Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pu'u O'o is all pau for now

The big news around here is being referred to by geologists as "Episode 56." Last Sunday, Kilauea summit began to do a little shaking. (Kilauea is the mountain from which the current volcanic eruption is spewing.) Apparently, they experienced some 200 or so small earthquakes, one after another, starting at about 2:30 a.m. and lasting all day. I say "they" because we didn't experience a thing. We're very close to Volcanoes National Park, where all the shaking occured, so the quakes must have been tiny. We always feel the bigger ones. Anyway, scientists and park officials felt something was up, so they evacuated all the campers from the park and closed it. It's the first time the park has been closed in a decade. Pu'u O'o, the vent from which the lava has flowed for the past 10 years all the way to the ocean, had stopped. The crater floor and edges began to collapse. In the photo above you can see that what was once a circular crater has sprouted what scientists here have officially dubbed "rabbit ears." The lava is no longer making it's way to the sea along it's traditional pathways. You'd think if the lava had stopped, there would be no need to close the park. Geologists seemed to know, however, that while the lava was no longer flowing from Pu'u O'o, it didn't just disappear. It was underground, looking for a new path, a new place to surface. The quakes had moved all that rock around a bit, shifting the lava's direction. It wasn't long before the scientists were proven right. The flowing lava soon found a fissure in the rainforest, some four miles away from the Pu'u O'o vent. (See the photo on the right, above.) It came slowly out, flowing for a short distance before stopping. It burned 7,000 acres of native rainforest. Actually, it was a double whammy for the foliage in the forest; a combination of heat and sulfur gas. Luckily, this was still within the park boundary, so no people were hurt or structures burned. Officials are monitoring the situation closely. While geologists know quite a lot about Kilauea, Madam Pele can be very hard to predict. (For those unfamiliar with Pele, she is the goddess of the volcano.)
So that's been the excitement around here. The park is now fully opened, but tourists are bummed that they can't see the red lava pouring into the ocean, either from ground level or from the sky. As recently as two weeks ago, I heard one visitor say he saw lava "sloshing around" inside the crater (Pu'u O'o) from a helicopter. There is no sloshing now.
Today, we're headed down to Pahoa for some Mexican food. Maybe we'll stop at the Maku'u market to pick up some fresh produce. And maybe, just maybe, we'll spot some Punatics in their adopted habitat. If we don't see them, I'm sure we'll smell them.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

You say lychee, I say lychee

Tis the season to eat lychee. I actually shot a couple of pictures myself of lychee purchased at the market yesterday, but for some reason, my technology failed. So I stole these from wikipedia. Driving through Hilo, you can see the trees everywhere, laden with fruit. What does it taste like? Hmmmmm... That's kind of like asking what peaches taste like or apples. They taste like peaches and apples. Lychee tastes like lychee. It's sweet and juicy with it's own unique flavor. They taste a little like a rambutan, if that helps. When I was growing up, we heard of something called a lychee nut, with the word pronounced leechee. I think the nut part comes from the appearance of the seed, which you can see looks like a nut, but to my knowledge nobody eats that part. Here, it's pronounced lie-chee.
I spent a few hours at the library yesterday. I actually love the Hilo library. At it's center is a landscaped courtyard. The walls on the courtyard side... well, there are no walls. You're actually sitting outside with a roof over. Pretty cool. I wonder what all that humidity does to the books.
I also went to the Farmers' Market, where I ate some fresh Thai summer rolls, a piece of salmon musubi and a lemonade for lunch. After the library, I went to KTA to pick up a few items. I swear, it's amazing to me how packed the grocery stores always seem to be. Maybe if I shop at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning...
Well, gotta go pour wine and schmooze with tourists.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A leisurely King Kam day

