Total Pageviews

Sunday, March 26, 2017

PAT'S GLOBAL ADVENTURE 2017

Until I come up with a better acronym, PaGA2017, for Pat's Global Adventure 2017, will suffice.  Today, I begin my 42-day world journey to Japan, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Munich, DC, San Francisco, Palo Alto and a week of golf near Napa Valley.  Remember Around the World in 80 Days (this is Jackie Chan's full movie) when Phileas Fogg gained an extra day by going east?  Well, I actually lose a day by heading west, so I will be away for 43 days.

Someone asked me, what do these around the world trips cost?  Basically, if you fly first class and stay at the finest hotels, you could buy a Lexus Hybrid.  I've done that twice--the travel part--meaning I could have afforded this new sportier version to the right.  Business Class would get you a new Toyota Prius, while Coach, a Honda Fit.  My Fit is now 9 years old, and it would have made a lot more sense to get a new Prius than go on this trip.

On this itinerary, I've attempted to minimize stress by avoiding China (Hong Kong does not require a visa, and the air pollution is tolerable), India, Africa and South America.  There is that petulant Kim Jung Un, but his latest rockets fizzled.

My 8-hour ANA flight from Honolulu to Narita will soon depart:


From Tokyo I will catch the Japanese Bullet Train for two weeks using Japan Railpass to follow the Cherry Blossom blooms.  The season opened a few days ago, so I should be there at the peak.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie will make landfall near Queensland Tuesday morning, perhaps as a Category 2:


-

Saturday, March 25, 2017

15 CRAIGSIDE FINE DINES AT KA'IKENA LAUA'E


Ka'Ikena Laua'e, meaning vision with a view, has now for 28 years been the fine dining restaurant at the Kapiolani College campus.  It's both a learning laboratory and showcase for high cuisine.  Next year, they will relocate to the old Cannon Club.  By the time all is done, this will be a $50 million investment for the school's Hawaii Culinary Institute of the Pacific.

You can bring your own alcoholic beverages.  I would recommend also taking your favorite Reidel crystal, for the wine glass they use is below pedestrian level.  There must be a conscience factor at play, for they think by providing tiny glasses, diners will drink less.


While I'm at providing constructive criticism, let me add:
  • The noise level is too high.  Some people talk and laugh too heartily.  However, perhaps the relocation will cure this problem.  Plus, the new view will be uber-fantastic.  The present one is not bad (above).
  • The food was way too lukewarm.  They need to do something about the temperature.  If most restaurants can do this, no reason why these students can't.
  • The 15 Craigside chopsticks are of higher quality.  But they have white tablecloths and we have unsanitary table mats.
  • They could add some classy music.  Perhaps a strolling student quietly playing a romantic violin or soft piano sounds.
  • The artwork on the walls should be from student artists.
  • Frankly, they go overboard on making each dish too fancy.  Some simple accompaniments would balance the meal.
Otherwise, the food quality is better than 15 Craigside, and the dress code is similar to our dining room, meaning a lot of slippers and shorts.  The meal price is not cheap, at all.  However, this place is so popular that 15C is having trouble trying to get a reservation to send a second set of diners here.  Call 808 734 9499 if you want to eat here.  After 4:30PM call 734 9488.  Here is the lunch menu for March 22 to April 27.  Click on dinner menu for our choices.

Our group, with leader, Leilyn:


See that seahorse piece of art?  You can buy it for $2500.  The start was a spoon of enhanced chawan mushi:


Excellent, except it could have been much hotter.  The wine was our standard 15 Craigside red.  There is no finer tasting healthy liquid for the price.

I had a scallops/soba concoction (see the menu above):


The taste was there, but cooler than lukewarm.  Here, they could very well have instead served the traditional al dente soba style to balance the saucy seafood.  They must make the world's smallest makizushi:


I ordered beef, and it was just too busy.  Something closer to simple grilled steak would have been best to complement all the other fancy stuff:


The dessert bar was a real treat, and dangerous for people with high blood sugar:


I had a little bit of nine desserts, plus a fruit-covered creme brule', with coffee.  They should make available the option for expresso and cappuccino.

The student chefs came by to say hi:


All in all everyone enjoyed the outing, including me.  Maybe I was a bit harsh here and there, but I was disappointed that the facility had not yet moved to their future Cannon Club location.  I'll definitely be back....when they relocate.

The following evening I dined on my lanai on Japanese Wagyu Beef from J-Shop:


Note the price of the beef.  Myoga for a special Japanese tai sashimi with kazunoko, plus an assortment of lotus, shiitake mushrooms, garlic and butter in the pan, augmented by three kinds of sauce, with beer and sake.  Two bottles because I could not finish either one and they were sitting in my refrigerator for days.

Today for lunch went to Vintage Cave Cafe at the Ala Moana Shopping Center for their grand opening.  Until Tuesday, March 28, the first 200 guests/day will enjoy 50% off the entire bill.  It was earlier this month that I might have had my best lunch, ever, in Hawaii at this  restaurant.

The check-in desk:


A large side room for special occasions and group meals (there are several of different sizes):


My previous time here I was served by  Kuber also:


I ordered a truffle pizza and chicken salad, with a rose'.


It looks like that middle shaving of truffle was on rice, but that is a poached egg.  Nice touch.  By the time I had dessert the place was half full:


The panna cotta was artistic and tasted great.  The price?  $45 for two courses, coffee and dessert.  But I paid extra for the truffle pizza, and that glass of rose' was $20.  My final bill was $40 plus tax and tip.  At this price, they should do well.  But $100 for everything after the grand opening discount could become a problem.  Plus, I don't think the clientele coming here would appreciate American jazz.  Some high class Italian music would provide a higher state of ambience.

All in all one of my better lunches in Honolulu.  And they do use real black truffles.

-
Tropical Cyclone Debbie looks fierce, with the potential to reach Category 5 status, and is heading for Townsville:


Friday, March 24, 2017

THE FUTURE OF BIOFUELS

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

A VISIT TO PEARL'S GOLD TREE AT THE ALA WAI GOLF COURSE

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.

-