Apr 28, 2008

Miscellaneous notes

Just started a new game of FFVI after finishing SFA again. What I really want is a Wii and Okami, and my tax return check would cover the expense. But I have already decided that I am going to pay down a credit card with it instead, and work quite a bit harder in May so I can both afford the things I want and continue to make a significant dent in my credit debt.

I really don't like Evanescence at all, but their songs are pretty fun to remix.

I hardly ever go up to the town of Waikoloa because it's the closest thing to a Southern California suburb there is here, but I went the other day (mostly to get a better view of a lightning storm) and discovered that they have a really nice grocery store and a very cool pub full of blacklights known as Sharky's. The weather has also been scaring away most of the sun-worshiping golfers, so that's a definite plus.

I'm pretty tired of not so much the internet in general, but the way so many people express themselves online. What the hell is with "teh," "ftw," "moar," "pwn," and "zomg," not to mention countless other horrible abominations of typographical decency? Also, "fapping" is probably the worst onomatopœia I've ever heard of. Seems much more like a sound that would be made during sex.

Our active volcano has been gassing up the islands quite a bit, especially when the winds shifted. It's pretty surreal to suddenly drive into a thick veil of vog, wherein the sky is pretty much completely blotted out and the sun resembles some ominous red planet. Fortunately I can breathe just fine even in heavy levels of SO2.

I've been thinking about how I could sell my photography locally in order to generate a profit. The fact is, tourists will spend money on pretty much anything, as long as it's Hawaiian-related. They love souvenirs. What better to take home and show people than beautiful shots of the islands they could hardly muster with their little disposable Fujifilms? It probably wouldn't be much more complicated than making a few dozen prints of my best work, placing them in travel-size frames, and getting a space reserved at a farmer's market to showcase them. I've seen other local photographers do just that, and they seem fairly well off. Of course, I have this problem with a little thing called motivation. I feel even less motivated to continue searching for conventional jobs, but fortunately I can relax a little now that I'm doing odd hours as a spotter.

Just got a 100 pack of Sony music CD-R's at Costco. Let this be a kick in the tail to finally burn those CD's I owe a couple people

Seems like the old truck needs a valve adjustment. I can hear the valves click-clacking during acceleration, and it feels more gutless than it should be. Of course, just one wayward valve makes a much more significant difference in a four-cylinder engine than it would in a six-cylinder. Definitely needs to be timed as well.

I wish it would rain up here like it rained in Waikoloa. At least the wind is back after a few days' absence, so moisture usually follows. It's such a beautifully dark afternoon right now, I shouldn't even be inside.

Piece out.

Apr 26, 2008

Must be the rugged type

ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A man survived a 500-foot fall into a strip mine Friday, astounding rescuers who spent hours on a risky descent into the abyss to bring him back out.

Police said Nathan Bowman was trespassing on coal company property around 1 a.m. Friday when he slipped and fell into the Springdale Pit, an inactive mine about 700 feet deep, 3,000 feet long and 1,500 feet wide.

Bowman tumbled down a jagged slope and then free-fell several hundred feet, his descent broken by a rock ledge not far from the bottom of the pit, said Coaldale Police Chief Timothy Delaney, who helped direct the rescue effort.

"If you look at that drop, there was no way somebody could survive that," Delaney said.

If you're going to trespass, at least don't put yourself in a position where you have to be rescued. And if you're going to slip and fall 500 feet, at least die like a mortal.

Apr 23, 2008

Self own

The convenience of possessing a cell phone is barely worth the complications. There is the monthly bill, and the total expenses come out to between $450-$600 a year... providing you are careful enough not to exceed your monthly minutes. Much time and effort is wasted in trying to sort through all the policies, restrictions, and strings attached with a cell phone plan. Then there are all the BS bonus features carriers try to sell you on, like 10,000 free smilies for your phone, 3,000 free text messages per month, and 500 monthly ringtones. I never use any of that shit, but I've already been a victim of not reading the fine print close enough and accidentally checking some box somewhere that signed me up for it.

I would love to not be a customer of these greedy, scammy carriers, and I still don't feel comfortable being bound to a 2-year contract, either (which, by the by, cost $175 to break, unless they jacked that price up as well). I bring my cell phone nearly everywhere I drive, but it's mostly because I have one. There is no point in leaving something I pay for at home, especially if it could potentially get me out of an emergency. But I'd rather have a pay-by-the-minute plan since I never come close to using all of the monthly minutes I pay for. The display screen on my current phone is jacked to the point where I can't read anything on it, and I'll probably have to get a new one, but I'm not entitled to a new free one until September. In truth, even after owning a cell phone for several years, I think I could easily adapt to having no cell phone at all and just use a home phone with an answering machine. That would be one less accessory I feel the need to carry around with me and pay for.

As for the iPhone, I don't need a computer with me everywhere I go, either... and I don't even want to always be reachable.

