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Thursday, June 30, 2016

A SIMPLE SOLUTION FOR THE HONOLULU RAIL TRANSIT PROJECT

I'm not a transportation expert, but became a professor of engineering while in the Civil Engineering (CE) Department at the University of Hawaii, which is supposed to be responsible for thinking long-term about mass transit.  JoAnn Yukimura was mayor of Kauai from 1988 and I met with her regarding how I could help her island.  Fifteen years prior, she was a high school classmate friend of the person who mowed my lawn in 1963 when I worked for Kilauea Sugar Company.  I noted that she went on to Stanford University, from where I had then recently graduated.  So as director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute I visited with her to see how she could get involved with renewable energy.  This detour was unexpected.

Mayor Yukimura mentioned that one of her biggest problems--mind you, this was probably in 1989 and we talking about a small island--was the traffic between Lihue and Kapaa.  I had just visited EPCOT Center and was enthralled by their World Showcase, which featured a dozen countries around a lake.

So my solution was to entice international consortia to individually build the train stations by providing to them attractive development rights, then find a mass transit organization to experiment with their latest system so that the cost to Kauai would be negligible.  At that time I knew someone from Japan Airlines, which had connections with the Maglev experiment ongoing at the foot of Mount Fuji, where I had coincidentally also seen.   When you're at a university you can come up with the craziest ideas.

The UH hired a transportation expert in 1990, Panos Prevedouros.  I talked  him into helping me write a report for the County of Kauai to finance and build this system.  Since then, Panos, who at last check was chairman of the CE Department, became a more famous opponent of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.  How things change.  Maybe I should arrange to meet with him in light of this posting.  That would be something if he ends up saving mass transit in Honolulu.

So anyway, JoAnn loses in 1994 her mayoral seat, effectively killing that effort.  At around that time I had gotten involved with a very expensive mass transit plan to build a system around Osaka Bay.  I re-introduced my international concept, they loved it.  Our team of Takeo Kondo of Nihon University, Joe Vadus, who was at time chief technologist for NOAA, and I had big plans.  We were going to form a company named GOI, which had some symbolic meaning I can't today remember.  Unfortunately in 1995 came the Great Hanshin Earthquake decimating Kansai, Japan's worst since the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.  Needless to say, the project was terminated.

The beauty of the World Showcase idea was:
  • International companies and their partners would finance, build and operate the station, which would all become small cities with cuisine and entertainment of that region.
  • The city that succeeds with this plan would immediately become the world headquarters for a range of opportunities.
  • China would bring two pandas, etc.
  • The transport line would be busy during evenings and weekends because the stations would be where the best restaurants, theaters and the like would be featured.
In 1992 Honolulu, thanks to Council-lady Rene Mansho, voted no on the transit tax, where matching funds of $600 million (worth a billion dollars today) were promised by the Federal government.  That would have been more than half of the budget to finish the system, which would have been fully operational a decade ago.  The grief to many is that she told no one and just impetuously became the deciding vote.  You got to give her some credit for being true to her feelings, and, who knows, maybe the project could have crashed then, but.....

So, what the heck, I passed on the World Showcase idea to the early planners of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.  No interest.  

However, in 2010 the Huffington Post published my concept of A Sustainable Expo for 2020.  In that year no site had yet been selected for these world fairs.  I've been to just about every one since Seattle's Century 21 Exposition.  There have been twenty such extravaganzas since then, including the 2015 Milan World Expo.  Every one was uniquely momentous for me.  

So, anyway, in my proposed Honolulu world expo, a mass transit system would have been the centerpiece, where each station would have served as the international exhibits.  Read that HuffPo for the details.  Needless to say, no one in Hawaii had the guts to bring this global exposition home for 2020, as Dubai was recently selected for this honor.  Me, I was ten years into retirement then.

So this is a long-winded background to provide a simple solution for the current mess the Honolulu Rail Transit Project finds itself in, which is a project way over budget and a decision by Mayor Kirk Caldwell to build the last station at Middle Street, which insures for financial failure of the system.

Okay, it's way too late to resurrect the World Showcase concept in Honolulu, for it takes a very long time to get international private consortia to agree to terms, find financing and actually build all the needed systems, but, heck, add the University of Hawaii, Waikiki and Hawaii Kai to the station list.  In desperate times society can do wonderful things.  Anyone got a better idea?


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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

THE GOLD TREE IS BLOOMING...AGAIN

We have a very active photography club at 15 Craigside.  Behind our building on this shot to the left is Craigside, where I lived for 32 years.  Our assignment for sharing at our next gathering is to take photos on an excursion.  I noticed that Pearl's Gold Tree was again blooming (this is now at least the third time in 2016), so off I went to complete my homework.

I first visited the Queen Kapiolani Garden, a rarely visited gem located across the street on the Makai side of Honolulu Zoo.  First a most unusual black elephant ear plant:


This is not a Gold Tree, but is a gold-colored tree.  Just a block in the Diamond Head direction is a true Gold Tree:


Driving up Ward Avenue I noticed a Gold Tree at Thomas Square in the foreground of Coronet, an apartment where Pearl and I owned our first penthouse 44 years ago.

