The invitation-only island of Niihau

As we scanned the heavens, clouds skittered across the blue. The helicopter did not.

Pilot Dana Rosendal, who grew up on Oahu and has been flying for the company for eight years, got us settled and seat-belted, and we were off, whisking the 17 or so miles across the sometimes-rough Kaulakahi Channel.

“Kauai steals all the rain,” Rosendal explained.

Whereas parts of Kauai bathe in rain (the summit of Mount Waialeale is said to get 400 inches a year), Niihau gets a dozen or so.

It was 1863 when Elizabeth Sinclair’s sons, James and Francis, first saw the approximately 17-by-5-mile island. It had rained heavily the previous two years, and the land was electric green. It would be, the men thought, a good place for a ranch.

So Sinclair passed on other parcels of land she had considered on Oahu and offered King Kamehameha IV $6,000 for the island. Not enough. She increased the offer to $10,000. Sold! (Kamehameha IV died before the transaction was completed, so the details fell to his successor.

The new owners would raise cattle and sheep. They didn’t know the land was nearly as unforgiving as the arid parts of Southern California. True, there are three freshwater lakes on Niihau, the biggest lakes on any of the islands, but as we spied them from the air that day– and on many days — they were nothing more than mudholes.

The Top 10 Victoria Day events across Canada

The travel website TripAtlas.com has come up with a list of uniquely Canadian events and festivals taking place on or around Victoria Day weekend. Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Victoria each get two of the Top 10:

1. Victoria Day Parade, Victoria, B.C.:

What better place to celebrate Victoria Day than in Victoria? The Victoria Day Parade takes place in downtown Victoria on May 18, with more than 120,000 spectators watching marching bands, floats and clowns. See www.tourismvictoria.com.

2. Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa and Gatineau:

Besides Winterlude and Canada Day, the Tulip Festival is Ottawa’s biggest event, says TripAtlas. This year’s festival started last weekend and goes to May 18, featuring the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe (performances almost daily to May 18), talks on everything from the Dutch tulip crisis of 1637 to surveillance and entertainers such as Sir Bob Geldof (May 16). Oh, and three million tulips. See www.tulipfestival.ca.

3. Juliana Park Victoria Day Festival, Dow’s Lake, Ottawa:

Who knew this was something separate from the tulip festival? The Victoria Day Festival goes to May 18 on weekends and includes a petting zoo, face painting, concessions, bandshell entertainment and fireworks in the park at the corner of Preston Street and Carling Avenue, at Dow’s Lake. See www.victoriadayfestival.com. Read the rest of this entry »

Apple tablet computer may ship in March: WSJ

WASHINGTON – Apple Inc. plans to unveil a long-awaited tablet computer this month which may begin to ship in March, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Citing “people briefed by the company,” the newspaper said the color screen tablet is expected to be a multimedia device that will let people watch movies and television shows, play games, surf the Web and read electronic books and newspapers.

The Journal said the device, which has been the subject of speculation for years, will come with a 10- to 11-inch (25.4- to 27.9-centimeter) touchscreen.

The newspaper said the tablet would be unveiled later this month but did not say exactly when.

All Things Digital, however, a technology blog owned by Dow Jones, publisher of the Journal, said Apple had rented a San Francisco venue for January 27 to hold a media event and announce a “major new product.”

Britain’s Financial Times also reported last month that Apple had rented the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, a space Apple has used in the past, but for January 26 not January 27.

Apple, the Cupertino, California, company behind the Macintosh computer, iPhone and iPod, routinely refuses to comment on products ahead of their release.

Technology not as advanced by 2010 as some had hoped

NEW YORK – Despite iPods, genetic sequencing, the Internet and Twitter, nearly a third of Americans said they thought there would be more technological advances by the year 2010.

Not everyone expected to be living like The Jetsons, the space age television cartoon series of the early 1960s, but the Zogby International survey of more than 3,000 adults in the United States showed many were less than enthusiastic about how far we have come by the dawn of a new decade.

“The age group most likely to be disappointed with the current level of technological advancement are 35 to 54-year-olds (36 per cent),” Zogby, which conducted the survey commissioned by the website ScoopDaily, said in a statement.

About 21 per cent of people believe we are more technologically advanced than they thought we would be by 2010, while 37 per cent believed we are on target for their expectations.

About a third of people 70 years and older said they thought current technology was more advanced than they thought it would be.

“First Globals, those age 18-30, are much less likely than older generations to say the technological advancements up until now have exceeded their expectations,” Zogby added.

Not surprisingly, men were more likely than women to say they thought there would have been greater advances by 2010 to the Jetson lifestyle with its flying saucer-like cars and robotic servants.