HAL, Family, and Dark Aloha (January 2017)

Farewell 2016…and what a year it was. While “post truth” was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, reflecting the state of things moral, the physical world bent several degrees closer to the norms of Blade Runner, Gattica, and the Island of Dr. Moreau. Not following? Chew on these precedent-setting firsts that emerged this past year:

  • A robot was used by U.S. police to kill a suspect (Dallas, TX);
  • An autonomous security droid injured a civilian human in a public place (Stanford, CA);
  • The first human fatality in a robot (driverless) car (Williston, FL);
  • A European Parliament committee granted legal status to some robots as “electronic persons” with rights and obligations.
  • An aerial drone was used to deliver a package to a residential address (Cambridge, U.K.);
  • North Dakota legalized police weaponization of drones–Tasers, pepper spray, rubber bullets;
  • China made DNA samples a requirement for obtaining passports for some citizens;
  • The U.S. Government authorized the release into the wild of genetically engineered mosquitoes;
  • An international research team created the first viable human-animal hybrid, a true chimera, using pigs.
  • The first human having DNA from 3 different adults as “parents” was born.


Given that classic science fiction has long served as guidepost to the prudent handling of things futuristic, be they ideas or tools, I suppose it is time to dust off some Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Gene Rodenberry.  Are we witnessing the result of academia’s sacrifice of philosophy on the altar of STEM?

Enough of this depressing gibberish!  Back to our Hawaiian homestead hijinks…

Life on an island with four live volcanoes…

Expanded Cast and Crew

imageBoy Wonder. The lad was all about “back to the earth” this month. He kicked off helping around the mini-farm of a church friend, went on to process some 80-pounds of banana into vinegar starts, harvested some edible sea cucumbers from the shore, captured the neighbor’s stray goat before it ate our nursery plants, and topped off the period helping others in the community butcher a wild pig. He also slipped off to the mall with friends on occasion, went cliff diving, and secured most of the last of the parts needed to build his personal computer. Fully embracing his youth, this one… Oh! And he turned 17.

imageThe Jester. Taking a queue from her paternal DNA contributor, this one started doing a little copywriting work for pay and got her first piece accepted outright, no editing required. Her seasonal job at the mall turned into a permanent position, and she moved our homestead sales gig (seeds, saplings, vinegar, etc.) to a larger and more robust farmer’s market downtown, making triple our normal income on the first day. She continued to piddle with the guitar, but still no progress on getting to an open mic night…

imageClan Elders. The Bride’s parents touched down on island for a six-week stay. A whale watching excursion got them out into the Big Blue for a day, while church gatherings reconnected them with our church friends, whom they had met on their last island visit.  A few Chinese New Year’s meals allowed them to welcome in the next lunar cycle, and a vulcanology lecture and tour of a live volcano’s caldera got them up to speed on things geologic.  A little beach time, some miscellaneous outings, and plenty of catching up with the grand kids filled out their stay during this time.

imageMaster Rapscallion. Beyond the ole day job (which granted me a small raise and a small award this month), I celebrated a birthday at Hilo Burger Joint, made some good nursery sales (sweet potato, mostly), and–along with my lovely lady–was invited by the local community college to cobble together outlines for three classes that we will teach, leveraging our professional backgrounds. I started taking off one day a week (making for three-day weekends) for the duration of the in-laws’ six-week visit, injecting some extra rest and decompression time into the month’s schedule. Finally, the latest foreign exchange student whom I have placed on Isand arrived from Brazil and settled in with a family only 2 miles away from us.

imageThe Lady. Translation, and now transcription, work were the order of the day. She also decided to take the language skills solo, and began setting up a translation service of her own to cater to the increasing number of Chinese who are visiting and moving to the island. Her efforts to propagate mamaki–a valued medicinal plant that grows on our property–finally bore fruit with the sprouting of 150 saplings (hard buggers to germinate).

imageTiny. This one underwent her first martial arts belting ceremony, to grant the new rank resulting from last month’s tests. She decided this month, on her own, to tackle Steven Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.” (I continue to doubt that the child is human.) Soup kitchen work, bottling her own version of the ubiquitous local condiment known as  “chili peppa’ water,” homeschooling, and lots of pre-teen whining rounded out her month.

imageSlim. Shady finally got another job! She will now work with a Thai produce vendor at one of our many farmer’s markets, mostly cleaning and prepping the produce the night before market. Meanwhile, Japanese language class seems to have caught her fancy this semester.

imageFifth Child. Due to an unexpected medical emergency in the host family of one of the exchange students I supervise, the student–who is fast becoming a fixture on this monthly blog–landed back in our temporary house for several days. Fortuitously, it was her 18th birthday and, in good ole American fashion, we celebrated with a clam bake, chocolate cake, and time at the shore.

