Saturday, December 30, 2006

Balmy tropical winter

Happy New Year! I must say, I kinda like walking the dogs in the morning wearing shorts and a t-shirt during the holidays! I especially appreciate it after seeing the snow storms that have been hammering Denver in recent weeks.
I shot these pictures the other day on my visit to Volcanoes National Park. The flag, with Mauna Loa in the background, flies on the beautifully manicured grounds of Kilauea Military Camp. It flies at half staff in honor of Gerald Ford.
The little fenced square with smoke coming out of it is a steam vent. I can only assume the fencing is a form of INS for the Park Service. INS, as I understand it, stands for Interfering with Natural Selection. In this case, it's to protect humans too stupid not to know that jumping into a steam vent near active volcanoes is a bad idea.
Today, I discovered that our coffee trees have a condition called Cercospora. It's a fungus, common in areas with lots of rain. Looks like we'll have to spring for some copper fungicide to kill it. I have no idea how much that costs, but I'm sure it's plenty. There are several companies that make organic copper fungicides, so we'll try to buy one of those. Too bad we have no clue what the H-E-double toothpicks we're doing here in the jungle! Other than the brown spots on a few of our leaves, the coffee trees are growing like gangbusters.
I may have a job interview next week with a local publication called Hawaii Island Journal. The editor responded to my email by saying he'd like to meet and chat. That can't be bad, right?
Hou'oli (happy) Makahiki (year) Hou (new)! A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas! Yay! It's a beautiful, partly sunny day here on the windward side of Hawaii Island. The turkey is cooking and all is right with the world. With our world, anyway. I've seen two of my favorite Christmas movies; It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. My third favorite is a vintage 1958 version of Dickens' Christmas Carol called Scrooged. Ebineezer is played by fabulous actor named Alistair Sim. He's absolutely the best scrooge ever. George C. Scott runs a close second, but Sim is the winner, hands down. I have a copy of Scrooged on DVD but no longer have a DVD player and left the disks in Colorado anyway. I usually catch it at least once a season on TV. Not this year. Oh well. I'll see it again soon enough.
Next week, I will resume my job quest and gym workouts with gusto. Today, I'll just hang and enjoy life. I have prohibited Ron from using any power tools outside today. I'm just sure the neighbors don't want to hear the buzz of his chainsaw or the roar of the tractor while their trying to enjoy their holiday in peace. Not that I could really prohibit him from doing anything, really. But acknowledge the logic of my argument against doing yard work on Christmas and seems content to watch football and Christmas movies today. Actually, it's not yet noon and he's already taking his first nap. I say it's his first because I'm pretty sure he'll take another after dinner.
By the way, airfares have come down dramatically for bookings from the mainland to the islands in January and February. I'm sure the low fare seats are limited, but if you book now, you might score a screamin' good price.
I hope you all had wonderful Christmas eves and days. A hui hou! Aloha!

Friday, December 22, 2006

A new place to sweat

Mele kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright, Hawaiian Christmas day......

This santa fish is a humuhumunukunukuapua. That's right. It's the state fish of Hawaii. Cool, huh? I stole this image from the net, so it's the least I can do to give credit to it's painter, Debbie Houter. Actually, she gives permission on her site to download the picture, so I'm in the clear. No copywrite infringements on this blog. No siree!

We're loaded down at our house with oodles of Christmas pupus. Ono kine grinds to da max! W got all kine cheeses and salami and crackers and pate'. We also got all kine poke and edamame and mochi. Between our own self indulgences at the market and the stuff coming as gifts in the mail, it will take more will power than I've got - not to mention some serious time on the treadmill - to keep from piling on the pounds.
I'm now officially a Friend of KMC (Kilauea Military Camp). It's pretty easy to become a friend. Just have someone you know who is either in the military, has ever served in the military or who works for the National Parks Service sign a voucher on your behalf. Voila! You're in.
Speaking of treadmills, I joined their gym. It's tiny, especially compared to Spencer's in Hilo. Hey, it's all I need. Better still, it's just about a 12 minute drive from home. KMC is located inside the park at 4000 feet above sea level, so it's much cooler than Hilo. I've only been to the gym there once, but on that visit I had the place to myself. KMC is a quiet, low key lodge. It's nearly 100 years old. I think at one time, service men were actually stationed there. For years, however, it's been a place for current and former military to stay while visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It's a collection of small cabins situated on an area of meticulously groomed grounds, surrounded by the Ohia and Hapu'u rainforest. Some of the cabins are built of wood, plantation style. Others are made from black lava stone. All have fireplaces. they need them, too. It can get a little chilly at this elevation. There's also a rec center with arcade, the fitness center, a lounge where they often have live music, a cafeteria, general store, cheap gas, tennis courts, playground for kids, even Starbucks. They show movies. I hear their guided tours of the park and the island are great. Non-military folks can stay there too, I think. It just costs them more. They also have a theater there where they put on live concerts and plays, open to the public. I have not attended one yet, but plan to.
When the sun is shining on the forested areas surrounding Volcano Village and the national park, it really is one one of the most perfect places I've ever been. The high temperature is usually in the low 70s. When the fog shrouds it all in cool mist, it takes on a mystical quality.
I'm heading up there tomorrow. Weather permitting, I'll shoot a few photos.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rats, roaches, ginger and saimin

I discovered these ginger flowers in my very own jungle today. I'm not usually one for cut flowers, but these were just so cool I had to bring them out of the dark forest and into the light to be enjoyed.
Mr. Sox brought a baby rat into the house tonight. The poor little creature was still alive but badly wounded. I had planned to take the struggling critter away from the fat cat and gently replace him back outside to either survive miraculously or crawl off to die in peace. I turned to grab a container to put him in and when I turned back, he was gone. Mr. Sox was scurrying out the door. So I hope the cat was scurrying after the rat. If not, the rat is probably hiding somewhere in a nook or cranny inside the house. Great. He'll get along well with the cockroach that escaped from my grocery bag a couple of weeks ago. The pair are probably setting up house behind the fridge as I type this.
I finally put up my tiny, fake Christmas tree last night. With lights and decorations, it actually looks very festive. I like it.
I've decided to abandon the wine blog. Ultimately, I guess my heart just isn't into the topic enough to make regular posts. Not to mention the the fact that I'd have to drink a lot more to come up with new reviews on a regular enough basis to keep the thing interesting. Instead, I'll just mention good wines and other stuff I discover here.
I finally got the results of my October cholesterol test today. The total count is 196, with an HDL (the good kind) of 115 and an LDL (the bad stuff) of 71. The doctor said that was great and asked me if I was an athlete. Of course I said yes. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Hmmmmm.... Must be good genes.
I mailed all my cards yesterday. Today, I went to the market in Pahoa to avoid the Hilo crowds. It's been downright crazy down there these past few days. Pahoa was much easier. It's a pretty nice store, too. Now we've got our goodies for the rest of the week, including Christmas dinner. We bought two turkeys at Thanksgiving. That's because they were selling them for $3.99. That's not $3.99 per pound. That's $3.99 for a whole, 16 lb turkey! What a deal. If we'd had a bigger freezer, we would have bought more.
Here's a little "taste" of Hawaii culture. It's a clip from the hilarious Frank Delima singing about one of my favorite local grinds. Whatever you do, don't sneeze while you're eating it. Enjoy. A hui hou. Aloha.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Eddie Vedder is definitely pono

