Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Wheels on the Boat Go 'Round and 'Round

 [Note: This is another blog based on my weekly emails to my family on the mainland.]


Aloha All --

This will be my last weekly email for awhile.  Our trip begins soon and I probably won't have time to keep you up to date, though if I can I'll send a travel summary or two as we go.

As you recall from last week, the low river levels on the Danube and the Rhine means that our river cruise may be more of a bus ride than the leisurely boat ride that many people have enjoyed in the past.

Previous boaters were fortunate to have done their travel in earlier times, because it is likely that these kind of conditions will prevail in the future.  Climate change will increasingly demonstrate its reality, and extreme weather patterns in Europe will be more frequent.  I think the golden age of river cruising may be about over, and that's one reason we've decided to go ahead with our plans now, rather than postpone the cruise in hopes conditions will be better at a later date. Besides, we already lost 2 geezer years of travel during Covid and we feel we can't afford to put this off any longer.  A final reason is that the river cruise is only about 1/4 of our itinerary -- even if it's a bust, we have lots of other experiences to look forward to when we travel on our own through the Czech Republic and Germany.

I saw my regular doctor on Monday and all is well, considering.  I did learn one disconcerting fact, though.  If you're over 77 insurance won't cover chest scans to screen for lung cancer, even if you were a heavy smoker for 40+ years and have emphysema, like me.  Also, if it's been more than 15 years since you quit smoking the scans aren't covered.  I had my last scan in 2019 and met the criteria at that time, but I don't now.  I told my doctor to order a scan anyway, and I'd pay for it myself. The only way to detect lung cancer early is with a scan -- if you wait until you or your doctor notice symptoms (like coughing, pain, etc.) your chances of living 5 more years are less than 50% and those years are likely to be hell as you go through aggressive treatment.  No thanks.  But note, this means that although it is possible to get good preventative care, you've got to have enough money to pay for it yourself.  Hmmmmm.

Speaking of medical matters, later today I have my retina exam and probably an eye injection. It has been 4 months since the last shot, a new record, and I might even be able to stretch it out a bit longer, but not as long as our trip.  My vision in the bad eye has deteriorated slightly, and an injection now will head off worse problems.  In this case my insurance has really stepped up and has covered most of my expenses.  Of course, my eyeball problem isn't life-threatening, whereas lung cancer certainly is.

Even though we have been busy with travel prep, Karen and I did manage to play 11 holes of golf on Wednesday.  I got one bogey and my putting was better, but my overall performance was a solid "meh."  Saw quite a few peacocks, including the two white peahens, but the males are looking pretty sad because they're losing their tail feathers, a process that takes time and before it is completed produces a rather pathetic bedraggled look compared to the glory days of those magnificent fans. Actually it's kind of endearing because I can certainly empathize.....

Next week we will celebrate our....ahem...55th wedding anniversary.  Wow! We'll be on the road in Ohio at the time, and we're planning on keeping it simple by getting together with a few close friends for dinner at a highly recommended restaurant in Cincinnati.  It seems particularly appropriate that we'll be traveling when we celebrate, because travel has been a major focus for us right from the beginning. We also will be celebrating the first day we didn't have to begin a new school year.  It's a treat to be traveling instead.

Ok.  We're skipping farmer's market today but we're having our last beach breakfast picnic before our trip.  Take care everyone.  Stay healthy, sane, cool, and unburnt.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Alarming News, Body Fluids, Double Whammy Workout

[Note: This is another blog based on my weekly emails to my family on the mainland.]


Aloha everybody!

A.c. still working?  How's that electric bill?  Ready for winter?  Geez.  You mainlanders are having a  hellish summer so far, and it's only the middle of August.  Here it's....better.  Pool is at 84d, p.v. system is doing great, even with our a.c., and we're still getting a reasonable amount of rain --- .85 " early in the week and a bit more last night.  As we say here, "lucky you live Hawai'i, bra."  I should note that there are drought problems to our north and even some wildfires, so we know some of your pain.

