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Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL


Nothing to do with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, nor The Bad and The Beautiful, the former film with Clint Eastwood, and the latter with Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner.  But for future reference, consider that Rotten Tomatoes gave TGTBTU 97 ratings for both reviewers and audiences, while TBTB scored 96/85.  But those terms well describe my visit to Kona thus far.

First, this summer looms to be good, bad and, maybe, beautiful, but not for Donald Trump.  Depending where you are, north or south hemisphere, your solstice just passed, meaning you already experienced your longest/shortest day of the year.

Perhaps our President learned something.  He has kept hands off the assassination of Obamacare in the U.S. Senate so that he is not blamed for another failure.   Protesters are not lining the White House nor any Trump hotel.  But that will yet come by Labor Day on a range of other controversies.

There is a difference between good and beautiful, for you can be beautiful and bad, or good and ugly. You can also be beautiful and good, as are most of us.  I'll begin with some beautiful photos from my hotel room, with an enjoyable breakfast in the Kaiulu Lounge:


See that white spot on the horizon on the top photo?  That's the Pride of America moored off my next hotel, King Kamehameha, a distance of seven miles.  However, another shot showed the volcanic air pollution affecting this region, a definite bad:


I caught the Kona Trolley, which is free for Sheraton hotel guests,  otherwise $2 every time you get on, to the Keauhou Shopping Center, to have lunch at Sam Choy's Kai Lanai.  I was surprised to learn that it has been around since 2011.

Portuguese sausage, fish and eggs with rice, a salad, plus glasses of chardonnay and beer.  The view was spectacular, so this meal was both good and beautiful.


I noticed several birds eyeing my meal, with an owl statue behind the palm.  I was thinking of getting one of those to scare away the birds on my lanai.  The waitress said it doesn't work:


Way in the background to the left is the Sheraton Kona, about a mile away.  Here is an example of something that could be good, bad or beautiful, depending on your point of view:


Sam Choy must either love or hate marlins.

I then bought a bottle of beer, some potato chips and spicy Italian Subway for my sunset dinner on my room lanai, then re-boarded the trolley into Kailua-Kona town:


That's a grass shack on the grounds of the Courtyard Marriott King Kam.

Well, dinner on my lanai did not work out so well.  First of all, it rained so I could not see any sun setting.  I sat on my chair and did not realize the cushion was soaked.  The rained had stopped so I set up my meal:


The wine came from the club lounge.  Just as I began eating, with a wet bottom, the rains re-came, and, so quickly, that the potato chips got soggy.  So, no doubt, this was a bad meal, again, when you include yesterday night.

Which returns me to the Sheraton Kona, where just six months ago all was fine.  So much of value, in fact, that I decided to return.  The problem is once you find a fault, you seek others, and, maybe, the problem is me...but:
  • On check-in, my room was not ready, so I waited.  They took my cell phone number and said they'd call me.  Never did.  Two hours later I inquired, and was told the room was available.
  • I was looking forward to a sunset dinner at Ray's on the Bay, so I called the concierge.  She said it was closed and that she was with a customer so will call me back for other options.  An hour and a half later, I finally went down to check.  There was no concierge on duty.  Later in the day I saw someone there so I asked again.  Ray's had just closed for re-construction, so I made a reservation for Ainakai at 6:30, requesting an ocean view.  As a Platinum member, I had a card that insured for a premium table.
    • I showed up at 6:30, and the place was well crowded.  I was taken to a particularly terrible location, so I said I had inquired for an ocean view.  I happened to spot one table available at the window that seemed to be unoccupied.  After a lot of hemming and hawing, I was reluctantly taken there, disgruntling the staffer.
    • It took forever to get my meal.  But I could understand their dilemma, for this was only the second night of opearation.
    • But there were flies.  A lot of flies.  The last time my blog reported on this problem, I was at the Four Seasons Koele on Lanai.  Soon thereafter, the whole hotel was closed for re-conditioning and won't reopen until late 2018.
  • I inquired about a local newspaper and the response was that some are left at the check-in desk table in the morning, and first come, first served.  Nothing was available even for purchase.  No West Hawaii Today, no Star-Advertiser...but something that looked like a Japanese language newspaper.  The closest to getting anything English was a store in the shopping center, a mile walk uphill.  The second morning I went, and nothing.  In all Sheraton executive lounges, they normally have a lot of copies.  Here, none.  They usually deliver me a morning paper, and they don't do this here.
  • The check-in desk staffer was surly, and the staff now very uneven.  Some great, many not.
  • The internet service comes and goes.  Midway through my stay I had to work with a technical services person located somewhere else in the world, who, after more than half an hour later, got me going again.  Same thing happened the second day.
  • The elevators need to be re-conditioned.
  • The rugs are here and there spotty, if not dangerous.
  • The volcanic haze is a problem in this part of the island.  Not terrible, but, in the long term, I would expect respiratory problems to occur.
  • One of the pillows smelled, very badly.
  • The hair dryer had no heat.
  • The plumbing is faulty, with the water flow too low, and not hot enough water.  The toilet water level is too high, which can lead to body contact, to put it nicely, if you are a male.
  • My entrance door takes a full body push to open.
Something is terribly wrong with this hotel.  I suspect the transition to Marriott ownership is the reason.  The location is great if you want to be isolated.  The views are wonderful.  Everything else is going haywire.  That's bad.

