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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

LAS VEGAS: Paris Hotel

I'm now staying at the very ornate Paris Hotel, owned by Caesar's Entertainment, which also has seven golf courses and over 50 hotels and casinos, including neighbors Planet Hollywood and Bally's.  Doing well, huh?  Well, they filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015.  That's the view from my hotel room.

The history traces back to 1937 when Bill Harrah opened a small bingo parlor in Reno (here with his father), and wends through Holiday Inn (the hotel), purchase of Caesars in 2005 for $10.4 billion and, now The Linq, in the section where the main hotels are located.  There is continuous hybridization occurring.  Caesars just celebrated his 80 years on the Strip.  He passed away at the age of 66 in 1978.

Harrah created the Nevada Gambling Control Board in 1955, then the Gaming Commission in 1959 to remove corruption.  He was the first to remove all color and gambling barriers in American casinos.  The highest Total Rewards Card Tier, SEVEN STARS, is named after his seven wives, which included Bobby Gentry, who made Ode to Billy Joe famous.  He was 57 and she, 25, filing for divorce in five months.  Gentry herself married three times, each lasted less than a year, the final one forty years ago.  At the age of 73 she now supposedly lives a two-hour drive from the Tallahatchie River bridge that made her fame.

Paris Hotel opened on 1 September 1999 with Catherine Deneuve flipping the switch to first turn on the lights.  There is an underground passage connecting the hotel to Bally's, which is linked to the Las Vegas Monorail.  Their headline singer since 2008 has been Barry Manilow.  During the past decade, marketing has focused on gay/lesbian travelers.  There clearly is a second foci, for the hotel TV system has ten Chinese stations.  In the film 2012, this hotel and the rest of the Strip is destroyed, and Godzilla 2014 has wingless MUTO demolishing the Eiffel Tower replica here.

My brother Dan arranged for our family living in the area to have lunch at Joyful House:

That's my brother to the left, but that's enough detail for now:

Dan and I would probably have gone to see Chicago if this was not their dark night, so he dropped me off after lunch.  I first went to the shop at the Paris and a small bottle of Dewar's White Label was $32, with a tiny bottle of cheap red wine at $11, so went for a walk where I found CVA next to this property.  They own Long's in Hawaii.  What a difference.

Here are photos of Las Vegas' Eiffel Tower (540-foot tall, half scale from the original--original plans called for a replica, but that would have interfered with nearby McCarron Airport) from Las Vegas Boulevard, with Caesars Palace across the street and Bellagio/Casears from my hotel room:

That small, shiny bleb is a reflection of the room TV, which is smaller than the ones they had at the Marriott Marquis and California hotels.  Then at night:

Note the waxing crescent moon just above the Bellagio to the left of the Eiffel Tower.

Tomorrow, the World Aquaculture Society Conference begins at the Paris Hotel.


Monday, February 19, 2018


Goodbye San Francisco and Hello Las Vegas:

Except for maybe ten minutes of civilization, the rest of the ride to Las Vegas, sitting on  the left side, was all desert and mountains, no water and a total wasteland, but beautiful:

Did I mention I got a complimentary upgrade to first class?  The turbulence was a problem, so they only served drinks in my section.  In only one hour and 15 minutes, Las Vegas, which looked very hazy:

The incoming ride was so bumpy that the customers in my United flight actually clapped when the plane landed safely.  Vegas was being buffeted by 40 MPH winds that gusted to 60 MPH, stirring up the dust.  It might get down to 32F Wednesday morning, and not once in 2017 did the temperature reach that low.

Checked into the California Hotel, walked into my room and was almost flabbergasted that it was not so decrepit as I was expecting.  The TV set was not of the cathode ray variety and I would say that the decor was better than the SFO Marriott Marquis, including a very large flat screen set, and at one-third the cost.  Of course, who comes to Fabulous LV to watch TV.  Went down to Redwood Steakhouse for dinner:

That baked potato was the largest I've ever had, with escargots, Caesar salad, Duckwood Decoy Cabernet and a Stella.

