Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

A Boomer Looks Back

September 5, 2016

VietMem2

Now that I’ve been growing up for 65 years, I am at last approaching some semblance of adulthood.

During the course of my baby’boomer lifetime, I have seen some changes; some of them I am actually starting to comprehend.

Now I look back on it all and find myself wondering about some things, but quite sure about some other things.

Several years ago, my wife and I spent some vacation time on the island of Maui, in the great state of Hawaii. While driving one afternoon down the western slope of Hale’akala volcano, we happened upon a memorial to a great man named Sun Yat-sen.

In his lifetime, during the early 20th century–1911, Sun lead many of his countrymen in a revolution that deposed the old monarchy of their country–the Chinese Qing dynasty. But before that happened, he had spent some time in Hawaii; that’s why there’s as statue of him there.

At the base of Sun Yat-sen’s memorial a quote from him is carved in the stone, and this is what is said:

LOOK INTO THE NATURE OF THINGS

Ever since I saw that, I have been working that pearl of wisdom into my way of living as much as I can. And this principle of living and learning has been not only a motivation for me toward acquiring useful knowledge, but also a source of great joy and satisfaction.

This principle is expanded in the Proverbs of the Bible: Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it. Proverbs 16:22.

Now this may seem like a philosophical idea, but it is really very productive in the living of real life. Here’s a nuts n’ bolts example:

In 1992, when I was still a young man of 41, working as a carpenter to provide for our three children, and for my wife who had not yet become a nurse, and for our household, I took a job with a construction company remodeling (a refurb job) an old K-Mart. My job was to tear old stuff out from around the inside perimeter of the store and replace it with a newer style of retail display.

I had been visiting K-Marts ever since I was a teenager in the 1960’s. So I had been seeing those retail structures for most of my life. But to look behind the facade, into the structure, and then to reconstruct the structure based on newer, more modern components–this work experience held a strange satisfaction for me, as well as a source of income for a season of our life.

Working on that K-Mart was more than a paycheck; it was a joy to behold as the various phases of reconstruction unfolded beneath my hands and before my eyes.

Look into the nature (or structure) of things!

Many years have passed; now I’m looking back on it all. Part of the outcome from this reflection will be a novel that I am now researching and writing. It is a story that takes place during the time of my youth; it has become a cathartic process for reconciling the difference between what I thought I knew then and what I now know about that turbulent period of my g-generation’s growing up.

Ours was the generation whose maturing was said to be delayed because Dr. Spock wrote a book about child care that–as some have judged it–convinced our mothers to spoil us.

While there may be an element of truth to that judgement, I have noticed in my conversations with some people lately that there is category of folks in our boomer generation who were definitely not spoiled:

Those guys and gals who fulfilled their duty to our country by going to fight the war in Vietnam–they found themselves in a situation where they had to grow up in one hell of a hurry.

What I am seeing now is, in my g-generation, there was a great divide between: Them that went, and them that didn’t.

While I was college freshman in 1969, trying to figure out what life was all about, and marching against the war, those guys who who went to ‘Nam were required–and yeah I say unto thee–forced to figure out how to keep life pumping through their bodies and the bodies of their buddies who fought with them.

Those soldiers who went over there had to grow up a lot quicker than I did.

I did not go to Vietnam. My lottery number in 1970 was 349, so I literally “lucked out” of it.

During that time, a time when I was stepping lightly through ivory-tower lala land, our soldiers on the other side of the world were trudging through jungles, heavy-laden with weapons and survival gear. While I was privileged to be extending my literacy skills,  they were committed to learning how to kill the enemy before he kills “us.”

Now it turns out my research about the ’60’s is swirling around two undeniable maelstroms of socio-political showdown: civil rights and the Vietnam war.

So, in my project of looking into the nature of things in the 1960’s, I am learning about that war and how it came to be a major American (undeclared) war instead of just a civil war between Vietnamese.

One thing I have found is that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara undertook a similar project in 1965. When he was in the thick of it all–as one of the best and brightest industrial leaders of that age, having been recruited as an insider in the White House, then calling the shots on major events, wielding incredible military power on the other side of the planet, in the heat of the moment and in the fog of war, he found himself wanting to know. . .

how the hell did this happen? how the hell did we get here?

McNamara’s question lead to a .gov-commissioned research project, paid for on our taxpayer dime, and ultimately made public by the primary researcher of that undertaking, a former Marine Lt. Col. named Daniel Ellsberg.

Look deep into it. In Ellsberg’s case he looked deep into 7000 pages of military documentation, starting in the 1940’s and going all the way through Tonkin Gulf in 1964.

Look into the nature of things.

I’ll let you know in another year or two–when the book is done– what my search dredges up from the streets and battlefields of our g-generation’s  search to find meaning and fulfillment, and maybe even a little justice and mercy thrown in.

But one thing I want to say, now, to THEM THAT WENT:

Although things did not turn out the way we had intended, there isn’t much in this life that actually does end up like we thought it would.

You went and did what the USA asked, or compelled you, to do, while many of us were trying to pull you back to stateside.

Thank you for your service. We’ll need many more of your stripe before its all over with.

Glass half-Full

Listen: Boomer’s Choice

The Brightness

October 2, 2015

I snapped this pic yesterday at sunset on Hapuna beach:

SSetBrite

What fascinates me here is the brightness of the sun’s reflection. Both the sun and its reflection on the ocean water are captured in the photo, making the sun’s effect on the image doubly bright.

There’s one source of light, the sun, the appearance of which is made twice as intense by its reflection on the surf.

It’s funny what this made me think of–a scene in the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.

When I was in college at LSU, many and many a year ago, I went to a road-cast presentation of that incredibly expressive musical play. It blew me away.

Which is to say. . .I enjoyed it very much. The music therein is an incredible piece of work, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. I think those guys wrought a new genre at that time–a thing called rock opera, which was as fresh and new in 1971 as, say, the original opera genre was for Italians back in the day when Verdi was composing great emotive arias with incredible cadenzas and powerful ensemble singing scenes.

Among the many amazing scenes in that play is one that endures in my memory even to this day. It’s a dim recollection, in the sense that I can’t recall exactly which scene it was; but I do remember there, in the scene, there was some kind of exquisitely choreographed crescendo of frantic motion and dissonant voices, disintegrating musically into librettic confusion and wild cacophony,  when suddenly–a presence, a dramatic presence, accompanied by overpowering musical intervention, personified by the entrance of some powerful entity, maybe a king or a gifted leader. . .the entrance of the man, Jesus, eclipsed all the singers’ disintegrating harmony as the superstar of the show arrived upon the scene.

A bright light overpowering darkness.

Here’s a version of the scene that I found online:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG1JWJFGfOU

When I ponder what happened in that scene at the Temple in Jerusalem, I think of it this way, as the prophet Isaiah had foretold, in the 60th chapter of his prophetic writing:

“Nations will come to your light, and kings

to the brightness of your rising. . .”

The brightness of his presence eclipsed their depravity.

And that overpowering illumination is what I thought of when I viewed the sunset pic, which I inserted at the top of this here blogpost.

As for the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, I consider it a musical work of absolute genius, but I do have one problem with the play. . .

no Resurrection scene.

About seven years after I was blown away by  that awesome musical stage production, I arrived at a point in my life when I came to believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, and he will come again, as Messiah for all the world, and on that day. . .

Nations will come to his light, and great men and women will be drawn to the brightness of his coming.

You believe that?

Whether you do or not, watch a video of Jesus Christ Superstar. Then decide for yourself whether there should be a Resurrection scene. I hope you can rise to the occasion.

 

Glass half-Full

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