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Friday, January 4, 2013


When I taught Technology and Society at the University of Hawaii, one of my essay questions on the final exam was a kind of trick question.  I asked the students to relate three terms (which I provided) from the course that had no apparent connection to each other, and spend no more than five minutes.  To my astonishment, virtually every person came up with amazing and incredible relationships that were far beyond my initial thoughts.  This showed me that everyone can be creative.

So today, I ask you to relate the words in the title above.  Well, you will have difficulty.  But I can.  It was exactly 30 years yesterday that I was golfing on the Volcano Golf and Country Club on the Big Island of Hawaii when on the tenth hole we felt the ground shudder.  Soon thereafter, we saw fountains of lava a couple of hundred yards high only a few hundred yards from where we stood.  This was the beginning of the current Kilauea eruption, which has now continuously gone on for three decades.

Mind you,  the fountain height record is 1900 feet set by Kilauea Iki 63 years ago.  Kilauea itself is on the slope of Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Planet Earth, measuring 13,659 feet high, but the peak is almost eleven miles (56,000 feet) above the base at the bottom of the ocean.  Mount Everest is only 29,029 feet tall.

There are pluses and minuses.  Certainly, the Big Island tourism rate has been helped.  There is something awesome about being on a helicopter, buffeted by the currents and being splattered by the the rock particles and steam.  A photo I took is on my campus office wall.  This was a National Guard helicopter and not advised.  At night, the orange of the flow is spectacular.  The sound and fury of lava flowing into the sea can be mesmerizing:

There are some negatives.  Flowing lava wiped out the communities of Kalapana, Royal Gardens and Kapaahu.  All the homes are gone.  Worse, the volcanic fumes will cause serious pulmonary problems over large areas of the island.  Perhaps Pahala, where I once lived, is most affected.  During Kona wind days, the haze over Honolulu can be worse than the smog of Los Angeles in the 1950's.  Sunsets, though, are terrific.

So where does a rainbow come into this discussion?  Well, yesterday, I golfed at the Ala Wai Golf Course, and there were rainbows all day:

Then, of course, I see rainbows all the time from my apartment.

Normally, rainbows appear only for a few seconds or minutes, if you're fortunate, but never for several hours, continuously.  This must be a good omen for 2013.  The matter of luck, of course, has to do with culture and mythology.  In the Judeo-Christian world, a rainbow appeared after Noah saved the animals from the Great Flood (Genesis):


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