Apr 18, 2008


I'm sick of the melodramatic emonoid bullshit that goes on in social networking sites. I know most people are so busy concealing their pain in the real world, and online is about the only place they can surrender to the illusion that people actually pay attention to them when they rant about their lives. Why must some people constantly insist on being so goddamn depressing, though? I know, I know, if you can't get into the school or win the job or be with the person you want, why even go on LIVING in this meaningless hollow existance (sic), right??!?!?!?!?!!! I know you must feel life is little more than a seemingly endless series of terrible tragedies, but surely you can send your doom and gloom to the backseat for a few moments and pull something positive out of your ass now and then, even if it's just a polished turd.

It's a beautiful evening. Once I grab a shower I'm off to Waimea to hit the supermarket and enjoy a little walk in the woods. Thank goodness it's so easy to at least physically escape from what irritates me.

Apr 15, 2008

Closer to gods

Gemini Observatory on LGS, Mauna Kea, Hawaii

I began work as a laser spotter on Tuesday evening, and I must declare it was the coolest work shift I've ever experienced.

I met the spotting team for that evening at the astronomy center in Hilo. The lead spotter is responsible for driving the team up to the summit (an elevation gain of 13,000 feet), and the scenery all the way up is nothing short of spectacular and surreal. The weather was dark, rainy, and overcast from Hilo most of the way up, but once we reached the 7000 foot level or so, we broke out of the clouds instantaneously. It truly takes one by surprise to be under the clouds or in the fog for several hours then suddenly be greeted by deep blue sky and sunlight, as well as be granted commanding views of the other mountain summits, which rise like floating islands from a blanket of clouds that seems to stretch forever into the heavens.

From the summit, and even on the way up from the visitor center, one gazes down at a thick blanket of clouds, often aglow with a variety of orangeish or pinkish hues at sunset. One can easily feel like they are on top of the world. Of course, up here, with just a little imagination, you can fool your mind into believing you are on another planet. Another impressive sight is the mountain's shadow projected against the clouds. It's similar to being in an airplane late in the day and watching the plane's shadow from a window seat, only one can imagine how much more significant the shadow of the world's tallest mountain is.

We stopped at the astronomers' living quarters just uphill from the visitors center for dinner. Plenty of good free food, and a very nice open, airy ambiance for dining and lounging, with a kind of view one would expect at 11,000 feet. The building also has a nice dark TV lounge, several recliners, and a couple pool tables and darts, so it's not a bad place to hang for a little while and become acclimated before heading up to the summit.

Gemini is the absolute highest observatory up here, and yes, the air is very thin and cold. So we've got our warm clothes, snazzy orange jumpsuits, and oxygen masks. We spent the first two hours or so in the observatory just sitting in the base floor control center surfing the web while the operators used natural guide star (which, unlike LGS or laser guide star, isn't necessary to spot for).

The non web-surfing, hot cocoa-drinking, movie-watching aspect of the job involves sitting in an SUV and watching the night sky for aircraft that may fly over and interfere with the laser during LGS operations. We just have to record any sightings of aircraft on a data sheet, and if any aircraft happens to stray too close, notify the telescope operator, or in the event of a rare emergency, press a magic button to shutter the laser. We take turns, one of us going out to watch the east sky for an hour, one of us the west sky for the same amount of time, then come back inside and break for an hour while the other two spotters go outside for an hour. Theoretically, we do this from sunset to sunrise, depending on atmospheric conditions such as the presence of the thermal inversion layer (which usually ensures the sky above a certain elevation is cloudless and free of volcanic emissions which can directly interfere with telescope operations).

I will say that the summit of Mauna Kea is very otherworldly and indescribably peaceful on the middle of a moonlit night. The temperature is around 30 degrees up there, but I certainly don't find that too cold. I'm accustomed to climbing mountains day or night for leisure, so I don't object to standing at the edge of the world in a location which offers some of the best stargazing on the planet. That one night I worked so far, I witnessed the most gorgeous moonset I had ever seen. It appeared almost as a subdued sunset, staining much of the western horizon multiple colours of orange. Now that is some celestial brush. Though, even that wasn't as beautiful as watching the stars up there once the sky darkened completely. The stars seem so close and in such great abundance up there I nearly felt like I could just reach out and grab one.

As I write this, we are actually on standby, waiting in the lounge while the operators at the summit decide whether they're going to do any LGS at all tonight. The weather conditions are not ideal due to a storm moving in from the west, cutting off the trade winds, and sending gas from the volcano up this way. In the meantime, this is a very cozy place to chill.

Loving island weather

I drove down to Kona yesterday to apply for an afternoon/evening job at the distribution center of the west side's newspaper. It was a typical Kona afternoon; completely overcast with massive, dark rain clouds hovering over the upper mountain slopes, volcanic haze obscuring the sky and ensuring the sun was nowhere in sight, and heavy southbound rush hour traffic. I did make it to the office by 4 pm to file the application, then, as usual, left the masses behind by driving up the mountain and into the pleasant rainshowers.

