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.


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.


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.