Snorkeling blues

I’ve always been a miserable snorkeler. I don’t like the mouthpiece on a standard mask/snorkel combo, it gags me. And I can’t seem to keep water out of my mask and nose. That’s very common for someone with a mustache, and I’ve had one…pretty much forever. So every snorkeling trip, I’ve fought those problems.

Before our trip to the Cook Islands I bought a full-face snorkel mask, and loved it. I was able to wear it for many minutes at a time – it solved both my problems. So I was looking forward to some good snorkeling today.

We thought we’d try to snorkel at Magic’s Beach, not far from our place. It was full of mostly swimmers, but a few snorkelers further out in the surf.

I was in chest deep water, putting on my fins with my mask perched up on my head. I wasn’t facing the surf (rookie mistake), and a much larger than expected wave rolled me up and stripped me of fins, mask, shirt and almost my trunks. After surfacing and cursing, I found my fins and got my shirt/trunks rearranged, but my mask was nowhere to be found. Turns out that first wave was one of a set of waves much, much larger than we had seen before entering the water. Bad timing, and…rookie. So we hung around a while but no mask ever surfaced.

Kathryn had suffered almost the same fate a few yards from me, but her mask washed in and was recovered by a nice young surfer. We left defeated, but decided to move on to a legendary snorkeling spot, Two Steps.

Two Steps was only about 20 minutes away, and much, much better. No big shore breaks. And lots of fish. But all I had for a mask was the typical eye/nose mask combined with a snorkel.

I gave it my best effort, but after only a minute or so each time my mask would fill with water, the water would enter my nose and ultimately my throat. So, see some fish, then surface, shed gear and cough/choke. Repeat. Not the ideal experience. We stayed in the water a while, me mostly just surface paddling, and left after an hour or so. Not defeated, but humbled again.

So my choices for the rest of the trip are…shave or go buy another full face mask. Haven’t decided which to do yet.

Note: The featured picture above the headline is NOT Two Steps – I didn’t take a camera to the water. But it gives one an idea of the blue water and the Mauna Loa topography where lava meets ocean.

Another swing at the pitch

Update: This is the second time I’ve had to repost something lately. Either WordPress has a glitch or I’m consistently doing something wrong.

We’re taking another swing at the red-hot Louisville housing market. We made an offer on the nice little Crescent Hill place seen below. We’ll know tomorrow night if we swung and missed, or cleared the fence. Wish us luck.

One fine day

It’s 6am on the Big Island, 9am in Socal and noon in Louisville. Each morning this trip I’ve enjoyed a cup of coffee (OK, several cups) and sitting with my laptop looking out over the ocean. There’s always a flock of small birds flitting about, hoping that a human will lead to seeds or bread crumbs. With the waves crashing against the lava only a few yards away, it’s incredibly peaceful. Here’s the view from my seat this morning. I could get used to this.

During a drive south we discovered a tiny public beach yesterday, not too far from our condo. It’s in an ultra-rich development called Hokulia. Million dollar lots and eight million dollar custom homes. Plus a Nicklaus-designed golf course. Turns out that to get the rights to develop 1300 acres of pristine Kona mountainside and coastline, they had to provide public shore access. So we took advantage of that, drove through all that luxury and walked about a quarter of a mile on a rough trail through lava to find a perfect little cove with bright turquoise water. Ppictures of that are on the Fuji, so will add them later.

We finished off the day with an absolutely perfect meal at Huggo’s. We got there at their 4pm opening, so we got our choice of seats. (They don’t take reservations; it’s first-come, first-served, which I find to be a very civilized way of doing business.) We chose a couch-style seat right on the railing, looking directly at what would be a beautiful sunset. The food and wine were excellent – Huggo’s is a new favorite. Here’s the sunset we were gifted at the end of our stay.

All in all, a great day.

Twenty years!

We’re on our 20th anniversary trip on the Big Island of Hawaii. Only been here a couple of days, but they have been eventful.

We flew non-stop from San Diego to Kona on Alaska Air. The non-stop is a huge plus, and our $60 extra “premium” seats were a great bargain. No bag fees, go through all the first call lines/check-ins, and an extra four inches of legroom. Win-win-win.

Upon arrival, we expected to have to go through all kinds of paperwork and checks, as described in the Hawaii state website. Turns out all we had to do was show our vaccination cards and we glided right through. A good surprise.