Down on the Farm

We have walls!

The clown show never ends. The wall of our yurt, long in storage with Yurts of Hawaii, was opened and put in place only to find that there are small punctures along 1/4 of its length–an area protecting our bathroom and bedroom. The company has agreed to patch these without charge. (You may recall that the roof, also in storage with Yurts of Hawaii, was so badly–and inexplicably–damaged it had to be replaced through the warranty.)

We have front porch stairs!

Meanwhile, our independent builders completed the steps and railing of our front porch as we wait for the final drafting tweaks required for the rest of the structure. We planted a dozen or so ti plants of various color along the driveway, planted the yard around the residence with perennial peanut (a clover looking ground cover that needs no mowing), harvested some mamaki to fulfill an order, and took stock of additional wild pig damage (several pineapple plants now gone).

We have a yard!

But the real fun is in the money. Construction funds eaten up by unexpected rent and storage fees during more than two years of delays– caused by project management buffoonery that is all so common here–we are forced to turn to lenders to secure the scratch we now need to finish the residence. The challenge is that we have already begun construction–most conventional lenders do not have debt instruments to deal with such a situation and some of the nonconventional lenders appear only slightly better than shylocks. I am exploring the establishment of my own farmer-themed exotic dancing tour agency, catering to elderly Japanese women tourists, to raise some fast cash (remember the Producers?), but I may need to shed a few pounds first. Any angel investors or crowd funding devotees out there?


(Ever thought about developing a more sustainable lifestyle?  How about growing more of your own food?  Curious about composting, canning, or other life skills?  Does organic food, solar power, or DIY tickle your fancy?  Your education begins by clicking here.)

Sundry Bits

imageYear of the Rooster. “Double Happiness” is common Chinese theme and, so–like last year–we celebrated the lunar new year twice. On the Eve, we were joined at the only semi-authentic Chinese restaurant in town by a family from our church. On the Day, we journeyed to a Chinese friend’s home to ring in the New Year with a Chinese style pot luck (we contributed ginger-scallion-sesame fish).

imageChicago. No, not the live Broadway musical (opening in 1975) or the Richard Gere movie adaptation (2002). I’m talking about the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille silent film, based on the original 1926 play, which was based on real female criminals in the early 1920s. The Bride and I, accompanied by mom and dad, headed back to our historic theater for a night of live organ and black-and-white depictions of an era long gone. A wholesome way to decompress and reflect, no?

Uncured vanilla beans on the vine.

Vanilla. Surely you recall the glory days of Vanilla Ice and Milli Vanilli, but did you know that the only commercial (albeit boutique) vanilla farm in the United States is here on the Big Island? This month, we rounded up the grandparents and two youngest kids for a grand tour of this establishment, including a 5-course meal in which every item contained vanilla. (We have two vanilla orchid vines on our property.)  The proprietors came here 20 years ago, no background in farming, to “grow kids” (homeschooled, the kids entered college at 16).  Hmm…  I’ve heard a story like this before…

The Other Side of Aloha

imageThe madness never ends in this tropical wonderland. For instance, did you know that, since 2010, more elderly pedestrians have been killed in Hawaii than in any other state?

imageNo? Well, then, have you seen the WalletHub survey of Best and Worst States to Live in 2017? Hawaii came in overall at 33rd in the nation, but was 41st in affordability, 41st in Family Fun, and 36th in Health and Safety.

A surprisingly common occurrence across the isles…

imageMeanwhile, according to the Hawaii Free Press, based on 2013-2014 statistics (the most current available), Hawaii ranked #2 in the nation for the number of arrests of K-12 students, with 769 taken into custody during that single academic year.

The fallacy of Kona joe…
Squatting is a common problem here.

This month, we also learned that Hawaii has the lowest wages and benefits in the nation for non-government workers (according to a US Bureau of Economic Analysis), and that the largest Kona coffee company, Mountain Thunder Coffee, has shuttered its shop, having been in bankruptcy since late last year (when we lost the largest banana producer on the island to its owner’s dreams of instead growing marijuana). An agricultural dystopia, this place…

…while many other Hawaii residents use commercial grade glyphosate on their lawns…

imageimageFinally, in the category of “Pick Your Favorite Banana Republic,” this month a federal grand jury began investigating our chief of police for assorted wrongdoing.  And…to add to our shortage of teachers (100 vacancies when school began in the Fall) we now have a critical shortage of doctors.

Welcome to the islands…


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