Hard to believe that the population of Las Vegas is only around 633,000, for the traffic jam on the Strip is horrendous.  The first time I came here in 1960, there were only 64,000.   On the other hand, Honolulu has 375,000, although Oahu, which is the City and County of Honolulu, is at 953,000.  The difference is that Las Vegas has 42 million visitors/year, as compared to Hawaii with a little over 9 million/year.  Vegas is in many ways Hawaii's 9th island, for at one time it was estimated that 200,000 from the 50th State live here.  I think that's an exaggeration, but people from Hawaii still come here in droves just for the fling.

As dominant as gambling is in Las Vegas, Macau now has gambling revenues over THREE TIMES ($28 billion versus $6.4 billion) that of LV.  Macau is one-tenth the size and sees 30 million visitors/year, two-thirds from China.  Vegas has 135 casinos to only 49 for Macau.  The only thing similar today is that their populations are about the same.  Something doesn't seem right here, but, Macau has 30,000 hotel rooms to 17,000 for Las Vegas  to more than 70,000 for Hawaii.  

Anyway, let me close with this infograph:

If you really want to read the details, click on THIS.

Incidentally, Tropical Cyclone Gita now appears to be headed for New Zealand:


Sunday, February 18, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO: Stanford Gang and Chinatown

I had a wonderful time in the final warm San Francisco day for probably some time to come.  Not a cloud in the sky and the temperature rose to 67F.  Hard to believe, but it might snow tomorrow in this general area.

About my Stanford gang, we are all acquaintances from Stanford University's class of '62. We have never participated in any formal class reunions, but have personally now then gotten together on campus, and usually in San Francisco, since they live there, or in Sonoma and Napa Valleys.  To the right Arroyo, where Bill, Jim and I met 60 years ago.

My first contact was with a seagull:

Then the Vallejo Ferry arrived at the Ferry Building dock, so we had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, Slanted Door (sorry Jim, this is the only group photo I have left, so next time I'll make sure you're not sleeping), located just where the ship came:

That's my pho.  This was the first Vietnamese meal for most of them, and they seem to have enjoyed the experience.  We then talked for a couple of hours at Philz Coffee (where every cup is specifically brewed for you), then at the nearby Hyatt.

Nice of them to come by and see me.  I then walked to Chinatown, first met by my Blue-bar Pigeon (got to give it a name):

They have the same mural art as in Kakaako.

Here are some photos of the Marriott Marquis, and note the combined fall colors on the wall and cherry blossoms:

You would think that the Chinese New Year parade, the largest outside China, would be this weekend.  However, that occurs in a week.  Plus there is the largest orchid show in the USA at the the Hall of Flowers from February 23-25.  I had this option remotely possible.  So I decided to stop by again at the Marriott Marquis during that period.  So Stanford Gang, let me know if anyone wants to join me.  Next, on to Las Vegas.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO: My City of Fantasy

As my readers know by now, I live in Purgatory (which, if true, is good, because you are assured of getting to Heaven, after you're purified), also known as Hawaii.  You should know that existence here is not dismally sepulchral as depicted in those paintings.  Mine is a life of wagyu, otoro, truffles, foie gras, golf, poker and more.   However, San Francisco has been even more a fantasy for me, except, amazingly so, also real.

When I took my first trip away from home, I landed in Los Angeles, where my older brother, Stan, picked me up, for he lived in Oxnard and was a marine structural engineer at the Naval Civil Engineering Center in Port Hueneme.  He got me a summer assignment there.  I thought his job was so boring that I picked another type of engineering as far away as possible from his...chemical engineering.  Three brothers, with Stan on the left and Dan, who I will see tomorrow in Las Vegas, where he lives.

The irony is that thirty years later I learned from, perhaps the most eminent ocean professor of his time in Japan then, for he was chairman of the Japan Marine Technology Society, Toshitsugu Sakou, that Stan was the world's pre-eminent marine structural research engineer.  That's Toshitsugu to my left at a reception in Tokyo after I provided a lecture on the Blue Revolution.  I just realized I didn't bring anything blue to wear for my Las Vegas Blue Revolution talk.

So, anyway, at the end of the summer of '58--wow, 60 years ago--Stan drove me to Stanford, where my story of San Francisco and the Bay Area begins.  I saw a sign that said Leland Stanford Junior University, and my first thought was that I was enrolling into a junior college.

Stanford is about 36 miles south of SFO.  After graduating 3.75 years later, I found myself working for the sugar industry in Naalehu on the Big Island.

I met Pearl in September of 1962, and we married in December.  We moved to Kilauea, Kauai, where our backyard (here she is with our dog Pepper) was where South Pacific was filmed.  This was the slippery slide scene where Happy Talk was sung by Bloody Mary to her daughter, played by France Nuyen, who looks just like Pearl.

Note how things seem to repeat around the years 08 or 09 and 02, for we found ourselves in 1968 on the campus of Louisiana State University, a time of Mardi Gras, Pete Maravich and Tiger Football.  I graduated in biochemical engineering 3.75 years later with my dissertation on Tunable Laser Irradiation of Exogenously Photosensitized E. Coli. We moved back to Honolulu where I became an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii in 1972.

That laser background linked me with the NASA Ames Research Center located just south of Stanford and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 44 miles east of San Francisco.  I worked on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Ames, while living back on campus, and laser fusion at Livermore, two of the more fantastical concepts one can imagine.  At Livermore, I remember watching the Watergate trials, and stayed in an apartment adjacent to a Wente Brothers vineyard.  

I had a second stint at LLNR during the Second Energy Crisis in 1979, at which time I was asked to join Senator Spark Matsunaga in D.C.  One of my purposes there was to draft hydrogen legislation, for Hawaii, a tourist state, was worried about the future of jet fuel, and some of us thought that development of the hydrogen jetliner had to begin as soon as possible.  Interestingly enough, I earlier this month gave a plenary talk at Kyushu University, where they have 110 staffers directly involved with hydrogen research.  A second bill I drafted was on ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), which is key to the Blue Revolution, my topic of presentation in Las Vegas next week.

I returned to the University of Hawaii in 1982 and helped form the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, which ten years later in 1992 succeeded in the first open cycle OTEC experiment at Keyhole Point on the Big Island.  However, the SFO link was that on one of my trips I stopped by the Bay Area and stayed at the AMFAC hotel at the airport on 16October1989.  

I flew to Dulles in DC the following day and when I got to my hotel just after 8:30 PM, turned on the TV and saw that the elevator shaft at the AMFAC hotel had caved in.  My room was next to that scene.  They tore down the hotel.  This was the Loma Prieta Earthquake, a segment of the San Andreas Fault, which killed 63, injured 3,757, caused $6 billion in property damage and shut down the World Series.  The fantasy part for me was that I escaped in time.  

Of all the future coincidences, it was on 17October1989 that the Marriott Marquis Hotel first opened.  This is where I'm now staying in San Francisco.  Here is a photo I just took, and that lighted area in the middle is the Bay Bridge, which collapsed in the above earthquake.  That lit up tall building is the Salesforce Tower, at 1070 feet, the highest in the city, just finished last year.

Well, today, I meet my Stanford gang at the Ferry Building and we'll do something.  We now have annual gatherings, but here is a posting of five years ago in Napa.

In that photo to the right, Jim (who was my freshman roommate) and Bill (lived next door in Arroyo Hall), who got married to classmate Sue (below).  To the left a college photo of Jim and Kathy (in the right photo Bill is in the middle between them).

I'll later stroll through Chinatown.  More important, though, I wonder what will happen to me in 2018 and 2022.  Will my run of luck continue?  I good sign of at least a wonderful day to come, SFO at sunrise: