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Sunday, May 31, 2015


There is the San Andreas Fault, long dreaded as the line where a vulnerable portion of California could someday fall into the sea.  One of my stops in My Ultimate Global Adventure was a stay with friends at their  home in Sea Ranch, where their backyard was the point at which the fault crossed into the Pacific Ocean.  Sea Ranch is between Point Reyes and San Francisco in the above map.

San Andreas, the film, with Dwayne The Rock Johnson, wiped out the competition this weekend:
Rotten Tomatoes gave San Andreas a 48% reviewers rating, with a 64% audience score.  It cost $110 million to make, but, already in one weekend, the flick made $113 million, counting the world at large.  

In this production, California gets hit with, first, a 9.1 earthquake, then a 9.6, which would make it the most powerful ever.  Other real biggies: 
  • 9.5  1960 Chile
  • 9.3  1964 Alaska
  • 9.2  2004 Indonesia
  • 9.0  2011 Japan
Of course, there have been other truly cataclysmic ones for entertainment:
  • 10.5  In 2004, a TV movie by that name (Rotten Tomatoes audiences, 54%)
  • 10.0  In 2014, Los Angeles is wiped out
I don't write traditional movie reviews.  Sometimes, though, I use films to educate.  But first, while portions were technically silly, I thoroughly enjoyed San Andreas.  The film was intense and spectacular.  Costs more, but splurge to see it in THX  
Rock can't save Los Angeles, San Francisco and one of his daughters from an earlier drowning, but makes it up with three breathtaking rescues, including his wife and second daughter.  The computer graphics were incredible.  San Francisco, in particular, is devastated, but 9.6 is 501 times more powerful than the 7.8 of 1906.

How do you compare the relative energies of two earthquakes?  Many references make the mistake of citing amplitudes.  But amplitudes are not the story.  If you want to compare the impact of a 9.6 magnitude with a 7.8 magnitude, you need to get to the strength, or energy content, of the quakes.  Empirically, the relationship between magnitude and energy is logarithmic, so you need to do the following:

     Subtract 7.8 from 9.6        = 1.8
     Multiply by 1.5                 = 2.7
     Take 10 to the 2.7 power  = 501

Thus, the 9.6 magnitude earthquake of the film is 501 times stronger than the 7.8 magnitude of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

To summarize:
  • Subtract the smaller earthquake from the larger.
  • Multiply this difference by 1.5.
  • Place this number into the exponent of base 10.
Three examples:
  • How much more energy is impacted by that hypothetical 9.6 magnitude earthquake of  San Andreas compared to the all-time high 9.5 magnitude of the 1960 Chile earthquake?
    • 9.6 - 9.5    = 0.1
    • 0.1 x 1.5   = 0.15
    • 10**0.15  = 1.4, or the film earthquake had 1.4 more energy, or was 40% larger
  • Whether you are comparing a 6 earthquake with a 5, or 10.5 with a 9.5, the difference is exactly one, or the comparison is a ratio of 31.6.  Thus, the movie 10.5 had an earthquake with 31.6 times more energy than the 9.5 Chile earthquake.
Finally, at one time, the Richter (above) Scale was used.  A more accurate Moment Magnitude Scale (or magnitude or MMS or M) was devised in the 1970's by Tom Hanks (left, not the actor) and Hiroo Kanamori.  Finally, here are all (only up to 2003) the 203,186 earthquakes since 1898 (magnitude is cranked into the glow--that dot in the middle is Hawaii):

It would not surprise me if The Rock (here with film wife Carla Gugino) builds earthquakes into a franchise.  Next, what about his re-united family gathering in Tokyo when the really big one hits?  By then his daughter Blake (Alexandra Gaddario, in Texas Chainsaw 3D) will have a steady boyfriend, or husband, in hero Ben Taylor (Australian Hugo Johnstone-Burt).

If they wait until around the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, his younger brother Ollie (leftArt Parkinson--Irish actor in Game of Thrones) will be old enough to meet that perfect Japanese girl.  Ollie was the only real character in the movie.  Paul Giamatti (right) was also good as CalTech geophysics professor Lawrence Hayes, so he will be at an earthquake conference in Japan.  Tokyo has a 70% chance of a major earthquake in four years.  No reason why this one can't be of 9.7 magnitude (hey, it's a movie), which would make it 40% stronger than that San Francisco monster of the first film.

