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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE 2016: Day #16--What's Interesting in the Orient?

If you regularly read this blog site, you know that malaria parasites kill more humans than humans.  We murder at the rate of 475,00/year, with snakes next at 50,000/year.  Sharks?  Fewer than 10/year.

Female mosquitos kill 750,000 of us/year by transmitting a parasite when she sucks into you, where just one can lodge itself into your liver and quickly multiply 10,000 times.  Two weeks later...  Malaria was eliminated in the USA in 1951, but there are 1500 cases/year from travelers returning home.

While pharmaceutical firms are getting closer, there is as yet no vaccine to prevent malaria.  Basically, you need to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos.

So I read this commentary by Gwynne Dyer:

He has suffered from this disease, looked into the matter and came up with a simple solution that surely deserves some consideration.  He underscores that any prevention strategy is a whole lot better than curing the ailment.  Basically, he found out that where there are chickens there is a lower incidence of malaria.  No, it's not because chickens eat mosquitos.  So as we can't go around holding a chicken, what is the real answer?  It turns out that just the feathers sort of reduced the incidence of mosquito bites.  

Distilling the essence of chicken odor (isobutyl butyrate, naphthalene, hexadecane, etc...) and using this concoction as a preventative also helps.  While essence de poulet won't be on the market anytime soon, it is now being investigated by academics.

Switching to subject #2, did you know that the Philippines was Asia's fastest growing economy this year, with a 7% annual expansion from April-June?  In May, then-Davao City mayor, 71-year old Rodrigo Duterte, decisively won the Philippines presidential election.  He was Davao city mayor for 22 years and used civilian militia and innovative techniques  to curb violence and drugs.  He was elected on a promise to win the country's war on crime by killing thousands of drug dealers.  President Barack Obama called in congratulations and reaffirmed the close relationship between the two countries.

In a rather straightforward manner, he one-upped me, for I published a solution for crime in the Huffington Post.  At least they published Part 1, but refused to accept Part II, THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE DEAD!    So I posted THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE DEAD in this blog, and followed it up last year.  Duarte bypasses the judicial process!  Red countries have the death penalty.

In his first press conference, Duterte indicated that there was no excuse for journalists who engaged in corrupt activities and took bribes.  Keep in mind that 176 journalists have been murdered in the country since the era of Ferdinand Marcos.  Then early in June he announced to his country, kill a drug dealer and I'll give you a medal.

Today, we found out that 1,900 drug pushers and their ilk have been killed by the police and vigilantes, nearly 60% by the latter group.  Shoot to kill is Duterte's policy.  Incredibly enough 640,233 suspects and addicts voluntarily surrendered to the police! The United Nations complained, so Duterte responded with:

I don't give a sh*t about them’

...and threatened to leave the UN.  Stay tuned on the Philippines War on Crime.

Oh, he also informed John Kerry that the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg is a "gay son of a bitch."    They got into an ongoing feud when Duterte made a joke about a rape having occurred in his city and Goldberg, certainly rightfully, responded in reprimand.

On a lighter, but heavier, side, the Philippines today reported on the largest pearl in the world, a 75 pound, 2 feet wide colossus:

Turns out that a fisherman found it 10 years ago and just let authorities know about the existence of this rarity.  It probably came from a giant clam, which can weigh up to 900 pounds:

Japanese Olympian Asuka Teramoto weighs 82 pounds:

Moving to the east and north, it's that time of year when South Korea and the United States conduct their annual large-scale military exercises, involving 50,000 SK and 25,000 USA soldiers.  True to form, North Korea threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike if anything provocative occurs.  How serious is this?  They already launched a  warning missile from a submarine today.  Can you believe they have 70 subs?

Frankly, I think it is more dangerous than many think, for the only way something terrible will happen is if Kim Jung Un's leadership is on the verge of collapsing, he just could make a desperate attempt to stay in power by doing something so inconceivable.  There has been a series of diplomatic defections lately, and something, indeed, is happening.   Where is Dennis Rodman when we need him?   Oh well, I'm in Bangkok, 2312 miles away from Seoul.

Further west in Hunan Province, the Zhangjiajie glass bottom bridge opened this week.  It is 1411 feet long and just under 20 feet wide.  There is a 984 foot vertical drop.  The Grand Canyon Skywalk is 718 feet above the canyon floor.  Their upcoming bungee jump will break the current record currently held by the Macao Tower.