These Gold Trees can also be found next to my Pacific Ocean Science and Technology (POST) building on the Manoa Campus, among a spectacular blooming of rainbow shower trees:


The parking lot of the POST building is now the most beautiful parking lot in the world.  Just go up East-West Center Road from Dole Street.

Let me close with a visit of our 15 Craigside photography club to Arcadia, our sister seniors community partner, to interact with their photo club.  They have almost twice the number of residents and have been around for almost half a century.


In their pond they had a gold koi that looked exactly like Pearl's Gold Koi at Matsumoto Castle.

Below, the 15 Craigside members and the shot below that those from Arcadia, with our display behind us, produced by Takeo Ito (to the extreme right).


Eight of us have these panels now in exhibit at Arcadia until June 30, then they will be returned home to be displayed on the Craigside Artistry Wall from July 3-31.  Above is my contribution showing a recent visit to Japan.   Here are the original photos.  Note the musk melon (about as large as a cantaloupe, with flesh like a honey dew, but mushier) costs around $120.


Wagyu beef can cost $250/pound in a typical Japanese basement market.  Below, Shinjuku Park, Mount Fuji and Osaka Castle.


Finally, this exhibit will be displayed at the Honolulu Museum of Art (formerly known as the Honolulu Art Academy) School Hallway Gallery of their Linekona building from August 2-16.  Thanks to our mentor, Scott Kubo, who is on their staff, we are attaining world class status.  Below, Scott with Irene Zane, our 15C photography club leader, who once lived at Arcadia and  resides on my floor,


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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ALIENS, THE CIA AND A GREAT WHITE SHARK

I saw three movies this weekend (rating this week in box office revenues) and (Rotten Tomatoes scores for reviewers/audiences):

(2)   Independence Day:  Resurgence  (33%/39%)
(3)  Central Intelligence (67%/71%)
(4)  The Shallows (73%/70%)

I thought all three were entertaining, and if there is only one you wish to see, ID features awesome special effects, with a nice touch in bringing back a bunch of actors reprising their roles twenty years later (original Independence Day came out in 1996); CI was mostly very funny, and many enjoy reunion films; and TS was unexpectedly gripping.  Finding Dory, an animated film, was #1 for the second week in a row, and if you wish to see a review, go to Rotten Tomatoes, where it earned spectacular 94%/90% ratings.



This sequel was again co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich, and does not include Will Smith.  However, many returned, including Robert Loggia, who died during the filming of this movie.  If you like iconic buildings, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore were film sites.  However, most of the scenes took place in New Mexico, for they provide a 25% movie tax credit.  Hawaii, take note.  Best escapist fare of the three.
The original aliens returned with a 3,000-mile diameter battleship, and the storyline is about how these characters two decades later, with their sons and daughters, react, respond and, well, prevail.  There is an obvious conclusion having to do with The Queen of the Aliens, and I think this is her to the right above.

While ID:R did not do as well as expected, already the film has matched the budget, for two thirds the revenues for this sort of film today come from international markets.  China, for example, is now a key money-making site, and for this film, there was Angelababy (yes, that's her actress name, for she is Chinese-German, was called Baby as a child and later Angela, playing a fighter pilot whose father died as a pilot in the first attack).  Yes, there will be a Part III.


There is a 20-year theme at play here, too, with Dwayne Johnson as a CIA "rogue" agent, and Kevin Hart as a Mr. Everything in high school.  They were classmates, and the script has them involved in saving the world just before their 20th-year class reunion.  Here is just another example of ultimate role reversal, as now Johnson, who was in high school a fat and friendless nerd named Robbie Weirdicht, becomes essentially The Rock with a new name, Bob Stone, while Hart, in high school the celebrated Golden Jet, is now a nobody accountant.  You will wonder whose ear it was.  Want a predictably funny film?  Go see this one.  In Week 2 it has already made more money than was budgeted, with, again, most of the revenues coming from international theaters.



The flick, originally called The Deep, is slow to start, but becomes a survival horror thriller.  Blake Lively, a medical student close to getting her degree has second thoughts about continuing in school, and finds her way to a secluded beach where her mother who had just passed away had surfed when she (mother) was pregnant with her (daughter).  

The beach certainly looks like something from Hawaii, but all filming took place in Oceania.  So the great white shark (seen about to attack her above) bites her leg, but she manages to escape to a piece of rock sticking above sea level (and disappears at high tide--so there is the time factor of how long she will survive with the shark continuing to circle her).  Bleeding and threatened, she uses her wits to survive.  In the process, she slips back into place a separated wing of a sea gull who is also trapped on the same rock, and places it on a piece of surfboard that allows the bird to, probably, find a way to shore.  Nice soft touch to a mostly stressful experience.


