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

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Showing off our shojis

Chris and my dad put quite a bit of work into building shoji doors to separate our master bedroom from bathroom. They used inexpensive redwood boards from Home Depot and heavy-duty hardware to make them slide easily. Kona Shoji designs sells real shoji paper from Japan. I think it really adds a touch of class to the room and it no longer feels like we have a tub in the bedroom. Once again, I am impressed by the skills of my husband and dad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hot shower, anyone?

I no longer worry about the cost and environmental impact of taking a super hot shower or washing dishes with hot water because we are now heating our water with energy from the sun. Our solar hot water system really works well and heats our water enough even on fairly cloudy days. We do have an electric timer set to heat the water at 5 a.m. if the water is not hot enough from the day before, which can happen on really rainy days, so we are always guaranteed a hot shower that rarely takes electricity to make.

The hot water system will end up costing us $1,837 after some kind of $1,000 rebate, a $1,000 discount for buying this system and photovoltaic from Poncho's Solar Service, a $1,837 state tax credit and a $1,547 federal tax credit, making this a really smart option in a place that has one of the highest electric rates in the nation and no natural gas.

The photovoltaic system is really the interesting part. Ten solar panels are supposed to produce enough electricity for our home's needs so we'll end up spending only $20 a month on our electric costs for a monthly fee to hook-up to HELCO's power grid. During the day we generate more electricity than we need and what we aren't using gets fed back into the grid and we get credit for that through a net metering agreement with HELCO. At night, we use electricity generated by HELCO and only have to pay for it if we use more than our solar panels generate. This way we don't need batteries to store the power we generate and we have reliable power even if it's cloudy or dark outside.

This was all installed, along with our new digital electric meter, about three weeks ago. Since then, we have generated 88 kilowatt hours of electricity with our 10 solar panels. We've used 94, so right now we owe the power company for six kilowatt hours. We've had hopelessly cloudy and rainy days lately, so I am optimistic that in the long run, we'll be generating enough power to accrue some credits and not have to pay for any electricity.

The photovoltaic system cost $12,100. We will also get some tax credits from this purchase, but I can't remember how much. I think we figured that if our usual bill of $140 is reduced to $20 then the system will pay for itself in about four years at the current electric rates.

So we're feeling very good about our purchase. It will save us money in the long run and is better for the environment, plus the panels were made right here in the U.S.A.
This readout shows the temperature at the solar hot water panels (117) It also shows the water temperature at the bottom our  water tank, which is 110 on the afternoon of a fairly cloudy day.

The two big panels on the left heat our water, the 10 photovoltaic panels on the right generate electricity. That small spot of panels on our carport should be enough for all our electricity needs. Crazy!

Our 10 photovoltaic panels have generated 88 kilowatts of electricity since this meter was installed about three weeks ago.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Voyage au famille

Chris and I attended a Jasper family trip to Nuevo Vallerta in February. It was my first trip to Mexico so I was excited to see a bit of that country, but the main purpose of the visit was to spend time with the other 22 Jaspers in attendance.

What stood out more than anything else to Chris and I was the level of virtue we observed among the average residents. Folks we met in local, not just touristy spots, seemed friendly, even when they were not trying to sell us something. All the areas were visited looked clean and felt safe, even places where some level of poverty was evident. In one instance, we went out on a pier and watched several people who were fishing. They left no trash on the ground, were not cussing, drinking or smoking pot. It was a compliment to the area, and a contrast to Hawaii where plenty of locals give us stink eye even though we've lived here and contributed to the community for years, pakalolo (pot) is regularly smoked openly in public areas, and there is plenty of litter that was not thrown out by visitors.

Highlights of the trip included boogie boarding with the kids, forming a giant flotilla of 24 family members in the resort's lazy river, and just getting out of the resort to see more local areas. We stayed at the Grand Mayan, a gorgeous, upscale resort. It was a treat to be there, but since we live in Hawaii, we have seen an ocean resort or two. Sitting in a pool all day and swimming up to the bar for another $12 margarita will never be our type of vacation, and I am happy we spent a lot of time away from the hotel.

One day the entire family took a boat tour to a snorkel spot, then to a remote village that is inaccessible by car, where we had lunch on the beach. There were tons or tourists taking a hike up to a waterfall, but seeing the young, local kids rent horses for the trail, and people selling coconut and pineapple and boys playing super old video games in a small arcade gave us a glimpse of this genuine, Mexican town. We also had a blast swimming by the waterfall where Johnny climbed up a cliff and hucked it. This was a great day.
We spotted a crocodile sleeping in a drainage ditch just outside the resort.

Dinner with 22 people is an exciting and chaotic affair.

Several family members pose for a photo after zip lining.

Johnny hucks it off a cliff.

Too bad we couldn't translate the labels on all the containers. This fascinating store sold in bull grain, dried goods, tree bark and who knows what else. It was really fun to look at.

This booth at the market sold da kine: kitchen utensils, tools, blank video tapes. It was very random.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jaspers: 1  Mauna Loa: 1

Chris and I just returned from a 2.5 week camping and hiking trip in southwest Utah. You'd think we'd spend our first free day back catching up on chores. Instead we went hiking. But it's not just because we can't get enough of the outdoors. There was only one place left on the island that I had not seen and really wanted to - the top of Mauna Loa. At 13,679 feet above sea level the air gets a little thin. Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world, last erupted in 1984 and is considered active. I think I have heard that from the sea floor to the summit, Mauna Loa is the largest mountain in the world by volume.

We tried to do the hike once before but failed miserably. We were told it's good to camp overnight at the weather station at 11,000 feet elevation to acclimate for the hike the next day. Terrible idea for those who live at sea level. While you're awake, you can force yourself to breath extra. While you sleep, your body's involuntary instincts kick in and you wake up often gasping for air and with a nasty headache from the lack of oxygen. At least that's my layman's perspective. We got awful altitude sickness, including vomiting, and had to come down the mountain at 2 a.m., me nearly running my husband over in all the light-headed confusion and rush.

So...after having spent more than two weeks camping at around 6,000 feet elevation in Utah, Chris thought it would be our best chance to try Mauna Loa again. We think it takes a body several weeks to produce extra red blood cells to hold more oxygen. When my 67-year-old aunt, Alice, visited from Glenwood Spring, Colo. she ran circles around us on Mauna Kea's summit.

Chris and I began our second attempt at 8 a.m. Saturday after having a full night's rest at home. It was a steep, four-mile hike over a lava trail marked with rock carins to the edge of the giant caldera at the top. We made it! It was 2.5 miles more to the summit on the other side of the caldera. We didn't feel like adding an extra 5 miles to the hike just to say we made it officially to the top, so we had our lunch at a rock shelter near the caldera. For those who take the much longer trek beginning on the other side of the mountain in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I give you credit! The wind blew hard at the summit and the clouds threatened to close in on us, so we took one last look at the amazing and surreal, volcanic view, and headed down.

Yes, it's me inside all those clothes standing in the caldera at the top of Mauna Loa. It was 9 degrees C when we started the hike, and it got colder at the top.

A rock carin marks the path with a view of Mauna Kea in the background.

The shelter near the caldera where we had lunch.