Archive for September, 2015

My Solar Sadness

September 29, 2015

When I was a young man, back in the 1970’s, I found a shoestring in Asheville. I appropriated it and then used it to try and tie all the problems of the world together so they could be disposed of. I took that shoestring and initiated a little newspaper, which, as it turned out, only published six issues before biting the dust.

It was a learning experience, trying to start a newspaper in 1977.

The first issue, as I recall, had a very hopeful article about solar energy development and the possibility of solving our energy woes with new applications of solar technology.

The newspaper-on-a-shoestring idea did not pan out. As for the solar technology featured in the first issue, let’s just say: there is still great potential there.

Now. Fast-forward about 38 years. I’m on vacation in Hawaii, the Big Island. Cruising along the highway that runs northward from Kailua-Kona toward Waikoloa, I see a large, quite impressive solar photovoltaic collector arrangement that seems to embrace a whole building.

This is interesting, I thought. That’s a pretty impressive framework of solar power-generating collection around and above that building. I wonder what it is.

Although I did not snap a picture of it, I later learned that the building is the Visitors’ Center and Office for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.  You can see it here:

http://friendsofnelha.org/

A few days later, that is to say yesterday, on Monday morning I attended a presentation there, hoping to find out what the place was all about. And I learned quite a lot about, among many other interesting things, renewable energy development and sustainable aquaculture and mariculture on the Big Island of Hawaii.

At 10 a.m., I watched and listened to an excellent presentation by  Sarah Crawford, who is Executive Director of Friends of Natural Energy Laboratory in Hawaii (FON). Using a multimedia setup, Sarah delivered to me and eight other curious visitors the big-picture introduction to this forward-looking business park-enterprise incubator next to the Pacific on the sunny, leeward side of the Big Island.

The primary resource–you might say the heart and soul of this 870-acre site and its many infrastructure connections–is a constant,plentiful supply of very clean, cold ocean water that is pumped from 2000′ or 3000′ depths of the Ocean. The water is used prolifically by many companies, LLCs, and startups for aquaculture/mariculture research & development, as well as profitable commercial ventures.

One venture in particular–the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) project–is the largest and most productive of its type in the world, “pioneering the design of systems that use deep cold seawater for air conditioning and electricity.”

Among the many projects and enterprises being conducted here are: a large-scale commercial abalone aquaculture facility; algae-based biofuels extraction facility;  nutritional supplements company; commercial desalination drinking-water production;  kampachi-fish farm; shellfish hatchery nursery for shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels; Maine lobster holding-tank; farming operations for tropical fish, seahorses, edible sea vegetables, black cod; and even a public charter school.

I was impressed. Here in Kona-Kailua the Hawaiians are doing amazing things with that cold seawater that’s being pumped up from way down deep.

As for actual heat collected for hot water or for heating some other medium. . .not so much. More about that in a moment.

Nevertheless, solar energy is taking off big time in Hawaii–for electrical generation by means of photovoltaic collectors. Hawaiians are leading the way. Part of Sarah’s presentation included some impressive statistics about increasing widespread use of roof collectors among homeowners and businesses. She said that recently an aerial photo of the town of Kailua revealed that every major commercial building in the town sported solar collectors on the roof.

The one exception–Home Depot. No solar collectors on the Kailua HD.

Now here I’m finally getting around to the title of this here posting: Solar Sadness

Because you see, ever since that time back in the day when I tried to start a newspaper with its first issue featuring the potential of solar technology–ever since that time– I have thought that the only way that solar tech could really take off in the good ole US of A would be this scenario:

Joe Blow has a few extra bucks in his paycheck this week, so on Saturday he goes to Home Depot or Lowe’s (our North Carolina favorite since that company started only 30 miles from my North Carolina home), and Joe invests is an easy-to-install solar collector or two, hauls it home or has it delivered, then climbs up on the roof, like any energetic homeowner (or hires someone) and connects the new hardware with a few turns of the crescent wrench and a screwdriver or two, assembling the new hardware in series with other collectors that he has previously installed.

In this way Joe Blow or John Doe or Betty Freedan or whoever, socks away some serious energy savings for the next 30 years or so, and so that’s the way solar tech would take off in America: chicken in every pot, car in every garage, collector on every roof kind of middle-class thing.

Well, that has not generally happened on a large scale in America, yet. And if Home Depot is not willing to make use of the emerging solar tech on its own roof on the sunny side of Hawaii, then what hope is there for the sun in middle-class yankee homeowner energy conservation?

Now all that is about power, you know, electrical power, kilowatts blah blah–generating your own so you don’t to buy so much from the regional monopoly or co-op.

But my disappointment about solar actualities came about half-way through the presentation on energy developments at National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.

Near the Visitors’ Center is a very impressive-looking mega-field of solar collectors, all of them hooked up together in series. The sight of this had been part of my original curiosity about the NELHA facility:

SolrHWColl

In Sarah’s informative exposition of the on-site projects, her explanation of this installation revealed that it consists of rows and rows of long plastic pipes which had been cut lengthwise down the middle and painted with a special reflective coating. Sunlight striking the half-round concave curve of the 8″ pipe would be focused on a smaller, suspended 3/4″ pipe that contains a heat-carrying substance, water or some other medium. These half-pipes were mounted in such a way as to track the sun’s rise and fall in the sky, thereby maximizing the solar energy gain.

http://keaholesolarpower.com/news/farming_the_sun/

Very impressive.

But here came my disappointment, the solar sadness: this incredible energy-gathering bank has been non-operative for about a year and half.

Why?

Something about running out of money or some such thing. I don’t understand it. There’s plenty of solar energy in Hawaii, and plenty of water. So what’s the problem?

But I’m the clueless tourist here, whose mind starts to fill up with old 1970’s-style conspiracy theories about mega-corporations getting in the way and so forth and so on. Although I don’t believe all that; there must be a legitimate reason why this thing has not worked out.

As for the rest of what’s going on at that NELHA –very impressive!

The cold seawater resource development  that’s happening at Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority is  good, and also profitable for an array of startups for aquaculture, mariculture, and energy conversion enterprises This place is a a beneficial  partnership between the State of Hawaii and all the businesses and LLCs who are working there.

Abalones

Keep up the good work, NELHA! Keep them abalones and other critters coming.

 

Glass half-Full

Sukkot, Hawaiian style

September 28, 2015

About 3000 years ago, Moses led his people, the Hebrews, out of Egypt. The people had been oppressed under Pharoah’s enslavement for a long time.

Their need to bust out of oppression had came to a certain fullness, and so Y_H the Lord appointed Moses to direct them out. By fleeing Egyptian oppression, they escaped slavery.

But their newfound freedom was no walk in the park; they soon found themselves in what seemed like a never-ending arid land of deserts and perilously adverse wilderness.

During that new phase of their development as a people, Y_H the Lord gave Moses instructions and laws that would enable them to live together as an independent people, and ultimately establish themselves among the nations.

Their God-given set of laws included the well-known–now infamous–Ten Commandments. But those commands were only the first of many, many more laws that numbered more than 600.

Among that long collection of principles for healthy, spiritual living, was an instructive celebration called Sukkot, also known as Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths.

The Sukkot was a celebratory commemoration by which Y_H ensured that they would not forget the Egyptian oppressions from which they had recently escaped.

Instructions given in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus include an annual arrangement, during harvest time, of leaves and branches to form numerous huts as temporary dwelling places for each family. The Hebrews would, by living in these tabernacles (sometimes called “booths”), call to remembrance the poverty and oppression from which they had escaped through their Exodus from Egypt.

In subsequent history, the Hebrews came to be known as Jews, because, many centuries later, their last vestige as a landed nation (until 1948) had been established in the land called Judea, along the Jordan River.

Some Jews and Christians, even today, observe the Feast of Succoth ceremonially by constructing and camping in palm-thatched huts such as those Hebrews of old might have done in the wilderness of Sinai.

I have never seen such a hut or tabernacle, but I have read about it in the Old Testament. I have also, from time to time, heard or read of Jews and/or Christians who still celebrate the Feast of Sukkot in this way.

A few days ago, I was reminded of Succoth while visiting the big island called Hawaii.