Our “maybe too good to be true” Airbnb is as good as advertised. Right on the water, something you just can’t get at the big resorts up north. Listening to the ocean waves crashing all night 30 feet away is very soothing, even therapeutical. Love it.

We went exploring yesterday, including a survey of the aforementioned big resorts up north. We took a break and visited a promising-looking state beach (Hapuna), and enjoyed getting in the temperate Pacific water on a huge sandy beach. Turns out by complete chance we visited the #1 beach in the US, according to CNN. Who knew? Hapuna pictured below.

Later in the day we met an interesting entrepreneurial young (everyone seems young, very young, these days) couple at dinner last night. Their lives are very different than ours, but we had a lot of fun talking with them. The young man almost spoiled things by having too much to drink, but we helped him say no to another round and wished them well.

And today’s the actual anniversary. At almost exactly this time 20 years ago we were in Castle Stuart getting hitched in one of the all-time great destination weddings, if I say so myself. That’s a great memory, and one we celebrate today. Happy Anniversary, Kathryn! (And to me too…)

Moving on politically

USAToday has a great headline today, one that speaks for itself:

“Senators swore to support America, not the filibuster.  Kill it to save the January 6 commission.
  —  If Republicans filibuster the January 6 commission, they’re joining Trump’s insurrection.  Will Democrats choose democracy or a rule that undermines it?”

They’ve got it right. Democrats need to push as hard as they can to get the work of governing done, within the rules, and ignore the foot-dragging, hypocritical moves of Republicans. On budgets (getting money to the parts of America that need it) and on investigating the insurrection, put the pedal to the metal. Leave the Republicans behind and let them whine. Until they remove the cancer that is/was Trump from their party, they don’t deserve a seat at the adult table.

Old man wins golf major

I’ve had a lot of fun the last couple of days watching Phil Mickelson chasing the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course. Looks like he’s going to win and become the oldest golf major championship winner ever at age 50 (almost 51). Good for him!

I played that course a long time ago, maybe 1996, and I remember it being the hardest golf course ever. Still looks that way. Sand, tall thick seagrass, wind and alligators.

Weather warnings

We had an all-time record low temperature for this date last night – 49 degrees. Those of you who live through frozen winters will sneer at that, but it was cold with the windows open.

That got me thinking about the weather, and it doesn’t look good for Socal. Here in Fallbrook we’ve received only 6.9 inches of rain so far, in the period from July 1 2020 to now. We’re unlikely to get any more through the end of June, and 6.9 inches would be the lowest annual rainfall since the 2006-2007 period. And the fall of 2007 is when San Diego County burned down, including areas right next to our house. So….not good.

And this brings me back to our damnable, cursed, almost-finished fire protection system. Right after Hawaii, it’ll be time (past time) to get that thing working.

Big week for a little guy

We celebrated Jessamine Memphis Monsma’s first birthday last week. His parents threw him a big party complete with cake, relatives, gifts and catered food. Good thing he won’t remember the day, because it sets the birthday bar pretty high.

Mr. Jessie wasn’t sure about the cake at first.

But he learned to like it.

And after a long, fun day, he did the same thing as his grandfather. Nap time.

April showers, May flowers

Hmmm, had some trouble posting this. Trying again.

We saw some gorgeous spring flowers during our Louisville trip last week. Really all over, but especially at Yew Dell Gardens and Whitehall.

Here are a few of my favorites. First a peony close-up.

Next, some stunning purple irises.

Here’s a local artist at work in the Whitehall gardens.

And here’s a young climbing grandson.

And finally, some well-lit irises.

There are many, many more, but these are a good sample.

Techno toys

This is the first post written on my new Macbook Air. My 2016 Macbook Pro needs repair – the batteries and keyboard need to be replaced, and that takes ~10 days in the shop. So I bought a technological upgrade with a very different feel so that I can stay online while the Pro gets fixed.

The Air feels *very* different. It’s tiny. Feels like a toy computer compared to the beefier Pro. But it’s a tiny powerhouse – probably 2-3x the computing power of the Pro (Air uses the new Apple M1 silicon), and 4x solid state storage. I have 1 terabyte of SSD in the tiny Air, which is astounding to an old techie like me. All the computer storage in the world didn’t add up to 1 TB when I started in technology (not an exaggeration, all in the world), and now it’s cheap and common in a two pound laptop. Crazy.