I leave for Sydney tomorrow, but I'm still in Bangkok, where the most interesting news of the day is the removal of a 2.5 pound tumor near the heart of a privately owned 13 foot long, 110 pound Anaconda:

There are now eight ocean storms:

In the Atlantic, Gaston is just about now attaining hurricane strength, but will strengthen into a Category 2.  However, all models show a veering off to the north and east away from the USA:

The interesting combo is in the West Pacific, where Typhoon Lionrock, once headed for Okinawa, has increased in strength, reversed courses and seems now headed back for Japan:

I've never seen that before.  The intriguing complication, though, is that yet another potential typhoon has appeared in the general neighborhood, and, as Lionrock and Mindulle just missed each other a few days ago, and the fickleness of Lionrock, one wonders if there can now be a real encounter coming up:


CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE: Day #15-On Indulgence and Zombies

I spent yesterday on pure indulgence, but did not carry my camera on purpose just to be totally free to do what I wanted.  Part of this is that, since Japan, I've been using a walking cane, which comes in particularly handy in Bangkok because the sidewalks have significant defects.  Also, crossing the street here is an adventure, and a person with a cane is treated with fear and respect.  Thailand has the second deadliest traffic in the world, 3.5 times worse than the USA.  #1 is Libya.  Amazingly enough, it has been almost a week since I bought the cane for $2 at Daiso, and I still have not lost it.  

The usual fabulous breakfast:

Then I strolled down Sukhumvit to Jackie's to order a few more safari shirts, but with two enhancements, and got a haircut, manicure and pedicure, for around $22.  Next a one hour oil massage for $17, followed by a dip in my personal jacuzzi:

It was already late in the afternoon, so I went to see Train to Busan, a Korean movie on the sixth floor of the adjacent Terminal 21 shopping mall.  Also across the street from the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit is the Westin Bangkok, my stay tomorrow.

About the movie, Rotten Tomatoes gave it outstanding 93% reviewers and 91% audience ratings. But, yikes, it's a zombie film, and I avoid anything to do with this genre, especially vampirical ones.  Earlier in the month this movie reached 10 million viewers in South Korea, making it the most popular of the year.  There was an animated prequel, Seoul Station, that came out in June. 

While a bit far-fetched, where the "hero" and almost everyone else become zombies, it was gripping and well-made.  The end had a link to an earlier part of the film, and featured the song Aloha Oe (you will need to see the film to hear that version, but here is one from Hawaii), sung by his daughter, saving her life.  HINT:  zombies don't sing.    They go aarrgghhh.  There is something about Korean films that transcends anything Japan has to offer these days.

On the matter of zombies, I might add that there is no such thing.  Sure, perhaps a human kept alive in Haiti on some kind of drug associated with voodoo, but that person will not bite and infect you to become another zombie.

Bela Lugosi (above) was in the 1932 White Zombie (this is the whole 1:07 hour film, with sound), and Michael Jackson danced with them on Thriller (this is the nearly 14 minute version).  More recently, some of you might have seen Brad Pitt's World War Z, below, and, of course, the Z stands for zombie.

Let me end this lavishness with my dinner at the Plaza Athenee Royal Meridien.  As this is kind of a French hotel, and I haven't yet had a French meal, I went down to Reflexions.  To my surprise, it was closed.

Next door was Utage, a Japanese restaurant, and I could be seated.  I had a truly fabulous meal.

I ordered Teriyaki salmon, foie gras sushi, tofu, zora soba and garlic rice, with hot sake and cold beer.  I was so super-satiated that I actually left some food, sake and beer on the table, maybe my first time ever for the latter two.  Cost as a factor, this was my most enjoyable Japanese meal on the trip, for the price was just over $50.

Making the experience so wonderful were Thapanee (assistant manager), Chutinthorn (sushi chef) and Somroeng:

I should add that prior to dinner I had a champagne at the rather large Club Lounge, and took the following shot of the next door Hotel Okura Prestige and Central Embassy Shopping Complex (an ultra-luxury mall where at Water Library you can enjoy Wagyu Beef and Roasted Duck with Foie Gras):

That skinny tower in the background is Baiyoke II, the second tallest building in Bangkok.  I had earlier walked into that luxury shopping mall and took an inside shot:

My breakfast this morning at the Plaza Athenee Royal Meridien, showing first about 10% of the offerings (note six kinds of ice cream):

The buffet featured a variety of Thai, Chinese and Indian dishes.  Note the passion fruit and coconut, where the juice was chilled.  I could also eat the soft coconut meat.  Frankly, the duck noodle soup would have more than sufficed for breakfast.

Next, the Westin Grand Sukhumvit, then across the street to the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, where I kept my large suitcase.  On Day #17 I leave for Sydney.

There are eight ocean storms, and in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Gaston is heading for the USA, and will become a hurricane:

But not to fear, for all computer models show Gaston eventually moving away from the mainland U.S.

There is also Tropical Depression Fiona that has been lurking ahead of Gaston, but models show her eventually dissipating without causing any serious harm.


Monday, August 22, 2016

CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE 2016: Day #14--From Rio 2016 to Tokyo 2020

Donald Trump keeps saying that he will make America great again.  Turns out we are, already, great, as Hillary Clinton has been reiterating.  We won more Olympic medals than anyone else in Rio, by far:

  USA             121
  China             70
  Great Britain  67

For a team with nearly a third of their athletes banned for doping, Russia did okay with 56 medals.

Rio de Janeiro could well be the happiest and most exciting city in the world, as I reported five years ago. Rio is only the second largest city in the country, 12 million to 21 million for San Paulo.

The most satisfying victory in the entire games?  Clearly, Brazil's men's team edging Germany in soccer. 1-1, but 5-4 on penalty kicks. It was two years ago that Germany embarrassed host-country Brazil in the FIFA World Cup semifinals, 7-1.  Seven to one!  Neymar was injured for that match, but scored Brazil's only goal in this gold medal final:

In most ways that triumph symbolized the success of these games in Rio de Janeiro.  Zika?  This is winter in the southern hemisphere, and any Zika mosquitos are located away from Rio anyway.  Crime?  Well, one British athlete did get robbed at gunpoint, but no American swimmers, who were the perpetrators.  In most important ways the Games were well organized and even the people of the country were impressed.

Usain Bolt's triple-triple was dominant.  Here, his viral grin in the 200 meter semifinals.

Alistair and brother Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain getting gold and silver in the Triathlon:

Why is this team called Great Britain instead of United Kingdom?  Well, it is a combination of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Anyway, take that, Brexit.

The biggest victors were the medalists of the 22 countries with one medal.  A model example is Joseph Schooling, a third generation Singaporean Eurasian.  He won the Gold in the 100 meter butterfly, setting an Olympic record.  Guess who came in #2 to win the Silver?  Michael Phelps.  Schooling's grand uncle was Singapore's first Olympian in 1948.  At the age of 21, Joseph now attends the University of Texas.  He is also now rich, for Singapore gave him $741,000 for his gold medal, the very first for the country.  U.S. gold medalists only get $25,000.

The 121 medals by the U.S. is a world record for the Summer Olympics. 
  • The USA won the first gold medal (shooter Ginny Thrasher) and final one (men's basketball team).
  • The swimming team won 16 gold medals and 33 total
    • Michael Phelps was phenomenal, upping his all time total to 23 golds and 28 overall
    • Katie Ledecky set two world records en route to winning four golds and one silver in these games alone
  • The track and field athletes also did well, with 13 golds and 32 medals
    • Adam Eaton tied Bob Mathias (1948 and 1952) by repeating in the decathlon
    • However, track and field were all Bolt's
  • Women's gymnastics won nine medals, most ever, four by Simone Biles
  • Kayla Harrison (judo) and Claressa Shields (boxing) became the first Americans to successfully defend their Olympic titles in their sport
  • Hawai's Patsy Mink's Title IX paved the way for success by our women
  • The women's 400-meter medley relay team won our 1000th gold medal since 1896
  • So the men's basketball team got a couple of anxious moments.  They demolished Serbia by 30 points in the finals to gain gold, and the women thrashed Spain by 29 for gold.
  • 213 Americans earned medals, 85% by those who competed in NCAA collegiate athletics, headed by Stanford University with 27 medals, which would have placed the Cardinals in 10th place among all nations.
Officials insisted that they sold 82% of the 5 million seats available, but many venues showed a lot of emptiness.  More than half the tickets cost $17 or less, while London in 2012 had double those prices.    The London Games sold 96% of 8.5 million seats.  The Rio opening ceremony was sold out.  While the gold-medal soccer match seats at Maracana with a top ticket value of $300, all went, the expensive tiers ($437, $655 and $936) for the closing ceremony in this stadium were readily available, as you could see if you watched the ending.  However, it was raining.

But we're quibbling.  Most thought these Rio Games would be a monumental disaster, and the fact of the matter is that almost everything went very well.  

  • Rio (2016)  $12 billion
  • Sochi (winter 2014)  22 billion
  • London (2012)  $15 billion
Next Tokyo 2020.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed up at the Closing Ceremonies dressed as Super Mario, although not quite sure why.  I guess it had something to do with appealing to youths and the fact that this character was invented in Japan. Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo, waved the Olympic flag.  I'm surprised she didn't somehow show the Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo.

Typhoon Mindulle was at 78 MPH when it went right over Tokyo dumping considerable rain.  Both major airports were shut down, the first time a typhoon has done this.

Humphrey Bogart (you need to click on this to find out why), also known as Tropical Storm Lionrock, after dawdling around a bit, could soon strengthen into a typhoon and head in the general direction of Okinawa: