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Friday, September 30, 2016

IS MIYAZAKI BECOMING THE EPICUREAN CAPITAL OF THE WORLD?

Tropical storm Chaba is beginning to strengthen into a Category 3 typhoon, with a current path predicted to pass right over Naha (Okinawa) and Miyazaki (Kyushu).


Miyazaki, a prefecture of slightly more than a million people, located in the southeast corner of Japan, is a city no one visits.  Typhoons regularly come, but the damage is almost always minimal.  I don't know anyone, anywhere in the world, including Japan, who has slept a night in that city.  Why?  It is 542 miles away from Tokyo, the approximate distance from Los Angeles to Reno.  Plane or train?  Perhaps $350 and 10.5 hours by rail.  Drive?  $200 and 15 hours.  Then you need to double those parameters for the round trip back.  A Green Car Japan Rail Pass for one week costs $370.  Then you have six days to go anywhere you want, including Sapporo, something I've done a couple of times.  I've been to Miyazaki on at least five occasions, mostly on the Shinkansen with a transfer from Kagoshima-Chuo to Miyazaki.


I've gone mostly for the best beef in the world, Miyazaki Japanese Wagyu.  I was just there last month, but on my upcoming Fall bullet train adventure, will mostly spend time in the north.

A third of a century ago--this was in 1983, thus the brand name--the Soviet Union gifted the bester sturgeon to Miyazaki Prefecture as a symbol of friendship.  The Miyazaki Prefectural Fisheries Research Institute located in Kobayashi experimented with the production of caviar.  Eight years later, in 1991, they succeeded in crossbreeding beluga and Acipenser ruthenus. In 2004 they completed the life cycle of white sturgeon from North America, and this became the fish of choice:  Russia zero - America one.  In nature, they can get very large, the biggest ever caught, from Fraser River in British Columbia, weighed in at 1,100 pounds, measuring 12 feet 4 inches:


We all know that the egg is caviar, but most are not familiar with the flesh of the males or females after they are finished with egg-laying.  In Europe, it is known as Royal Fish, and in China, Emperor Fish.  As sturgeon can live for a hundred years, there is also the potential of immortality when you consume this delicacy.  This fish is high in carnosine, said to be effective for preventing dementia.

It takes eight years before a five-foot white sturgeon produces roe, with one laying worth $30,000.  The world caviar industry has mostly crumbled.  Miyazaki could well become the Iran and Russia of the world in the future of high quality caviar.  As recently as 2014 the total production was 132 pounds.  This will increase to 661 pounds this year.  Says Motoo Nakamoto of their caviar cooperative:
Our caviar tastes milder than imported eggs, and their texture is more smooth, like cream. If you have them with sake, it will be perfect.

I trust the prefectural leaders are now also contemplating growing truffles both white and black, and, as the world is quickly abandoning the farming of geese for foie gras, I can imagine how their scientists can develop a humane way to feed these birds to produce the best in the world.

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Incidentally, there is also a very dangerous Hurricane Matthew at 120 MPH in the Caribbean, soon to threaten Jamaica, then Cuba:


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Thursday, September 29, 2016

THE BEST SHANGHAI SOUP DUMPLINGS

A week ago I lunched at Mandalay on Shanghai Soup Dumplings and dried scallop soup.  Yesterday I found a closer and cheaper place to have these dumplings.

However, the first time I had xiaolongbao was in Shanghai at least three decades ago.  I don't even remember the hotel name and tourism to China was still an adventure.  So, anyway, I went into an adjacent restaurant and asked if there was something memorable worthy of my consideration.  Xiaolongbao, or Shanghai Soup Dumplings, were suggested.  I fell in love with them and will forever be addicted.

They are called xiaolongbao, because they are prepared in a small bamboo steaming basket, xialong in Chinese, with bao, or more correctly, baozi, the term for steamed bun.  This dish was invented in the Jiangnan region of China, of which Shanghai and Wuxi are two cities.  The Wuxi version is a bit sweeter.

Ironically, a restaurant chain from Taiwan is now the most famous for Shanghai Soup Dumplings (SSD).  You can find Din Tai Fung (DTF) also in China, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Dubai and....the USA--several in the Los Angeles area and one in Seattle.

Yang Bingyi, who escaped the Chinese civil war in 1948, found a job selling cooking oil in Taiwan.  In 1958 he opened his own oil store, but added dumplings and noodles in 1972.  The world of cooking oil changed (to cans), so in 1980 he focused on XLB.  You can still go to the original restaurant on Xinyi Road, Taipei.  

Forbes called SSD "the world's greatest dumplings," while Zagat has said "little morsels of Heaven."  The New York Times in 1993 named DTF one of the top ten restaurants in the world.  Two of them in Hong Kong now each has a Michelin star.  Paradise Dynasty (not a DTF) in Singapore is one of my favorites, for they serve the original (pork hash), plus garlic, ginseng, foie gras, black truffle, cheese, crab roe and Szechuan, each, of course, a different color.