The Air’s display is bright and sharp, with 2560×1600 pixels crammed into a 13 inch display. But not noticeably better than the 2016 Pro’s display.

The keyboard has a different feel, but the so-called “Magic Keyboard” gets great reviews, so I’ll get used to it. It has exactly the same width and spacing as on the larger Pro.

The Air should be a perfect traveling computer – small, light, but powerful. Its first trip will be to Hawaii, coming up Real Soon Now.

Cryptocurrency musings

I’m tempted to buy some Bitcoin this week, after its “value” dropped 30%. It would be a highly speculative investment, as the future of Bitcoin and all cryptocurrency ranges from world-changing boom to spectacular bust. I tell anyone who asks me about investing in Bitcoin to be ready to lose it all, fast. Or you could make a million. It’s that volatile and uncertain.

I’ve been conflicted about the whole cryptocurrency phenomenon for a couple of years. I understand the basic technology underneath cryptocurrency – blockchain – and it’s a solid technical foundation. Blockchain is a useful, provable foundation for distributed data – it works.

Most cryptocurrencies, including the most famous, Bitcoin, are based on blockchain. So that’s not the part that conflicts me. Much more complex is how value is ascribed to a coin. This leads us into the very hard to grasp territory of nation states versus corporations, exchange rates, national economies and fiat currencies.

Bitcoin and the US dollar have one big thing in common – they are both fiat currencies. That is, their value is based on faith in their issuer – faith that the coin or dollar will always be honored as a way to buy things, and that the issuer will always be around to back the transaction. Fiat currencies have no hard basis behind them, such as a guaranteed amount of gold for all the currency in circulation – the “gold standard” which the US removed in 1971.

So why is a paper dollar worth anything? Only because the holders – buyers and sellers of physical goods – are sure that the US is going to be around a while and that the US economy is strong enough to keep the value of that dollar stable. And that enough people and companies share that belief to make the dollar very liquid – it has value in almost any financial transaction. That’s it – belief and faith give the dollar value, stability and liquidity.

With Bitcoin, the answer is the same – sort of. There is no government, no nation-state, that issues a Bitcoin. A mysterious group of technologists created Bitcoin in 2008 as an alternative currency based on blockchain. Over the past 13 years enough people have “invested” in Bitcoin to create a measure of liquidity – there are enough buyers and sellers to create a market. Also, in the last 3-4 years, issuers of traditional nation-state currencies (like the USD) have established exchange rates for Bitcoin, allowing BTC investors to exchange their coins for dollars.

This is when I began to take Bitcoin a lot more seriously. If I can exchange one fiat currency for another, that’s real liquidity. At this point, the only difference between the USD and BTC is volatility, or stability. The USD’s value is relatively stable, whereas BTC is wildly volatile.

Remember, for both currencies, value is based on faith. Faith that the issuer will continue to exist and continue to honor transactions involving the currency.

So how much faith do I have that the open-market, decentralized “issuer” of Bitcoins – the online distributed blockchain itself – will retain the characteristics of stability and liquidity? The answer is some faith in the short term and little to no faith in the long term. My best bet is that the technology behind BTC will be adopted and subsumed by nation states, and fiat currencies issued by nations will continue to have the most stability and liquidity. That some nation’s currency – ours, China’s, Europe’s, etc. – will continue to be the baseline currency for world markets and that cryptocurrencies will be adopted by marginal groups performing transactions they would like to keep secret (e.g. criminals, secret societies, gangs, some corporations) and then converting (laundering) their crypto holdings by exchanging it for traditional nation-state currency at convenient times.

Nation-states will carefully manage and regulate the exchange rates between their currency and cryptocurrencies. The hope (faith) of current BTC advocates is that Bitcoin can replace the USD as the international currency baseline, but my bet is on the nation-states. Crypto will remain a volatile, second-tier currency with a useful (though probably distasteful) role in economies.

In the meantime, I’m watching the value of BTC closely. If it takes another short term dip, I’ll buy a little. It’s a bit like making a bet on a decent poker hand. Your short term odds of making some money are good, but you have to know when to cash out your chips (BTCs) and walk away with some dollars.