Monday, January 31, 2011

In Search of the Sunrise: Part II

Alternatively titled Dan and Jon's Continuing Quest to Capture a Sunrise in Hawai‘i.

As you can probably surmise from the title, Jonathan and I got up at 6 again this morning to try our luck at photographing the sunrise. This time we headed for Richardson's Beach, a beach to the east of Hilo jutting out north into the ocean. Unfortunately, the weather itself conspired against us this time, and there were clouds as far as the eye could see to the north and east.

Richardson's Beach is very rocky, with craggy lava rock jutting up at odd angles, making a fascinating and complex series of tide pools and small cliffs. To actually the place where the sun would rise, we had to clamber along the rock face around the north end of the point. As you can see, it's not always an easy hike:

Jonathan demonstrates how to climb while carrying a camera: very carefully.
Luckily, no one dropped anything in the ocean, although Jonathan fell in shortly after this picture was taken. He was crossing a shallow inlet connecting a tide pool and the ocean and slipped. Fortuitously, he fell in only up to his knees, and hardly even got his shorts wet. After he clambered out I asked him if the water was cold, and he said he couldn't tell me -- his brain had gone into "save camera or die" mode, and couldn't be bothered about such trifles as the temperature of the water.

In one of the many large tide pools in the area, we saw this beautiful sea turtle (honu in Hawaiian). I was probably no more than three feet above it when I snapped this photo:

He honu ma ke kai. (There is a turtle in the ocean)
Here's another of the numerous tide pools, resplendent in the morning light, with Hilo in the background:

Apparently we managed to show up right around low tide, as the tide seemed to be coming in while we were there. It's pretty spectacular for a land-lubber such as myself to see the foaming surf swirling around the hard black lava rock, or crashing against it to release high-flying blobs of spray into the air. This picture shows one such wave inundating a small bay near to us. It was immediately followed by us retreating rapidly from the area as it threw up spray in our direction.

This photo is facing east, by the way.
In case you're wondering, yes, Jonathan and I will continue to get up at crazy hours on the weekends and drive around Hilo on a scooter to try to bring you a photo of a Hawaiian sunset! Though I can make no promises as to when the next installment will be.

 Finally, I'd like to apologize for the lack of posts around here recently. I had the misfortune to pick the writing class with almost daily homework assignments, not to mention the other classes I'm taking. It may remain slow this semester, I don't know. Another reason for the slowness is that I simply haven't felt as much inspiration to write recently, since I'm determined to keep this blog from becoming a mere Twitter or Facebook-like stream of everyday events. Although maybe it's time I got around to writing that post about why I'm not on Facebook...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

I don't normally do movie reviews, but since The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was one of my favorites of the Chronicles of Narnia and I saw it over Christmas break, I thought I might as well.

Without saying too much and spoiling it for those who haven't seen it, I wish it had been longer. I know it was already almost two hours long, but it still felt way too short for me. It just didn't give me the feeling of an epic voyage of exploration and discovery boldly going where no Narnian had gone before that I got from the book. It seemed like they had hardly finished with one island before they were at the next, and while I realize that most of the action does, indeed, take place on the islands, it's the stretches of sea-going in between that give it a feeling of momentousness. This is because perception of time is very different between a book and movie.

While reading a book, perception of time passing is in some ways related to the reading speed of the reader. Most people (myself included) cannot read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in under two hours. For me personally, it would probably take around 6-8 hours. This gives the story a feeling of lengthiness; you feel that the voyage takes a long time, in part because it takes you a long time to read it. The point I'm trying to make is that for a book, time is not a part of the story; it is something each reader adds for themselves.

In movies, on the other hand, time is integrally tied up with the story and is provided not by the reader, but by the director. Directors, thus, in some ways have a bigger obligation to viewers than authors do to readers, because they must add the perception of time in themselves. The story of the Dawn Treader is given momentousness because, in the book, it takes place over many months of time. But the real perception of time passing comes from the reader, and specifically from pauses in reading. You pause in mid-sentence to turn a page, you stop to stretch and look out the window, you take a break to eat a meal, etc. All these pauses give the mind a chance to stop and evaluate what has been read, and imbue it with a sense of time passing.