The saga of the missing alarm system continued this week.  We left off with the replacement being shipped but I was afraid it had gone astray.  Well, despite my misgivings it arrived Saturday afternoon, a mere 5 days after being shipped via USPS Priority mail.  I got it installed on Sunday and so far this week it has worked great.  The feature I like the most is that I can monitor the system with an app on my phone, and I can even arm and disarm it remotely.  If one of the sensors is triggered it sends me a notification of the exact time and which sensor it was.  The indoor sirens are painfully loud, and don't rely on a wired power source. If I were a crook I'd bail out quick. Finally, the monitoring service is no contact and can be started and stopped without much fuss.  All in all, this is a real improvement over our old system that I installed about 15 years ago.

The final part of the saga occurred on Wednesday, when the original order arrived.  In this case the shipping took 19 days.  The tracking information isn't clear, but my best inference is that FEDEX delivered it to the west coast, then it was put on a cargo ship to Oahu, then transferred by ship to Hawai'i, then delivered to our post office, then finally to us.  USPS, on the other hand, had the good sense to put it on a cargo plane in LA that got it here pronto. Anyway, I sent the original package back on Thursday with a label the company provided.  I just hope it went the same slow way it came..... This saga is, of course, a great example of the premium we pay for living in near-paradise.

On Tuesday I had my blood drawn and I peed in a cup for my routine 6-month checkup, which is scheduled for Monday.  Being the control freak and data hound that I am, I have the results posted online

Pee Flight!
and I go over them myself and compare the current results with previous ones.  Everything looks good, in some cases even better than last time -- bad cholesterol is down slightly, good is up, and my problematic sodium level has moved solidly into the normal range now that I stopped taking the diuretic and substituted a different class of drug. My bp is staying under control even though I've reduced the dosage of the two drugs I take.  As you know, I've got a few other physical problems, but these results, at least, are pleasantly positive.

On Thursday Karen and did an unprecedented double whammy workout -- Planet Fitness *and* golf in the same day.  I confess, though, that the magnitude of this might be a teense exaggerated, because we didn't actually play a round of golf, just went to the driving range and practice putting green for an hour or so.  Still, it was a busy day:  gym --post office -- Costco-- beach picnic -- golf -- pool.  NO naps! Slept rather soundly that night.

We're entering full-bore prep mode for our trip.  I did some heavy-duty pruning this week, and some house chores that needed to be done before we leave.  Next week will be even busier, since it's close enough to our departure that we can do our monthly routine gardening and house cleaning.  Also, we'll both get haircuts, I'll see my internist and my eye doctor (for a eyeball injection), and we'll replenish our travel medical supplies and toiletries.  Our current concern is that the dry weather in Europe has lowered the water levels in rivers, making cruise companies have to bus people instead.  We'll be on the Danube, and recent forum discussions have painted a rather dire picture.  Canceling at this late date is still possible but we're going to go ahead with it unless the cruise company cancels, and that isn't likely.  We've decided to be philosophical about it and just see what happens, realizing that we may be in for some on-the-fly problem solving (something we've had a lot of experience with over the years), and that this may be yet another travel adventure that has unexpected surprises.

Ok, that's it for this week.  Take care and look for the good things -- they're still out there, even if they are hard to see because of the negative stuff choking the air these days.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Termite Repairs, Under the Knife, Clubs for Sale

[Note: This is another blog based on my weekly emails to my family on the mainland.]


Aloha everyone!

Fires, floods, searing heat, viruses running amok, political extremism in both directions, wars, famine, intolerance, etc., etc., etc.  Time for something mundane and much, much, more important --- my week!

On Monday my handyman and I attempted to repair damage to a portion of the railing by our pool that was caused by termites (now dead, after we had the house fumigated). The railing has some vertical pieces

The culprits, now deceased
that the termites find really tasty, and rather than replace just those pieces we rebuilt the whole section.  This time, though, I used pvc pipe instead of the wood dowels that had been devoured.  Let'em try to eat THAT! Everything was going swimmingly until my handyman's nail gun stopped working.  We recessed until Tuesday, when he returned with a new one and we finished the job.  I still have to do some touch-up painting and caulking, but I should get it done this weekend.

This was also a week of some repairs to my geezer body.  On Wednesday my dermatologist sliced off a couple of hunks of skin on my right thigh.  These weren't cancerous, just "barnacles" as she calls them, and I've had them for years.  Recently, though, they became a nuisance because of their location -- one rather close to my private parts, another at the point where most of my shorts end.  The second one had gotten big, crusty, and itchy.  She's offered to remove them for quite some time, but I demurred out of modesty and cheapness (she doesn't accept insurance, like many physicians here).  Anyway, they're gone and I'm nursing the surgical sites, trying to prevent infection and promote healing. It occurred to me that these are the first pieces of my body that have *ever* been purposefully removed in my lifetime so far, except for tonsils and one tooth.

This was a rather physical week.  Besides the effortful repair work and body slicing, on Tuesday Karen and I worked out at Planet Fitness, and on Thursday we played golf.  Both of these in one week is fairly challenging for us these days.  The workout went fine, though the muscles didn't think so.  Afterward we bought a lemon grass chicken sandwich at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant and had a beach picnic. The golf on Thursday was at Makalei and unfortunately it was raining that day -- not so hard as to make us stop, just a light drizzle for much of the time which made it cold and uncomfortable.  We quit after 16 holes.  My playing matched the weather, i.e., lousy, and to top it off the usual bird sightings were way down so there wasn't a compensation.  Good thing I don't take this all that seriously.  I did get one bogey but on several holes where I usually do pretty well I did spectacularly badly.  Maybe next time.....

Our friend who broke her leg is now back home as of Thursday, much to the delight of the cats.  She doesn't have a cast or a splint, but she still can't put any weight on the bad leg for a few more weeks.  She's trying to get around with a walker and a mobile bench, which I'm sure is very difficult.  Fortunately she has help every day for most things, as well as a physical therapist who visits.  She seems very positive and determined to get back to normal, which is to her credit given the challenges she faces.  Again, this has been a sobering experience for her and for us, too.

The only other item I might regale you with is my difficulties trying to upgrade our house alarm system.  I ordered everything online and received notification that it had shipped -- but then it went into a black hole.  Somehow FEDEX lost the package!  I contacted the company and after a bit of back and forth, they agreed to ship another one.  A couple of days later I received another notification that the package was being shipped -- this time via USPS Priority Mail, which usually works well for us here in Kona. However, the notification was simply that the label had been generated and that USPS was waiting for the item.  They've been waiting since August 2nd and it is now August 6.  Hmmm. If USPS ever gets the package, it will probably arrive in just 3-5 days. IF and WHEN.  I put in the original order on July 22 -- this seems a bit long to wait.  I'll update you next week.  In the meantime, the old system works ok, so it's not like we're unprotected.

Ok, that's it for now.  Try to stay cool, sane, and healthy, despite the many challenges.




Saturday, July 30, 2022

Playing With The Wind, Controlling Critters

[Note: This is another blog based on my weekly emails to my family on the mainland.]


 Aloha All!

How's that a.c. holding out?  Boy, the reports from the mainland these days are a litany of bad stuff -- record heat, fires, floods, high prices, shootings, shortages, etc.  My complaints about conditions here seem pretty mild by comparison, though some of our problems are the same as yours -- gas is high (but of course we don't drive very much), food prices have increased (but we don't have a family to feed), temperatures have gotten hotter (but we have our pool and most nights it cools off nicely).

On a more fun topic, Karen and I played golf this week at a different course than usual. Since I've never

played at any course other than Makalei, I thought it would be an interesting contrast.  This one is further north, about halfway to Waikaloa. The name of it is Makani, which in Hawaiian means "wind." The name is appropriate, because it is situated near the gap between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, where trade winds pick up speed as they are funneled through from the east. The winds can really honk at times, particularly further north.  Fortunately it was pretty calm on Thursday, with just a pleasant cooling breeze.  The course is on a bluff at about 1200 ft. elevation, with views of the ocean, Mauna Kea, and a foliage-covered cinder cone on the side of Hualalai called Pu'u Wa'awa'a (say that fast three times).

There are many Jacaranda trees that line the fairways and in the spring when they bloom the course is very pretty.  Thursday, however, they weren't flowering, and the surrounding area of the island hasn't had much rain, so everything except the greens was very dry and brown.  It is also very flat compared to Makalei, and much more open.  Some people like this, I guess, but

It's there somewhere.
I much prefer the forested steep hills of Makalei. One of the major challenges of this course is staying out of the many water hazards, which isn't easy because on several holes the fairway slopes toward a lake or pond.  I did ok overall, getting two bogeys and a few good putts.  All in all, though, I'm imprinted on Makalei and I'm looking forward to returning there.

We're now getting close enough to our trip that we're starting to time our routine house maintenance chores so that we can do them again right before we leave.  One of my tasks is critter control, a necessary aspect of living in a climate like ours.  This week I sprayed the perimeter of the house with an insecticide that controls ants, cockroaches, and centipedes -- all of which were introduced by humans within the last 1200 years or so.  I do this about once a month, and I also spray weeds around the house and in the yard to keep them at bay. You might be wondering why I don't contract with a pesticide service for the bugs.  Many people do, but this way I can control the nature of the product that is used, and I can get just as good a result with much less expense.  Also, it really isn't hard, nor does it take much time, and being the control freak that I am, it makes me feel good.

Ok, that's about it for this week.  Off to market and beach breakfast picnic.  Take care and stay healthy, safe, and as cool as you can.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Big Swell, Digital Coquis, Covid Neighbors, Four $eason$

 [Note: This is another blog based on my weekly emails to my family on the mainland.]


Aloha Everyone!

Hope you're surviving the heat.  This summer has certainly been "interesting," both on the mainland and here in Kona.  Our latest tweak from nature occurred last weekend, when a very large swell from storms far to our south (*not* the remnants of Darby, which only gave us a small amount of rain), combined with a

A Wet Wedding Crasher
higher than usual tide, produced some huge surf and great photo ops, which you may have seen on national news.  One was a wave that crashed over the top of a two story condo, and the other was of a wave crashing through a seaside wedding venue.  Spectacular! Dramatic! Awesome! Stunning! And very unrepresentative of what was in fact a rather limited event up and down our coast.  I drove along the shore the next day, expecting to see widespread devastation and destruction and saw...nada, bumpkiss, zilch.  Even at the house of our friends from Oregon which is 20 feet from the ocean there was no evidence that anything had happened.  So, boooorrrringggg.  Other than that, we've had pretty good weather, though it has definitely gotten warmer.  A few nights warranted our bedroom ac, but a few nights were actually quite chilly, getting down to our winter levels (high 60's).

One of my life's poignant moments happened this week when I cleared out about 125 of my 225 frozen coquis. It speaks to my pack-rat nature that I have kept every one of my hand catches over the past 4 years

Bye Bye!
in our freezer -- labeled with the date, location, and description of conquest.  The motivation was a mix of trophy-touting ego and compulsiveness about keeping data -- no doubt left over from my research years. Coquis are quite small, but hundreds of them start to take up a bit too much space.  Before letting them go I tried to see if anybody at the University of Hawai'i might be interested in the collection but I had no luck.  However, I have created a spreadsheet that contains information about each frog so I at least have a digital memory of each one.  In the long run this might be even better, because once I get all the data entered I can easily track things like the number of females and males over time, where the density has been highest, and how the number of catches has changed over the years, etc.  Fascinating, right?

