Planet Haolewood

A toolbox, a change of underwear, and a surfboard.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Everything You Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask

It’s time that I faced a blogging reality. The only thing that I really have left to write about is surfing. I’m troubled by this fact because I feel reasonably certain that my readers have no interest in the subject whatsoever. But I figure I might as well just go with it. If you get bored there are a number of other interesting blogs you may want to check out listed to the right.

I’ve been interested in surfing for a few years now, but recent developments have prompted even greater enthusiasm. First the surf on the North Shore of Kauai, which I call home, underwent its annual transformation from flat to awesome. Like Puff frolicking in a land called Hanalei so do I revel in the return of good surfing conditions. And I have a winter and spring of more surf to look forward to. Second, my skill level has increased making it possible for me to surf more and get more out of it. Lastly, and most significantly, I have taken up short boarding.

Up until recently I have surfed long boards exclusively. I owned a 9’6” and an 8’-0”. But recently I have added two more boards to my quiver: a 7’4” single fin and a 7’-6” tri-fin. I’m not going to try to explain how important a change that is. Suffice to say I can now “shred.”

Today the surf forecast predicted a large swell would hit The North Shore tonight creating waves up to 34 feet high. However, there was no sign of those kind of monsters when I hit the water at about 5:15. I surfed Middles in Hanalei Bay. Conditions were glassy (meaning there was no wind) with long waits between waist to chest high sets. The 200-yard paddle from shore was bliss but I had brought the wrong board. In my expectation of bigger waves I chose my 7’-4” when I would have been better off with one of my long boards. There were 10-15 long boarders and a couple of stand up paddlers for company so I set up inside of the crowd and waited around for some nice waves that they might miss.

As it got darker the crowed thinned and I finally I was the only one left trying to feel when a wave came since it was becoming so hard to see. Overall, a very mellow and enjoyable session. I’m considering dawn patrol tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Best and Worst

It’s time for the Planet Haolewood award for the best and worst ideas humanity has ever conceived. For worst idea ever I nominate war. The conventional wisdom is that war is a necessary evil and while the process may have many undesirable side effects, it’s worth it in the end (if the war goes your way, at least). In other words the end justifies the means. I could list examples of good things that have been brought about by war but I trust that my readers are informed enough to think of your own. I’m skeptical of the it’s-worth-it-in-the-long-run argument. Since there is no alternate reality like in Star Trek to compare to, we don’t know what would have happened if The North had simply allowed The South to secede from the union without a fight. In our reality we eliminated slavery and got a devastating war and another century of brutal racial oppression in the south. How certain can we be that that’s better than what would have happened with no war?

I’ve always thought of the Geneva Convention as kind of absurd. Don’t get me wrong I’m not in favor of torture or targeting of civilians but I think its unrealistic to expect “fair play” from people engaged in an organized effort to commit mass murder. Which brings me to the heart of the problem with war. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. War always has unacceptable “collateral damage” it always harms civilians, it always has unintended consequences, there are always excesses like Abu Grab. Justice is always a casualty. It’s not a mistake when these things happen. It’s the very nature of war. The choice to fight always has unknowns either way. We don’t know what will happen if we don’t go to war, but we can count on horrible things becoming routine if we do. I think those who argue “it’s worth it” have too much certainty of the value of what they claim to be fighting for and underestimate the cost.

The current war is perhaps too easy of an example to prove my point. The US has no legitimate cause on its side and the costs both long and short term loom larger every day. Considering other wars through history seems more morally nuanced but I’m talking about all wars here and I’m concerned that dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq is just a reaction to loosing. It would have been a bad idea if the US had won, too.

For the best idea ever I nominate surfing. Surfing may not move us any closer to ending war or solve any of humanities pressing problems but I find it infinitely rewarding. The identity of the particular Hawaiian who invented surfing is lost to history but I feel grateful to whoever it was.

I will accept other nominations for humanities best and worst ideas from anyone reading this blog before announcing the winners.