Friday, March 27, 2015

Running in Richardson and Restaurant Review

Richardson, Texas was once a town of the ‘deep South’ in that it was settled by folks from
Near the now defunct Owens Country Farm
Kentucky and Tennessee in the 1840s. It was named after railroad contractor, E.H. Richardson, and although the center of town was near present-day Richland College, the city center moved closer to the railroad station. Rather than a steam locomotive, an electric railway connected Richardson, Denison, Waco, Corsicana and Fort Worth; Interurban Street in old downtown Richardson is a remnant of that enterprise. The red brick streets in downtown are also a reminder of Richardson’s past. By the 1950s, Richardson was a bustling town, but the population, economic status and land values really took off with the opening of Texas Instruments on its southern border. This once small town now has four Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail stations and the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts. It has been featured in a television series about business-makeovers and used as a model for the setting for the TV show King of the Hill. Richardson also has a vibrant ethnic population that includes about 60 Chinese cultural organizations and the India Association of North Texas along with the main Indian-American grocery store in DFW.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Aloha – Coming and Going – Reviews

Diamond Head from Waikiki
I have always enjoyed the Hawaiian Islands. I like the climate, the plants, the beach, the mountains, hiking, swimming, scuba diving, the food, the culture and the people. I’m comfortable spending the day in sandals, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, with little to do but enjoy whatever comes along. But this trip to O’ahu was bittersweet. Perhaps it was the time of year or the amount of road construction, but I don’t remember that the traffic was ever as difficult as it was this trip. I also don’t remember the large numbers of homeless people (locals and foreign) nor the regularity with which we encountered the obviously habitually inebriated (either through drugs or alcohol); for the first time I did not feel particularly safe walking just a block off the tourist areas. The environment seemed tired (for want of a better word), with litter in the streets, along the beaches, and even in some of the out-of-the-way places we visited. The local population of all of the Hawaiian Islands continues to rise as does the tourist population; perhaps population stressors are finally having a visible effect. Would I return to this island? Yes, but only to visit the few places I have not seen and to eat at one or two favorite restaurants. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Vog and other Scenic Events

Diamond Head in the Vog
Out and about in the morning, we were surprised at the amount of fog that was covering the mountains. We were also surprised that our eyes itched and noses burned. It’s not the fog but the vog. Vog is a form of air pollution that results when sunlight hits a mixture of oxygen, moisture, and the effluvia, namely sulfur dioxide, other gases and particles from an erupting volcano. The culprit in this case is Kīlauea on the Island of Hawaiʻi, with the prevailing winds sending vog across to O’hau. We shouldn’t have been too surprised that we would get some interactions since the Hawaiian Islands are continuously formed from volcanic activity at a hotspot. As the Pacific Plate moves to the northwest, the hotspot remains stationary, slowly creating new volcanoes; the only active volcanoes are located around the southern half of the Island of Hawai’i. The newest volcano, Lōʻihi Seamount, is near the south coast.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Honolulu Happenings

Honolulu and Diamond Head
Visiting the city of Honolulu means you’re very close to Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head. This is the largest city in the Hawaiian Islands and the location of the seat of government for the state. For many people, Honolulu is best known for Pearl Harbor and the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941 that brought the United States into World War II. The Japanese saw this strike as a preventive measure to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet out of Southeast Asia where the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States had territories. Immediately following the attack, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended and Hawai’i was placed under martial law. Blackouts, confiscation of land, censorship, intelligence reports on locals, restrictions on use of US paper money and movement of Japanese-Americans to internment camps occurred. The writ of habeas corpus was not restored until 1944 and it took a presidential edict to accomplish its reestablishment.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Old Time O’ahu

L to R: Tantalus Drive, Tantalus Park, Song bird
Granted, winter in Texas generally isn’t too bad, but the forecasters were calling for freezing rain, sleet, and ice. We wanted to go where it was warm, so it was off to Hawai’i! The most inexpensive place to land is ‘The Gathering Place’, O’ahu; so three Near-Normal Travelers (along with another 100 thousand or so tourists) arrived to visit about 900,000 of our closest friends. Locals (any resident of Hawai’i) don’t use directions when navigating this rhomboid-shaped island; ‘ewa’ is toward the western tip of the island, ‘Diamond Head’ is to the eastern tip, ‘mauka’ is in the direction of the mountains and ‘makai’ is headed for the sea. The island is divided into five or six sections, depending on who you are talking to: ‘Town side’ (roughly Halawa to just below Diamond Head), ‘West Oʻahu’ (Pearl Harbor to Kapolei and Ewa),  ‘North Shore’ (all of the northwestern coast), ‘Windward Side’ (all the northeastern coast); ‘East Side’ (the eastern part of the island, overlapping ‘Windward Side’ and east Diamond Head), and ‘The Valley’ (Pearl Harbor northwest to Haleiwa). One of the drives we try to take early on to get oriented to the island is the road up and around Tantalus crater. This is a wonderfully scenic drive that immerses you into ferns, palm trees, giant philodendrons and other Hawaiian plants you’re expecting to see. Stopping along the way let us look out on different parts of O’ahu and begin to make our plans for what we want to see and in what order. Of course, plans change as opportunities arise. This time we were determined to see some areas we had not visited before.