Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Post, Last Sunset of 2008

Most amateurish web presence? NOT!

Doug at Poinography!, having looked at Hawaii County's website, asks "Is there a County with a more amateurish web presence?" Certainly within the 50th state, the answer is clearly "no." Maui, Kaua'i and Honolulu, while not spectacular, are at least adequate, while Hawaii County seems stuck in about 1994. The "copyright 2001" at the bottom is sad enough. It's not like there've been any advances in the internet since 2001, right?

OK, so we're clearly the lamest county in Hawaii, but can we compete on the national scene? Or will it be another Georgia vs UH wipeout? Well, Mississippi County, Arkansas (chosen because it's in the poorest congressional district) looks pretty bad (copyright 1997, but revised in 2006) but I think ours still looks lamer. Hancock County, Georgia is supposed to be the poorest county in Georgia, but even those inbred, no-teeth, cousin marrying hicks have a better looking website. Wikipedia says that the poorest county in the US is Buffalo County, South Dakota. They're apparently so poor that they don't even have a website, so there's least one county worse than Hawaii County (their population is only 2032, so we should probably be restrained in our victory dance).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

HECO finds out whether there's no such thing as bad publicity, plus the usual flowers.

Hah! Now the nation and the world know how bad Hawaiian Electric's service is. Maybe they'll ask for a bailout, like the automakers, since producing a defective product seems to be a requirement, not a handicap, in that regard.

High above the world where power supply matters, I found these voluptuous lehua blossoms on a little shrub about 2 feet high, in the windswept scrub at 6900':

And in keeping with our theme of native Hawaiian plants having small flowers, here's pukiawe:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Ludicrously Beautiful Day in Kona

As always after a storm passes through, today was clear, sunny, and postcard gorgeous at Honokohau:

Hualalai basked in the bright sun:

so did Mauna Loa's snow cap:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I just got back from walking six miles, and boy, are my arms tired!

See, because of the walking sticks. It's a reference to that old joke "I just flew in from....." Never mind.

Anyway, it was looking stormy up on Hualalai, so I decided to see if the ohia were in bloom out at Pu'u Wa'awa'a or Pu'u Anahulu, because there are quite a few yellow and orange flowering trees. But the ohia down around 2000', unlike those up at 5000', were almost devoid of blossoms. Having driven 10 miles out that way, I decided to hike the Ohia Trail at Pu'u Wa'awa'a
Pu'u Wa'awa'a means furrowed hill, the adjective coming after the noun in Hawaiian.

The dryland forest around the pu'u is one of the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. There are rare plants throughout the forest. Here's Hawaii's endemic member of the rose family, U'ulei:

Many native Hawaiian plants have tiny flowers, like this Kolea (also the Hawaiian name for the plovers that fly 5000 miles non-stop from the arctic to spend the winter here):

Here's a plant that played its tragic part in Hawaii's history, the 'Iliahi (sandalwood):

The Hawaiian dodonaea, A'ali'i, has small flowers:

But the seed pods are often quite spectacular:

Merry Christmas

'Tis the season to force our pets to wear antlers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve - Yin and Yang

The passage of time brings reflection, as does Sam Adams Winter Lager. "Yang" to the Medieval German hymn would be more appropriately a rap Christmas song, a Beastie Boys Christmas, or possibly The Ramones. My choice of Otis Redding betrays, I fear, a terminally bourgeois mind set. That's me, all over. Merry Christmas, though, to all my readers (if any).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Call me Uncle Silas (at least from Feb. 20 - Mar. 14)

Because that's the slave-owning, gun-toting character I'll be playing in APAC's production of Big River, the music-by-Roger-Miller musical based on Huckleberry Finn (not to be confused with the Johnny Cash/Grateful Dead song of the same name). February 20 - March 14, 2009 at the Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu. So I got that goin' for me!

Also, I tried out my new Swissgear Hiking Poles purchased for about 7 bucks each from Amazon ($11 including shipping). As an old person/hiker I've been eying the poles at Sports Authority, but at $79 a pair, I figured my knees would just have to do their best for a while. But the $7 deal was impossible to pass up, so I bought two. Amazon sent them separately, each in a box roughly 3' x 2' x 6". One of those boxes could have held about 20 poles, if not more, but I suppose they have their reasons. Using them was awkward at first, but I soon got the hang of them, although the Kaloko-Honokohau hike has almost no uphill or downhill, which is where they're supposedly the most valuable. My knees are thanking me already, in their own special way.