The funny thing about Kona is that I really don't like the place in the morning, since it's almost unbearably sunny and hot and still in the early daylight hours, but when afternoon rolls around, the sea breezes pick up, which almost always causes dark heavy rain clouds to form over the mountain slopes, and blows in the massive amounts of sulfur dioxide emitted from the active volcano over land, bathing the landscape in an odd haze. It's not unsightly like L.A. smog, but rather just peculiar-looking. It does make for unforgettable sunsets, since viewers are able to gaze directly at the sun as soon as an hour before it dips before the horizon without harming their eyes. It appears an almost scarlet red and resembles another planet. This is part of the reason Kona sunsets are world famous. Kona is far from my favorite location on the island, mostly because of how congested with tourists it usually is, but it can be a wonderful place to spend time in during late afternoons and evenings.

For the longest time I've been fascinated with island weather patterns. Where I live, the air is pure, and rain and strong winds are frequent at any time of day or night, whereas Kona receives 95% of its rain in the late afternoon. Just five miles southeast of my house, annual rainfall is around 100 inches. Five miles southwest, annual rainfall is less than 10 inches. Since I live near the middle of a peninsula which is nearly symmetrically divided lengthwise between a wet side and a dry side, depending which direction I decide to travel down the highway, I'll either end up on dry, dusty coastline riddled with thorny mesquite trees or on a damp, foresty coastline characterized by dramatic sea cliffs buffeted by trade winds and spontaneous rain showers much of the time. Depending on exactly where one lives in the town of Waimea, they are usually either basking in the sunshine or wrapped in the cool embrace of fog and drizzle most of the time throughout the year.

Hawaii weather is truly unique, and frankly, mainland weather is very boring by comparison. It's no wonder so many of my local photographs include rainbows. Here, it seems to be raining while the sun is out more often than either or.

Apr 13, 2008

The virtue of embracing the inevitable

I'm glad I am not a god of this world. I would loathe having hundreds of millions of people blaming me for their problems because they refuse to take responsibility for their stupidity, or begging me to fix a world they fucked up all by themselves. There is no need to worry about saving the planet, however; she will have no trouble correcting herself soon after our departure, for she has several billions of years' experience dealing with much worse calamities. Humanity's arrogance knows no bounds, but the same is true for nature's ability and unrelenting fight to restore equilibrium. So bring on the monster storms, throw in some killer waves, and let our "progress" unravel. The forces that be, no matter what you choose to call them, and whether you choose to bow down or simply admire them, shall always prevail. It's inevitable, you see.

Apr 10, 2008

Practical living

We were told by the mechanic initially that only the damaged rotor would have to be replaced for just under $350. Several days later he tells us that the caliper, cable, and whatever else are also bad, and the parts will have to be ordered from the mainland. Now parts and labor totals around $1150. I've seen this happen more times than I care to count, because mechanics are notorious for ripping you off with great frequency.

Admittedly, though I know it does the environment no good, I enjoy driving. Just me, my music, lovely scenery, and the freedom of the open road. However, I believe the sooner I can situate myself where I can commute wherever I must sans automobile, the better off I'll be. When I think about how much money and effort people pour into purchasing, fueling, insuring, maintaining, repairing, and worrying over their automobiles (another example of the things you own ending up owning you), it's enough to make me strongly consider forgoing ever owning my own car again. I would rather forget all the little problems I experienced with the previously owned Honda Civic I drove around Arizona.

I know that owning a car (or two, but preferably at least three) is a critical element of the 'American Dream,' but lately, most of my dreams have been taking place outside of America. I'm fairly disgusted with this country as a whole, but if I do move anywhere else within its borders, it's likely going to be to one of the least 'American' places possible.

On this island, everything is so ridiculously spread out, it's impractical not to have and use a car unless you can afford to live right in the middle of one of the two 'major' towns. If I lived somewhere like Honolulu or Portland, Oregon, however, I would be happy to rely on mass transit, a bicycle, and my good old-fashioned legs. If all else fails, a simple moped would do. Not nearly so much can go wrong with a moped as a car, and they're safer than motorcycles, at least in the sense that you can't really go too fast on one. They would be perfect for an island like Oahu, where steep hills often preclude commuting comfortably by bicycle, but everything is much closer together, and traffic and parking can be a nightmare for those driving automobiles.

Meanwhile, $1150 to replace one disc brake on a pickup truck that is nearly as old as I am. I could get a luxurious widescreen 1080 dpi LCD HDTV for that amount of money... not that I need or even care about having one. Rather than grumbling about the cost of gasoline or food, people need to learn how to adjust to changing times. The media is always convincing people that they absolutely must have this or that, when in fact they don't need it at all and would be better off without it. As paradigms shift rapidly in these bleak economic times, those who possess sound financial judgment and practice better spending disgression today will find it much easier to adjust and ride the wave rather than getting pounded by it. Contrary to what many people seem to believe, it's not how hard you work or how much money you make so much as how you handle the money you do earn. I would prefer a lifestyle where I am working to live, not living to work.