On Thursday Karen and I had dinner at the Four Seasons Resort up north. We used a gift card that our friend gave me for taking care of the cats and for my birthday.  The restaurant was one I hadn't eaten at before called The Beach Tree.  Open air but covered, view of the ocean at sunset, beautiful decor.  Everything you'd expect in a $1700 minimum per night resort.  The food was excellent but absurdly expensive.  We've had meals at least as good for 1/3 the cost during our travels, with service and ambiance to match.  Honestly, without the gift card I wouldn't go there anymore.  Lots of people obviously have the money, though, including a number of families with 2-3 kids, because it was fully booked and the hotel has near 100% occupancy year round. Sigh......

The wife of my coqui-catching partner 2 doors down the street got Covid about a week ago.  She was fully vaxed and boosted, and so far has had a fairly intense but short-lived case.  He has self-tested every few days but so far remains clear.  This ba.5 strain is very contagious, no doubt, but note that although she is somewhat ill, he is not, which is likely due to their vaccination status that has given them protection.  We're still taking precautions, but it's hard to keep it up when few other people are doing so.  Given the odds that we would have mild cases, living semi-normally seems justified to us, thus leading us to go to restaurants, retail stores and even a movie theater last week when we saw "Elvis." We also worked out yesterday at Planet Fitness -- masked, of course.  The facility has very good ventilation and there weren't very many people, so we didn't come at all close to anyone else.  We'll see what happens in a few days. I've stockpiled a fair number of tests and will use them whenever it seems appropriate.  For instance, we had talked with our Covid neighbor last week so I waited a few days then did a test that was fortunately negative.

Our friend who broke her leg was transferred Thursday afternoon to a rehab facility in Hawi, way on the north end of the island.  She'll be doing physical and occupational therapy for at least a couple of weeks before facing the next challenge --- living in her house alone.  She'll definitely need help.  Her plight has been a real wake-up call, not only for her but also for us.

Ok, that's most of what's going on here.  Keep cool and stay away from crazies.


Saturday, July 16, 2022

Good Eyeball, Birthday, Lack of Good Sense, Roof Gardens

[Note: This is another blog based on my weekly emails to my family on the mainland.]


Aloha All!

It was an interesting week here.  First off, my eye exam last Saturday went very well -- absolutely no sign of leakage and therefore no shot.  I'm now scheduled for another exam right before we leave on our trip in August. My doc and I agreed we will keep a low threshold and most likely I'll have an injection at that time no matter what.  That will be a new record between treatments, by far! Yippee!

Yesterday was my birthday, much less cause for celebration than my good eye exam.  I think I'm

Liquid Gold
Neighbor's "Garden".
somewhere around 35 or so.  I lost track after 21.  Anyway, I wanted to keep it quiet and low-key and so I celebrated with a couple of naps and a burger + good beer for lunch at a seaside restaurant. Oh, and for fun I did a minor repair to our irrigation system and *weeded our gutters.*  In our warm and wet climate if you don't watch it, stuff will begin to grow on your roof and suddenly you'll find tree roots dangling from the ceiling.  In this case it was a small sapling of some kind in one of our gutters, which required a quick and careful trip up to the roof to yank out.

Saturday our Miata suddenly developed engine problems, as in refusing to start (it would turn over, but not fire up).  It did start on the next try, and Karen drove it to the hospital to visit our friend who broke her leg last week while I went for my eye exam. Although it ran fine on the way there, the "check engine" light came on and it again refused to start when she tried to leave.  Fortunately it did start after another couple of tries when I got there, and we were able to get it home ok. On Monday morning I called our usual mechanic and although the shop had a full schedule, he said he'd try to work it in if I could get in to to garage.  It started one more time (whew!) and we dropped it off.  It turned out to be either a faulty cam shaft sensor or a crankshaft sensor, and they replaced both.  These sensors are what determines the timing of ignition (back in the dark ages this was done by something called a distributor).  Voila!  A mere $500+ and she's running great.  Despite this and a few other repairs, this has been a terrifically reliable car and we've had to spend very little to keep it maintained.

