Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas Music Singing

Merry belated Christmas and happy early New Year, everyone. It's a quiet Christmas holiday for me so I haven't had much to talk about. My big excitement for December so far was attending a Messiah sing-along for the first time.

I'd never been to a Messiah sing-along before so I didn't know what to expect, but I ended up having a lot of fun. The four voices of the choir were split up around the church and I ended up sitting in front of my choir director, who coincidentally also sings bass. This turned out to be very helpful as my ability at singing unfamiliar music can be summed up as “tempo, lyrics, pitch—pick any two!” (and while I'm intimately familiar with the solo parts of the Messiah, I get lost in the dense melismas of the multi-part choruses).

Ultimately, I had a great time with it (we didn't perform the entire work, just Act I, the Hallelujah chorus, and the final two choruses) and I hope to participate again next time I get a chance. A hui hou!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

PSA: Dengue Fever on the Big Island

I don't know how much coverage it's getting outside Hawaii, but here on the Big Island of Hawai‘i we're having the largest outbreak of dengue fever in a U.S. state since World War II (though there have been much larger ones in Puerto Rico and American Samoa). The number of confirmed cases passed a hundred and forty this week, with no immediate signs of slowing down. Dengue fever, if you don't know (as I didn't), is a mosquito-borne viral disease endemic in more than a hundred and ten countries, which can have potentially life-threatening effects.

This isn't the first outbreak in the island chain; the most recent outbreak happened on Maui a few decades ago, though only a total of eighty-seven cases were reported before it was contained. It remains to be seen if it can be similarly contained here on the Big Island, or whether it'll become endemic. Rather unnervingly, up to 80% of people who contract the virus are asymptomatic, so there could potentially be a lot of people on the island who've had it (and are [or were] potential spreaders) but don't know it.

The bright side (if you can call it a bright side) to all this is that the virus comes in five strains, exposure to any one of which grants lifelong immunity to that strain and is likely (as mentioned above) to cause no major problems. So far I don't think there have been any fatalities directly tied to it, despite the large number of reported cases. The problems really begin, however, when someone who's had it once contracts a different strain; then you start to get much higher chances of very dangerous complications.

The outbreak hasn't been confirmed to any particular location, and cases have been reported all over the island, so officials are warning people that infected mosquitoes could be anywhere. If you, gentle reader, are thinking of visiting the Big Island (specifically the Big Island, it hasn't shown up elsewhere yet) in the near future, you'd do well to investigate how things are going and how much progress is being made in the containment process, and take care not to get bitten. Stay safe! A hui hou!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Island Nishinoshima

This week I learned of a volcanic island about a thousand kilometers south of Tokyo named Nishinoshima (“western island” in Japanese). Prior to 1973, Nishinoshima was a tiny islet comprising the northwest ridge of an underwater caldera about a kilometer across and about a hundred meters beneath the ocean surface at its deepest.  No eruptions at this volcano had ever been recorded in the historical record.

Starting in May 1973, however, the volcano began erupting, ultimately forming a new island to the east of the old one. The volcano fell silent a bit less than a year later, after which wave action joined the new and old islands (the new one being composed of a lot of cinder doubtless helped).

There things rested until November 2013 when the volcano began erupting again, creating another new islet off the southeast coast of the old one. This eruption continued vigorously until it had created an island larger than the one already existing. The Japanese government (which claims the island[s]) was reportedly waiting for the eruption to stop to give the new island a name, but this was rendered moot soon thereafter when the still-growing island connected to the old one, making a single island a bit over two square kilometers.

The eruption continues to this day (as far as I can tell), though it's become a lot less vigorous and may be dying down. Here's what the island looks like on Google Maps at the moment: the older part of the island is the north-western part in the lighter tan color (it's clearly recognizable in an image from December 8, 2013).

I thought it was a neat look at what the Hawaiian islands must have looked like at one point, breaching the surface of the ocean and building up to the towering edifices they became. The base Nishinoshima volcano already rises nearly three kilometers from the ocean floor and is nearly thirty kilometers across at its base, so it could presumably get a lot taller. All very interesting. A hui hou!