Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Very Strange Cloud

Yesterday, I was enjoying a beverage on the lanai at sunset and saw a very unusual phenomenon.  It appeared to be a vertical, very bright line--way brighter than anything near it.  I took a bunch of photos, just in case it was a one-in-a-million atmospheric curiosity or better still, space aliens. 

Even as the sun dropped beneath the Waianae Range, this whatever it was remained very bright and did not move.  Finally, I took a look at it through the binoculars and darn if it wasn't just a lone cloud.  Looking at the photos, whether or not you've had a drink, I think you'll agree it's truly unusual.

This photo was taken with my Canon camera, and it's a pretty-decent representation of what I saw.

This is how my Samsung phone camera saw it.

Another cell phone photo.  The object was almost brighter than the clouds closer to the setting sun.

Canon camera again, with lots of zoom and it's clearly just a cloud. :( another week or so, the sun will be dipping into the Pacific and at least we'll have more chances to see the Green Flash again. :)

This shot of the setting half-moon was taken at the golf course this morning. 

On the beautiful second hole, I put the phone camera on the "panorama" setting and captured the entire view.  Click on this, or any of the photos for a closer view.  That's Stan and Marv on the far right.

An colorful inter-island jet taxied by the green of the third hole.  I've always been a fan of Hawaiian Airlines livery.

A UPS Boeing-747 cargo hauler taxis to the reef runway.

This expansive Bougainvillea display graces the first tee box and is seen here from the eighteenth green.  Love the "autumn" colors in Hawaii.

That's all folks!  Have a good day tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Michele in Italia

Michele is currently in Italy--Pitigliano, to be specific--in southern Tuscany, on this leg of her halfway-round-the-world biennial vacation.  She sent a bunch of photos of family, friends, food and the scenery today and I thought you'd enjoy seeing this place we love so very much.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

Say "Ciao" to sisters Wanda and Anna Giannelli.  Wanda is married to Tarziello Niccolai and Anna is married to famous stand-up comedian (and cousin to Michele) Mario Stefanelli.  These two ladies speak superb English and without them, out life in Italy would have been so-o-o much more challenging.

Anna and Mario's daughters, Emmanuela and Claudia.  These young women were teenagers during our time living there.  Where did the time go?

Michele tells me this is a new walkway on the back side of the old city.

A pizza restaurant in the old town.  One summer night, we went here to dance under the stars.

This is Liviano, my barber in Italy.  He seems to have even more hair than when I visited his shop, but then, so did I. :)

Michele took this photo of a tractor bringing grapes to a community winery.  It's the time of the vendemmia (grape harvest) in Italy.  Her vantage point is a pedestrian bridge over the road.

The only hotel in the old section of Pitigliano, Albergo di Guastini.  We have stayed here a couple of times and the views from the rooms on the back side of the hotel are breathtaking.  They also have a very nice restaurant and a bar which they recently sold to a local family.

Wanda and her husband, world-renowned motociclista and Dad, Tarziello, preparing lunch for Michele and Anna.

The primo piato:  mezza penne with smoked salmone and lemon.  Not your everyday pasta sauce!

Secondo, (second plate) was pork tenderloin with a kiwi sauce.  Michele said the kiwi acted much like lemon to brighten and balance the sauce.

Contorno was peas with pancetta.  Of course, all the Tuscan bread you can eat is available, too.  This is exactly how I remember the typical second plate.  Manageable portions.  And the meat sauces were usually just juices from the pan.  They provide just enough moisture to accompany the meat.

Michele brought the dessert.

Anna showing some young cheese from Sardinia.  They all drove up to visit Emmanuela and Nicola on the spur-of-the-moment and enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

Claudia, Emmanuela and their father, Mario working on the dinner.

This is Nicola, hardest working chef in Italy.  He brought a beautiful bowl of fresh figs for the dinner.

I feel sorry for anyone who has not had the opportunity to taste ripe figs, straight off the tree.

Arrivederci ladies.  Michele, Anna and the new owner of the Hotel Guastini Bar (I think) having a good time.  The bar is now called, La Mandragola.

Hope you all had a good day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Moving On...

Been busy the past week or so, with everything but painting.  It has not stopped, however, evenings on the lanai to wind down and enjoy nature's finale to each day.

On September 9th, I caught a small aircraft heading for what reminds me of "The Twilight Zone", beyond those massive clouds.  Wonder if it made it?

The sunset that evening reflected in downtown buildings.

A large passenger jet approaches the runway, with that intense sun about to say "goodnight" to Honolulu.

