Total Pageviews

Friday, June 30, 2017

MORE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME

Much more than half the time, when I wake up, I have no idea what will be my posting for the day, and I've been doing this daily for more than nine years.  So I will deviate from my norm by alerting you to a few articles I've been thinking about, to be fleshed out over the next week or so:
  • Sure, we have mayors and governors seeming to gain political points by defying President Donald Trump on the Paris Climate Agreement.  Many of them are quite sincere about their beliefs and have pledged to rally their constituency to save Planet Earth.  But is this wise?  Can any municipality or state or country or region push ahead with good intent and survive the obvious economic repercussions?  I think not.  This point of view after teaching Environmental Engineering and leading an international team to remediate global warming.  The bottom line is that everyone, every country, the whole world, needs to work together and equally  (which will of course not be so) cover the required costs to reverse the effects of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion.
  • The city of Honolulu has initiated a bike rental system, Biki, managed by a non-profit, with county government assistance.  Here I go again, but does this make any good sense?  Mind you, I was the University of Hawaii campus ecologist for years when I taught Technology and Society and headed the Environmental Center.  Our city is not conformed to take this step now, and I'll tell you why.
  • Just last week an Air Asia flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur survived a terrifying experience.  Air Asia 8501 on 28 December 2014 crashed into the Java Sea.  Air Asia operates the world's lowest unit cost of $0.023/passenger/kilometer and averages a very high 13 hours of aircraft use/day.  We, of course, know of two 2014 Malaysian Airlines flights:  17 (shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew) and 370, which disappeared with 239 on board.  Air Asia has come to Hawaii, and you can fly from Honolulu to Kuala Lumpur only for $189.  The cheapest other options are mostly in the $600 range.  Would you fly to Malaysia using any Malaysian airline?  I might, but as there is no Malaysia participation in Star Alliance, probably never.
  • I once sat on the board of Hawaii Biotech, which spun off Cardax 15 years ago.  All my shares have in the meantime been diluted to triviality through a series of takeovers and buyouts and such.  We were once close to a vaccine for malaria and dengue fever, then later, encephalitis, Ebola, West Nile Virus and Zika.  Just this past week Cardax was picked by the National Institute of Aging  to test an Astaxanthin compound for anti-aging.  I'll take you through those tumultuous years, which began in 1982, to today, when, finally, perhaps, potential success.
-

Thursday, June 29, 2017

FOUR SEASONS HUALALAI VERSUS 15 CRAIGSIDE

The Four Seasons Hualalai first opened in 1996.  U.S. News and World Report's 2017 ranking of U.S. hotels:
  • #1  The Langham (Chicago)--$300
  • #2  Four Seasons Hualalai--$900 (but, kamaaina rate near $500)
  • #3  The Jefferson (DC)--$300
  • #4  Montage Kapalua Bay--$2000
  • #5  The Lodge at Sea Island (Georgia)--$550
A few others listed include:  #11  The Peninsula Beverly Hills, #12  Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, #13 Four Seasons Lanai, #16  Four Seasons Wailea, #21 Hotel Bel-Air Los Angeles, #26  Trump International Chicago, #30  St. Regis New York, #33  Ritz Carlton Kapalua, #48  The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, #50  Halekulani Waikiki, #57  The Broadmoor Colorado Springs, #65  The Kahala Honolulu, #66  St. Regis Princeville, #69  The Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, #71  The Inn at Little Washington (near DC), #74  The Phoenician Scottsdale, #78  Bellagio Las Vegas, #91  Grand Hyatt Kauai and #101  Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.

Did you know Bill Gates owns 47.8% of Four Seasons?  The chain was started by Issy Sharp of Canada in 1960.  He still owns 5% of the company, accepting a takeover bid in 2007 of nearly $4 billion by Gates and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who also bought the Fairmont system for $4 billion.

In any case, a prime feature of FSH is the sunset, left above, to the right and below.


