Friday, May 30, 2008

Toast to Harvey

I'd like to dedicate a portion of this blog to the late, great Harvey Korman. He was one of my favorite comedians, one of the few humans who could make me laugh uncontrollably. He is also the man who uttered one of my favorite movie lines ever. In fact, I shamelessly steal and use it frequently in everyday conversation: "Now go do that voodoo that you do so well..." (Hedley Lamarr, Blazing Saddles). Thanks, Harvey, for all those hilarious skits on the Carol Burnett Show. Thanks too for being such a perfect straight man to Tim Conway over the years (who is also so funny exposure could result in serious bodily in injury, like strained face muscles, aching diaphragm and actually slipping on the puddle you made when you wet your pants from laughing so hard). Thanks for being Hedley Lamarr, Professor Balls in the Pink Panther movies, voice of The Great Gazoo on the Flintstones and all the other goofy characters. What great joy you brought to us all. Cheers!!

The other day I took a short hike in the park, from the Kilauea Military Camp to the Jaggar Museum. Much of the trail provides a good view of the Halema'uma'u vent. See? Jumpin' Jack Flash, it's a gas! On this day, the trade winds were blowing the plume away from me. That's just how I like it.

I leave for work at the winery in about 15 minutes. I'm not enthused today. It's been pretty slow. I made a whopping $4 in tips yesterday. That's not even enough to buy a gallon of gas. What a crazy world.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tums for Pele

Ah, simple pleasures. Whenever Crawford manages to poop outside, we are elated.

"Crawford had a peepee and a poopoo outside this morning, daddy!"
"She's a good girl, mommy!" (Somewhere along the way, when it comes to the pets, we began to converse like Nancy and Ronnie Reagan.) Crawford can't really feel when the poopies are coming out, but walking around in the grass for awhile at certain times of the day helps to ensure "love dumps" as we call them in the grass, not on the rug. It helps, but there really are no guarantees. Still, she's a good girl and we love her and it's only poop. Shit. Everyone poops.

With our acid rain here in windward Hawaii, we have learned that it is unwise to drink our catchment water. The acid comes from Pele, as she spews forth noxious chemicals from her volcanic bowels. Those chemical then rain down and flow into our tank. The water must also be treated with very small amounts of chlorine to kill any bacteria or algae. I'm sure we're getting many fewer parts per million of chlorine in our drinking water than most folks drinking municipal tap water. Still, if feels weird to pour Clorox into your personal water supply. The acidity, whether from Pele or from urban industrial sources, not only makes the water an unhealthy beverage, but is also bad for your skin and hair and teeth. We bought a swimming pool pH tester kit yesterday and sure enough, our water is acidic. So, we must raise the pH level of our water, reducing that acidity. Doing this is as easy as added a cinder block to the tank. Apparently cement cinder blocks are made of calcium carbonate. It's sort of like a giant Tums. So there you go. I'm told that an old, dead and bleached piece of coral will do the trick, too. It is the coral reefs that keep the ocean at a constant pH of 8.2, which is slightly alkaline. That's what enables the oceans to sustain life. Kill off and/or remove all the coral and the ocean will become acidic and die. Another option is to add sodium bicarbonate. But adding enough of that to raise the pH level on a 10,000 gallon tank could be expensive. It would require more than several boxes of Arm and Hammer. Standard gardener's lime would work, too. That too is mostly calcium and pretty cheap. We may add a little of that initially, just to give us a kick start until the cinder block starts to disintegrate. Adding calcium to the water should also help us rinse off the soap a little easier. Pure rainwater, sans minerals, doesn't do such a hot job with that. I always feels like I've still got a slight film on my skin after stepping out of the shower. It seems like that soap residue could re-suds at the slightest provocation, like stepping back into the shower or into the rain. Just call me Ms. Bubble.
The things we learn living in the rainforest are invaluable. By the time I'm dead, I'm going to know so much, it's downright scary.
Ola a a'o.
Vive sed cognita.

(My spell checker doesn't like Hawaiian or Latin.)

