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:

video

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.