Here's a Kona sunset, over our friendly, placid Kona sea;

"Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry, cry, cry
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky.
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River.
Then I'm gonna sit right here until I die."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I was THIS close!

CORRECTION: Yesterday was the second shortest day of the year, "technically." Know-it-all Andrew notes that today is actually the solstice, so my humble apologies to anyone who went out and sacrificed a goat or danced naked at Stonehenge yesterday based on my erroneous reporting. There's always next year, dude!

Anyway, yesterday, when I hiked at the shoreline, Hualalai was clear until the afternoon, so I decided to try up mauka today. There was some kind of uphill race and the end of Huehue Street had a banner and non-athletes (including one staggeringly attractive blonde in a tight dress) milling around, in the fog. Yes, of course it was foggy today. (but that's not a bad thing, all in all, when you're walking 4.75 miles and gaining 1300' of elevation). I went back to the fenceline road on the "windward" side of Hualalai's crest that I followed last Saturday. I found that at the 2.25 mile mark it does head mauka. I headed uphill, but then some serious clouds and wind came in, so no summit pictures today. Some day, this winter, I promise.
In the meantime, the lehua were blooming in abundance:

I found a plant I didn't recognize, so I took a couple pictures and when I got home checked my trusty Native Trees and Shrubs of the Hawaiian Islands by Samuel H. Lamb. (soon to be a major motion picture!) That was inconclusive, so I had to search (where else) the internet. Turns out this is pilo, coprosma montana:

But that wasn't the only coprosma family member in the area! It was practically a coprosma family reunion! (Coprosma is a genus of plants in New Zealand, Hawaii, and new Guinea. Its name means "smelling like dung"!) Here's Coprosma ernodeoides, kukaenene, meaning that the black berries resemble the results of our state bird's digestive process (second reference to feces in one paragraph!):

Finally, here, again, is pukiawe, its pink berries contrasting with the red and green pukiawe picture from last week:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sunrise on the shortest* day of the year!

I had to wake early to take my daughter to a bus stop so she and some of her friends could go to Waimea, for no particular reason, other than it's Christmas vacation for them, but it was a chance to get to Kaloko-Honokohau before dawn to hike. Hualalai and Mauna Loa were very clear about half an hour before sunrise:

There is something sublime about the light at this hour, made more special by the knowledge that this is the shortest* day of the year:

Yesterday I read that the Little Ice Age (1500-1750), a period of global cooling, may have been caused by Christopher Columbus. That is, the horrific pandemic the European diseases caused in the Americas, killing 95% of the population, resulted in reforestation of previously agricultural land, which pulled so much carbon out of the atmosphere that it triggered the Little Ice Age. I found the link to Science Digest at National Review Online, which linked it with an idiotic remark about trees causing global cooling (although it seems to me to be bad news for those who deny the possibility of anthropogenic global warming, if there is evidence of anthropogenic global cooling). In this context let me recommend 1491 by Charles Mann, a wonderful, if heartbreaking study of how complex, advanced and numerous the native cultures of the Americas were, before they were swept away, by disease and deliberate acts. As I was thinking about these issues, the sun was coming up, at its furthest* Southerly point, right over the summit of Mauna Loa (from Kaloko-Honokohau):


The park was green everywhere, from the rains 10 days ago, and this Maiapilo flower basked in the first rays of the shortest* day. Happy Winter Solstice*!

UPDATE:* Actual shortest day is December 21.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Moon, Mauna Kea, Merry Christmas and Bees!

This morning, hoping to take advantage of the weekend and the clear weather the storm has brought us, I drove up Huehue Street to the 5075' trailhead at 5:15, stopping at McDonalds for a Southern Chicken biscuit, whatever that potato patty is called, and black coffee, which, unhealthy though it may be, was delicious and gone in short order. Even though the sun wasn't going to be up until 6:49 (thanks, Google weather!) the pre-dawn glow and the light of the full moon were more than adequate, and there are rewards for being up there early:

I had to be back at 9:30 to take my 15 year-old to a hair appointment for her first high school dance, a bittersweet occasion to be sure (for me, not for her) so there was no time to try for the top (6.5 miles each way). I decided to try a "road" that's not on the topographical map I got from (customized combo of four USGS maps on waterproof paper for about 12 bucks!) but which I found on Google Earth. At about 2.25 miles in, I was rewarded with the sight of Mauna Kea in the early morning sun:

Then it was time to turn around and head back. The predominant shrub above 6000' is Pukiawe, as Christmasy-looking a plant as you'll find in Hawai'i (More so than the awful Christmas Berry) so here is today's "Merry Christmas" picture:

Finally, as I made my way back to the main road, I heard buzzing, which only got louder as I approached this ohia tree. As I looked I discovered (apology in advance) a beehive of activity:

Friday, December 12, 2008

The storm brings clear skies; Maui!

Besides bringing rain we so badly needed, the storm did a magnificent job of clearing our skies. Hualalai doesn't look that high (and it's only the third highest peak on this island, fourth highest in the state) but it's higher than anything in North America east of the Rockies (So there, Tennessee and New Hampshire!):

Looking the other way (and for the record, I drove ten whole minutes out of my way to get these photos for you all), Maui was amazingly clear (That little bump at the far left is West Maui):

Amazingly clear:

Finally, there is clearly snow on Mauna Loa, seen over Hualalai's shoulder, although most of the white is a cloud cap, and the image generally is fuzzier than I'd like:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blessed, blessed rain! Plus, turkeys!

Although my home, at about the 550' level, has gotten some nice rain recently, most of North Kona has been parched and brown for months. About noon today the storm that wasn't supposed to hit us (my Google weather page is still forecasting sunshine) came ashore accompanied by thunder. We've had three hours of soaking medium heavy rain, and from the radar map, it looks like a few hours more. What a blessing. Not a religious statement, just a fact. The plants are having a very good day.

On a more serious note, check out this amateur photo of a gang that roams our neighborhood at will, uprooting green onions and otherwise terrorizing the helpless citizenry:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

High School Musical Onstage in Kainaliu! Plovers!

Aloha Performing Arts Company is presenting Disney's High School Musical Onstage at the Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu December 12-20. Kids apparently love this show and no doubt will enjoy seeing it done live. Call 322-1648 or go here to purchase tickets ($12.00 for adults and $10.00 for kids and seniors). Here's a sneak look at the set!

The message, like most everything Disney does these days, is blandly uplifting. Personally, I regard the Disney channel as the camel's nose inside the tent, bringing values of celebrity-worship and superficiality to our children. But that's just me.

Last Friday, I foolishly overdid my walk, trying to achieve an average rate (over the 3.3 miles of sand, loose rocks, and 1/2 mile of nice trail) of 3.6 mph. Which I did, but my knee was sore during Saturday's walk uphill so I took Sunday and Monday off. By this afternoon I needed to walk, but I just kept a nice pace of 3.1, and didn't try to run any of it. It was a bright sunny afternoon, although Kailua had been overcast and rainy most of the day. The tidal flats were full of Pacific Golden Plovers, who summer in Alaska and fly here non-stop (not being able to land on the water and rest) for 50 hours over thousands of miles of open ocean.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A hike in the clouds; Plus, ambushed by a dead guy!

Unlike the trails at the top of Huehue Street, which are on Bishop Estate land, and therefore not quite legitimate (although many, many folks hike there) the trail at the end of Kaloko Drive is legitimate public access to the Honua'ula Forest Reserve. The trail to the old sheep station cabin goes though the forest reserve. It's 1.5 miles long (3miles roundtrip) and the altitude gain is roughly 1500' so it's a good workout. It's always cool and often foggy in the afternoon. The deserted old cabin shown behind the title to this blog is at the 1 mile mark. You'll have to allow more time than the usual 1.5 hike because of the altitude and the altitude gain. Most of the trail is easy footing and grass covered, but there are sections with loose gravel that are treacherous on the way down.
Today the koa was blooming.

After my hike, on the way down to town, Hawaii Public Radio, was playing Tristan und Isolde, the very end. I'm not much of an opera fan. I've never been to the opera. All I'd heard of Tristan was the prelude and the love duet. I'd never heard Isolde's aria at the end, which is more or less the duet without Tristan. Anyway, maybe the tiring walk had opened my up emotionally, because the beauty of the piece hit me hard. When it hit its climax, I was close to tears. Ambushed by a piece of music 150 years old.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Terrible vog, plus NOW he tells us!;UPDATED -An admission!

The vog in Kona today was as bad as I've ever seen it. Going down Kam III Road you could make out the shoreline, barely, but the rest of the ocean faded into a brown-white haze. Ugly.

And speaking of people not being able to see what's right in front of them, I join Kristine Kubat in her amusement at Reed Flickinger's editorial in WHT. Reed is shocked, shocked that our new mayor, Billy Kenoi, who ran out the back door of Shooters to avoid talking to police, isn't an absolute stickler for the letter of the law. West Hawaii Today was the dog that didn't bark during the campaign as far as that story went. Reed's newspaper didn't regard the Shooters incident, and what it said about Kenoi, as something useful to the voters before the election. But as Kristine says, better late than never.