When it comes to holidays, living in Hawaii is a lot like going to Catholic school. I used to relish the fact that we not only got the typical national holidays off, but a bunch of additional saints' days, too. Here in the islands, there are several additional holidays that hearken back to the days before statehood. Most honor a member of Hawaiian royalty. Earlier in the year we celebrated Prince Kuhio Day. (The shopping mall in Hilo is named after him.) Today was King Kamehameha Day, celebrating the life and accomplishments of arguably the most famous Hawaiian. While most hail Kamehameha for "uniting" all the islands, some prefer to use what is probably the more accurate term, "conquer." Plenty of blood was shed and many died defending their individual island kingdoms against the forces of Kamehameha. Still, the ultimate result was unification, so there you go. Here's a statue of the King. He was a formidable man. This one, located in the town of Hawi (pronounced Hahvee) is similar to others scattered around the islands. There's one in Hilo and another in Honolulu. Hawi, however, is the king's birthplace, so this one is special.
I went to town with the intention of spending 3-4 hours studying for the LSAT and learned that the library was closed. Silly me. Of course. It was King Kamehameha Day. What was I thinking? So I ate some sushi, filled up a couple of big drinking water jugs at a reverse osmosis spigot and came home.
It's been raining now for three days and the tank is already filling back up. Despite doing two loads of laundry, the level has risen about six inches. I'm therefore no longer worried about our water supply. Now if we can just get the pipe leading into the house fixed and the water pressure up in the shower, I'll be a happy girl.
Lucy has taken to waking me up at 5:30 every morning. She jumps up on me, then paws at the blankets until I pet her. I'm so tired, but she's so cute. She is the only kitty I've ever known who likes to lick me. She gives my hand and arm a good, scratchy, sandpaper-tongue cleaning. Maybe I need it. Here she is in the grass, looking for tiny lizards. Actually, it seems for this shot she stopped for a moment to pose for the camera. She likes to pounce on the little critters as they slither through the grass. Sometimes, she'll just entertain herself (and me) batting a leaf around. She's sitting in my lap as I type this, purring like a Harley. Lucy's a bit of a popoki pupule (poopoolay) - a crazy cat. One minute she loves you. The next, she's playing a bit too rough. I fully expect her to take a bite outa me at any moment. That's OK. I still love her.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wow! The power of blogging is awesome! Just write a little ditty about a drought and viola! Rain!
The big news here in Hawaii is all the critics talking stink about Michelle Wie. It's really quite amazing. Shoots. The girl is only 17 years old. People are saying she's washed up. Her best golf is behind her. Huh? She's a kid. A very talented kid who has yet to hit her prime. Do I think she should be competing against the men just yet? In my opinion, she should stick to the LPGA until she's got more professional experience. But what do I know. I'm just a hacker. She's earned $20 million, so maybe she and those advising her know what they're doing.
Last night, I caught the end of a documentary on Mauna Kea and the "development" at the top of that sacred peak. There are oodles of telescopes up there, plus a bunch of support buildings. Supporters say that astronomy is a clean industry and the knowledge gained atop Mauna Kea is of great value to all mankind. But the Hawaiians see it differently. Mauna Kea was historically used as a natural heiau, or temple; a sacred place where the bones of revered kupuna, or elders, were interned after death. Special ceremonies were/are traditionally held there. To them, building telescopes on Mauna Kea is akin to dozing Arlington National Cemetery to make way for a shopping mall or plopping condos in the middle of the Vatican. That the US Government would declare the mountain public land, then lease it to a dozen or more different countries for their respective observatories is tantamount to theft. How, think the Hawaiians, can the US Government lease out land that doesn't belong to them? I have to say, I'm siding with the Hawaiians on this one. When you look at the top of the mountain, you can't help but notice the big buildings up there. Now, astronomers and the University of Hawaii want to build out the mountain, to a total of 24 telescopes. Gadzooks! The Hawaiians are saying enoughs enough and wonder what that money could do if funneled through our local schools or to struggling families or the homeless. It just really doesn't seem pono.
Today, I spent several hours in the library practicing LSAT test questions, getting plenty of the the answers wrong and a few right. After, I had a hankerin' for sushi, but ended up at Aloha Luigi because it was open and the sushi bars were not. I had carnitas tacos with homemade tortillas. Respectably ono. As you might guess from the name, Aloha Luigi also served Italian food.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A day in the life.....

Now we know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.... I'd love to tu-u-u-u-u-u-u-urn You-u-u-u-u-u-u- o-o-o-o-o-o-on.....
Woke up... got outa bed....dragged a comb across my head.....

