Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quick Hits vol. 2

So the Vikings beat the Giants to take the NFC North and we're heading to the playoffs. I'm a Purple Fan, but this team feels like a one-and-done to me. Prove me wrong, Vikes. I'd be glad to be wrong.I received some Christmas cactus cuttings seven or eight years ago. They grew into a nice, healthy, green cactus, but last year was the first Christmas it actually bloomed, and even then there were only two or three blossoms. I couldn't take the plant with me to Hawaii, so I asked my Mom to house it until I can have it again. Of course this year it blooms like gang-busters. I love the color. Photo credit to Papa Ayers.Nothing says Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men like boxing against your spouse on a Wii. For the record, I would have beaten Zac had I not dropped my remote at the last second. (I had him down to one last pie piece!) Instead of being courteous and stopping to let me retrieve it, Zac continued to wail on me, thereby knocking me out. And perhaps saving his manhood. Seriously, this is marital counseling, disguised as a game. And you get a nice upper body workout. A winner all the way round. Photo credit to Bernadette. Christmas dinner credit to her too. Yummy ham.Zac found this baby bird outside our door this morning. I don't know what type of bird it is, but I'm pretty sure he/she was born to the group of birds that nest up under the overhang of our roof. The little guy/gal couldn't fly yet, and was just hopping around on the lawn. Zac and I looked up and there were about six adult-sized birds staring intently at us. I'm sure they thought we were mean looking predators and that the baby was a goner. We decided to prove the birds wrong and work towards a harmonious relationship with our avian neighbors. We left the little guy/gal out on the lawn where he spent most of the day chattering happily.This isn't a scene from a romantic dinner. This is our living room Friday night because the ENTIRE island of Oahu lost power. 900,000 people with no electricity due to a couple of lightning strikes. We were out for dinner when it happened. Zac and I were fairly lucky in that were only lost power for eight or nine hours. There were other folks on the island that were without power for a day. It was an eerie, eerie night.

Last thing to note, Megan and Paul will be here tomorrow!!! Hooray! I am so excited to see them! I've missed them terribly and I know we're going to have a great week. We're even going to go to the Big Island to check out the volcano. They're leaving Lincoln with the Grandparents for the week, so I'm sure they're going to miss him terribly, but it will be good for them to have a couple days to sleep in. Yay family!

Monday, December 22, 2008

More hiking, more sore muscles

Not a lot has been going on for the last week. Not worth blogging about, anyhow. I'm sure it's pretty similar to what everyone else in the U.S. is doing - last minute shopping for presents, making sure the right foods are in the house before you realize you're out of butter on Christmas Day, wrapping gifts, wandering through the malls looking for a deal that looks like it might be worth the effort of standing in line.

Worth blogging about?: Zac and I decided to go on a hike yesterday morning. We heard that there was a trail not too far from where we lived, so we headed out around 8:30 yesterday to get a nice walk in. Zac was told that the hike was relatively easy, so we brought Toivo (our one-eyed Finnish Spitz) with us. We drove inland, up the mountain, for about 20 minutes. Up and up we went. We got to the trail head with relative ease and at least that part is well marked. The sign said "Manana Trail". Some subsequent searching has resulted in my deduction that trails aren't always called the same things by all people. There are lots of local nicknames that are used in place of the official names. Also, there doesn't seem to be a well-organized Hawaiian governmental unit that is in charge of parks. In Minnesota, for example, you have the state, county and city parks, plus the Department of Natural Resources. I haven't quite figured out who is in charge of what here on Oahu yet, but the signage isn't particularly helpful.

We started out on the trail which, for the first 10 minutes, was paved. Then in turned into a cleared trail of dirt and volcanic gravel. It was a pretty easy walk. Gentle slopes up and down. After about another 10-15 minutes it became a little more intense. There were lots of trees about that have extensive root systems. The roots are what hold the topsoil together, and their exposure results in a kind of stairway-like pattern for going up and down the hills. Like I said, it got more extreme the further we went. Finally we had been walking for about 30 minutes and we got to a nice stopping point.

Then we noticed the sign. After seeing no signage for the first 30 minutes to indicate the presence of the trail, we saw a random wooden sign that had the obligatory arrows. One pointed to the left indicating another 5 miles to get to a Ridge. I can't remember the name at the moment. The other arrow pointed to the right, claiming that Waimano Falls was 3/4 of a mile that-a-way. Five miles was out of the question, but Zac and I figured we could handle another 3/4 of a mile to the falls and back, so we out-voted Toivo and headed to the right.

Down the Rabbit's Hole we went. Well, we went down anyway. There was a long, steep decline that started the trek to the falls. Again, the roots made it pretty easy to handle, but in the back of my head I knew that this was going to be a pain in the butt on the way back. Not Koko Crater-bad, but pretty bad. (I later found online that the descent/ascent is about 700 feet at this point. Not chump change.) As we got down towards the "bottom" things started to change. The relatively dry, forest-y feel of the upper trail gave way to straight-up tropical rain forest. Mosquitoes, muddy trails and all. This is where it got interesting.

I should also note that about halfway down the hill we saw a cluster of fabric. It looked like part of some one's boxer shorts. About 20 feet further, another piece. Another 20 feet. Another. And so it went. We came to depend on these four-inch-square pieces of fabric as we kept moving. They were the best indication that we were still on the correct route. When the blue boxers ran out, they switched to some black fabric - maybe a t-shirt? I'm pointing this out because we were dependant on Hansel and Gretel to get us through this hike. Thanks, State of Hawaii.

Finally we could hear the water crashing in the distance. We kept pushing ahead. Both Zac and I wiped out due to the slippery conditions. I banged up my leg pretty good when I did a face plant on the trail. Zac landed on his hip and wrist. We were muddy, and tired, but we weren't about to give up. We finally came to a part of the trail where someone had tied a rope to help people get down a particularly treacherous part. We thought we were close at that point, but we still had another 20 minutes to go. Toivo was actually handling everything much better than I thought he was going to. He was still bounding along, tail up, and his four legs served him much better for the conditions than my two.

Finally we got to the falls. The falls were about 40-50 feet high. Nothing awe-inspiring, but nice. The falls had carved out a nice series of two pools and smooth rocks that looked enticing. The only problem was that we had to get down there. The pools that had been carved out resulted in the pools being surrounded by rock walls that were about 7-8 feet high in the low spots. There was a rope there to help Zac and I get down, but Toivo isn't great at handling ropes. It's that opposible thumb thing. So Zac scampered down first and I tried to hand the dog down to him. Let's just say Toivo wasn't a fan of this idea. He freaked out a little, but Zac grabbed him and Toivo made it down, safe and sound. Because the pool was confined, we took Toivo off his leash and let him walk around. He drank some cool, Hawaiian spring water and laid down in the mud to relax.

Zac and I enjoyed the view and the chance to sit down. Zac went wading. I thought about going in too, but my socks and shoes were so muddy and wet already that the thought of trying to get them off and back on again didn't appeal to me. We sat for awhile and rested, enjoying the coolness of the ravine. We could have continued down the creek to investigate further, but we knew we faced a helluva climb out so we decided to start back. Of course this meant getting Toivo out of the pool area. I grabbed the afore-mentioned rope and scaled my way back up to the ledge. Zac lifted Toivo out and I grabbed him as well as I could. Toivo freaked out a little and tried to jump up, whacking his leg on the rocks. I'm sure it hurt him, but he seemed to be okay. We headed back.

Ever notice how when you're going somewhere unknown the first time it seems like it takes forever to get there, but when you're heading home you realize that it's not as far as you thought? The hike was just as treacherous and difficult on the way back, but it went much more quickly. Until we got to the foot of the 700' hill. That kicked my butt. Big time. We went slowly. All three of us were pretty pooped. Every time we'd stop we'd tell the dog, "Toivo, sit." He'd just lay down. Good idea. We finally made it back to the paved part and the three of us emerged from the trail head feeling pretty good, despite the bug bites, scrapes, bruises and being covered in mud. All of us needed a bath.

We got home, Zac and I had a beer and took a shower. Toivo had some water, a Milkbone, got hosed down, and then was left out on the patio to dry out. It was truly a team effort for the day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It never fails


It makes me cry.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Monday, December 15, 2008

To borrow a blog heading: "Quick Hits"

Here's Zac and me, after the 5k. We were donning our gay apparel. Well, accessories anyhow.






Bernadette and I. Notice how much taller she is than I am? This means that she has to take less steps to complete the 5k, which is almost like cheating. In my next life I am SO going to be 5'7".
Zac and I at the ATG Christmas party last Friday night. (The party we drove to when I heard the EBS message. I guess it was worth the peril.) I regret that I didn't get a full-length photo of me in my dress because right now it's my favorite thing in my closet.

I've made Brown Sugar Crinkles, Swedish Rusk and these Hershey Kiss cookies so far this month. I'd like to extend my thanks to Zac's coworkers for eating most of them so I don't get fat.

The tomato plants are starting to bloom! I'm going to have tomatoes soon! I'm excited about this possibility. It doesn't make up for no snow or hot chocolate or cozy sweaters, but it's something to put in the 'pro' column of living here.








I'm sorry, but Lincoln is adorable. I will challenge someone to fisticuffs if they disagree.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A victory, of sorts

Well, I wasn't able to run the whole 5k. I had to take a few walking breaks. I offer these top three reasons as my lame justifications:
  1. I run in the evenings. Usually around 6:00 pm. The sun is setting, the day is cooling off and I have plenty of energy to run before supper. I've actually been able to run a couple of miles around dinner time but I have never been able to run more than a mile in the mornings. I'm tired, my legs feel like lead, and my motivation is ZERO because I'd rather be sleeping - mornings are not good for my running routine. The 5k today started at 7:00 am. Guess how I was feeling?
  2. It has been storming for the last couple of days here. Real doozies. For the first time in my life I heard the Emergency Broadcast System used yesterday. (You know the obnoxious beeping on the tv and radio, usually followed by "This was only a test. If this had been a real emergency . . .") Yesterday I heard the buzz followed by "a flash flood warning has been issued for your area." What? This system actually gets used? In real life? I kind of thought it was a urban myth of sorts. Lets just say the drive to the Christmas party was exciting last night. Anyhow, the result of all the seriously wet weather is seriously muggy conditions when it isn't raining for a few minutes. While it didn't rain during the run this morning, it was like running in an aquarium.
  3. The course wasn't marked well (Ladies and Gentlemen, Hickam AFB!) so I had no idea how far we had gone at any point. I need motivation in the form of distance or time. I've gone a mile? Okay, let's go another half mile. Let's do another half. Heck, I would have enjoyed signs saying 1k, 2k, 3k since we were feeling all sorts of metric today. But no. We were just trotting down the course, with no real guidance. Granted, this was less of an issue as the first two, but it still irritated me. Even Bernadette mentioned at some point, "Where's the half-way point? We should be about there." Just then we came around a corner and there was a card table with dixie cups of water. They told us we were halfway and we were to turn around. They had us running on a dead end road. Nice. A loop would have been appreciated. At least I would have had new scenery throughout.
That all being said, I finished. It was something like 40 minutes and 22 seconds. Pretty sad. But the time was due to the fact that I walked more than I should have. Or wanted to.

Strangely, for some sick reason as soon as I was done with this one I wanted to do another one. Not immediately, of course, but I wanted to do another one. To do better. And now, eight hours later, I still want to. So I guess I'll have to start occasionally running in the mornings, possibly underwater. With signs.

Bernadette took some photos, so I'll post those when I get them.

Did I mention we went to IHOP afterwards? Yeah, I earned those 1600 calories.

Dread

It's 6:30 and I'm about to walk out the door so I can run my first 5k. That's if it doesn't pour on us and wash us out to sea.

What the hell was I thinking?

Details to follow.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I don't like Hickam, and it's starting to wear onto my feelings towards the Air Force.