Ua mau, ka ea o ka aina i ka pono

That is the Hawaii state motto. The official translation is this: The life (sovereignty) of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. While they are definitely referring to the land here (aina) the words life and sovereignty are very different. Sovereignty implies independence and strength. That is probably the correct translation and conveys what the Hawaiian's meant with they saying. I'm guessing that to avoid any confusion back in the days of the overthrow and with the coming of statehood some decades later, officials (who were not Hawaiian) opted to used 'life' instead. 'Sovereignty' was likely added back in parentheses to appease the Hawaiians who found the previous translation inaccurate and insulting. But to state officials, to put 'sovereignty' into the state motto might have fueled some flames the officials were still trying to dowse. Of course, this is all really just conjecture on my part. So don't use this information in a research paper on the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, kay?
Pono
is a Hawaiian word that has many meanings. In the motto they translate it as "righteous" which is technically correct. Depending on context, pono can mean proper, honorable, moral, correct, living up to one's kuleana (responsiblity)... all sorts of meanings but with a common essence. It means "the right thing to do." Strictly translated, I guess that's what righteousness means, but to me, righteousness conveys a bit of a holier-than-thou, moral high ground kind of feeling. Pono, I believe, is a more humble word.
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole wrote a song some years ago entitle Hawaii 78. It quickly became a hallmark of the sovereignty movement in Hawaii. There are debates on the meaning of the title. Some say it refers to 1778 and Captain Cook's landing here, changing the islands forever. Others say it refers to 1978 when the Hawaiian sovereignty movement was reborn. Either one works. The song is eerie, sad and powerful. Yesterday, driving home from town, I heard it on the radio. It was instantly recognizable, though the voice was not that of Bruddah Iz. It was a great voice, mournful and sincere, and it was giving me all kine chicken skin. Chills, brah! Chills! I listened a second more, then I knew. Eddie Vedder! It was recorded at Peal Jam's recent concert with U2 in Honolulu. Whew! It made me wish I'd been there. I'd love to see Pearl Jam live. I've seen U2. They are awesome, to be sure and Bono is one of those performers I find I can't take my eyes off of when he's on stage. That said, the first time I heard Vedder's voice and saw him roll his eyes back in his head in that weird, fluttery way that he does, I became a fan of his too. Not to mention the fact that both bands find something to sing about besides sex, drugs, drugs and sex. Not that there's anything wrong with that. That is, after all, what rock and roll is all about. But for bands like Pearl Jam, it can also open people's eyes to society's - and humanity's - shortcomings.
Anyway, I've attached these links to both the Bruddah Iz version of Hawaii 78 and Pearl Jam's somewhat abbreviated but no less powerful version. Ua mau, ka ea o ka aina i ka pono...... o Hawai'i.
Have a listen. a hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Getting a head

I'm home! The trip to California was quick but fruitful. My teeth have been repaired beautifully thanks to the amazing Dr. Daniel. I spent short but quality time with friends, including my pal Bailey here. I got a haircut. I got a big-city California fix. I inhaled some smog for old times' sake. I bought some stuff I can't get here, like silicone ice cube trays and Trader Joe's munchies. It was a good trip.
When I returned, I learned that our veggie garden, as small as it is, has produced some fine results. The bean plants are flowering. Some are even sporting tiny baby beans. This cabbage is the only one we got, but it's a beauty, don't you think? We're going to cut it up for stir fry tonight. I also bought some kim chee mix. I know it's really not the right kind of cabbage for that, but what the hey.
On my way back from the mainland, I picked up a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine and learned why the populace has so little confidence in the current economy despite what all the government statistics are telling us. It's because while the riches, top .1 percent of the population gets exponentially richer, the poorest are getting poorer and the middle class is disappearing. That's due to many factors, outlined in clear and obvious detain in the article. Check it out.
I also learned that mega-pork farms are bad. Really bad. If the cruel conditions in which the pigs are kept doesn't get to you, then the pollution these farms generate should. If you don't care about that because you are lucky enough not live near one, then the pesticides and antibiotics they are constantly treated with, not to mention the swill they are fed, should make you squirm. What are they fed? Everything, including the ground up remains of their dead brethren, other pigs who have kicked the bucket because of the horrid conditions in which they all struggle to survive. There is nothing healthy about these pigs. They are the product of Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world. They are responsible for billions of pounds of pork in supermarkets everywhere, packaged under many labels. My advice: buy organic or all natural, drug free pork, produced locally if you can get it, the old fashioned way by small farmers. It may cost a little more, but you won't glow in the dark after you eat it. And you can rest a little easier knowing you did not pad the pockets of the evil, calloused, money grubbing corporate executives at Smithfield. Curious? Check it out. Rolling Stone Magazine. It's not just for head bangers anymore. Actually, Rolling Stone has long been known for it's cutting edge exposes. Why they insist on putting Snoop Dogg on the cover when they've got great content like this is beyond me.
I had a job interview yesterday at the Volcano Winery. I should know in a day or two if I got the job. Meanwhile, today's paper has an ad for a real job; a communications position with Hawaii County. It pays really well and is exactly the job toward which my degree was geared. So I've just got to apply. A real job could be fun for awhile.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, December 04, 2006

The tool guy never saw those undies

When I was a young and restless ski bum back in the day, I found myself in a precarious position at a doctor's office. I had had a little accident on the hill. So there I sat, sans shirt, with an excruciatingly stiff neck. I had just been x-rayed. The Doctor had subsequently informed me it was (gulp) broken. Yikes. I think he said something like, "Congratulations. You broke your neck." It was just what my parents said would happen. ("Get down from there! Stop that! You'll break your neck! You'll shoot your eye out!")
"That sounds kinda bad," I said.
"Let's just say you should avoid diving into any shallow pools for awhile," he said. What a guy. So anyway, there I was, sporting my JC Penney special, when the doctor excused himself from the exam, then returned with a guy wearing a tool belt and carrying a wrench and a screwdriver. He was also holding a metal contraption with straps.
"Do you like that bra?" asked the doctor.
"Sort of," I said.
"Good," he returned. "Because you're going to be wearing it for a long time."
Tool guy approached. He put the contraption over my head. It had a chin rest and straps that held my head firmly in place. It also had padded metal shoulder thingies with a bar across both the front of the chest and back. The bar and shoulder bars had to be adjusted to fit, as did the chin rest, which sat on two metal bars that came up from the chest bar. "Oh. I get it," I said.
What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, last night, I waited for an hour and 20 minutes for the baggage carousel to empty upon my arrival from Hawaii to L.A. only to learn that my bags had not accompanied me on the trip. It was late; long past closing time for department stores and the laundry room at the hotel. That left me faced with the prospect of wearing the same underwear on Monday that I wore on Tuesday. Disgusting. That's almost as bad as being forced to wear the same bra for two months. Ah, but I figured out how to change the bra under the neck brace and how to shower with the thing on and dry the nooks and crannies with a blow dryer. I was equally creative with the underwear. A squirt of hotel shampoo and the room heater fan washed and dried them beautifully. The moral of this story? A little resourcefulness can always change a bad situation into a better one.
So here I am in San Diego. I spent the morning getting drilled and making impressions for an overlay for two teeth in need of repair. Dentists elsewhere always seem to want to file them down and put on crowns. But mine likes to save teeth and uses state of the art overlays instead of crowns. Cool, huh? "You have beautiful teeth," he says. "Why would someone not want to save them?" Indeed. So I'm fitted with temporary fillings right now and will have them replaced on Thursday. Meanwhile, I'll be hangin' with my pal Gail here in beautiful Encinitas while Ron does his best to hold down the fort back home to stay dry. It's still raining back at the ranch.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

California here I come.....

Right back where I started from.... OK not quite where I started, but almost. Why? Chipped a tooth. I hate it when that happens. So I called my local dentist and busted a move all the way up to Waimea Town where he drills. He said my best option was a crown and he recommended a gold one because they are strong and hold up well. Yikes! Since I have no metal in my mouth at all, the prospect of a gold tooth was devastating to my fragile psyche. I asked about porcelain. He said he could do that too, but would have to file more of my tooth away. I asked about an overlay and he said he didn't think that would work as well, given the nature of the break. He also made no guarantees if I chose to simply fill it. It's just a small chip; one of the corner tips broke off. It's not like I cracked the thing in half or anything. So, I called my old (young actually) trustworthy dentist in Encino. When I told him my story, he said that he was confident he could fix it with an overlay and preserve my tooth. Yay! So, off to Cali I go. Amazingly, I got a screamin' cheap last minute airfare from ATA to leave Sunday.
Last night it poured rain here in the rainforest. Our tank is filling up fast. Faster, in fact, than we can use it. So we are no longer worried about running out.
I'm off to do some more laundry and get packing. A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sprung a leak

It only cost $1200 to recover all my photos. A bargain at twice the price. Not! I also found my resume among the data saved from our crashed computer. That's something. It's nice not to have to rewrite it, although with my track record of late, maybe I should make a few revisions anyway. We also found a few of Ron's important client files on the recovery disk along with plenty of junk. Oh well. Live and learn.
Turns out we had a little earthquake impact at our house after all. The other day, I went to add some chlorine to our water tank and noticed that it was less than a fifth full. Yikes. It hadn't rained hard in awhile, but it seemed unimaginable that we could have used up all that water so fast. We're talking 10,000 gallons! After some careful examination, we found the cause. The overflow pipe had moved out of alignment with the main input line, causing a leak at the joint where the two pipes meet. None of the rain had been making it's way to the tank. Instead, it just spilled out onto the ground. Bummer. When I picked up the overflow pipe and moved it, the two connecting pipes resealed at the joint and all was fixed. Before I moved it, that pipe had been sitting in the exact groove in the dirt where it had always been. The only only way it could have moved is if the ground itself had moved. So it has more than likely been leaking since the earthquake, which means that a whole month's worth of rain was lost. Add to that our regular showers, flushes, dished and laundry using water from the tank and you have a recipe for disaster. Fortunately we discovered the problem before we ran out completely. As it is now, we've adopted the Focker's mantra: If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down. I plan to take a couple of laundry loads to the launderette tomorrow.
Ron has been cutting down trees all week. I think he's channeling the spirit of Paul Bunyan. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite got his aim perfected. A big fat one landed squarely on top of an avocado tree today, snapping it in two. I tried grafting the top back to the bottom with electrical tape and re-rooting another big branch that had been severed. We'll see if they make it.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tech trouble in paradise.

Aloha! Yes, I'm trying to be cheery. I live in Hawai'i, after all. Still, I'm finding that paradise is not exempt from the headaches of the modern world. We got our hard drive and recovered data back late last week. That's both good news and bad news. I put everything back together and booted up the machine. Yay! It works. Sort of. The hard drive has been returned to it's out-of-the-box state. That means that with the exception of Windows for some reason, all the software has to be set up anew. I found Microsoft Office asking me for a product key. Unfortunately, I no longer have it. Seems we lost our certificate of authenticity in the shuffle of moving. So I spent most of yesterday on the phone back and forth between Hewlett Packard, who built the machine and installed the software, and Microsoft, who made the software and issued the product key. Each insisted only the other could help. I learned that at HP, the sales/customer service folks are not connected to the tech folks. Customer service is in Rochester, NY. Tech support is in New Delhi, India. Tech support could only give me a temporary key, which would expire in 60 days, after which I would have to buy a copy of Office. That didn't fly for me, since I already bought it and replacing it would cost $400 bucks. They said only Microsoft could help me "replace my installation disk and product key." Of course, I spent three calls and about three hours trying to extract this little bit of information. Tech support asks everything, like make, model, serial number, name of children, where you were born, felony convictions, what color is your cat, regular or decaf..... Then they take a painfully long time clicking keys and searching for answers. "Hello?" I say into the phone periodically. "Is anyone still there?"
"Oh yes, Toni," they say. Of course they know my first name by now. They know my life story. "It takes some time to work with the server...." They all have anglified names they've chosen for themselves. I spoke with an Adam and a Jennifer, I think. They all speak excellent English and, to be fair, I don't speak Hindi so they're definitely one up on me. But some have less clearly understood accents than others. One kept insisting I needed the install disk so he could help me extract my product key. We turned the house upside down trying to find the disk, with no results. When I told the next tech guy I didn't have one, he admonished me, saying I should always save my install disks. Duh. He said I should have it, since HP only installs trial copies on computers before sending them out. Not so. Mine was installed at the factory. My bill of sale lists it as included in my custom built computer price. I never had a disk. So there, George or Biff or Nehru or Ghandi or whatever your name is. Actually, they were all syrupy nice, so I couldn't get too mad at them personally. So, I did what they insisted I must: call Microsoft. Ultimately, I was told that since I never had a disk in the first place and since my copy of Office was installed at the factory, I should get help from the computer manufacturer. They did give me a number at Microsoft that might have been able to help, had they been open. Apparently they were taking Friday and the rest of the weekend off. Argh!!!! We finally got a case service manager at HP who promised to either get us a product key or send us a new copy of Office by Monday. I say we because at this point Ron decided to try his luck and charm to get some help. He connected with the HP service guy from Rochester, talking about beer and Buffalo Bill. He, in turn, hooked us up with the case manager. Great! The helpful guy also suggested we download a trial copy of the software from Mircosoft to use until we get ours running. Good idea. I tried, but the download didn't go well, nor of course did the subsequent install. Oh well. We've waited this long. Guess we can wait 'til Monday.
On a positive note, we cooked our best turkey ever on Thursday after soaking it overnight in a brine/herb solution. The trick this time was gently separating the skin from the breast of the turkey so the solution could get to meat. I also, by accident, whipped up my best mashed taters ever. We discovered we had no potato masher and I also have no cake mixer. But we do have a hand held mixer, the kind you might use to make milk shakes. Beautiful! They were smooth and pasty and buttery.
Ron discovered a bottle of champagne at the back of the fridge which we figured must have been left by one of our renters before we arrived. It had a hotel label on it and was onolicious! After a plate full of turkey, stuffing and spuds washed down with the bubbly, Ron was ready for a nap. He crashed for nearly three hours. Ya gotta love Thanksgiving.
We're off to Costco this morning to stock up on essentials, like crab legs and macadamia nut carmel popcorn crunch. You know... staples. A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A trip to the vet

I saw Jesus today. He was wearing a tie-die t-shirt and driving a Chevy Lumina van. He had lots of riders with him. Apostles, perhaps? Yes, this guy was definitely Jesus. He looked just like the photo my grandparents had hanging on their bedroom wall.
The weather was beautiful. Most of the day, anyway. I spent several hours mowing the lawn. This afternoon, Hopps and I went to town. She had an appointment with vet for shots and a checkup. There were plenty of nice people at the vet clinic, not to mention a litter of cute puppies in for shots and a checkup too. Of course, Hopps is no puppy. At least, not chronologically. She still acts like a puppy, which is good for what the vet called a "geriatric girl." After our visit with Dr. Julie, we went to Queen Liluokalani Park for a nice stroll and plenty of good sniffies. On our way home, it began to dump buckets of rain. Now we're settled in, nice and dry for the night.
Happy Thanksgiving! A hui hou. Aloha.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Geek in training

Here's a picture of the hibiscus I promised. It occurred to me just tonight that there's a camera card slot right on my printer that allows me to import photos to the PC. Duh!
As I trudged up the road with the poochies at about 7:30 this morning, I became acutely aware that I was wearing only shorts, sneakers and a t-shirt. I was actually perspiring just a little. No long johns. No snow boots. No gloves. No fleece hat. No parka. Just shorts and a t-shirt. It's November.
November is typically the rainiest month in these parts. It's been an unusually dry one this year, even though we've gotten enough drizzle to keep our water tank full and our grass soggy. The experts are attributing our "dry" weather to El Nino. I suspect that's what's caused all the flooding and nastiness in the Pacific Northwest recently. The past few days have been beautiful here, with plenty of sunshine, no vog and a few big puffy white clouds. Yes, this is the paradise I signed up for.
Locals really get into the holiday spirit here in the islands, with parades, craft fairs, concerts and decorations. A couple of years ago, while visiting on vacation, Ron and I happened upon the Waimea Christmas parade. It was quite festive and freezing cold. Well, not literally freezing. But it was probably in the low to mid 50s with a brisk wind. Since we had planned on balmy weather, we were woefully under dressed, which added to the chill we felt. Still, it was a good parade. Trucks rolled by all decked out in lights. There were marching bands and choirs. It was really fun. Much better than Gunnison's Parade of Lights. That was a feeble attempt by the chamber of commerce to drum up some retail customers for downtown businesses. The one year we attended, the parade consisted of about three pickup trucks and a flatbed with a few lights. If you blinked, you'd miss it. Santa did bring up the rear of the parade and led everyone to the giant tree at the center of town where we all sang carols along with the Gunnison High School choir. That part was great. But the parade was, to be polite, pretty pathetic. Of course, it really was freezing there, so the diminutive length of the parade may have been a blessing in disguise.


This is the tunnel Ron carved with the weed whacker from the front yard though the woods. It makes a very cool pathway. We're thinking that when our ship comes in, we'll build our ohaha-guest house down there.
On Thursday night, my neighbor and I attended a computer workshop in town. The focus of the class was hardware; namely, how to disassemble and reassemble a PC. It was basic, but very valuable information. I now feel comfortable upgrading memory, swapping out a hard drive, replacing a sound or video card, connecting a peripheral device like a CD ROM. The class was held in the upstairs janitor's supply area of a local gym, so we had to listen hard to our instructor over the sound of bouncing balls and shouting kids on the court below. Still, the price was right (free) and I actually learned something.
On Friday, the UPS man delivered our recovered data and hard drive. Having attended the workshop, I was confident I could re-install it with ease. It was returned, however, without the original ribbon cable that was attached when we sent it. So I picked one up at a local computer store. I plugged it in and fired it up, only to receive a "failure to boot" message. Turns out that an enhanced IDE drive like the one we have is only compatible with an enhanced-capable ribbon cable. Go figure. So we'll be picking up a new cable tomorrow to try again. We also purchased an external backup drive yesterday, which we plan to employ immediately once we're up and running again. Meanwhile, this cheapo model has served us nicely.

That's all for today. A hui hou. Aloha!






Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Doing the wave

We had a tsunami warning this morning here in the islands. An 8.1 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan prompted the Pacific Tsunami Warning System to sound. We didn't actually hear the sirens, of course, since we are 2500 feet above sea level and a half an hour's drive from the coast. We heard it via the Emergency Alert System on TV. Within a short time, the warning was rescinded as officials realized the diminutive size of the wave, but they still urged caution pending the arrival of some trouble making ripples. There were several high water surges that washed boats up the Hanalei River on Kauai and caused some shoreline and harbor mayhem. Thankfully, nobody was injured. The wave/surge took 2-4 hours to reach Hawaii and about 11 hours to reach the west coast of North America. News reports said that the Crescent City California harbor sustained minor damage. That's really pretty amazing when you think about it. The wave took just 11 hours to cross the entire Pacific. That's faster than it takes to fly from California to Japan via jumbo jet!
It has taken me decades, but I've finally learned a very important lesson: a woman should never weigh herself a) within two days of the start of "the dreaded you-know-what" (aka "the monthly menace") and b) the morning after eating Chinese food or movie popcorn. So I haven't stepped on the scale for days. That said, I guess I should be thanking my lucky stars I'm still receiving regular visits from "the dreaded you-know-what." Some of my contemporaries no longer experience it at all, while others see it disappear for a few months, only to return with a vengeance without warning. It's a very strange time of life. Or should I say, a peri strange time?
The North Kohala District of our island is doing it's best to recover from earthquake damage sustained a few weeks ago. Plenty of people's homes were declared uninhabitable. Ah, but never fear, FEMA's here. Actually, they seem to be doing well by the citizens of Hawaii Island, along with the county, the state and several non-profit organizations. Still, it's a bummer for those whose homes were jostled enough to have them slip off their post and pier foundations. I hate it when that happens.
A new law will take effect tomorrow here in the islands that will prohibit smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants, and within 20 feet of the entrance to a public place. Even open-air bars are subject to the new law. I'm sure there will be a few hole-in-the wall kine places that will simply ignore the new law. While I do feel for smokers who are, after all, engaging in legal activity, I am grateful that I can now sit and enjoy a beer without having to endure someone's second hand smoke.
When Ron and I began our land clearing expedition, we found a tiny flower pot containing what appeared to be a stick. Ron swore he glimpsed a little green color on the stick. We figured it must have been something worth buying and/or potting at one time, so we stuck said stick into the ground. It grew. It sprouted leaves. Today, it bloomed! A large, yellow hibiscus with a fuchsia center danced lightly on the breeze at the tip of a branch. Beautiful! I'd have a photo here for you to ogle, but this makeshift computer doesn't have a slot for my photo card and I've misplaced the USB cord that fits my camera. But stay tuned. I think I got a pretty good shot of it and will publish it as soon as my technology will allow.
We now have nearly 40 coffee trees planted. They're still pretty tiny, but all thriving. Some of our first trees have grown a good six inches with lots of new leaves. In 3-4 years, they'll be eight feet tall and ready to blossom.
I've seen a few good bumper stickers around lately. One today in the Home Depot parking lot asked, "What would Scooby do?" Another, which I saw awhile ago, read, "Pahoa. We're all here because we're not all there." That's pretty apropos for Pahoa. Whenever I spend time there, I return home feeling remarkably normal, healthy and well adjusted. It is Funkytown, for sure.
Then there was a t-shirt I saw at the gym the other day. It said "Alcohol. Tobacco. Firearms. Who's going to bring the chips?"
It's time to feed the furballs. A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Aue!

On Sunday afternoons, the two local all-Hawaiian, all-the-time radio stations on the island broadcast an entire show in the Hawaiian language. It's very cool, despite the fact that I have no idea what they're talking about. Oh I pick up the occasion place name or common word. But mostly, it's all Greek to me. Still, it's a lovely sounding language. This past Sunday, the Hawaiian word for the day on one station was actually three words: aue ka nani. It means, "How beautiful!" Aue is a wonderful, universal Polynesian expression that works really well in plenty of situations. You might say, "Aue ka nani!" at the ocean or a blooming flower, or you might say, "Aue! Da kine line at da buffet ees long, brah!" It's a great word.
After the vog, we had several lovely days with a little sun and refreshing tradewinds. Aue ka nani! Today, the trades died down, bringing back the humidity. Hopefully, we'll escape the vog this time. I watched the sweat roll down my arms and legs and felt it flooding my eyes at the gym today. I figure the bottles of water I downed were about equal to the amount that oozed out my poors. Aue!
We purchased 10 more coffee trees this week and will, as has become usual, plant a couple at a time, weather permitting, until their all in the ground and thriving.
I received yet another rejection letter the other day. I guess I'd rather receive a rejection than hear nothing. I'm thinking it's time to start applying for a broader range of jobs.
Folks are elated about the election here in Blue Hawaii. Most folks, anyway. There is a small conservative contingent here. Still, Democrats rule the islands, except for the governor. That wasn't always the case. Before WWII, Republicans were in charge. They owned all the major plantations and businesses. They were, in fact, the businessmen responsible for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. They ruled until after the war, when immigrant veterans, some led by Hawaii residents of Japanese descent who just happened to be American war heroes, formed labor unions, got all the local people to vote and got themselves elected to offices throughout the state. The tide turned then and the state has been dominated by Democrats ever since. My neighbors had a Malama Solomon for Lieutenant Governor sign posted on their lawn. Solomon ran on the ticket with the Democratic challenger for governor. When I saw the neighbor today, I gave my condolences. "Sorry about your candidate," I said. "It's no big deal," she replied. "She's a relative and we thought it would be good for her to run to give Lingle and Aiona at least a little challenge. But it's OK, because Aiona (the Lieutenant Governor who was elected alongside Lingle) is my son in-law's cousin." So it's really all in the family here, Republican or Democrat. Uncle Daniel Akaka was elected in a landslide, as expected. On a national level, I can't wait to see if this new Congress can actually get something done.
We may head to the west side this weekend to soak up some beach sun and shop. I'll shoot some pictures, so tune in next week. A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Here's to good friends and clean air

On Saturday morning, as I sat here checking my email and lamenting the nasty vog outside, I received a nice surprise. The phone rang. No, that's not the surprise. Although I did jump a little. The surprise was the voice on the other end. It was familiar, yet distant. A voice from the past. It was my college roommate Colleen. "I'm here. On the Big Island," she said. She was visiting with her son and an old friend who now lives on Maui. I met them in Volcano Village that night. We had a lovely dinner and talked story well past my usual bedtime. It was really great to see her after so many years. She looked pretty much the same. Mostly, I found it was good to hear her laugh. She has a great, infectious laugh. Sometimes it bursts. Sometimes it's a little ornery and lecherous. Amazingly, there was not one nanosecond of awkwardness between us. We just seemed to hit it off where we left off.
The vog is now gone. It was brutal. For three days it lingered, frying leaves on plants and trees, traumatizing the dogs, making my throat scratchy. It was equally bad in Hilo Town, obscuring what little sun there was. The vog hung in the air because the tradewinds had died. So not only was the air hazy and stinky but hot and humid as all get out. It was downright miserable. All better now. The cooling trades are blowing with gusto. We're back to paradise as usual.
It occurred to me after experiencing the computer crash that I still have all my music. It's on my iPod. It seemed there ought to be a way to copy it from that "little" 20 gig drive back to the computer. But as those of you with iPods know, you can't just plug the little buggah into your computer and do that. What will happen instead is that iTunes will update you iPod with what it has in the library. Which, on this new computer (and the old one for that matter) is nothing! So, I hopped on line to do some research. There, I found a software company called purpleghost that makes just the product I need to allow me to copy music from my iPod to my computer and restore iTunes without letting it zap my iPod. I'm pretty excited about it. It's called TuneJack. It costs $10. Beats losing it all or spending thousands to get it all back. Not to mention the hours I spent importing songs from CDs. A bargain at twice the price if you ask me.
Today is election day! I'm excited. Really. I'm almost always excited by the prospect of leadership change. Here in Hawaii, we have one contested senate race. Daniel Akaka (D) is running against.... I forget her name. Oh yeah. Cynthia Theilen. She's actually an excellent candidate, a moderate republican running on a save-the-environment platform - and has been endorsed by several papers. Trouble is, expecting people to vote against Akaka is like expecting them to vote against their own uncle. He's like family to many with long, deep roots in the islands. Even at age 82, I just don't see him losing.
All this election talk has me thinking that I'd better get my big, fat okole out to VOTE!
A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Big computer crash!

I have a theory about computers. I believe that they are built to go belly up within two to three years of the date of purchase. So even if you don't need or want to buy a new system or upgrade your old one, you have no choice. The system forces that upon you. It's planned obsolescence. That's my theory and I'm stickin' to it.
It was very early yesterday morning when Ron began to have trouble with the computer. The crazy thing started some sort of scan on its own. When the scan was complete, the computer rebooted, only to again launch the scan. This happened over and over. At one point, we were able to abort the scan, only to have Windows display a black screen with white script asking how we wanted to restart the computer. We first selected the "recommended" mode. This did nothing but bring the black and white screen back up. We subsequently tried all the start up modes offered, with no luck. The stupid machine was fritzed. It would not respond to anything. If we turned it off, it turned back on to the same screen. On the bottom of the screen, there was an option to press F10 to launch HP (Hewlett Packard) recovery. I made the fateful decision to push that button and the subsequent recovery button. Upon doing this, we got a dialog box warning us about the way our hard drive was partitioned and telling us something in less that clear English about how some data might be lost and all would be moved across said partition. We clicked "OK." Almost instantaneously, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew we had made a big mistake. In less than 10 minutes, the computer took us back to the day we purchased it. All our data was gone! That's really amazing, when you consider the fact that formatting a typical hard drive takes hours. I called Hewlett Packard and, upon relating my story, heard a very nice man with a heavy Indian accent say, "I'm sorry Ms. Todd but there is nothing we can do for you." We then called a local PC guy who came to the house to check out our situation. After roughly two minutes, he exclaimed, "You're toast!" He said he wished we'd called him before pushing the recovery button. We wished that too.
Ironically, we've been talking about purchasing a back up hard drive for several months now. We were planning on going to town this week to buy one. Too late.
Ron and I are big crime show fans. So when he said to me, "You know, they always say on CSI and NCIS that the data is never really gone from a computer," I felt a glimmer of hope. We sought out a company that specializes in Data Forensics, called them, then shipped our hard drive away to California. The guys there seemed confident they could recover as much as 80 percent of our data. They also warned that it would cost us a bundle. The drive should arrive at it's destination tomorrow. We'll find out then.
The data recovery dude also explained that companies don't make hard drives the way they used to. In the early days, they were practically indestructible and would seemingly last forever. Today, they are physically thinner and more fragile and will usually start to fail in 2 to three years. This, in turn, makes the data more susceptible to corruption. He said computer companies made the move to less durable hard drives when they noticed that consumers were upgrading their systems every 2-3 years anyway. Hmmmmmm.... That seems to support my theory, doesn't it?
So yesterday was a bad day. Ron actually took it all much better than I did. He found the fortitude to laugh about it, even though it represents hundreds of hours of hard work, wiped out in the blink of an eye. To me, it's lots and lots of photos and music. One of Ron's clients, a software engineer, said that, if they can recover any data, the photos and music would be the easiest, since they are relatively small, simple files. Hope he's right.
Today was downright crappy outside. The wind shifted and the vog (volcanic smog) settled in so thick and heavy that it felt like a forest fire must be nearby. Yuck! Doc (the dog) hated it. He didn't want to go outside and wouldn't leave Ron's side all day. When he was finally about to burst, he ran out, peed as hard and fast as he could in one place, then rushed right back in. Come to think about it, that's how he acted a few years back in Colorado when forest fires were nearby and the smoke drifted our way.
Meanwhile, O'ahu is experiencing torrential rains and flash flood warnings. I actually think I'd rather have the rain than Pele's bad breath. Someone really should consider airdropping a giant tic tac into that crater. Peeew!
A hui hou! Aloha!

Monday, October 30, 2006

A glutton for guavas

I'm a big fan of Clint Eastwood movies, especially the films he directs. I always go see them, even though I know the movie will not have a happy ending. I thought he might depart from that with Flags of Our Fathers. It is about World War II after all, "The Good War" as Studs Turkel called it, a war we fought for all the right reasons. No such luck. While the ending wasn't as devastating as Mystic River or as sad as Million Dollar Baby, it was still not the warm, fuzzy finale we've come to expect from WWII flicks. As usual with a Eastwood film, "Flags" is a reflection of both the best and the worst in human nature.
Flags of our Fathers is about the guys who raised the flag on a mountaintop at Iwo Jima. They were just young soldiers, doing their job, following orders, under extraordinary circumstances. The photo of their efforts to raise the flag became instantly famous and the guys were dubbed heroes, against their own wishes. "Flags" tells the story of how they were exploited for the war effort and how they were treated by the citizens of the country for which they fought. It's an exceptional film, worth full ticket price at the theater.
We saw Flags of Our Fathers on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night, we watched The Sentinel, with Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria and Kim Bassinger. Pretty good. Not epic, like Flags, but good enough to keep our attention throughout. It's about a secret service agent who is framed and subsequently blamed for an inside plot to kill the president. It's definitely worth renting.
Yes, it was a movie weekend. We also mowed the lawn, hung out at the Maku'u Farmers' Market and ate huevos at Luquin's Mexican Restaurant on Sunday morning, cut down some bananas (which turned out to be not quite ready for harvest) and generally puttered around.
I've become addicted to the tiny, strawberry guava fruits now ripening on our invasive trees. They are so sweet and tasty. They're actually better than the large, commercially grown guavas, the ones with the pink flesh.
I sent out three more resumes. The phone is not exactly ringing off the hook with job offers. Go figgah!
A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Boondoggle to the big city


A little shi shi, then Waikiki! I flew to O'ahu yesterday for a little checkup. Since nobody had high recommendations for a clinic or OBGYN near Hilo, I opted to schedule an appointment for my overdue exam in Honolulu. Dr. Vo was great. She was young, smart, cute and very personable. I'll go back to her. The exam, as unpleasant as it always is, was relatively painless and quick. I was out of there in an hour. That meant I had the entire day to kill before my flight home.
As it turned out, the clinic was within about a mile of Waikiki. Since Waikiki is the only part of Honolulu I know, and since I had already blown my wad on cab fare from the airport to the clinic, I decided to hoof it.












Waikiki is overdeveloped, kitsch, corny and an undeniable tourist trap. It is a Disneyland version of Hawaii. That said, I love it. Oh I wouldn't want to live there, but it is a nice diversion. There are some beautiful hotels there and some great places to grab a bite. There's an ABC Store on every corner for gosh sakes! What more could you want than that? The people watching is great - surfers and beach boys teach malahini (newcomer) haoli visitors the finer points of paddling their boards out to the waves, people strolling, gawking, sunbathing, flolicking, shopping, eating - all having a good 'ol time. It was one of those days when it was easy to get sun burned; high, wispy clouds letting the sun filter in, with 15-20 mile per hour trade winds to cool the sensation on the skin just enough so that unsuspecting pasties from Kansas had no idea they were getting quick fried to a crackly crunch. I ate lunch at Duke's, because I know it to have lovely outdoor, beachside tables and pretty respectable food at reasonable prices for lunch. It's named for Duke Kahanamoku, one of Hawaii's most beloved sons. Known as the father of modern surfing, he traveled the world as an ambassador of the sport and his country during the early 20th century. Duke also won Olympic gold and silver for swimming. There's a statue of him at Waikiki.

I also went to the Waikiki aquarium. It's small, but the displays are beautiful and well maintained. It's clear that the for the staff and "friends of" group here, it's a labor of love. I cruised up and down the main drag several times and hung out at Kapi'olani park for a spell. This photo is a shot of Diamond Head from the grassy expanse of the park at the crater's base. There's also a nice statue of Queen Kapi'olani herself.

Then, I decided to take the bus back to the airport. It cost $2 as opposed to the cab, which cost $30. Of course, I had an appointment to make in the morning and had to be at a specific spot by a certain time. I could plan my own afternoon, however and therefore had time for the bus. It took awhile. I asked the driver if there was an "express" bus to the airport. He said he didn't know of one. They all made lots of stops. "This is a slow boat to china," he said. "But it will get you there in about an hour." Good enough for me. As I rode, I saw what I already knew; that there is a lot more to Honolulu that Waikiki. I vow to return and spend time getting to know another part of the city next time, or even another part of O'ahu island.

O'ahu. It means, "the gathering place," in Hawaiian. It's crowded and the traffic is horrible. So I guess people have gathered there, big time.
As I ate lunch, I read the Honolulu weekly and was particularly enamored with the entertainment calendar. On any given Friday or Saturday night, it seems, you can see the likes of Nathan Aveau of Hapa, or Barry Flanagan, or Henry Kapono, or Daniel Ho, or any number of big-name local artists. Very cool.

I flew back into Hilo Tuesday night. It was raining. Auwe!

A hui hou! Aloha!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Treadmill redux

It was back to the gym today with gusto. I actually returned last week, but gently. Today's workout was back up to a full roar; running, lifting, crunching, stretching. I should be pretty well hobbled tomorrow. If you are a 40 or 50 something woman who believes everything she reads these days, you'd be convinced by the press that, if you don't run your ogle off and engage in strenuous, daily weight-bearing exercises, your bones will rapidly become riddled with holes and eventually turn to powder, after which your limp body will fall to the ground like a soggy load of laundry. Or like the wicked witch of the west. "I'm me-e-e-lting! I'm me-e-e-elting!" You'll break a hip! Yes you will! It's like the middle aged version of "A Christmas Story," (my favorite holiday flick), where poor Ralphy, whenever he tells someone he wants a bb gun for Christmas, hears, "You'll shoot your eye out." While I think much of what's written is hype, I do believe there is something to that weight bearing exercise advice. And of course, there's no reason not to be in good cardio-vascular health, what with heart disease the number one killer of women over some age or other. Then, for me personnally, there's this whole matter of being unemployed right now. I've got the time, so why not sweat a little and preserve those estrogen-starved bones. And keep that heart pumping. Besides, it's raining.
Speaking of time, I'm again twittling my thumbs, awaiting a call from prospective employers. Meanwhile, I've started another blog, one I hope will appeal to both readers and advertisers. It's called Grape Escape - www.grape-escape.blogspot.com. There's not much there yet. So it can only get better with time.
I saw a great bumper sticker today. It said, "Dog is my co-pilot." Yep. Mine, too!
A hui hou! Aloha!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Doggin' the frogs


Ding dong the coqui's dead,
citric acid on his head,
ding dong the coqui frog is dead (two, three, four)
Not much bigger than a dime,
douse him with hydrated lime,
ding dong the coqui frog is dead.....

Yes, he's dead. Actually, there were two of the little buggahs on our neighbor's property, chirping up a storm, having us all wondering when the two would transform into 30, then 60 then on and on until we were just like lower Puna district, listening to 10s of thousands of them all night long. I am being credited by the neighbor across the street for the frogs' demise, since I am the one who called the coqui police and they, in turn, contacted the other neighbor to lend them a hand in the eradication effort. Ta da!
I do feel a little sorry for the cute little guys. It's not their fault some stupid human neglected to inspect a shipment of plants from Puerto Rico years ago and let their ancestors stow away enroute to Hawaii. Of course, I still, for the life of me, do not get why Hawaii feels the need to import plants from Puerto Rico or from anywhere for that matter. Seems to me we have quite enough plants here already, thank you very much. Ah, but what do I know.
And speaking of police, I hope the copywrite police are snoozing. I stole this photo from Google images. I didn't see any mention of rights or any letter c with a circle around it, so I'm pretty sure I'm in the clear, but I thought I'd mention credit here anyway, just in case. Old journalist precautions never die...
Anyway, the frogs have croaked. Aloha! Which, as you may recall, also means goodbye.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And the thunder rolls......