Tomorrow, on to the Okinawa-Hawaii OTEC gathering.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'M IN KAILUA-KONA

FOR THOSE WHO CAME TO THIS BLOG SITE WISHING TO CONTINUE READING MY E-BOOK, PEARL'S ASHES, I PUSH THAT OFF TO THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY IF I'M ON A TRIP....WHICH AM NOW.  Sorry.  Return next Wednesday for Jindai Botanical Garden and Pearl's statue.

It was raining in Honolulu when I left, here, a clouded-over Diamond Head below:


I flew Hawaiian Airlines to Kona:


Caught SpeediShuttle to the Sheraton Kona.  Got a grand suite with ocean and golf course views:


Kailua-Kona (there is another Kailua on Oahu) has around 12,000 people, and is noted for:
  • coffee
  • manta rays
  • billfish tournament
  • Iron Man World Championship
You know about Kona coffee, so let me go on to mantas, where the Sheraton Kona page says:

Picture a large, shadow-like creature gliding like an acrobat through crystal clean ocean water.  Hauntingly beautiful and graceful, what is it you have seen? You have seen a manta ray, the largest of the ray species, reaching wing spans up to twenty feet and weighing as much as 3,000 pounds. Guests are able to observe mantas most evenings from the lanai (balcony) of several of our ocean front guest rooms or from a special viewing area near Rays on the Bay.

That fishing tournament has expanded:
  • June 24-25:  Kona Kickoff, with cash prizes for marlin, ahi, ono and mahimahi
  • June 28-29:  Marlin Migic Lures
  • July 1-2:       Firecracker Open, awards for biggest marlin and ahi
  • July 4:          33rd Annual Blue Marline World Cup
  • July 4-6:       Kona Throwdown for the largest marlin
  • July 7-9:       Skins Marlin Derby for the largest marlin each day over 500 pounds (which carries over to the next day if none caught)
Mind you, there is that 58th Annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, from September 9-17.  I've long felt uncomfortable with events like bull-fighting and whaling.  I do go fishing, and don't suffer any guilt.  Must be the size and endangered nature of the beast.  A 1,368 pound blue marlin was caught two years ago, next to largest caught here, a 1,376 pounder in 1982.  The biggest ever on rod and reel, known as Choy's Monster, goes back to 1970 off Oahu, weighing in at 1805 pounds (left).

More and more there is a fish and catch mentality, but the cruelty of the sport is the quandary.  Plus, after hours of battle it is dubious whether the fish will survive if let go.

I identify most with the Ironman Triathlon.  It was almost 40 years ago that Judy and John Collins organized the first Ironman, 140.6 miles long, combining:
  • Waikiki Rough Water Swim
  • bike ride around Oahu 
  • full marathon
Judy was working for me at the University of Hawaii, and I tried to talk them out of it, for I thought this was crazy and dangerous.  Well, no one died in 1978 and the event was in time moved to Kona, keeping the bike distance of 112 miles.  

For the record, I was unfortunately right.  One hundred and nine competitors have died, but the rate is "only" 1.5 deaths for every 100,000 participants, about double that of marathons, mostly during the 2.4 mile swimming leg.  We still get together every few years to discuss their monumental contribution to sports.  Here, we're having brunch at Michel's.

So, anyway, I went up to the Kaiulu Club Lounge for free wine and beer:


I get this all free as a Platinum member.  Gold's need to pay $50/day, and others $75/day.  This is per room, so those with many in the room are smart to take this option, for breakfast is also free.  Thus, the tranquility that was here the last time I stayed was gone.  There were assorted children all over the place.  Six gray parrots entertained me.  Can you find them?

I wanted a nice sunset dinner at Ray's on the Bay.  It closed for refurbishment yesterday and won't open for another month, at least.  The only option was next door, Ainakai, a restaurant not even mentioned on the official Sheraton Kona page, and in the past was used for breakfasts, mostly tour groups.

