South Point or bust!

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Our trip to South Point was filled with wonder and unnecessary stress. The wonder was due to the incredible landscape where we crossed through lava flows, then back into forest, and back again. The stress was the needle on the gas gauge dropping faster than I’d expected.

We can chalk the stress up to “different car syndrome” or, if you’d prefer, bad judgment. Either way, we were rapidly approaching what I called “the point of no return”—that halfway point on a journey where you know you can get back as long as you make an immediate U-turn—when we found a station in Ocean View.

From that point forward, the trip was stress free and the wonder at nature’s power took center stage. I hope you enjoy the photos of our journey that was South Point or bust!

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The road to Kona

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The road to Kona from Waimea takes in many changes in scenery. Most of the tourists probably make the drive using the Queen K Highway, which is shown on maps as Highway 19. That coastal route has some of the same changes in scenery seen along the Hawaii Belt Road, but also misses some of the beauty of this inland route.

From the rolling hills of the upcountry to the lava flows scarring the center of the island to the lush country surrounding Kona, the inland route is missing only one thing—the traffic. We traveled this route at midmorning and were pleased to see very few cars. It made for a peaceful drive through some amazing country.

 

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Welcome to Puako…a coastal town without the mega-resorts

And, of course, the historical marker...

And, of course, the historical marker…

In the short history provided by HawaiiLife.com, they say that the area has been many things over the years. “The life story of that small community began nearly a millennium ago. It has been a fishing village, a sugar plantation farm, a honey farm, a feeding stop for cattle drives, and today, the only residential oceanfront community on the South Kohala Coast of the island of Hawaii.”

Puako is a beautiful little area worth a visit to get away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the coast.

By the way, I love the beach photo in the slideshow from www.mybigislandvacation.com and that great turtle shot from www.alphamatte.com/2011/05/puako-bay-snorkeling. For more of their photos, check out their sites!

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Big Island Upcountry – stunning scenery and cool nights

This would be a great spot for a writer's retreat!

This would be a great spot for a writer’s retreat!

On the Big Island, they call this part of the island Upcountry. It’s home to beautiful Rolling Hills, cattle, cowboys, and incredibly friendly people. During our two-day stay in Waimea, which is also known as Kamuela, depending on who you happen to be talking to at the time, we discovered that upcountry also has some excellent restaurants. One in particular, Merriman’s, has a five-star rating and food that is rumored to be among the best on the island. Sadly, we didn’t make it to Merriman’s before the end of our short stay.

At the other end of the spectrum is a little cafe known mostly to locals, the Hawaiian Style Cafe. This is an old diner complete with a large counter where the locals assemble for breakfast. Their food? Incredible. Service? Very friendly. And, if you have food allergies, they’re very helpful.

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We had enough time to visit the Parker Ranch Visitor Center, which gives insight into the history of the industry that shaped the upcountry. Parker Ranch began in 1847 when John Palmer Parker assisted King Kamehaha I by ridding the island of feral bulls. The grateful king granted land to Parker, which he used to start a cattle ranch that eventually grew to more than 250,000 acres and made it the largest cattle ranch in the US. While the ranch is much smaller today, it’s influence can be seen everywhere upcountry.

Are you thinking of a trip to the Big Island? One word of caution, upcountry is not a popular tourist destination like Volcanos National Park, the Kohala Coast, or Kona. What you will find, however, is time to decompress in a place where the hustle and bustle of the world is replaced by cool nights, fabulous scenery, and peaceful surroundings. For writers and artists especially, a few days upcountry just might be a dream come true.

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To the end of the road at Waipio

IMG_0408Last week’s post, The little Hawaii town with two names, took us to the Jacaranda Inn and the little town of Waimea. By the end of our second day, we’d completed the background research for that area and had a little time to kill. It was time to take a drive and play tourist.

The drive began in town on the Mamalahoa Highway. The scenery in this area is filled with big trees and rolling hills. It’s absolutely stunning and the fifteen miles to the turnoff for Honokaa came quickly. We’d never come this way before, so we were delighted when we arrived in Honokaa and discovered it’s an incredibly quaint town. The draw of the town was strong, but we resisted and continued on our journey to see the Waipio Valley.

There’s no direct route to Waipio Valley from the Mamalahoa Highway, which means you must backtrack about eight miles on Waipio Road. The drive, however, is easy and the views at the end are stunning. The hike down to the lookout and restrooms is short, but steep. At the base of the hill, there are a series of signs describing the valley, a picnic area, and the biggest surprise of all, restrooms with running water.

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed the trip. It was well worth the drive.

 

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The little Hawaii town with two names

The front lanai of the Jacaranda Inn. This is gorgeous first thing in the morning.

The front lanai of the Jacaranda Inn. This is gorgeous first thing in the morning.

At the end of May, we visited to the Big Island of Hawaii. Our first two nights were spent in “the upcountry.” This is the area around Parker Ranch, which was once the largest cattle ranch in the US. Today, the ranch has downsized due to a number of issues and with those cutbacks, the little town with two names where Parker Ranch began, has changed.