Sunday, I was invited by Rick Chang to join his other golf club playing at The Turtle Bay Hilton's George Fazio course.  The North Shore resort has another course on the property, designed by Arnold Palmer.

The Turtle Bay Hilton across the bay.

Rick hits his approach shot to the uphill green. 

At the green we were rewarded with an ocean view.  The hotel has jogging paths, horseback riding and all sorts of other things to keep guests busy in case they're not golfers.

Caught up to today, Tuesday, September 13th.  A huge Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III  transport aircraft departs Honolulu at sunset for an unknown destination.  Or maybe it's a local training flight. :)

It was a spectacular sunset this evening.  Hope you all had a good day and your tomorrow is even better.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pacific Ocean--1, Gary--0

O'ahu dodged two hurricanes the past couple of weeks, and the 47th-annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim went as scheduled on Labor Day.  I felt confident I'd be able to finish the race under the "official finisher" maximum time of two-hours, forty-minutes.

Michele and I arrived a little over an hour prior to the 8:30 AM start.  The first, or "A" wave would consist of elite swimmers, including a couple of Olympians this year.  I was in the "D", fourth wave and would be starting at 8:45 AM.  I checked-in, had my entrant number written on both arms and  wave letter on each calf.  I picked-up my timing chip and strapped it around my ankle.  There was plenty of time to get in the water for a little warm-up swim.   

We were alerted during the pre-start safety briefing, that we would be facing an outgoing tide and strong current.  When you enter this event, you are cautioned to avoid starting if you think ocean conditions are beyond your abilities, but I don't think the brief scared anyone away.  We wouldn't be there is we didn't think we could complete the swim.

The gun sounded on time and we watched the elite group takeoff.  It was like watching a pod of dolphins zooming toward a bait ball.  As each successive wave started, we moved ever closer to the water and our turn.  Several of us decided to let most of the group go ahead.  It's a nice way to avoid flying elbows and maybe having your goggles knocked-off.

The first leg of the race is 677-meters out.  A large orange buoy marked the right turn to parallel Waikiki Beach for the next 2,305-meters.  The swim became increasingly challenging as I approached that buoy.  The current kept pushing us away from it.  Most of us were able to get to, and beyond it, but we now had the current directly in our faces.  We had been advised during the safety brief to head toward the beach after passing the buoy, to reduce the current's impact, but even after making the turn, headway was impossible. 

After swimming without any forward progress for several minutes, I became concerned.  Busting my gut to get out of the current by heading toward shore might lead to an escape, but would significantly lengthen the course.  That might jeopardize my chances for making it to the halfway buoy by the maximum time allowed and result in an end to my day.  Also, I'd eventually be forced to return to that current in order to round the final buoy.  The current was so strong, even the slightest pause to get my bearings resulted in losing whatever minimal progress I'd made.  And I wasn't alone.  Many swimmers around me were struggling, too. 

The only other choice was to surrender, raise my arm in the air and wait for assistance.  I decided it was better to stop with some strength left in case all the rescue personnel were busy.  Had I waited until exhaustion set-in, the current would've been zooming toward Diamond Head, perhaps out of sight of help.  A volunteer on a paddle board came up when he saw my signal and I grabbed the side of his board.  Soon, a jet ski arrived, towing a sled with another swimmer on it.  I joined the young woman on the sled and we were taken to shore.  The post title pretty-well sums up the day.

I wasn't feeling too great yesterday afternoon, disappointed that I failed to finish.  That feeling was greatly eased when we saw a tease for the early evening news:  "Lifeguards Help Three Hundred People To Shore".  I was astounded, to put it mildly.  At the end of my race, I could see a bunch of others needing help, but had no idea it was so many.  Apparently, many swimmers ahead of me, failed to make the halfway point in the two-hour maximum and they were assisted out of the water.  Knowing that, I didn't feel nearly as bad.

I've taken a look at the finishers list and only 434 people made it.  I haven't seen the final tally of entrants, but approximately 700 were signed-up as of a couple days prior to the race.  Of the 30 entered in my 65-69 age group, including me, only 12 out of 30 finished.  Since 2000, there have been two other races which did not go well, and last year the event was cancelled due to dangerous conditions.

So, despite the disappointing outcome, it's a check in the box for me and I don't think I'll do this again.  Like running the marathon before turning 65, this is now done.  Time to concentrate on painting, some golf and enjoying life.  I'll certainly keep swimming, but not with any specific goal in mind, beyond exercise and enjoyment.  Here are some photos of the day:

Ready to go!  Plenty of sunblock, race number on both arms, wave letter on each calf and yellow swim cap to identify those of us in wave "D".

