Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mobile Phone Service on the T

Great service from the underground South Station T stop. If only the inbound train would come -- I think three outbound trains have gone by.
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Monday, December 20, 2004

Back to work on Tamale Research. We make software that helps financial analysts and portfolio managers work faster and more effectively.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Home Again, Home Again Much like our luggage, we found ourselves at home, heavier than when we left. After two fairly comfortabl five hour flight legs (Kona to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Boston), and a harrowing cab ride from Logan, we reached home safely. The captain cautioned the passengers that there was some risk of diversion to New York's Kennedey Airport, because of the heavy fog, but we landed despite the zero visibility. The Captain actually got a round of applause from the passenger cabin, because the landing was so soft. T starts on the night shift Monday, and I am off to NYC Monday for work.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Lap Around Hawai'i (pictures only are here) After a more than lackadasical day, Caitie and I fired it up to drive around the circumference of the Big Island. We were strongly advised to take the Northern route, which winds up the west side of the island, hooks around the north side, and winds southward along the east side to Hilo and then Volcano National Park. Another handy map: (these maps come from Best of Hawaii, be sure to check them out) Hawaii has an unwritten rule that all rental cars must be Mustangs, and the majority of Mustangs must be red. Both on Maui and the Big Island we were given the exact same car. So, a short pictoral tribute to our touring car of choice, the red, convertible, 2003 Mustang (1 2 3). Along the way across the northern end of the big island, we could clearly see the snow on top of Mauna Kea, one of the three peaks on the island. Caitie strained above the windshield to photograph the hawaiin snow. Trying valiantly to overcome intense motion-sickness, fear of speed, on-coming traffic, high-winds, and road-bliss, she failed. Instead, she took a picture of some random part of the road. Somehow, I really like the picture. After reaching the East side of the island on 19, we went up the dead-end highway 240, which terminates a Waipio Lookout, a state park overlooking a gulch. A really huge gulch. A really huge and beautiful gulch, Waipio could induce agoraphobia in even the most outdoorsy. In addition to being lovely, Waipio lookout is also apperently the location of choice for in-car marijuana use. When we parked, we were next to a few locals whistling along to their crackling radio, holding their smoke and taking in the view. Dr. Fawcett shouted under her breath that "one joint is the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes", and would ultimately lead to emphysema and/or lung cancer. The local dudes kept whistling, and we took some pictures of the view(1 2 3). After chastising the locals, Caitie and I climbed back in our trusty rent-a-stang, and doubled back over 240, and picked up 19 to head south. Our next stop was the famous Akaka Falls, another Hawaiin state park. The Akaka falls site has a nice hiking loop that passes some impressive bamboo stands (1 2), many streams, and wild Impatients of many colors (Caitie noted that you buy them by color, but they grow wild in mixed bouquets). Leading up to the Akaka Falls, is another, smaller waterfall. Though smaller in stature, grace, and impression, the Kahuna Falls pummels Akaka in the naming category (1 2). After a mile or so of "hiking" on the paved, handicap accessible, made-in-the-USA, sidewalk that leads throughout the park, we reached Akaka. And really, what an Akaka it is (1 2 3 4 5). It is hard for heights to be impressive only an hour or so after looking out on Waipio, but Akaka measured up. The green of the thick fern and bamboo cover and the constant mist from the foot of the falls looks more like a movie set than a state park. After Akaka, we drove and drove and drove on 19 until we reached Hilo. While windy and steep, 19 has nothing on Maui's Road to Hana; all the bridges are a full two lanes. There are few small land slide areas, but by and large, it is a safe road, easily driven in the daylight, and acceptably traversed at night. All that safety evaporates the moment you leave Hilo, and pick up HI 11 to drive into Volcanoe National Park. First of all, the whole area in and around the park is a USGS Fault Zone. This means an earthquake could strike at any moment. Ok, fine you say, same in San Adreas California. That is true, but then you have to consider that the park is also at risk for Tsunami -- giant, freakish waves induced by offshore seismic activity (polite speak for earthquakes) that swell up and engulf miles of shoreline. Doesn't Tokyo have those you protest? Ok, fine. But there are also sulphuric acid rain showers, poisinous gas vents, and of course, molten lava and to quote dr. evil, liquid hot magma. They have signs for the poisonous gases, and you can actually see the steam vents, venting away right there in plain site. Like all great places under the US government's stewardship, there is a very well paved road leading to the most interesting locations. This short panaramic video of Pu'u O'o (I don't make them up) was shot about 25 yards from a veritable highway. As if driving to the caldera of one of the world's most active volcanoes is not exciting (and convenient) enough, there is another road to the coast, where you can actually see new land being created as the lava reaches the ocean. We snapped a few shots from "Chain of Craters Road" (1 2). One experience in the park, however, remains spectacularly remote and rare, despite the best efforts of the US park service to drive you withing feet of every natural marvel. The liquid magma flows mostly underground in Lava Tubes (shouldn't they be magma tubes?), which empty into the sea at the base of Mauna Loa (not kea, loa). So most of the liquid rock stays underground as magma, and never flows overland as lava. The underground flows are difficult to track, and it is nearly impossible to predict when or if they will produce visible lava flows. So, going to the volcano park is like going to the beach. You check the weather report to see what kind of beach day it will be, and you check the lava report to see what kind of volcano day you have ahead. As it turns out, we went to the park on a pretty good lava day. To see lava, you had to drive about 5 or 6 miles down to the coast line and park along a now abandoned highway. The highway used to lead to a town, then lava ate the town. So they kept the road up to lead to the lava. Then the lava ate the road (1 2), so the parks service gave up on the road. Now, when the parks service says something is accessible they mean it. Accessible by their standards is paved pathway with railings, signage, and maps. They told us the lava was "mildly inaccessible", and that to reach it we needed in order of priority: water, hiking shoes, long pants, sunblock, hats, and flashlights. We had sneakers and shorts on. Caitie had sunblock, but I forgot to apply that morning. I assumed a somewhat linear scale in accessibility ratings from the park service. Apparently, they use a logarithmic scale. "Mildly Inaccessible" translates to a 4 hour round trip hike over burning hot, razor sharp, frozen metallic lava. You have to move fast, because after sunset, it become nearly impossible to judge where the ocean is. Judging the location of the ocean is important, because the ocean is preceded by giant cliffs formed from partially hardened lava. In addition, there is no telling where the lava is or will be. Your best bet is to follow the trickle of human sacrifices ahead of you, ask every returning hiker you meet where the lava is, and pay attention to the air temperature. When you are withing 50 feet of lava, the temperature jumps very significantly. All that being said, the hike to and from the lava was one of the most exciting excursions I've ever made (not that there have been a lot of excursions). On our way in, we told everyone we met that it was worth it -- if you have a flashlight. All told, we covered 5 miles of the lava fields in about 3 hours, and saw a lot of liquid red lava (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11, and movies crackle, lava). Following our adventure, we drove the rest of the way home on 11, stopping in Kailua-Kona for dinner, and completing our circuit of the big island.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Big Island Arrival (see just the pictures here) We arrived on the Big Island after sunset, and the whole island appeared dark. It wasn't even 11 o'clock yet. We got settled pretty quickly in our new room, which, though extremely comfortable, didn't have the hollywood lux feel (i.e. the bathroom is not a full hectare) of the maui room. This is a good thing, it makes the suite a lot more comfortable and homey (1 2 3). When we checked in, they made a mistake with our room, and accidentally upgraded us to ocean view (we had booked a parking lot view room). So we woke up with a clear line of sight from pillow to surf (1 2). We had the requisite decadent breakfast buffet beach-side, and then settled into a very quiet day. We didn't see another guest until afternoon, but we did see a rainbow. The rainbow lay along the island to the north. The pictures didn't really pick up the color, but you can kind of get an idea that there may have been a rainbow running horizontally along the terrain (1 2). As the day wore on very pleasantly, the sun rose higher in the sky, and hit the air moisture at a different angle. Eventually (I think it was after lunch, hard to say for sure with all the napping), the rainbow stood up vertically. By that time though, we had reached a lotus-eater's pleasant, yet totally lazy, indifference, and didn't even bother taking a picture. Instead, I took another picture from inside the bonnet. Caitie took one of the beach, the pool, and of me swimming. Later in the afternoon, we finally did something cool. The resort has a snorkel and scuba training pool, that is, in effect, a giant human-sized aquarium. They stock it with hundreds of non-threatening fish and manta-rays, and let you swim around with them. "King's Pond" is about fifty yards long, and twenty feet down in the deep end. The deep end affords you the opportunity to dive downward, and look up, so you can see the underside of the rays, and your wife frantically waving for you to return to the surface. The whole time, I was thinking of my tropical-fish-obsessed brother, who has literally proposed the idea of building a swim-in aquarium. I was thinking how mad he would be that I didn't spring for the underwater disposable camera. Sorry man. That's all for our first day on the big rock of hawaii.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Last Night in Maui Well, we took in one last sunset (1 2 3 4 5), which lit the west maui mountains well enough to be somewhat visible (1 2 3 4). We were sad to be leaving, but as Caitie said, it is time to take a vacation from our vacation, and go to the Big Island.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Road to Hana (Pictures only) Today Caitie and I drove the Road to Hana. Maui has east and west sides, joined by a narrow peninsula, so that the island footprint forms a lumpy figure eight. Since we started in Wailea, we covered about 3/4 of the eastern side's circumference. As you can see from this handy map: Our first stop was in Paia, or "Paia Town" as the locals apparently call it. Paia hosts a pretty popular surf spot, with waves that impressed those of us familiar with only Atlantic waves. However, the Paia surf does not qualify as "big wave" surfing in Hawaii. For the truly big waves, you need a jetski, and time to ride a few miles off shore to the reef that is nicknamed "Jaws". We decided pictures of people surfing the normal waves, and a new pair of poser quicksilver surf trunks bought in Paia Town, would be cool enough for now (1 2 3 4). A few miles further toward Hana is a private farm that harbors the "famous" twin falls. The twin falls are proof that tourists can be suckered anywhere. Since the farm is only a few miles into the drive toward Hana, newbies like us don't know what to expect. If the sign says waterfalls, and there are a few cars and some fresh fruit for sale, it seems like a good place to check out. The twin waterfalls are about a quarter of a mile "walk" through dense and muddy jungle cover. Exposed roots jut one to two feet up from a fairly steep hillside leading into the falls. There is actually several interlinking, looping trails that crisscross the whole farm. The place was crawling with other suckers like us, and we kept passing the same people. There was a gaggle of english tourists cheerio-ing there merry way up the hill, who were kind enough to give us directions. There were several newly wed couples, including one that had waded through a waist-deep stream to see one of the falls (Caitie politely told me n-w). After about thirty minutes of what I thought was the greatest hike in history, Caitie started to get nervous that we were lost. Ok, she was actually nervous we were lost when we were still in the parking lot, actually while were still in the car. She got extra nervous when she spotted another couple heading toward us on what appeared to be another path about fifteen feet above us. The gentleman in the pair wore a powder blue terry-cloth leisure suit, and his bride wore a white spaghetti strap tank top with a rhine-stone "just married" across the front. His sneakers were powder blue to match his suit, hers were identical except pink to match her shorts. As they approached, he boomed out "Pa-lease tell us ya know where the freakin' waterfalls are". I replied "Thank god we found the other couple from the east coast". Danny and Karina turned out to be the funniest two people in Hawaii. They were on their honey moon, and they had been walking around for about an hour in search of these waterfalls. Caitie and Karina hit it off, probably because they hadn't been able to speak at full speed since they reached Maui (speech speed decreases as you travel further west in the US). Danny and I hit it off, because he was hilarious. In the twenty-five minute walk to the fall (we did finally find the twin waterfalls), he told us five good stories, including the time he bought poinsettas for Christmas to decorate his new condominium in Long Island. He figured they were Christmas plants, and that they would look good out on his front porch. Only fifty or so poinsettas died of exposure before he figured out they were native to Hawaii, and not good in the cold ("So why are they for Christamas?"). He was handy on our walk back, pointing out various interesting plants that he tends indoors at home ("Karina, this is what we have in the kitchen on the windowsill"), including some wild poinsetta. We parted ways with Danny and Karina at the farm stand, which was a shame because they later told us they had a CD with an audio tour for the road to Hana, and we were welcome to ride with them. Still, we saw them four or five more times on our way to Hana, and we definitely won't forget them. After the farm, the road to Hana really starts to earn its reputation. The pavement narrows, the hills steepen, and the situation generally gets very dangerous. The road reminds me of Route 101 on the northern Californian coast -- really fun (read: scary) driving. My hands were at 10 and 2 O'clock for the whole 100 mile round trip. About 5 miles (and 2 years off your life) after the farm, there is a major lookout point, complete with dirt parking lot and port-o-lets. The view is impressive (creek,1,2,3,4), but you can't really photograph the road to Hana. The hills, ocean, sky, twisty road, rainforest, narrow bridges, and the "yield to oncoming traffic signs", don't fit into the viewfinder. About twenty or thirty miles into the trip, we reached another roadside waterfall. Only, this was really a waterfall, at it flowed under the road. Instead of hiking around in circles on the farm for the twin waterfalls, we took great shots of this one, practically from the car (1 2 3 4 5 ain't it a great country, america?). After about 2 1/2 hours of driving and picture-taking, we reached the town of Hana. This is going to sound crazy, but if you ignore the cliffs down to the ocean, and the really warm trade-winds, and the really attractive local people, Hana reminds me of central Maine. It is a rural, blue-collar, farming community. Farming and surfing I guess. Now, most people stop at Hana, eat some junk-food from the Hana Ranch Store, and head home. Caitie had a hot tip from the hotel hair-dresser, whose husband was a big wave surfer (occupation unknown, irrelevant), that the best place to go swimming was at the seven pools. The Seven pools, she said, were a mere ten more miles past Hana. We waffled a little bit considering driving further, as we munched Taro chips and drank cans of iced coffee (yes, they can it here, yes it is awesome). What was ten more miles, we had already driven forty? The ten miles to the seven pools took nearly as long as the first forty. The road past Hana makes the road to Hana look like I-95. The road actually got narrower, it went from "you could call this two lanes" to "please God, stop all oncoming traffic". Caitie developed a keen eye for the local drivers. You could easily tell them as they whipped past us, because the beeped politely to get your attention, apparently so as not to scare you. About a mile past Hana, they just gave up on painting the yellow line for the center. All the bridges have dates carved into them. At the start, they are all circa 1940, and the date slowly drifts downward as you drive outward. The last four were, 1911, 1911, 1911, and 1910. Caitie wondered, "I bet they all used to be 1910, but the first three fell down, and this one is ready to go any minute". Needless to say, we reached the seven pools safely, and it was well worth the extra life-risking. The pictures tend to distort the proportion of the cliffs and the waves. I think it is because your eye tends to assume the waves are 10 or 12 feet at most. I'd say the cliffs were a solid 60 ft, so these waves, in which Caitie's hairdresser recommended we swim, were probably around 30 ft. (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 swim?!-->11 tt laughs at danger).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

After a good night's sleep (in our room with a view 1 2 3 and deck chairs), I set up the Tamale Hawaii HQ (1) and proceeded to hold a conference call (1 2 3 4). I wish I were kidding. Anyway, with that pesky work out of the way, we finally went down to beach. The seating is very dramatic, with plenty of cabanas and bonnets overlooking the ocean -- tt seems to think far too few, as she insists on getting up at 6.30am in order to get the "right one"(1 2 3 4). The view facing the ocean is SPAG-tacular, looking across to the West Maui Mountains (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13). While there aren't any real land-born predators, or pests, we did have a quick visit from a small lizard (1 2). I think Hawaii was granted a land predator pass, due to the absurd number of very large and very scary ocean predators. Despite the talk of gray sharks, and one-armed surfers, we took a nice swim in the ocean. On this side of the island we are in the lees of the wind, so it is actually very flat. The waves are probably only a foot or two at the faces. After insisting that I not photograph her, Caitie finally let me snap some pictures of her enjoying the view from the balcony (1 2 3 4). After working hard on the beach all day, we watched a pacific sunset (we liked it: 1 2 3 4 5 favorite-->6 7 8 9 10 11 12 and a movie). Caitie was overwhelmed by the dramatic Hawaiin sunset, and started to wax poetic. Then we ate dinner at the Four Seasons' restaraunt "Ferraro". It was good. The table was ridiculous, we were practically sitting on the beach, and they have these awesome, giant, umbrellas, which kind of offset the awesome, giant fountain. The food was impressive too :).