UPDATE: Maybe there is a new start. Just the title of this West Hawaii Today article, "County Admits Wrongdoing," represents a quantum leap forward from the usual weasely CYA reactions from our local governments (although the documents still haven't been released, apparently). Kudos to the Kenoi administration for making a good start.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wiliwili Wasps (the good ones) are Coming!

Coming soon to the Big Island - it's African wasp versus African wasp in a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred showdown! The State has imported and is propagating predator wasps to combat the wasps that threaten to wipe out our native wiliwili trees. DOH in Hilo assured me that, although their attention is focused right now on the ongoing problem with varroa mites on honeybees
the new wasps will be released within a month on this island, and will target the wiliwili groves around Waikoloa and Pu'uwa'wa'a. Let us wish them happy hunting.

One of the Pu'uwa'awa'a wiliwili in happier times.

I hope these wonderful trees will be here for future generations to enjoy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Why the long face?

Last night's Venus/Jupiter/Moon conjunction. Slightly "bumped up" with Photoshop.

Tonight, still cool but no longer smiley.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hawaiian Monk Seal at Kaloko-Honokohau

This lovely 12 foot long monk seal was resting on Honokohau beach as I took my walk today.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving, plus, a scoop!

Managed to avoid Wal-Mart today, although I did get my tree at Lowe's. After a somewhat frantic Thanksgiving (turkey brined and coated with herb paste, buttermilk mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce with mandarin oranges, stuffing, sweet potato/haupia pie, mushrooms, corn and salad) it was hard to get motivated to work, so I took off to get my tree, rest, and walk.

And speaking of walks, here's an Aaron Stene-style Kona scoop: Kaloko-Honokohau NHP will be opening (at some point) this lovely ramp and elevated walkway to view petroglyphs:

OK, admittedly, as scoops go, this is pretty lame, but still, stretching the definition almost to the breaking point, it's "news."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving/ Makahiki

This is a good time of year to hike up in Kaloko Mauka. Today I walked in from the highest point, at the end of Huehue Street, altitude 5075'. A misty and short hike, since I needed to get back to start the turkey. But I got one nice picture. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is where I do my 3.3 mile walk 4-5 times a week. I use the entrance by the harbor berm (that big long pile of rocks):

Today a large flock (at least 20) of Ae'o, Hawaiian Stilts was feeding at low tide:


They're an endangered species, but the population seems to be getting larger. Last year two of them made their nest right next to one of the trails and attacked when I got too close. But I feel affection for them. They're wonderfully graceful fliers. Two mini-flocks of seven birds each flew up and down the coast in constantly changing formations formations, squawking as they flew by, while I finished my walk.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the Beginning of Makahiki

Started brining the turkey for tomorrow. I'm trying, for the first time, not plain salt water, but salt water flavored with bay leaves, rosemary, sage, tarragon, brown sugar and apple juice. I panicked when I realized that the turkey and brine container wouldn't fit in the refrigerator. Decided to use the big cooler and ice, but then I needed some kind of bag to keep from diluting the brine. Googled "brining bags" and then found them at Chef's Kitchen Supply . As I drove past the Target construction site, with lots of guys working, I wondered about the rumors that Target was gonna cancel. Depressing. But turning from Kaiwi Street into the new dedicated turn lane on the new four lane Queen Kaahumanu Highway was very cool, speaking of things to be thankful for.

Tomorrow, by the way, is not just Thanksgiving. It's the New Moon, and therefore, according to this Star-Bulletin article, the beginning of the makahiki season:

On Thursday we will see a new moon that has special significance to Hawaiians. It will be the first new moon since the constellation Makali'i (Pleiades) rose in the eastern sky at sunset last Monday. This signaled to Hawaiians of old that it was time for the makahiki -- and it speaks just as loudly today.

The full Hawaiian name of this celebration is makahiki na o Lono -- "time of the coming of Lono" -- a religious occasion welcoming the return of the god Lono, known for bringing wind and rain. It appears we're getting a head start.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Post: Hiking before the storm

Mauna Kea was visible from 5800' up on Hualalai, despite the incoming clouds.

As all of Kona waited for the expected storm, waiting for the clouds to sweep in from the sea and give some relief and moisture to our arid land, I decided to hike at the top of Huehue Place in Kaloko Mauka. At 5000' I was above the storm soaking Kailua until I was on my way back to the car.

One of the best things about hiking mauka Kona in winter is that the lehua put on a show: