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Friday, March 24, 2017


My very first job after graduating from college dealt with biomass.  I worked as a process engineer for the Hutchinson Sugar Company in Naalehu on the Big Island for C. Brewer, then the oldest company in Hawaii.  To the right, plantation manager Bill Baldwin wishing us well when Pearl and I finally left sugar after seven years of what was probably my most difficult job for me to go to graduate school.  C. Brewer is no more and the so is the sugar industry.  Of all my life failures, this has to be my biggest.  

Sugar, however, was doomed here anyway because, first, it is bad for your health, but, too, low foreign labor expenses and high local land costs made it impossible for Hawaii to compete.  However, even then, I thought that a shift to biofuels was a possible pathway to keep the state green.

After I joined the University of Hawaii in 1972 one of my first funded tasks was to grow microalgae in a raceway, with carbon dioxide from a power plant bubbled into the reactor.  You would thus reduce global warming while producing a sustainable source of clean energy.  There were reports that, per acre per year, microbes could be ten times more efficient than any land crop in the utilization of sunlight to produce biomass.

I might have chaired more conferences and workshops on this subject than anyone else.  If you add hydrogen to the mix, then for sure, because I wrote the original legislation on this subject that became law and chaired the Secretary of Energy's Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel.  Read our report of 1995.

From the beginning I was opposed to using "food" to make ethanol.  Here is a summary from the Department of Energy.  Today we know that the Farm Lobby, through their Congressional influence, hoodwinked the country into using corn to produce ethanol.  Then to burn this ethanol to produce electricity?  Insane.

However, biofuels from the non-food portion of the crop, like using the cellulose, did make sense.  Unfortunately, the industry largely continued using fermentation, and that, too, was a bad idea.  Gasification, then catalysis into a biofuel, with methanol being best, never gained traction.  Cellulosic ethanol efforts predictably never made it.

But what about biofuels from microorganisms?  Over the past decade, companies have prematurely and erroneously suggested that these sources could produce biofuels for $1 gallon.  A study I led for the Department of Energy indicated that the best industry could do was $5/gallon, which is equivalent to $220/barrel. A 2010 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study indicated that algae grown in ponds could produce a biofuel at a cost of $240 to $332/barrel.  It is pretty clear, then, why biofuels have largely failed.  The low cost of petroleum:

At less than $50/barrel today, no biofuel has a chance.

So should we give up on biofuels?  Absolutely not!!!  First, oil prices will shoot past $100/barrel someday.    But the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has the price of oil at $54.62 in December of 2025.  This is, actually, good, for the field of future biofuels needs about a decade of smart and comprehensive R&D to develop the competitive pathways.  In my experience, the most promising processes include:

  • Gasification and catalysis of terrestrial crops into methanol.  
  • Forget fermentation into ethanol.  It takes too long and uses too much equipment.  Plus you will continue to need an inefficient internal combustion engine.  
  • An efficient catalyst to convert gaseous biomass into methanol has not yet been invented.  
  • The direct methanol fuel cell to utilize this biofuel is only in the very early stages of research.  
  • Methanol is the ONLY bio-liquid that can be processed by a fuel cell without an expensive reformer.
  • Consider that a fuel cell vehicle can take it up to five times further than any battery, and you get a sense as to where this field will ultimately be headed.
  • My HuffPo on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR OUR BIOFUEL PROBLEM can be considered.  It was published almost nine years ago.  Nothing has changed, except that the price of oil is today less than half of what it was then.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Soon after Pearl passed away I thought it would be a nice tribute to plant a few gold trees for her.  There is a large one right next to 15 Craigside, where I now live.

Pearl's sister Doris arranged for her family to visit Pearl's Gold Tree at the Ala Wai Golf Course.  Here with son-in-law Dean, me, her daughter Debbie, son David, Doris...and granddaughter Lily:

Jordan Abe heads this course and Garrick is the City and County of Honolulu Golf Course Systems Administrator:

Garrick was quoted in Honolulu magazine:

In 2006, it hosted 159,931 games of golf, an average of 439 a day. Garrick Iwamuro, the City and County’s golf course systems administrator, says, “People like the central location, and it’s very well kept for a municipal course, especially considering the amount of play. It’s not a difficult course, but it is a fair one, for all skill levels.” The low prices don’t hurt its popularity—you can play a full 18 holes for as little as $12 with a Golf ID card. 

More than a decade later, costs have gone up (however, if I walk, I pay $9/round with a monthly card for seniors), but the course remains popular.

These gold trees are not doing well at Ala Wai and Makalena.  Probably has something to do with the water table level, but I think the winds are also the problem.

However, Garrick has a horticulture degree from the University of Hawaii and is doing whatever he can to raise these trees.  I have offered to donate a few more trees, for it would be terrible if they all died.  Grown on the Mauka side of the course, protected from those winds, I think they would have a better chance of thriving.

The family then went to Ruscello, an Italianish restaurant located in the new Nordstrom at the Ala Moana Shopping Center.  Similar to Bloomingdale's Forty Carats, but probably ten times larger.  There are Ruscello's in many of the other Nordstroms.

These are the outside tables.  There are more inside.  I had a soup and salad with a Prosecco:

The others had:

Nicely presented and not all that expensive.  Doris indicated that they sold their Hilo home and passed on to me a few old photos of Pearl:

Yes, that's me above, more than 55 years ago, and the bottom photo shows Pearl with her parents and U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga when she worked for him.  Tomorrow, I'll probably deal with the subject of what happened to biofuels.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

PEARL'S ASHES: Chapter 12 Rio de Janeiro

As you have surely noted, I'm not exactly suffering on my quest to drop Pearl's Ashes.  Who's paying for all this?  I'm using her savings.  On 3 October 2011 I activated a monumental around the world trip, to quote:

Today I begin my final ash scattering journey.  I'll be stopping through Bangkok, Tokyo, Zurich, Amsterdam, Stockholm, London, Sao Paulo, Rio, Buenos Aires, Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Las Vegas, Reno, and San Francisco.  Let me know if I'll be stopping by your city.  Perhaps we can have lunch or something.  My first leg takes 18 hours, so, maybe I'll break my Rome-DC record.  Hopefully, it will be less stressful than my Delhi to Barcelona adventure.

My first ash tossing ceremony was to be in Rio de Janeiro, but getting there was full of adventure and enjoyment.  For example, I broke my all-time record by tasting 24 different alcoholic drinks from Honolulu to Bankgok via Tokyo, all in first class.  Thai Air to Bangkok:

First Class on Thai Air means you have your own room and Dom Perignon (21) was served while still on the ground.  The United flight had what must have been a 5 inch screen, but this one was more like two feet and high definition.  The sound/video system was exceptional.  There must have been a hundred movies and something called a juke box where you could program what you wanted to hear.

Click on the above link for details.

Bangkok was fun, but no ashes.  My next stop was Japan, which in itself was worthy of a few chapters.  Then on to Amsterdam, via Zurich, an itinerary that took 20 hours.  Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities, where marijuana and magic truffles are tolerated, there is a famous Red Light District and museums are abundant.  The next city was Stockholm, one of the safest cities in the world where I almost got my pocket picked.  Of all the cities, I had, perhaps, my best two meals in a row.

In London I also had some great meals and went to see Phantom of the Opera and The Wizard of Oz.  I then spent a horrid 18 hours trying to get from London to Sao Paulo.  Three hours after arrival I began lunch at DOM, the best restaurant in South America.  Here I am with Chef Alex Atala.  To quote:

There is, apparently, no discernible dress code in Sao Paulo.  The table next to mine had five dressed in Che Guevara wear, and the young mother breast fed her baby twice, one from each.  I was tempted to take a photo. 

Sao Paulo has what I call doo doo drops (left).  I felt safer walking around this city, but that was probably because any metropolitan area has good and bad zones.  Almost half Brazilians of Japanese heritage live in Sao Paulo.

Difficult switch, but back to cuisine, the next day I had lunch at Mani, making this the best two lunches in a row I've ever had.  Here to the right with Chef Helena Rizzo.

I started with a caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail made with sugarcane liquor, sugar and lime.  Her artistry is legendary.  Litchi, foie gras, baby yucca, puxuri (a fruit), and pequi, supposedly a dangerous fruit.  I guess this is their equivalent of fugu.  Here, a simple salad:

Finally, I flew to Rio de Janeiro, called the Wonderful City by residents, and I term the Happiest and Most Beautiful City in the World.  Pearl had never been here, and I did not drop off her ashes in Europe nor Sao Paulo, but Rio was exceptional...but not safe.  I got a spider bite that could have killed me, and a couple of tour members were robbed in broad daylight on the street.

For Pearl's Ash #22, I selected the city symbol, Christ the Redeemer, next to two yellow flowers at the base of the statue.

Of course, one has to have churrascaria and go to a samba show:

My round the world journey continued, and, when I return to this e-photo book in two months, probably on May 10 or 17, I will toss Pearl Ashes #23 at the Most Extraordinary Natural Wonder of the World.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Major League Baseball (MLB) is the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States.  While baseball began as early as 1791, and the first professional team (Cincinnati) was formed in 1869, MLB officially was founded in 1903.

Who invented baseball?  While Abner Doubleday is here and there credited, in 1845 Alexander Joy Cartwright, a bank clerk, codified most of the rules that today still stand.  In 1849, at the age of 29, he moved to Hawaii, and set up a baseball field in Makiki, now called Cartwright Field.  He served as fire chief of Honolulu from 1850-1863 (left).  One of the leaders overthrowing the Hawaiian Monarch in 1893 was Lorrin Thurston, who played baseball at Punahou School with Cartwright's grandson, Alexander Joy Cartwright III.

There are 15 teams each in the American and National Leagues.  The big difference is that the NL is more traditional, and still has pitchers in the regular hitting line-up.  The AL has something called a designated  hitter.

The season starts with limited play on Sunday, April 2.  This is important, because if you subscribe to the "have every hitter slot filled everyday" strategy, you will need to, in the draft, select marginal players from the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Arizona, Chicago Cubs and St Louis.  These teams don't play on Monday, April 3, but all the other teams do, so get rid of them after the first day.  During week one, in that unusual 8-day period, only Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Colorado, Houston, LA Angels, LA Dodgers, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Diego and Seattle play 7 games.  The season ends on October 1 when every team plays.  That is a period of exactly six months.

Thus, in your picking strategy, it would be to your advantage to select an NL pitcher, for he will have an almost sure out when the pitcher comes up to the plate.  Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Baumgartner, in the that order, are among the best hitting pitchers.  But this doesn't matter in fantasy baseball, because hitting statistics don't count for pitchers.

The best hitting ballparks are (figure stands for the number of runs scored at that home ballpark divided by the runs scored at away games):

1.  Coors Field (Rockies) 1.297
2.  The Ballpark at Arlington (Rangers) 1.125
3.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.111
4.  Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.107
5.  Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.101

The best pitching stadia are (lower the number, better the pitching park):

26.  Dodger Stadium 0.908
27.  Citi Field (Mets, 2009-2013) 0.897 [Shea Stadium, 2004-2008, 0.886]
28.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.895
29.  Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.882
30.  Petco Park (Padres) 0.811 (right)

Thus, never, never stack your line-up with pitchers from the Colorado Rockies.  San Diego Padres pitchers should be good, but the team is generally bad, so their pitchers do not win many games.

About hitters, these can vary, but generally, the only important statistics are:

Batting Average (AVG)Home Runs (HR)
Runs Scored (R)Runs Batted In (RBI)
Stolen Bases (SB)

In four of the five categories, theoretically, the more games you play, the higher should be your performance.  Thus, I generally have three to five hitters I interchange at will because on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, all teams do not play.  Thus, I always seek leagues where you have unlimited ACQUISITIONS.  Head to head leagues generally limit the number of acquisitions to 7/week.  
How you get a new player is to click on Player, located in the dark box at the top (I'm only using the standard ESPN fantasy baseball system, although most other competitions are similar).  When you get to that page, I usually click on the last 7 or 15 games played because hitters go hot and cold.  I then select, for the position, someone who has hit a lot of home runs or stolen a lot of recent bases, WITH A HIGH BATTING AVERAGE (that important fifth category).  Most leagues allow you to make any change to your lineup before the first game is played that day.

The counted pitching categories are:

Earned Run Average (ERA)*Strikeouts (K)
Walks plus Hits Per Innings Pitched (WHIP)*Wins (W)
Saves (SV)
*Minimum 10 IP

* The minimum 10 innings pitched is for head to head leagues.  For rotisserie leagues there generally is a 1000 innings minimum for the season.  This means you need to average 5.5 innings/day to end up at a minimum of 1000.  Nine relievers won't reach 1000 innings for the year.

But note that three of the five categories lean to the reliever's strengths:  ERA, WHIP and Saves.  Plus they do get a lot of strikeouts.  If you max out on those statistics, your odds of winning are improved.  What I then do is to pick the best pitchers available (this year I got Clayton Kershaw), then around mid-season have fun picking the best pitcher or two that day to gain wins and strikeouts, while trying to maintain my ERA and WHIP.  Some leagues permit only 200 starts/season, so that would improve my chances of gaining points in wins and strikeouts.  During the year, pitchers (and hitters) go good and bad.  Invariably, there are a lot starting pitchers available throughout the year on the free agent list.  In leagues of eight teams or more you won't find a decent closer available.

My final strategy is to pick players who play at more than one position.  For example, for one of my teams this year I have:

  Buster Posey  C (but might also play 1B this year)
  Trea Turner, 2B and OF
  Jonathan Villar, SS and 3B
  Jean Segura, SS and 2B
  Brad Miller, SS and 1B
  Eduardo Nunez, SS and 3B
  Wilson Contrares, C and OF
  Javier Baez, 2B, 3B and SS
  Jose Pedraza, SS and OF

I also have captured the market in stolen bases, with these projection expected for 2017:
  Trea Turner  44
  Jonathan Villar  57
  Jean Segura  29
  Eduardo Nunez  38
  Mookie Betts  24
  Starling Marte, 45
  Dee Gordon  58 (right...but will he do well without PEDs?)
  Billy Hamilton  67
  Jose Pedraza  41

You can of course go to something like Rotowire, which gives great fantasy baseball tips.  However, here are a few simple ones of mine:
  • On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, use the free agent list to fill up on your batting order.
  • Home run hitters are most important, for they count as HR, RBI and R, but attempt to get players who also steal bases, if they also have a good batting average and hit some home runs.
  • All teams play Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Consider a strategy based around stoppers, set-up pitchers and closers.
  • Keep up everyday, and be aware of injuries.
  • Enjoy yourself, for nothing much else occurs in the summertime
Tomorrow, Pearl's Ashes continues in Rio de Janeiro.  However, after that, my e-book on this subject goes on hiatus for two months, as I will be on my next around the world trip.