Here we were, feeling so smug about having made it through the earthquake yesterday, no worse for the wear, when bang! Boom! Down came the bottles from the top shelf of the closet. I was reminded of the flight attendants' intercom message on every commercial airplane ride I've ever taken. "Please take care when opening the overhead bins as contents may have shifted during the flight." Indeed. Replace the words "overhead bins" with closet, "contents" with wine bottles and "flight" with earthquake and you've got the picture. Three bottles narrowly missed Ron's noggin and came crashing to the floor. Actually, six bottles fell; only three broke.Ron yelled out a few expletives. I did too, as I ran to the house from the yard, hearing his cries intermixed with "The wine!" Upon seeing the purple mess of glass and grape, the #%*&@ was followed by a Tim the Toolman Taylor-esque "Oh no...." Needless to say, my closet now has a lovely nose. We will likely be painting the walls in the hallway sooner than planned. Maybe a nice Burgundy? The hallway rugs were soaked with syrah, the floors swimming is sangiovese.
Last night, we were hit with a tremendous thunder storm. Poor Hoppsy was beside herself. Actually, she was beside me, stuck like Gorrilla Glue, quaking in fear. It was so loud and continuous that even Doc and Crawford got a bit nervous. Before long, all three of them were in the bed with us. It was also very hot and humid, with lightning flashing bright enough to light up the room over and over for hours. Needless to say, we are all a bit sleep deprived today. I'm sure nighty night will come early this evening.
Yesterday, Ron got creative and we built a very small, very makeshift greenhouse. It's fashioned in the same vein as our tool shed. Of course, both "stuctures" have the same architectural designer. A real greenhouse is a planned purchase; we're just waiting for our finances to catch up with our plans after the big move. It won't be long...
A hui hou! Aloha!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rockin' and rollin' on the rock

When I was 3 1/2 years old, I experienced a tempest known as the Columbus Day Storm. It was what they call an extratropical cyclone (according to Wikipedia), and is considered the strongest storm to have hit the Pacific Northwest in modern history. I don't really remember much about it, other than what fun I thought it was that the lights all went out and we had to make our way with candles for days. I also remember lots of fallen trees across the road and one that squished the neighbor's house. And my tricycle blew away. My dad found it a few days later way up the block.
In 1980, I was living in Portland, Oregon when Mount St. Helens blew it's top. Initially, the explosion had little effect on the city. A couple of days after the eruption, however, the wind shifted and Portland was covered with a 6 inch blanket of ash. City residents all donned surgical masks to go about their daily lives. People tracked the whitish grit everywhere they walked. The stuff was extremely abrasive and took the finish off cars. It blew into drifts a foot deep in places but, unlike snow, did not melt. The sky was grey and gloomy for weeks. It was pretty miserable.
I lived in Los Angeles through the early 1990s. There, I experienced the Rodney King riots from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, where I was stranded. Planes were not allowed into LA airspace throughout most of that day, since the landing pattern took airliners directly over that part of the city being burned and plundered. A coworker and I sat in a bar called Cheers and watched as our hometown burst into flames and innocent fellow citizens were beaten to death. Again, pretty miserable.
I also remember the Malibu fires which filled the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Fernando Valley with smoke. Landslides followed when heavy rains weighed down the hillsides and sent them plummeting into the sea.
And then there was the coup de gras, the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
I now live in Hawaii. This morning, we experienced one of the largest earthquakes ever to rumble through the archipelago. The temblor has wreaked havoc on the west side of Hawaii Island and caused power outages all over O'ahu, two islands away. Compared to Northridge, it was just a little shaker. But by Hawaii standards, or any reasonable standards for that matter, it was huge.
So what's the moral of this story? Shit happens... wherever I go! Sheesh!
On a lighter note, I've just returned from a wonderful trip to California to visit my pals. These are friends of the truest bluest kind; the people in my life who love me for who I am and around whom I can be myself without pretenses.
The first days of the trip were spent catching up, drinking fine wine and eating delicious food. The last days were spent in a cozy cabin in the mountains, hiking the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada range, drinking more wine and eating more tasty victuals.

It was an inspiring trip, too, as my buds are all enjoying successful careers and had exotic adventure stories to share. So tomorrow, I too will again hit the pavement in search of gainful employment and career fulfillment. Not that I'm not fulfilled now. I've certainly experienced both success and adventure over the years. I have a wonderful life; a wonderful family. It's just that the journey must continue and the next job, here in the islands, is the next leg of that journey. You're welcome to come along if you like.

A hui hou!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Freakin' on fashion

There are two fashion trends that, in my humble opinion, have been around way too long. It's time for them to go away... NOW! One is the skull cap. I might get the appeal of a knit ski hat as trendy in places like Minneapolis or Bar Harbor or Anchorage. It worked well in my old hometown of Gunnison, Colorado. But Miami? Atlanta? L.A? Hawaii? It's just silly. It's mostly boys and young men, but I occasionally see girls sporting woollies on their noggins, too. Board shorts, no shirt, slippahs and a ski hat. It's hot. It's humid. I must really be getting old. I just don't get it.
Even worse are the hip hugger jeans the girls are wearing these days, paired with a cropped, navel-bearing tank top. But wait. It's not just the girls wearing this outfit. It's women. Very mature women. Middle-aged, pudgy women. Now don't get me wrong. I actually like the look. It's great if you're built like Janet Jackson. But trust me ladies. This ensemble is not for everyone. The rest of us do not want to see your butt cleavage, nor do we enjoy the pads of hip fat squished out over the tops of your low riders. And the gut that sticks out between the bottom of your tank and the top of your jeans? Well, let me just advise that if you can't see you own feet when you look straight down, this style is not for you. Please! Spare us all, would ya?
We went to Costco last weekend, where I saw a few too many of what I describe above. Still, it was a nice excuse to lounge on the warm, Kona sand. Yesterday, I was headed to the gym when I decided I'd rather take a long walk along the beach, then a dip in the ocean. OK, I guess if I'm being honest, I decided that before I left the house. That's why I just happened to have my swim suit and a change of clothes with me. It was lovely, even with the little sprinkles that occasionally fell. Hilo's beach parks aren't much in the way of white sandy strands, but they are beautiful nonetheless, with lovely tranquil lagoons.
I also got a call yesterday from the guide company that offered me a job last week. They rescinded the offer. Apologetically,they realized they didn't quite have their act together yet and could not take on another employee. Bummer. I will, however, be writing professionally again. This time, I'll tickle the plastic ivories for a tourist-oriented blog devoted to all things Hawaii. It doesn't pay much, but it may be my ticket to bigger and better writing opportunities in the near future.
That's it for now. A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A little piece of paradise

I chose to deliver a resume in person on Monday to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens at Onomea Bay just north of Hilo Town. It's located along a scenic four-mile drive that takes drivers along a narrow winding road makai (toward the ocean) from the highway. The road is covered with a canopy of foliage along many stretches.


There's a short trail that leads from the cliffs above down to the shoreline of the bay. I have always wanted to take that little trek. So after dropping off my application, I did just that. It's short and not too steep with beautiful views of the crashing Pacific along the way.

Hawaii Botanical Gardens is beautiful. It's meandering trails skirt Onomea Bay. Along the way, you'll pass through the most beautiful flora and fauna found anywhere. It's separated into designated areas, like orchids and bromeliads. Before the current owners found the land, it had been used as an illegal dump. The transformation is spectacular. It's a place I think I could enjoy going to work every day. So, again, I thought I'd throw my name in the hat.
I also took the opportunity to stop for a smoothie at the smoothie place on the scenic route. I'm not really sure what the place is called. The sign just says, "Smoothies." It's a cute little hale (pronounced hollay) that serves yummy smoothies, fresh local fruit and most days, sandwiches and other light fare.

