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7/27/2016 Living in Hawaii

Aside from working through various things on my to-do list and watching a whole lot of Lost (Connie is really hooked), I've been trying to do a few things to take advantage of my last bit of time in Hawaii. Walking around and visiting some favorite restaurants mostly, but I also did some snorkeling and spent some time at the beach. I am going to miss living here. Less than a week to go now...

Speaking of which, I'll be leaving Hawaii next week. PV will update normally on Monday and probably (though not 100%) Wednesday. Friday and the following Monday, however, are a bit more uncertain depending on how smoothly things go when I get to Virginia.

Moving on, I've got some RHCs for you...

Random Hawaii Comment: State Government
I don't normally talk about governments, state or otherwise. And, as is abundantly clear, every government has its share of problems. But one thing I've noticed living in Hawaii, compared to every other state I've lived in, is just how dysfunctional the local government is here. Despite the fact that every tax except sales tax is through the roof, the government here just can't seem to get things done. Every big project, even the ones that are supposed to be high priority and fast tracked, gets bogged down, running way over budget and years behind schedule. Just look at the light rail, or the recent initiative to add air conditioning to more school classrooms. There's a lot of reasons behind things like that. Horribly inaccurate cost estimates, attempts to cram a bunch of extra stuff into projects, too many unions and special interest groups, way too much time and money spent on studies instead of actually doing anything, etc., etc. Not all can be blamed on the government itself, but quite a lot can. Heck, even when they have more than enough money, they still can't seem to get things done. The state government actually got in trouble with the federal government not long ago for failing to spend a large portion of the money they'd been given for road work, despite a massive amount of roads needing repair. And even privately funded projects tend to hit a ridiculous amount of red tape, drastically slowing them down or throwing them into limbo. Then there's all the corruption scandals from many different departments (mayoral, finance, education, health care, police, even ethics and oversight). Then there's the ridiculous stuff like how one certain government department was eating up a notable chunk of the entire state's internet bandwidth since everyone was streaming stuff on Netflix every day instead of actually doing their jobs.
Something else that really doesn't help is that there's a notable chunk of the populace, both government and regular citizens, who are extremely resistant to change. Anything new or different, regardless of how much better it might be, is met with a massive amount of scepticism, if not outright hostility. And if that thing comes from the mainland US, it's even worse. There's a strong Hawaiian sense of identity here, at least among some, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but often gets channeled into an anti-anything not Hawaiian sentiment. And, once again, a very strong resistance to change, not matter how beneficial it may be.
So, while there are a lot of great things about living in Hawaii, the highly dysfunctional state government certainly isn't one of them. Hopefully it'll improve over time as different people get elected and laws get changed but, for now, it's got a lot of issues that probably won't be cleared up any time soon.

Random Hawaii Comment: Living in Hawaii
So, after two years, what do I think of living in Hawaii? Well, first off, the good points. You've got what's probably the most consistent nice weather year around, there's great beaches, and great hiking. If you like the outdoors, and aren't a big winter sports lover, this is really one of the best places to be. There's also a vibrant mix of cultures, great shopping and dining, and one of the strongest Asian influences you can find outside of Asia itself (at least on Oahu, the other islands don't really match up in those regards). And, in general anyway, people are friendly and helpful.
On the down side, taxes, and the cost of living in general (especially housing and utilities) is extremely high. Job opportunities are limited unless you're in a few specific fields, which is a bad combination with the high cost of living. The local government is a mess, there's a strong resistance to any sort of change (even very positive ones), and there are some people (not a majority by any means, but some) who harbor a strong bias against those who weren't born and raised in Hawaii. Not to mention the big homeless problem, the horrible traffic, and few other issues. Finally, leaving the islands is both time consuming and expensive.
So, with all that said, I really loved living in Hawaii. Maybe I would have gotten a bit stir crazy after a few years on a relatively small island but, then again, with so much to see and do, maybe not. I certainly wasn't fond of the high cost of living, but I loved all the outdoor stuff, he events and festivals, and the variety of shops and restaurants (especially the Japanese ones). However, if any of you are thinking of living in Hawaii, make sure you know what you're getting into. Don't even think of moving here unless you have a job lined up (it's way too expensive and work in some fields is too hard to find) and make sure you know what you're going to be getting into. Look into the cost of living, especially in regards to housing (preferably near where you're going to work, unless you want to deal with the extreme rush hour traffic, and make sure that you'll be able to support your lifestyle off of whatever salary you'll be getting. You may also want to spend some time on whichever island you're thinking of moving to before hand. Ideally a few weeks, but even a few days is better than nothing. Get a feel for the island and the culture so you know whether or not it's a place you'd be comfortable living. And, finally, don't forget about the moving expenses, which can be pretty high.
There's a lot of great things about living in Hawaii, but there are drawbacks as well, some of which are pretty significant, so it's not a good fit for everyone. But, if you like the lifestyle, can manage to find a decent (and hopefully stable) job, and have a bit of money set aside in case things go wrong, go ahead and give it a shot.


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7/25/2016 Pokémon Go

Well, I've had a chance to spend a decent amount of time with Pokémon Go, so I'll take a break from travelogue stuff today to talk about it. By now, whether or not you've played Pokémon Go, you've almost certainly heard about it. Whether how it's been breaking all sorts of mobile game and app records, or how it's led to some people causing trouble and/or getting into trouble. First, the basics. Pokémon Go is a mobile game developed by Nintendo's Pokémon Company division and Niantic, a mobile developer known for their alternate reality mobile game Ingress. Actually, Pokémon Go borrows a lot from Ingress, but anyway... When you first start, you link it to either your Pokémon Network ID or Google / Apple account, create a trainer (with very limited customization options), and choose your starting pokémon from bulbasaur, charmander, and squirtle. Unlike in the regular pokémon games, your choice doesn't really matter much since you'll be constantly replacing your pokémon with stronger ones as you catch them. And catching new pokémon is most of the game. Pokémon Go presents you with a map of your surroundings (GPS needs to be on to play the game). There are three things you can find on the map. The first are pokéstops, which tend to be located at points of interest (notable buildings and businesses, statues, fountains, murals, etc.). If you're standing close enough to one, you can tap on it and spin the image around to get a few random items (pokéballs, potions, etc.). Pokéstops have to recharge between uses, but the time is fairly short (several minutes) so you can hang out near one and farm items for a while if you want to. Next is gyms. They're also centered around points of interest and, while they're fairly common, there are far fewer gyms than pokéstops. Upon reaching trainer level 5, you join one of three teams and can either train at and help defend a gym belonging to your team, or challenge and try to take over a gym belonging to a rival team. Finally, wild pokémon will periodically appear on the map. Tap one and the game brings up a view of your surroundings (using your phone's camera). Look around and you'll spot the pokémon (bringing them into real life, sort of) and can try and capture it. Capturing pokémon is pretty simple, just swipe to throw a pokéball (you do need to aim a little) and hope it works. Though you can get a little fancy with your throws (aiming for good timing or adding spin) to increase your chances and get some bonus experience points if you want. You can also pull up a list of nearby pokémon and try to walk around to different locations and track them down, though I've never gotten the tracker to work right. You can also use certain items on yourself, or a pokéstop, to make pokémon appear more frequently.
And that's most of the game. Walk around, get items from pokéstops, and catch pokémon (right now, the original 151, minus legendries and ditto, are available). And you want to catch lots of pokémon. Even if you've already caught 50 pidgys, catching another will get you experience, stardust, and candy. Experience, which you get for doing pretty much everything, increases your trainer level. The higher your level, the better items you can get and the more powerful the pokémon you can encounter (though still expect a ton of weak pidgy and ratata). You can power up and/or evolve your pokémon using stardust and candy, though in most cases it's way more efficient to wait until you level up a bit and just catch some stronger ones (unlike in the regular Pokémon games).
The other part of the game is gym battling. Though the battles mostly come down to tapping on the screen as fast as you can (with the occasional swipe to dodge if you can get the timing right) and winning either through sheer power or attrition. Don't expect a lot of depth or strategy. Do training battles at a gym your team owns and you increase its prestige and might even be able to leave a pokémon there to help defend it (giving you occasional free stuff). Battle an opposing gym to lower its prestige and eventually take it over. Gyms tend to change hands pretty quickly, as even someone with weaker pokémon can take them down via a war of attrition (assuming they have enough items on hand to heal their pokémon after battle), especially when attacked by a group.
A few warnings. First, remember not to do anything you wouldn't do normally. Don't trespass, stop in the middle of the road, or walk around dangerous areas. Second, Pokémon Go drains your phone's battery very quickly, even in power saving mode, so expect to charge your phone often and bring a portable charger if you plan to be out playing for a long time. Finally, the way the map is populated, you'll find lots of gyms and pokéstops in cities, but little to nothing in rural areas, so you might not have much to do if you try playing while in the country. I should probably also mention that Pokémon Go is very buggy game (no, I'm not talking about bug pokémon). While it has steadily improved since launch, the servers still go down frequently and it's not at all uncommon for the game to free, stop responding to taps, and the like.