Finally, I guess I'll include as part of my birthday celebration the round of golf at Makalei that Karen and I

From Par to Bogey
played on Thursday.  Despite getting a bit wet (it was misting most of the round) I did pretty well -- two pars and a bogey.  It might have been 3 pars, but my par-putt was just a couple of inches short, one of those frustrations that might lead to broken clubs and lots of swearing if I took the game more seriously.  Saw lots of peacocks, including both of the white peahens.  The Nenes, though, have all left.  During the summer they fly to a different part of the island -- a minnie-migration compared to their distant relatives, Canadian Geese.

Weather-wise we've been getting less rain and more sun.  However, the remnants of Hurricane Darby are passing by to our south today and we are likely to get some moisture from it. Three times this week we used our new a.c. in our bedroom -- something we rarely do but have come to appreciate when the need arises.  We're definitely cooler than many parts of the mainland, though, which I see has been really cooking this summer.

Ok, off to market and the beach.  Take care.  Stay cool.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

July 4th, Moving Anniversary, ER

[Note: This is another blog based on my weekly emails to my family on the mainland.]


Aloha Everybody!

Summer finally arrived here. We've had several sunny days this week that kicked up the thermometer and the solar production.  We even managed to have dinner by the pool a few times because the rain has held off or has been very light.  I wonder how long it will take before we'll start complaining about how hot and dry it is????  I note that much of the country is still a bit warm, too.

Hope you had a good 4th of July.  We didn't do much, other than get some very good corn on the cob that was shipped from the mainland to our local Safeway.  I'm not sure how they do it, but these days we can

get some that tastes almost as good as back in corn country.  However, since supplies are limited here you have to get it quick before the store runs out.  Also, Safeway ran a special for the holiday and this meant people descended on the corn like ants on spilled sugar.  We managed to get enough even to freeze a few ears, though.  Our community fireworks display was held this year at its pre-Covid location, down on the waterfront in town.  Given the recent uptick in virus cases we were hesitant to join a big crowd, but finally decided to mask up and go anyway.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, maybe) we were a little late and the show started as we were driving down to the shore.  We found a good spot on the road and still enjoyed the show -- all 10 minutes of it.  It was really good, with some impressive displays and coordination of high and low stuff, despite being rather short.

On Tuesday the 5th we celebrated our 21st anniversary of moving to Hawai'i.  Hard to believe it has been that long!!  This was the day we actually flew from Cincinnati to Kona on a one-way ticket and arrived at our new house about 8 or 9 pm.  Our furniture and other stuff was still on the way (and took several weeks to arrive) but our new place was fully furnished and we didn't need much.  We were exhausted after all the moving preparations but very, very excited to be starting this new phase in our lives.  The next morning was magical, looking out over the coast and the ocean, quite a contrast to the cornfields of Ohio!  The view wasn't the only difference, and moving here has involved a number of adaptations in lifestyle and attitude, and has involved learning a lot of new things about cultures, geology, gardening, house maintenance, critter control.  We celebrated our anniversary with a workout at Planet Fitness, champagne on the lanai at sunset, and homemade tacos for dinner.

I'm back on cat care duty because on Wednesday our friend fell at her house and broke her leg.  She called us late afternoon and we rushed over, thinking we might drive her to the ER.  But it was clear that moving her ourselves might do more damage, so she called for an ambulance.  I timed their arrival at just 8 minutes, a comforting implication for those of us who might need the service ourselves. We followed her to the hospital and waited to see what her condition was.  She wound up staying overnight and will stay at least one or two more because she had to have surgery to fix a problem with her knee.  Sheese!  It goes to show you that sh*t happens unexpectedly, no matter how careful you are. 

Today I have my followup eye exam. I'm not sure if I will need an injection, but it will be 11 weeks since the last one, almost 3 months!  

Ok, off to our usual Saturday morning routine.  Hang in there.  Enjoy your summer.