Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Health benefits of eating almonds

In our quest for healthy foods, we recently found many studies that show almonds improve cardio vascular health and help with weight loss. LDL cholesterol (the bad type) has been shown to be reduced by eating almonds and almond butter. One study even found that eating almond butter increased HDL (the good kind of cholesterol for your heart).

Nine different studies have shown that eating almonds reduces LDL cholesterol. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that eating almonds worked substantially better than eating a whole grain low fat diet in lowering LDL cholesterol and the same or better than most Statin drugs, such as Lovastatin. A study published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 1998 compared subjects who ate an almond diet with those who ate an olive oil diet and others that ate a cheese and butter based control diet and found that the LDL cholesterol was reduced significantly in the almond eating group. The cholesterol levels increased in the control diet group and remained the same in the olive oil diet group.

Almonds are rich in vitamin E, B17, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and folic acid. An ounce of almonds (approximately 20-25 nuts) contains as much calcium as ¼ cup of milk, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. The fat content of almond butter makes it a high calorie food, yet studies show that almonds support weight loss when added to a low calorie diet. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that adding almonds to a low calorie diet can help overweight people lose weight faster and another study showed that adults who ate an additional 300 calories in nuts every day to what they were already eating had no increase in their weight over 10 weeks. The high fiber content in almonds appears to help block the absorption of fat and carbohydrates and create a feeling of fullness, which may the reason behind their cholesterol lowering and weight- maintenance attributes.

We have added almonds to our diet and have been eating the nuts after soaking them in water overnight to soften them, by the spoon full as almond butter, and in the form of almond meal mixed with maple syrup. Any way we eat them, we find them extremely filling and satisfying. Let us know what you think about the benefits of eating almonds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Healing Blue Light

Recently we bought a blue LED light to find out if it has the healing affects that health researchers have been reporting for years. We purchased a Zadro Sunlight 365, Artificial Sunlight 365 Days a Year.  So far, we have found that the blue light makes us feel more energetic especially on days of thick VOG (volcanic smog) here on the Island of Hawaii.

Researchers have been finding significant healing effects from specific wavelengths or light color. Though the healing affects reported are exciting, the lasers to create the exact wavelengths of light were so expensive it was not practical for home use. Recently very bright and inexpensive LED lights that generate enough light at the specific wavelengths to heal have become available so that anyone can buy them and find out for themselves if the healing properties are real. Blue LEDs produce light in the 430 to 485 nm. spectrum and have been shown to help with periodontal disease, acne, and bacterial infections. The blue LED light also helps reduce inflammation, pain, and kill bacteria. Below are some of the studies on the healing power of blue light.

The antibacterial affect of blue light at wavelengths of 400–500 nm was reported in Photochemistry and Photobiology (Vol 80 Issue 3 Page 412-415, November 2004) and described how they showed blue light sources to be toxic to the oral microorganisms P. gingivalis and F. nucleatum. The British Journal of Dermatology (Vol 142 Issue 5 Page 973-978, May 2000 ) published a study that used blue light (peak at 415 nm) in the treatment of acne reporting that patients treated with blue light and mixed blue and red light improved by 76% in inflammatory lesions over 12 weeks. The FDA has approved blue LED for treatment of both acne causing bacteria (P.acnes) and inflammatory acne vulgaris.

The most surprising studies were done by Dr. Chukuka S. Enwemeka and his colleagues at the New York Institute of Technology. They found that MRSA (the drug resistant staph superbug) died when exposed to blue light from an LED. The researchers tested two MRSA strains: one typical of the strains that are invading hospitals, and one of the strains found in the community. Both strains were susceptible to the blue light. Relatively low doses of blue light (about 100 seconds) killed off about 30% of MRSA in laboratory cultures. Longer doses were more effective, although with diminishing returns. It took about 10 times longer exposure to kill off 80% of the MRSA in culture dishes. The study was published in the April 2009 issue of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery.

