Pauoa Woods Loop Trail

The quest to clean out my draft folder continues…

I’ve only done this trail once in its entirety so you can guess it’s not my favorite by any means. Yet there are some things of note that make it worth doing – at least once.

The good points:

  1. When you go after some hard rains there is a decent size waterfall, which my picture taken from the top completely fails to convey.
  2. Lots of old Board of Water Supply pipes and structures for the engineering fans. I try to avoid stepping on the oldest pipes since I know at least one person broke through a pipe and got a nasty gash in his leg.
  3. Judging by the tracks and other signs there are more pigs in the back of Pauoa Valley than any other area near Honolulu. If you are quiet and go in cloudier, rainy weather there’s a good chance you’ll see one.
  4. Some nice views of Nuuanu Valley as you go down the ridge toward Pacific Heights.
  5. A number of changes in vegetation and terrain.
  6. Once you get on the loop trail itself you are very unlikely to see anyone else on the trail. Depending on your view of fellow travelers, this may be a plus or a minus.

The bad points:

  1. Burrs, burrs, and more burrs. The Woman’s entire lower body was covered with them at one point on the trail. I didn’t have as much trouble due to a lucky clothing choice but it was still a nuisance, especially since they are generally nonexistent in the Koolaus.
  2. The trail comes and goes at a number of points in Pauoa Valley, often indistinguishable from a pig trail, so it’s a bit of a guessing game to find the right one. If you have no sense of direction or little hiking experience on unimproved trails this is not the one for you.
  3. Unlike many hikes in Hawaii where there are great views every 10 feet, once you leave the ridge above Pacific Heights the drama is limited to the waterfall and wondering if you took a wrong turn.

The counter-clockwise route – which I would recommend – goes from the Kalawahine Trail at the top of Tantalus Drive after crossing the bridge (next to the little telephone road), then to Pauoa Flats Trail, before handing a left on Nuuanu Trail. Rather than taking the popular route from the top of the ridge down to Nuuanu Valley, continue along the ridge toward Pacific Heights. The trail down into Pauoa Valley is pretty obvious, and the waterfall isn’t too far after the trail turns back into the valley. Not long after the waterfall the guessing games begin, before eventually climbing back out of the valley to Kalawahine trail, not far from the Tantalus Drive trailhead.

Here’s a tip for poorly marked trails: Pig trails can be so heavily used they look like the trail you should be on, but pigs are short. If you find a lot of branches hitting you in the face and torso it’s generally a good bet you are on a pig trail and it’s time to turn around and try again. Humans won’t put up with that for long.

Lastly, a note about ribbons: Ribbons in the woods near Honolulu are most often left by evil ribbon fairies, and are therefore as likely to mislead you as help you.  Humans no longer have to worry much about being tracked by predators and it shows in the trails they leave. Keep your eyes open and try not to rely on ribbons to tell you where to go.

Kalawahine intersection


Overly attractive

Not a fish eye lens

Follow the pipe

A waterfall with no frame of reference isn’t much of a waterfall

Town view – Kona weather version




Swissstop BXP Brake Pad Review

BXP pads are the latest from Swisstop designed for aluminum rims. It’s surprising there’s any room left for improvement in something as simple as brake pads, but these pads achieve another small step up from the already excellent GHP II pads. They’ve been out for over a year now so I’ve had time to put a few thousand miles on them in a variety of conditions.


  • Less grabby in wet conditions
  • More linear feel in hard braking
  • Slightly shorter stopping distance.


  • Cost (as always)
  • Squeal a little louder than GHP when hot, though generally less

I’ve gone through pads at a similar rate to the GHP II, so that worry didn’t materialize, and BXP pads do seem gentler on softer aluminum rims (like the Stan’s Alpha 340 rims I’ve been using).

After I wore out the first set I started using the BXP pads only on the front brake, with cheaper black Swissstop or Koolstop pads on the rear. The combination works quite well, maybe even preferable if you’re a little ham-fisted on the rear brake, so it’s a good way to decrease the cost of your addiction.

Koolstop dual compound are still a great choice for the budget conscious, but if you’re willing to fork over the cash the BXP pads are the best I’ve found for aluminum rims. Of course there’s always next year…

Rethinking Immortality

I’m not rethinking the desirability of immortality. That’s best left to those far from death and lacking perspective. I still think the pursuit of human immortality is a worthy cause (see here). But the more I think about it, the more I think it simply isn’t possible to radically extend lifespans for humans as we know them.

The insurmountable hurdle in the quest for immortality is going to boil down to an evolutionary box canyon where, because of all the good-enough-for-reproductive-work “choices” made before, you just can’t get there from here. Evolution rewards expediency and economy, making do with what’s at hand and finding multiple, often opposing, uses for everything biological. Because of this, attempted improvements in the workings of the body at some point lead to a problem elsewhere. Pharmaceutical development is always an attempt to improve the benefits and reduce the costs, but the tradeoffs can never completely be eliminated. When man finds a new use for a wheel it could be a table top. When evolution finds a new use for a wheel it’s likely to be the table legs, chairs, half the fireplace, the front door, and part of the driveway too.

A counter argument can be made that there are some creatures on earth that live extraordinarily long lives, and by discovering their secrets we’ll be able to emulate them. While that research no doubt will lead to some improvements in longevity, those other species aren’t us. Different evolutionary histories lead to different box canyons (e.g. trees aren’t that smart and tortoises have to bear the indignity of petting zoos). We’ve been social animals for far longer than the last decade, and as a result our immune systems may be the most complex in the world. This has allowed us to survive domesticating animals and sending kids to daycare to trade secretions, but targeting all manner of pathogens over a lifetime inevitably results in false positives. Systemic inflammation and an early demise is one of the likely results. Being warm-blooded, with a far higher metabolic rate than a bristlecone pine or tortoise, is another example of a beneficial trait that imposes a significant set of hurdles to immortality. Biology is a package deal composed of millions of interrelated pieces. Because of this evolutionary baggage, picking and choosing the traits we’d like and putting them together doesn’t mean they will work the way we intend.

Reduce/reuse/recycle engineering isn’t the only issue. Once reproduction stops, anything that sends you to an early grave after that can accumulate in the genes virtually unmolested. To a large extent, aging is the result of that genetic neglect. In theory, that category of defect should be fixable with little downside. The bad news is that there are likely millions of such defects that would need to be identified and changed. The even worse news is, once altered, many of them will turn out not to have been deleterious junk after all – which leads back to the Rube Goldberg engineering problem.

This doesn’t mean that immortal biological beings couldn’t be created someday. Unfortunately it would require a complete re-engineering from the ground up, and the final result would be something quite different from the original. It’s the same problem as with the Transhumanists’ idea of uploading our minds: Human mind and body are an inseparable, integrated whole. In fact, if you look at human behavior objectively, the body is clearly in charge of the mind. Much of what we do revolves around simply maintaining homeostasis, with emotions created to motivate us to action, and most of the rest is a direct or indirect attempt to enhance reproductive success (e.g. buying a Ferrari). What would be left if that were removed or radically altered? I’m not sure, but it definitely wouldn’t be recognizably human. Even if the technical problems of uploading a brain could be solved, once separated from the bodily milieu it would cease to be you, and that’s hardly immortality.

Though immortality may be beyond our reach, it doesn’t mean increased longevity is a lost cause. While our evolutionary heritage may have screwed us on a grand scale, increasing healthy lifespans by a significant percentage is a near certainty. If markets are allowed to operate, it could happen well within those filthy daycare tots’ lifetimes. But I’m afraid that will have to do, you lucky little bastards. Wetware life will always be too short.

The Loser Network

It’s often said that you should only associate with quality people, yet some people fail to heed this sensible advice. A number of years ago I discovered the reason. It’s because they’re part of a social network that doesn’t advertise, has no revenue, has hundreds of millions of members, and is always free to join. No, it’s not the next multi-billion dollar IPO, it’s the Loser Network, and it’s one network you never want to join.

Sadly, we don’t live in Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average. Almost any characteristic of a human population is reasonably close to normally distributed. The sad consequence is for any truly quality person there is also an incompetent, negligent, unethical, immoral, bitter, lying, evil twin – as well as everything in between.

The members of the Loser Network are drawn from that long left tail of the distribution, which starts from not quite up to par and ultimately stretches out to reach serial killers and heads of state. The danger of the network lies in one simple fact. Like a bad health plan, members of the Loser Network will only refer you within the network. It’s the unwritten rule of the Loser Network, and the reason for its quicksand-like ability to drag victims down to their doom. A bad attorney knows a bad doctor, bad mechanic, bad plumber, bad poker buddies, bad friends – and they all know and refer to each other. Once in the network you begin bouncing from one shady character to another, whatever the problem and wherever you turn. You become progressively isolated from the quality segment of society, with your judgments increasingly guided by bad examples and faulty comparisons. Those not in the Loser Network eventually recognize the dangers of associating with you and flee, virtually sealing your fate.

As with all dread conditions, prevention is the best cure. If someone rubs you the wrong way, for whatever irrational reason, don’t assume that gut feeling which evolution worked a million years to produce is nonsense. Run! There are almost 7 billion people in the world so there’s no reason you have to meet or associate with any damned one of them. Keep pushing your shopping cart down the aisle to you find a good one. You’ve been warned.

A Pocket Guide to Computer Security

The one step method is to never turn on your computer. Use it only as a household decoration. If you’re unwilling to be that thorough, here’s the alternative, based on the revelations of the last year.

IF you:

  • Build your device from parts obtained from various sources
  • Order said parts right before the shipping cutoff and use next day a.m. delivery for all purchases, tracking each step of the delivery
  • Accept delivery, build and use the device only in a secure site, protected by several levels of security, with the details known only to you
  • Use an open source OS, carefully verifying it’s a legitimate copy
  • Never use the internet
  • Physically remove the camera, sound card, mic/speakers, bluetooth, and networking card from the device
  • Use the device only in a windowless, EM/RF shielded, soundproofed room
  • Put RF filters on the AC power source and use the device only on battery
  • Never allow cell phones or any other communication device in the room
  • Never allow any other computing device in the room
  • Use open source full drive encryption
  • Never install any proprietary software
  • Secure erase all deleted files, system logs and other records
  • Never take the device from the room, and absolutely never cross an international border with it
  • Avoid making yourself a target, with “target” defined extremely broadly

THEN you MAY be secure. Otherwise…well, it’s probably better if you let the government handle security for you. They already offer a wonderful free backup service.