Saturday, January 02, 2016

Hau oli la hanau

Hat's off to Andi's blog on its 10th birthday today. 31,913 page views, 478 posts and counting. Thanks to everyone who has told me how fun the blog has been to read over the years. It's been a pleasure.

Lawless Hawaii

I seldom use my blog to discuss political or social issues. But my friend, Aaron, got me thinking when he posed the question, "What is the greatest issue facing Hawaii in 2016?"

My answer: An inability to enforce the law. I see this in many facets and on all levels of government authority. If affects my day-to-day life on the island, has international implications, and is a trend that will continue in 2016.

The stalled Thirty Meter Telescope debacle is the most prominent example of 1. government not enforcing laws and 2. government not understanding its own laws. After about 15 years of planning, lawsuits and hearings, the state of Hawaii issued TMT a permit to begin construction of the world's most powerful observatory to be placed in the best location for astronomy in all of the Earth's northern hemisphere: Mauna Kea. On the day construction was to begin, a couple hundred protesters blocked the summit road. A group of Hawaiians began illegally camping near the Onizuka center at the 9,000 foot level of the mountain, not letting TMT employees up the mountain. A larger protest days later closed the summit road for more than a month to everyone. The protesters had placed by hand rocks on the road. Removal of the small rocks was too big of a problem for our officials to handle. Tour companies and their employees missed a month's worth of wages and visitors to our island never had the chance to see the incredible mountaintop. Eventually, DLNR enacted "emergency rules" as a way to get the protesters off the mountain. The new laws were supposed to stop camping 1 mile from the access road (already illegal) and they absurdly banned possession of any camping gear in the area, including camp stoves and sleeping bags, inconveniencing law abiding folks, such as those who like to stay warm while stargazing at this famous spot. The state finally did arrest a few protesters, who made bail and drove straight back up the mountain again, but even the new emergency rules went largely unenforced. Charges were later dropped in most of the cases because the state's "emergency rules" were deemed illegal, even though other laws against camping had been in place there for years. We were just too afraid to enforce them. By the way, an ahu (stack of rocks) placed by protesters in the driveway of the TMT site to block access still stands.

In addition to not being able to enforce laws on a person-by-person basis to keep the access road open, there are huge implications in issuing a permit for such a project, then later revoking it, as our State Supreme Court recently did. Apparently, our state didn't understand the law when it issued the special use permit while a contested case hearing against TMT was still in progress. Since the start of the protests and the revocation of the permit, TMT lost an estimated $2 million because of the stall. If they are ultimately not allowed to build, it will cost the organization millions, in my mind probably billions more. Mirrors are already in production in Japan, and the organization gave $100,000 to native Hawaiian education in 2015 as it prepared to build the observatory it had been given permission to construct. Now the project is on hold indefinitely and likely permenantly. I think this has huge implications for our international relations with countries funding the nonprofit TMT, and also businesses or organizations who would seek to bring progress here. It is eerily similar to the bankrupt Hokulia development that had its permits revoked in South Kona after investing millions, and the Superferry, which was largely popular among Hawaii residents, but also had its permit to operate revoked after a handful of surfers paddled out to stop its arrival in Maui on its first voyage and then a second EIS was demanded before operation could continue. The investors, out of money, sold the first boat to the U.S. military at an incredible loss and suspended construction of a second boat. If I was an investor or business person, I would be wary of investing in this state.

Drunk drivers
Lawlessness also prevails on a criminal level. As of Dec. 27, there were 1,055 DUI arrests on Hawaii Island. The arrests themselves seem to be evidence that we don't allow lawlessness, but I believe if penalties were stiff enough, we wouldn't have this many people driving drunk. More disconcerting is the fact that of eight arrested for DUI the week ending in Dec. 27, three of them were involved in crashes. And that percentage is usually higher. We're not catching drunks until the hurt others. Of 14 traffic fatalities in 2015, 11 of the deaths were caused by impaired drivers. On August 3, a drunk driver killed my friend, Robert Weinstock, on his way home from working the night shift at Kona International Airport. To my best knowledge, charges have yet to be filed against Justin Rohan, 26, who stole from four beautiful daughters the life of their loving father. Drunk driving is so prevalent in West Hawaii, it affects my everyday life. I avoid driving at night on weekends or holidays. When attending an event, such as a parade, we drive the truck instead of the motorbike, though it is much harder to park and costs more to drive, because at least it offers a little protection in the likely event we get hit smashed by a drunk. If drinkers ran the risk or real jail time, flogging, or having their license revoked for life, they would find another way home.  A recent letter to the editor in West Hawaii Today by former county council member Brenda Ford claimed Hawaii County has one of the highest DUI rates in the nation. I believe it.

Property crime
Our state does not deal with crime well, either. When I go to the beach, I wear my oldest slippers (yes, we have had our shoes stole off the beach while we were in the water, more than once) I tie my car key to my swimsuit. My car was broken into two years ago by someone who stole my key off the pier while I was swimming. He was prosecuted, but I have yet to see a penny in restitution. We are not effective at making criminals pay for their actions. My husband's customers routinely have motorcycles stolen from their driveways. We plan our trips so to not leave merchandise in the back of the truck, and there are places we cannot hike or camp because we fear parking our car where chances are pretty darn good it will be broken into. A few months back, four of the five cars parked at the Puu Oo trailhead had their windows smashed out with rocks and contents stole when we returned from our hike. Our truck window was all scratched, but the rock didn't break our window. Instead of being surprised we said, "That figures."

It's always better to be outside

My love for the outdoors started at the Indiana Dunes when my parents took me to the beach as a toddler. According to my mom, I was afraid of the water that summer and she worried about having an "indoor" daughter. She didn't have to worry for long.

I felt so grown up the day my dad told me I was big enough to walk from Wilson's shelter all the way to the lake and back. On other occasions, I caught turtles in the swamp by Wilson's shelter and named them all Christopher. That was a weird quirk. A few years later, my parents threw me a camping birthday party with all my friends at the state park. What an adventure that was. Especially for my parents. I first cross country skied on skis rented at, guess where, Wilson's shelter. And when a new visitor's center opened nearby I learned I have the wing span of a Canadian goose, while my dad has the wing span of a great blue heron. I learned tree ID, bird ID, bought an animal track book, lost it, found it and continued studying tracks in the snow. There was sledding, daily trips to the lake just to see how the ice had changed, playing in the water with two broken arms, cutting my arm after digging under a fence (still have the scar) and the memorable storm that threw fierce winter waves over the Michigan City Lighthouse. There was the national park visitor's center with the aerial photo of my town and the documentary film with a silhouette of a woman that I was convinced was my mother, looking for crinoids on the beach. Mr. Schaudt, teacher and park ranger, took us hiking, well, more like wading, through thick swamps.

 Once, my dad sketched out a map of the major dunes along the lakeshore in the sand. Then we hiked them, years before that route had the trendy name of "Three Dune Challenge." As my appreciation for the dunes grew, so did my desire to explore more outdoor places. Which makes me grateful for the place where my love of the outdoors stated.
Mom was so diligent to wrap up the casts on both of my broken wrists so I could play in the waves.

My dad holds our new puppy on the beach at the Indiana Dunes State Park

A Christmas kayak on a snowy beach. It's never too cold to enjoy the lake.

A sandy trail I walked during a recent visit to the dunes.

My dad has the wing span of a great blue heron.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ohana time

I've always found living far away from family to be difficult. When we left Indiana 15 years ago, I knew Grandma, who had Alzheimer's, would not remember me by the time I came back to visit. I knew cousins would grow up, weddings would happen and babies would be born while I'd be watching it on a computer screen from thousands of miles away. Then I married Chris and gained another entire family, just as fantastic as the one I already had, but also thousands of miles in the distance.

I'm so grateful we were able to take an extended trip this fall to not only help out with some projects there, but just to be there for the everyday life that we miss out on. I believe strongly that people work too much, and that if given the option, it's worth sacrificing some of our material wealth for time. Time for popping popcorn and watching a movie. Time for helping parents store up winter firewood. Time for taking a break from that firewood cutting to give kids rides in trailers. Time just to live and enjoy life. Time for prayer and getting closer to our Creator, knowing this discontentment I feel is simply a longing for permanence God put in my heart so that I'll look forward to heaven.

Grandma watches the kids every Thursday

A really fun dinner

Jaspers gather at the end of a great party

Family members wears sweaters, all handcrafted by my mom

"Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten" reads the artwork my niece, Lydia, made me. Before the recent trip, I hadn't seen her since she visited almost eight years ago while I was preparing for my wedding.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Give it a good, strong push

I've purposely left some details out of this post because I don't think OSHA would approve of a tugboat captain letting us join him for a day on the job. We stayed right on the Mississippi River in Minnesota for several weeks and saw many tugs pushing grain, salt, gravel and empty barges up and down the river. Industry in action. Something we see very little of in Hawaii.

The skill of the boat captain was apparent as he shuffled barges around the river and swapped them out until he had the desired load all chained up and ready. We even had a chance to drive. Needless to say, it was the largest object I have ever had control of. I learned you have to start steering around bends early to keep the ship in the channel where the river is deep. The river's current pushes hard and with the barges, the ship is quite long. The captain had us pass very close to the buoys marking the channel and with all those barges out in front, it felt like each buoy was a mile away and you'd hit it for sure.

We learned how incredibly efficient this shipping method is. It takes very little fuel to push several train loads of product up the river. Since upstream locks were closed to prevent the spread of Asian carp, several thousand extra trucks are on the road every day to carry cargo north that used to be pushed up by the tugs.

What a great day we had. It was refreshing to see someone who loves his job, is good at it and is doing something productive and tangible. I feel lucky to have experienced that.

Here is a vide of Chris driving the tug:

Chris inspects the engine

A tug heads down the river

I try my skills at steering the gigantic barges through the channel

Friday, December 04, 2015

The great gathering

"Minnesota, Minnesota, we are south of Manitoba, we are east of North Dakota we've got something really rare," goes the jingle advertising the Minnesota state fair. This is one of Chris' fondest childhood memories he shared with me in September. Growing up, all six kids would pile into the station wagon and spend the entire day at the fair.

 More than a million people attend each year and it is really done up big. Since the fair is all about food, I'll tell you what we at: fried alligator, buffalo kabobs, local cheese, fresh apple cider and fried smelt. All my life I've wanted to try smelt, a tiny fish caught in nets each spring in the Great Lakes, and it didn't disappoint.

We watched skateboarders and BMX bikes in a half pipe, watch horse riders compete, Irish dancers, drove a Harley Davidson, listened to the gigantic Golden Gophers marching band and learned all about how beer is brewed. There were odd products for sale, performances, parades and people everywhere - they were all Minnesota nice people. If you have the chance, hit up the Minnesota state fair.
People stand in line to buy buckets of cookies

A giant Hereford takes a ride in a parade

A few other people came to the fair that day

Giant pumpkins

Some pig

The little cart that could

I'll never buy a ATV or Gator unless I end up on a farm where serious four-wheel drive is required. The Jaspers have a golf cart that is tougher than nails and rides like a Cadillac. It's a better all-purpose vehicle than just about anything you can find on a car lot with much better fuel economy. We pulled a heavy metal trailer piled 20 feet high with branches uphill on a gravel road, gave kids joy rides in the trailer and rode around after dinner just to cool off. We watched and marveled when Dave and his buddy pulled a trailer full of huge logs too heavy for me to lift along a bumpy, skinny trail through dense forest. The cart made it. When the trailer was too wide, a chainsaw was produced and more firewood was added to the pile. We dragged whole blue spruce trees chained to the cart, saved our tired legs trips to the mailbox and hauled tools. Many a grandkid have first sat behind the wheel of this golf cart.

The cart is comfortable and seats four (unlike an ATV), runs quiet, and doesn't need to be started. It's the ever-ready, can-do, all purpose cart that obviously I feel a little attachment to.
Don't underestimate this little red cart, it's eager to pull the trailer full of branches that Chris is piling on

Feeling Fall

This post is going to be mostly photos. Chris and I spent almost six weeks in Minnesota, from early September when we were sweating at the state fair to mid October when it was getting down into the 40s overnight, Chris was cutting firewood in a Carhart jacket and we were wading in leaves. It was the first time I have truly experienced a full season change in 15 years and it felt amazing. Though, it's odd that since returning to Hawaii, it's been harder than usual to track which season it is. I can't remember whether it's summer or winter until I stop to think about it.
Chris was so natural paddling the canoe and exploring islands in the Mississippi River

We don't usually get to wear sweaters and get cozy by the fireplace

Fall means squirrel season

Sun shines through the forest after a pre-dawn rain

My father-in-law has painted this tree more than once

Golden leaves

Some firewood cut for the boiler

Monday, July 20, 2015

Chris is ASE certified

I have been extra proud of Chris this week.  He passed some professional certification tests and he is helping me write this post about it. Chris is the owner and operator of a motorcycle repair shop and there is more to that than I think most people realize. Cars keep getting more and more sophisticated especially with their electronics. These days, it seems like whenever the "service engine soon" light comes on, it is not something mechanical but always some electrical component you never heard of, that has failed. As complicated as cars have gotten, motorcycles have gotten even more complicated than cars. The modern motorcycle has every electronic control apparatus that modern cars have and even more. Both cars and bikes have throttle by wire, closed loop feedback fueling, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, etc. Both will have a ton of sensors, actuators and controllers.  The level of sophistication is amazing and they keep getting more complicated every year. Unless you are on a Harley Davidson.  They still have the engineering sophistication of an off-brand riding lawnmower (Chris does not work on Harleys for this reason). A sporty sedan, like a 2015 Jetta SE Turbo, has 170 hp and a weight-to-horsepower ratio of 18 pounds per horsepower. A new sport bike motorcycle, the style Chris rides, has 200 horsepower and will have a weight-to-horsepower ratio of 2.2 pounds per horsepower.  The motorcycle will give you a thrilling ride but it will cost a bit more than the Jetta. These modern bikes get their performance from highly advanced engineering. Besides all the electronic engine management that cars have, bikes will also have computer controlled variable length intake tract, one or more computer controlled exhaust tuning valves, and a few bikes even have a miniature 6 axis gyroscope under the seat to computer manage wheel spin and wheelies. So there is a lot more to repairing these machines than just tasks like tightening the chain and changing tires. When complicated machines need repair, Chris likes to say, "If the human mind can engineer it, then the human mind can comprehend it in order to find the problem." So Tuesday, Chris traveled to a testing site at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and took some tests to see if he is comprehending it. Turns out, he is comprehending it quite well. With a score of 94 percent, he passed the tests and is now ASE certified in the areas of Electrical/Electronic Systems, Engine Performance, and Engine Repair. That's amazing for somebody who is self-taught. Passing the tests has boosted Chris' confidence. Before this, he never really knew where his skill level was, because he has never worked with another motorcycle mechanic and has not been able to compare his skills with anybody else's. Chris might have been reluctant to assess his skill level, but his customers have been giving him 5 star ratings on YELP! for years. I am proud of what he is doing with his shop. Here is a link to Chris' website: Kona Motorcycle Shop

See if you can get this sample question right from one of the tests Chris took.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A swim fit for a king

I had such a great time with Tara Brown competing in the 1.2-mile King's Swim in Kailua Bay on the Fourth of July. It seems like every year when the race come around I tell myself, "Next year you should enter." This year Tara and I encouraged each other to give it a try.

I've been swimming in Kailua Bay for years and started swimming regularly with Sarah Jasper after work. She would drag me out there in pouring rain or ridiculous surf or chop, which is usually when we had the most fun. Eventually, I started swimming with fins on and making it all the way to the 1.2 mile buoy, but I had never tried swimming that far without fins until a couple of weeks before the race. About a year ago, Chris and I also took a swim lesson, which improved our stroke, made us faster, and made it feel more comfortable and effortless to move though the water.

 I had hoped to be able to do the race in less than 50 minutes. My time was 46:06 and I came in 184 out of 262, which I was really happy with for my first time around. It was really exciting being in the water with all of those people thrashing around and it was hard to get my heart rate relaxed at first. I know I could improve my time with cardio training because I was pretty out of breath.

I was very impressed with how well organized the event was, and everyone received a nifty King's Swim bag and there were tons of really great door prizes given away at the awards ceremony, too. Well done, Kona Aquatics, I am super excited to do the race again next year to see if I can beat my time.