It was clear that the kitchen and staff couldn't keep up with the customer load.  However, the ribs and Caesar salad came, and they were okay:


All in all, this was a mixed day.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DONALD TRUMP VERSUS EMMANUEL MACRON


Froma Harrop had a delightful op-ed yesterday, comparing Donald Trump, 71,  with Emmanuel Macron, 39, the new French president.  Like Trump, this was Macron's first attempt at elective office.

Let me get this out of the way first.  While still in high school at the age of 15, he formed a "relationship" with Brigitte Auziere, a married teacher of three.  She got divorced and married him in 2007.  He is 24 years younger than her.  Donald Trump is 24 years older than Melania.

Comparison:
                                           Trump               Macron

Economy/Politics           Conservative  Liberal/Socialist

Russia                            Pals                 Hostile

Immigration                   Purity              Open door

Global warming             Hoax               Important

Paris Agreement            Pulled Out      Strong backer

Energy                           Fossil Fuels    Nuclear

Music                                   ?               Accomplished pianist

I could have added to the mix Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, eldest son of former PM Pierre Trudeau.  Justin is 46, liberal, pro-immigration, concerned about global warming, pro-women's rights, and three years older than his wife.

How did the USA elect a leader who bows to Russia, insults Mexicans and Muslims, and calls global warming a hoax and women pigs, and worse?

Today I leave for the Big Island, mostly to participate in an Okinawa-Hawaii symposium on ocean thermal energy conversion, but also to dawdle.  I just decided not to bring my golf clubs, mostly because the bag would be a hassle to move around.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

WHAT I DID ON FATHER'S DAY

The first father to have a day was St. Joseph, "father" of Jesus Christ.  Catholic's have celebrated March 19 since the Middle Ages, but to conform to biblical reality, Joseph was Nutritor Domini, or Nourisher of the Lord.  The first Father's Day in the USA is said to have been 5 July 1908, at a Methodist Church in West Virginia, mourning for the loss of 250 fathers killed in the Monongah Mining Disaster.

Harry Meek of Lions Club International claimed to have originally come up with the idea in 1915, and he picked the third Saturday in June because that was his birthday.  However, Father's Day was largely ignored for half a century because Americans viewed this to be an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day.  

It was in 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, keeping that third Saturday in June.  President Richard Nixon signed Father's Day into law in 1972.  Mother's Day, incidentally, also was first celebrated in 1908.

15 Craigside has a special Father's Day dinner, but that usually involves families, plus, my Sunday Night Table was pre-booked, without me.  So I went to two female-dominated films:

                                       Rotten Tomatoes
                                   Reviewers  Audiences  My Rating  Box Office Mojo

     Rough Night              50%           44%            B                  #7

     Wonder Woman         92%           92%            B-                #2

Rough Night was gross, R-rated and entertaining, although critics did not like it, and audiences, too.  Of the four new films this weekend, this one scored the worst at the box office.  Sort of the female version of The Hangover.  Scarlett Johansson stars, and you're now familiar with Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live.  Demi Moore was supposedly in the movie, but I can't remember her at all.  

I might add that Judd Apatow's The Big Sick is opening next Friday, rated 97%/93% by Rotten Tomatoes.  Also to open is In Pursuit of Silence, RT 93%/98%, a documentary of meditative exploration, beginning with an ode to John Cage.

With all the hype and success, I was disappointed with Wonder Woman.  My problem is that I just don't like comic book films, especially if super powers are featured.  I would have been okay if WM was only a fabulous Amazon, but she flies and stuff, although there is a vague reference to an invisible plane in the media.  But being a daughter of Zeus, what else could I have expected.  I vaguely recalled Lynda Carter playing her on TV.  Wonder Woman is 75 years old, and, finally, a featured film starring Israeli Gal Gadot, with a female director, Patty Jenkins.  Chris Pine was the male lead.  

Wonder Woman last year in October became a United Nations honorary ambassador (left, Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot) for the empowerment of women and girls, but was stripped on this title in December for a lack of cultural sensitivity, whatever that means.  WW was such a box office smash, though, that there will be a WW2.

After my so-so afternoon of viewing, I just had to balance that with a fantastic dinner on my lanai.  Things started well with fluffy clouds:


Mochiko chicken with onions, chu-toro sashimi, kinpira (burdock or gobo dish), miso soup and rice with beer, sake and red wine.  Not a particularly wonderful Father's Day if cirrus clouds were the highlight.

The Dow Jones Industrials hit another all-time high, up 145 to 21529.  The S&P 500 also surpassed its historic high, up 20 to 2453.  Why?  Wish I knew, but this escalation surely helps my endowments.

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