Waiting for Madeline

Here we are again, waiting to see whether Tropical Storm Madeline and Hurricane Lester are going to be wandering through the neighborhood over the next week.

Recent forecasts put both trajectories near the islands, and now its all dependent on the way the storms wobble over the next few days.

I usually rely on the Weather Underground view of hurricane and storm activity, which gives a pretty good summary.

Anyway, this was a view of the slightly threatening weather early this morning viewed from Waialae Beach Park.

Remember, just click to see a larger version.

Waiting for Madeline

What about the city’s new “smart” parking meters?

The city administration has been bragging on its plan to replace most of Honolulu’s parking meters with new “smart meters” that will take credit cards and provide increased security.

It looks like the Caldwell administration put out a press release on August 18 announcing plans to upgrade 1,000 parking meters around the city.

KHON reported:

Phase two of the city’s smart meter project includes replacing 333 existing smart meters with the latest model that accepts the chip cards. Another 676 coin meters will be updated as well. This will also add 51 new smart meters in Waikiki on Launiu Street and Kaiolu Streets which previously didn’t have any meters at all. When the city is finished with this second phase, all $1.50 per hour meters will accept credit cards.

“The smart meters except credit cards as well as coins, and they have larger screens that are easier to read. It also accepts the latest version of the EMV cards. The ones with the chip. So it provides better fraud protection, better safety and security for the customers,” said Mark Garrity of the city Department of Transportation Services.

The announcement came just two days after Honolulu City Councilman Trevor Ozawa introduced a resolution calling for such an upgrade.

Ozawa’s resolution describes some of the supposed advantages of the new meters:

WHEREAS, in recent years, municipalities throughout the country have been replacing traditional Coin-only parking meters with smart parking meters that allow payment by credit card or mobile phone; and

WHEREAS, smart parking meters are generally paired with wireless sensors embedded in the pavement or installed in stalls to detect the presence of vehicles; and

WHEREAS, the advantages of smart parking meter technology include: payment convenience, warning alerts for users, improved compliance and enforcement, more efficient parking space usage, and comprehensive user data collection; and

I was especially interested in the reference to parking meters that work with a smart phone app, allowing both payments and tracking of time remaining on the meter.

We’ve seen these in a number of mainland cities, and there were prior hints that Honolulu was going in this direction.

Back in 2012, when a pilot project with new meters was being discussed, Hawaii News Now reported:

Eventually, the city plans to create an app which drivers can tap into for up-to-the-minute information.

“You could look at a little display,” says city transportation director, Wayne Yoshioka. “It will show you which spaces are vacate, which spaces are taken, so that way, you don’t have to go round and round the block.”

Well, it’s been four years since that time, but no details seem to be available about the type of meters than have been selected, their features, whether they are smartphone compatible, the vendor, etc.

There was one news report indicating that problems had come up with the first several hundred meters installed as a pilot project.

Almost a year ago, KHON reported:

The city says they have had problems with the solar panels on the meters, batteries draining too quickly and in some cases people would put in coins and the machine would not show credit.

“They didn’t do everything they were represented to do,” said Formby. “So it is whether or not you are getting the value for your money. There are several features that we had not engaged or that we engaged once and then we turned it off and it should not be that way if you pay for the full complement of features you should get them and we did not.”

But how that turned out, whether and how problems were resolved, and what features will be available in the latest batch of meters, is unknown. At least to the public.

I tried searching the city’s Docushare system, and came up with nothing. Then I checked the city’s Procurement Office website. In the section on bid results, there were two entries on point. Each included a link promising that bid results could be downloaded.

[text]

[text]

But click on the link, and instead of bid results, you get this message:

The file you are trying to open does not exist.

Another case where the city comes up short on the transparency scale.

Not all kitchen adventures turn out well

Not successfulI have to admit that not all of my kitchen adventures are successful. Last night I thought I had a winner. But, unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the “not successful” ones. That’s a cut below the “less than successful” efforts.

It started with a fresh, non-GMO chicken on sale at Whole Foods. That sounded good. Seizing on the opportunity, I added salt and pepper inside and out, then stuffed it will fresh lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Then I set it in a pan on a bed of vegetables, including onions, fennel, carrots, red potatoes, and celery, a bit of thyme sprinkled in as well. Baked at high heat for almost 90 minutes. It all looked beautiful. But unfortunately it was strikingly bland. Blah, even. The chicken was nice and moist, but not flavorful. That was a surprise. And since the flavor was missing, it couldn’t trickle down over the vegetables as I expected it to.

I wasn’t a happy camper after finishing eating. You can linger over your successes, but cut your losses short. So I was the first to get up from the table and start clearing and cleaning. So it goes.

State calendar a useful tool for reporters and activists

I doubt many of you keep an eye on the state’s official calendar, which includes the public meetings of all manner of state boards and commissions.

It’s a simply way to monitor the pulse of state government through its many bits and pieces.

For example, here’s a link to the coming week’s meetings.

Browse through the lists of meetings. If you see one of potential interest, click on the “Details” link to get the time, place, and agenda of the meeting.

And from the main page, you can choose a different time frame (for example, the following week, or the whole month). You can also use the dropdown menu at the top to focus in on a particular agency, board, or commission, and see the list of their scheduled meetings.

This is, or should be, a basic tool not only for reporters but for concerned citizens.

Unfortunately, most of these meetings proceed “under the radar,” without any reporter present, and with no outside scrutiny. And, I would guess, the number that are part of any reporter’s beat has likely dropped dramatically over the past 15 years.

I can say from past experience that being the only “outsider” sitting in on a normally anonymous board or commission meeting can be a very interesting experience. I highly recommend it.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a comparable calendar for Honolulu’s many boards and commissions. There’s a calendar for City Council meetings, and one that lists neighborhood board meetings, but if there’s an overall calendar, it is mighty elusive. And I still have to check the situation on the neighbor islands.

In any case, browse and share any nuggets of info on upcoming meetings you think would be of interest.

Duke & Romeo on this Feline Friday

Duke & RomeoDuke & Romeo welcome you to yet another Feline Friday.

If you follow the saga of our cats, you know that Romeo and Duke have gotten to be good buddies since Kili’s passing earlier this year. Romeo had a soft spot for Kili and, in her absence, has decided that he can snuggle up to Duke at various points in the day.

Duke’s been back sneezing a lot this week, and we’re taking him in for another check at the vet this afternoon. We’re resigned to living with his chronic congestion, but still want to keep track of its progression. So off to our vet, who now is in Hawaii Kai.

Meanwhile, the other cats are doing okay.

Annie’s been a bit fussy on the food front. Toby has been insisting on taking a spot on our bed, sometimes having to withstand Romeo’s defensiveness. So far, no real battles. Romeo is backing down, or mellowing out, more often than he used to.

So it goes in the world of our felines.

–> Click here to see all of today’s Friday Felines!