We wonder if these new LED lights will turn out to be a revolutionary development in health or if it will be just another gadget that looks great but does not work as promised. For the moment we are enjoying being bathed in blue light on mornings that it is overcast to help us wake up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

2011 Year of the Rabbit

Every year we enjoy reading the predictions for the upcoming Chinese year and about the animal associated with the new year. We have found the advice given by Chinese astrologers helpful in planning what we will do during the next year. The Year of Metal Tiger, ending in February 2011, was predicted to be a year filled with upheaval and turmoil. The nations with the Tiger as their symbol were predicted to have difficult changes and they certainly have. We hope that we, and by that we mean the world, gets through the rest of Tiger Year without a major war starting in a Tiger country, as happened at the end of the last metal Tiger year in 1950.

The new Chinese year, starting February 3, 2011, is the Metal Rabbit. Unlike the ferocious Tiger, the Rabbit year is predicted to be placid with rest and calm. World leaders will find that diplomacy is better than force and international relations will take center stage. Countries will act with more discretion and concessions will be made with less conflict. In the past, major treaties have been signed in Rabbit years. The Treaty of Paris was signed in the Rabbit year of 1783 ending the war between the United States and England. The US, Australia and New Zealand signed a mutual defense pact called the ANZUS treaty in the metal Rabbit year of 1951. That same year, the Treaty of Japan was signed in September 1951 by 48 nations as well as the Japan-US Security Treaty. The Soviet Union formed its Olympic committee in 1951 in preparation for joining their first Olympics Games the following year.

In the Rabbit year calm, no one will want to deal with unpleasant realities or uncomfortable tasks. Law and order will be looser and rules and regulations will be less rigidly enforced. Those that criticize or point out weaknesses will be very unpopular. Cunning and subterfuge will be rewarded over open and honest communication. Leaders will avoid dealing with human rights infractions, suffering, or any misery that might upset the world’s new calm and secure diplomacy.

Conflicts from the Tiger year will likely last into the Rabbit year, as it did in the last metal Rabbit year. That year, the Korean conflict (which had started when North Korea invaded South Korea in the preceding Metal Tiger year) escalated to the capture of Seoul by Chinese and North Korean armies at the start of the 1951 Metal Rabbit year. The sudden rise to fame of Senator McCarthy at the onset of the Metal Tiger year in 1950 and his accusations of disloyal Americans (the Red Scare) took four years to finally lose steam and get him censured. Memories of Tiger year conflicts may escalate research into technologies to protect from terrorism in much the same way that methods of mass destruction were advanced in the 1951 Metal Rabbit year when the first thermonuclear weapon was tested on Eniwetok Atoll.

The tough economic times of the Tiger year will let up for some and money will be able to be made with less labor. People will feel more carefree and once again have luxuries in their lives. Many will regain happiness and contentment in their jobs and families. Good taste and refinement will emerge and some may overindulge.

A person born in the Rabbit year deftly caters to others desires to get what he wants and is warm, witty, sympathetic, and adept at sparing others feelings. She may go all out on a task or event, but when she’s had enough she’ll drop it all for rest and relaxation. Rabbit is not in a hurry to get anywhere and is not much of a disciplinarian or even critical of others. He makes few enemies, but at the same time is not willing to stick his neck out for a friend or cause. The Dragon, Horse, Monkey, and Dog get along well with the Rabbit and may find the year to be positive and successful. The Tiger, and Rooster love a good fight and will probably find the Rabbit year stifling.

We are Roosters, the enemies of Rabbit, and expecting to find the year particularly difficult for our habitual hen-pecking and argumentative personalities. We realize that the upcoming Rabbit year will not bear fruit for us using our well developed skills at conflicts and disagreements. We plan to stay calm, be positive, and get along with everyone. And we will watch our health and keep from Rabbit-induced overeating and overspending. We will try to develop some Rabbit-patience while waiting for the arrival of the Water Dragon on January 23, 2012 when our love of direct communication and controversy will once again be in fashion.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shiitake Mushroom Health Benefits

Mushrooms have been used as a medicine in Asia for over 6000 years and are grown and consumed on a massive scale. Some people don't realize that mushrooms are a fungus, not a vegetable, and have no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, are popular because they are an excellent source of selenium and iron and a good source of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamin C. China grows over 3 billion pounds of Shiitake mushrooms a year and Japan grows over 200 million pounds of Shiitake mushrooms each year. In Japan, mushrooms make up so much of the average diet that they are one of the primary sources of protein for many people.

However, studies have shown that Shiitake mushrooms have health benefits far beyond their nutritional value.

Studies conducted over the last ten years have uncovered an active component in Shiitake mushrooms called eritadenine that lowers cholesterol levels for all types of fats eaten. And the more eritadenine given, the more the cholesterol levels drop. In a 1974 study (reported by Kenneth Jones in "Shiitake Medicine in a mushroom",Herbs for Health,Jan/Feb 1997), 40 elderly individuals and 420 young women consumed 9 grams of dried Shiitake (equivalent to 90g of fresh Shiitake) every day for 7 days. After a week, total cholesterol levels had dropped 7 to 15% in the older group and 6 to 12% in the young women.

Shiitake mushrooms have also been shown to shrink tumors, protect from cancer, and fight infection and disease. In 1969, scientists at Tokyo's National Center Research Institute isolated a polysaccharide compound from Shiitake they named lentinan. In laboratory trials, lentinan caused tumors in mice to shrink or vanish in 80 to 100% of the mice. Lentinan appears to stimulate immune-system cells to clear the body of tumor cells. Lentian injections are used in Japan to supplement radiation therapy and have been found to have positive results for cancer patients in the US, showing that it can reduce the size of tumors and increase the longevity of cancer patients. Lentinan's other healing benefit is its ability to support the immune system and help to fight infection and disease. Against influenza and other viruses, lentinan has been shown to be even more effective than prescription drugs. It even improves the immune status of individuals infected with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS.

Another extract from Shiitake, LEM (short for Lentinula edodes myucelium) has been shown to be more lethal to HIV-infected cells than AZT, a medication developed to delay the progress of AIDS. LEM lignins have been shown to block HIV cells from reproducing and damaging helpful T cells. These lignins also stop cell damage from herpes simplex I and II, two viral infections that often plague individuals with HIV. In the 1980s, a trial involving 16 clinics in Japan investigated the impact of LEM on hepatitis B. The studies indicated that LEM may stimulate the body to produce antibodies. Forty individuals with chronic hepatitis B ingested six grams of LEM daily for four months. All of the patients experienced relief from hepatitis B symptoms, and in 15 patients, the virus was inactivated.

Most mushrooms contain L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant. A research team at the 2005 American Chemical Society meeting revealed that mushrooms contain higher concentrations L-ergothioneine than either of the two sources previously believed to have the most: chicken liver and wheat germ. And L-ergothioneine is not destroyed when mushrooms are cooked.

A caution, mushrooms are high in purines which can be a problem for people who suffer from excessive accumulation of uric acid. Gout and kidney stones from uric acid can be related to excessive intake of purine-containing foods.

Adding mushrooms to our diet is looking like a very smart move.  After reading the research, we have added dried Shiitake and other mushrooms to our meals and are finding the taste of roasted mushrooms with garlic surprisingly pleasant.

Friday, November 26, 2010

2010 Ultraman Endurance Race Kona, Hawaii

The 2010 Ultraman  endurance event started this morning off of  Kona Pier at 6:30AM. The event is a 3-day, 320-mile (515-kilometer)  race held annually over  Thanksgiving weekend. Thirty-five athletes from around the world are participating his year..  

The event began with a 6.2-mile (10 km) ocean swim from Kailua Bay to Keauhou Bay, followed by a 90-mile (145 km)  bike ride from Keauhou Bay around the southern tip of the island via Route 11 to finish at Namakani Paio Park in the Volcanoes National Park.  Tomorrow the racers have a  171.4-mi (276 km) bike ride, from Volcanoes National Park (Route 11) to Keaau, then a  loop through Kalapana, Kapoho and Pahoa, and on through Hilo. From Hilo, the bikers will go north along the Hamakua Coast (Route 19) to Waimea, and over the Kohala Mountains via Route 250 to finish at the Kohala Village Inn on Hawi Road.  The last day the Ultramen will do a 52.4-mile (84 km) double-marathon run from Hawi to Kona (via Route 19) and finish on the beach at the Old Airport State Park.

Look for bikers and runners in the next two days as the Ultraman race around the Big Island.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

French Beaujolais Nouveau in Kona, Hawaii

We have been looking for the 2010 French Beaujolais Nouveau in Kona, Hawaii to fulfill our Thanksgiving wish.  Nouveau wine is made from grapes picked this Autumn and is sought by those who want to get an early taste of the year’s wine before it has fully matured. This “almost wine” is bottled in France and shipped around the world on the third Thursday of November, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Unlike regular wine, Nouveau does not get better with age and spoils quickly if not consumed. Wine merchants worry if they carry it and it does not sell quickly it will spoil and they will be out the cost of the wine.

Fortunately for us, the wonderful people at the Kona Wine Market in the Kona Commons Shopping Center, were willing to order a case of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau wine. They still have some bottles left for anyone looking for the Nouveau and others that want a taste of the future.

If you don’t want to buy a whole bottle, some of the top restaurants on the Kohala coast are serving it by the glass.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Will the Fed’s $600 billion cause hyperinflation?

Many think  that the Federal Reserve’s sudden creation of $600 billion will cause hyper-inflation.  However, when calculating the relative “inflationary” value of the new $600 billion compared to the huge dollar value that was created by the housing bubble, the Fed’s amount is very small in comparison.

Here’s the calculation:
Using census data one can make some ballpark calculations of the effective size of the liquidity created by the housing bubble.  Eighty million single family homes exist in the US and had an average value of $171K in 1997.  In 2007 the average value had gone up to $310K. This increase in value in 10 years meant an average increase of $13.9K per year for every house . That translates to an increase in total house values  (detached single family houses only) from $13.6 trillion in 1997 to $24.8 trillion in 2007. This represented an increase of $11.2 trillion dollars over 10 years.  And since it was easy to sell a house during most of that time or get a second mortgage on a house, this $11.2 trillion was largely available for people to spend.

Since 2007,  housing experts have estimated that housing prices nationally have fallen about 25% from their peak in 2007. That drop represents a  functional drop in liquidity of $6.2 trillion dollars in three years which is over 10 times the amount of the Federal Reserve’s instant $600 billion injection. And with the new higher lending standards and many people (as many as 50% in some States) underwater on their mortgages , the trend looks like it will continue to be strongly deflationary.  

If the instant currency creation by The Federal Reserve becomes routine, then the people claiming hyper inflation is coming will ultimately be right. If it is a onetime event, the $600 billion is not enough to ignite hyper-inflation by itself.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Calculating inflation

For decades, the US government has published their calculations of annual increases in inflation. These calculations have been very controversial since many economists claim that changes in the calculation over the years understate the real inflation that has been taking place. Though the government strongly defends their inflation statistics, the figure is meaningless without direct comparison of the cost of the same product from one time period to another.

The price of beef is one example of how the government has kept inflation numbers low.  In past inflation calculations beef steak prices were compared, but one year steak was suddenly replaced with  ground beef driving the inflation number for beef much lower. The price of steak in 1972 and the price of ground beef in 1984  hardly seems comparable and yet government economists insist their calculation is valid . Substituting lower quality  products in the inflation calculation has also resulted in an understatement of the true rate of inflation over the past three decades.

Though some of the substitutions are obvious like steak and ground beef, many are more subtle though every bit as substantial. Kitchen appliances for instance, are not comparable. A coffee maker with a timer and a carafe manufactured in America in 1990 cost about $110.  In 2002 you could buy two for that price making it appear that the cost had dropped by 50%. However, the difference in the quality of the 1990 product, tested by UL for safety and able to last 10 years is not comparable to the cheaper coffee pot manufactured by underpaid workers in Asia with minimal testing.  The price of children’s toys painted with lead and food products laced with melamine are being compared to the price of higher quality products we use to make in the US as though these products are equivalent.  

The US government’s official figure for inflation, or Consumer Price Index (CPI), is 260% between 1980 and 2010.  In other words, $1,000 in 1980 had the same buying power as $2,600 in 2010. But the reality is that $2,600 today has nowhere near the buying power of $1,000 in 1980.  One only has to look at the components of the American dream to gain a picture of the how out of reach the dream has now become.

House: In 1980 the average house cost $68,000. Using the US government consumer price index, an average U.S. house today should cost $176,800. Yet even after the crashing of housing prices over the past 3 years, the average house price is still $235,000.   So, the inflation in housing prices is actually 345%, not the CPI figure of 260%  which means the government is understating inflation by 85%.

Car: In 1980, the average price of new car was $7210, but in 2010, the average new car is $28,400.   According to the US inflation index, a car price on average should be $18,746, yet the actual price is 393% higher. The government is understating the inflation in new car prices by 133%.

College for our Kids: In 1980,  the average cost to attend a public college was $2373 a year for tuition, fees, room, and board and the average cost of a private college was $5470.  Now the cost for a public college has swollen to $20,000 a year and private colleges to $39,000 a year.  This is a cost increase of 843% for public colleges and 713% for private colleges. Government numbers are understating the inflation in college costs by 583% for public college and 453% for private colleges.

Health Care: In 1980, the average person spent $1072 a year on health care expenditures, but in 2008 the average person spent $7681 a year, an increase of 716%. The inflation of health care is being understated by over 456%.

Though inflation is being understated by 85-500% for the basics of American life, those that have been able to retain their jobs have not seen matching increases in wages.  In 1980, the average worker’s wage was $12,513.  In 2009, the average wage was $39,054 and using the US government inflation rate of 260%, the average wage today should be $32,500.  The small increase of $6,554 over the inflation index, or 20%, does not compensate for the dramatic increase over the published inflation numbers of everything else.

Seeing the inflated prices of houses, cars, college, health care, and the decreasing quality in products and foods helps us to understand why we , like so many other Americans, are struggling to gain the American dream of health, wealth and happiness.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Health Effects of Hawaii’s Erupting Volcano

VOG over Kona, Hawaii
People living on the Big Island of Hawaii have been concerned about the health effects of breathing the volcanic emissions from Kilauea Volcano since the Volcano began erupting over 20 years ago. That concern increased in March 2008 when a new vent opened up tripling the amount of volcanic gas emissions. Volcanic emissions, called VOG in Hawaii, contains sulfuric dioxide, carbon dioxide, mercury and many other chemicals. Recently a study was published highlighting the effects of VOG to the residents of the island.

Bernadette Longo, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada's Orvis School of Nursing, compared clinic records in Ka’u, a southern part of the island that is often covered by VOG, for the 14 weeks before the March 2008 eruption to records three months after the volcano's large increase in emissions. Her study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, found three times as many headaches and twice as many severe sore throats after the increase in volcanic emissions. The study also found a 56% increase in people reporting coughs, and a 600% increase in acute airway problems that required breathing treatments or hospital emergency care. The report also found VOG increased death rates of individuals with acute illnesses. Longo collaborated with Wei Yang, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics; Dr. Joshua B. Green from the Ka'u Hospital and Rural Health Care Clinic; and advanced practice nurses Frederick and Vickie Crosby, from the Ocean View Family Health Clinic.

When we visit Volcanoes National Park, we watch the thick clouds of steam and ash billowing out of the Volcano’s open vents in awe and wonder. We have many days when the VOG is so thick here on the Big Island, that it is like twilight at noon. We sometimes find ourselves dizzy and dazed on these heavy VOG days. So, like most people living on this active volcanic island, we are not surprised that this recent study shows significant health effects from the VOG.

The State of Hawaii warns residents to monitor the sulfur dioxide levels, stay indoors during heavy VOG days preferably with an AC running, and drink bottled water.
Here are websites to learn more about the Hawaii's volcanic emissions and monitor the sulfur dioxide levels in Hawaii County:
Hawaii State Civil Defense – http://www.scd.hawaii.gov
Hawai‘i County Civil Defense - http://co.hawaii.hi.us/cd/
Hawai‘i State Department of Health – http://hawaii.gov/health
Hawai‘i State Department of Agriculture – http://hawaii.gov/hdoa
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/
Volcanic Air Pollution – http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs169-97/
Current SO2 Conditions – Kilauea Summit – http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/webcams/parks/havoso2alert/havoalert.cfm
Precautionary Measures for Elevated Sulfur Dioxide – http://hawaii.gov/health/environmental/air/cab/cab_precautions.html

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hawaii Island Event Gadgets

We developed some web gadgets to showcase Big Island events that you can add to your web pages or blogs.
Both of the gadgets count down to a big event on Hawaii Island next year.

You can add the gadget that counts down to the 2011 Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in Hilo to your website or blog by executing the script located at "http://hiloliving.com/MMdate.js"

You can add the gadget that counts down to the 2011 Ironman World Championship in Kona by executing the script located at "http://konabeachlife.com/IMdate.js"

Both of these gadgets are also available as google desktop gadgets for your igoogle homepage.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kona 2010 Ironman World Championship

The Ironman World Championships started early Saturday morning in Kailua-Kona. We set out at 5:30AM to claim a viewing spot on the seawall, an hour before the start of the swim race at 6:30AM. But the seawalls were already packed with thousands of people who had arrived even earlier to catch sight of the ironman swim race.  Every square inch of view of the bay was covered with layers of people.  The competitors entered the water to start the 2.4 miles of swimming in front of the pier.

The competitors waited in cold water for the gun to go off and start the swim.

The swimmers returned to Kailua pier after the long hard race in the water.

Volunteers in blue shirts greeted the swimmers on the beach next to the Kailua pier and helped them up the stairs to their bikes.

The swimmers mounted their bikes and started the 112 mile bike race past the King Kamehameha Hotel on Alii Drive.

Bikers weaved through the course at Kuakini highway and Palani road in Kona.

The most interesting aspect of the race was the huge support teams of family, friends and trainers that came with each of the 1800 competitors. They wore brightly colored T-shirts with the name and number of their ironman, drew encouraging messages in chalk along the race routes, and waited tirelessly to cheer their ironman.

Ironman spectators stood atop the ocean wall

Caroline Steffens (2nd place ironman) running the marathon part of the race along Ali'i Drive

The finish line of the Ironman World Championship on Alii Drive in Kona was covered with signs of the sponsors.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ironman World Championship 2010 Parade of Nations in Kona, Hawaii

The World Championship Ironman Parade of Nations took place along Ali'i Drive in Kona, Hawaii on October 5, 2010 to showcase the ironmnen and ironwomen that have come to town from all over the world.



Germany did a dance


Participants from all over the world came to show their stuff.




Slovenia, Sweden and Thailand

South Africa


United Kingdom

United States had the most representation

Kona is filled with vendors showcasing their products to visiting athletes.

A running shoe vendor gives his spiel.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kona readies for 2010 Ironman World Championships

Kona is alive with signs of the upcoming Ironman World Championship race. There are literally signs along the roads to remind us to make room for the bikers and runners as well as signs of sponsors pasted on buildings in Kailua Village and all along Ali’i Drive. Many of the 1800 athletes have already arrived filling the beaches, stores and roadways in the town, a great feeling after an overly quiet summer. The Ironman is considered the most challenging tri-athlete race and includes 2.4 miles of swimming in the rough ocean in Kailua Bay, 112 miles of biking from Kailua-Kona to Hawi and back, and 26.2 miles of running from Kailua-Kona to the Energy Lab and back.

Lots of part time residents have returned to Kona from the mainland to volunteer for the event. Excitement is growing as the town transforms into a race course with banners and country flags dotted along the route. Athletes and their support teams are everywhere running, biking and posing for photographers.

The extreme fitness of the athletes is turning the heads of everyone, including our own local athletes. Their ironman bodies are beyond the normal fit bodies we have come to admire in Kona. They have muscles that we have never seen on bodies and they make running look effortless.

We went for a swim yesterday at the pier and the water was the roughest we have seen in a long time. Hopefully, the water will be calmer, the vog scarce, and the day sunny for the race on Saturday.

The newspapers have printed maps of the closed roads for the race on Saturday which includes pretty much all the roads in the town. We are preparing to be pedestrians from Thursday through Sunday.

Other events associated with the Ironman start tomorrow, Tuesday October 5, 2010, with the Ford Ironman parade of Nations from 4-7PM. On Friday morning the 13th Annual underpants run, sponsored by BVD, takes place starting at the Kailua pier. We’ve heard that the locals started this run to mock the athletes running around in their skimpy workout clothes.

If you want to feel the excitement of the race, come cheer on the athletes at the Kailua Pier on Saturday morning.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Honolulu from a Big Island Perspective

We just returned from a trip to Honolulu to help our son move into an apartment.  Our last trip was 8 months ago, in January 2010, and the changes in Waikiki were dramatic.  In January, the streets of Waikiki were empty and the parks were packed with homeless.  Now the streets of Waikiki are so packed we could barely get through the crowds and the homeless have been moved out.  All along sidewalks in front of the beach front hotels on Kalakaua Avenue, mimes, bands, fortune tellers, street dancers, and even the Hare Krishna cult members assaulted us and other tourists trying to maneuver along the sidewalk.

Walking around the Waikiki beach-front hotels in the morning, we were asked for money three times in less than five minutes from people dressed in upscale Aloha-wear. This was a surprising change from the sparkling clean and hassle-free Waikiki sidewalks of the past. Over half of the tourists seemed to be from Japan and the stores and restaurants are making sure to cater to them with Japanese signs and menus.

Ala Moana Mall has transformed into a super upscale designer mall, taking over for the stores that use to line Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. Security at the mall protected us from the onslaught of street performers and beggars but not the huge crowds and tight parking. One section of the mall was like a micro-Tokyo with a Japanese bakery, Japanese home products, food and even an impressive selection of silk kimonos.

Traffic was bumper to bumper on the streets and freeways. The surprise was the road rage of frustrated drivers shaking their fists and cursing at our unpracticed lane changes. It felt more like Los Angeles than the Aloha State. We don’t get experience doing freeway driving on the Big Island so it is easy to get out of practice. Everything is close in Oahu, as the whole island is about the size of Puna, but the number of cars, one way streets, and complex traffic rules that change depending upon the time of day, makes everything seem far away.

Helping to stock up a new apartment gave us the opportunity to do a lot of comparison shopping as well as experience the traffic and parking challenges of Oahu. We often hear about how much more Oahu has to offer in shopping as compared to the Big Island. We went to the new Target store, hidden next to Pearl Harbor Naval Reservation, K-Mart, Wal-mart, Costco, Pearlridge Shopping Center, Ala Moana Mall, Best Buy, Borders, and numerous grocery stores. We found clothing to be much cheaper and with more size and style selection. Some electronics were cheaper, but the offerings in Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Costco matched the prices we pay and food was the same or more than what we pay on the Big Island. We are attached to the Big Island beef at KTA and their other local and organic offerings. The most similar store to KTA on Oahu was the Times Market, but Big Island beef was nowhere to be found except in expensive restaurants.

In spite of the inconvenience of maneuvering through Honolulu’s traffic and crowds, we are happy to see that their economy is in good shape, tourists abound, and businesses are holding their own. We did not see empty store fronts and deserted malls like we have on the Big Island. Hopefully, business will continue to improve in Oahu, the homeless will find jobs, and the frustrated residents in Honolulu will rediscover the laid back Hawaiian lifestyle.