Over all, Pokémon Go is very different, and much more simplistic, than the main games, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's something special about tracking down and catching pokémon in real life (now they just need to combine it with Google Glass of the Microsoft Hololens), and the game encourages you to walk around and explore your surroundings (whether to find pokémon, visit gyms and pokéstops, or hatch eggs), which is pretty cool. It may even lead you to some interesting locations you've never visited before. Not to mention all the opportunities it presents to meet other players. As a nice bonus, micro-transactions are in no way necessary (you can buy extra pokéballs and other items), providing a useful service without imposing any real hardship on players who don't want to spend money. Whether or not you're a pokémon fan, I'd recommend giving it a shot for a few days and trying out life as a pokémon trainer.


7/22/2016 Enjoying Hawaii

Remember to vote with the TWC button to see the new bonus comic!

While there has been a lot to get done before the move, I'm trying to do a few fun things as well, so here's a couple more normal travelogue entries.

July 17th (Sunday): The Ukulele Festival
The Ukulele Festival is an annual event held at Kapiolani Park at the end of Waikiki. There's a handful of booths with food and ukuleles for sale, but it's mainly a day to listen to a variety of ukulele performances. I went last year for a while with my parents and this year I went down for a couple of hours on my own. I mostly went to see Willie K, one of the more famous ukulele players. He played a mix of Hawaiian music, classic rock, and some other stuff. While he's not as creative and as high energy as Jake Shimabukuro (who wasn't there this year), he's still really skilled. Despite a little rain, it was fun to watch and listen for a while, though I doubt I could last all day without getting bored.
On an unrelated note, there was a big rainbow later in the day, which actually continued over the canal rather than stopping at the ground. First time I'd seen that, and pretty cool.

July 19th (Tuesday): The Full Moon at Makapu'u Lighthouse
I've done the Makapu'u Lighthouse hike multiple times, and written about it as well. Anyway, it's also popular as a night hike, especially when there's a full moon. Though, as a note, they close the parking lot around 7:30 so you'll want to park on the side of the road instead. I've tried to do the full moon hike a couple of times in the past but I seem to have a knack for picking the full moons when its too cloudy to see anything, so I gave up both times. Well, since I'm moving soon, I decided to give it one more go. Unfortunately, my luck hadn't improved all that much.
Anyway, I arrived around dusk and started up the trail. There were a decent amount of people, and I think about half were Pokémon Go players. Surprisingly enough, there were a few pokéstops and a couple of gyms on the trail. Aside from pokémon, I also spotted a mongoose and feral cat on the way up. It was dark by the time I reached the top. Unfortunately, due to a mix of clouds and haze, I couldn't see the moon at all. Though I did get to see the lighthouse all lit up. The moon did eventually peak out, though not for very long, and all the haze made it look rather like a blood moon. Kind of neat, but not really the full moon hike I wanted. Ah well, maybe I'll try again next time I'm in Hawaii, whenever that is.

Have a good weekend!


Pokémon and all related images and trademarks are copyrighted by Nintendo, one of my favorite games companies who would certainly never waste their time by trying to sue me. Especially since I'm protected under the Fair Use Rule of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Aside from that the actual site content is copyrighted by me, Josiah Lebowitz 2003.