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Monday, July 18, 2016

A TIME FOR REFLECTION: Part 4--How I became Me

I didn't list it so, but yesterday was part 3 of my series on reflections.  This should have been the initial posting, but I've saved a look at my life to the end for no particular reason.  It was a week ago when I first awoke and realized that  awesome things happened to me every decade from the age of 19.

At 9, I can't remember much occurring.  Growing up in Kakaako, I went to Pohukaina Elementary School, fished at Kewalo Basin, and experienced a mostly prosaic and normal childhood.  Nothing particularly good or bad.  The #1 song in 1949 was Vaughn Monroe's Riders in the Sky.  This vision sometimes returns at sunset.

Ten years later, at 19, I was at Stanford University going through a difficult transition compared to the comfort of home life.   This was my first trip away from Hawaii and the gap compared to Kakaako and McKinley High School was indeed wide.  Academically, socially, financially...in every way, I was suddenly below average.  Yet, I don't remember ever being in any way mentally stressed, unlike a recent article entitled Trouble in Paradise:



Certainly, if I had remained in Honolulu, I would have gone to the University of Hawaii and not have had opportunities provided by going away and growing up.

California Institute of Technology was a second option, but that would have steered me towards a much more scientific focus, if I could have graduated at all.  They only accept 210 freshmen, and each was the top intellect in his school.  The competition would have been unbearable.

Stanford provided life balance.  This was not the school where a dean addressed incoming students and told them, look to your left and right...only one of you will graduate.   If they accepted you here, you would almost surely graduate, even though many tended to shift into easier majors over time.  We had about 75 in chemical engineering in year one.  Only eight graduated with me four years later.

So, anyway, in 1959 I joined El Capitan, an eating club.  Many of us still keep in touch.  In my upcoming Circle-Pacific trip, my final interaction will be with one or more of them in San Francisco.  In this group, my freshman roomie, Jim, arranged for us to see the Kingston Trio.  I had never heard of them, even though two had graduated from Punahou, Bob Shane (Schoen from Hilo, middle) and Dave Guard (left).  Every year Punahou sends at least a couple of freshmen.  I haven't made any kind of actual check, but  the only one I know who went to Stanford as a freshman is me.   The #1 song in 1959 was Johnny Horton's The Battle of New Orleans... which leads me to...


...1969, when I was in my first year of graduate school at Louisiana State University.  and initiated a pioneering effort in biochemical engineering combining a microbioreactor and tunable laser to affect the DNA/RNA bonds of E. coli. In the month of August Pearl and I drove up north to Montreal.

We actually contemplated joining the mob at Woodstock, but chose not to mainly because we had no idea where we would stay and how we would survive.  This is one of those crucial choices one makes in life, and till today I think we made the right/wrong decision.  Eventually getting a PhD 3.5 years later gave me the entry into academia, where I could enjoy a professional life of freedom.  The Archie's Sugar Sugar was #1, well capturing my psyche of the achievement.

Returning home, I joined the University of Hawaii as an engineering faculty member, but in 1979, during the second energy crisis, found myself working in the U.S. Senate.

Clearly, these three years made the difference in establishing myself as a sustainable resource authority, for I was involved with the passage of original legislation in wind energy, ocean energy, hydrogen and seabed mining.   #1 for the year was the Knack's My Sharona.

1989 was a pivotal year for most of my memorable concepts that someday, I hope, will come to fruition:
  • Direct Methanol Fuel Cell:  I formed the team to gain a major grant ($25 million) from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research to produce methanol from biomass.  This project has gone nowhere, and with oil today at less than half the cost of what it was two years ago, nothing much will happen anytime soon.  However, for reasons that befuddle me, Toyota and European auto companies are pushing the hydrogen car,  when a DMFC powered vehicle would go five time further than a battery powered one, at half the cost of hydrogen.

The #1 song for 1989 was Chicago's Look Away.

I retired in 1999.  I was 59, totally satisfied with everything, but wanted to do something else with the rest of my life.  While I still maintain an office at the University of Hawaii, I have travelled widely and wrote three books.  The #1 song was Cher's Believe.

2009 was a terrible year, for Pearl passed away.  Except for the month she was in intensive care, the past 17 years have been the best of my life.  It's almost like she gave me the final phase of my life to do whatever I wanted. What I enjoyed most was peace of mind and the freedom to live life the way I wanted, sort of a pervading theme at 15 Craigside.

I've arranged to have planted a bunch of gold trees (similar to the ones to the right in front of both Craigside properties) in her honor and I travelled the world more than half a dozen times, dropping off her ashes at places like KilimanjaroMachu Picchu and the Taj Mahal:

Surely, her ashes are now at 50 sites around the world, and I plan to produce a photo journal of those locations, with small stories for each.  I also arranged for gold trees to be planted at three golf courses.  Her cousin, Councilman Fresh Onishi of Hilo did most of the political work.  #1 for that year was the Black Eyed Peas' Boom Boom Pow.  

I hope to get to see 2019, for one of my goals in life is to live into 2020.  "Earth 2020:  Visions for Our Children's Children," was a particularly influential project for me soon after I joined the University of Hawaii.  I feel blessed to have had my fabulous journey all these years, and trust that 2019 will reverse a downward trend to an ultimate eternal gloom.  No reason why that can't be my most monumental year, with a couple more decades yet to come.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for the fourth day in a row, broke its all-time high, now at 18,533:


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Hurricanes Darby and Estelle will approach Hawaii, but should both weaken before reaching here.  Tropical Cyclone Abela is headed for Taiwan, but will not reach typhoon strength.


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