30 June 2008


Infrastructure maintenance. Not terribly exciting to think about, especially when there are far sexier topics like war, gun control, global warming, universal health care, No Child Left Behind, illegal immigrants, etc. It's the daily teeth brushing aspects of having a structure that does something useful, like eating tasty food.

A structure only remains in good working order when all of its parts, down to the smallest ones, are also all in good working order. Infrastructure maintenance means repairing or replacing the parts that are broken, and resting or recuperating the parts that are human. It's a basic necessity that must be amply budgeted for - for if one neglects to put in the proper amount of time and money, if one treats it like a luxury that can be cut, sooner or later one will either wind up paying the entire accumulated cost at once (with compound interest), or one will no longer have the structure.

This applies to all sorts of things. Teeth. Roads. Labor. Public education. Health. Environment. Security. Nearly all of which are themselves parts of larger infrastructures.

Day Eight: Las Vegas Strip

(For those wondering how I ended up at Vegas on a Hawaii trip, let's just say that my mother is easily distracted by shiny objects.)

Las Vegas is best known for its casinos - but there are lots of other things to do there besides gamble. There are bunches of elaborate themed hotels all next to each other along ten blocks of the same street, known as "The Strip". Each hotel has its own set of attractions, the restaurants are outstanding, there are always a lot of great shows going on, everything is open extra-late, and best of all: all the parking is free. If one ignores the glitz, all of these things fit my idea of a great place to live (if only I could afford it).

hotel room view
view of the Stratosphere Hotel
from a 26th-floor Circus Circus hotel room window

two views of the Eiffel Tower in front of the Paris Hotel

the Excalibur Hotel

the Statue of Liberty outside New York New York Hotel

At Mandalay Bay, they have an aquarium called Shark Reef. There were indeed sharks in it, lots of different kinds, but they all swam too fast for my cheap automatic-everything camera, so here are some pictures of other fish I saw.

The trick to capturing aquarium fish on film is to use flash at an angle to the glass - otherwise the flash bounces back and glares everything out. (Not using flash results in blurry pictures.) (Possessing a better camera - one with manual focus - would've been an even better trick.)

Star Trek: The Experience at the Hilton basically consists of two immersive "shows" where the audience is given a part in the story. In one, we were a bunch of civilian lab guinea pigs participating in an experiment run by Voyager's doctor that got hijacked by the Borg, and in the other we were civilian travelers inadvertently beamed into the future - and then chased by Klingons. The transporter effect was the best part of the latter - it was totally real. One minute we were standing in a square blue-gray cargo bay, then it went pitch black and there was a whoosh of air, and then we were standing on a bunch of lit circles in a circular beige room. The walls, ceilings, and doors were all completely different. They also had the Enterprise-D bridge, and I badly wanted to go sit in the captain's chair - but we got hustled out of there too fast.

On the way to the shows, they had a small museum and an extremely detailed timeline listing everything that any key character had ever done. I spent a lot of time reading it. Outside the museum, there was a realistic Quark's Bar (I didn't try the food, just walked around in it) and a gift shop where I spent too much money on a blue TOS science officer's shirt that I probably won't ever wear. But I own a Spock shirt now! My life is complete!

29 June 2008


A while back I pimped a friend of mine, who writes how-to-draw articles for eHow and earns a small but steady wad of cash every month from their ad-revenue-share program. As a homebound disabled guy, trickle incomes are helpful things to have.

Well, last week he was gathering new members who, if they clicked through on his referral link on their way to sign up, would get him more money. So I did. :) Now I too can earn a few cents here and there if people read my articles.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, I don't actually know how to do anything. This has become rather more apparent since I've been following the lives of other UCFers, who can make bowls, jam, jewelry, catnip blankets, humorous videos, cakes shaped like hot dogs, fancy flowers, chicken liver soups, and tall buildings. I mean, I can do things like extract earbones out of the braincases of small fish, or identify any postlarval Lutjanine snapper in the western Atlantic by counting their fin elements and observing pigmentation... but those aren't exactly must-have skills for very many people.

Anyone have any suggestions??

26 June 2008

Workweek Nirvana

The traditional 40-hour workweek calls for 8 hours of work per day for five days - Mondays through Fridays.

I've heard that some Corporate Cubicle Land type places have started offering workweeks that allow three-day weekends every other week. It calls for 9 hours of work on Mondays through Thursdays, then 8 hours or 0 hours on alternating Fridays.

Then there's my plan. 10 hours per day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesdays off. It doesn't sound all that palatable at first glance, especially to those accustomed to the traditional five day workweek, because who wants to work 10 hours per day when 8 hours is already too long?

But it's not like that at all. First, it actually isn't a five-day workweek. It's 2 two-day workweeks with two "weekends." What that means is, I don't suffer the weekly mini-burnout encapsulated by the "Thank God It's Friday!" concept. At all. There's no time for it to set in because each workweek is over after two days. Those two extra hours per day aren't even noticeable.

Aside from the mental breaks, I'm also not trying to figure out how to cram odd errands around town into the beginnings and ends (and in many peoples' cases lunches) of the workdays. Those errands happen because many places aren't open on weekends, which means they must be done during a workday - but I don't have that problem because I have a full day to take care of them all at once on Wednesdays.

In short, I get a LOT more work done while I'm at work because I'm focused on work. I'm not distracted by other things I need to do, and my mind stays well-rested. My employers get more bang for their buck. Everybody wins. :)

20 June 2008

One Year

My blog is a year old today. I commemorate it (and renew my adherence to international blog law) with one of my favorite cat pictures from the Internet. :)

15 June 2008

Butter Pecan

My father's favorite ice cream was butter pecan.

We used to make fun of him for it. No matter how many dazzling flavors there were to choose from (and as kids, we really liked dazzling flavors), butter pecan was all he ever wanted. He had found what he liked, there was no more need to look for anything else, and he was happy to eat the same thing for the rest of his life.

He was like that about food in general. It had to be bland, boring, and always the same. There were the vanilla cookies that he kept in the kitchen to snack on while he cooked, all during the restaurant years. There was the honey water - which is exactly like it sounds, honey mixed with water - which we drank instead of soda. If my mother was elsewhere for any length of time (and forgot to yell at him about it on her way out), we ate nothing but fried rice every day. Pizza was always pepperoni, sausage, and ham.

He did like spicy. Once he concocted something that combined red chili oil, yellow curry, and black pepper - and it was the spiciest thing he'd ever tasted. He didn't like vinegar or anything sour; we occasionally tested this by slipping him food with vinegar in it to see if he noticed ... he always did.

Every day he ate two eggs because when he was a boy, eggs were too expensive to ever have. Of course, back then tofu was cheap and common while nowadays it's considered gourmet. To him, tofu was comfort food.

Most people remember his egg rolls best. They were very big, filled with all sorts of good stuff, and they cannot be found in any other restaurant (I keep looking). They were delicious when drenched in what's now called "duck sauce." But he was most proud of his chicken broth. The way he made it, by boiling twice and dumping out the first batch to get rid of the frothy bits, it came out a delicate, clear yellow.

He died nearly fourteen years ago, on a day early in November. I remember everything about it, from the time I last saw him at dinner (he had a big bowl of spinach soup, with two eggs in it), coming home later that evening and finding him gone, finding out what happened at the hospital, seeing him again there, the funeral a few days later and a house full of his siblings who were laughing loudly and hysterically about everything in their grief. I remember it, and I let the day pass without acknowledgement.

Instead, I celebrate his life today, Father's Day, with a bowl of butter pecan.

12 June 2008

Days Five and Six: History and Culture

Pearl Harbor has several memorials related to World War II.
* **

The USS Bowfin, a submarine launched on the one-year anniversary of the 1941 attack, is open to the public for audio-guided tours. Inside, it looks similar to a battleship except smaller and much, much narrower. (Note: my experience of battleship interiors consists entirely of the USS North Carolina - as viewed while walking through at high speed.) It's amazing how many people they managed to fit in it, not to mention the number of enormous torpedoes they stashed away front and back.
** **

Aside from the submarine itself, there is also a museum about subs in general, a park with lots of different kinds of torpedoes and the giant guns that shot them, and a small outdoor memorial to all the U.S. submarines and submariners that were lost during the war.
Submarine memorial with USS Missouri and USS Arizona memorials visible in the background

The USS Arizona is the main memorial people think of when it comes to Pearl Harbor memorials. It sank with over a thousand people still on board, and most of them are still there. The memorial was built over its midsection, and the flagpole is where the ship's flagpole was. Visits begin with a 20-minute documentary about the context of the ship's sinking, using all-original historical footage, which does an excellent job of setting the mood before the ferry ride to the memorial itself.

The inside feels open and peaceful. At the other end from the ferry landing, the names of everyone who died is inscribed on the back wall, from floor to ceiling. The part that really got me, though, was the small box to the left. On it were the names of all the survivors who had come back to be buried with their shipmates, the earliest in (I think) 1981 and the latest just a few years ago.

The USS Missouri was where the Japanese officially surrendered to the U.S. in 1945. It's right next to the USS Arizona. There is also a USS Oklahoma Memorial - a battleship that capsized during the attack with hundreds aboard, and the second largest number of casualties. Unfortunately, we didn't have our act together enough to visit either of those.

USS Missouri from the Arizona. The white buoy marks the end of the sunken ship.

The Polynesian Cultural Center, although the admission seems rather steep at first, is actually well worth the money. Tickets allow visitors to enter for up to three days, and include a free memento picture, snailshell necklaces (in lieu of fresh flower leis), guided tours of the whole park in a choice of languages, canoeing in their central canal, an IMAX movie about coral reefs, and bus transportation to and from nearby Laie.
View on the central canal running through the whole park

Each of the seven mini-villages represent a different Pacific island, with authentic buildings and cultural information explaining their shapes and purposes.
New Zealand is another name for Aotearoa.

There are music and dance lessons specific to each island. There is also a place for Easter Island.
Columns of coconuts in Samoa
These women were making grass hats.
Easter Island exhibit

The highlights, however, are all in the 20-25 minute afternoon shows. Six of the villages present them on different aspects of history and culture. I learned all about coconuts in Samoa, how ukeleles were invented in Hawaii, conch shells, drums and clapping in Tonga, quite a bit about the uses of different plants to make buildings, clothing, and/or food, and was starting to get a grasp on the subtle differences between kinds of dances at each island.

Then there was the evening show. As luau entertainment goes, it was pretty spectacular - especially the Samoan fire knife dancing. However, we'd just been to a smaller (and more expensive) luau a few days earlier, and it was a bit much right afterward. They also sell authentic luau food between the last of the afternoon shows and before the big main show, but we skipped out on it and ended up at McDonald's. (We should probably just have gone to the Polynesian Cultural Center the first time.)

Beach of the Day
* *

Kailua Beach is on the east shore. We went there in search of fine white sand. It did turn out to be softer and lighter in color than some of the other beaches, but still isn't Florida calcium carbonate white. The waves were relatively gentle, and there was a wide flat island that looked close enough to walk to (but wasn't really).

* pictures taken by my mother
** pictures taken by my cousin Angela

05 June 2008


Every two or three years, usually at the beginning of a summer, I get a haircut. About 15 inches get trimmed off, and most of it goes to Locks of Love - a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer or other hair-losing medical conditions.

After that, I do nothing. I wash it, I brush it when it gets long enough to need it, I use cheap ponytail holders. Otherwise I go about my business until it's time to do it again.

01 June 2008

Day Four: A Crater

Diamond Head is Waikiki's most recognizable landmark. In the past it was used as a military sentry point - and there are old bunkers all along the top of the rim facing seaward. One such bunker is now a tourist destination, at the top of a brisk, steep hike from the middle of the crater, best done in the morning before heat and crowds appear.

inside of crater from near the top of the trail

a bunker at other end of the ridge from the lookout point

looking down the slope, southward

The Bishop Museum is allegedly an excellent place to learn about Hawaiian history, culture, and natural history - but this is probably more true when the main exhibit hall isn't undergoing renovations. Most of the rest (five buildings and a courtyard with carnival rides) consists of interactive exhibits suitable for children, which isn't really worth the admission (full, even with renovations occurring) if the group is adult-only.

One of the interactive exhibits was a giant model of an active volcano. There were buttons to control the size of the eruption. The brochure made it sound really exciting, and so that was what we went to see. As with the rest, it probably is very exciting to children.

Beach of the Day:

Waikiki Beach is artificially extra-wide with soft light-colored sand and gentle waves due to groynes. The water stays at 4-5 feet deep for quite a distance from shore, though eventually it becomes possible to trip on reef rock. It's surrounded by highrise hotels and about as interesting to swim in as a pool.

view of Diamond Head from concrete walk on the way to Waikiki Beach

view of Waikiki from top of Diamond Head

Waikiki Beach (photo by cousin Angela)

On the other side of the groyne, where there is no sand whatsoever and waves crash violently against the seawall under the concrete walk, it's possible to see lots of different kinds of fish.