At long last

We’ve had the same couch in our family room for well over a decade. It’s been fine, but it’s also been showing it’s age a bit. After some thought and a bit of shopping, we decided to get a new couch and loveseat (the loveseat replaces the barstools we’ve had for almost as long, but hardly ever use).

Yesterday afternoon, the goodies arrived and we set them up:

A nice feature is they recline! Laralee gave it a test run:

To celebrate, we had some friends over and watched a movie. Both the couch and loveseat worked really well for that (because hey, the highest purpose of family-room furniture is to provide a better movie-watching experience).

Perks

One of the nice things about teaching seminary so early is that class finishes before the sun even rises, and sometimes I’m rewarded with a beautiful view as I come out of the building.

Nature is beautiful

One of the main reasons I enjoy hiking and backpacking is the opportunity to see the amazing beauty deep in the wilderness. Although I love having a long line of distant mountains on the western horizon every day, it’s an entirely different experience to be in them, walking amongst trees and navigating rock fields.

The Royal Museums Greenwich just announced the winner of their annual 2017 Astronomy Photograph of the Year contest, and it’s absolutely stunning. It shows nebulae in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud.

Although I’m sure the photographer did a bit of retouching, the stunning majesty of this space scene is truly breathtaking. I love space science, and seeing things like this puts a lot of things in perspective for me.

The runners-up in the contest were also incredible; I really liked these two photographs of aurorae, from Russia and then Iceland:

Isn’t nature beautiful?

Bank technology

Me: (Logs into Chase bank web site)
Chase: Hi there! Please update your preferences for electronic statements.
Me: Sounds great! (Updates preferences)
Chase:

Sigh. You’d think banks– with their vast resources and need for the very best technology– would actually get stuff like this right.

New client?

I wonder if I’m missing out on an amazing new business opportunity by ignoring text messages like this:

She made it!

After about two weeks in the Missionary Training Center, Kyra flew to her mission area today. She had to wake up at 3 in the morning so she could catch her 7am flight from Salt Lake City to Phoenix, then had a two-hour layover before flying to Bakersfield, California. Knowing how hard it is for her to miss her beauty sleep, I’m sure she was pretty exhausted when she finally arrived in the mid-afternoon.

This evening we received an email from the mission office with the happy subject line “your daughter has arrived”. Here she is with President Layton (her mission president) and his wife.

And the adventure begins! Bakersfield doesn’t have the greatest reputation as a city, and in fact several people have commented about how it’s hot, smelly, and kind of ugly. Someone called it the “armpit of California”. Well, today Laralee wrote an email to Kyra with this inspiring wisdom:

You’ll be the deodorant for the armpit of California.

BAM.

Stumper

Today Zaque asked out of the blue:

When someone yawns, do deaf people think they’re screaming?

Datacenter oops

All of a sudden several of my servers went dark. I couldn’t access them, nor could I get to the firewall that connects to them. At first I thought it might be a hiccup in the internet connectivity to the datacenter, but after a few minutes I figured my firewall might have run into problems of some kind. I wrote to the colocation provider running the datacenter and asked if they could take a look, and this was their response:

I am sorry, some people who was working on next cabinet accidentally unplug your power strip. I hope nothing bad happen about your data.

Umm… what? My “power strip” is a six-foot-tall device bolted to the side of the cabinet, with a high-amp plug (not your standard wall outlet). It takes real effort to unplug that guy.

Luckily my servers all came back online fine, but wow.

D trophy

When I’m captain of an ultimate team, I use a ‘D Board’ to track defensive plays. It’s a lot of fun, and now even more so because one of my teammates used his 3D printer to create a little trophy for the best defensive player of the night.

Our team name is “Discing with the Saurs” (the league’s theme is “dinosaur game shows”) so he made a simple letter “D” and added some scales and our team name. Pretty awesome.

Now I need to step up my defense, so I can take this bad boy home.

And she’s off!

Following in the footsteps of her big brother, today Kyra left for her mission. She’ll start in Utah at the Missionary Training Center, and in two weeks she’ll head over to Bakersfield, California where she’ll serve for a year and a half.

She had a morning flight and the airport was surprisingly un-crowded, so we breezed through everything and were even allowed to accompany her to the gate! (You have to ask nicely.)