Kaimana Beach crowded with race participants eager to get in the water.  It was a beautiful sunny morning, but the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel shaded the beach at this time.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

"D" wave is next.  Yeah, that's me in the board shorts with the Hawaii state flag.  The thing on my ankle is the timing chip, NOT a police monitor! :)

The race is on!  Not for long, but everyone was optimistic about now.

Final goggle adjustments.

On the way.

Taken from the Labor Day news broadcast of "Hawaii News Now".  This is the most correct wording of what happened.  Only two or three swimmers needed a genuine rescue.  Some of the TV stations chose much more dramatic captions to keep viewers tuned-in, but sadly, aren't we all used to that.

Hope you all had a good day!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Variety Day

Quite a lot going on around here, so without further delay, let's get to the photos:

This is a very sleepy, young male Monk seal, hauled-up on Fort DeRussy beach.  We were there so I could make a final training swim prior to the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, on Labor Day.  Hurricane Madeline had almost zero affect on O'ahu, so it was a good day to hit the beach.  We're not sure whether or not the race will be held, because Hurricane Lester is heading this way and may cause dangerous ocean conditions which could result in officials cancelling the event.  Last year, an ocean swell brought dangerous waves to Waikiki, and the race was cancelled twenty minutes prior to the start.  I'm okay, either way, since I swam the race distance yesterday in 2-hours, 15-minutes, which is comfortably under the maximum time (2+40) to be an "official finisher".

This photo was taken from the 31 August KITV evening news.  If this track holds, Monday the downgraded storm will be well-north of O'ahu.  The question is, how much rain and wind damage will occur to the south shore where Waikiki is located.

President Obama arrived in Honolulu late afternoon on August 31st, for the IUCN World Conservation Congress.  For those who aren't familiar with the acronym..."IUCN" stands for International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  You may have seen the recent news report about President Obama significantly increasing the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, established in 2006 by President George W. Bush.  And that's a good thing.

In the center of this photo, the last third and the tail of Air Force One can be seen.  The President gave the famous plane the day off, taking what appeared to be either a newer series Boeing-737 or a Boeing-757 for the 1,151-nautical mile flight to Midway Island.  The island is within the marine monument’s boundaries, and his visit will emphasize the significance of the expansion and highlight how the threat of climate change makes protecting public lands and waters especially important.

"Gear up."  The President departs Honolulu for Midway Island at ten AM, September 1st.  For those who might not know...Whatever aircraft the President rides in, for that trip, it is designated, "Air Force One".  The Boeing-747 we're all used to seeing and being referred to as Air Force One can be seen in the upper right of this photo.

A final view of the President's plane climbing out from Honolulu International Airport.

That's all folks.  Have a great day, wherever you are.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

One Heck Of A Sunset

But first...How 'bout a few more navy ship photos. 

It was really tough to see the hull number of this ship, but I believe it's the U.S.S. New Orleans (LPD-18).  Sorry to the crew if I got this wrong, but for sure it's a San Antonio-class Amphibious Transport Dock ship, designed to carry Marines and their equipment wherever needed.  If you click on the photo, you'll notice there is quite a bit of rust.  It's commonly seen on navy ships which have been working hard, traveling the world on deployment.  Rest assured, once back at her home port, she will receive all the TLC required to remedy this.

The main reason I took notice of the ship passing by on it's way to Pearl Harbor, was the flight deck.  It's the first time I could see V-22 Osprey tiltroter aircraft on a ship.

This is the U.S.S. Boxer (LHD-4), a Wasp-class Amphibious Assault ship, just out of Pearl Harbor.  This giant ship also carries the V-22 Osprey aircraft, as well as, Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion  helicopters.

Finally, it was quite the sunset yesterday.  This image was taken at 7:05 PM.

And this, was taken the same time, but looking further to the west.  WOW!  These are very true to the colors we saw.  Now, I ask you...If this amazing sunset was turned into a painting, do you think anyone would believe such a thing actually happened in nature?  This is the dilemma of attempting to capture an event like this in paint.  As spectacular as it is, it would look horribly gaudy, in addition to being hard to believe.  I'm still working on my version of a sunset and hope to post it soon! :)

This ominous image was taken from local TV station KGMB "Hawaii News Now" last night.  As I type this, two...count 'em, TWO Category-3 hurricanes are aimed at the islands.  We're sure to feel the effects, beginning as soon as Wednesday and over the Labor Day weekend.  I suspect there's a chance the Waikiki Roughwater Swim may be cancelled again this year.  Maybe I'm a jinx on the race. :(

Hope you're all having a good day.