Roald got it right, and is hereby awarded ten points!  Yes, we were off to the big island of Hawaii, and part of the trip involved a visit to the Keck Observatory at 13,796 feet above sea level.  More about that later.

Greg was invited to be part of a brainstorming conference for a new online game project, Blue Mars, along with Kim Stanley Robinson, Donna Shirley, and the game developers.  First class tickets to Hawaii from Seattle in February — what’s not to like?

Ahh  . . .

The sock is from Cat Bordhi’s book New Pathways for Sock Knitters, the Rushing Rivulet pattern, in my hand dyed Sunrise yarn. I’ve been wanting to try a full sized pair of socks from this book, and I think the lace pattern gives the impression of fluffy clouds at sunrise that I was hoping for with this yarn.

The conference was at Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a Ranch, the home of Henk Rogers, one of the developers. We arrived in the dark of Saturday night, but the morning revealed
Morning wear
an exquisite setting with a view of the Kona coast. At 2,500 feet, it was a little chilly in the morning, just the time to wear the Seascape Shawl.

There was discussion of avatars, game play, backstory, world building, the usual.  There was also

Sunrise flowers

time to smell the flowers

Cherry branch

and marvel at the coming of spring.

In the late afternoon we changed into our cold weather gear and prepared for the field trip to the Keck Observatory. Undaunted by discussions of the effects of altitude sickness, a hardy crew ascended to the visitors center at 9000 feet, where we had dinner and acclimated a bit, then proceeded to the summit to catch the very last of the sunset.
Icy Sunset

We dashed inside out of the cold and took a very interesting tour of the facility.  The coolest parts weren’t really photographable, like the inside of one of the domes as it was being positioned, rotating around us while the  telescope moved to a different azimuth  position, seen in the faint light from a flashlight pointing at the floor.  But, you might enjoy this list, found in a break room:


It’s important to keep that pixie dust under control.

We also got to see some of the mirrors close-up. 

Mirror, mirror

This one is getting ready to be recoated to make it reflective again.  Each telescope (there are two Kecks) is composed of 36 hexagonal mirrors, each of which is about 6 feet across, and weighs almost 2 tons. Over time, the very thin, perfect coating of reflective aluminum degrades, and has to be reapplied.


This mirror is recoated (it takes about one Coke can’s worth of aluminum) and Henk is getting a picture of himself in it. The recoated mirrors are so delicate and valuable (we’re talking millions) that only one visitor was allowed that close!

Afterwards, we headed for the cars (Keck-owned Suburbans) with a detour to walk around the outside of the dome to see the sighting laser beam shooting up sixty miles into the sky; pitch black night, lavishly scattered with stars, the vault of the Milky Way arching overhead.  Well worth standing out in 19 degrees F. with 20 knot winds — for a little while.

The next day had more discussions, and an afternoon free for silly drinks and snorkeling at a fancy hotel. The final day revealed

Sock and friends

good sock progress, and Stan and Greg being good sports about the whole knit blogger/sock thing.  The drive down to the coast yielded opportunities for more wool

Have you any?

but the lure of lunch and more snorkeling won out.

By the way, Hawaii is not without its mysteries.

A stately Lava dome decree

This lava dome seems to have a circular door on its side — a hobbit hole or a Hatch entrance?

Lunch at Fujimama’s with conference participants Kim Binsted and Sarah Rose, and snorkeling at Kahalu’u Beach Park with the Robinsons, followed by dinner at Jameson’s with Stan providing color commentary on the performances of the boogie boarders in the surf  brought our trip to a beautiful close.
Surf’s up!

Aloha, Hawaii!