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Sunday, February 19, 2017

LIFE CONTINUES IN PURGATORY

This is Sunday, so I'll be a tad more respectful and even feature a religion.  I'm also considering expanding Purgatory from just 15 Craigside to all of Honolulu.

In any case, we have special meals at 15 Craigside with two sittings, for residents invite friends and family.  This week we enjoyed a fine Valentine's dinner, here in photos:


One of my expensive Stanford wines, plus I went to Marukai and put together a Hokkigai sashimi platter, with shiso, cabbage and Japanese cucumber.  There were 40 pieces at the beginning, for our table of seven.  Prime rib was featured:


We might have drunk three bottles of wine:


Then this weekend I had a wonderful time in Honolulu, beginning with a stop at J-Shop on Young Street:


I got a pound of Japanese Wagyu Beef from Shizuoka:


Yes, the cost was more than $80 for two pieces, and I just fried one piece.  They certainly cut the hamachi (Japanese Amberjack or yellow tail) into large pieces, and the rice was from Gifu.  That is myoga (bud from a kind of ginger plant) to the left above (and cut in half below).



I added sliced onions and Shiitake Mushrooms to the pan.  The accompanying sunset was pleasing.


Yesterday I walked into downtown Honolulu and went for, perhaps, my favorite lunch, Shanghai Soup Dumplings at Chinatown Cultural Plaza:

If you walk to the left, you go to the wrong Fook restaurant.


You need to head in the right (makai--to the sea) direction.  There actually was a line when I first got there.  However, I went up to the really cute girl to add my name to the wait list, but she noticed I had a cane, so almost immediately gave me a window seat.  This is about the tenth reason I now use a walking cane.  I had, of course, first shopped at that Chinese convenience store located close by and purchased a $1 Rolling Rock Beer and a $1.40 bottle of 99-proof whiskey:


Place the dumpling into the ginger-vinegar sauce, cut a hole at the top, stuff in some hot mustard and chili, place the dumpling into a large spoon, then pour in some whiskey.  Heaven, with beer.

I noticed, though, that a police car kept driving by the restaurant:


Keep in mind that this space between the restaurant and the river is not a real road.  Their presence, must have been because black market vendors kept showing up with black bags or wheelies stuffed with contraband.  Here, I thought someone was demonstrating a rather large blow torch:


Turned out he was burning off the safety cover supermarkets use to make it harder to shoplift.  Here a few bottles of Jack Daniels, after the top was removed.  Some of you might remember the posting on My Horrid Day in Honolulu, which might, actually, now disqualify Honolulu from being considered as part of my Purgatory.

There are also animals in the River Street environment.  Here the whitest duck I've ever seen on a rock in the stream:


A short walk then takes you to Kwan Yin Temple, fronting Foster Botanical Garden:

A large yellow flower tree.  So I went in.  Kamaainas (local residents) get charged only $3.  Turned out this was not Pearl's Gold Tree.  


Those petals look awfully close that of the Gold Tree:


Which was not in bloom.  However, purple trumpet flowers were on a bench.  Looking above:


So the Purple Tree is a close cousin of the Gold Tree.

As you enter the garden, you will see a Bodhi Tree, one generation removed from the original brought here 104 years ago:


This tree is adjacent to the direct descendant, which was brought to Honolulu as a gift to Mary Foster, whose home became this park, by Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Anagarika Dharmapala.


Note that the first Bo Tree has number 1.  Prince Siddhartha Gautama in the 6th Century BC achieved enlightenment under an early ancestor of these two trees, becoming the Buddha:


You can discern the yellow Guayacan in the background.  While on this subject, here is Buddha's-Hand Citron:


Sadly, I saw four separate Monarch Butterfly wings on the grounds.  Clearly a bird must have consume the bodies:


However, if you look closely, you will see seven flying Monarch's in this photo:


This purple-colored sugar cane stalk is especially soft and sweet:


A few more interesting shots, including two cannonball trees:


Finally, three more reds (Red Saracen and Red Flame), with a Green Gecko:


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Saturday, February 18, 2017

THE SEARCH FOR EXTRASOLAR INTELLIGENCE

Like many, the romance of outer space captured my imagination.  A quick history of my experiences with this subject can be found in Earth 2020 and SETI.  In short, I met Jack Billingham (NASA Ames Research Center) and Barney Oliver (Hewlett Packard) in 1972 after they had proposed Project Cyclops.  Ames two years later provided funds for Jim Dator and I to co-host Earth 2020 in Hawaii and we had counterparts along the West Coast.  I invented the term Earth 2020, and the scary part to all this is that the Year 2020 is less than three years away.

Then in 1976 I was selected to join Jack and Barney on Project ORION, a summer faculty workshop at Ames to design the detection system to discover the first extrasolar planet.  Forty years ago the key Search for Exterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) question was...are there other planets around other suns in the universe?  I actually, with some assistance from Nobel Laureate Charles Townes, designed a Planetary Abstracting Telescope (of course, with an appropriate acronym, PAT).  But that's a long story, and all these years later I remain dismayed at the decision of NASA and the field to focus on indirect methods (plus pure-luck transit) like wobble to search for these planets around stars.

I of course kept abreast of developments in space, and in 1980, when I was working for the U.S. Senate helped (through Senators Spark Matsunaga and William Proxmire) Carl Sagan (who I had met a few years earlier while at Ames) gain his first funding for SETI.  In 1993 Senator Richard Bryan killed this $12 million/year budget and barred NASA from doing any SETI research.  I'm still not sure why this even happened, but feel free to read some details.  Thus the SETI Institute in Palo Alto (first incorporated in 1984) gained prominence and has attempted to carry on the work.  

I had this sneaking suspicion that giant aerospace companies connived to kill this "scientific" effort so that they could find the next Apollo Project, which involved a lot more money for hardware, as in 1984 President Ronald Reagan had directed NASA to consider building the International Space Station.  This project sucked up a good part of the space budget, said now to be a white elephant worth $150 billion.  If those funds had gone into SETI, no doubt we'd be lot closer to the Encyclopedia Galactica envisioned by Sagan and Frank Drake.  Perhaps the solution for world peace and key to fusion might now have been detected and deciphered from advanced civilizations, some with billions of years of existence, beaming in these simple solutions for Humanity here on Planet Earth.  We Homo sapiens have been around for maybe only 100,000 years.

In any case, in a posting or two this coming week I will pontificate on the wisdom of Project Mars and a possible fatal flaw for ultimate Start Treks and Star Wars.  While the end of the Cold War largely eliminated the need for ambitious (meaning expensive) enterprises in outer space for the time being (a century certainly, and perhaps millennia), we are what we are, so what might be an optimal pathway for Humanity beyond Planet Earth?

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