Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Audio Doesn't Equal the Video.

The hearing aids that I got in 2018 have been very helpful.

Every day speech with real people is comfortably decipherable--by the way, have you noticed that old people frequently mumble? that's a subject for another day--but for television I often still must turn on closed captioning. More people with normal hearing are also using the feature.
“If you have people talking or shouting during the adventure scenes, the explode-y sounds are way higher than the dialogue,” said Melanie Brooks, a 43-year-old professional musician in Boston. Catching some of the lines in her favorite fantasy and adventure TV series is hard without captions, she added.

People tend to blame their flat-screen TVs for bad sound. The tube TVs of decades past had front-facing speakers that sent audio toward you, while new, super-thin models have speakers that are behind the screen or point downward, bouncing sound away from you. But your TV is just one of the culprits.

The rest of the problem lies within virtually every other step of the audio process, from a studio’s production choices to the device used to watch the content, said Richard Nevens, senior director of audio-hardware product management at Avid Technology, which specializes in audio- and video-editing tools.
Movie sound technology has outstripped the capabilities of the speakers on home devices, including TV's.

It's a relief that I don't have to upgrade my hearing equipment.

Meanwhile, I'll be setting closed captioning to "on."

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Day of Departure

The cup leaked badly
On the day before my return to San Francisco I cleaned out the fridge, reviewed Mom's tax records, and filled up the gas tank. The next morning was scheduled for laundry, packing the suitcase, and visiting Mom.

But the first thing on the agenda was to walk to the Waikiki Starbucks, which had become part of the daily routine.

That part didn't go well. After a few minutes coffee dripped down my hands and onto my shoes. I checked the lid several times, but it turns out that there was a pinhole leak on the bottom. Auwe!

From the McCully 7-Eleven
After dumping the rest of the cup I stopped by a 7-Eleven to buy an Azuki Bean scone, regretting briefly the enthusiasm for disposing of some tasty leftovers the night before.

Departure day had a few more hiccups: Mom was fast asleep when I stopped at the assisted living facility (we talked on FaceTime the next day, but it wasn't the same), the airport Agricultural-Inspection conveyor belt was broken, causing thousands of pieces of luggage to back up, and not coincidentally my flight was delayed an hour.

It was 45 °F when I arrived at SFO, and out came the jacket that had last been worn when I left San Francisco. I was home.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thankful for the Memories

Today we are thankful for our memories of those who have walked the way with us.

We are thankful that we have become better at distinguishing the important from the unimportant.

And we are thankful that we have learned not to let the unimportant stuff bother us as much.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A Happier Trip

MacBook Air battery had to be done immediately
I have always brought work on vacation.

The habit started in college during my freshman year, when I flew home for the first winter break with the suitcase half-filled with books. My school was on the semester system, which pushed final exams to January.

High-school friends whose colleges were on the quarter system had already completed their finals and had a more fun-filled vacation than I did.

Having cracked open the books on only a couple of occasions that first Christmas, I learned something useful: only bring work that I was absolutely sure I would spend time on. Leave behind anything that could possibly wait.

Speaking of things that couldn't wait, the replacement laptop battery failed disappointingly after one year (the expectation was three). I gave a moment's thought about trying to wangle a free or discounted replacement from the manufacturer, then opted for the speed and simplicity of ordering another one for $45. It arrived the day before departure, when there were a dozen more important things left to do.

And so it was that I spent my first night in Hawaii taking apart the 2014 MacBook Air, putting in the new battery, and screwing it back to together. The battery could run the computer for four hours, and we're good for another year.

Another lesson: getting it done sooner makes for a happier trip

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Few Comestibles

You can't find octopus jerky (right) in California
One of the first shopping expeditions on this Hawaiian trip was to Costco. 90% of the items in Honolulu consisted of goods that were available in California, but I was interested in food, clothing, and gifts that you couldn't get back in my adopted home.

The refrigerated section had lau-lau, poi, kalua pig, Portuguese sausages, and lomi salmon. I picked up a few comestibles to be consumed later on the vacation.

The Hawaii Costco also has seafood jerky that Mainland warehouses don't carry. Fish jerky isn't cheap--between $15 to $20--but I enjoy these much more than beef and pork products that are too heavy and oily for my taste. I threw a couple of packages in the suitcase to bring back.

BTW, I've been shopping at the warehouse stores to buy local products since 2006.

Monday, November 21, 2022

The Rut That I Fall Into

Waikiki's Kalakaua Avenue, like the Las Vegas Strip, is quiet in the early morning. Most of the tourists are still in bed; a few athletic souls under the age of 40 are running along the sidewalks that were packed just ten hours ago.

The Starbucks on Kuhio Avenue opens at 4:30 a.m. It has a steady stream of customers--hotel workers, tourists, and policemen.

One of my favorite pastimes is to stroll the mile from my parents' home to the Starbucks, pick up a coffee, then take a different, longer return route. I'm back by eight, and the whole day is in front of me.

Such is the rut that I fall into when I'm in the Islands, and I've lost the urge to be busier. Don't criticize, dear reader, if you haven't tried it.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Cohabiting in Philadelphia

When our suburban parish created a pre-school in the early 1980's, it was viewed as fulfilling the church's mission "to proclaim the good news" and "care for..our larger community." The financial projections were iffy: no one was certain that operations would break even, much less produce a return on the capital investment in classroom construction.

Over the years enrollment rode the wave of the Bay Area's economic prosperity, the formation of two-income families, and the prioritizing of pre-school education. Today the school has a waiting list and provides crucial financial support to the church.

As mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations shrink, the schools and colleges that they founded have become their financial lifeblood. In return the withering away of the church "parent" often helps the school defray the cost of expansion by offering the use of under-utilized buildings.

One such case is Neumann University outside Philadelphia:
Call it a match made in heaven: Neumann wanted to increase campus housing for students. The Catholic Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia had extra space in their convent.

In August, 40 undergraduate men and women moved into the Our Lady of Angels Motherhouse Convent, at the edge of this small campus just outside the city. Forty sisters also reside in the building...

Campuses around the country have struggled to find enough, and affordable, housing for students. At Neumann, the two groups use different entrances to get to their quarters, so the sisters aren’t in danger of stumbling upon a young man in a towel outside the shower. They don’t share a dining hall for everyday meals, either.
While the main driver is financial, the church and school relationship provides one of the few venues where groups of unrelated people of widely different ages and "lived experiences" can interact regularly:
But sisters and students are now getting in the habit of meeting up for nature walks, trading travel tips, planning knitting lessons, extending occasional dinner invitations and marveling at the lives one another leads.
Financial necessity often brings together strangers who find to their surprise that they have a lot to teach each other.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

I’d Rather Have My Problems Than Theirs

2021: tents along Kapiolani Boulevard, a block from my parents' home
The homeless tents have moved from across the street to our side, albeit two blocks Ewa (that's west, for you malihinis). Overall homelessness is reported to be improving slightly, but statistics don't matter much to individual neighborhoods.

Second cousin's iron bars are to the right of the wall
My second cousin, who owns the building next door, says trespassing is getting worse. She's installing iron gates that, like ours, will be closed at night.

The strip of grass next to the sidewalk (pictured right) is overgrown. A younger relative is supposed to tend to it, but he works two jobs and deserves a break. My brother lent me a trimmer, and I took care of the grass, although not very neatly.

My brothers have done a good job handling day to day operations, but I needed to get a sense of where Mom's finances stood. Besides, it's almost the end of the year when we must prepare her tax returns. The eight-day vacation has sped by quickly, and it's time to plan for the next one.

Friday, November 18, 2022

After the Trimming

The monkey pod tree has undergone more trimming during the summer. The neighborhood coconut wireless says the job cost "in the thousands."

The view is more balanced between the houses and trees. It reminds me of 2015.

2014- Covering the House
2015- After Trimming

2017- Coming Back
2022: Watch out for the "little" bush

The bush that blocked our view of the white house last February has also been removed.

Enjoy the sights after the multiple prunings. Due to Hawaii's tropical weather everything will grow back quickly.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Shaved Ice Goes Upscale

The line stretched half a block to the shaved ice stand, but it wasn't a hot mid-summer day at the beach.

Island Vintage Shave Ice sits next to the posh Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki, the evening was cool, and prices were high (more than $10) for what is basically frozen sugar water with maybe some fruit on top.

Back in my day shaved ice came in one flavor and color, strawberry red, cost ten cents, and was served in a cone-shaped paper cup with a paper straw and flat wooden "spoon" (the kind that used to come with a cup of ice cream).

Now shaved ice has gone upscale, and people drive miles to the North Shore or crowded Waikiki because of a four star review from a Mainlander who's had fewer than a dozen servings in her lifetime.

Nevertheless, one has to applaud any homegrown product that will add tourist dollars to the Island economy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Universal Approbation

14 populations of humpback whales: 9 (blue) not at risk
4 (pink) endangered, 1 (yellow) threatened.
The worldwide humpback whale population has recovered almost completely. However, four of the fourteen populations are still classified as "endangered."

Meanwhile, scientists at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary continue to perform basic research into the species.

Among their findings: [bold added]
Humpback whales, the winter stars of Hawaii’s marine environment, have been arriving and leaving island waters earlier than normal in recent years, according to a trend documented by scientists.

Other recent research suggests there actually may be two subpopulations of humpbacks coming to the island chain, and it appears that the marine mammals take what some might described as an afternoon siesta each day.
Mother and calf at the sanctuary.
Drone and acoustic devices have tracked the whales' movements:
Surprising was strong chorusing in the northern part of the chain, with a region of relatively little whale sound wedged between the area of strong chorusing in the southern part of the chain, including the main islands.

“The structure of the whale population is more complex than previously thought,” Lammers said, adding that it might point to two subpopulations, one tied to the southeastern part of the archipelago and main Hawaiian Islands and one clustering toward the northwestern end.

But to really confirm that, he said, scientists will have to go up there and investigate.

“These data are certainly interesting and motivating us to go out and try to get more data from that area,” he said.

In another area of research, scientists have been studying behavior using suction cup tag monitors that they attach to individual whales. The tags record sound, video, depth levels and movements.

A recent study examined 86 hours of video from 25 different tagged whales and scored activity levels during different times of the day. A distinctive pattern emerged in the afternoon: decreases in activity and surfacing, and more resting.

“It looks like whales have a real tendency to rest between 1 and 4 p.m. This is something that anecdotally people have noticed, but there’s never been any quantitative evidence,” Lammers said.

“This is really new and exciting stuff for us — that we’re able to show these pretty clear patterns of resting behavior in the afternoon hours,” he said. “It’s kind of reminiscent of another species that we have here, the spinner dolphin, which is very active during nighttime hours but then spends its daytime hours more in a resting state.”
Surveillance technologies are controversial when applied to humans, but in animal studies, especially with species that are endangered, they are regarded with universal approbation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Duke's Statue

Duke Kahanamoku was famous during the first half of the 20th century. Starting in 1912, he won gold and silver medals for the U.S. Olympic swimming team.

In his travels the "father of modern surfing" popularized the sport around the world, especially in Australia and Southern California. As its unofficial ambassador Duke gave credibility to Hawaii as a tourist destination.

In the late Fifties and early Sixties my father was a part-time waiter at the Waikiki night club, Duke Kahanamoku's, when my parents were saving for a down payment and putting their kids through private schools.

Dad liked the pay and the atmosphere; Duke would drop by to say hello to the staff and didn't let celebrity go to his head.

Duke Kahanamoku was born in 1890 in the Kingdom of Hawaii, lived most of his life while it was a Territory, and saw it become a State in 1959. He died in 1968 and, though he's remembered by a dwindling number of residents, had an incalculable effect on the history of modern Hawaii.

He deserves his statue.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Blandishments of the Bear

The four most valuable companies on the U.S. exchanges--Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), and Amazon--all enjoyed at least a 6% bump in price last Thursday, when a 7.7% increase in the Consumer Price Index showed that inflation was abating, perhaps moderating future Federal Reserve rate increases.

What gave investors hope was that stock prices continued their rise on Friday, a sign that the bounce may have legs. But your humble blogger has seen--and fallen victim to--"bear traps" before.
A number of investors say they question how long the comeback can last. In previous years, like after the dot-com bubble burst in March 2000, selloffs took many painful months to play out, and the downturn was marked by big swings up and down. That is a cautionary tale for investors hoping that the worst has passed after last week’s stock rally.

“This is typical of a big bear market rally,” said Julien Stouff, founder of hedge-fund firm Stouff Capital. “It is not over.”
My stock portfolio is looking better after one week, but it's still down for the year. I'm not selling, but I'm going to resist the blandishments of the bear by not buying either.

Well, it could have been worse. In my younger, risk-taking days I would have put a sizeable chunk into cryptocurrency. Last week's bankruptcy and hack of a crypto exchange cast such a pall over the industry that it will take a long time to recover, if at all. Over the long haul one can become a successful investor just by preventing disastrous mistakes (mistakes are a given).

Added: The Crypto-Ignorant Person’s Guide To What’s Going On With FTX And Founder Sam Bankman-Fried

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Morning at the Ala Wai

You can see Diamond Head from the McCully bridge
The Ala Wai Canal looks inviting this morning--no, not for swimming--but over the years this frequent visitor to Honolulu has noticed that it is not as odoriferous as it was 20 years ago.

Perhaps it's a seasonal phenomenon. Recent rains have improved the drainage canal's water flow, and the cooler November temperatures are not as conducive to algae growth as summer weather. (Please leave me to my illusions, dear reader.)

Building on Kalakaua & Kalaimoku
Condos are still going up, but there are fewer construction cranes than last year. High interest rates and the not-quite-pre-COVID level of tourism point to a slow economy.

I picked up a blackeye (coffee plus 2 shots of espresso) at the Starbucks on Kuhio & Seaside, one block from the International Market Place. The Starbucks was busy with tourists and hotel workers.

Fortified with caffeine, I was ready for an errand-filled day. Afternoon naps can resume in California.