So with all that hoopla, why waste your time comparing 15 Craigside, where I live, with the Four Seasons Hualalai?  Well, this contrariety will be attempted in the spirit of Trump vs Takahashi and Musk vs Takahashi.  Sure, they're richer and of course FSH is lavishly swanky, but there is more to life than extravagance.  

While I concede sunsets to FSH, I do enjoy my end of the day meals on my lanai with these sorts of view, left and below:

While aliens to Hawaii pay $900 for one night at FSH, and I'm not sure they even get any break for breakfast, my cost was $535, with a $90 credit for breakfast, bringing the price down to $445, half that of malahinis (those not from Hawaii).  That would be $13,350/month.  

I pay 15C $4000/month, including three free meals/day.  My FSH bill was $742.84 for one day, including taxes, lunch and dinner.  Thus, FSH would cost $22,285/month.  

Sure, I had to invest $400,000 just to move in, but those with residencies at the Big Island hotel site, just for golf, start at $200,000 and still have a hefty monthly bill.  My Ala Wai Golf Course monthly card is $90, giving me ten free rounds.  Oh, there is a new offering now at Four Seasons Hualalai, where you can move in only for $4 million, although a prime location increases the tab to $4.8 million.  On pure economics, 15 Craigside has FSH beat.

We both have beaucoup activities.  15C daily has several exercise classes, films and documentaries, craft gatherings, hula and ukulele lessons, live entertainment, including the Royal Hawaiian Band, regular parties with free wine/beer, tours, bridge, scrabble, and poker.  Well, I average a regular loss of a couple of bucks for poker, but a good share of the winnings goes to a pot for a group dinner a couple of times/year.  FSH?  Yoga, spinning, lei-making, tennis clinic, meditation, eco-tour....but there is an added charge for just about everything.  Again, advantage 15C.

FSH has a good beach with spectacular views.  15C has a tiny pool and a panoramic view of graveyards.  Actually, my apartment can't see graves.  Instead, from where I'm seating creating this blog, I just took photos of my Makai (to the ocean), Ewa and Diamond Head views:


That bottom shot is of Punchbowl, in which is located the National Cemetery of the Pacific.  Not as good as FSH, but okay.

Service at FSH is about as good as it gets.  I expressed some mild annoyance of my steak and salad at the Hualalai Grill, and they reacted by deleting these items from my bill.  The Dining Committee gripes all the time about the attitude of our chef, but the administration seems overly protective, resulting in what is looming like a wholesale resignation of committee members.    I, for one, have made a decision to live my way.  However, just about everywhere else, service at 15 Craigside is as good as FSH.  

All in all, it so far appears that Four Seasons Hualalai might have the edge on 15 Craigside.  But, the difference maker is something called people.  While the service at FSH might be commendable, I have a family here at 15C.  My dinner tablemates are good friends.  Our floor is a close community.  My three neighbors go out to dinner, and, maybe soon, perhaps golf.  When I return from a trip, I get dozens of welcome homes.  We look out for each other.  At Four Seasons Hualalai I was alone...which, too, I can be good.  That could well be the final advantage of 15C, for I can also be as independent as I want.

If Heaven turns out to be like Four Seasons Hualalai, that would be no surprise.  Not sure if the Almighty would allow such ostentation, but no harm in expecting the best.  15 Craigside is closer to Purgatory, not perfect, but a good place to purify yourself.  Which is better?  Four Seasons Hualalai if you can afford it.  15 Craigside is more realistically suited for a greater percentage of Humanity.  Most of us feel blessed to have made it here.

-

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

PEARL'S ASHES: Chapter 17--Jindai Botanical Garden


On 3April2009, Pearl and I had 
dinner at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo with four key individuals who helped me search for Kenjiro's  grandmother.  Click on that link for details of my roots quest.  From the left, Fumio Ito (of Tokyo Electric Power, who led the Japan's team on Nauru to build their first ocean thermal energy conversion facility), Toshitsugu Sakou (Tokai University dean who chaired the Japan Marine Technology Society), Kenji Hotta (ocean professor at Nihon University) and his wife, Hiromi, who accompanied us on the search to Utashinai, with Takayoshi Ota (Shimizu engineer who worked with Fumio on Nauru).