On the upper slopes of the volcano Mauna Kea, I saw what appeared to be a kind of hut or tabernacle that resembles the Succoth structures of ancient days.

A group of zealous Hawaiians known as We Are Mauna Kea had constructed this structure:

Protst2

The Hawaiians with whom I spoke there called the hut a Hale (Ha-lay),  built by human hands to commemorate their heritage of regarding the Mauna Kea volcano as a sacred place. The sacred designation of the place is now imperiled by construction of massive buildings on the peak. The large structures–some already built and others proposed–are used for purposes of scientific observation and electromagnetic data-gathering.

As I pondered this Hawaiian Hale hut, I was reminded of the Succoth hut in the ancient Hebrew scriptures.

Methinks there is something fundamentally human going on here, between the ancient Hebrew Succoth tabernacle and the legacy of  Hawaiian Hale to revere Mauna Kea.

I’ll call it, in both cultures, “wanting to get back to our roots.”

I’d like to think that Alex Haley, author of “Roots”, would agree with me. “Roots” is about African huts and heritage.

The purpose of Sukkot is remembrance of past slavery, and deliverance from those oppressions. The Hebrews were delivered from slavery, and they should never forget it.

Everybody know the Jews are unique in the history of world cultures. Here is one reason why:

The Jews, with help from Y_H the Lord, were one of the first people-groups in the world that was able to effectively retain, preserve and extend their history and their worship of God through the ages. Part of that enduring oral/written/celebratory heritage is this Succoth practice, established for purposes of not forgetting the past–not forgetting the “oppression from which we were delivered.”

But the Jews are not the only people who should remember the sacred elements of their past.

Likewise, the Hawaiian Hale pictured above represents, it seems to me, a similar inclination to call forth the people’s identity with their ancient culture, to remember “who we are and where we came from.”

And maybe of little bit of “Don’t mess with us!”

WhitSton

Glass half-Full

Itelalai from Hualalai

September 26, 2015

In this picture we see Iwana Bananna’s backhoe.

Hualalai

In the background we see Hualalai volcano.

This picture was obtained at great personal peril by the haole blogger, Itelalai.

Hudunit legend says that in the year 2015 during the lunar eclipse Iwana will use his backhoe to dismantle the Hualalai volcano and dump its magnanimous lava into Kawili bay.

When this is accomplished, the cows of Bashan will come home to roost. They will discharge their guano blessings, parrot-fish-like, upon the god Bashir’s head.

Be prepared for that day. Anything could happen. Hudunit legend says that shortly after that time climate change will have run its full course and Bashir will arise from the muck and mire and reassemble Hualalai, then ascend to its peak and proclaim free lunch for everyone on the planet who volunteers to cease farting.

Reporting from Hualalai, this is Itelalai, I tell ya. I call ’em the ways I sees ’em, no ifs ands or butts.

Glass half-Full

The Sacred Place

September 26, 2015

This world is a wonderful place, but it’s also a terrible place. We are not in agreement here about a lot of things. The human family is all torn up as a result of our disagreements. So what else is new.

Well here’s something new for me, but it’s actually a reshaped experience of an old conundrum.

It started yesterday when my wife and daughter I, who are presently on the big island of Hawaii, took a drive in the rental car up onto the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano.

It was a large experience: there we went crawling, in a mid-sized automobile as any tourist would do, up the slope of this massive hunk of hardened magma, which had piled up 32,000 feet from the Pacific Ocean floor, to a peak 13,796 feet above sea level.

We didn’t go all the way to the top, because having no 4WD limited our ascent. Of course, as tourists, we wouldn’t be taking the time to hike the rest of the way to up, so we satisfied ourselves with what was available at the Visitors’ Center, as most “visitors” or tourists probably do.

We arrived at this little outpost/equipment store/educational display that is the the Visitor’s Center, and bailed out of the car to have a look around. It’s at about 9300 ft. above sea level. With some disappointment at not having reached the summit, I decided, as most tourists who stop here do, to check out the what was inside the small building.

I learned a lot up here, three quarters of the way up Mauna Kea. There were two information sources:

~the instructional video about the Mauna Kea volcano itself, its history, and the scientific station up on top with very high-tech telescopes.

