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Nothing ventured, everything gained

By
September 14th, 2016



If you'll indulge me kindly, I'd like to blatantly self-promote my new business plan as a Nothing Coach. Previously, I blogged about a new competition I'd like to bring to America that rewards people for doing nothing. (http://smalltalk.staradvertiserblogs.com/2016/09/12/the-coach-of-nothing/)

As I work up the long-term strategy for hyping up this soon-to-be, super awesome challenge that will sweep our nation by storm, I thought I should actually walk the walk if I'm going to talk the talk. So I've been training for Nothing, too.

My training inspiration

My training inspiration

I try to keep my daily agenda to just one thing, if that. Unfortunately, on weekends, I have a lot of mommy obligations, so I have to actually leave the house for hours to shuttle my kid around to lessons, events, and playdates. That's a lot more Something than I care to have in my day.

I don't mean to brag, but I have high natural talent for this. As a recovering Type A personality, when I set my mind to a task, I'm going to do it, and do it well.

I know for a fact I can watch Netflix for hours at a stretch. Six hours a day is my average lately, but my PR (personal record, for you non-athletes) is ten with combined split times. (Just a little more industry jargon there to sound impressive.)

I'm also able to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling in the morning, think about getting up, and then drift back to sleep again. I can do this for several revolutions. The hard part is ignoring my family's various noises as they get ready for their day, but it's good for training.

Unfortunately, one's greatest strength is also one's greatest weakness, so curses if that Type A mindset doesn't come around to bite me in the butt sometimes. The other day, I had not one but two goals for the entire day: 1) Turn on A/C; 2) Find Costco.com password.

Who sets two goals for the day?! For an athlete like me, one should be enough.

And, sidebar, I realize you can click the "I forgot my password" button and then you can reset it or some such, but I lose interest after hitting the button. I never follow through with the next step. It's been half a year and I just can't seem to find the energy to go forward.

So the whole day goes by and I did turn on the air conditioner - amazing job, Me - but I did not fiddle with the password. I didn't even do step one. It's just such a drain when I think about it.

I was kind of feeling like a failure when I realized, I'm actually a huge success. Because if I set two goals but I only accomplished one, isn't that closer to doing nothing? Holy mother-of-pearl, I am such an overachiever I impress myself.

This. This is the kind of superior leadership I could offer in your conditioning to be a Nothing athlete. Sign with me and there's nada chance you'll fail.

Special introductory offer: First three months free, promo code #spacecadet.

Aloha, Jimmy Borges

By
June 1st, 2016



Today would've been Jimmy Borges' 81st birthday. He died Monday, though- that golden voice our Hawaii community knows and loves, silenced by cancer.

2001, at my wedding. Photo credit: Floyd Honda

At my wedding, 2001. Photo credit: Floyd Honda

This paper did a great job summing it up: http://www.staradvertiser.com/breaking-news/hawaii-entertainer-jimmy-borges-dies/.

I knew Jimmy for 19 years. He worked with my mother at Forbidden City in San Francisco- he a singer, she a dancer. They got along, stayed in touch.

Shortly after I moved back to Hawaii in 1996 to work at KHNL, my mother told me I had to look up her old friend, Jimmy Jay. "Borges is his real name," she said, and gave me his phone number. All the entertainers in the troupe stayed in touch.

At the 2000 Iolani Awards.

At the 2000 Iolani Awards.

I called him and introduced myself, and it was like I had known him always. Four decades older than me, but only in body.

He really could be my contemporary. Boy, was he a live wire.

After I met him, I called up my calabash aunt, Dorothy Toy Fong, in Oakland, California. Dorothy was the troupe manager. Since the dancers all kept in contact, I wanted to tell her I'd met Jimmy.

Jimmy and my mother, 2011.

Jimmy and my mother, 2011.

I barely uttered his name when her tone changed from friendly to stern, and she cut me off. "You stay away from that man, you hear?"

I was startled. "But? I just wanted to say I met one of your former colleagues?"

"No! You stay away from him. You hear me?" she admonished.

"But - " I interrupted.

"No buts! Just listen to me!" she scolded.

When I mentioned this strange call to Jimmy, he had a huge laugh. "I was a bit of a ladies man back in the day," he explained.

That became the basis for our long-running joke that I'm his third wife. We conspired to call Aunt Dorothy to let her know we'd fallen in love and were planning a marriage. Of course, we never did, but the idea of it had us in stitches every single time we saw each other.

New Year's Eve 2001.

With First and Second Husbands, New Year's Eve 2001.

Funny, relatable, open, and endearing, we kept a friendship for all these years. We had some deep moments of trading confidences, and a lot more moments of just shooting the breeze and laughing about current events.

DSCF0187

Jimmy singing at my wedding, 2001. Photo credit: Floyd Honda

In 2001, I was honored that Jimmy sang at my wedding. After I had a baby, we stayed in touch less. I was busy, he was busy, but we'd call each other on occasion to say hi.

With Hawaii Pops conductor Matt Catingub, at KHON - September 2014.

With Hawaii Pops conductor Matt Catingub, at KHON- September 2014.

The last time was in December 2015. It was the day before he was set to go public with his lung cancer. He told me doctors gave him six months to live, and he wasn't going to bother with chemotherapy because he preferred to enjoy his life completely, as much as possible.

He said he was happy with what he had accomplished, grateful for his wife Vicki and his daughter Steffanie, and fulfilled by a successful career and a loving community. He made peace with his diagnosis, he concluded.

"Don't talk about my cancer until my friends put out the press release," he said. So I didn't. I never talked about it publicly, actually.

I asked him if I could blog about him - his life should be filling up the pages of a book! - and he acquiesced, but "after the press release and after the (December) PBS Hawaii taping," he said.

I tried reaching him a few times in the half year since, and he wasn't returning messages. I understood.

His time and energy are limited, and he's got a zillion friends. I totally get it. I never see my best friends anymore, and all I'm doing is working and parenting.

I was just thinking about him this week, wondering how he was, and hoping I could get to talk to him one last time. Then I saw the news alerts come out.

You can prepare for a death as much as possible, but when the time arrives, it's always a shocking moment. I've been somber and quiet, reflective and mournful, and just doing the only thing a person can do with grief: sit with it. I know many in the community sit with me in this sadness.

Dancing with Jimmy at my wedding. Photo credit: Floyd Honda

Dancing with Jimmy at my wedding. My mom is in white sitting behind us. Photo credit: Floyd Honda

Thank you for your friendship, Jimmy. You are loved. With the greatest affection, Third Wife

 

Small California college attracts large Hawaii enrollment

By
May 30th, 2016



It's busy behind the scenes at Menlo College, my alma mater, as the school gears up for its 90th anniversary next year. This four-year private institution in the heart of Silicon Valley specializes in business and psychology, though I was a mass communications major.

Kamana`o Hattori, my best friend in college

Kamana`o Hattori, my best friend in college. I'm all about friends of Dorothy.

The college, which has just under 800 students, was a good place for me to find my voice in the world, with small class sizes (a 14:1 student-teacher ratio). For some reason, Hawaii students make up a disproportionately large percentage of the student body (six to 16%.)

Some of my fellow alumni include:

Mike Lilly, (1966) former State Attorney General
Micah Kane, (1990) Kamehameha Schools trustee and president/ COO of Hawaii Community Foundation
John Henry Felix, (1949) CEO of Hawaii Medical Assurance Association and former Menlo trustee
Russell Sinclair Robinson, (1951) Plantation Manager of Gay & Robinson sugar plantation
Sara Sato, (1991) Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management at Hawaii Pacific University
Rick Humphreys, (1967) President of Hawaii Receivables Management

“The Hawaii to Menlo College connection is a strong one,” says president Richard A. Moran. “Students from Hawaii have a long history of success here both academically and athletically.”

Micah Kane

Micah Kane

My schoolmate Micah (actually, we also attended Kamehameha Schools at the same time) remembers how Menlo’s community impacted him. “The small school environment and relationships I was able to develop with my professors, coupled with Menlo’s proximity to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and surrounding places like Half Moon Bay created a great environment and great energy for a young person. I want more kids from Hawaii to have that same opportunity."

Micah found Menlo also taught him lessons outside the classroom. “Menlo College was a big part of my life. I credit Menlo College for setting me on my career path."

I myself transferred in from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a public university with (at the time) eight college campuses within the university, and 11,000 students.

It was and is a wonderful institution at which to matriculate, but it wasn't the right place for me at the time. I had just turned 17 and it was overwhelming; culture shock.

In the school luau

In Menlo's annual spring luau

I needed a smaller, personalized, nurturing environment, and heard about it from some Hawaii friends who were attending. I'd visit on weekends and really miss that sense of belonging and cultural familiarity that only my Hawaii friends could offer.

With friends. I'm in blue.

With friends. I'm in blue.

It seemed like the right fit, and it was. All the roads we take lead to where we are now, and I'm happy in my now.

Steph Bates, my Menlo College roommate

Steph Bates, my Menlo College roommate (a great selfie before selfies were invented10

This combination of academic distinction and familial community are sure to account for the college's history and success. Menlo College has consistently ranked high in the US News & World Report colleges ranking; this year, it came in as number nine for Best Regional Colleges in the West. (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/menlo-college-1236)

Thinking about attending? Check it out. Sit under the oak trees. Soak in the crisp California air. You just might find you want to stay.

More at www.menlo.edu.

Black hole relic shines light on Universe

By
May 20th, 2016



Astronomers using the eight meter Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea probed an enigmatic, and unexpected, supermassive black hole dominating the core of a large galaxy in the cosmic backwaters.

This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The black region in the center represents the black hole's event horizon, where no light can escape the massive object's gravitational grip. The black hole's powerful gravity distorts space around it like a funhouse mirror. Light from background stars is stretched and smeared as the stars skim by the black hole. Simulation Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute). Acknowledgment for Omega Centauri Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team. Science Credit: NASA, ESA, C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley) and J. Thomas (Max Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany)

This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The black region in the center represents the black hole's event horizon, where no light can escape the massive object's gravitational grip. The black hole's powerful gravity distorts space around it like a fun house mirror. Light from background stars is stretched and smeared as the stars skim by the black hole. Simulation Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute). Acknowledgment for Omega Centauri Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team. Science Credit: NASA, ESA, C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley) and J. Thomas (Max Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany)

“It’s a bit like finding a skyscraper in a Kansas wheat field, rather than in Manhattan,” says Chung-Pei Ma of the University of California Berkeley, who led the international team of researchers. “We expect to find gigantic black holes in massive galaxies in a crowded region of the universe, where frequent galaxy collisions and cannibalism sustain the black holes' insatiable appetite and allow them to grow to excess. But to find one in relative isolation indicates the black hole has long-ago tapped its sources of matter that allowed it to grow.”

The research, published online on April 6th in the journal Nature, provides a rare glimpse of a supermassive black hole – one with a mass some 17 billion times the mass of our Sun – deep within a rather isolated galaxy, known as NGC 1600, some 200 million light years from our Milky Way Galaxy. Finding such a monster black hole in a galaxy with so few traveling companions is an enigma.

The massive elliptical galaxy in the center of this image, taken by the Digitized Sky Survey, resides in an uncluttered region of space. A close-up view of the galaxy, called NGC 1600, is shown in the inset image, which was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). At the heart of NGC 1600 lurks one of the most massive black holes ever detected. The supersized black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, resides in an unlikely place. The biggest supermassive black holes – those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun – have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. This black hole, however, lives in a cosmic backwater town. Astronomers suggest the black hole grew from repeated collisions between its home galaxy and neighboring galaxies, which funneled gas to the massive object. The black hole also may have merged with a black hole from one of the consumed galaxies. The frequent feasts may also explain why NGC 1600 has few neighbors. NGC 1600 is located 209 million light-years from Earth. The NICMOS image was taken on Nov. 10, 1998. Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley). Acknowledgment: Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), STScI/AURA, Palomar/Caltech, UKSTU/AAO, and A. Quillen (University of Rochester)

The massive elliptical galaxy in the center of this image, taken by the Digitized Sky Survey, resides in an uncluttered region of space. A close-up view of the galaxy, called NGC 1600, is shown in the inset image, which was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). At the heart of NGC 1600 lurks one of the most massive black holes ever detected. The supersized black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, resides in an unlikely place. The biggest supermassive black holes – those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun – have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. This black hole, however, lives in a cosmic backwater town. Astronomers suggest the black hole grew from repeated collisions between its home galaxy and neighboring galaxies, which funneled gas to the massive object. The black hole also may have merged with a black hole from one of the consumed galaxies. The frequent feasts may also explain why NGC 1600 has few neighbors.
NGC 1600 is 209 million light-years from Earth. The NICMOS image was taken on Nov. 10, 1998. Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley). Acknowledgment: Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), STScI/AURA, Palomar/ Caltech, UKSTU/AAO, and A. Quillen (University of Rochester)

The presence of this enormous black hole, lurking in a relatively barren outpost of our cosmic neighborhood, also presents an opportunity. The lonely monster, thought to be a primitive relic of galaxy growth, is helping to shed light on how huge black holes could have formed rapidly in the early epochs of our Universe. This, in turn, provides evidence for what is likely a rare leftover power supply for an ancient quasar – objects that shined brilliantly when the Universe was only a few billion years old.

“Other galaxies found to harbor very massive black holes are typically located in dense regions of the Universe populated by many other galaxies and clusters,” says the paper’s lead author, Jens Thomas of the Max Planck Institute of Physics. “By contrast, NGC 1600 is in a modest group of galaxies in a rather mundane part of the sky.”

How can such a large black hole exist now without a substantial source of material to feast on? Thomas points his finger at NGC 1600 itself. “Within the group, NGC 1600 is by far the most brilliant member and outshines other members by at least three times, an indication NGC 1600 may have cannibalized its former neighboring galaxies and their central black holes in its youth.”

“NGC 1600 also appears to have scoured away many of its central stars,” continues Thomas, who believes the black hole within NGC 1600 was once part of a pair of (or even multiple) black holes that worked as a team to gravitationally expel nearby stars. “Rather than devour them,” Thomas says, “the black holes would act like a gravitational slingshot, sending neighboring stars careening out of the galaxy’s core.”

A pair, or multiple black holes would also be expected when galaxies collide and merge, as the team believes happened long ago with NGC 1600.

Understanding this lonely relic galaxy required the power of the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini North eight meter telescope on Mauna Kea. GMOS spectroscopically dissected the light from the core of the galaxy and allowed the team to discover the extreme mass of the black hole.

To map this environment, researchers had to model the surface brightness of the galaxy and velocity distributions around the center of the galaxy, and compare this to orbit superposition models. The collection and analysis of spectroscopic data from Gemini was led by National Research Council Canada (NRC)’s Nicholas McConnell.

“After many years of exemplary service, it’s great to see the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrographs [GMOS] continue to contribute in such a fundamental way to these important areas of astronomy,” said Chris Davis, program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation, which, with partner agencies in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and Chile, support the operation of the Gemini Observatory. “In just a few months, two separate teams using GMOS published compelling yet contrasting results: one group finding evidence for a supermassive black hole that’s flinging stars outward from its galaxy's core, and another observing a black hole that clings to its stellar neighbors. One wonders what other remarkable things Gemini and this remarkable technology will tell us about supermassive black holes and the cores of distant galaxies in the years to come.”

In addition the Gemini observations, the Mitchell Integral Field Spectrograph at the McDonald Observatory as well as NICMOS on the Hubble Space Telescope probed the core to characterize the sparse stellar environment. To distinguish the mass of the central black hole from the mass associated with starlight, NRC’s John Blakeslee analyzed images from the Hubble Space Telescope

The focus on NGC 1600 for this study was a result of the MASSIVE Survey, supported by the US National Science Foundation. Initiated in 2014, the MASSIVE Survey focuses on about 100 of the most massive, early-type, galaxies within about 300 million light years of the Milky Way. Gemini continues to play a critical role in MASSIVE by measuring the velocities of stars swarming around the galaxies’ supermassive black holes, and thus discovering the black holes’ masses.

Ma speculates the black hole in NGC 1600 might be the tip of an iceberg. “Maybe there are many more monster black holes that don’t live in an obvious skyscraper in Manhattan,” says Ma. “If so, GMOS on Gemini will help us find them.” Ma also notes the masses of the three largest known black holes were all determined by Gemini, including two 10 billion solar mass black holes discovered by her team in 2011.

“If the deficit of stars in the center of NGC 1600 is indeed due to a pair of black holes, then the twins could have coalesced and created gravitational waves,” says Ma. “These would be the supermassive version of the black hole binary detected by Advanced LIGO two months ago.”
The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical eight meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is on Mauna Kea, Hawai`i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together, the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

 

Why The Ocean Matters More Than We Realize

By
May 13th, 2016



At a time when the world faces a multitude of potential calamities – ranging from climate change to a struggling oil industry to rapid population growth – the solution could be all around us.

"The Once and Future Ocean." Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

"The Once and Future Ocean." Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

Water, the world’s most valuable element, is the key ingredient to solving Earth’s most vexing problems, says Peter Neill, director of the World Ocean Observatory (www.worldoceanobservatory.org) and author of “The Once and Future Ocean: Notes Toward a New Hydraulic Society.” It’s urgent we stop lamenting our current condition and start focusing on doing something about it, he says.

Peter Neill. Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

Peter Neill. Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

“It’s past time that we look to creating a hydraulic society, organizing our social, financial and political order around water in all its forms, places and uses,” Neill says. “The old paradigm of unlimited growth based on consumption, driven by fossil fuels, is exhausted and on the verge of collapse. We see it all around us – in international conflict and migration, the volatility of the world economy and employment, and at home where the decline underlies so much of what concerns us.”

He says Earth’s population – at 7.4 billion and counting – is putting extraordinary demands on the planet’s resources, which means it’s crucial the world’s leaders and citizens need to look to the ocean and the water cycle as vital resources that must be protected. Neill offers these reasons why that precious water holds the solution to humankind’s survival:

• Water is everywhere and is essential for life. Water covers 70 percent of Earth. It exists in the ocean, in the atmosphere, on and in the Earth, and even in the human body, Neill says. “Without it, regardless of how rich or poor we are, what economic class we’re from, or the color of our skin, we die,” he says.

• The ocean contains a wealth of resources. Food is the obvious one, as evidenced by seafood restaurants that play a prominent role in the dining experience in most cities. But there’s plenty more, Neill says. Salt water can be converted to fresh water, providing a potential solution to droughts like the one now confounding California.

“California has made enormous changes in its water habits because it had to,” Neill says. The ocean’s water also can be harnessed as an energy source, giving us an alternative method for producing electricity and allowing us to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. The ocean even holds possible cures for diseases, Neill says. “It’s also a place for recreation and personal renewal that, if treated with a respect that we haven’t given the land, will sustain us for generations,” he says.

• The ocean helps drive the economy. Globalization can be traced to the first time someone boarded a boat and sailed off with goods to trade with people in some far off land, Neill says. Even in an age of air travel, the ocean remains the major player when it comes to transportation of goods. Roughly 90 percent of the world’s goods are transported by sea.

Neill worries that, as nations, communities and individuals, we will be too slow to recognize the ocean as our refuge from the multiple problems troubling the planet, and as the organizing principle around which our lives need to revolve. “The threats are real and the consequences devastating of continuing forward using the same systems and tools,” Neill says. “We can easily avoid catastrophe by using our imagination and the technologies that are available.”

Inevitably, he says, the ocean is where we must go for fresh water, food, energy, health, political stability, community development and personal renaissance.
“With another two billion people expected to be added to the world population by mid-century, with the exhaustion of the land, with the effects of climate change and extreme weather already evident, we must look for answers,” Neill says. “Where can we find them? In the ocean. We have no choice.”

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