Check out this cane spider that posed for me, belly up, in the middle of a web spanning a Bird of Paradise plant. I should have stuck my thumb up so you could get an idea of his size. Or her size. Anyway, this is one big buggah. I'd say the body is about the size of a nickel with the legs taking it out to the circumference of a half dollar. The markings aren't as clear here as they could be; black, white and bright yellow. These spiders are so cool and they really are pretty much harmless, although I've heard it's no fun when one drops into your shirt uninvited as you brush by.

A hui hou! Aloha!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Adventures in Lower Puna



To get a sense of the real Puna, particularly the area near the village of Pahoa, a great place to check out is the Maku'u Farmers' Market. While tourists do happen upon it, it is truly a locals venue. There, you'll find people selling everything from professionally grown and displayed produce and plants to the junk from their houses. You can buy a tropical plant or fresh herbs. You can also get a massage, acupuncture or a tarrot reading. Food vendors schlepp crepes, loco mocos and tamales. I sampled a killer green papaya salad, with a side of bbq banana sticky rice. Yes, you can pick up a couple of tomatoes there, just like any farmers' market. But if fruits, veggies and plants aren't your bag, you can ogle a used blender, flip through dog eared paperbacks, purchase hand strung jewelry, try on a pair of draw-string pants made from hemp and a tie-dye t-shirt to match. It's a hodgepodge, for sure. And if the goods aren't interesting enough for you, the people should fill that void. There are hippies, yuppies and every form of independent, free spirit you can imagine. Today, I overheard neighbors arguing about dogs at large. Guy number one was of the philosophy that the dogs should be free to roam. Guy two was tired of being attacked or followed by dogs when he walks the neighborhood. I would definitely have to side with guy number two on that one. The Maku'u Market is now open both Saturdays and Sundays and has grown so popular that they have parking attendents guiding drivers through the maze of cars flocking to the site.
Next to the market, there is a small hale, or hut, designed as a shelter under which canoes are built. There, I saw a lone man sanding a canoe. His name is Kioni. He learned his craft as a kid and is now guiding youngsters himself, teaching them the art and skill of canoe-building. A picture book showed the entire process from start to almost finish. The canoe was carved from a single, huge log. Kioni said it would be ready for the water in about four more days. I may go back to see it, complete with outrigger, ready for the open ocean.
The main reason for my trip to Pahoa this morning was a job interview. A couple is starting a new hiking/biking guide company here on the east side of the island. They are in the process of hiring guides. So, I threw my name in the hat. I don't know if I'll be chosen from the dozens who've applied, but I enjoyed meeting them nonetheless.
It really was a beautiful morning. The sunshine didn't last all day, but it was glorious while it lasted.
Monday begins another week. A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A little rain


It was a pretty uneventful day. I was hell-bent on releasing endorphins so as to squelch the depression I'm feeling over my new hair color. To quote another person prone to big-time blunders, "Mission accomplished!" I cruised four miles in 46:27 on the treadmill today. That's a steady trudge for me. All in all, including the two miles logged with the dogs this morning, I propelled myself 6.8 miles today, all on foot. Not bad for a peri-menopausal chick. No sore knees. No swollen ankles. Only a battered toe. It's the same toe that I injured more than two years ago and which, because it is sensitive, just keeps getting re-smooshed. If Doc accidentally steps on me, it's always on that toe. If I drop a can out of the pantry, it lands on that toe. Poor toe.
It rained a little today. OK, that's not entirely accurate. It rained a lot today. There was a little sunshine too. That combination made for a lovely rainbow just before dusk.
Lucy spent most of the day curled up on the bed or hanging out on the lanai, watching the downpour. She's a little sweet and a little bossy. We love her.
That's it. With any luck, tomorrow will be a little more exciting.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em


Or, as they say, 'When in Rome...' Wait. Make that, 'When in Hawaii, do as the locals do....'
So, I've gone brunette. Not by choice, mind you. It's just that it's tough finding a hair stylist around here who's familiar with haoli hair. The haircut I got today was great. But the color? Not so good. Here's how it all began.
My last haircut and highlight in Gunnison was done by the amazing and talented Kimmi Peacock. Kimmi does great work. In a small town like Gunnison, I had to make my appointments over a month in advance. That girl was in demand for good reason. She had a knack for not only cutting, but for blending multi-tonal highlights with lowlights to camouflage, but not completely cover the little bits of grey. It looked good, yet natural. By April, my Kimmi hairdo was all but gone and in need of an update. I got a decent trim from a local woman. But the color was not great, so I opted to do it myself. Big mistake. It looked brassy and bleached, despite my choice of a subdued color of blonde. Yuck! I lived with it for awhile, then went to a gal in the mall at a reputable salon. She recolored it.... the same color! The brassiness was gone, but the color was still too much. It was too bright! Too loud! Again, I lived with it awhile, planning to grow out the roots long enough so a new stylist could see my natural color, match it and take me back where I belong.
Colorwise, that is. Then I'd let it grow and go, grey and all. I knew it was time for a change when, upon arriving at my book club meeting a week or so ago, the hostess said she recognized me coming up the walk. "I remembered your hair!" She said. 'Yes,' I thought, 'too bright.' So into the salon I went. The stylist was really very good. She tried. Really she did. We bonded for over three hours. But when the goo was rinsed out and the blow drying complete, I could see my new color made me the same as everyone else in the salon. Trouble was, everyone else there was Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, Asian or combinations thereof. Argh! There was not a Norwegian-German-Irish-Scottish-whatevah in the room. So, I talked her into some highlights, to lighten it up a little. It's still too dark, but the highlights help. Anyway, like I said, the cut is pretty good, so I guess I'll again live with it and see how it looks after a little sun exposure and a few more cuts. Now I know what minority women are talking about on the mainland when they say they struggle to find a stylist who has experience with their hair. Ron was very comforting. "It looks fine," he said. "It's cute. It's a little dark. It doesn't even look like you. But who cares? It's only hair." Well, I care. But I do have a few hats I can wear, so what the heck. I've been shades of blonde my whole life. It will be interesting to see if people react to me differently as a brunette. If all else fails, I can save my pennies and fly back to Gunnison to visit Kimmi.
Also, as you can see from the photo, I could use some sleep. I saw the results of a medical study on the news today concluding that people who suffer from allergies have more trouble getting enough sleep than those who don't. Well duh! If you can't breath or your sinuses are clogged or you're coughing and hacking, you're not sleeping, are you? I'll bet someone got paid a bundle to learn what many of us wheezers and sneezers already knew. Actually, I've been sleeping much better with all the new allergy medications. But I've got a bit of catching up to do.
Last week, we went to the Hawaii County fair. It was painfully crowded. But we did happen upon a booth providing information about catchment water systems. That's what we have. We learned of all the nasty contaminants that can get into a tank like ours. A little chlorine will kill the viruses and bacteria, like e-coli and leptospirosis. Filters remove many of the larger particulates, but not protozoa like Guardia. We were also warned against consuming the water, even to brush our teeth. We've been brushing our teeth with it for months. Now we don't. We haven't been drinking it, however. Many people do. But the roof from which the water is collected is not the cleanest place. When you consider that birds poop on the house and rats occasionally scurry across and the cats like to jump up there, it kinda makes you go, 'hmmmmm.' And then there's the possibility that the metal composition of the roof might add too many minerals of the wrong kind and in the wrong quantities to the water. The pets don't drink it either. Instead, we fill five gallon jugs with reverse osmosis - filtered county water. One day, we hope to get a reverse osmosis attachment for our home system. Meanwhile, we picked up a test kit to be sure our tank water is as safe as it should be even for our restricted use of it. One thing's for sure. We have plenty. It's raining like crazy. Hoppsy is bored silly. Ah, but isn't she just the cutest brunette with highlights you've ever seen?
I'm looking forward to the premiers of Boston Legal and Grey's Anatomy this week. Yes, I've got a life. Really.... Seriously......
A hui hou. Aloha!