Live and learn.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Native bonding

How cool is this little brave? We went to the annual Hilo Inter tribal Pow Wow yesterday, taking place this weekend and Wailoa State Park. It's just the third time they've held this event, but it's quite popular. It's an inter-cultural exchange between American Indians and Hawaiians, to which everyone is invited. You could buy Navajo flat bread and shave ice at the same event. You really don't see that everyday. You also don't often see monkeypod trees in bloom like this one to the right.

Today has been just about as lazy as they come, highlighted by a long nap this afternoon. I planted some tomato and basil seeds into small pots. I know the basil will grow and I suspect the tomatoes will not, but I'm going to try.... again.
I have recently learned some of the details of my first residency for school this summer in Alaska. This is going to be a lot of work, to be sure. We're scheduled from 8:45 every morning 'til 10 every night for 12 days, each filled with lectures and workshops. I think I had better be very diligent about taking my vitamins. Gotta keep my energy level high. It will be good to be overwhelmed. It's been awhile.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lovely day

The slacker has returned!

Today was fantastic. It was one of those days that could trick me into thinking this must be paradise. Over the past week, we've struggled with vog. It hasn't been so bad at the house. OK, it's been kinda bad. But not as bad as elsewhere. We had a few bouts of thick haze, but it was intermittent. The haze has been everywhere. Even O'ahu and Maui have had their landmarks, like Diamond Head and Hale'akala, shrouded in volcanic spew. They closed the volcano viewing station for a few days because the wind was blowing toxic gas and fine glass particles in the direction of where the visitors would be standing. Apparently it's not good for one's health to breath fine glass particles and toxic gas. The trade winds died away, causing all of this nastiness. Today, however, a light northeasterly breeze returned, palm trees began to sway and rustle, the sun shone brightly, the sky was blue and all was right with our little world.
I took my two ambulatory pooches for a nice long and very breathable walk this morning. Later, Crawford got to enjoy the day with a sling-assisted walk around the yard. We're struggling a bit with her cart, though we haven't given up hope on it yet. We'll try another test drive tomorrow. After our walk, I was off to town to meander through the farmers' market and the grocery store. To top off a great day, KTA had Mehana Humback Blue on sale! So I am, at this very moment, sucking down an ice cold, foamy-topped locally brewed amber ale. I suppose life could be better, but I'm not sure how.
It was one of those days that forced me to remind myself that I hate it here. Funny huh?

Last week, I sent a resume/cover letter/etc to the local colleges offering my services as an instructor. Why the heck not?

Meanwhile, I've heard from the University of Alaska, and will be making my reservations to travel to Anchorage tonight. That will be cool, both literally and figuratively.

All sorts of trauma and mayhem has been happening at the winery. One well liked co-worker is leaving for a job that pays more. Another, who left some time ago for the same reason, is returning because his lucrative gig vanished. It was a grant funded project and the grant was not renewed. Such are the trials and tribs of living in a topsy turvy world.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dropping like flies

The common cold has transformed itself into acute bronchitis. I don't need a doctor's diagnosis to know this. It happens every time I get a cold. It has been happening to me for as long as I can remember. It's how I know I'm a genius. I missed several weeks of school every year when I was young with bouts of bronchitis and occasionally pneumonia and still got pretty good grades. See? Genius. Just sailed on through. I was less sickly in high school and didn't miss so much class then. I rarely miss work as an adult. So taking two days off this week was a big deal for me. I plan to hack my way back to the wine factory today. I'm sure the tourists will love that.
Speaking of the winery, even in my isolation here in the rain forest hovel, I've learned that yet another of my comrades has given notice. I do like the job, but it's frustrating when all these people I so enjoy working with leave. Months ago, one colleague left to return to school full time. Another left because he got a job offer in his field of marine biology (although the grant funding that job has expired and he may be returning to us for awhile). A third moved back to California because she couldn't make ends meet here in paradise. One will depart in May for a trip to Thailand and a transfer to school on O'ahu. One more just gave notice and I suspect he's found a much more lucrative job as either a landscaper or mechanic, both fields in which he has experience.
The rain keeps falling and the pooches are restless for a long walk. Ah but I'm on the mend now and should be out slogging through the mud with them soon.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Be gone, oh vile virus

I have a cold. I don't like being sick. I've been bragging lately, mostly to myself, that I have not had so much as a sniffle in close to three years. Look at me, the picture of health. Well, all good things come to an end. A bug has infiltrated and I am not happy about it at all. I know exactly where I got it. The woman sitting next to me from Phoenix to Honolulu had some obvious congestion. She was where I was yesterday. I enjoyed chatting with her, actually. She was a marketing executive for the Princeville Resort on Kaua'i. She told me they will be closing for seven months to remodel the place, which is spectacular if a bit over the top with victorian glitze. She said they're going for a more understated form of elegance, reflective of their Hawaii location. That location is probably the best in all the islands. The place could be a total dump and command great prices just for the view. We talked story, then went our separate ways within our limited seating space, napping, reading and watching the in-flight movie. Through it all I heard sniffs and little coughs. The incubation period for a cold is just a couple of days, so it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that she was the one. That's what happens when you've got the window seat. You are at the mercy of the aisle sitter to pass you your beverage. She did so, more than once, along with a few billion of the germs she had been incubating for the past few days. How rude!

So yesterday and today have been a total waste. No gym, no long walks, no jaunts to town. Just vegging, hacking, clogged misery. I hate colds. Ah, but it could be worse. It could be the flu or a sinus infection or shingles or SARS or Ebola or cholera or small pox. OK, I guess I'm being a little melodramatic. But really, it could be worse.
The good news is that it's been raining for the past four days. So I'm not cooped up while the sun is blazing. It's just raining, so there's no real harm is sacking out on the couch to watch old movies or the History Channel.

I received an official, snail mail letter from the University of Alaska yesterday telling me than I have, in fact, been accepted to their program. I was so excited to finally receive it that I fired off a copy of my story - the one that got me in - to the New Yorker to see if they might be interested in publishing it. I know, that's pretty pie-in-the-sky. But the worst they can say is no, which leaves me no worse off than I am now. Nowadays, it's as easy as cut, paste and send, so why the h-e-double toothpicks not?

The photo above is that of my dad's luminaria in Gunnison. they did a great job decorating it with his name. He was in good company with plenty of good people remembered that night and plenty more walking the track to pay tribute to them.
I've also included here for your viewing pleasure a nice scenic shot I took of the Anthracite Range and Carbon Peak looking up the Ohio Creek Valley in Gunnison County, Colorado. This pretty mule posed nicely in the pasture behind the cabin for me, then proceeded to insist that I pet her nose. It's she sweet? And finally, a shot of this famous Colorado landmark: the Coney Island Boardwalk hot dog stand. For decades, it was located in the hamlet of Aspen Park, right on State Highway 285. Then, they lost their lease, the land sold to a bank. People were outraged. Worse, they were heartbroken at the prospect of losing this slice of Americana, tacky as it is. Luckily, owners found a new location, just up the highway a piece. It's not quite so visible as it once was, tucked away against a hillside and requiring a hard left off the highway as you drive south, then crossing a small bridge crossing over the mighty Platte River. Still, folks like me manage to find the place. The dogs there are tasty! I like 'em with the works!
I am now back in the rainforest, glad for the effects of the warm humidity on my upper respiratory system.

This morning, while dozing through The View, a loud whack startled me awake. A cardinal had flown full speed into the window. I looked out the see her on her back, legs twitching. I rushed out. She was still alive, so I grabbed a towel, then picked her up and placed her gently upright on a soft perch. Then I left her alone, hoping beyond hope that she was just badly dazed and that once her head cleared, she would fly away. Actually, I put her in a place where I could keep an eye on her through the window, making sure no kitties got the wrong idea. Sure enough, when I went out to check on her, she looked at me and wiggled a bit, then off she flew. Her flight path was a little crooked, but she made it to the grove of trees across the yard. Yay!

A hui hou. Aloha!