Some movies, however (Dawn Treader included), don't work that way. They just don't have those breaks in the action and activity that give you a chance to pause and subconsciously feel like time has passed in the movie. Instead, you end up feeling like everything happened one thing right after another, with no realistic time flow in between. This is why I'm a little bit frustrated at how fast the movie felt, because it could have been easily fixed, I believe, by adding in some short (20-30 second) shots of the Dawn Treader sailing on the open sea between islands. When I first brought up this idea to my mother, she objected that it would be boring. After thinking about it, I now believe that that is exactly why it would be effective. After all, which seems longer, doing a hour of your favorite activity, or an hour of something that bores you to tears? The boredom of the shot would force the audience to take a little mental break, and discretely alter their perception of the amount of time that had passed in the movie world. I'm not saying it should take boredom to a 2001: A Space Odyssey level, but just enough to keep it from feeling like watching a two-hour long evening news reel, where everything happens with no temporal interval in between to establish context.

Anyway, what started as a movie review has now turned into an essay on the differences in time perception between print and film media, and the measures that directors should take with the latter to preserve the sense of time (and associated momentousness) found in the former. And it's pretty long, to boot. For that reason I think I shall skip mentioning the other problems I had with the movie, at least for now. In its defense, the movie overall was fairly good. The visuals were well-done, the acting was solid, Reepicheep was awesome, Eustace was a lovable brat, and on the whole it stuck to the book pretty well. If you haven't seen it, you probably should, at least once. And if ever there be some ‘director's cut extended edition’ (a la Lord of the Rings), you can bet I will be wanting to see it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Search of the Sunrise.

My roommate (actually floormate) Jonathan recently got his first DSLR camera, a Nikon D90. This morning we got up at 6 AM so he could try out his new camera by trying to photograph the sunrise. I found a nifty little program online to tell me exactly when sunrise and sunset (and civil twilight, and nautical twilight, and ...) are so we'd be sure to get there before it happened. We made one small mistake, though: the sunrise isn't visible from the location we chose, near Coconut Island in Hilo Bay.

Despite this slight miscalculation, we still managed to get some nice photos, such as this one of a cruise ship coming into the Hilo harbor:
That's Coconut Island on the right.
Here's one of the bridge connecting the island to...well, the bigger island!

The still waters of the Lili‘uokalani Gardens provide ample opportunity for reflection:
Ahh...tricky picture, no?

This is about as much as we saw of the sunrise:

There was a huge banyan tree behind where we were standing, and as the sun came up, you could see the light reflecting off its higher branches first, as in this picture:

This is the sign you can see in the above picture:
But one of the feral cats we saw this morning.

Jonathan (sans beard) and his new toy:

Another little island in Hilo Bay, with downtown Hilo in the background:

One final sunrise shot:
This is not the same picture as the one above.

And now, for the first time ever on this blog...a video! Jonathan's D90, being much newer and more advanced than my D40, has the capability of shooting high-quality video, with some pretty decent sound to boot. He took this movie this morning, and graciously let me use it.

He pretty much sums up what happened there...and yes, next Sunday we're planning to do it again, but head somewhere else where we should have a nice clear shot at the eastern horizon.

(You'll also notice I'm bundled up pretty warmly in that video, that was less because the air was cold [it was merely cool] but because of the wind chill from riding on Jonathan's scooter to get there. And yes, even with all that on, I was still cold while riding.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Wednesday's and Friday's I have what I think I'm going to call the Quarter-Mile Dash. This is where I attempt to run between two classes mostly almost entirely uphill while weighed down with school supplies in the time allotted, which usually comes to around 10 minutes. I can't quite tell from a map if it's exactly a quarter-mile between classes as the ʻalalā (Hawaiian crow) flies, but campus is set up in such a way that taking such a linear route would pass straight through several building, forcing me to take a tortuously twisty, winding route to my destination. At least it's good exercise.