Swimming is something our town does really well. There are a lot of athletes here and dozens of people swimming for exercise first thing in the morning. The race, and my morning swims take place at the same spot where Ironman World Triathlon begins with a 2.4-mile swim. Conditions are usually fantastic, especially first thing in the morning. I usually go a couple days a week before work and sometimes see the akule baitball or dolphins. What a great way to start the day.
My mom took this photo of the start of the race.

Thank you, Kona Aquatics, for posting photos of the race on Facebook I hope you don't mind me using this one of me at the finish of the race.

A photo I took of dolphins during a recent swim in Kailua Bay.
Nematode cooking was worth the work

With the help of my husband, who has a degree in diversified agriculture and is an experienced soil scientist, I have developed an interest in gardening. Some foods, such as honeydew melon, tomatoes and pineapples just aren't very good in the store, either because they are selling commercial varieties that ship well and look good but don't necessarily taste good, or the produce is picked too early. In addition to our garden produce being of higher quality than store bought goods, I also like that fuel wasn't wasted flying the fresh food in from the mainland or another country, and the food we grow is free of pesticide. Aside from all that, I've found there is simply something satisfying about getting my hands in the dirt and successfully growing good food.

I even look forward to throwing on my rain coat on wet nights and hunting slugs. I pick them up with chop sticks so my hands don't get slimy. Our biggest nemesis by far has been the root knot nematode. The tiny worm-like critter is too small to be seen by the human eye. It lives in the soil and can only travel an inch a year. Yet, they reproduce like crazy and bore into the roots of plants until the roots are knotted and practically destroyed, depriving the plant of nutrients and water. When Chris lived at lower elevation, he solarized his garden using a layer of black plastic and a layer of clear plastic to heat the soil until the nematodes were killed. At our new elevation of 1,500 feet, most days cloud over by 11 a.m. and the soil never gets hot enough to kill the nematodes. We also tried planting sun hemp and mustard greens that are supposed to deter nematodes, but this did not help. We got fed up and replaced all the soil in our garden with new soil, only to find that soil also contained nematodes. Finally, we acquired a used water heater and modified it so it would heat water to a boil. Chris built a frame just the right size to hold a tank full of water (he can do math) and that frame let the hot water soak into the soil and heat it hot enough and long enough to kill the nematodes. In areas of the garden that are sloped, the fame didn't work so well, so he welded a steamer and fed a hose from the water heater to the steamer. It produced plenty of steam and it did work, but it took a long time, tons of electricity and was so labor intensive we gave up on that method.

Since the hot water treatment, the garden has done amazingly well. The plants grow larger, produce much more food and don't turn yellow and die prematurely. It was a lot of effort, but the garden has never looked better. And because we have a photovoltaic system, we didn't have to pay for the electricity to heat the water.
The salad contains only fixings from our garden.

The garden kicks butt now that the nematodes are dead.

Our sweet peppers never looked so good.

Chris takes the temperature of the soil with a meat thermometer while his steamer heats up the ground.

Chris prepares the frame that will be filled with hot water.

Various produce from the garden. (The pineapple was grown in soil that hasn't yet been treated for nematodes)

Colorful carrots, corn and another pineapple.

Chris' steamer in action

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kona Motorcycle Shop services BMW

Chris' business, called Kona Motorcycle Shop continues to thrive.  There is no BMW motorcycle dealership in Kona so he has been filling that need successfully. He likes BMW motorcycles and their owners and seems to have a good sense of how to meet their expectations. The shop doesn't necessarily have the exterior trappings of a big city BMW dealership with those big glass showrooms and receptionists wearing tight black pant suits. He does however, have the tools and electronics to do any kind of BMW motorcycle service or repair. The momentum keeps gaining. He has been servicing BMW motorcycles, then they tell other owners and over the last three years or so he has gotten a lot of BMW experience. Chris says, of all the motorcycle brands that do not have a dealership in Kona, BMW has the most motorcycles here. People buy them on Oahu or the mainland at BMW dealerships there and then ship the bikes to Kona. Believe it or not, Chevrolet does not have a dealership in Kona anymore, they pulled out a couple years ago and orphaned their owners. Chris is keeping BMW motorcycle owners from being orphaned in Kona. He has a 5 star YELP! rating, which I am pretty sure is higher than most recommended BMW dealerships. BMW motorcycles