It's official. We are now in the midst of a drought. Farmers and ranchers are struggling to water crops and livestock. The average homeowner who lives outside the city limits is also struggling, since they, like we, rely on the rain to keep our water tanks full. As you drive the highway, you see water delivery trucks going everywhere. I talked to a lady at the Laundromat today who was told that the she'd have to wait three weeks for water. They're just that busy.
So there I was, sitting at a picnic table waiting for my laundry, when I overheard a worker at the True Value in Volcano (it's adjacent to the Laundromat) ask a passerby if she knew the cause of the blackout and how long it might last. Blackout? (Whatchu talkin' about, Willis?) I popped off the bench and hustled back to the washers and dryers, where I found a half dried clean load in the dryer and a half clean, sopping wet load in a washer. So I loaded the dripping towels into a plastic bag and the half dry stuff into the basket and headed home, hoping the power outage did not include my house. It did. Bummer. I dumped the wets into my washer and the half dries into the dryer and waited for the power to spin and tumble.
With the power out, I knew my electricity-powered cordless phones wouldn't work. I keep an old 80s vintage princess phone on hand for just such occasions. I plugged it in. Hmmmm.... it didn't work either. The phone line itself was out. After a romp with the dogs in the yard, I decided to bide my time by mowing the lawn. A spin on the tractor always does my mood some good.
When the power finally returned, the phones were still out. Ron is traveling with the cell phone (yes, we only have one...) so I cruised on down to a pay phone in Mountain View to call Hawaiian Telcom. The Telcom gal told me to unplug my cordless phones, wait five minutes, then replug to "reset" them. Hmmmm.... That did not explain the inoperable princess phone, but what the heck. I went home and tried it, three times. No luck. So it was back in the car and down to Mountain View.
The pay phones are right next to a public water spigot, where people seemed to be partying a little as they filled plastic jugs. Car doors were open and music was blasting. Folks were standing around, talking story and enjoying the balmy early evening air. I called Telcom again, and they took my info and said they'd continue testing my line, yadda yadda yadda. They'd have a technician out to fix the problem by no later than Saturday. Upon arriving home, the phone was working. Go figgah. Within minutes, it rang. It was Telcom on the line. They suggested that it sometimes takes awhile for the phones to "reset."
Why didn't my princess phone work?" I asked, since it has always worked before in a power outage.
"You might just want to check it again," said the gal on the line. "It's probably just old and finally died.
Nope. It didn't die. I checked. The princess still works fine. So it was something they did to get me back on line, suggesting to me that the original outage was on them.
With all my power outage woes behind me for the day, I thought I'd flop on the couch and watch some TV. As they say here in the islands, no can. The TV had died. I tried replugging it in to another outlet. I tried rebooting the cable box. The cable box works. The TV doesn't. It won't turn on. It has passed on. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-TV. It is pushing up the daisies. R.I.P. TV. I'm thinking it may have been fried when the power surged back on. Or maybe it's just the planned obsolescence built into cheap-ass Wal-Mart electronics. It's a good excuse to buy a new TV. I'll probably be springing for a few thousand gallons of water first, however. Bummahs.
My plumber friend from the gym was suppose to come fix my pipe today, but since my phone was out, I couldn't call him, nor could he call me, to get directions to the house. Again... bummahs. Maybe I can reschedule with him tomorrow.
Of course, Hopps always cheers me up when the day has been less than perfect. Check out the blurr caused by her tail wagging in the photo above. She's my girl!
That was my day. A hui hou. Aloha.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sunshine!

The vines are leafing out at the winery.

Be careful what you wish for. It might come true. I've been wishing for the sun to shine for more than two days in a row for some time now. It's been sunny, warm and relatively dry for nearly two weeks now. So now I'm getting worried about our water supply. The tank is down to the last third. To combat this, I have adopted that venerable Fokker's mantra: If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down. If this keeps up, I may have to hit the laundrimat soon. If we get really low, we can order water but then we can't brag about getting our water for free anymore.
The lack of rain is starting to have a visible impact. Today, there was a huge line at the public county spigot in Kurtistown, which is right on the highway. The county had spigots all around the island for people to fill containers for drinking water. They do this because there are so many people who rely on catchment systems. It's not generally recommended that you drink catchment water, unless it's really well filtered. Also, if you're having your tank cleaned, you spring a leak or experience a dry spell, you can always get water at the spigots. And if you get really desperate, you can swim in the ocean and shower at the beach parks.
I started a new project this week. I'm making a gate for the entry to the driveway. I decided to make a gate when I realized that all the prefab gates are too big to carry with either of our vehicles. The only way to get one here would be to have it delivered. That would effectively double the cost. So, I picked up some scrap/utility wood at the lumber yard and some hardware to hang it once it's built. It's up. Yay! There's still a little more work to do and when It's all finished I'll shoot a picture and post in here. The purpose of the gate is not to keep people out. It's to keep the dogs in. Actually, it's mostly for Doc. He has this bad habit of running down the driveway and into the road when people are walking by. He either barks at them furiously or greets them a enthusiastically. Either way, he scares the crap out of people 'cuz he's really big. And he pays no attention to cars. That's bad. So we have to watch him like a hawk. The gate will make him easier to supervise. It doesn't have to be beefy. It just has to stop him in his tracks if he runs toward the road.
When the weather's nice, the pups and I are often greeted by a little gray kitty who lives just past the bend up the road. This cat actually runs up meet us. He sniffs each dog and they sniff him, then runs over to me to rub up against my legs and get some petties. He purrs like mad. Then, when we resume walking, he follows us for about 50 feet. What a sweetie. He lives in a household with two dogs; a medium sized terrier and a big black lab. The terrier always barks at us and occasionally breaches a hole in his fence to come out and try to intimidated us. He's pretty much all bark and no bite, but it's still irritating. The other day, as the cat was following us, the terror-of-a-terrier ran out into the road right at us. The kitty ran to incept him, then chased the terrier back through the hole. That little gray cat protected us! It was really cool. I just love that kittie.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Can you spell beaurocracy?