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Saturday, June 25, 2016

TO YOUR HEALTH: Some Surprising Bits of New Medical Information

Why do plaques pockmark the brain of Alzheimer's patients?  When a virus, fungus or bacterium invades your brain--and the older you are these microbes can more easily sneak through the protective membrane--our defense mechanism is to stop the invader with a sticky cage of proteins, which does the job, but what is left behind is plaque, which inflames the brain.  This innate immune system has been confirmed for yeasts, roundworms, fruit flies and mice.  With age, the leakiest  part of the membrane tries to protect the hippocampus, the site of learning and memory.  Perhaps someday a way will be found to keep your brain membrane functional for longer periods.

Sixteen years ago the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that there have been 850 different studies, all indicating that the mental health of people improved with religion.  An additional 350 studies found that religious people are physically healthier.  Who funds these studies, anyway?  That's more than a thousand projects looking into this field, and that was before the year 2000.

Recently a Harvard study on the health and lifestyles of 75,534 middle-age female nurses over 16 years through 2012 showed that church attendance:
  • more than once/week provided a 33% lower risk of death,
  • once a week gave a 26% lower risk and
  • less than once/week improves your longevity by 13%.
The above comparison was made to those  female nurses who did not go to church.  These were mostly Protestant and Catholic in the U.S.  The sense was that men, too, would benefit.  It was stated that doctors should not necessarily urge their patients to attend church to live longer.  But heck, why not?  Click on this for an article on bioethics and the medical profession.

The person who wrote that first article above on plaques, Gina Kolata of The New York Times, also penned this third bit of medical news, on a cosmetic discovery--siloxane gel followed by a platinum catalyst--which appears to be safe, and could well provide a second skin for people, especially the aged. One application would be to reduce eyebags:


The left bag (as you are looking at the above photo) uses this biotech product.  The skin on my outer arms are prone to abrasions.  Soon, Olivo Laboratories' cross linked polymer layer (XPL) should be able to minimize this condition.

Tomorrow my blog will focus on dining out:  15 Craigside will go to Sorabol, plus, my night out with a remarkable family (left).  There will be a Part 2 about latest medical developments, for on Monday (or Tuesday) the title will be:  SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED ABOUT OBESITY?  The answer is not what you'd expect, and while obesity is not particularly fabulous, the latest medical evidence, and overwhelmingly so, is that those overweight  apparently have a higher life expectancy than normal beings.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

THE GREAT BREXIT

Well, as posted earlier this week, the Great Brexit has roiled the world stock markets.  At one time the British Empire was, indeed, great, for in 1922:
  • commanded 458 million people, 20% of the world (China today is not quite that)
  • covering 13 million square miles, 25% of Earth's land area
  • and the Sun never set on its holdings.

Today, the United Kingdom represents less than 1% of the world population, and the sun just set over its future economy.

So what has happened?
  • The London FTSE 250 index closed 7.2% lower.
  • The pound dropped to its lowest level in more than three decades.
  • Lloyd's Bank crashed by 21%.
  • The German DAX fell by nearly 7%.
  • The French CAC plunged by 8%, as did in Ireland.
  • Japan NIKKEI lost 8%.
  • At this writing, the U.S. Dow Jones is only down by 3%, but an 8% drop would be equivalent to minus 1400.
  • The VIX (stability of market) jumped by 36%.
  • Oil prices fell by 4% anticipating lower future demands.
  • Gold bullion surged 8% as a haven for money.
Donald Trump is hoping he, too, can shatter political convention:

Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first," he said. "They will have the chance to reject today's rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people.

The disarming presence of Trump in Scotland to celebrate the upgrade of his golf course in Turnberry, hailed the fall of the British pound by saying, good, more people will come here to golf.  At a press conference here he kind of embarrassed himself by saying independence was great, not probably realizing that almost two-thirds of Scotland voted AGAINST Brexit.  The national vote was 52% - 48% FOR Brexit. Worse, the leader of Brexit, Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London, looks a bit too much like the Donald.  Incredibly enough, he is the current favorite to replace David Cameron as Prime Minister.  Finally, another coincidence, for the President of the European Council spells his name, Donald Tusk, too closely similar to the presumptive Republican candidate.

Hillary Clinton calmly responded by not saying all that much.  If California secedes from the Union, the population loss would be around 12.5%, just about the same as the UK leaving the EU.   Trump refers to CNN as the Clinton News Network, more so after his ex-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski joined CNN.

My blog on Brexit had a sub-title:  The End of the European Union?  So, next?
  • Sweden hates their immigration load and already does not use the Euro.
  • Denmark actually had a referendum as recently as this past December, deciding against handing more powers to the EU.  The migration issue is grating.  Next?
  • Greece might be kicked out, for the debt crisis is still there and festering.
  • The Netherlands' potential next leader, Geert Wilders, has hinted that the country cannot stop immigration while remaining in the EU.
  • Hungary could have a popular vote soon to diminish EU cohesion.
  • In France, 62% of the population is skeptical of the EU.
Ironically, Scotland might secede from the UK, but could well choose to join the EU.  It's too early to tell what will really happen, but watch the world stock markets on Monday.

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