~the vigilant We Are Mauna Kea representatives, across the road, who were protesting further developments on the summit.

The video inside was very impressive, and informative. You can probably find it online somewhere. For my purposes here, I’ll say merely that the big picture for the scientists seems to be exploring, visually through super-telescopes and scientifically through electromagnetic data collection, the outer regions of our solar system and beyond. I can appreciate this, find it interesting, but its pretty much beyond my down-to-earth curiosities.

The protesters across the road had set up a small Hale, a special shelter made of stones and leafy coverings. At its entrance was a stylized artistic rendering of Queen Liliuokalani with her fist raised high in the air. This was interesting to me. Having developed an interest in Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, I had read her biography during a previous trip to Oahu. Queen Liliuokalani’s life was so interesting to me that I had included parts of her story in my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. But I always thought of her very regally, as a queen, not typically standing with her fist in the air. But that’s the position in which she was depicted at this protest site.

ProtestKea

A cheerful, young woman there explained to me that they especially want to prevent construction of a newly proposed 18-story high observatory. She handed me a printed page which was quite professional-looking and concise, with an explanation of their We Are Mauna Kea objectives. My reading of it later unearthed another objection of theirs– the disruption/excavation of 8 acres and 64,000 cubic yards of public lands. The basis of their protest is stated with several points listed. The first one is:

Mauna Kea is a Wao Akua, a holy realm, a sacred piko.

About an hour later, as we departed that place of instruction and confliction, my heart and mind were disagreeing with each other about the controversy between these two camps of human beings– the Sacred Place Savers who were protesting, and the Knowledge Gatherers who were erecting tall telescopes in order to learn more about the expanding universe.

This is a little bit like the ancient dilemma of mankind: choosing between the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge.

Who is to say what place is sacred?

Who is to say what place is useful?

The protesters’ plaintive objections reminded me of a song I wrote and recorded many years ago. It’s a tuneful lament that touches on this great divide between two different people groups of mankind:

Sitting Bull’s Eyes

I wrote the song In 1978, which was about the same my time my life fell apart in a big way, and I turned to the Creator of the Universe for some help. I then returned to the faith of my fathers and mothers, which is Christ.

As my walk with the Lord through this life has progressed for lo, these many years since that time, I have from time to time studied the sacred places and beliefs of different people. In human history, we can find thousands of incidents of one trive desecrating the sacred places and beliefs of another tribe, or one religion destroying the sacred places of another religion. Rather than trying to cite them all, I’ll just mention one particular example, which is the one I know the most about.

In the history of my own faith heritage, for instance, I find:

~Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar desecrated the Jewish temple in Jerusalem

~Seleucid conquerer Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated that same temple

~Titus the Roman general/emperor destroyed that temple

~Muslims later occupied the sacred mountain in Jerusalem where the temple had stood

~Christians  took that site from the Muslims

~Muslims took it back

~In 1967, the Jewish people regained possession of their sacred temple mount in Jerusalem. But being sensitive to potential destructive forces of politics and religion, they wisely decided to maintain the Muslim ascendancy that had fallen upon that holy place, leaving their own people, the Jews, to pray at the sacred wall beneath.

~Here’s my spiritual attachment to that sacred site in Jerusalem. It started with a man named Paul in the first century AD. He was Jewish, but had a new vision, based on the work of Jesus the Christ. Paul was the primary expositor of the Christian faith (which I later accepted as my own). He traveled all around present-day Lebanon, Turkey, Macedonia, Greece and Rome preaching that the truly sacred place of the most High God is found not in the temples erected by  men, but in the souls of men and women who believe in Jesus the Christ.

Sacred is not found in a place or thing, but in the hearts of men and women who believe, and act in accordance with their faith.

So from my Christian perspective, or perhaps any other person whose values were influenced by being raised in the post-Christian Western culture, who cares about whether a place is sacred or not?

Well, there is a very important attribute of human relationships that I have come to admire when I see it in people: Respect.

Respect for others, and for their traditions. Respect others as you would want to be respected.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaiians of ancient heritage strive without success to prevent the high-tech wizards of our modern age from desecrating their sacred place. Who is going to win out here?

I think you know who will prevail in this Mauna Kea situation. It seems it has always been this way. The strong throw their weight around like bulls in a china shop and destroy all that is holy and sacred of what remains among the indigenous and weakened peoples.

Has it always been this way?

Yes. This is the history of the world as we know it.

Will it always be this way?

Who knows? Not me. But a wise Teacher wrote long ago:

“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”

We shall see about that.

And the greatest Teacher of all said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

But who is a peacemaker anyway? Is it a person who lives peacefully. . . or a person who shuts down troublemakers by imposing peace on their violent schemes?

Whatever your answer to that question is, please consider this: Take it upon yourself as a sacred duty to do the best you can to respect others, and to obtain respect for those who are unable to retain it.

Glass half-Full

People are Looking

September 24, 2015

People are looking for something,

where east meets west,

when bright west is best

and light from east

is least.

HorsCar1

 

People are looking for something

where dark meets light,

oh what an amazing sight

when waning spark

wanes to dark.

HorsCar2

 

People are looking for something

where light meets dark,

maybe go to a park

and watch set of sun,

night begun.

PepleLookn

 

People are looking for something

where west meets east;

east was a brightening feast;

until west becomes best

for the day’s rest.

BriteFace

Glass half-Full

The Delicate and the Dead

September 23, 2015

This delicate hangs in morning light,

suspended in some spider’s spun delight,

a wispy statement of fragile beauty,

from some web-based arachnid cutie.

SpidWeb

This dead was laid upon a lava shore,

upended by the ocean’s roar;

’twas sturdy structure, now skeletal wood,

struck down by nature because it could.

Dedwood

The delicate and the dead are opposites in nature,

like Libs and Cons in a legislature.

If men could do anything and make it last,

some other men would squelch it fast.

That’s just the way it is in this world,

like a flag that’s furled and then unfurled.

It’s just a worldly fact: and then it goes back,

and then it goes back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlIdx-FBjXA

 

King of Soul

Life is grand on the strand

September 22, 2015

As I wander lonely on the strand

in sun and sky and surf and sand

I find a place I had not planned

to encounter in this island land.

RockSand

 

Now when we encounter something unplanned

which then becomes the matter at hand

and then it starts to make adverse demand

upon our life so carefully planned,

TreeCrag

 

surely then we must renew our plan,

so we won’t fall and be buried in the sand

and maybe fail again and again.

That’s just the way it is:

SunsetSea

 ain’t life grand?

 

Glass half-Full

The Fed: Will they or won’t they?

September 13, 2015

Some say the Fed will raise the rate;

some say the Fed will wait.

From what I’ve seen of our economic state,

I think that either way is great.

But if the Fed wants to make a move

that everybody will approve,

then let them raise it up a point or two.

Or. . . just a quarter point will do.

 

Glass half-Full

From Munich to Hormuz

September 12, 2015

In his 1972 journalistic opus, The Best and the Brightest,

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Brightest-Kennedy-Johnson-Administrations/dp/0330238477/

David Halberstam quotes President Lyndon Johnson, who made a speech on July 28, 1965, which included these words:

 

“We did not choose to be the guardians at the gate, but there is no one else.

“Nor would surrender in Vietnam bring peace, because we learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression. The battle  would be renewed in one country and then another country, (and) bring with it perhaps even larger and crueler conflict, as we have learned from the lessons of history.”

 

What history actually brought, in the years that followed, was this lesson:  the “larger and crueler conflict” of which LBJ spoke happened anyway, in spite of our confident, prolonged military efforts to arrest communist aggression in southeast Asia beginning in 1965.

The best laid plans of mice and men never work out as they were planned. This is the tragedy of human government, and even perhaps, of human history itself.

On that press conference occasion in 1965, President Johnson was announcing an escalation of the war in Vietnam, with new troop deployments increasing from 75,000 to 125,000. The total number of American soldiers eventually  sent to fight in Vietnam, before the conflagration ended in 1975, would far surpass that 125,000 that he was announcing on that fateful day.

