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


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!