It had been many years since our last visit to this area and with a few scenes in the next McKenna Mystery taking place in the upcountry, I wanted to get a renewed sense of the area. For this part of our trip, we stayed at the Jacaranda Inn, which is located on the outskirts of Waimea.

I called Waimea the little town with two names. The first of those two names, and the original, is Waimea. However, a series of US Postal Service instructions to postmasters in the 1890s restricted multiple post offices in one state from having the same name. As a result, Waimea is also known as Kamuela. If you do an online search for either name you’ll get the same place.

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The Jacaranda Inn was a pleasant surprise. Our first night there, we arrived late and the place was very quiet. There were other guests, but they were either off having dinner or already in their rooms. We were in the Hibiscus Room, a stunning green-flowered bungalow with a very large bath. The room was stuffy when we entered and my first reaction was, “What? No air?” It was definitely the wrong reaction.

First off, the buildings at the Jacaranda Inn are somewhere on the order of 100 years old. Second, there’s no need for air conditioning. With the windows opened, the cooler outside air filtered in and the room temperature quickly became very pleasant.

The following morning, it was time to explore the rest of the property. The more I saw, the more I loved it. Each room is decorated differently, but all maintain that elegance and grace so prominent in years past.

The only downside to the inn is that the front doors are left open until well after dark to allow guests to enter. Unfortunately, some of those guests are the flying kind. After providing the local mosquitos with a good source of food on our first night, we decided the main house was off limits after dark. Other than that, the Jacaranda Inn turned out to be a wonderful spot to forget the rest of the world and revel in the beauty of Hawaii’s past.

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Facebook phishing scams

keyboardscamFacebook users have a tendency to be lulled into a false sense of security by the social media giant. Cybercriminals are aware of this tendency and routinely set up fake Facebook accounts to lure new victims into phishing scams. How do you avoid becoming a victim? First, learn to spot the scam.

Spotting the scam

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When a Facebook friend sends you an email with a link or shares a post with a link, are you tempted to click it? If you do follow the link and your browser pops up a login form with a trite message such as sorry for the inconvenience, for your security, to prevent fraud, etc., you should be getting suspicious. Indeed, that login form is a clear signal you could be on a phishing site.

Other Facebook scams

While you’re on the lookout for phishing attempts on Facebook, watch for these lures designed to trick you into providing your personal information. These include profile viewers, the “free i-Phone” ads, free credits for games on Facebook, new Facebook features, and steamy messages designed to lure you elsewhere. All-in-all, Facebook can be a pretty unsafe place unless you’re careful.

Three tips to stay secure

Tip 1: Check first, click second. Get in the habit of checking links before you click them. By rolling your mouse over a link, you can see the address it will go to. If the address is unfamiliar or spelled incorrectly, don’t use the link, but if you do . . .

Tip 2: Don’t log in. If you do land on a page that is asking you to log in and you did not use a trusted link to get there, simply close the window. If they want other personal information, don’t provide it. Quite simply, if you take no action on a phishing site, you can leave with no harm done.

Tip 3: Change your password. And if you do get caught in the scammers web and your account starts spamming your friends? The first thing you should do is change your password. Don’t stop with Facebook, either. If you have any amount of personal information on Facebook, your other accounts might be compromised also. There’s one last step: after you’re done changing passwords, apologize to your friends for spamming them. Then, thank the one who told you your account had been hacked.

How about them Apples?

512px-Apple-logo

Apple logo from http://archiveteam.org/index.php?title=File:Apple-logo.jpg

Apple products have been on fire lately. Apple stock is equally hot. The reason for these events is simple. People like simplicity and Apple helps them get there. Queue the upbeat, snazzy music and enter the Apple ID. For those who don’t know, your Apple ID is the way users access all things Apple. From I-Tunes to the App Store, you gotta have one to buy stuff, sync your devices, etc. With so much power behind one simple ID and password combination, is there any doubt the scammers would like to nab yours?

This past week, I received an email claiming to be from “Apple Support.” The email was simple and to the point—my Apple ID had been suspended. The important part is included here.

Apple Security Department has sent this email to inform you the following:

Your account has been flagged for review and your access was suspended until further notice.

This may be due to either of the following reasons:

* Billing / Payment Issues

* Abuse & Terms of Use Issues

We strongly suggest you to review and confirm your account information today by following the link below:

You should be able to guess where this is going. If your choice was “scam,” congratulations, you’re a winner (Congratulations! You get to avoid huge headaches and bills from the real Apple!). It appears that scammers have decided they don’t necessarily need to hack your Mac to get to the good stuff, all they need is get access to that prized Apple ID. This same scam has been used so many different times with other big names as the lure—Verizon, Microsoft, US banks, foreign banks—need I go on?

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If you receive this type of email, look for the following clues that it’s a scam:

  • It’s not addressed to you personally
  • The sender is a generic name (in my case, it was “Apple.”)—duh—and the sender’s email address isn’t from the company (in this case it was toluna.com—another duh for the scammer, that’s a social media site)
  • The email subject is something inane. In this email it was [notice][37888]. Methinks maybe the scammer hasn’t quite mastered his mail merge program yet.

What should you do if you get the Apple ID email? Ignore it. Then, fire up your Apple device and enjoy the simplicity.

Three secrets of the credit mule scam

iStock_000024086772Large

McKenna says: don’t be duped by a slick talker with promises of easy money. The only one who wins is the con man.

“Secret Shoppers” or “Mystery Shoppers” have been around for many years. These jobs can be a great way for someone to earn extra cash by working part-time. Never one to pass up a good opportunity, con artists have created their own version of the secret shopper, the “credit mule.” And believe me, if you fall for this one, it could cost you a bundle and ruin your credit at the same time.

Secret No. 1 —The Targets

The prime targets to be used as credit mules are those who are inexperienced or have little credit history. Typically, this means scammers most often find willing “employees” at colleges, but there are plenty of other young people who could be taken in by a smooth talker. If you know someone who fits this category (and who doesn’t?) consider warning them about these types of jobs.

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Secret No. 2 —The Job

Let’s be clear about this. Most secret shopper jobs, unless they are obtained through a reputable agency, are bogus. It’s the enticement of good money for little work that snares the victim.

Typically, the scam begins when you see an ad or are approached by someone about a job as a secret shopper. The job will be pitched as “rating the service” or “rating the customer experience” at various businesses. Your assignment is simple: purchase a few expensive smart phones, get the unlock codes, and pass the phones along to your boss. You are assured by your boss that you will not be charged for the cell phones or the monthly charges because you have 15-30 days to cancel the contract you have signed.
Because the victim doesn’t realize he’s been conned until collection letters or phone calls begin, the phones and the employer are long gone. It won’t be long before the victim discovers the contract was not cancelled because the phones were never returned. The cell phone company has the right to hold the victim responsible for the cost of the phones as well as the associated monthly charges. To make matters worse, the victim’s credit record will be trashed if he doesn’t pay in accordance with the terms of the contract. Meanwhile, off in another country, those unlocked cell phones are being sold at premium prices.

Secret No. 3 —The Realization

Because the victim doesn’t realize he’s been conned until collection letters or phone calls begin, the phones and the employer are long gone. It won’t be long before the victim discovers the contract was not cancelled because the phones were never returned. The cell phone company has the right to hold the victim responsible for the cost of the phones as well as the associated monthly charges. To make matters worse, the victim’s credit record will be trashed if he doesn’t pay in accordance with the terms of the contract. Meanwhile, off in another country, those unlocked cell phones are being sold at premium prices.

Woohoo! I’m in Who’s Who

owl-blue-brownWho’s Who directories have been around since 1849 when A & C Black published the first listing of prominent British citizens. Today’s Who’s Who scams, however, are a far cry from that auspicious start.

At least once a week, I receive an email offering me inclusion in a Who’s Who directory. Here are two from this week. Both are from the same spammer.

“Dеаr Ꮯаndіdаtе,

It іѕ mу рlеаѕurе tо іnfоrm уоu thаt уоu quаlіfу fоr а 2014 mеmЬеrѕhір tо thе Ꮃhоѕ Ꮃhо Nеtwоrk оf Ꭼхеcutіvеѕ аnd Ρrоfеѕѕіоnаlѕ, thе lаrgеѕt рrоfеѕѕіоnаl аѕѕоcіаtіоn fоr Ьuѕіnеѕѕ ехеcutіvеѕ аnd рrоfеѕѕіоnаlѕ іn thе Unіtеd Stаtеѕ! Thе Ꮃhоѕ Ꮃhо Nеtwоrk hіghlіghtѕ аnd рrоfіlеѕ thе cоuntrуѕ mоѕt аccоmрlіѕhеd іndіvіduаlѕ іn оvеr 200 іnduѕtrіеѕ аnd рrоfеѕѕіоnѕ. Ꮃе рrоvіdе аn ехcluѕіvе аnd роwеrful nеtwоrkіng fоrum fоr оur mеmЬеrѕ tо cоmmunіcаtе аnd ѕuccеѕѕfullу аchіеvе ѕоcіаl аnd cаrееr dеvеlорmеnt.

Incluѕіоn іn thе Ꮃhоѕ Ꮃhо Nеtwоrk іѕ а рrіvіlеgе ѕhаrеd Ьу thоuѕаndѕ оf ехеcutіvеѕ аnd рrоfеѕѕіоnаlѕ thrоughоut thе wоrld еаch уеаr.”

The email goes on to give me instructions on how to apply. It even tells me there’s no fee for inclusion. Note that that’s no fee to be included in the directory. Once I agree to provide my information, however, the next step would be to sell me access to this exclusive network.

The sender of the email used the domain mysecretfb.com, which is located on a server in Copenhagen. Apparently, the owner doesn’t want anyone to know who he really is because he uses Panama-based WhoIsGuard to shield his true identity.

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WhoIsGuard.com claims to have a zero-tolerance policy for spammers using their service, yet I have seen many spammers protected by this service. If you’re legit, WhoIsGuard.com, man up and shut this guy down. If you don’t, then we know where you stand, too.