In other news, in field testing last night at the Vis, my replacement hiking boots turned out to be a lot warmer than I expected! I was afraid that, being made mostly of leather, they'd be cold, but at the end of the night I suddenly realized that I couldn't remember my feet being cold at all. Compared to my old shoes, this is quite an improvement.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sometimes I am a slow learner.

Well, I think if I can make it through this semester, I can make it through anything. That's a big 'if', though. I have once again, perhaps a little over-zealously, signed up for 21 credit-hours, comprising 7 classes. These classes are Mathematical Physics (at 8 in the morning Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), Quantum Mechanics (with our new professor) Geography 102 (World Culture Regions), Hawaiian 102 (with a different teacher), Seminar B (where I get to give a talk! Yay!), Writing for Science and Technology (a Writing's gonna be rough), and Galactic and Extragalactic Astrophysics (um...not much to say about it. Except that it will probably be kind of cool).

And because of that aforementioned 8 AM class I'm going to cut this post short, and merely note that we had our first thunderstorm of the year today (and come to think of it, this is the first night I've heard the coqui frogs since I've been back). The one nice thing about such early classes, though, is that at least I'm arriving to class pleasantly warm, not completely overheated and drenched in perspiration.

A hui hou!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goody Two-Shoes.

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but all last semester my pair of hiking boots I wear on Mauna Kea were slowly disintegrating. First, the sole on the right one at the toe end came loose, flopping around and threatening to trip me whenever I walked. I taped it up with a bit of duct tape and didn't think too much about it. Then the other foot followed suit, while I was actually walking to the MKSS offices to drive up! I had to temporarily patch that one up with a bit of packing tape up at the Vis.

Then, when I went hiking the time I went and observed at Subaru, both soles decided simultaneously to attempt to detach themselves completely. I'm very thankful I had the foresight at the last minute before leaving to stuff a roll of duct tape into my suitcase. Apparently the soles in my boots have some kind of white, skeletal-looking plastic insert for support, which started coming out in the right one giving it the rather macabre look of a compound fracture. Since I hadn't brought any other shoes, I had to sit down that afternoon and attempt a home cobbling job with duct tape. The results were...odd, but workable.

Thankfully they held up for the rest of the semester, sufficing for the few final times I volunteered, but even duct tape can take only so much punishment from Mauna Kea cinder. So this semester I brought back another pair I had from California, fresh and ready to go.

And speaking of the semester, it starts Monday, along with my rather demanding schedule. I have either four or five hours of classes on Monday-Wednesday-Friday's, starting at 8 o’ clock in the morning. At least it balances it out with only one class on Tuesday-Thursday's.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Meanwhile, back in Hawaiʻi...

Well, today I am safely back in Hawaiʻi, just waiting for the next semester to start on Monday. My, how time flies! My apologies for the quiet week, I just seem to have less motivation to write (not to mention time) when I'm at home. I did come up with some ideas to write about, so you can look forward to that in the weeks to come. catch up on all the sleep I missed while in California! Playing Risk into the wee hours of the morning can cause strange side effects, like conquering the entire North American continent in a massive single-turn blitzkrieg starting from a single surrounded region, or contemplating whether Iceland has ever actually been involved in any wars through history (yes, if you count civil strife), and whether or not it was ever a colony of one of the Scandinavian crowns (also yes; first Norway, then Norway-Denmark, then Denmark controlled it before it officially became its own nation in 1944).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Last Day of the Year.

ʻO kēia ka lā hope loa o ka makahiki ʻelua kaukani ʻumi.

Today is the last day of the year two-thousand-ten. Or, most likely, the first day of two-thousand-eleven, since I didn't get around to writing this till a quarter to midnight, and you're unlikely to be reading it that late at night.

Two-thousand-ten is now done, for good or ill. Here's hoping two-thousand-eleven is a better year for everyone!

Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou kākou! Happy New Year everyone!