Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spaceballs Flashback

Today we took our guests from the mainland to the Macadamia Nut Farm tour on the windward side. I've written about that before, so I won't repeat most of it (click on the link to go back and read the previous post about it).

Each time we've gone though, the Chief has pulled the bus over and pulled some fruit fresh off the tree for us to try. In the past we've had star fruit, oranges, and guava. Today we had REALLY fresh pineapple. I mean, he got off the bus, chopped that pineapple off its stalk, and chopped it up right in front of us and passed it out to everyone on the bus. It was warm from being out in the sun and it was SOOOOO juicy and delicious! :-9

Our friends' son A wanted to take a picture of his mommy. This is the picture he took of his mommy with his finger over the camera lens (she has a red hibiscus flower in a woven-head-band on her head). Even so, I thought it was a pretty nice although unintentional picture of LW.

After we finished at the Macadamia Nut Farm Tour, we drove north just a little ways to the Kualoa Park and had a very nice picnic on the beach.

This is where we ate our picnic with the
Chinaman's Hat in the background.

Then we went and checked out the Pali Overlook on our way back to the NEX. We went to ITT to buy tickets for other touristy things we're going to do this week. While we were at the NEX, I had a flashback to Spaceballs.

The merchandising going on at the NEX right now is almost worse than Christmas.

Welcome to RIMPAC season in Hawaii!!!

RIMPAC is the Rim of the Pacific exercise where ships from nations all around the rim of the Pacific Ocean come to Hawaii to participate in some military exercises. Last week we had ships from half a dozen different countries pull into port.

Walking through the NEX you'd think RIMPAC was another commercialized "holiday" like Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day.

When you enter the NEX, there are flags for all the countries participating in the exercise, and there's RIMPAC merchandise EVERYWHERE. RIMPAC t-shirts, RIMPAC polo shirts, RIMPAC hats, RIMPAC coins, RIMPAC neck-strings, RIMPAC stickers, RIMPAC patches, RIMPAC coasters, RIMPAC coffee mugs, RIMPAC beer mugs, RIMPAC beer coozies, RIMPAC underwear, RIMPAC swim suits, RIMPAC flags, RIMPAC plaques, RIMPAC banners, RIMPAC scarves, RIMPAC posters, RIMPAC stickers, RIMPAC lunch boxes, RIMPAC Zippo lighters, and yes, even...

RIMPAC Hot Sauce.

Believe it... or not.

Our visiting friend E, ES and I had a laugh making fun of it just like Mel Brooks in Spaceballs. Then we walked into the package store and found...
..a whole display of RIMPAC The Jack Daniel's Collector's Edition.

Each bottle has a little medallion hanging from a chain around the neck inscribed with "RIMPAC 2008, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii."

I wonder how much money the NEX makes on RIMPAC season as compared to Valentine's Day. I didn't check to see if they had RIMPAC The Greeting Card in between the birthday and anniversary cards, but then again, they only need to sell one bottle of RIMPAC Jack Daniels to make up for fifty Valentine's day cards.

Hawaiian Plantation Village

We have some friends visiting from the mainland, so we're doing the touristy thing around the island. Today we tried someplace new I had not been before, the Hawaiian Plantation Village.

I was pleasantly surprised. It's not very fancy or exciting, but it was worth the visit. It was really interesting to learn about the different waves of immigrants that came to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations and what life was like for them. Our tour guide, Brenda, was very knowledgeable and friendly. Her explanations of life for immigrant workers on the sugar plantations really brought it to life much more than just wandering through some old buildings ever could.

We got to see dozens of varieties of plants, fruits, and flowers that the immigrants planted in their small plots around their homes. I think this tour is very complimentary to the Macadamia Nut Farm Tour on the windward side. We saw mangos, tangelos, papayas, macadamia nuts, taro, star fruit, cannon ball, and a few others that can't remember their name.

ES takes a photo of his macadamia nut.

Again, I won't inundate you with pictures of all the flowers we saw. The most interesting new flower I saw today was this coral plant. It really does look like coral.

The Chinese kitchen. That's quite a big wok isn't it?

Our tour guide, Brenda, explains the bread oven to the boys.

LW and ES check out the twin-seater out-house. The boys were grossed out by the concept of chamber pots and that it was the kids' job to empty out the chamber pots in the morning.

Tasting a pickle plant. It had the texture of an apple. It was very juicy and sour, but actually quite good.

Antique cash register in the general store.

I think the boys' favorite part of the tour was feeding the fish. There were dozens upon dozens of fish in this pond all fighting over the bread crumbs the boys threw into the water.

I don't know why, but this image just really caught my attention - something about the orange leaves behind the white picket fence, framed by the white doorframe in the black wall.

Anyway, this certainly isn't one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island, but it's a nice botanical garden and a good history lesson. It helped me to appreciate how blessed we are to be born in America and in this day and age where we take our freedoms for granted every day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

That's a first

I can't say that I've ever been to a dog's birthday party before. Last night we celebrated our neighbor's dog's birthday. Actually, our neighbor B promised to make me her awesome chicken enchiladas in appreciation for me replacing the battery in her van while her husband is TAD to a school on the mainland. It just so happens that yesterday was Copper's first birthday, and the kids wanted to throw a party for the dog. I'm not sure which the kids enjoyed more - eating the birthday cupcakes, or feeding the birthday cupcakes to the dog.

The guest of honor.

B Serves Up the Enchiladas

LW Made Pomegranate Martinis

Here Daddy, you can have the rest.
(The frosting is the best part, isn't it?)

Tonight, LW went out to dinner with a friend, so the boys and I had pizza and watched Spies Like Us. Man I love that movie! It always makes me laugh so hard I end up with tears streaming down my face. The boys really enjoyed it, too. I had to pause the movie a few times to explain things to ES, and we got into a lengthy discussion about what the Cold War was and why they were launching a nuclear missile. You could actually say it was a somewhat educational experience! ;-)

Lastly, I just want to say "Welcome to the Blogosphere!" to our friend MN Tall Girl. I really liked the tribute she wrote to one of her high school teachers who is retiring.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where the Hell is Matt? 2008 Edition

I don't know what it is about watching Dancing Matt that is so addicting.

If you have no idea who Dancing Matt is, then watch this first...

After he did his first trip around the world, he went back and did a couple of subsequent trips with sponsorship from Stride gum.

He's got a pretty cool Where the Hell is Matt website with outtakes and cool behind the scenes stuff, too.

Many thanks to MetroDad for bringing to my attention that the 2008 edition is out. He changed it up a bit this year. The first thing you'll notice is the change in music. Besides the music though, it was interesting to see how many people danced WITH Matt this time around. I'm curious if that was due to his popularity from his previous trips, or if he put word out in advance on the internet like, "hey, I need people in Paris to meet me and dance at this place and time," or if it was just random people he gathered together at each spot. Here's the 2008 edition of Where the Hell is Matt? If this image is grainy, go to YouTube and you can click on "watch in high quality" right below the video.

I think the Poria, Papua New Guinea segment is my favorite this year. What's yours?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Loudoun County Vineyards

We frequently sit out on our front porch or across the street on our neighbors' front porch to have a glass of wine or some other beverage-du-jour. Since one of our neighbors across the street is moving to Northern Virginia next week, we thought we should introduce her to some Virginia wine.

One of the things we enjoyed doing twice a year in the DC suburbs was the Loudoun County Farm Tour in the fall and the spring. From the website you can download a map that will show you all the farms and vineyards that open their doors to the public for the day during the farm tour.

We weren't really aware of all the vineyards in Loudoun County until we did the "farm" tour. In hindsight, I would use the farm tour to visit the farms that aren't normally open. There's a lot to see on the tour, and you'd be crazy to try and do it ALL in one day. The vineyards all have tasting rooms that are open throughout the year. You can download the Loudoun County Wine Trail map or use the interactive version on their website and go tour the countryside and try the wines separate of visiting the farms.

So anyway, getting back to the reason why all this came to mind in the first place... We have a small collection of wines from Loudoun County as a result of doing the farm tour. Tonight we opened up a bottle of Tarara red table wine. It was EXCELLENT!

We didn't even realize the bottle was
blue until after we poured the wine.
Pretty, isn't it?

Out of all the vineyards in Loudoun County, I think Tarara is probably the nicest, most expansive with many beautiful picnic areas and facilities to support big catered functions like weddings.

Grandpa, me, and the boys look for a geocache
on the Tarara Vineyard. (April 2007)

The man-made cave they have for wine
storage is pretty neat to see, too.

If you asked me to pick the top three vineyards to visit out of all the vineyards listed on the Loudoun County Wine Tour, I would recommend:

1) Tarara (see above)

2) Loudoun Valley Vineyards - Their pear desert wine is legendary and we buy a few bottles every time we go there. They offer a nice Mother's Day or Father's Day brunch there in a very pretty setting.

LW and our friend LS wine-tasting at LV Vineyards.
May 2006

3) Hillsborough - This one is a hit with the boys because they have a small pond with frogs going "ribbit!" The scenery is pretty, too.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend Recap

Friday night

Friday for Family Movie Night, we broke our habit of getting our pizza from Boston's North End Pizza across the street and drove over to Pearl Ridge Mall to get pizza from CPK instead. We had a Santa Fe Chicken pizza that was really good.

Our movie selection for the evening was The Princess Bride. We had been talking about watching it for a couple of days, and I was pretty excited. Before we watched the movie, I kept saying things to ES like, "My name is Inego Montoya. You keeled my fadder. Prepare to die." and "Incontheivable!" ES thought I was crazy, looked at me like I had three heads and said, "What?!?!" The boys really enjoyed the movie, and now ES has been going around saying, "You keeled my fadder. Prepare to die." and "Incontheivable!"

I think given how well ES took to this movie and memorizing one-liner sound-bites from the movie, I may have to break out Monty Python and the Holy Grail next. Man, if I get ES quoting Monty Python, LW will go absolutely NUTS. :-)

Lazy Saturday

Saturday for me was one of those lazy days you need once in a while to just sit around and do nothing. In the morning, we happened upon Mr. Bean's Holiday on TV and got sucked into it. The boys and I really enjoyed it. None of us had watched any of Mr. Bean's stuff before. There wasn't a lot of dialog - just a lot of slapstick, physical type of comedy.

Then we watched the new episode of Battle 360 on the DVR. In case you haven't seen Battle 360 yet, here's a segment on YouTube:

We also played a good amount of LIJ.

LW was actually much more productive with her day, to include sneaking a car load of stuff off to Good Will (she has to do it in stealth mode so the boys won't throw a fit over the toys she takes).

Both our neighbors' husbands across the street were out of town and didn't feel like cooking, so we invited them to join us for dinner on the lanai. LW made up some awesome mini-cheesesteak sandwiches for dinner, some sort of frozen margarita concoction to drink, plus some downright sinful pots-de-creme from this PW recipe.

Mmmmm... Pots de creme
(We forgot the whipped cream though)


My favorite song on the radio right now is Song of Hope by Robbie Seay Band (click the song title to give it a listen). I'm sad though, because it has been elevated it to that ultimately popular status where they play it like once an hour and I know I'm going to be sick of hearing it by the end of the day. As much as I love KLOVE, I wish they wouldn't do that (play good songs so repetitively that they run them into the ground and make you sick of them).

When we went to church, they started off with one of those songs that in all reality is a pretty good song, but the radio stations have overplayed it so much that it's just like scraping finger nails across a chalk board to me (Heaven by Salvador). Luckily, they made up for it though and played one of my favorite and NOT overplayed songs after the sermon - I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe.

El Mariachi Mexican restaurant

For lunch, we made our third attempt to find the Mexican restaurant in Kaneohe that one of my JO's recommended (oops, sorry, I mean DO's - we're not supposed to call them JO's anymore). The first two times, we tried to find it just by using the address in the GPS receiver and had no luck. Today we actually called the place and asked for directions. The lady on the phone explained to us that they were tucked back behind the Aloha Gas Station on Kam Highway, across the street from the bank. If you happen to go looking for this place, that's an important point to remember because there are two Aloha Gas Stations right across the street from each other, so you need to go behind the one ACROSS the street from the bank.

El Mariachi Mexican restaurant is a very nondescript little hole in the wall. The fact that all the tables were full in a place so hard to find is a pretty good sign their food is good though, eh?

Atmosphere: Once you get inside, you'll find about 8 tables crammed into a small place with some Mexican music playing softly in the background. Most hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants share the same decor - paintings of Mexican countryside scenery, a Mexican flag, etc. This place had some of those typical wall-hangings you would expect, but added a coat of textured red paint and some faux-brick wainscoting for a nicer appearance. Plus, it was cleaner than your average hole-in-the-wall type of place.

Food: Although they didn't have my favorite mole poblano on the menu, they did have a good variety of other Mexican dishes that I love like carnitas, chili verde, and carne asada. LW had the carne asada burrito - I tried a bite and it was excellent. I had the carnitas and it was also superb. The meat was tender, flaking apart, and flavorful. The guacamole was the smooth consistency of the processed stuff you get at other Tex-Mex chain restaurants (i.e. not made from fresh avocados), but it was alright. The drinks are served from a fountain (as opposed to selling you cans of soda). While it wasn't the BEST Mexican food I've had on the island, it was certainly a very tasty meal that I enjoyed very much.

Service: When we got there, all the tables were full, but we only had to wait like 5 minutes for someone to finish and leave for them to clear off the table for us to sit. Have you ever played that addicting game Diner Dash on the internet? I felt like I was in a real live version of that game. There was one waitress serving all 8 tables, but I thought she did an excellent job. Given how small the place is, she was never far away from any of us and easy to get her attention. She was working her butt off, but she did a great job.

Lego Sculptures at the Mall

After lunch, LW went to get a pedicure with the neighbor ladies from across the street. I had wanted to take the boys for a hike, but it was drizzling rain off and on with some heavy black clouds looming overhead. I didn't want to get a mile out and have the heavens open up, dumping buckets on us and turning the trail to mud (not like that's ever happened to us before).

Instead, I took the boys to see the lego sculptures display at the mall.

The boys check-out the hanging-man.
That gray tower he's hanging from is
all made out of legos, too.

ES and J check out the Parthenon.

Man! How do I sign up for THAT job?!?! I wish someone would pay ME to sit around and make sculptures out of legos all day. I couldn't do what he does with the curves of human forms, but I could totally do the parthenon and the other balanced shapes. Maybe when the Navy is done with me we can retire to Legoland!

This afternoon, I tried to be at least a little bit productive. When we moved the furniture around last week (when we thought we were staying in Hawaii for shore duty), I took down all the pictures hanging on my "me wall" because we wanted to put the entertainment center along that wall. Now that we're NOT staying in Hawaii and we have company coming at the end of this week, LW made up a new honey-do list for me, and the first item was to rehang the pictures. Normally, I wouldn't mind so much, but the aluminum frames in these houses make hanging pictures a pain in the arse. At least I got that item crossed off the honey-do list.

I started to write about wine-tasting tonight, but I'm going to save that for another post. This one has gone on long enough. If you've actually made it this far and read all of my rambling above, then please leave a comment - I'd love to know WHY??? :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hawaiian Attire

For party-attire-challenged individuals such as myself, it was hard enough to remember the differences between formal, semi-formal, informal, casual, smart casual, business casual, or even "dressy casual" attire on the mainland. Luckily, they're fairly well defined in websites like wikipedia and this party attire site.

Around here though, I don't think I've heard any of those terms. Moving to Hawaii involves a whole new dress code. "Aloha attire" is actually pretty easy to figure out. It's very low key. All you need is a Hawaiian or aloha shirt with any sort of shorts and "slippa's" (flip-flops) you're comfortable in.

The problem arises when people (such as military officers) want to celebrate a special occasion. They don't want people rolling in wearing ratty shorts and sandy slippas like they just came from the beach. At the same time, they don't want to violate that "aloha spirit" and want to maintain some semblance of the laid back atmosphere of living in Hawaii. This is where you start see the term "aloha crisp" on invitations.

I have searched all over for a formal definition of what is and is not allowed for "aloha crisp" attire and have found none. For the sake of anyone else out there new to the island and trying to figure out what the heck they're supposed to wear to this "aloha crisp" social function, here's what I've gleaned through observation so far.

Aloha Crisp (from the fashion dictionary of blunoz - please refer to the first sentence of this blog post before placing any trust or confidence in the veracity of this definition): Of course, the aloha shirt should go without saying. The difference between "aloha attire" and "aloha crisp" is in what you wear WITH your aloha shirt. Trousers or khaki pants would be good, but because of the warm climate, it would be unreasonable to dictate that shorts are not allowed. If you opt for shorts, then they should be nice, "dressy" shorts - maybe something pleated, no heavy, rugged canvas-like things. They should be clean, ironed, in good repair. I have heard at least one opinion that cargo shorts are NOT acceptable for "aloha crisp" attire. For your feet, something close-toed would be best, but certainly not slippas. I bought some brown leather top-siders at the NEX for this purpose.

: The NEX here is HUGE and has a pretty decent sized shoe department, but you have to take a number if you want something not already stocked on the shelf. A lot of the shoes are in boxes you can just take to the register, but some just have a display and you have to ask for employee to get your side out of the back.

If you're wondering "where's the best place to go to buy an aloha shirt?" three places come to mind:

1. The Swap Meet. Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday at the Aloha Stadium. TONS of aloha shirts for sale at a reasonable price. This is a great place to buy souvenirs if you're just visiting the island.
We bought these matching aloha shirts at the Swap Meet during a port call in 2001. (The picture was taken in front of the Hale Koa hotel. I can't believe that's ES in the middle!)

2. Navy Exchange. If you have a military ID card and can get into the NEX, they have some very nice quality aloha shirts for substantially less money. I found one aloha shirt that I really liked that was 25% cheaper at the NEX than it was out in town.
This is my favorite aloha shirt. It's a silk aloha shirt that I picked up at the NEX. (The picture was taken at the Cirque Hawaii).

3. Hilo Hatties. Aloha Shirt Mecca. They have a lot of nice shirts and quite a wide range of both quality and price. If you are military and/or live on the island ("kama-aina"), tell them that and show your ID - you'll get a pretty good discount.
When my family came to visit from Oregon at Christmas, we got them all matching aloha shirts at Hilo Hatties for us to wear to the Paradise Cove Luau.

There you have it. Everything you never wanted to know about aloha attire. Of course, any of you more fashion-sensitive, attire-saavy people want to set the record straight, please let me know where I need to make editorial corrections above.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You have GOT to be kidding me...

Today will go down in history as the SECOND time in my naval career where the detailer has dropped a bomb in my lap and made a run for it. (Aside: The "detailer" is the guy sitting at a desk at Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee who decides where you are going for your next tour of duty.)

The first time this happened was just after we moved to the DC suburbs for my last shore duty. We had JUST bought a house in Ashburn, VA, about 20 miles outside the beltway to the WEST of DC. Our household goods had JUST been delivered. I hadn't even reported to my new command yet. Then I received a voicemail from the detailer that went something like this: "Yeah, hi, Kevin, congratulations! You're the submarine force's nomination for the flag secretary position at the Naval Academy. The USNA offices will be contacting you to set up an interview with the admiral. Oh, and I'm going on leave for the next two weeks, so I'll talk to you when I get back. Hope it goes well, bye!" Nice. Input from the service member neither required nor desired. There was a week or two there we were really stressed out and wondering if we were going to have to pack our stuff up again and move to the OTHER side of the beltway so I wouldn't have a two hour commute to work at Annapolis. Luckily, I didn't get that job. The detailer dropping that in my lap without even asking what I thought and then taking off on leave just really drove me nuts.

Fast forward a couple of years to this very afternoon. Remember the detailer has recently told me I'm staying in Hawaii. Although we didn't really want to stay in Hawaii, we have come to terms with this and were moving on. We stopped shopping for houses on LW started working on reservations for our timeshare vacation in January here in Hawaii. LW started making a long honey-do list for things she wanted to change around the house since we were staying for a few more years. I started working on some of those tasks over the last couple of days - like moving furniture around two nights ago. Last night, I cancelled our reservations in the Navy Lodge. I had made reservations for us as a placeholder for the last couple of weeks I expected us to be on the island before transferring, but I didn't need them anymore since we were staying.

So I get this email from the detailer this afternoon...

In essence, it said something to the effect of, "Yyyyyeah, hi, about that job in Hawaii I was going to send you to? Yyyyyyeah, not so much. Admiral ___________ called and picked someone else by name he wants to take that job, so that's off the table. Well, I'm going on leave now through next week, so give me a call the week after next and we'll see what we can work out for your next set of orders."



I think I must really be a pessimist at heart.

Case in Point #1: All the past week I've been trying to focus on the positive aspects of staying in Hawaii, but I was still grimacing over the fact that I really didn't want to stay in Hawaii. For example, I was really annoyed the other day when I was drooling over all the HD channels available now on Dish Network, only to find out that you can't get most of them in Hawaii.

Case in Point #2: Now, again, am I trying to focus on the positive aspects of NOT staying in Hawaii. We didn't WANT to stay in Hawaii in the first place. Still, my thoughts are in turmoil right now not knowing where we're going next. At least when we thought we were staying in Hawaii, the path ahead was clear and we could plan accordingly. Although the path wasn't the optimum path / not the path we had chosen, at least we knew which path we were taking and where we were headed. Now, that's all out the window. It's like we've discovered that previous path was washed out by a landslide and there's a heavy fog set in for the next week, so we just have to sit and wait until the fog lifts (when the detailer gets back from leave and I get some orders) to start evaluating the new path we're going to take and making appropriate plans.

Keep in mind, we're about 2 months from wanting to have our household goods and our car packed out and shipped off the island if we're heading back to the mainland, so it would be NICE to have ORDERS so we could reserve the move dates we want. Summer is a big time for PCS (Permanent Change of Station) transfers with a lot of people moving, so a lot of the move dates are already reserved at this point - there are only just so many moving companies on the island.

Argh this is frustrating. I know the Lord has a plan for us... I just wish we knew what it was.

I'm going to go make those Navy Lodge reservations again...

Military Bloggers

Checks with Chart pointed out an article about a 4-star encouraging military members to write blogs. The Navy Times article isn't very in-depth or mind-boggling, but the concept of an admiral encouraging us to blog surprised me at first. I've had a friend or two look at me with a raised eyebrow when they found out I wrote a blog and questioned if that was such a good idea. Like those skeptical friends, I was mainly surprised about the admiral encouraging military bloggers from the security aspect of it. Active duty bloggers pose almost if not just as much risk to security as cell phones with cameras.

Most of what I write here is about family life, raising two great little boys, and doing cool things around Hawaii. It sort of started out as emails out to all our wardroom telling them each time we found something new and cool to do. Then I figured if I posted it to a blog, then it wouldn't be pushing it on the people who don't care or don't want to read it, and it would make it available to anybody else doing a Google seach looking for first person accounts or "local" knowledge of things to see and do.

I intentionally stay away from many military topics so as not to raise any more eyebrows or invite unwanted attention about me inappropriately posting insider-info or opinions contrary to the top brass on my blog.

But then I said to myself, "Self, what's to say the admiral didn't mean for us to start blogging on the siprnet?" THAT would be a great idea. Aside: I realize in the article he talks about getting "published" - be it in journals or the Naval Institute Proceedings or blogs, so that implies the "open source" type of publishing, but I'm going to continue pinging on this secure blog idea.

You see, I'm all about
not reinventing the wheel. Whenever I go into a new mission or experience, if someone else has already "been there, done that," then I want to find out how it went for them and learn from their experience. I want to learn from others' experiences and mistakes. Likewise, I generally try to go "open kimono" and push info to other boats that I know are going to do the same things I've done recently. Back during my DH tour, we had what we called the "Nav Net" where we had a large email distro list of all the SSN Navigators for sharing lessons learned and gouge. For example, I pushed a lot of info on the under ice transit of the Bering Strait to the Navs on Oklahoma City and Alexandria in preparation for their first WESTPAC deployments. In my current tour, I've both sought and pushed lessons learned for our Panama Canal transit, change of command, and having senior riders on board. I've also pushed a lot of decommissioning lessons learned over to the Augusta.
Tangential Rant: EVERY time each of the boats I have been on has gone into drydock, I have found myself making wise-cracks about, "Did you know that this was the FIRST time a 688-Class submarine has EVER gone into drydock?" The point being no, it WASN'T the first time for a 688 to go into drydock by a LONG shot, but it never ceases to amaze me the things that go wrong during drydocking because people didn't anticipate a problem before it happened. End of Tangent / Rant.
In hindsight, just as I shifted my local adventures stories from email distro to my blog, I think a siprnet blog would be a great avenue for sharing those lessons learned emails and putting them in a place in cyberspace where someone can do a search and find lessons learned about the next mission you've been assigned. For example, the one-on-one / point-to-point comms I've shared with the Augusta on decom lessons learned could have been posted to a blog. In that format, guys on future boats in decom could find and read these insights and lessons learned even after I'm long gone and the boat is being sliced up in Bremerton.

Okay, so there's some sort of Navy and Lessons Learned Database out there. The current lessons learned messages out there (like port visit lessons learned) are sterilized and formal, record message traffic type of stuff approved by the CO, and it'll have the ship's name on it. If it's fairly recent, then you could contact that boat and ask any questions that come to mind, but after a year or so when the key players have PCS'ed elsewhere, that ship will have lost that corporate knowledge of that event. The blog offers the advantages of offering frank, candid observations (be careful, I realize that can go to the other extreme, too), and more importantly, the blog would continue to be linked to me personally even after I transfer to other commands. A few years from now if someone reads my blog about decom and has a question about it, after reading my blog posts on the topic, they could email me directly for follow-up questions later on down the road.

I suspect nothing I'm saying here is new or unique. From what little I know about the academic discipline of "knowledge management" (KM), these are exactly the big picture objectives of KM.

In any case, maybe DoD should hire Google or some other big name company to start a Blogger-like site on the siprnet.

Oh wait... then again... someone thought hiring a big company to manage all the Navy and Marine Corps' computer systems was a good idea, and look what that got us.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Russian Sub in Rhode Island

If you've ever read my profile on the geocaching website, you know that I found my 300th geocache on board the Russian Juliett-Class Submarine in Providence, Rhode Island.

Back when I found the geocache, it looked like this...


Well, it was a good thing I found it back then, because the submarine subsequently SANK during a storm in April of 2007. Here's what it looked like afterwards...

(Note this is taken from same angle as previous photo)

In the latest news, efforts are being made to raise the sunken submarine.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 7, 2008) Navy Divers enter the Providence River to begin diving operations on the wreck of the former Soviet submarine Juliett 484. Navy and Army divers, along with federal, state, and local authorities, participate in a joint service operation to raise the sunken submarine at Collier Point Park in Providence. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lippmann (Released)
I wonder if any of those Navy Divers are geocachers and if they'll grab my geocoin that I left in the geocache. If any of you diver guys are reading this: It's in the Doc's office. It's an ammo can painted white with a red cross like a first aid kit.

Tuesday night randoms

Nothing terribly exciting tonight, just a few odds and ends...

A couple of interesting articles in the Honolulu Advertiser...

1. Many Hawaii Drivers Flunk Online Test.
"A significant number of Hawai'i's drivers should not be on the road, according to a recent online test. That's because nearly 22 percent of Hawai'i's drivers would not pass the written test required for getting a license if they took the test today, the annual survey indicated."
No! Say it isn't so! I'm SHOCKED. Sorry, just a little bit of sarcasm there. Frankly, I'm surprised it was ONLY 22 percent.

2. Lego Art. We might have to go to the mall this weekend...
"New York artist Nathan Sawaya, with one of his latest LEGO projects at Pearlridge Center yesterday. Sawaya's creations are on view daily at the mall through July 20. You can also build your own LEGO creations from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday."

Crash Hot Potatoes

For dinner tonight, LW made some of these Crash Hot Potatoes, and they were REALLY good.

Thinking Positive

Although we're disappointed about not going back to the mainland for shore duty, we're trying to look on the bright side and focus on the positive aspects. So continuing my previous list of benefits of staying in hawaii, here are a couple more we came up with:

- I complained before about buying that silly dinner dress white jacket for the sub ball and that I'd only wear it once because we never wear them on the mainland. Well... Now I get to wear it a few more times! :-)

- We're going to have a lifetime supply of cleaning agents, candles, and liquor when all the other officers from our boat move and give us their stuff they aren't allowed to pack up in their household good shipments.

Oh, as promised, I did go back and add the group photo from our command picnic to my last post.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weekend Recap

Rewind to Friday: Command Picnic

Friday afternoon we had our command picnic out at Bellows Beach. That was my first time going to Bellows. It was a pretty nice place. I had heard it was a good place to go kayaking, so my plan had been to rent a kayak to take the boys out. The boys were too busy playing with the neighbor kids and refused to go. I didn't think it would be any fun if I dragged them kicking and screaming, so I left them home and went to the picnic myself.

About ten minutes after I left the house, I was on my way driving out there and my cell phone rang. I answered it, and it was ES calling to tell me he wanted to go with me. My heart sank. I would have gone back to get him if it hadn't been for the traffic I had just battled getting over there in the first place. I told ES it was too late and I was too far away to come back and get him.

Much to my surprise when I got to Bellows, there were signs up saying the beach was CLOSED due to high concentrations of some parasite in the water. So it actually worked out for the best that I DIDN'T pay the money or go through the trouble to rent the kayak. Friday night I searched all over the internet to find out someplace I could have checked to find out the beaches were closed BEFORE I went over there, and I couldn't find any such warnings anywhere. There must be some way to find out, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Even though we couldn't go in the water, it was a beautiful day out and a very nice beach. The command picnic was a big success. I had hoped to have a photo to post, but I'm still waiting on an electronic copy of our group photo. Check back later for an update with the photo - photo added 6/17.

Mighty MSP Picnic at Bellows Beach

Saturday - Flag Day!

I already wrote about Saturday's Flag Day Ceremony on the MISSOURI. After that, we had a friend from church in VA in town for business. I took him for a tour on a submarine and we went out for a nice dinner at the Sea Breeze on Hickam AFB. We had only been to the Sea Breeze once before for our command Christmas Party, and thought it was a nice place. They have both an indoor section that has a fancier menu and an outdoor grill with a cheaper burgers and fries type of menu. We ate at the grill outside looking out over the beach and the ocean. The food and the service were good and the prices were reasonable. It's sort of a long drive out there with the slow speed limits on base (and the base police on the AFB are speed-trap-crazy), but it was a nice location.

Oh, and we didn't end up as celebrities after all. Nothing showed up in the newspaper. Oh well.

Sunday - Father's Day

The day started out well. I decided to go for a run in the morning before getting ready for church, and ES wanted to go with me on his bike. LW has been nudging me to teach ES to ride his bike without training wheels. Before we left, I raised the training wheels so they weren't touching the ground much, and I carried the socket wrench with me when we went running out on the bike path. I figured the bike path would be a better place to practice without the training wheels because there are long, flat, straight stretches of path.

So we jogged out to Best Buy (1 mile out from our house). When we turned around to head back, I stopped and took the training wheels off of ES's bike. He was a little nervous and really wobbly, but I'm proud of him for at least giving it a try. We went about half a mile back toward the house with me holding him up the whole way. That was hell on my back running while bent over at the waist and keeping ES from tipping over, so I stopped and put the training wheels back on for the rest of the jog/ride home.

After church, we tried unsuccessfully to find a Mexican restaurant in Kaneohe, then gave up and headed to our usual Zia's. I was surprised there wasn't more of a crowd at Zia's. It was a LOT busier on Mother's Day.

I've never had a problem with Zia's food before. I can usually steer clear of foods that are known for having MSG in them. Well, I missed something this time. I had the special that was sort of a margherita ravioli. It was ricotta stuffed ravioli with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella - none of "the usual suspects" for MSG.

Before we even left the restaurant, I felt really sluggish and fatigued. It grew into a migraine headache at home. I was really pissed off because I felt like I was being robbed of my Father's Day. As much as I joke about Father's Day having the same end result as Mother's Day (i.e. Daddy gets to take the boys somewhere and give Mommy a break), I was actually really looking forward to taking the boys for a hike Sunday afternoon. Instead, I took a nap and some imitrex.

I started feeling better around dinner time and managed to walk across Kam Highway to get us some pizza for dinner. We shared the pizza with our neighbors across the street. LW said I should go do the night-time geocache I've been wanting to do, and our neighbor B said I should take ES and her daughter, M. The kids said they wanted to go, so we loaded up the kids in my car and headed out about 7:30 (fifteen minutes after sunset).

Hanauma Bay on a Moonlit Night Photo from the Geocache Listing

"Sacred Moonrise and The Case of The Twisted Kitty" is a really cool geocache, and has been called "the best geocache on Oahu" by some. You have to do it at night, because the clues are only visible with a flashlight after dark. It is recommended to do it on a full-moon. Although it was partly to mostly cloudy last night, the full moon was poking through the clouds here and there. It was a really cool night-time view down into Hanauma Bay on one side of the ridge and across the water to Diamond Head on the other side. I couldn't take any good nighttime pictures of the scenery with my camera, but the photo above of Hanauma Bay on a moonlit night from the geocache listing is similar to what it was like for us last night.

Altitude Profile for our Sunday Night Hike
X-Axis is Elapsed Mileage in 0.2 mile increments
Y-Axis is Elevation in 50 foot increments

It ended up being about a 2.5 mile hike round trip from the suggested parking location out to the geocache and back. It was a pretty steep hill though. We parked at 150 feet of elevation and maxed out at 685 feet, for a total elevation gain of 535 feet.

ES and M with the Kitty
Photo censored so it won't spoil the
hunt for anyone else seeking this cache.

The hike is mostly on a paved path and easily navigable by kids. That hill is a lot bigger than it looks from the Hanauma Bay parking lot though. By the time we got out there it was like 8 or 8:30, and we didn't get back to the car until about 10:30.

ES Wasn't Sleep-Walking Back to the Car,
His eyes just shut because of the flash from the camera.

The kids seemed to enjoy it. ES and M are two peas in a pod and were in a state of perpetual talking and giggling until we got in the car to go home. About 90 seconds after I started the car, there was dead silence from the back seat. Not long after that, ES started sawing logs the rest of the way home.

So in the end... good start to the day, lousy afternoon, but a good finish.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Is it just me, or does it seem like while the basis of Mother's Day and Father's Day is different, the end result in both holidays is the same?

Mother's Day
: n. 1. A day to celebrate motherhood by giving moms a break and taking the kids away to spend quality time with their dad.

Father's Day: n. 1. A day to celebrate fatherhood by giving dads a chance to take the kids away and spend quality time with their dad.

June Cleaver's explanation of the difference between Mother's Day and Father's Day is also amusing.

Happy Father's Day!

Lego Indiana Jones

I'm surprised I've gone so long without yet writing about Lego Indiana Jones. ES got it for his birthday from Grammy. It came in the mail just before we left on our vacation to the Big Island, so we got to check it out before we left.

Now that we're back home and the kids are on summer vacation, that's almost all the boys have wanted to do all day everyday is play Lego Indiana Jones. LW has had to ration them and kick them out of the house to play and make a disaster area of our yard building forts and whatnot.

Lego Indiana Jones (LIJ) is AWESOME. Much like Lego Star Wars (LSW), it does a similarly hilarious job of telling the story of the movie without any dialog - just grunts and gestures and physical comedy. Through exploring LIJ, it dawned on me one of the reasons I liked LSW so much was the puzzle aspect of it. You have to figure out which pieces go where to unlock or remove the obstacles and progress through the game. LIJ has continued that puzzle-solving aspect and even improved on it a bit more. For example, there are more tools that you have to find and use in LIJ. Sometimes, a monkey will be sitting up on a wall holding the tool you need, so first you have to find a banana. If you throw the banana to the monkey, then he'll grab the banana and drop the tool.

Like LSW though, LIJ is very forgiving and playable by small children. You may not unlock all the bonuses or get the highest score, but you can still progress through the storyline just fine.

You can check out the trailer for the video game on my previous post here.

The new secret codeword: JUNIOR

Both boys had been outside playing with the neighborhood kids. ES and our neighbor J decided they wanted to come inside to play LIJ. They didn't want to say it out loud so YB would hear, because then he would want to come in and play, too, and unfortunately it's only a two-player game. So instead, they made up their new secret codeword for LIJ. They came in the house and declared they wanted to play "Lego Junior."

LW and I were perplexed by this and didn't know what the heck they were talking about. (The secret code worked then, right?) Can any of you figure out how they came up with that name?

In The Last Crusade, Indy's father (Sean Connery) calls Indy, "Junior." So instead of saying Lego Indiana Jones, they replaced "Indiana Jones" with "Junior" and called it "Lego Junior." I thought that was pretty clever.

Flag Day on the Mighty Mo

Today the Boy Scout Troop 180 invited our Cub Scout Pack to participate with them in the Flag Day ceremony on the USS MISSOURI today. The program included walking up each of the historic flags of the United States and explaining their significance and meaning.

I am SO proud of ES! The boy scouts were one scout short on flag-bearers and asked if ES would like to carry one of the flags. They lined the scouts up by height, so he was the shortest and therefore was the FIRST to walk up in front of the large audience. I've mentioned before how ES doesn't handle performing in front of a crowd very well, so I was astonished when he said yes, he would carry the flag.

He did a GREAT job! He carried the Pine Tree flag up in front of the audience and stood there holding it while the M.C. read the history of the flag, then he carried it over to the flag stand where I helped him lift it up and put it in the hole.

It was a great experience for us.

Lining up for the ceremony.

ES holding the Pine Tree Flag
during the ceremony. It was windy, too.

All the flags in a row on display.

ES and I might be in the newspaper tomorrow, too. While the boys were lining up and I was kneeling next to ES explaining where he was going to walk and what he was going to do, a photographer from the Honolulu Advertiser took our photo then came up and asked for our names to go with the photo.

Tonight after dinner, we were joking about how we're becoming celebrities. The boys and I had our picture in the Loudoun County newspaper after the Dulles Plane Pull. Then we had our picture in the news in Norfolk at our homecoming from deployment. Now we might be in the Honolulu Advertiser tomorrow. Pretty soon, people are gonna start asking for our autographs!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

First Grade Artwork

I thought these two pieces of artwork ES brought home from school were pretty cool.

First, are you familiar with the "if you give a mouse a cookie" series? They're really cute children's stories. So following along the same pattern, I give you "if you give a pig a flagpole."

I'm not exactly sure what the picture is supposed to be besides two pigs of some sort of military variety. The story under the picture it what I thought was really funny. In case you can't read it in the image, it says: "If you give a pig a flagpole he'll want to join the military so they can use it and do colors."

Next up is the Broken Computer book. ES did this with a little ink stamp of a computer, so you're supposed to read the stamp as if it were the word "computer."

Here's the cover page:
Here's the inside:
I wonder if any Bust By or Geek Sqod executives read my blog?