Once in a blue moon. By one definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. It didn't look very blue to me tonight, but I shot a picture of it anyway.
I watched the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee tonight. Now that's entertainment! Really! I mean it! It's actually great to see these smart kids getting treated like star athletes or rock stars. They are amazing and make me feel hopeful for the future of humankind. As I watched these 12 and 13 year old kids spelling words like zoilus, paronomasia and schuhplattler, I just kept thinking they should post some fine print at the bottom of the screen imploring fans, "Don't try this at home. These are trained professionals." I was on the edge of my seat. Seriously! (By the way, spell-check highlighted each of those words above. See? They're too hard for spell check. Seriously!)
Today was screamin' busy at the winery. I think it was a record sales day with over $5000 in gross sales at the retail store. I probably packed a dozen boxes for shipping. Sheesh! The good news is that I learned today that I am eligible to participate in the group health insurance plan there. No one at the winery told me this. I had to inquire. I had heard that Hawaii state law mandated companies to offer insurance to employees who work more than 19 hours per week. Since I typically work 22 hours, I thought I'd ask. It paid off. "Oh. I guess you do qualify." Sheesh again! I've qualified for months. The bad news is that they only offer Kaiser. I'll have to think about that. I already have a good allergy doctor that I would have to change if I made the switch.
Speaking of the state of Hawaii, you won't believe this one. A representative from the state called Ron the other day to tell him that they had not received his audit results and other paperwork and would have to suspend his business license. (Hawaii, by the way, is the only state that has required him to be audited, complete a litany of paperwork and pay an exorbitant fee to obtain a business license here.) When Ron told the man on the phone that he had delivery confirmation that the packet had been received and signed for at the state offices, the guy did a pathetic back peddle and replied with a simple, "Oh. Sorry. We've been having trouble with our mail." So this numskull was ready to put Ron out of business without hesitation and for no good reason. It's just lucky Ron trusts no one; certainly not the state nor the postal service. I wonder how many other poor saps were rendered without a license for their businesses and deprived of a living just because they neglected to get delivery confirmation and their paperwork was lost in the vast wasteland of the state of Hawaii's mailroom?
Here's another true story. The other morning, while driving along the highway to Hilo, I passed giant brush cutting machines being operated along both sides of the road. The big, orange whackers were well off the road on the shoulders and their operators were doing a fine job. Cars were passing with no problem, safely and easily. Even so, there was a county pickup truck there with his flashers on at the sight. There was actually a guy sitting inside the cab. Apparently, that was his job; to sit there with the flashers on and move the pickup as the machines made their way along. Also parked on both sides of the roadway were two Hawaii County police officers. Again, they just sat there. It seemed to me that the cops should have better things to do than escort brush cutters along the highway. A couple of well placed orange cones could have done the jobs of the guy in the pickup and the cops combined. My neighbor had noticed it too. She mentioned it to me this morning when I saw her out walking. "Did you happen to drive to town yesterday?.... Did you see that guy just sitting there in his pickup truck watching the machines? I want that job," she said. Me too. Shoots. No sore feet with that one. I could catch up on my reading, too. Plus, I'll bet that guy gets killer benefits. The state of Hawaii has more government employees than any other state in the nation, by a long shot. Guess they've gotta find something for them all to do.
A hui hou. Aloha.