Fumio indicated at the gathering that he wanted to take us to his favorite sakura spot, Jindai Botanical Park, which has become the emotional center for Pearl's Ashes.  On 8April2009, he picked us up in a taxi at the Tokyo Westin Hotel.  The cherry blossoms were at peak, with the slight winds blowing around cherry blossom petals like in a snowstorm.  It was all so mesmerizingly beautiful.

What Pearl and I did not know was that Fumio had practically escaped from his hospital room just to honor his wish to guide us.  A week later we learned that he passed away.  Three months later Pearl went.  This was a terrible time in my life.

Two years later on 10April 2011, with some reluctance, I decided to again visit Jindaiji.  But this time I walked to the other end (this is said to be largest park in Tokyo), and to my shock, looked up and saw this:


A statue that looked exactly like Pearl.  I took a photo and was so startled, that I neglected to drop off her ashes at the site.

I returned a year later on 22April2012 and, on the back, saw 1961 Y. Busshi.  I later learned that the Y. was for Yasuo.  I discussed with the garden staff about who the model might be.  They made a quick search through the files and could not find anything.  They said they'd follow up.  I left my business card, but as of this writing more than five years later, nothing.  I did have an excellent bento with Chofu beer close to the statue and dropped Pearl's Ashes #31.  

I left PA#32 where all those cherry trees were blooming, around where Fumio took a photo of Pearl and me.  Jindaiji certainly has the greatest variety of cherry blossoms.

Anyone wishing to visit Jindai Botanical Park and "Pearl's" statue, can catch a taxi and pay a fortune, or take two other more economical ways:
  • Board the JR Chuo line to Kichijoji or Mitaka Stations and transfer to bus #4 at Kichijoji or #65 at Mitaka.  Ask some Odakyu bus attendant which bus stop to use, or memory has it that Kichijoji is BS#6 and Mitaka South Exit BS#3.
  • From Shinjuku Station, take the Keio train line to Chofu.  Go to bus stop #14 and board bus #34. 

At the main entrance, once inside, make an immediate right turn to the Rose Garden.  That's the Greenhouse in the background.  Right in front is a large chrome chime that plays angelic music.  Pearl's statue is the closest one to it.  Note that the park is closed on Mondays, except on national holidays, when it is closed the following day, Tuesday.  I've come all that distance on three closed days, including on my latest trip to Japan.  However, if the cherry blossoms are in bloom, just the ride to the garden is spectacular.

Next Wednesday, The Legality and Logistics.

-

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A $100 JAPANESE BREAKFAST?



 Ranking of Four Seasons Hualalai?  According to U.S. News and World Report:
My breakfast at 15 Craigside is usually a small amount of cereal with fruits and milk, plus, sometimes some yogurt.  On mornings when I plan to walk 18 holes on a golf course, a typical combination is a more elaborate fried ahi (yellow-fin tuna) or ham, two eggs over easy on rice with tsukemono.  

Then, I have an apple on the course for lunch.  If I walk twice per week I can then eat and drink as much as I want for that week.

I usually have an annual stay at the Four Seasons Hualalai because it is one of my very favorite hotels.  Something about the spirit of the place is divine.

The tradition of elaborate breakfasts started eight years ago when I posted:

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A $60 JAPANESE BREAKFAST?

Then four years ago I said I had a $100 breakfast there.  But if you look closely at the meal, the value did not really reach $100.

This time I got very close to $100, for my room came with a credit up to $90 for breakfast.  Why $90?  Because their computer assumes there will be at least two people.  Having noticed this loophole previously, I ordered two full meals, plus a plate of local fruits:


I brought my own large can of beer and sake, which I warmed in the bathroom basin.  Many of you never had Starfruit (called Carambola elsewhere),  Longan (means Dragon Eye in Cantonese--the small Lychee) or Dragon Fruit (called Pitaya in Central and South America--the pink fruit, which has the texture of Kiwifruit).

It took me an hour and a half to maybe consume half this assortment.  During this 10 - 11:30 period I saw only one golfer make it to the 18th green in front of my room.  Food not totally wasted, though, for very shortly, a variety of birds came.  Hard to see, but there are at least four varieties.
This was an especially gratifying visit to the Big Island, mainly because it appears that I'm not yet totally obsolete.  At the ocean energy gathering, participants seem to genuinely be interested in my vision about the Blue Revolution.  This seed seems now more securely planted for the long term future of Planet Earth and Humanity.

Now, back to Honolulu.  As my plane took off, the Natural Energy of Laboratory Authority, the "land" bridge to a thousand 1000 MW floating cities of the year 2100:


Home sweet home:


-

Monday, June 26, 2017

MY DAY AT THE FOUR SEASONS HUALALAI

The Four Seasons Hualalai rests at the foot of Mount Hualalai, a bit taller than 8000 feet, last erupting only about two hundred years ago.  This is a dormant volcano, so....

The next few postings will focus on FSH, one of my top three hotels.  As close to perfection as this hotel might be, there are some faults.  When I checked in the reservation I made for dinner at Ulu was not registered.  I had even received a response from their concierge two weeks ago.  

Turns out this was more good than bad, for I was supposed to have a 5:30 table for the sunset, but my huge 1PM lunch at Beach Tree made 7:30 at Hualalai Grill a lot more enjoyable.  I had two specially prepared grilled steak tacos with a tasty gazpacho, accompanied by a draft beer and cabernet meritage:


As a kamaaina (local person), the price is in the range of 30-40% less than an alien, so whatever room they give is good enough.  Mine was just off the 18th hole:


You can see the flagstick.  Room 3703 would be terrific during the annual Champions Tour held here.

I decided to take an hour walk which became two hours when I made a few wrong turns:


I might add, only a few of this lizard, but skinnier darker ones flit around on the walkways, so if you have a fear of small dinosaurs, this is not the place for you.  At least a dozen, or two, crossed my path as I walked around.  But I did not see any flying cockroaches nor ants.  That is the full 18th hole looking towards my room.

I went back to my room to take a shower and followed with a large glass of ice filled scotch to watch the sunset.  It was just about here that I dropped Pearl's Ashes #4:  


Hawaii is in the midst of King Tides, where the sea level has exceeded historic values.  The wave remnants just about got up to my recliner on the beach.

I then walked over to Hualalai Grill.  I still had my now iceless scotch in hand, but the staff showed no negative reaction and showed me to my table.  I ordered a New York strip with Caesar Salad and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon:


They feature vegetables and beef from this area. The animals are grass fed, so they tend to be tough.  I don't think they grow Romaine lettuce here.  I thus indicated that this was not a Caesar salad, and I had difficulty eating the steak.  Mind you, it was very tasteful, but I had to spit out most of the meat.  I felt somewhat guilty, but they charged me only for the glass of wine.  In a way, that is the spirit of Four Season Hualalai.  The service is similar to the best you can find in the Orient.

The best meal I had was breakfast, but I'll save that for tomorrow with the title:  HAVE YOU EVER HAD A $100 JAPANESE BREAKFAST?  On Thursday, I'll continue my serialization of PEARL'S ASHES, then on Thursday, a comparison of Four Seasons Hualalai with 15 Craigside:  Which is Heaven and Which is Purgatory?

-
There is new hurricane, Dora, off Mexico:


The wind speed is up to 85 MPH, but the projection is an early fizzlement way before getting anywhere near Hawaii.

-