The long goodbye hug for mom:

(Actually, it wasn’t nearly as long as I’d expected, and there weren’t any tears.)

And away she goes!

We’ll see her again around April 2019. Godspeed, Sister Schroeder.

Ready to go

Yesterday, Kyra was set apart as a missionary. It was awesome to have Grandma and Grandpa come out to wish her farewell.

She has a little bit of packing to finish, but other than that she’s ready to go. We’re counting down to Wednesday…

Tacocat

About a month ago Laralee and I were shopping and saw an amazing shirt that was worth every penny of the $4.95 price. We bought it for Zaque, and he’s worn it about once a week, including for school picture day. Tonight we were having tacos, and it was hilariously appropriate:

It says “Tacocat spelled backwards is… Tacocat”. And of course there’s a cat embedded in a taco. Saweet.

The license!

Zaque is now officially a driver.

That is all.

Hawai’i – Day 8

Our beachfront hotel in Hana was amazing. It was sort of like a villa with around a dozen rooms, so it was cozy but really nice. Here’s the view from our balcony at sunrise:

The day started out grey and rainy, which isn’t surprising given the amount of rainfall this part of Maui receives. It was a warm rain, and varied between a light drizzle and a downpour. Conditions changed every few minutes, it seemed.

We headed along the road, this time touring the southeast curve of Maui. Like the Road to Hana along the north and northeast coastlines, this “highway” is barely more than a single-lane road with crazy sharp curves and blind corners, including long stretches that aren’t even paved. It’s certainly an adventure driving here!

We stopped at a beautiful waterfall alongside the road, somewhere near Mo’omo’onui Gulch (not a beautiful name).

After a few more quick stops, we found ourselves at Haleakala National Park, where the steady morning rain continued. Laralee and Megan decided to don their ponchos, and they looked quite fetching:

Kurt and I decided to hike in the rain, and within a few minutes the rain stopped, so we had the last laugh. We took a two-mile out-and-back trail to the Falls of Makahiku. The trail was fairly easy, and included a long stretch through a bamboo forest. I found that I just love hiking through bamboo: it’s so tall and dense and green, and in the breeze, the tops of the trees a hundred feet above sway gently while the wood knocks against other trees. The sound is haunting.

Although the rain had stopped, the air was so incredibly humid that everything was just dripping wet. That included my skin. I suspect there’s a point where there’s so much water in the air that sweat isn’t very effective, because the water on your skin simply doesn’t evaporate. I was covered with a sheen of water that was a mixture of sweat and rain. It was a weird sensation– sort of a feeling like you’d never be dry again.

At the end of the two-mile trail, we were rewarded with the most amazing waterfall we’d seen to date. Makahiku is an astounding 400 feet high, pouring over a sheer cliff face that’s teeming with vegetation. I feel like I keep using the word “breathtaking”, but this was… breathtaking. A simple camera can’t really capture the majesty of this scene.

We headed back and went to Ohe’o Gulch, which isn’t a very glamorous name. Apparently many moons ago (before this was a national park), a guy wanted to drum up some business for the area, so he named it the Seven Sacred Pools. In truth, there aren’t seven pools, and there’s nothing sacred about them at all– it’s just a clever marketing ploy. And it worked. The Seven Sacred Pools became legendary, and people traveled along the crazy Maui highways to see them. Unfortunately they were closed due to a rockslide earlier in the year, so we couldn’t swim in the pools, but we could still scramble around the surrounding rocks for some photos.

It’s beautiful, and I can see how it would be a cool experience to lounge in them.

As we continued along the southern highway, the landscape abruptly changed. In the lee of the mountain, there isn’t much moisture, so southern Maui is actually a desolate brown land. All of the moisture– more than 400 inches a year– falls near Hana, and when the clouds blow over the mountains they have no rain left to give. Everywhere you look, the land is peppered with black lava boulders. The difference from the lush green jungle just a few miles away is astounding.

The highway bends north in the middle of the island, and a long climb brought us to the other side of Haleakala. Here, you can go to the top of the mountain and look down into a “crater” that isn’t actually a traditional volcanic crater, but rather the result of erosion of the mountain, which was once much higher than it is now. The mountain is sort of enclosed in a perpetual cloud, and although the road goes above one cloud layer, up at the top it was pouring rain. We couldn’t see any of the incredible views over the vast crater and the faraway beaches.

We drove back down and had some dinner before heading to the airport for our long flight back home. We were all tired after so many packed days, but this was truly the most amazing place I’ve ever been.

Aloha, Hawai’i, until we meet again.

Hawai’i – Day 7

Today we went to Hana, which meant we had an opportunity to take the Road to Hana a second time. We’d intentionally covered only about half of it yesterday, leaving us time to enjoy the second half today. Once again, it was breathtaking and amazing.

Our first stop was Honomanu Beach, which is one of three “black sand” beaches along the northeast corner of Maui. These beaches are relatively rare, and also short-lived (meaning only a few hundred years) because the black lava rock that’s ground down by the force of water eventually disperses into the ocean. It’s really cool to see so many smoothed pieces of pumice, and walk in sand that’s jet-black.

From there we stopped at Ke’anae a second time– we didn’t spend enough time there yesterday, and there’s a famous little shop that offers legendary banana bread. Sadly, they’d sold their last loaf of bread just before we arrived. But the surf was still pounding the rocks, and I managed to capture some fascinating shots of splashing water frozen in flight.

Along the shoreline, there are little jet-black crabs that scuttle along the rocks. The waves pound on them, but somehow they manage to hold onto the rocks. It’s pretty cool. One of the crabs is visible just left of the top edge of this rock:

Nearby is a century-old church that survived a tsunami in the mid-Twentieth Century. It’s beautiful in this island setting, surrounded by waving palms and the incredible shades of green that pervade this area of the island.

We continued our journey along the road, stopping at a few notable waterfalls. Here’s a triple set that I really liked:

Right around that time, the mist that we’d been enjoying turned into a full rain storm. This is the part of Maui that averages more than an inch of rain every day, and apparently today was just another average day. (Humorous side note: later in Hana, I saw the seven-day weather forecast; every day said “showers likely”.) Everything is basically damp all the time, which means things like bridges are covered in moss, and guardrails are rusty.

Pua’a Ka’a Falls are gorgeous, even in the rain.

Near the falls was this rooster. He just sort of stood around, walking slowly. It’s funny to see the wild chickens and roosters that seem to pervade the island. (They were on O’ahu as well.)

Our next stop was the tiny village of Nahiku, which is apparently known as the “most beautiful place in the world to live”. It’s basically about a dozen homes– most looking pretty worn-down– but indeed, it’s a stunning place. The road to get to the village is, like the Road to Hana itself, a series of crazy switchbacks along one-lane roads. It’s funny to see a bunch of mailboxes at the end of the road.

There’s also a school bus stop, with a note that instructs visitors not to park there because it’s the only place a bus can turn around to head back up the road.

A familiar site in Maui is the abandoned car. I’m guessing that it’s prohibitively expensive to take a junked car and ship it somewhere for disposal, and it’s also expensive to get a tow truck up in the mountain roads to haul the car away. So people apparently just drive them off to the side of the road and walk away. It probably doesn’t take long for the jungle to completely overgrow the vehicle.

As we walked through Nahiku toward the ocean, we found what can only be described as the most amazing swimming hole in the world. It’s a little pool of deep, crystal-clear water that’s fed by a small waterfall. One can jump from a twenty-foot cliff into the water (I would have done it in a heartbeat if I hadn’t been fully clothed). We hung around there for a while, and Laralee commented that it was the best place we’d visited thus far. Here’s a shot that really doesn’t do it justice:

(Notice the rope swing at the top right of the picture, which is handy for leaping out into the middle of the pool.)

As the sun was setting, we arrived in Hana on the eastern shore of Maui. We hiked around a couple of beaches and celebrated another day in paradise.

Hawai’i – Day 6

Day 6 dawned crisp and clear, and we decided to head to the beach to catch some waves and ride boogie boards. None of us are surfers, of course, but this is an easy way to coast along the surf near the shore. To our disappointment, the sea was very calm. Laralee insisted on giving it a go anyway, but she pretty much just floated in place on her board:

Since that was a dud, Kurt and I donned our snorkeling gear and headed out into the ocean to look at some nearby rocks and reefs. It was another great display of schools of fish, colorful coral, and a handful of sea turtles. It’s very relaxing to just float on top of the water, letting the waves gently push you to and fro, and watch all the activity on the ocean floor below. That said, after three days, I was finding snorkeling to be a little monotonous. It was time for something new.

So we sat on the beach for half an hour, watching the (small) waves wash ashore, chatting about various things, and generally enjoying a lazy morning in the sand.

After washing off the sand, we piled into the car and headed for the north shore of Maui, for what is perhaps the most famous “attraction”: the Road to Hana. There’s a 34-mile stretch of road that runs from Kahalui along the northern edge of the island, eventually arriving at a little village called Hana on the east. Supposedly it’s so beautiful, with so many waterfalls and forests and ocean views, that you actually get insensitized to all of the gorgeous scenery. We put it to the test.

As it turned out, we weren’t disappointed. After a mediocre lunch in a weird tourist-ey town called Paia, we pulled off for a trek through a bamboo forest to a few waterfalls. The forest was an amazing place: the bamboo was incredibly dense, and everything was green in every direction. In some areas the trail, such as it was, became a narrow path through walls of bamboo.

Looking up, the trees shot skyward and were basically a hundred feet or more of long, straight sticks with some leaves at the very top. It was so cool.

After maybe a mile of this, we arrived at the first of several waterfalls. It was gorgeous, perhaps thirty or forty feet high, spilling into a pool.

It’s too bad we didn’t wear swimming gear– it would’ve been fun to paddle around the pool a bit, and maybe dip into the falls for a moment. We moved on, and soon arrived at another waterfall that was around twenty feet high:

At this one, a few people were cliff-jumping from the top into the pool. Again, I wished I’d been wearing my swim trunks, but I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day in soaking wet clothes. After a bit more hiking, we came to a third set of falls, roughly forty feet high:

We wanted to go on, but at this point the trail required a scramble up a twenty-foot cliff (there was a frayed rope to help), and a hundred-foot swim across a pond before arriving at the final waterfall. We opted to turn back, and enjoyed the trek through the bamboo again. La and I thought it would be cool to bring back a piece of bamboo– perhaps a foot long– so I looked for a fallen tree I could hack apart. I had my hunting knife with me. Although it’s deadly sharp, it’s not useful for cutting through the incredibly hard bamboo wood.

I discovered this the hard way, as I applied some pressure but slipped. The knife sliced through my little finger, cutting straight through to the bone. Blood was gushing out, and I was able to squeeze it shut and apply pressure for the rest of the hike back to the car. Once there, I prepared to apply a bandage to it (I carry a knife in my pack but also carry bandages– good thing). Unfortunately the wound was too deep, and the blood ran freely, so it would’ve soaked right through the bandage in seconds. Instead, I wrapped it tightly in a tissue and just held it for the remainder of the afternoon. Good times.

We continued on the Road to Hana, which soon changed from a small two-lane highway to a single-lane hairpin-turn road much like the one we’d experienced the day before. Kurt was driving (I was still holding my finger together) and he grew to appreciate the joy of navigating these half-planned Hawai’ian roads. We managed to avoid any head-on collisions, though, and eventually turned off at Ke’anae on the north shore. It was late afternoon, and the waves were pounding the shoreline. It was even more impressive than yesterday’s waves at the blowhole, and once again pictures fail to capture the sheer power of the water.

The beach was all lava rock, but the incessant pounding of water has smoothed the normally sharp pumice down to rounded beach rocks:

We all stood there for a while, watching the display of water versus rock. Of course it seemed like the rocks are immovable, but we all know that over time, water always wins. This is a place where the battle is fought all day long, every day.

We turned back on the highway and headed for dinner and our hotel. A quick stop at Walmart procured some bandages, medical tape, and super glue. I pulled the bloody tissue off my finger (reopening the wound, yikes) and in the midst of blood pumping out and running down the sink, La poured super glue all over the gash. It took a couple of applications, but eventually we staunched the wound and were able to wrap it in a bandage and tape. I shudder to think how all of this will turn out when I eventually have to tear the glue off my finger. We talked about whether it would’ve made more sense to head to an urgent care facility, but in the end I’m guessing they would’ve done much the same thing anyway, so instead of paying five hundred bucks for some glue on my finger, we accomplished it for about five. I suspect I’ll have an interesting scar when all is said and done…

Hawai’i – Day 5

We spent the day on Maui, which has a very different feel than O’ahu. It’s much more “natural”, it’s lush, and the water is crystal blue. We managed to experience all three of these in different ways…

The morning started out with more snorkeling at a few beaches in the southern part of the island. The visibility in the water was dramatically greater, allowing us to see a lot more of the coral and fish. Sea turtles abounded:

There were big schools of fish zipping around, and such a variety that I lost count of the number of different fish I’d seen.

In the afternoon we went to the Iao Valley. It’s part of the mountainous area on the northwest part of the island, and receives over 360 inches of rain a year. Doing the math, that’s an average of an inch a day! It shows, too: the valley is an amazing mix of green. The slopes are really steep, rising into the sky and often disappearing in low-hanging clouds. It’s magical.

After hiking around there a bit, we decided to head to the northern edge of the island to see the renowned Nakalele Blowhole. It’s a naturally-occurring lava tube where seawater rushes in from the surf and blasts upward through a hole. It sure sounded cool! We started the drive (well, to be clear, I was the lucky one driving), and we cruised along the Kahekili Highway. It was, without a doubt, the craziest scariest road I’ve ever driven. In most places it was one lane wide, it had no shoulder, every corner was a blind corner, and there were sheer drop-offs down hundreds of feet of cliffs. You have to honk as you approach curves because cars coming the other direction can’t see you at all, and you’ll have a head-on collision if you meet. (We narrowly avoided at least two such collisions.)

Despite the madness of the highway, it eventually wound its way to the top of the island, and granted us amazing views of the hills and green cliffs.

As usual with this trip, the photos really don’t capture the breathtaking scenery.

We continued along the road and dropped back down to sea level, where the blowhole is located. Apparently it’s a bit of a fickle beast: at times it barely bubbles as water drools out of it, and at other times it can be a powerful fountain shooting seventy feet into the air. We arrived about an hour before sunset, and the surf was pretty ferocious. I think we were lucky, because we saw water thundering out of the hole and easily going seventy feet high. It happened every couple of minutes, sort of like a quick-fire geyser.

Frankly this photo doesn’t look all that impressive, but it truly was. The ground would tremble and there would be a thumping mixed with a dull roar as the water skyrocketed from the hole. Kurt decided to climb a little closer, and he was rewarded with a blast that drenched him:

We watched it for a while and then turned our attention to the surf and rocks nearby. The waves were absolutely pounding the shore, often exploding into towering walls of water. From what I understand, it’s even more impressive in the winter months (I’m not sure why, but it probably has to do with science).

The rocks themselves are basaltic lava (like all of the Hawai’ian Islands) but here the constant pounding of surf water, and dripping from the blowhole’s geyser, have somehow eaten into the rock to form intricate and fascinating patterns. The entire area looks like another planet.

There’s a little heart-shaped hole in the rock, and I couldn’t resist a cheesy pose:

As we hiked back to the car, the sun set behind Moloka’i in the west for a beautiful finish to our day. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Duke’s (named for the surfer guy) and called it a night.

Hawai’i – Day 4

When you go on a cruise, they have occasional downtime that’s listed on the trip itinerary as “Fun Day at Sea”. That’s marketing-speak for “Boring Day as We Go to the Next Port”.

Today was our equivalent of a Fun Day at Sea… we didn’t really do much that was exciting. In the morning we did laundry (because who has nine changes of underwear?) and re-packed all of our things so we could check out of the hotel.

We had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport for our island-hop to Maui, so we decided to have lunch at Benihana. As always, it was amazing, and remains in my list of top ten best restaurants. Oddly enough, this was the third time we’d been to Benihana with Kurt and Megan, and in three different cities (Honolulu, San Diego, and Superior).

Afterward we went to the beach where we’d seen some kind of surf competition earlier in the morning. It was called something like “Duke’s Surf Competition”, and as everyone on the island knows, many things are named for Duke Kahanamoku, who was a surfing legend back in the early half of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, when we arrived the competition was over and the waves were down, so most of the surfers looked like this:

I guess surfing can require a lot of patience, because we watched for maybe ten minutes and no waves appeared, but these guys just floated out there waiting for the big one. There was one guy paddle-boarding with his dog, which I thought was fun:

After a while we wandered along the beach and found an amazing banyan tree. This thing was massive, and had a huge network of “trunks”.

Eventually we headed to the airport and took a 40-minute flight to Maui. The sun sets surprisingly early here (around 6:30) so when we landed it was dark. We were looking for dinner and stumbled across a place called Monkeypod, which from afar looked like Monkeypoo. It was pretty happenin’, with live music and a huge crowd, but the wait was 45 minutes and we were pretty hungry. Across the parking lot was a little place called Fabiani’s, which sounded Italian, so we headed over there. It was indeed Italian, and we ended up having a really good dinner– we all agreed it was probably better (and certainly quieter) than Monkeypoo. Hah!

I’m excited for our next four days in Maui, because we’ll be doing more snorkeling as well as some hiking. The weather forecast is almost comical in its consistency:

The temperature swings about 10 degrees every day, and the wind is always southwest and varying between 10 and 20mph. I guess you know what to expect if you live around here!

Hawai’i – Day 3

Today was a long but fun day. We started out by driving to the north shore of O’ahu to do some snorkeling. There are a lot of beaches along the shore, but we headed to a place called Shark Cove. Because, hey, who wouldn’t want to snorkel at Shark Cove?

As it turns out, there really aren’t any sharks in the area. But there are several areas where the sea has carved out a cove in the lava rock (which is, by the way, the sharpest rock I’ve ever walked across). That keeps the waves down and makes for amazing snorkeling.

We donned our gear and jumped in. There were all sorts of fish cruising around, although my trusty old underwater camera didn’t really do justice to the scenery. Honestly I think part of the problem was my ability to take good photos while swimming.

Here’s a cool shot where you can see the surf crashing into the rocks on the shore. In this particular cove, the rock drops off precipitously and the water is immediately twenty feet deep, so when the waves collide with the rocks, there’s a lot of churning water.

We walked to a few nearby coves as well, checking the conditions at each one. I saw about a gazillion sea urchins, which are basically little black spiked balls of evil. They inhabit almost every little crevice and hole in the rocks, waiting for an unsuspecting foot or hand to hit them and suffer their wrath.

After a couple of hours, we decided to head up the coast a bit to a place called Turtle Bay. Unlike Shark Cove, which has no sharks, Turtle Bay is famous for its sea turtles. After a stern warning from some random older woman about how we shouldn’t touch or feed the turtles, Laralee and I had close encounters with two of them.

Again, the underwater photo isn’t that impressive. This particular turtle was around three feet across, although it sort of looks miniature here. Also, the water at Turtle Bay was actually kind of silty, so it was murkier than the clear blue water back at Shark Cove.

Then we drove to a couple of other gorgeous sand beaches. Wow, the north shore is beautiful.

Continuing along the coast, we stopped in for a visit to the La’ie Temple, which is absolutely stunning. The temple grounds are lush and green, with pools and fountains that accent the white marble.

We would’ve loved to go inside, but we were on a tight schedule and, quite frankly, still a bit sandy and seawater-smelling. So we continued on to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Wow, this place was a ton of fun. There are areas for each of the major Polynesian nations, including Hawai’i, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Tahiti, and (for a limited time only) the Cook Islands. In each area, there are people from those nations– mostly college students from nearby BYU-Hawai’i– who talk about the culture of their country and perform native dances and ceremonies. It was a pleasant mixture of talent and humor. We could easily have spent a full day there, but unfortunately only had about four hours to tour the different areas.

Later in the evening we settled in to watch “Ha: The Breath of Life”, which is the showcase event at the Center. It’s presented sort of as a play, but really it’s just an excuse to have a loose plot that ties together all of the islands and gives a different set of performers an opportunity to show their talents. There was some incredible dancing: Tahiti women have unbelievable hip movements, Samoans are super-high-energy, and the Hawai’ians finished with a breathtaking display of juggling fire sticks.

By the time we returned to our hotel, it had been a fourteen-hour day and we were pretty tired. I thought about taking a solo midnight walk along Waikiki Beach, but apparently it’s closed after 10pm. Oh well… we might head back there tomorrow.