Thursday, August 27, 2009


Last week I went to a talk by Guy Toyama, the Director of the Friends of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA), located next to the Kona airport. NELHA was funded to generate electricity from the temperature difference between deep cold sea water and warm surface seawater but has grown into a technology center that incubates innovative companies in food, energy and water. The tenants use the deep seawater in unique ways such as raising shellfish, making high nutrient drinking water, sea horse farming, and growing blue green algae.

I was intrigued to hear about a company called Nutrex Hawaii that makes a nutritional supplement from algae. The key substance in the supplement is astaxanthin which is created when the algae is stressed by a drop in water temperature. The stressed algae turns red due to its creation of astaxanthin. This same substance is created by lobsters when they are put into boiling water. Astaxanthin is also found in wild salmon which is why the meat is bright red. Farm raised salmon is grey colored so they have been buying the red algae to feed to their fish to get the same red color of wild salmon.

Researchers have been studying astaxanthin
, a phytochemical, for a number of years, and some think that it is so potent in improving health that they have started calling it vitamin X. Vitamin X has been shown to relieve arthritis pain, prevent macular degeneration, and improve physical stamina in humans. It also reduces LDL cholesterol in the blood and inflammation in general. It reduces the pain from sun burns and in studies on mice exposed to carcinogens, it reduced their cancer incidence rates about 50%.

So off I went to get some of this Vitamin X for myself. I found it, BioAstin, in Hilo at Abundant Life and immediately started taking 2 pills (8 mg) with each meal. You would get 4 mg of astaxanthin by eating 4 oz of wild salmon.
So far I haven’t noticed any change, but I am optimistic that I will get all the health promises of joint and tendon health, skin health and UV protection, eye health, anti-aging, increased immunity, and cardiovascular health.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


As the global economy continues to contract there is much news about the growing ranks of the unemployed and the millions that have had to take jobs paying less than half of their previous incomes. We don’t hear much about those being asked to take smaller salary cuts and contribute more to their medical plans. Employers often promote these 5% to 10% pay cuts as something their employees and their families should easily be able to weather. For us it brings back memories of a time when we got a 2% raise while at the same time having to cover a greater percentage of our medical plan, which added up to a 7% pay cut. This seemingly "small" pay cut significantly changed the quality of our life.

Small changes, that seem like they shouldn’t be a big deal, can completely change what works . If the voltage in the electric grid was cut by 7%, most appliances would stop working. If you cut back on the gasoline in your car by adding 7% water, your car wouldn’t run.

Though a 7% pay cut seems small, particularly in comparison to those without jobs, our experience is that it lowers the quality of your life far more than 7%. The income we lost was money for our savings, cell phones, babysitters, movies, and dinners at good restaurants. When our income suddenly stopped paying for these things, our motivation to work hard dropped. Since the pay cut affected not just us but all the employees working for the largest employer in the region, it devastated the businesses that were no longer getting our income; many of them closed down. In the same way that appliances are designed to run on a certain amount of voltage , most of our lives are designed around getting a certain amount of income for the work that we do. If a person loses their job, it is expected that it will greatly change their life; they have time to make those changes. It is like a car with no gas, no one expects it to run. But those with "small cut backs" may also find, as we did, that much of what was working stops working. We had to completely redesign our lives while still working full time and deal with the fallout of the shrinking local economy.

We know from experience that the "lucky" people who keep their jobs with only a pay cut will get no sympathy and may even get contempt from family, friends and the community who cannot understand why such a small change in income could have such a large impact.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


We thought tweeting on Twitter was a web fad and would quickly fade away. We could not imagine knowing what someone was doing every minute being useful or interesting to us. Last Saturday, I had a conversation about it with @larryczerwonka while attending the second Big Island Meet and Greet for Internet Fans and Geeks in Hilo at Big Island Pizza. His description of rapidly gaining over 20,000 followers and using the media to promote his business made us want to give Twitter a try.

We signed up on Twitter, a very easy process, as @hiloliving. After becoming followers of some of the tweeters we knew, we immediately started receiving a large number of tweets. Since the storm Felicia was heading towards Hilo, we followed our favorite weatherman @GuyHagi at KGMB. Guy’s tweets were very helpful, giving us constant updates about Felicia developments. It was a relief to have up-to-date information on the storm and changed our view about Twitter’s usefulness. It turns out when a hurricane is headed directly towards your town, getting weather updates every minute is interesting and useful.

We started tweeting photos of the surf crashing over the Hilo Bay water breaker and we’re surprised to see Guy Hagi become a follower, along with 8 other followers within 24 hours of signing up. Twitter content is searchable, providing a new way to draw interested readers to blog and web content. We realized that short tweets could provide timely content on the events we cover in our blog and website.

We think Twitter adds a new dimension to the internet, one focused on information in the moment, and we are excited about learning how to benefit from this new technology.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


We thoroughly enjoyed watching the State Outrigger Canoe Paddling Championship Regatta in Hilo Bay this weekend. Before moving to Hawaii we hadn’t heard about outrigger canoe races and had no idea how popular, competitive and colorful the island sport was. The Regatta was well attended by paddling teams from all over the State of Hawaii. The winning teams had an amazing cohesiveness, with six paddlers acting in perfect unison.

Outrigger canoes are deeply connected to the seafaring Polynesians in the Pacific that settled in Hawaii a thousand years ago. Early Polynesians were the most skilled navigators in history with the knowledge of how to travel huge distances across the Pacific Ocean by canoe using only the stars, clouds and seabirds as navigational aids. Studying the history of the Polynesians and their migrations have become a popular research subject by anthropologists, archeologists, linguists and geneticists, and the research has resulted in proof of the Polynesians navigational feats.

Two years ago scientists proved that a stone tool carved from volcanic rock, found by an archaeologist in the 1930s on a coral island near Tahiti, came from Hawaii. This was the first Hawaiian object found in east Polynesia, over 4000 kilometers away from Hawaii. More recently archaeologists found over 50 ancient rock engravings in Tonga with stylized images of people and animals close in form to engravings in Hawaii dated between 1200 and 1500AD. Similar petroglyphs have been found throughout eastern Polynesia, especially in the Marquesas, Tahiti and Hawaii. These findings are part of the growing evidence that early Polynesians navigated incredible distances across the Pacific Ocean.

A year ago a genetic study of almost 1,000 people revealed that Polynesians and Micronesians have the closest genetic relationship with Asians, specifically Taiwan Aborigines and East Asians. The first settlers of Australia, New Guinea, and the large Pacific islands just to the east arrived between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago. These small groups were isolated and became extremely diverse during the following tens of thousands of years. Then, a little more than 3,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Polynesians and Micronesians, with their outrigger canoes, appeared in the islands of Melanesia, and during the following centuries settled the islands throughout central and eastern Pacific. Some of the islands that are considered part of Melanesia are Fiji, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

The research team analyzed more than 800 genetic markers of people from 41 Pacific populations and found evidence different from previous Y-chromosome research. The hypothesis from the study, supported by the mitochondrial evidence, is that ancestors of the Polynesians originated in Taiwan, moved through Indonesia to Island Melanesia, and then spread out to all islands of the Pacific without having any significant contact with the Island Melanesians along the way. Though the natives of Island Melanesians speak languages related to Polynesian, called Austronesian, they show a very minor genetic contribution to the Polynesians.

Recently scientists analyzed the Austronesian language family, which is one of the largest in the world with 1200 languages spread across the Pacific, to gain insight into Polynesian migration. By studying the basic vocabulary from 400 languages, such as words for animals, simple verbs, colors and numbers, researchers traced how the languages evolved to create a history of settlement in Pacific.

According to their language research, the Austronesians arose in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Before entering the Philippines, the Austronesians paused for around a thousand years, and then spread rapidly across from the Philippines to Polynesia in less than one thousand years. After settling Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, the Austronesians paused again for another thousand years, before finally spreading further into Polynesia eventually reaching as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Islands. Expansions were linked to the development of new technologies, such as better canoes and techniques to deal with the great distances between islands in Polynesia. Using these new technologies, the Austronesians and Polynesians were able to rapidly spread through the Pacific in one of the greatest human migrations ever.

Racing and navigating long distances with outrigger canoes remains a popular activity in Hawaii and many other Pacific islands. Observing the unity and strength required to paddle outrigger canoes across Hilo Bay, we have incredible respect for the accomplishments of the early Polynesians.