Okay, so what about this best place for XLB/SSD in Honolulu?  An easy downhill walk for me to the Chinese Cultural Plaza is Fook Lam:



You will notice several things.  First, the leafy stuff below the six dumplings is Chinese cabbage or won bok (I SHOULD WARN YOU THAT MY COMPUTER HAS THIS TROUBLING TENDENCY TO CHANGE MY SPELLING, SOMETIMES OVERNIGHT, THUS BOK KEEPS BECOMING BON).  Secondly, that sauce is Zhenjiang vinegar with ginger slivers.  I should add that these are soup dumplings because the pork hash is swimming in soup inside the thin skin.  If prepared well, you must be very careful, for the soup is very hot.  That Rolling Rock can of beer cost all of $1 at a shop in the adjacent mall. Fook Lam is a bring your own bottle place.  The tea is free.  The whole meal above cost me around $10.  If you never have tried Shanghai Soup Dumplings, I can highly recommend Fook Lam (Chinese Cultural Plaza at top left next to Nuuanu Stream and River Street).

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Tropical Storm Chaba will soon strengthen into a Category 3 typhoon.  All models show the eye of Chaba still over Naha, then a path towards the western side of Japan:


In the Atlantic, Hurricane Matthew at 75 MPH will soon weaken, then again become a hurricane, possibly into a Category 2 after a turn to the north.  Landfall can be predicted for Cuba, with a path along the Eastern Seaboard.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

IS GLOBAL WARMING A HOAX?

At the first presidential debate earlier this week:

“Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real," Clinton said.

“I did not. I did not. I do not say that,” Trump interjected.

Yes, Donald, you did. And there's a Twitter trail to prove it. 
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

This wasn't the first time Trump tried to shift his stance on this key issue. While the GOP nominee once claimed that tweet to be a joke, he has doubled down on the hoax claim a number of times, tweeting in 2014, “Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?” And on CNN in 2015, “I don’t believe in climate change.” 

Why is Donald Trump so sincerely disbelieving?  For one:

     91% Of Americans Aren’t Worried About Global Warming

However, this is Michael Bastarch from The Daily Caller, a conservative website co-founded by Neil Patel, former adviser to VP Dick Cheney.  I double-dare you to read that article and come to the same conclusion.  There is a political tendency to listen and preach to the choir.  Who do you think tunes in to Rush Limbaugh? Barack Obama?   Hillary Clinton?  Maybe Donald Trump.

But don't denounce Trump, nor the Republicans.  Blame yourself:  global warming ranked near the bottom of voters' concerns:

The fossil industry, of course, is behind this all, partly explaining Republican intransigence, for guess who donates to whom?
Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."
— The truth about denial, S. Begley, Newsweek[28]

Greenpeace presented evidence of the energy industry funding climate change denial in their 'Exxon Secrets' project.[29][30] An analysis conducted by The Carbon Brief in 2011 found that 9 out of 10 of the most prolific authors who cast doubt on climate change or speak against it had ties to ExxonMobil. Greenpeace have said that Koch industries invested more than US$50 million in the past 50 years on spreading doubts about climate change.[31][32][33] 

In 2010, an overwhelming percentage of Republicans did not believe that anything serious was happening. Perhaps Trump, though, does not realize that the times are indeed changing.

       
2015%2016
%
Worried a great deal/fair amount about global warming
Republicans3140
Independents5564
Democrats7884
Effects of global warming already begun
Republicans3640
Independents5555
Democrats7277
Will pose serious threat to you in your lifetime
Republicans1820
Independents3743
Democrats5358
Increased temperatures due to human activities
Republicans3438
Independents5668
Democrats7485
GALLUP ENVIRONMENT POLL

While that shift is happening, Republicans still mostly just do not believe global warming will affect them in their lifetime, which is the attitude of Donald Trump.  How can a Republican and Democrat growing up in our society today be so different in appreciating that human activities are causing these increasing temperatures.  LOOK  IMMEDIATELY ABOVE AT THE FINAL COMPARISON:  Republicans = 38% and Democrats = 85%.

The Grand Poobah of the conspiracy theorists is U.S. Senator James Inhofe, a Republican who chairs the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, and has remarked:

With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people?

Amazon has only nine of Inhofe's book available, for $18.35.  He went so far as to blame Barbra Streisand.  Inhofe is certainly not alone:

Climate change has also been called the "greatest scam in history" by John Coleman (left), who co-founded the Weather Channel.[19] When questioned by the IPCC regarding his claims, he responded "The polar ice is increasing, not melting away. Polar Bears are increasing in number."19]

You might be surprised, though, to hear that he is half-right regarding polar ice and the polar bear population is actually a reasonable debatable subject.


When Al Jazeera begins reporting that man-made climate change might be a concern, even Republicans should begin to take notice.  But maybe that's why the American station closed down earlier this year.

More than eight years ago I wrote in The Huffington Post:

Why Do Republicans Like Fossil Fuels and Not Care That Much for the Environment?

