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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

JUST A SIMPLE MAGIC ISLAND LUNCH

The day is overcast and somber.  Now that I've mis-predicted the next president of the USA and the death of the Republican Party, solved grand mystery #3 (Green Parrots--scroll down to Saturday) and brought you up to date on solar energy and the environment (scroll down to Monday),  I'll take a day off and have lunch at Magic Island (that aerial is from Air Photona.)  You can usually find me at the right side under a coconut tree with a view of Diamond Head.

I decided to have a ginger chicken and roast duck bento from U-Choice In, a Chinese take-out in the Kaheka Don Quixote shopping center.    That's obviously a bottle of beer in that black cover with a straw.  I was met by my Blue-bar pigeon and his friends:


The bird demographics of Magic Island have changed.  Usually, the horde is dominated by doves and sparrows.  You're always entertained by weddings here:


This one had someone playing a ukulele and singing.  On the way home my gas tank was running low, so I filled it at Costco, then went into the store to purchase their blue plate ribeye.  What a bargain, 4.53 pounds for only $86:


In comparison, J-Shop sells Japanese wagyu sirloin for $80/pound.  


Thus, my 4.53 pounds of Costco ribeye cost less than one pound of sirloin.  While I was in Costco I also picked up a bottle of 24-year old scotch from Aberdeen.

So I googled this Kirkland brand (left).  One reference indicated that this bootle cost $89.99 in Atlanta.  I paid $69.99.  A 25-year old Macallan, aged in sherry oak, costs more than $600.  25-year Glenlivet?  More than $350.  25-year Bowmore?  More than $500.  Why so expensive?  Not only the inventory cost, but up to 50% of the volume is lost in a quarter century.  However, the bottles you buy still provide 40% ethanol.

Here is a link to 24-year old scotches, and I noticed a Royal Lochnager, my very favorite, for only $373.  The  Costco bottle, the cheapest of all---the prices in this link are in British pounds---was matured in a bourbon oak cask.  Of course I tasted it, and it was wonderful.  A touch woody, a tad sweet, smooth, terrific.  However, wonder where I can find that RL-24?

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

WAS HOWARD HUGHES NUTS?

I just saw a new film, Rules Don't Apply, that did not make the top ten box office list this past weekend, got poor Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 57% and 42%, but inspired me to look into the life of Howard Hughes.  This was mostly Hollywood in the year 1958, which intrigued me, because that was the year I first left Hawaii, spending the summer in Southern California.
  
Warren Beatty was director and played Howard Hughes.  He is the younger brother of Shirley Mclaine, was a star high school football player and went to Northwestern, but dropped out after his freshman year.  

His wife Annette Bening, had a small part in the film.  The rest of the cast includedMatthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Dabney Coleman, Steve Coogan, Ed Harris, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino, Martin Sheen and and more.   Lily Collins (left) played the starlet  (Marla Mabrye) who supposedly fathered a Hughes child.  He supposedly had nine children, only one confirmed, and not this one.  Lily's real father is singer Phil Collins.

Not sure why the script was written with this Hughes-Marla Mabrey link  being the primary focus, for this was one of his most insignificant liaisons.  You can make a dozen films just of Hughes' affairs.  Here, a partial list of women in his life:
  • Jane Russell 
  • Cyd Charisse
  • Joan Crawford
  • Linda Darnell
  • Bette Davis
  • Yvonne de Carlo
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Billy Dove (right)
  • Joan Fontaine
  • Kathryn Grayson (he proposed to her three times)
  • Jane Greer
  • Jean Harlow (who acted in his most famous film, Hell's Angels)
  • Susan Hayward
  • Rita Hayworth
  • Barbara Hutton (Woolworth heiress)
  • Janet Leigh
  • Gina Lollobrigida
  • Katharine Hepburn (right, one of his great loves)
  • Ida Lupino
  • Virginia Mayo
  • Jean Tierney
  • Lana Turner
  • Marilyn Monroe (not much of a relationship)
  • Terry Moore (claimed to have married him twice)
  • Jean Peters (last wife)
  • Ava Gardner (right)
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Jean Simmons
  • Elizabeth Taylor (refused an offer of a million dollars to marry him)
  • Gloria Vanderbilt
  • Amelia Earhart
And that was a partial list.

Hughes' father dropped out of Harvard to start a successful tool company.  Howard built Houston's first wireless radio transmitter at the age of 11, a motorized bike at 12 to ease his newspaper delivery service, had flying lessons at 14, was a near scratch golfer, took math and aeronautical engineering courses at Caltech, and dropped out of Rice.  His parents died when he was around 18, inspiring him to create a medical research laboratory, which ultimately became the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in 2007 becoming the largest devoted to biological and medical research with an endowment of $16 billion.

He personally set world speed flying lessons, and nearly got killed in four serious plane crashes, which made him super sensitive to the touch (so he spent much of his adult life naked) and addicted to codeine.  He built the Spruce (made of birch) Goose, a wooden (had to be made of non-strategic materials) plane which was the largest of its time then and flew just once for a mile.  It was an attraction in Long Beach Harbor until moved to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon.

In 1928, at the age of 23, he produced Two Arabian Knights, which won the first Academy Award for Best Director (Lewis Milestone--Hughes was producer).  The stars were William Boyd (who went on to become Hopalong Cassidy) and Mary Astor.  He directed and produced Hell's Angels (RT:  76/60) in 1930, winning an Oscar for Best Cinematography.  The film killed several aviators and went way over budget, but doubled expenses at the box office.  His most controversial film was The Outlaw (RT:  89/33) with Jane Russell (left), for which he was the director.  His Hughes Tool Company bought RKO Pictures, a lot of real estate around Hollywood, Summa Corporation and TWA.   He became a billionaire.

My one link with Hughes was his Glomar Explorer, when he secretly worked with the CIA to attempt to recover a Soviet submarine which sank close to Hawaii.  No, never met him, but his Glomar Explorer was announced to search for manganese nodules not a submarine.  I shepherded the Hard Minerals Act for Senator Spark Matsunaga though the U.S. Congress, got involved with various Law of the Sea Treaty gatherings (the U.S. Senate still has not yet signed the treaty) and could not quite share the truth of the reality till today.  This floating platform was eventually acquired by Transocean, that company involved with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

The movie took us to the time of the 1972 hoax perpetrated by Clifford Irving, who professed in his book on Hughes' life that it was co-authored by him.  In a teleconference Hughes showed clarity, exposing Irving, who spent 17 months in jail for fraud.  Irving eventually wrote The Hoax (RT: 85/58) in 1977, which became a 2006 film starring Richard Gere.

I recall a quarter century ago watching Melvin and Howard, a Jonathan Demme film,  Melvin and Howard, with Jason Robards as Hughes and Paul Le Mat as Melvin Dummar, who helped  a wandering and lost Hughes get back to the Sands Hotel.   Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave the film a 94% rating.  Reportedly, Dummar nearly a decade after the incident got an envelope addressed to the President of the LDS Church, where both he and the Mormon Church were each bequeathed a one sixteenth share ($156 million) of the Hughes' estate.  The document was ultimately judged to be a forgery, and Dummar got nothing.  He later re-sued, but again was denied.  Much of the fortune did go to the Hughes Medical Institute, but a thousand people also benefited.  However, it took until 2010, 34 years after his death, to settle the estate.

Which comes to why movie producers name their film.  RULES DON'T APPLY?  A much better one for this flick would have been:  SO WAS HOWARD HUGHES NUTS?  Was he?

He died in 1976 at the age of 70 with an obsession for germs as a recluse.  At the end he weighed just 92 pounds, unkempt with long fingernails and hair, five hypodermic needles in his arms.  He was 6'4" tall.  As screwed up as he was, all indicators suggested he had not totally lost his mind.  He remained essentially coherent.  Sue he was nuts.  But not crazy.  What a life!

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Monday, November 28, 2016

UPDATE ON ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


Whatever happened to Solar Impulse 2?  Including a ten month vacation in Hawaii, after flying nearly 25,000 miles around the world in 17 legs over 15 months from Abu Dhabi to Abu Dhabi, the plane was shipped back to Switzerland.


The Solar Impulse Foundation announced their World Alliance for Clean Technologies at COP22 (Conference of the Parties #22) in Marrakech earlier this month.  Said Bertrand Piccard (below), chairman of the Foundation:

Even if climate change didn’t exist, energy efficient technologies would make sense to create jobs, generate profit and boost economic development, while also reducing CO2 emissions and protecting natural resources    Even if climate change didn’t exist, energy efficient technologies would make sense to create jobs, generate profit and boost economic development, while also reducing CO2 emissions and protecting natural resources.

The U.S. Department of Energy selected AquaHarmonics (their device is in the photo below) of Oregon as the first place winner to received $1.5 million of the Wave Energy Prize.  CalWave Power Technologies of Berkeley won $500,000 and Waveswing America of Sacramento got $250,000.  Ninety-two teams competed.  Scaled prototypes of the finalists were tested at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Carderock, Maryland.

I've long felt that wave power would not work at any large scale, for, save for a very few natural sites that can safely protect the device, storms will destroy most attempts at capturing waves.  The reinforcing costs will become prohibitive.  This is one of those things where I hope I'm wrong, but all my colleagues who have had experience with this technology have also expressed doubts.

Geez, I'm being a killjoy, but energy storage is also having difficulty.  No doubt something is needed to balance the intermittent electricity provided by solar and wind options, but batteries will just not do it.  Lithium batteries in particular will be too expensive.  Pumped hydro appears to be edging ahead in California, but even here, you need a natural site essentially with the right elevation requirements, and they are hard to find these days when people complain about everything.

I'll have a summary article on energy storage soon.

Here we go again, but this time it's not me:  David Victor of the University of California at San Diego, who, in his What a Trump Win Means for the Global Climate Fight, says:

Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency signals an end to American leadership on international climate policy. With the withdrawal of U.S. support, efforts to implement the Paris agreement and avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming have suffered a huge blow.


You can read his point of view by clicking on the title above.  Joel Stronberg authored Renewable Energy in the Age of Trump:  The Politics of Change -- What Now?  He has a realistic, but non-negative viewpoint.

This morning in the morning paper was another Trump warning.  Apparently, he relishes in being called a climate pariah, who also is a malevolent hater of windmills.  However, here is an article indicating that Bill Gates agrees with Trump on the matter of wind technology, and even in Hawaii people are more and more protesting large wind farms.  Mind you, Gates is supportive of renewable energy R&D, but not willy-nilly commercialization of many sustainable technologies at this stage, a point that makes general good sense to me.  In any case, global warming could well become the climactic torpedo to sink U.S.A. Trump.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

HOW MANY ARE THERE?

I was reading Scientific American at the golf course and came upon an article indicating the world has 3 trillion trees.  Well, I did a check and another article said 5 trillion.  So my interest was piqued on how many there were of everything:
    • Here we now get into really big numbers, for there are around 5 times 10 with 30 zeros  bacteria currently living on Planet Earth.  Microscopic life began 4 billion years ago.  Early Homo sapiens, us, came to be maybe 200,000 years ago.
  • Now to really mess with your mind, there are ten times more viruses than bacteria in your body.  That's not all, something called archaea, once thought to be bacteria, was only discovered in the 1970's.  Then there is the eukaryotic kingdom to which we belong.  Why no virus?  'Cause it is not a true living organism (virus to the right below):
  • Skipping off into outer space, we have long been taught that our Sun is nothing special, and, if anything, below average.  Turns out our Sun is brighter than 95% of stars we see in the sky.  Take these numbers with a pound of salt, for they keep changing, but, for now:
    • Our Milky Way Galaxy has 100 billion stars.
    • There are 10 trillion galaxies in the Universe.
    • Thus, we have 1 followed by 24 zeros stars in our observable space.
    • A science blog indicates that our galaxy alone has 10 trillion planets, which seems like an exaggeration, but this same paper indicates that there are also 1 followed by 24 zeros planets in our Universe.
It is conceivable that we are the only site for intelligent life in all of space around us.  The odds of this being the case would be one 1 followed by 24 zeros, or, maybe only 23 zeros, or 22.  Surely, then, there must be other civilizations, some billions of years older than ours.  But that takes me back forty years when I worked for NASA on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

As this is Sunday, not a trick question, but how many Heavens are there?  I, myself, don't think there is any.  However, many of our best minds in history have given this question great thought, and the consensus is that there are THREE Heavens.  In Genesis 1:1;2:1 God created "heavens and earth."  Note the plural.  The Heavens, apparently, according to this source, are:
  • The firmament, or vast solid dome above the atmosphere.
  • Outer Space.
  • A location beyond the stars where God, holy angels, spirits of men and creatures dwell.
So, then, where is Purgatory?  Turns out that The Bible never mentions this exact wording.  Hmm...I wonder how many Catholics are now puzzled.  But this is the kind of logic biblical scholars generally use:  To claim that Purgatory does not exist because the exact word does not appear in Scripture is a failure to understand Scripture.  They say, a good example is that The Bible is itself never mentioned in The Bible.  Anyway, there are several references to a third place after death, the other two being Heaven and Hell.  

There is a kind of shedding of sins, atonement and purification process that occurs in this vague intermediate site or sites.  I have co-opted one by suggesting that 15 Craigside might be a likely location, although I'm more and more feeling that our second floor is, frighteningly, more specifically that focal point.  Of course, you need to be dead to get into Purgatory, but maybe we only think we're alive.

By the way, how many of you will be going to Heaven, if there is one?  According to this analysis, worldwide, maybe 10%.  Why?  Click on that link.  As you will someday go to Heaven if you make Purgatory, that means 90% of Humanity will end up in Hell. Frankly, I wouldn't be too concerned if I were you, for there has yet to be a recent confirmation from anyone who ever went to Heaven or Hell.

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