Then, why not?  #3 would be called The Venus Syndrome, the ultimate disaster film, for Planet Earth can be converted to Planet Venus...unless The Rock has a simple solution.  I've already got the script.

Wow, way west of Hawaii, Hurricane Andres is now up to 140 MPH, a Category 4:

However, not to worry, for the colder waters will weaken Andres, and, as currently projected, the path will actually make a right turn and head away from Hawaii.  Further west is Tropical Storm Blanca at 40 MPH, but the expectation is a sudden strengthening to at least a Category 3.  

However, Blanca will jiggle around for awhile, then move on a track north of Andres.



(ALERT:  Solar Impulse 2 had to make an emergency landing in Nagoya, Japan, as the weather west of Hawaii looked too dangerous.  Thus, the Thursday-Friday arrival in Honolulu will be delayed by a few days.  Keep tuned to  SOLARIMPULSE for the latest development.)

Earlier this month I reported on the Solar Impulse 2 (SI2), which was in Nanjing getting ready for leg #7, a monumental challenge:  five to six days over the Pacific to Hawaii, a flight of 5074 miles.  This is a solar powered airplane with limited battery storage, and the longest trip so far was only 20.5 hours long.  Keep in mind that the distance between Honolulu and New York City is shorter:  4957 miles.

With the wingspan of a Boeing 747, the plane is as heavy as a car, and only maintains speeds between 30-60 MPH, climbing to higher than Mount Everest (29,029 feet) during sunlight, and dropping to 3,000 feet when the Sun rises and hopefully is not covered by clouds.  No temperature controls in the cockpit, with the range to be tolerated from minus 4 F to 95 F.   Twenty-minute catnaps are mandatory, eight times/day, with the plane on autopilot.  The emotional strain is to the max and you can't be claustrophobic nor acrophobic.

Why are they even doing this?  The challenge, of course, but current pilot Andre Borschberg (right) and Bertrand Piccard (they alternate flying the aircraft) will become famous.  Piccard is already well-known, for he has flown a balloon around the world and his father, Jacques, was the first to reach the deepest part of the ocean in the Mariana Trench.  The team wants to showcase a sustainable means of flying, for 17,248 solar photovoltaic cells capture the energy from sunlight.  Four lithium polymer batteries (as relatively light as these are, storage takes up more than 40% the weight) provide power at night.  This is not a glider nor hot air balloon.  Propellers need to turn.

Companies will have invested $150 million--you too can contribute--when the plane returns to Abu Dhabi after a journey of 22,000 miles, not quite the 24,901 circumference of Planet Earth.  My round the world trip this Fall could approach 29,000 miles, under more tolerable conditions, taking 65 days.  Awaiting ideal conditions, SI2 could well take twice that long...if it makes it at all.

Well, yesterday, 8:39 AM Hawaii time (UTC 1839--once known as Greenwich Mean Time, now Coordinated Universal Time, and the C is after the UT because that is the French sequence) on Saturday, SI2 left Nanjing.  By my calculation, we should expect the arrival at Kalaeloa Airport (Barbers Point--18 miles west of Honolulu International Airport) just at sunset on Thursday.  However, some estimates say six days, which then would be mid morning on Friday.  Chances are the landing will occur at night.

But that's the good news for Borschberg.  This will be an epic test for man and machine, something never before even attempted.  You think he might have an escort or two, as marathon swimmers have, but, no, he is all alone.  If the plane showed signs of crashing, he does have a parachute and a raft, but he will have to wait for rescue.

Click on SOLARIMPULSE to track the flight.  One day into the adventure, there has been turbulence and sleeping has been difficult.  As I post this article, SI2 should be over Japan near Osaka.  The next online report will occur at 2145 UTC.


If this clock looks like it's not working, please click on it, and you will magically be transported to the correct time.


Saturday, May 30, 2015


Say you're from Toronto (left) and want to take a quick Waikiki vacation to get away from the chill or freeze, depending on the season.  Coach roundtrip airfare would set you back $850, business $3000 or first $2000.  Yes, actually has a Delta first class option a thousand dollars cheaper than business class. Then there are other transport, hotel, food, etc.  Plus, you lose a day getting here, another returning home and are wasted for a few days after that.

While I live six miles from Waikiki, I decided to spend Friday night there.  Why?  Someday soon I'll stop going round the world, and calculated that it would be a lot more economical to just visit our local resorts.  As a platinum member, Starwood usually upgrades me, and this time I got really lucky:  a fabulous suite at the Waikiki Sheraton, where when I look down from one lanai, I see the ocean

No real beach, but beautiful reefs.  My room appears right over the water.  I started with a small snack they provided, including champagne and beer:

Then I went to my second lanai, where I have an incredible view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head:

Note the beginning of Waikiki Beach just outside the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  Tomorrow I will walk all the way to the end, and on the way back, pick up something to eat for my aloha lunch on my lanai, for I'll still have most of the champagne and bottle of Asahi beer.

My bathroom was antique and gold plated, with a giant bathtub:

The problem is that the hotel was built 44 years ago and these fixtures are now really old and do not work that well.

My platinum membership allows me to use the Leahi Club, where they serve beer, wine and other goodies.  Natsuki at the desk (that's her to the left) arranged a table for me at Wolfgang's, quite a feat for such a late arrangement on a Friday.

I first stopped by Restaurant Suntory to check out my bottles:

I looked at the menu and saw that they featured Miyazaki beef.  If you don't know anything about authentic Japanese wagyu beef, click HERE.  Note the price is $58/pound.  I will need to include a stop in Miyazaki on my next Japan Rail Pass journey, except that Miyazaki is located just east of Kagoshima, which is 843 miles from Tokyo.  In any case, I will need to drop by Suntory soon to check out their Miyazaki beef.

I then went on to Wolfgang's, located next door from Suntory on the third level of the Royal Hawaii Arcade, which is adjacent to the Sheraton.  I sat next to a giant bottle of Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon (note size of my iPhone), so ordered a glass of it.

I ordered way too much:  rib eye, sauteed spinach and Caesar salad:

Forty five minutes later:

Understandably, I was supersaturated, so decided to only have that bone on the plate and take the rest of my meal back to my room.  Perhaps lunch on Saturday?  So I just used Fred's technique and had the best finals bites of this tasty steak.

Here are views of Waikiki at twilight and night, with the third photo looking straight down from my room to the pool:

I woke up at sunrise:

I then went up for breakfast of miso soup, rice, orange passion juice, cappuccino and very special dish:

Anyone ever have steamed orchid in mint soup?

Nah, even I knew that was just decoration.

I had a pleasant walk on Waikiki Beach, my room is on the 21st at that left protuberance, and some of the views were spectacular:

I bought my usual make-up lunch to have with the hotel champagne:

If you look closely, I am having Kentucky Fried Chicken.  You learn something every day.  I placed the Asahi beer and Sheraton champagne in the refrigerator, but did not realize it was a freezer (how many hotels have freezers?).  The beer bottle exploded and the champagne was completely frozen when I attempted to use it.  Pahaha Wai on the above bottle means bursting waters.  Korbel is the only California champagne.  Others can only be called sparkling wine.

Further, I just microwaved the KFC, and heard funny sounds.  If I had opened the box, I would have noticed the aluminum foil wrapper over the corn.  The corn was cold.    There must be a hundred surfers out there.  To my right are another 25, with a departing aircraft carrier

That is the USS Carl Vinson.  This ship is 35 years old.

I'm spending these few moments completing this posting because I had too much champagne and had a Peet's coffee, for my freshman roomie, Jim, said this is the best coffeeshop in the world, and there happens to be one in this Sheraton.    Or maybe he only said better than Starbucks.

But before I end my one day Waikiki vacation, can't help sending my absolutely final Waikiki Beach shot:

Andres is now a Category 2 hurricane at 105 MPH:

However, so far away, and so cold the ocean, that, even though the track is straight for Hawaii, Andres will dissipate before reaching the Hawaiian Islands.