Out of Place

Around this island the observant hiker will become attuned to various clues that give a view into the natural history or human history of the landscape.

An ʻopihi shell found along a utility line access road far from the ocean
An ʻopihi shell found along a utility line access road far from the ocean

One such clue is the presence of seashells, these are usually a giveaway of ancient Hawaiian occupation of a site or locality. The bleached and broken bits of shell a long lasting remant of meals harvested from the shoreline and brought to places well inland. Often found around lava tubes or water sources these shells let you know that others have passed here before.

An ʻopihi shell along a power line access road near Waikoloa? This is a bit unexpected. I have to stop and pick up this shell, stopping to puzzle out this anomaly.

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Favorite Tools

For someone who works with their hands tools are important. We all have our favorite tools, that one we always use as we have for so many years. There may be a dozen screwdrivers in the rack, but that one is used almost every time.

A veteran Weller WES50 soldering station
A veteran Weller WES50 soldering station

Thus is with great sadness that I announce the death of my longtime soldering station.

A good soldering iron is a basic tool for an electronics engineer. A multimeter, a soldering iron, and a set of basic hand tools are absolutely necessary for any electronics workbench. To this end I had bought a very good iron, one that has served me well for several decades.

I wonder just how many soldered connections I made with this old soldering iron… Thousands upon thousands certianly, so many circuit boards, connectors, and wires.

There are no available spare parts for this long obsolete soldering station. There are many conversations on bulletin boards and chat rooms lamenting this as others have had their beloved soldering irons fail. The WES50 was long ago replaced by the WES51, and the parts are not interchangable.

With sadness I remove the old soldering station from the bench. I replace it with a new Weller WE1010NA station. I wonder just what work awaits the new soldering iron, how many solder joints will it see in the coming decades. I hope that this new iron will outlast me.

I Am Not Impressed Jeep

After a couple years of use the Jeep Compass has been a fairly good vehicle. A decent daily driver, good gas mileage where gas is $5 a gallon, and able to do rough back roads with little worry.

A damaged cargo bed support in a Jeep Compass
A damaged cargo bed support in a Jeep Compass

I do have a few complaints, one of which had to be dealt with this week… The cargo area bed supports simply failed. I had noted signs of stressed plastic before, some cracks appearing after hauling heavy loads.

The final straw was Deep Violet, my 18″ telescope… Weighing in at well over 100lbs. When unloading the ‘scope after a night at Kaʻohe I found that the bed seems to have collapsed under the weight. The molded plastic bed supports simply ripped away from the cargo bed side panels.

An SUV where the cargo bed supports are two protrusions molded into the thin plastic side panels? Yeah, not impressed.

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A Misty Night at Kaʻohe

While I have gotten plenty of telescope time lately, it has usually been morning sessions with the old Astrola in my driveway. This is a low effort and thoroughly enjoyable practice that I engage in about half a dozen times each month. Such sessions do mean that my 18″ telescope languishes for far too long in the garage.

Ben Harmon checking the sky in anticipation of a good evening of observing at Kaʻohe
Ben Harmon checking the sky in anticipation of a good evening of observing at Kaʻohe

I really need to change that.

Thus when my fellow staff at Symbrosia start asking for another star party it made a good excuse to get the big ‘scope out of the garage and under a dark sky.

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A Century in Service

In this age of short product lifecycles and rapid obsolescence it is nice to see an example of longevity. We consider equipment or tools old when over ten years in service. How about a century?

A compressed gas cylinder with inspection dates spanning over a cetury
A compressed gas cylinder with inspection dates spanning over a century

Our CO₂ is delivered in standard industrial pressure cylinders. These steel cylinders hold 50lbs of liquid CO₂ at a pressure sufficient to keep it liquid at room temperature, about or about 800PSI.

These standard cylinders require inspection every five years, and the inspection date is stamped into the steel at the top of the cylinder in the format month-year with a two digit year. It has been this way for a long time, longer than I realized.

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The King’s Loop

The region south of Waikoloa along the shore seems to be a barren field of lava with little to offer beyond miles of dark rock and baking sun. That may seem to be the case, but there are surprising gems out in those lava fields.

The King's Trail south of Waikoloa
Looking along the King’s Trail south of Waikoloa

The plan? As usual hike the King’s Trail south from Waikoloa, but this time explore some of the smaller trails I had passed by in the past. Perusing the satellite imagery reveals a surprising number of trails through the lava. Considering the substantial effort it takes to cut a trail through the worst aʻa lava those trails must be significant somehow.

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