Hawai’i – Day 2

Our adventure in the Aloha State continued today. We started with an early-morning trip to the Pearl Harbor Memorial. We ended up spending about half of the day wandering the museums and memorials. Of course the U.S.S. Arizona was a highlight.

Inside the memorial, which was constructed directly above the sunken remains of the great battleship, you can look down on the rusted, barnacle-encrusted ship.

There’s also a room dedicated to the 1,400+ men who were killed when the ship sank. The tour guide pointed out that unlike many national monuments, this one is more than a monument or tribute: it’s an actual cemetery, because those men are still beneath the water. The crowd– easily a hundred people– were very quiet and respectful. It added to the reverent gravity of the atmosphere.

After a few hours learning about the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941, we took a tour of the U.S.S. Missouri (a.k.a. the “Mighty Mo”). It’s hard to describe the size of this battleship: it’s simply huge. It has the distinction of being the last battleship in the world, finally decommissioned in the 1990’s after being reactivated for duty twice during its five-decade lifespan (it first set sail in 1942).

As they say, “Sun’s out, guns out!” Kurt and I modeled our guns alongside the 14-inch main turrets of the Missouri:

It was cool to see where the armistice with Japan was signed on the main deck, and then explore the lower decks for a while. Unlike submarines, which always feel cramped with terribly low ceilings, the interior of a battleship is comparatively roomy.

That is, until you see the sleeping quarters for most of the 1,600 men who served aboard the ship:

After we finished learning a ton about Pearl Harbor, we took a trip up through a banyan forest to Pu’u’Ualaka’a (oof!), a state park overlooking Honolulu.

Then we headed over to Diamond Head, the famous rock formation– actually a long-extinct volcanic caldera. The hike to the top was rated “very strenuous” and included more than 200 steps. Here’s one stretch of 99 stairs (I counted):

At the top, the old military lookout post commands an amazing panoramic view of the city and the ocean.

Finally, we decided to head over to Waikiki Beach again to watch the sunset. We arrived at the perfect time, just as the sun was sinking toward the horizon.

Here I am with my best friend:

There were several sailboats (and surfers!) on the distant horizon, and I managed to capture one passing beneath the sun. Sailor eclipse? Hah!

Just another day in paradise.

Hawai’i – Day 1

It was twenty-one years in the making, but I finally took Laralee to Hawai’i for a belated “honeymoon”. Due to a lapse in judgement, I completely missed the fact that we’d be taking off on our flight from Denver to Honolulu during the solar eclipse! Unfortunately our seats were in the middle of the Boeing 777, which means this was quite literally my view of the eclipse out the window:

So all we could really see was that it was slightly more dim outside. What a bummer.

Still, we made the best of the seven-hour flight. Here we are as our journey began (this probably isn’t my best side):

And here are Megan and Kurt, our awesome friends who decided it would be kind of cool to spend a week with us:

We landed at 2:30pm local time, which was 6:30pm Denver time, and since airlines don’t provide food any more (unless you want to pay $12 for a mostly-burnt “cheeseburger”), we were pretty hungry. But we had to pick up a car and drop in on the hotel. Here’s the view from our balcony, overlooking downtown Honolulu:

And yet another selfie:

We hopped in the car and started navigating Honolulu looking for a restaurant, but soon realized there’s pretty much nowhere to park. Since there seemed to be a gazillion restaurants and tourist-ey shops within a half-mile radius of our hotel, we decided to drive back and leave the car at the hotel while we explored the city on foot. It was a beautiful evening, and we eventually settled for a meal at the Cheesecake Factory.

After dinner we walked along a half-mile of Waikiki Beach. The sun had just set (although it was only about 6:30 local time) and it was gorgeous. When I’ve walked in the Pacific Ocean in the past, the water’s always been cold. Not so here… it was nice and warm.

Behind Laralee is the curve of the beach, including some of the densely-packed hotels that line it, and far in the distance is Diamond Head, which we plan to hike in the coming days.

The surfers who’d been floating a bit offshore early in the day had left, and the water was mostly calm.

There was a catamaran just coming ashore, and I liked the backlighting of the now-vanished sun:

I can see how this place could grow on you. I’m looking forward to another week out here!

Second best

Today was the summer league ultimate tournament. After a three-month season, we found ourselves securely in second place. The top team in the league hadn’t lost a game during the entire season, beating us by a single point in two different games. We’d more or less crushed every other team in the league. So we went into the tournament pretty confident we’d be seeing them in the finals.

Because our team color was black, we’d decided at the start of the season that we’d be the Dread Pirates (as in the Dread Pirate Roberts, of course!). It was a hoot, because there are so many cliches and sayings related to pirates. For the tournament we went all out.

Julie made skull-and-crossbones cupcakes:

Kate brought a sword:

Ethan had a jolly roger flag:

Joe put on a fake beard (well, sort of a beard):

I made black bandannas for everyone, which we wore during the games to strike fear into the hearts of our opponents. I even brought my captain’s hat, although it’s not really visible in our team photo:

Oh, and of course we had to give “the hook” sign:

Since we were in second place in the rankings and there weren’t sixteen teams for the tournament brackets, we started out the day with a first-round bye. That’s often a bad thing, because every team who has a bye ends up facing a team that’s just won a game and is warmed up. It’s well-known that in every ultimate tournament, one of the top teams with a bye ends up losing in an upset. Sure enough, one of them did (fortunately it wasn’t us). We traded points with our first opponent as we got into our groove, but then pulled away for a handy 13-6 victory.

I took about a hundred photos of the games, and handed my camera to a teammate for a few points. This is pretty much the only shot of me playing:

I particularly like the outhouses in the background… nice composition.

We headed into the semifinals and played the third-seeded team. Now that we were warm, we rolled over them and finished 13-5. Things were looking good.

As expected, we faced the undefeated team in the championship game. We went into the game with confidence, telling ourselves we’d come close to beating them twice, and this time it would happen. Alas, we were mistaken. They pushed out to a quick 5-0 lead, and at half we were down 7-1. We came out strong in the second half, but it’s always hard to recover from a point deficit like that. The game ended 13-5 in their favor. For some reason, we played particularly badly– several solid players made bad throws, and we just seemed to be dropping a lot of discs. I may not be the best thrower on the field, but my hands are steady and I’m generally able to catch anything in reach… but I dropped two easy passes. I could blame the wind, but honestly I think we simply weren’t mentally in the game.

In the end, it was okay because we all agreed this was one of the most fun teams ever. We sat on the field for half an hour talking and laughing, then went over to Ethan’s house for a post-season party. I really enjoyed the season, and although I would’ve loved to win my fourth championship of the year, I still had a great time. What’s more, most of the team will be playing in the fall league and I’ll be co-captain with my friend Jamie again, so we’ve decided to do our best to draft as many from this group as we can.

On to fall league!

It’s not so bad

There are days when I feel pretty cynical about our country and its leaders, or when I lose my faith in humanity because of yet another senseless act of violence or revenge or bigotry or racism. But on the whole, it’s important to remember that when all is said and done, we live in a much better world than the generations before us.

Take, for example, this chart showing deaths resulting from combat. This includes not only soldiers but non-combatants. There are clear peaks during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the incessant religious wars in the Middle East, and even recent African conflicts (civil wars and genocide).

Notice the tail end of the chart, which is the 21st Century. There are fewer deaths related to war now than at any point in the past six decades. While it’s still tragic that war exists at all, and that thousands of people are being slaughtered needlessly for political or religious ideologies, it’s encouraging that as a whole, we’re making progress.

Yep, that’s my class

As teachers, we’ve been asked to take pictures of our students so we can upload them to the online seminary site. Parents can use the site to check their kids’ attendance and such, and I assume my “boss” and other church leaders have visibility into each class so they can make sure things are running smoothly.

This morning informed the kids I’d be taking their photos at the end of class. There was a lot of groaning, and a couple of the girls complained that they just didn’t look their best at 6am. Never fear, I replied: I had a bunch of costume wigs (mostly from my old Halloween costumes). The results were hilariously satisfying:

I’m wondering how long it will be before a parent or church leader contacts me about what the heck I’m doing in my class…

Deep thought

The only time “incorrectly” isn’t spelled incorrectly is when it’s spelled “incorrectly”.

So it begins…

Well, tomorrow is the first official day of seminary. This will be my third year teaching, and I’m excited about a new class and an opportunity to spend my (early!) mornings with 18 awesome high schoolers.

My classroom is ready.

I’m not sure I’m ready, but as always, I’ll take it a day at a time. I usually prepare my lessons the night before, and in fact I’ve found that preparing a few days in advance doesn’t help because the material isn’t as “fresh”. My brain isn’t running at full power at six in the morning!

Spur of the moment

Some realtor/sales guy just called and said he has a buyer who’s interested in purchasing a home in my neighborhood. He asked how long I’d been living in my house, and whether I’d be interested in selling it to this buyer.

It makes me wonder how often this little sales technique is successful. Does he really expect people to say, “Gosh, I’ve been living here for 15 years and didn’t have any plans to move, until you called and convinced me to make a major life decision right now. Let’s do this!”

Welcome to 1988, Equifax

I was out all this week on Trek, with no phone service whatsoever. When I returned to civilization, I had nine voicemail messages from different people at Equifax. In every message, they were asking me to provide a fax number so they could send me a form to use to verify employment for one of my guys.

Fax? Really? Equifax is one of the “big three” credit reporting agencies, and since personal credit is such a sensitive thing– witness millions of consumers who have to go through a herculean process to “fix” their credit after identity theft– I’d expect that they’d use a little more caution handling that data. Faxes are horribly insecure, of course, but not only that, it’s the Twenty-first Century now. We have this nifty thing called the “internet”. Can’t they use a secure web form instead? Sheesh.

Now that I’m back in the office, I expect it’ll only be a matter of time (probably an hour or two) before they call a tenth time to ask me for my fax number. That’ll be a fun conversation!

PII everywhere

I just called to make a reservation for dinner tonight at a nice Italian restaurant. Kyra’s birthday is coming up, and she really likes a place in Denver. The hostess asked me for a name and I said “Kyra”, and she asked if that was her last name. Nope. “I need a last name.” I said “Can’t you just put ‘Kyra’?” but she was insistent that it’s simply not possible to hold a reservation without a first and last name. Sigh.

Just a few minutes later I logged into my T-Mobile account so I could download my latest bill. I was informed that my profile was incomplete, and I needed to provide a first and last name. Heaven forbid I look at my T-Mobile account without providing my name!

I get increasingly frustrated by all of the companies who demand personally-identifiable information for every transaction. I’m supposed to give my phone number to get “rewards”, my ZIP code to receive “targeted offers”, my email to “link to my account”, and on and on. Of course I’m not ignorant: I’m well aware that my digital footprint is substantial, and all kinds of marketing companies and web providers know a ton of stuff about me (and share it amongst themselves). Still, I feel like I need to take little steps whenever I can to protect that information and avoid the all-too-common problem of identity theft these days.

So, T-Mobile, you may now refer to me as Mr. Grey.

Yum…?

Note to self: Don’t eat at Taco Time.

Another stumper

Last night Zaque was pondering the mysteries of the universe and came up with this one:

Would Jesus ever trip on a rock?

Because of course Jesus knows everything, so he’d know there was a rock on the road about to trip him, right? Hmm.

Why is this better?

One of my clients is a pretty big company, and they just sent an email saying this:

In our effort to increase working capital… we have improved our average Days Payable Outstanding (DPO). However, a recent benchmark study has shown that we have lost ground to our competitors.

Okay, so they’re saying they’re getting better at paying invoices (like the ones I send to them), but they’re still behind other companies. That’s good to know, and I’d expect them to do something to gain back that ground. They go on:

We believe the most critical action we can take to improve our DPO is extending terms, improving our competitive position to invest in growth and make strong financial decisions.

Umm… what?

Because they’re losing ground in the number of days it takes them to pay their suppliers, they’re going to… intentionally increase the number of days it takes them to pay their suppliers.

I’ll never understand big business, I guess.

Great Red Spot

Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for just over a year now.

A couple of days ago, during one of its “perijove” encounters (closest pass to the cloud-tops of the planet), it snapped some photos of the Great Red Spot. NASA released the raw image data to the public, and many people took the opportunity to combine, colorize, and edit the photos into works of art. Here’s one I particularly liked:

It’s amazing to think that this massive storm, which has persisted for hundreds of years (as long as we’ve been able to observe Jupiter through a telescope), is more than twice the size of our entire planet. It’s stunning and humbling and beautiful and scary all at once.

Bug blood

As we were driving through the hinterlands of Wyoming over the past few days, we were remarking on all of the bug splats on the windshield of the van. There were a few “juicy” ones– apparently pretty large bugs. I noticed that all of them had more or less clear liquid, and I commented about that to Laralee, which made us wonder (well, made me wonder, anyway) why bug blood isn’t red.

So last night at dinner I opened Wikipedia to take a look, and learned that insects don’t have hemoglobin like vertebrates do… instead, they have something called hemolymph. It’s a (generally) clear liquid that serves more or less the same purpose of distributing oxygen to the internal organs. I was fascinated to find out that insects don’t have circulatory systems, either: no arteries or veins, just an ocean of internal fluid that sort of washes around inside their exoskeleton and bathes the organs in nutrients. Their hearts slosh the fluid around a bit, and in fact they can push it into certain parts of their bodies as needed.

Science is so cool. And I love learning something new every day.

Stumper

The other day Zaque turned to me and out of the blue asked:

Would you rather have a head the size of a golf ball, or the size of a watermelon?

I thought for a moment and decided that a golf-ball-sized head would be pretty fun simply for practical joke value (Headless Horseman and all that). Zaque told me that he felt like a watermelon head would be much better because you couldn’t possibly eat a burger with a golf-ball-sized one. In fact, you’d pretty much have to drink everything through a straw. Good point.

This is the kind of thing that sloshes around the head of my kid.

Little America

On our trip out to Utah a few days ago, we stopped at Little America in the middle of Wyoming. Why? 75-cent ice cream cones, of course. They advertise for about two hundred miles across the plains, building the tension until you can’t stand it and simply have to pull in to get a helping of soft-serve bliss.

Before heading in, I couldn’t resist a picture of Zaque riding the dinosaur.

He looks a little off-kilter because the dinosaur’s skin was approximately 150 degrees after baking in the hot afternoon sun. I was going to have him take my picture as well, but climbing onto that boiling-hot green didn’t work out.

While we were there, we continued our time-honored tradition of trying on a few hats. There’s nothing quite like over-priced, poor-quality hats sold at a gas station.

And then, to top it all off, I loved this little gadget:

Now I know the secret of those “alluring wind in your hair selfies”. It’s Hollywood magic!

Thrilling

I brought my point-and-shoot camera to pickup ultimate today and took some pictures of the action. When I was on the field I handed it to a bystander and asked her to capture a few shots of me being awesome. This is what came of it:

Wow.

So that’s me throwing to… someone. And my defender, Trevor, apparently strolling up to mark me. And two people in the background, also taking a nice easy walk. I’m sure there were plenty of people running around, and the throw was probably amazing, but boy, in this picture it looks like the most boring sport ever.

I guess I’ll bring a camera next week and see if anything better turns up.

Chicky chicky

Zaque’s been officially working at Chick-fil-A for about a week now, and yesterday we decided to visit and see him in action. Given the choice of working in the kitchen or handling customers, he opted for the latter. It’s perfect, given his outgoing and somewhat goofy personality.

Of course his name tag says “Zaque”– I wonder how many people ask about that. And his hair is… well, enough said. He told me if anyone at the restaurant forgets their name tag for the day, they have to wear the “backup” name tag, which says “Earl”. I think it’s pretty funny that Chick-fil-A has a backup name tag, but even funnier that it’s Earl.

As far as summer jobs go, this is a great fit for Zaque and he’s excited to work. I can’t ask for much more…

A beard? Nah.

At Laralee’s suggestion, I decided to grow out a beard. For about two weeks I trimmed my neck hair and let the rest run wild. This morning, as I evaluated it, I realized that I simply can’t grow a sweet beard: the hair on the side of my face is too sparse, so even though it had grown a reasonable quarter-inch, it looked like it was barely five o’clock shadow.

I took a razor to it, but of course had to experiment with a few options first. Here’s the Amish look:

And the “chin stubble”:

But in the end, I just went back to the clean-shaven look:

Maybe my goatee will make a reappearance someday, but I’m pretty sure the beard won’t.