If you go back and study what wars and negotiative agreements were forged between the leaders of nations in the 20th-century, you will see that our species has a long record of hopeful expectations for peace and safety that failed to manifest in the triumphant ways that we had expected.

After World War I, the victorious Allies, congregating in Versailles, France, went to great lengths to construct a peace deal that would last. . . that would last, as they hoped, in a way that would render their armisticed Great War to be the War to End all Wars.

A few years later, a foxy German dictator named Hitler worked himself into a position of systematically and stealthily destroying that Treaty of Versailles.

When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler in 1938, and worked out a peace agreement which would allow Hitler to obscond Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain returned to London with the now infamous assessment, Peace in our time!

Look what happened after that.

That failed Munich agreement is the one to which President Johnson referred in his 1965 escalation speech. As quoted above, he mentioned what “we learned from Hitler at Munich.”

What historical lesson did we learn from history as a result of Chamberlain’s naivete at Munich?

Maybe this: You cannot always, if ever, trust your enemy. Especially if the arc of history is rising in his (the enemy’s) direction. Which it was (rising), like it or not, for Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich in 1938.

Years later, after Hitler and his Nazi terrorizers had scared the hell out of most everybody in the civilized world, the postwar scenario unearthed in WWII’s ashes  revealed this: a new ideological death-struggle between the Capitalist West and and the spectre of advancing Communism.

During that postwar period–1940s through the 1970s or ’80s–the rising fear that dominated both sides (Capitalist vs Communist) became an obsession for many national leaders. On both sides,  brave men and women were called, and took upon themselves, the perilous burden of defending themselves and their own against the horrible deprivations of the other side.

I grew up during that time. And I can tell you this: At that time, the fears about “Communism” were very real and threatening to many, if not most, Americans. And I daresay that massive fear of “the enemy” was dominant on the Soviet side as it was for us.

Then History threw us a real curve in the late 1940s when Mao and the Chinese communists ran (our man) Chiang Kai-shek out of the mainland (to Taiwan) and established their Asian version of what the Soviets were attempting to establish in eastern Europe.

This Chinese Communist threat is what our national leaders greatly feared in the 1950s and ’60s, when we began to fear the spread of Maoist communism into what remained of (largely third-world) southeast Asia.

Long story short, this fear and loathing of creeping Chinese communism is what got us into, and eventually sucked us into, the war in Vietnam.

Now we all know how that turned out.

What is happening in the world today is not unlike what was happening then. It’s all slouching toward unpredictable, though predictably tragic, human history.

For us in the West now, the great fear is what life would be like under the domination of Islamic Jihad, which is to say, ISIS, or the Islamic Republic of Iran, or Al-qaida, or whatever stronghold ultimately controls that emerging world military threat. (I’m not talking about the “good Muslims”, whoever they may be.)

Hence, many folks today, me included, do not trust any arrangement that our President and/or Secretary of State could set up with Iran. We do remember, as LBJ alluded to, “Munich.”

But we also remember Vietnam, which began–as President’s Johnson escalation speech reference attests– as a military effort to prevent another “Munich” outcome.

In our present time, ever present in our mind is Iraq; we see what is happening there now, after we went to all that blood, sweat and tears to secure that nation against Sadamic Sunni abuse and/or Khomeini Shiite totalitarianism.

As Churchill did not trust Hitler, while Chamberlain did trust him: our principle ally Netanyahu does not trust Khameini and the Iranians, while Obama does trust them.

Back in the 1930s-’40s, which assessment was correct? Churchill’s.

In our present situation, which assessment of Iranian motives is correct, Netanyahu’s or Obama’s?

To try and  figure out–as historical precedent and historical possibility bears down upon us– how our contemporary peace efforts will play out in the chambers and killing fields of power, is like. . .well. . . The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

And we are now, as we were then, on the eve of certain destruction.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntLsElbW9Xo

Did we survive the last time? Did the free world survive?

You tell me.

 

Smoke

Bozo the Clown

September 6, 2015

Here’s a nice pic of the Chicago River, looking west from the Michigan Ave. bridge. There’s Bozo the Clown’s place on the right.

ChicRivr