I even then quoted Senator Bernard Sanders.  Here is just one of my statements from that posting:

The Congressional Insiders Poll reported on June 7, 2008 showed that 95% of Democrats and only 26% of Republicans agreed with the following statement: “Do you think it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made pollution?”

So, finally, the hoax card is now losing favor and concern about how much it will cost to cure the problem is more and more being discussed.  Seven years ago I had a HuffPo entitled:

The Carbon Dioxide Credit Program

Clearly, the Nation and World need to re-read some of my ancient thoughts on this matter.  Remarkably, they still make sense today!

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Right on the heels of Typhoon Megi is Tropical Depression Chaba.  Certainly, Chaba will attain typhoon strength, but, unlike Megi, move a bit north, miss Taiwan, and, currently, roll right over Naha, then head for Japan:


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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

THE GIANT WOK

No, a giant wok is not a prehistoric bird:


However, it is true that earlier this year a giant wok was unearthed in Indonesia:


Unfortunately, on the way to the Keris Tosan Aji Museum, this one ton ancient frying pan fell and broke.  Still no idea who used it or when or if it was used for cooking...and what.

Well, so much for some humor.  We are all familiar with a standard Chinese cooking pan called the wok.  Well, they recently built a really large one and took the current lead in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a field with which I have now been associated for four decades.  In 1976 I joined 19 other university faculty members from across the nation to, at the Ames Research Center, design for NASA the next generation device to detect an extrasolar planet.  Most of group formed a team to design the ultimate interferometer to accomplish this task.  

A few of us were allowed to pursue our own ideas, and I got inspiration from Nobel Laureate Charles Townes (right) to develop what I acronymed PAT (Planetary Abstracting Trinterferometer).  After I met with him at Berkeley, he provided some initial assistance helping me derive a direct method for finding planets outside our solar system.

My SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity reports on this phase of my life, but you don't need to buy the book, as I began serializing this publication in this blog site beginning with SETI.  In the mid-70's, the key astronomical question was:  Are we the only planet in the Universe?  It was not until 1988 that the first exoplanet was confirmed, and today, there are more than 3500 of them on the record.  It is now estimated that:
  • One in five Sun-like stars have an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone.
  • There could thus well be from 11 billion to 40 billion planets with potential life like ours, just in our galaxy.
I might add that there are numerous ways to detect an exoplanet, and both Hubble and Kepler used something called transit, the crudest possible way to do this.  Sure, PAT does, too, but with some scientific elegance.  The problem is that star light is so bright (billion times more), that the planetary glare cannot be seen.  PAT is based on the premise that this reflected light can be, like a laser, monochromatic, and thus, the atmospheric composition can also be determined.  And all this can be done from the surface of our planet for a small fraction the cost of those space telescopes.

The field has been in a general funk since Carl Sagan passed away.  But out of nowhere came China, for they just turned on their Giant Wok:  the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST--in astronomy, you need to keep up with these acronyms).  How big is it?  I've seen Arecibo in Puerto, and this is a huge one.  However:


FAST is on the bottom, Arecibo on top.  Want to get to Guizhou Province to visit with the Giant Wok?  As a plane flies, a little more than a thousand miles from Beijing, and a little less than a thousand miles from Shanghai:


They put FAST there to minimize any electronic interference.  Some details:
  • Will take three years yet of calibration.
  • Is neither spherical nor 500 meters in diameter--has a parabolic shape and a useful diameter of 300 meters.
  • The project is in collaboration with Australia.
  • Should be able to detect alien signals up to 1,000 light years away.
Just to underscore the vastness of our Universe, as it takes light 100,000 light-years to cross our Milky Way Galaxy, the two-dimensional coverage of FAST for alien signals will only be 0.01 % of our galaxy.  No one really knows how many galaxies are in our Universe, but a German study said 500 billion.

Still to come is the international Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which on first look should be ten times the capability of FAST.  However, while the "first light" date is still planned for 2020 and the Jodrell Bank Observatory of England will serve as project headquarters, the site, either Australia or South Africa, has not yet been selected, and there is little idea from where will come the 3 billion dollars or so to build it.  I found it odd that the U.S. was not in the list of participating countries, and has today lost momentum.  I also found it confusing that while one country will eventually be the telescope array site:

The SKA will combine the signals received from thousands of small antennas spread over a distance of several thousand kilometres to simulate a single giant radio telescope capable of extremely high sensitivity and angular resolution, using a technique called aperture synthesis.[19]

If this description above prevails, that surely sounds like my Planetary Abstracting Trinterferometer.  In any case, we now are fairly confident there are planets around stars.  Let us get on with the detection of signals from intelligent life in our Universe.  Thus, the Chinese FAST is a good step forward.

For those like me with a passion for SETI, anticipate the movie Arrival, with Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, due to arrive at your local theater on November 11.  Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave it a 100% rating, and 99% of us await the coming...of the film.

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Typhoon Megi struck Taiwan at 100 MPH, causing some damage, killing at least four and injuring hundreds.



Amazingly enough, Megi remains a Category 2 at 105 MPH, and will make landfall over China today.

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