I hate Hickam Air Force Base. I hate it. It is the most illogically designed place I have ever come across. My hostility towards it increases each time I have to venture on to it. It's getting to the point that I am already angry when they're checking my ID at the entry gate. At some point a guard is going to sense my increasing capacity for violence and prohibit my entry. I mean, the Air Force tries to hold itself out as the branch of the military comprised of rather bright service members. If that is the case, which officer was drunk when they laid out the streets and such for Hickam? Zac and I get lost there routinely. Even when we have a map.

Latest irritation: I needed to go to the $%@&#(@(*!!& Hickam fitness center the other day so I checked their website for directions, knowing that I might get lost there. No directions to the fitness center, no map, just "Building 1120". Gee. Thanks. So I went to the main website for Hickam. That map only labels about 5% of the buildings, by name. Not number. So "1120" is worthless as far as help. I found my registration form for the 5k that said that the address for the fitness center was 900 Hangar Ave. I found Hangar Ave on the map, but there aren't streets indicating where the 900s would fall. I figured if I drove down the length of Hangar Ave I'd find it. Not a big deal - the street is only a few blocks long.

I drove the entire length of Hangar Ave. The fitness center was nowhere. I was pissed. Utterly, totally, thoroughly pissed. And of course the numbering system of the buildings is incoherent at best so I couldn't find the mystical building 1120 by looking for closely-numbered buildings. I was so pissed that I left. My sole mission was to get myself off the damn base. I could have stopped and asked a friendly Air Force person, but really, I would have started accusing them of being at fault for all that I hated about Hickam.

So when I got home I called the fitness center for clarification as to their location.

Fitness center employee (FCE): "Hello?"

Me: [pleasantly] "Yes, I was wondering where you were located?"

FCE: "We're across from Lodging." (Hmm. Only helpful if I know where Lodging is.)

Me: "Okay, are you near the Commissary?" (I know where the Commissary is and how to get there, and according to the pieces of information I had gathered up to this point the fitness center was supposed to be somewhere near there.)

FCE: "Um, we're across from Lodging."

[pause] [sigh]

Me: "Is that near the Commissary?"

FCE: "It's a couple blocks away. But yeah, we're right across from Lodging."

Me: "And where exactly is Lodging?"

FCE: [pause] "Um."

Me: "Is there an address for Lodging?" [growing frustrated]

FCE: "Um, yeah, but I'm not sure what it is."

Me: "Does the fitness center have an address?" [straining through a fake smile]

FCE: "Uh, yeah. . . I'm not sure though."

Me: "What intersection are you near?"

FCE: [triumph in knowledge] "Oh! We're at the corner of Vickers and Scott Circle."

Me: "So you're not on Hangar?"

FCE: [thinking about it for a second] "No, we're not."

Me: [resigned to the situation that is Hickam AFB] "Okay. Thank you for your help."

FCE: "Yeah, we're just across from Lodging."

Me: "Thanks again."

FCE: [confused] "Bye"

I'm telling you - these people are in charge of flying planes and reading maps!!! They are responsible for defending us!!! The only explanation for the layout of Hickam is that 70 years ago they were afraid that terrorists were going to invade Oahu via the Air Force Base. If they f'd up the layout of the base they knew that the terrorists would never be able to make it any further onto the island. It's pretty ingenious in that respect. In the meantime it's just a major source of irritation to me.

Don't even get me started on the lack of signage there. . .

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Another day of the great outdoors

Today's mission: Koko Crater.

A few weeks ago, when we finished up Chinaman's Hat, Bernadette made a joke that since she saw me conquer that challenge that she was going to invite me on more of her crazy outdoor adventures. I laughed. I shouldn't have, because at about 11:00 this morning I found myself standing at the foot of a beast of a hill, looking up the 1,207 feet I was about to hike. Oh, happy day.

It was a fearsome foursome: Bernadette, a co-worker of hers, Zac and me. We headed out with the sun beating down on us and little to no wind. No shade either. My kingdom for an elm tree! The trail is the remnants of an old railroad line going up the hill, the ties resulting in rather inadequate steps. (Not a railroad for a passenger train - I'd guess instead for carts for moving supplies and such. Kind of like the things that Indiana Jones raced around in in The Temple of Doom. At least that's what I was imagining in my mind.)

I'm not going to lie - it was tough. I got winded, frequently. I got a little light headed and a little dizzy (from the heat I'd wager). After about the half-way point it became a challenge of endurance. Five steps, rest. Ten. Rest. Eight. Rest. Glance down the moutain, up the mountain. Too close to turn back. Five more. Rest. Twelve. Sit down. Get up. Too damn close. Six more. Rest. C'mon, seven more. And so on and so on and so on.


One of the cool things about the climb is the people you run into along the way. The people coming down offer encouragement, you return the favor when you're descending. Everyone has to rest, even on the way down, so you chat with others that are taking a moment to catch their breath: How many times have you done this one? Have you done Chinaman's Hat? Where else have you been? When you get to the top, climb on the metal stuff - it's stronger than it looks and gives the best view.

And it is an amazing feeling when you get to the top. The view is incredible. My camera (which I remembered to bring this time!) doesn't do it justice, since there was a little haze in the air. It's pretty amazing. We stayed up there for awhile, chatted with people, and then headed down the mountain.

I'm probably not going to be able to walk tomorrow, but I feel pretty good right now. Here's some photos of the day:

Here's the beast. If you look closely, you can see a faint line running to the summit starting near the light pole on the left. That is the trail.

Here's Zac, just about to start up the hill. Mountain. Whatever. How big does it have to be to be a mountain? It felt like a mountain. Anyhow, you can see here the railroad ties that make up steps. About 20 feet further down the trail the metal rails start showing up. I'm not exactly sure why the railroad is there. It appears that at the top there might have been some sort of military outpost at some point. Observation point I'd guess. Little concrete bunkers. Also at the top is a old, rusted out motor that apparently pulled the railcars up the tracks to the top of the crater. The tracks go right up the side of the hill in a perfectly straight line, with no concern as to grade. Shame on them for not designing it with hikers (60 years later) in mind.


This was a 'fun' part. The bridge. It's not very high, granted, only about 10-15 feet above the "ground". But it's a rail road, with nice, big, wide empty spaces to see down through, making it a little disorienting. The steepness is considerable. Also the ties are not parallel with the "ground" so you don't feel confident walking on it. At least, Bernadette and I didn't. I was having flashes of "Stand By Me" and I just couldn't bring myself to walk upright over it. So I scampered up the incline using the rail as a hand, er, rail, and essentially walked on all fours to get across it. I'm all about substance, not style.

Made it to the top. Here we are looking down at Hanauma Bay, home of good snorkeling. It looks so small from here. Probably because I'm 1,000 feet up. Let's turn a little to my right:

This is looking back towards Diamond Head and Honolulu. Care to zoom in? Let's!

There's Diamond Head to the top left and Honolulu is that collection of white-ish buildings towards the top right. I assure you that you probably can't afford any of the houses anywhere in this photo.

Koko crater. It's bowl shape apparently has caused it to having some interesting flora and fauna contained within it. There are paths down there to walk, but I hear that they're relatively flat. What's the point in that?

I am woman. Grrr.

Taking our time. The smiles mask the tired, aching, burning going on in our quads.

And now we have to go down. Sigh. I'm too old for this. Or at the very least my knees aren't going to be happy.

I'm getting so close to the bottom. So very close. You can't tell in this photo, because it's a still shot, but at this point my legs were jelly and pretty wobbly. If I stumbled at this point I would have resigned myself to my fate and just rolled down the hill the rest of the way.

Success! Be glad that your computer doesn't have smell-o-vision, because I was pretty sweaty and gross at this point. But I felt good and I'm sure somehow the entire ordeal benefited my health. I wish ice cream benefited my health that much. I'm sure tomorrow I won't be able to stand up from a seated position, but I'm glad I did it. Zac says he wants to do this climb once or twice a month.

Sicko.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My un-employment. For the moment.

I'm curled up on the couch with my laptop and a cup of hot chocolate while watching the Anaheim Ducks play the Chicago Blackhawks. It's kind of like being at home in MN, except that it's raining instead of snowing outside and because it's 80 here instead of 20. I'll just pretend that it's cold outside for awhile while I sip my cocoa.

I think I've mentioned that I was telecommuting back to MN for employment since I got here. I would work on documents from home and upload them to the computer back in MN. Magic, I know. Well, as all good things must, it came to an end. I knew it would. I mean, in the back of my head I understood that there was a finite amount of work that needed to be done so once it was done, I would be unemployed. The end just came quicker than I had anticipated. I was hoping I could get at least a few more weeks of work to get me through the holidays. Megan and Paul are coming out at the end of December and my folks are coming out about four weeks later. I was, admittedly, relying on the flexibility of working from home to accommodate my 2+ weeks of family visitation.

Zac and I talked about my options and we decided that I could take a few weeks off of working, i.e. be voluntarily unemployed. Honestly, I have to admit it is nice to have someone around the house to do things during the day. I know that somewhere Gloria Steinem or "Up With Women" (or some other like-named organization) is groaning and plotting to have me eliminated, but it's true. During the day I can run errands, do the grocery shopping, make food for the week, etc., so that when both Zac and I are home we can go do "fun" things instead of those chores. It is an absolute and total luxury. And, unlike a lot of families, we don't have to worry about losing the roof over our heads or our health insurance because I'm not working. I am not unaware of how fortunate we are in that regard. I know that when (and it is a when) I go back to work it will mean tired weeknights and chore-centered weekends. And that's okay too. I guess I'm just saying that being at home isn't as awful as I thought it would be.

With all that said, there is a job I want. It is the first, and I stress FIRST, job in the history of my job hunting that I feel like I'm qualified for. So qualified that I want to march into the hiring office and dare them to find someone more qualified than me. Since I graduated from college, heck even during college, I have never read a job description that I felt so good about. When I came across this posting I read it twice because I felt like it was too good to be true. Suddenly I want to write a cover letter, I want to update my resume, I want to put together the random documents needed. Suddenly applying for a job wasn't akin to having wisdom teeth pulled. I. WANT. THIS. JOB.

But since I want this job so badly I am setting myself up for a potentially large disappointment. I'm used to rejection letters; they're part of the job-hunting game. A particularly large part of my job-hunting game, come to think of it. I just know that this time around I will be greatly disappointed if I don't even get the chance to plead my case in person. I just want an interview. Give me a chance to explain why I can do this job better than any other candidate. I've got most of paperwork together already, but I am waiting to get a copy of a letter of good standing from the Minnesota Bar.

I am so deliriously happy about this job posting that I even called the contact on the posting to ask about the writing sample requirement. For background purposes, many legal job postings, especially entry level ones, require a 3-5 page writing sample. Usually it's a standard piece of legal writing, a brief, a memo, etc. Standard, that is, if you practice law. I haven't written one of those things since law school. I have some old copies of my work from then, but that's not who I am right now as an attorney. I don't really want to give myself a fake writing assignment just to create a new one, but I will if I have to. So today I called the contact person and left a voicemail asking her about the writing requirement. She hasn't called me back yet, and I'm just chomping at the bit. It's a federal job and the deadline is Dec 29, so I know that I've got some time, but I want to get my application in with plenty of time to take care of anything that might come up.

So for the next few weeks I'll wear my Donna Reed dresses and make cakes for the Beav's bake sale, but then, hopefully, after that I'll go get to play research attorney again.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rewind

Remember a few weeks ago when I lamented that I didn't have any photos of the kayaking trip to Chinaman's Hat? Well, Bernadette sent me a few that she and her husband took. So I do have proof that I kayaked! (Too bad none of the photos were from the top of the rock.)

Here's the little island, about a third of a mile off the coast.

Here's Zac and me, kayaking back. Nice calm waters on this side of the rock.

Us, feeling pretty proud of ourselves.

I'm hoping we can go kayaking again soon. For sure I want to take Megan and Paul out there when they come in four weeks!

FOUR WEEKS! Woo hoo!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving


I hope everyone has a fantastic day today. We all have a lot to be thankful for. Family, friends, health, food on the table. It's big things and little things. Be grateful for all that you have. Give some you love a hug, and then have that second piece of pie. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Actual footage

As Paul likes to say, here's "actual footage" of the beer bottling process:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brewmasters are we

Believe it or not, but it was 68 and rainy today. All day. Wonderfully gloomy. I even made chicken wild rice soup. It's as close to November weather as I'm going to get, so I seized the opportunity to make a stick-to-your-bones cream-based soup. I'm sure tomorrow it will be back to summer, so I have to enjoy these days as I can.

Since the great outdoors was out of the question due to the sogginess, Zac and I went back to the Diamond Head Winery to bottle our beer. At the beginning of November, Zac and I went to a local winery to mix up some beer and some wine. Our wine won't be ready until the end of December, but our beer was ready for bottling today. Jeff showed us how to use the machine and we bottled up about thirty 20 oz bottles of a Belgian style ale. The Winery makes the process really easy, so we are by no means experts of any kind right now, but we're feeling pretty proud of ourselves.

Here's Zac, The Mighty Bottler, standing next to the machine that takes the beer from the carboy (big bottle in the background) and puts it into the smaller bottles.

Here's me, using that super-human upper-body strength I have, using the contraption that crimps the bottle caps onto the bottles. (Okay, parts of that statement might be a lie. And I'm pretty sure it's not the part about the contraption.)

This is me pretending to sample the wares. Pretending, people. The beer still has about two months to go before it's ready for consumption. Flat, not-yet-fully-fermented beer doesn't sound appealing to me. Although, at the end of the day, it IS beer. And if this were a simpler time, say the 1500s or so, I would probably be throwing the alcoholic sludge back delighting in it's glory. But then again, if this was the 1500s, I'd probably be the mother of 14 kids and close to death due to some disease. I might need beer if that was the case.

Here we are with our boxes of bottled beer. You can see by the size of the bottle in my hand that these are not the usual 12 oz bottles people drink. We're eager to try the beer in about six weeks to see what it's like. Hopefully it's decent, because we've got a boatload of it. We'll probably end up making labels for the bottles. Zac would like to call it Goat Piss ale. The beer is his baby, so I may have to have to acquiesce to that. (Goats are a symbol of Navy Chiefs.) We'll let you know how it turns out. Maybe I'll scrap the whole "law" thing and just become a brewer.

Cheers!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sleeping with the windows open

It's really nice outside right now. It's 76 with a nice breeze. The air conditioner is turned off and we're enjoying the fresh air tonight.

I'm in good spirits. I was able to talk to Sara and Layni over the last couple of days. I also talked to my parents and Megan and Paul. I've still got a few more people I need to call and catch up with, and I'm hoping to get to them this weekend. It's been weird trying to figure out how to maintain friendships over the long distance. I'm not particularly good at it. Back in MN I ate lunch with Sara and Layni almost every day. It was easy to stay on top of things. And Autumn lived 10 minutes away. It was easy to hop over to her place and hang out for awhile. It's a lot different when you talk every three or four weeks. I've been wanting to pick up the pace of calling, and I'm half-tempted to draft up some sort of calendar system so I don't feel like I have to call everyone at once. I have to call person X every other Tuesday, person Y every other Wednesday, etc. Maybe I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed with keeping in touch with people then.

We got tickets to the ATG Christmas Party today. (ATG is where Zac works.) Yes, they actually call it a "Christmas" party. Apparently the Christians still have a majority on the Super-Fun Party Planning Committee. I am hoping that enough Jewish or Pagan folks get on the Committee someday so we can have a Hanukkah or Solstice party instead. I would find it deliriously entertaining to watch a bunch of Navy guys at a Winter Solstice party. They would be looking to get drunk while dancing to KC and the Sunshine Band as usual, and instead they get people in flowing robes, holding candles, dancing and swaying in the moonlight to soft drumming. I would pay serious money to go that party. (I don't know if there is in fact a Super-Fun Party Planning Committee, but clearly somebody the Navy puts these things together so there must be a Committee somewhere. And clearly they aren't concerned with the religious specificity of the naming of the event.)

I'm intrigued by the tickets which say that the attire for the evening will be:

"Crisp Aloha"

Now just what in the world is that supposed to be? A heavily starched, recently pressed floral shirt with a coordinating lei? According to Zac, who has been to Christmas parties in the past, Christmas parties are fairly formal affairs. What makes the Christmas party different than almost all other parties/balls/galas/dinners throughout the year is that the service members are not supposed to wear their uniforms. They get to wear civilian clothes. So lots of the guys wear nice suits or even tuxedos. Gals are supposed to be dolled up too. So I guess Crisp Aloha is supposed to loosely equate to Semi Formal. I'm tempted to arrive in a loud floral dress like those often worn by Samoan grandmothers just to see if I can argue that it falls under the letter of the law, if not the spirit. I don't think I have the presence to pull off such an aggressive outfit. I suppose I could wear my KALBD again, but seriously, three events? I think I might just have to go get something new.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Grumpy.

Technology is good. Except when it doesn't work. And then it's annoying. For example, I have to send a signed document via fax or e-mail to MN. Zac has this lovely printer/scanner/copier that would work really well for that purpose. I can print out the form, sign it, scan it, and either e-mail it or fax it to the recipient. (Zac's stuff from OKC arrived on Friday - but that's for a little later this post.) Like I said, technology is good. But wait! I could print out the form, I could use my pen to sign the paper, but I could not scan it. The blasted machine just sat there and blinked at me when I pressed the "scan" button. I tried copying it, to see if that function worked. It did. So this machine serves three purposes, but the one I needed right then was the one that didn't. After many attempts to trouble-shoot, un-install and re-install drivers and restarting my computer over and over and over again I finally waved the white flag. It was a waste of 90 minutes of my life. I ultimately gave someone permission to forge my name on the form. I wonder if permission is an affirmative defense to forgery.

Like I mentioned earlier, Zac's household goods from OKC arrived on Friday. The house has been a total and utter mess since then. What makes is tough is that I can't really do anything with the stuff without him. When my stuff was delivered, as I unpacked I knew what I wanted to keep, what I wanted to toss, where I wanted stuff to go. This is all his stuff. I have no idea where he wants to hang his deer racks, I don't know where he wants his clothes to go, etc. In particular when it came to kitchenware/dishes we had to go through it to see if we wanted to keep it or donate it. When you combine two formerly single people's kitchens, plus add wedding gifts to the mix, frequently you get multiples of items. (How many pizza cutters and ice cream scoops does one household need?) We worked really hard on Saturday and Sunday to get through a lot of it, but there is still a lot of the little stuff that needs to be put away. Sitting here staring at the half-dissected boxes of stuff is aggravating.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Exploring the great outdoors on Veteran's Day

Tuesday was Veteran's Day so Zac and his comrades had the day off. Zac and I made plans to kayak with one of his coworkers and the co-worker's wife, Bernadette. We rented two tandem kayaks and drove to the other side of Oahu to Kualoa Point. About a third of a mile off the coast is a litle island called Chinaman's Hat, or Mokolii.

It was about 10:30 by the time we got sunscreen applied and the kayaks in the water. It was really beautiful out. It was nice and warm with a nice breeze coming off the ocean. It worried me a little, because while the water between the shore and the island was pretty calm, on the far side of the island and beyond the waves were larger and I had only been kayaking once previously. Also, I made the mistake(?) of reading up on beaches along that side of Oahu. There are some strong currents that sometimes pop up that can pull you out to sea. But with my trusty life-vest secured to me I figured the worse that would happen if washed overboard is I would be eaten by sharks before the Coast Guard could come rescue me. (I'm joking. Sort of.)


Perhaps I should disclose here that I am, on occasion, a total and complete wuss. I don't like heights, I get easily get motion sickness. I don't like amusement parks rides, the top of the Eiffel Tower was a little more than terrifying and I'll get queasy on car rides if the road curves side to side or rolls over hill after hill. This is all relevant as I stood there on the shore, looking at the 3-5 foot waves out there and thinking about the prospect of climbing up Chinaman's Hat, which had been suggested by Bernadette's husband. But I was strangely excited to go and give it a try, so we loaded up into our kayaks and headed out for the little island.

A couple of lessons learned. 1.) Kayaking successfully with two people in the same kayak required both people to be on the same page. That requires communication, probably verbal communication, unless you and your partner are telepathic. After a few fits and starts, Zac and I got in sync and developed a decent system of going where we wanted to go. 2.) It is easier to paddle when the sea is calm. A lot easier. And paddling when there are waves requires muscles. In your back and arms. Are we supposed to have muscles there? I got pretty tired from paddling once we got to the open water side of the island, but later that day I felt confident that I earned the hamburger I devoured with the number of calories I burned.

There is supposedly a little beach on the far side of the island that we were aiming for. Once we got around the side of the island, the waves picked up. But surprisingly I found them invigorating and exciting, rather than scary. We got to the open sea side of the island and Bernadette concluded that the beach on that side wasn't great for trying to land at. It was high tide and the waves were crashing against the rocks. We decided to go back to the other side of the island and land on the little beach on that side instead. We pulled our kayaks up on the beach and hung out in the water for awhile while we had some bottled water. The water was only about 4-5 deep and crystal clear. We looked up at the island and saw the path that people use to climb up the 206 feet to the top. The four of us decided to give it a try.

Chinaman's Hat is volcanic rock, so it's actually pretty easy to climb. Part of the walk is just hiking, but part of it really is climbing. Almost vertically. But like I said, the volcanic rock almost lends itself to being climbed with lots of places to put your feet and hands. It's pretty easy to grip, but it is also equally easy to scrap yourself up on it if you're not careful. The guys made it to the top first, with Bernadette and I a little ways behind, stressing caution over speed.

About 199 feet up I faced two options of making up it the last seven feet. And I do mean "up". At that point the guys' feet were essentially above my head and I needed to either climb straight up or try to swing myself around a rock that stuck out a ways to get to another set of rocks set up more like steps. Straight up was a little intimidating, because I wasn't confident in my upper body strength or shoes to get me up there without potentially falling backwards. Going around the protruding rock wasn't appealing either, because for a split second I would be swinging my body out over . . . nothing. I figured it would be about 10-15 feet before I hit the top of the tree below us. (The TOP of the tree. We're up a ways.)

I looked out around me. I was really close to the top. Really, really close. Part of my brain said, "This is quite the achievement for you. There's no shame in stopping here." But, oddly, strangely, bizarrely, my next thought was, "Screw that! I'm not stopping here. I'm getting to the top." So I swung myself around the rock, scampered up the remaining feet to the summit and enjoyed the fruits of my victory.

I can't explain the view. It was astonishing. The water was colors I've never seen. The mountains of Oahu were jutting out of the island with lush greenness. The sand was white, the coast was gorgeous. Sea turtles swam in the water and the waves crashed against the rocks. It was awe inspiring. It was magnificent. Now granted I didn't venture too close to the edge once I got up there, but I sat down on a rock and enjoyed the breeze as it came off the ocean, soaking up the sun and reveling in my achievement.

After spending some time up top, we had to climb down. Now usually this is the worst part, but for some reason my newly bad-ass self was able to get down the steps and around the Scary Protruding Rock and the rest of the way down rather quickly. No moments of terror. No moments of stomach churning. Just fun descending the hill. We spent some more time in the ocean enjoying the day. I told Zac, "I'm officially cashing in my You-Can't-Call-Me-A-Wuss chip for this week." Zac smiled at me and said, "A week? After that I'm willing to give you a week and a half!" We paddled back to the beach, loaded the cars and headed off to have a hamburger to celebrate our kayaking/climbing adventure.

It felt good. Zac patted my leg in the car and told me he was proud of me. I was proud of myself too. And no, I don't have any pictures because I didn't bring my camera with me. So I guess I'll just have to go back and do it again. Sounds like fun to me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday wrap up

Zac and Toivo are curled up in the bean bag together. It's pretty cute. I can say that plainly, since Zac doesn't read my blog. As much as he tries to play off that he's a hardass when it comes to Toivo, Zac is kind of a softy when it comes to the dog. For example, Zac comes home from work and Toivo is sitting there wagging his tail with delight. Zac takes him outside to the backyard and romps around with him for a good 5-10 minutes. Also, the dog has never been allowed on the couch, bed or chairs. Out of nowhere about a month ago, Zac coaxes the dog onto the couch with us. The dog has now been granted opportunities on the bed and on Zac's bean bag. It's funny to look over at Zac and Toivo smushed together on the bean bag, dozing off in unison.

It's been a busy last week. I couldn't even figure out what I wanted to say about Obama's win. It was a lot to take in and digest. Both McCain's and Obama's speeches were exactly what I needed to hear from both of them. Both speeches were excellent and motivating. I'm looking forward with hope, and I'm willing to do some heavy lifting.

Saturday we had a BBQ at one of Zac's co-worker's house. It was a good time. A lot of work people were there, accompanied by their families. There was a ton of food and it was nice to sit back and socialize with people. I still find large social gatherings like that to be a bit taxing, and more "work" than "relaxation", but as you get to recognize more faces they become less so. Sunday Zac and I went to the marina and rented some kayaks. It's something that we've both been wanting to do and the marina is a great place to learn. It's tucked into Pearl Harbor, so the water is shallow and there are no waves or current. We tried out a tandem kayak and a couple of singles to get a feel for them both. It was a nice introduction - Zac is thinking we might need to invest in one.

Today I played hookie from work. One of the Navy wives (I'll call her Bernadette to protect identities) invited me to go with her and a couple of friends out to Waimea Bay. Waimea Bay is on the North Shore, which is ramping up for the winter surf season. The waves increase in size to the point that only experience surfers should be out there. Even being at the edge of the beach can be perilous if your not paying attention, as those waves got to be about 10-12 feet high and could crush you into the turf. We got out there around 9am, before the rush, and watched the surfers and brave souls who would bob around in the crashing waves. (You couldn't really swim - you just tried to move with the waves so you didn't get hurt.) We didn't go into the water. None of us were that confident. But we sunned ourselves and talked and read books or did crossword puzzles. Then we grabbed some lunch before heading back into town. I'm a little pink, but the sunscreen application intervals seem to have kept me from serious damage.

Bernadette is cool. I've only talked to her a couple of times, so when she asked me to go with today I felt like I really should say yes. I'm glad I did. We got to talk on the drive and at the beach. She is also a fairly-newlywed and doesn't have kids. She said that she's had similar issues getting to know people out this way. She liked the way things were at her husband's previous command, but Hawaii has been a little more of a challenge. I think she'll probably end up being one of the people I can talk to out here. That's comforting. But I still miss my friends back home. I told her that and she nodded. She knows the feeling. She had a life before the Navy too.

But it was a good day. I'm tired from the sun exposure. I think I need a nap like Toivo and Zac. I wonder if I can squeeze onto the bean bag too . . .

Monday, November 3, 2008

At some point silence is a lie

I've been getting those vicious, viral anti-Obama e-mails from someone in my network of friends and family. I'm not sure if this person doesn't know my political views, or is trying to change my mind, or is just hitting "Forward" over and over. But in the interest of freedom of expression, and peace and harmony, I didn't say anything. I would sigh heavily, especially at the insanely ludicrous ones, and hit "Delete".

It's the day before election day though, and I'm starting to get anxious and a little edgy. So when I got yet another one today questioning Obama's patriotism (when in doubt - accuse them of being unpatriotic!!!) I couldn't bite my tongue anymore. I had to say something. Because at some point silence isn't keeping the peace. It's a flat out lie, and part of your soul dies. So I tried to pick my words carefully, because I've had experiences in my life where words on paper have had unintended consequences.


This is what I wrote:

XXXXXXXXX,

I cannot vote this year because I did not register for my MN absentee ballot in time and in Hawaii you must register 30 days in advance of the election. That breaks my heart because I want nothing more than to vote for Obama this year so I can someday tell my kids that I voted for change, for something different than the old guard that has made my country an enemy to some parts of the world and that has turned its back on people here in the U.S. that need our help. McCain is a good man who served our country admirably, but I do not want him to be president, nor his party in charge of our country for another four years.

I appreciate that you share your political view with your friends and family, and I have remained silent in regard to the anti-Obama e-mails leading up to the election, but I had to say my peace. There is more than one way to be a patriot, and more than one way to love this country.

Sincerely,
Kate


What good are your beliefs and your principles, unless you're willing to say what they are? I am eager to see what tomorrow brings because every election day is a national holiday in my mind. It's a celebration of what makes this country great. We've got problems, yes, and the system isn't perfect. But it's pretty damn good and as long as we keep trying to make it better, I think we'll be okay.

Friday, October 31, 2008

In honor of the day

Lincoln the zebra and a Donald Duck clad Collin say, "Happy Halloween!"




















Thursday, October 30, 2008

Under new management


There was a change of command at Zac's work today. The captain who had been there for the last three years was relieved by a new captain. The transition was accompanied by all the pomp and circumstance I have come to expect from the Navy. (The Navy
loves its pomp and circumstance. Bunting? Check. Band? Check. Dress uniforms? Check. Let's celebrate!) It was actually a touching ceremony, even for someone as cynical as I am. The ceremony was comprised of one speaker talking about the outgoing captain, the outgoing captain making some remarks, and the incoming captain saying a brief hello.

It was moving to see the outgoing captain reflect fondly on the last three years as the, "best three years of [his] professional life," and knowing his words to be genuine and true. I suppose it would be easy to say, "Of course he said that," but from the description of what this captain and this command have achieved in the last three years, I could see where he would believe it to be a major professional accomplishment.

And you couldn't help but feel a little lump in your throat when the captain choked up and had a hard time saying goodbye to the sailors standing to honor him. The captain was awarded a ribbon for his service, and he choked out an acceptance saying that every thread, every fiber of the ribbon was because of the sailors that he served with. There wasn't anything contrived about it. It was honest affection and respect for his fellow sailors, enlisted and officer.

After the ceremony, the band started playing some jazz standards and everyone ate and said goodbye to the outgoing captain and hello to the incoming one. The outgoing captain nearly disappeared underneath a mountain of leis. He must have had 30-40 leis on him. It was sweet. It was a formal affair - everyone in their dress whites. It was very proper, very dignified. Zac looked sharp. It was the first time he has had to wear his chief dress whites, and while he had a few technical hiccups getting it in line with regs, it ended up looking really good.




Sunday, October 26, 2008

No dog . . . yet

Zac and I just got back from the Hawaiian Humane Society. We've been thinking about getting a second dog, and we decided to start the search. I think this will be one of those things where we won't get a dog until we both look at the dog and instantaneously know that it's the right dog to fit into our family. We saw some great dogs today, but none of them were quite right.

Apparently there are some concerns here on the island with puppy farms and such. Like everything, dogs are more expensive here, especially full-bred dogs. Big money can equal some questionable business practices unfortunately. I don't need, or want, a full-breed. I want a dog that has been evaluated by vets and volunteers and found to be healthy and sociable. I trust the Humane Society and, frankly, I want my dollars going to them instead of to a breeder.


We're not particular about whether we get a puppy or an older dog. There are pros and cons to both. I think I'd like to get something that's 2-5 years old, about 30-40 lbs. There are specific breeds that we are not allowed to have in military housing. A fair number of the dogs at the shelter were mixed with breeds that we can't have, so we had to rule them out from the get-go. There were a number of chihuahua mixes, but Zac can't bring himself to have a dog that is that small. He just can't. He'll pet them all day long, scratch behind their ears and laugh at the little guys, but he won't take one home.

The people at the Humane Society said that we can bring Toivo with us to the shelter and have him meet any dog that we're interested in. That's certainly a plus. After all, this second dog is as much for him as it is for me. (I've been trying to play it off like the second dog was exclusively for Toivo's sake, but no one around here bought that.)

It is hard to see all those dogs at the shelter and not take them all home. I really had to steel myself against it before we walked in. Usually when I've walked into Humane Society I've walked out with something. When we were leaving I saw a quote on the wall from someone that said, "In a perfect world every dog would have a home, and every home would have a dog." I liked that. So the dog quest will continue, but we won't be bringing home a dog until it's right.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ethel and the Morning Show

I grew up in a house that regularly listened to Minnesota Public Radio. (MPR) It was on in the mornings with the Morning Show. It was on in the evenings with All Things Considered. It was on weekends with everything from Sound Money to Car Talk to A Prairie Home Companion. I will steadfastly attest that listening to all that quality radio made me a better person. It made me aware of different music, the world around me, humor, and it made me use my brain. Our National Public Radio system is a national treasure and we all should be grateful for it.

I could devote a couple of entries to MPR, and perhaps I will in the future. A couple weeks ago I tracked down the Hawaii Public Radio channels here - one classical music, one news. It was comforting. Then, last week I saw a headline on Startribune.com that read:

MPR's "The Morning Show," to end Dec. 11

My heart sank. I haven't listened to the show in a long while, but I hold it dear to my heart. It was the show that was on every morning as our family got ready for the day. It was always on in the kitchen, playing from the radio stashed on the top of the fridge. I knew where were in the course of the morning based on what was playing. I knew if it was a news update, it was the top of the hour. If I heard the intro music to "Poole on Sports" I knew we needed to get out to the bus stop, because we were just about to be late. Dale and Jim were voices that I knew as well as anyone's. They were calming, entertaining - just what we wanted as we eased into our days.

I hopped over to MPR's site to get some details about the show's end. They're going to have a big final show at the Fitz to celebrate. I wish I could be there. Just to hear "Lime Jello, Marshmallow, Cottage Cheese Surprise" one more time. Or "Waltzing with Bears." Or something with mandolins or harps.

Or Ethel.

Ethel Merman. If not for the Morning Show, I might have never heard of her. I'm guessing most of the people reading this blog haven't. She was an actress -- movies, Broadway. And she sang. Her voice was big as a house. Some people can't stand her. I adore her. She sang loud and uninhibited. She was born to be in musicals. Annie Get Your Gun. Anything Goes. Gypsy. She was a hoot. The Morning Show played Ethel every now and again. Gems like, "Anything you can do, I can do better," a duet with Bruce Yarnel.

In order to "warn" people that Ethel Merman was about to be played, the Morning Show guys developed a siren and warning that they played before her songs. The warning consisted of an alert that the next song was by a woman with a big voice, and might be a little jarring this early in the morning. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course.) I loved the alarm. I think she would have gotten a kick out of it.

My mom got me an CD of some of Ethel's greatest hits for Christmas last year. It's a great album. I listen to it when I clean the house. Because washing the floor isn't so bad when you're belting (and I mean belting) out songs trying to mimic Ethel. I hadn't thought about Ethel in awhile. Or the Morning Show until I read about it's impending end. They were both on my mind when I got this e-mail from my mom this morning:

Kate,

On my way to work this morning (approximately 8:29), Dale Connelly read a request from a mother to her daughter who's birthday is today. The mother said that she has been listening to the morning show since Garrison and Jim Ed were together - 30+ years. (I could have been that mother writing.) She was requesting a song for her daughter who turns 34. I made me think of you. Ethel Merman singing 'I Can Do Anything Better Than You'. Jim Ed announced that there was a "Merman Alert". I had forgotten there was a Merman Alert and buzzer noise! How many 30+ year olds out there even know who Ethel Merman was let alone know how she sang! The Morning Show made us better informed listeners!

Love, Mom

I teared up a little. It was one of those things that made me smile. A little happy, a little sad. But all good.