Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Battery technology for Hawaii

Our unexpected night visitor, a rat that ate through our bedroom screen door,  led us to look for a better rat trap.  Our search resulted in a high-tech, battery-powered Rat Trap that zaps rodents rather than crushing them.  The device works because of a new type of lithium battery that reviewers are saying kills tons of rats in their barns and farms before needing to be replaced.  

The latest technology of disposable AA Lithium Batteries last 9 times longer than previous versions. These batteries no longer contain cadmium so they are also less toxic than the first generation of lithium batteries. We are excited about this new technology because we think it could make Hawaii energy independent.


Hawaii’s perpetual sunshine is great for getting electricity from solar panels, but the problem is how to store all the electricity produced during daylight for use after the sun goes down.  When we had a solar panel in Hilo, the sunlight filled the battery before lunch.  The rest of the day was wasted electricity production.  

If rechargeable car batteries could store 10 times more electricity than they do now, it would solve the problem.  Electric cars batteries would provide weeks of driving instead of hours and big energy users like data storage farms, bakeries, and other manufacturing could become viable in Hawaii with large amounts of electricity stored from low cost solar power.   A power company in Oregon is testing a giant new type of lithium battery to help stabilize their local power grid.

When these new types of  batteries become more widely available, Hawaii residents will be able to generate more low cost solar power and the island’s money spent on imported oil could instead be used to improve the land and everyone’s quality of life.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Living Wheat Free in Hawaii

Bread is expensive in Hawaii and often hard to find fresh, so it was easy to note that my gout attacks occurred after eating a lot of bread.  When researching the relationship between wheat and gout in November 2012, we could find no evidence that wheat caused gout, but we decided to try a wheat free diet anyway.  Though many people report immediate weight loss on a wheat free diet, we both put on 10 lbs.  The wonderful upside has been no gout attacks and the swelling and inflammation I usually have in my feet is gone. The spaces between my toes, where I usually get gout, is now much smaller as are the joints in my fingers.

The problem with modern wheat is thought to be the gliadin protein which acts as an opiate; it misdirects the immune systemincreases appetite, and causes emotional highs and lows from surges in insulin production.   

Though gluten intolerance is often seen as a  digestive problem, eating wheat can also cause joint inflammation, skin problems, and respiratory distress without a person having digestive symptoms.  Dr. Kenneth Fine, a researcher at Entero Lab, uses stool samples, rather than blood tests, to detect antibodies in the digestive tract from a reaction to gliadin.  His research has found that 35% of Americans cannot tolerate wheat and more than 80% have genes types that are more likely to have problems with wheat.

Instead of wheat pasta, we now eat brown rice pasta.  We also replaced wheat tortillas, bread, and pancakes with our own dough consisting of rice flour and ground flax.  Ground flax makes dough easier to roll out, so we don’t have to use additives like guar gum or xantham gum. We use almond flour and coconut flour to make cookies and pie crusts.  (We use maple syrup and fruit as sweeteners.)  We also add green pea and buckwheat (which is not wheat in spite of its name) flours, which are actually fruits, in our tortilla and pancake dough. 

The wheat-free diet is challenging as one must totally avoid wheat because the immune response to the gliadin protein can last up to 6 months each time wheat is consumed.  It took us about 6 months for our bread craving to stop and we are just starting to feel that a wheat-free diet is worth all the trouble.  We have found wheat in all sorts of products, even some yogurts and cheeses.  We cut back on our almond flour and nut consumption to get back down to the weight we were before we started the no-wheat diet.  

From a gout perspective, getting rid of wheat has been wonderful.  For the first time since I can remember, my feet and toes are not swollen.  Our skin has changed remarkably; it looks younger and tauter.  Our hair looks glossier, but that may be just from eating so much flax.   Experiences of other 50-something guys is that it takes 4 years to get the ultimate benefit of a flat stomach.  Though our bellies have shrunk, we still have 10 more pounds to lose to gain the full benefit of being wheat-free.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Winds of Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii

When we first moved to the Kohala plains near Kawaihae Bay on Hawaii Island, our friends warned us about the fierce winds that blow constantly.  They claimed the sparse population along parts of the Kohala coast is partly from the never ending wind.  We have lived in windy places before, on the mountains of Colorado and the plains of East Texas, so we were not worried about it.  Actually we were looking forward to some wind after living in Kailua Kona under the shadow of Hualalai Volcano which blocks the trade winds.

It turns out that there are often months between the strong winds in Kohala and much of the time it is only mildly breezy or completely still.  However, when the famous winds start to blow, they are indeed unique. They start up in an instant; one second it is calm and the next second there is a 45 mile an hour gale that can last a week or two.  Sometimes it is a steady wind and other times there are ferocious gusts that sound like a hurricane.  But unlike a hurricane, the winds are dry and they actually lower the humidity. These fierce winds are called mumuku.

Captain Vancouver, who visited Hawaii Island in 1793, mentioned the dangers of the mumuku winds to ships in Kawaihae Bay.  The mumuku rush furiously down the valley between Kohala and Mauna Kea mountains.   They are apparently foretold by  an illuminated streak in the sky which can only be seen inland in Waimea, where it is said the mumuku winds originate.

We were almost knocked down by the strong gusts of wind this winter which feel like a jet engine blast.   The mumuku are without a doubt the strongest gusts of wind we have ever experienced.  Though we enjoy being tossed around and feeling the incredible power of the wind now and then, we have learned to have great respect for these Kohala winds.  On mumuku days we change the route of our daily walk to avoid being killed by flying coconuts or huge tree branches crashing down on us.  We have seen trees split into pieces by the wind, branches strewn on the ground, and waves whipped into a frenzy.  Driving on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway can be dangerous in these ferocious winds and we can’t even imagine how a motorcycle or bicycle can handle the gusts.  

The Hawaiian word for wind is makani, but the Hawaiians had unique names to distinguish the different types of winds and their locality on the island.  Ulumano are the strong southeastern winds in Ka’u and Puna.  ‘Alahonua are the light breezes in Hilo.  Naulu is the sea breeze that brings sudden rain to Kohala and Apa’apa’a are the strong winds that parch Kohala. 

Having lived in Hilo and Kona, and now Kohala, we can attest to the dramatic differences in the winds in each place.  Living on Hawaii Island in the summer without air conditioning makes any sudden breezes an incredible delight and we have come to enjoy the mumuku when they arrive.