

Average Student Debt: $13,442
30 year net ROI above non-degree holders: $1.99 Million
We hope that this list of the best value universities is of great help to you as you conduct your search for the best matching college program for you. For further reading, please see: 25 Best Value Colleges 2014 and 30 Best Affordable Online Colleges 2014.
The problem is that the odds on your getting into Caltech are like winning a national lottery.  And if you do, you will still pay $53,000/year to try to academically survive.  I almost went there.

If you want FREE tuition, several countries in Europe now don't charge to attend, and teach courses in English.
  • Germany now is a tuition free country.  Why do they bother subsidizing foreigners?  It is said that the international mix makes for a better educational experience:
Americans can earn a German undergraduate or graduate degree without speaking a word of German and without having to pay a single dollar of tuition fees: About 900 undergraduate or graduate degrees are offered exclusively in English, with courses ranging from engineering to social sciences. For some German degrees, you don't even have to formally apply.
  • Finland
This northern European country charges no tuition fees, and it offers a large number of university programs in English. However, the Finnish government amiably reminds interested foreigners that they "are expected to independently cover all everyday living expenses."
  • Norway
Norwegian universities do not charge tuition fees for international students. The Norwegian higher education system is similar to the one in the United States: Class sizes are small and professors are easily approachable. Many Norwegian universities offer programs taught in English. American students, for example, could choose "Advanced Studies for Solo Instrumentalists or Chamber Music Ensembles" or "Development Geography."

  • Brazil
Some Brazilian courses are taught in English, and state universities charge only minor registration fees. Times Higher Education ranks two Brazilian universities among the world's top 400: the University of Sao Paulo and the State University of Campinas. However, Brazil might be better suited for exchange students seeking a cultural experience rather than a degree.

So how might you live and eat while not paying any tuition?  Well, try Study Abroad.  Also homestays, farmsteads, hostels and a variety of experiential and cheaper independent options.

I've merely scratched the surface.  For the adventurous, there are numerous options for education beyond high school.  If you really want to go to college, you can find a way.  Here are five suggestions, including serving your country.


Saturday, March 28, 2015


To maximize your longevity, drink some alcohol, with a cup of coffee, plus, do exercise:

  • Overweight  (mind you, not obese) people live longer than those underweight!
    • This is nothing new.  Click on a six year old article, but general info has been around for a decade.
    • Maintain a body mass index of between 25 and 29.  How to calculate your BMI?  Click on this.  Whoops, my BMI is 24.  Hmm.....normal is, apparently, not good:

Underweightless than 18.5
Normal18.5 to 24.9
Overweight25 to 29.9
Obese30 or greater

  • Does this mean if you do have three drinks/day, a cup of coffee can reduce your potential for liver cancer.  YES!!!   If you read that article, a fine point is that you can have three drinks, but have that cup of coffee.  My recommendation, though, would be, sure, go ahead, if you're not driving, have your two drinks, but keep it at that, plus have a cup of coffee anyway.   Also, exercise and fish consumption reduce your risk of liver cancer.
  • After decades of telling us that milk will keep us healthy and fat will kill us, now they tell us that every glass of milk a woman drinks each day increases her chances of dying by 15 per cent and saturated fat has nothing to do with heart disease.  Oh, and EXERCISE is especially good for you.
That ocean storm east of the Philippines remains a tropical storm, but Maysak is soon to attain hurricane strength, and could well attain Category 4 power.  The current predicted track is towards Manila:


Friday, March 27, 2015


A 2010 Pew Research Center report indicated that 79% of Americans believe in miracles.  55% of Americans are convinced there are religious miracles, a 22% jump since 1992.  Why this increase when more and more are turning away from organized religion?  The report cites Oprah.

Let me start with sainthood.  The Catholic Church has had 2,565 official saints.  It is speculated that a little more than 100 billion people have ever lived on Planet Earth.  Say half of them came after Jesus Christ, when the Catholic church was formed.  Then, you have one chance in 20 million to become a saint. As around 15% of the world is Catholic, your odds improve to one chance in 3 million if you're Catholic.  Both Jesus' parents were made saints, this is why there are so many schools named St. Mary's and St. Joseph's.  

I bring sainthood up because a saint needs to perform two miracles to become one.  In addition, of course, to being venerable, pious and having the faith.  Mother Theresa was beatified, meaning she was credited for one miracle, but might never attain sainthood, for she is said to have lost her faith.  Like belief in God and the Afterlife, countries vary widely:

You ask, why is the percent at 55 in the the first paragraph and 72 in this bar graph, when this figure was supposed to increase in this two decade period?  Such is the nature of religion and surveys.  This is not quantum physics, which, by the way, is a lot more arcane than religion.  For example, we can only discern 4% of matter/energy, as 96% of everything has never been detected, and is temporarily known as dark matter and dark energy.

Now that you should be sufficiently confused, let's go back to becoming a saint.  Most canonization (the second step to become a saint) miracles tend to involve "saving" a life, usually through prayer, although Jesus walking on water  has been mentioned as an example of a religious miracle, but not one particularly useful for sainthood.
Read my chapter on the Golden Evolution in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity for details, although this blog site serialized the book, beginning with Part 2.  The pages on modern miracles are found here, first written in 2007 when I started my experiment with razor #1.

I dropped this modern marvel a year or so later, it broke, so I bought a second Schick.  Now in daily use for at least six years, it looks cruddy, but still works, and well.

Mind you, there is something called the Infinity Razor, which can be purchased from for $4.24, using "carbon injected steel technology to create blades so sharp they never get dull."  My chemical engineering PhD knowledge tells me that some corrosion should have occurred by now to my blade, but, no, it still works, and, therefore, this must be a modern miracle.  You can Google reviews of the Infinity razor, and I suspect Gillette and Schick got their staff to talk stink about this threat.  I've never bought the Infinity version because my Schick still operates well.

Why do I bother to bring this subject up today?  Well, half my daily readers are new to this site, so I'm just educating a whole new generation of viewers to this astonishing facet of our lifestyle.  I've suggested to many of my friends to either verify or dispute my claim, but no one has yet bothered to try.

For the second modern miracle, I advance that incredible soap between the bedsheets (place that bag which holds the bar safety pinned to the bed, to be covered by the sheet) system that prevents leg cramps.  I quote from my book:

It sounds looney, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but  a true miracle is that urban legend: a bar of soap between the bedsheets will prevent leg cramps. There is something about getting older and lying horizontal. My wife and I, now and then, no, make it frequently, used to suffer from painful cramps. That bar was placed a few months ago, and, amazingly, no leg cramps.  Place the unwrapped soap in a cloth bag under the bottom sheet at the bottom of your bed.  For some reason, Dove and Dial, apparently, don't work. Ann Landers a long time ago mentioned this solution, and so do some doctors. What is the explanation? No one knows. There is no scientific proof. But it works. It’s a puzzlement, or miracle. Maybe there is a God. Hopefully, this crack in rationality will lead me to an afterlife.

I still use the same bar in the same sack and it still works.  I don't remember the last time I had leg cramps in bed.  It also serves as a useful navigational tool to inform me that I'm in the middle of the bed to minimize falling to the floor when I sleep.  Even Snopes is mystified.  Got to be a miracle.

Just a 50 MPH ocean storm far east of the Philippines, Tropical Storm 4 looms to become a very powerful typhoon and head for the Philippines: