Monday, March 31, 2008

Maui - part 1

This is Part 1 of 4 about our trip to Maui. Click on the links here to visit Part 2, (Iao Needle & drive around the island), Part 3 (Snorkeling Trip) and Part 4 (Trip to Lahaina). Also, for a comparison of Maui versus the Big Island, see this post.

We've been wanting to take a trip to visit some of the other islands while we live in Hawaii. The opportunity finally presented itself in the form of the boys' spring break, a good deal on a hotel room on Maui, and an apparent good deal on airfare (more on that later).

We took the 37 minute flight from Honolulu over to Maui on Saturday afternoon. LW and I were teasing YB. He couldn't believe how short the flight was. After all, he didn't even finish ONE of the several sticker books LW packed for him. We tried telling YB that we just flew around the island once and landed on Oahu again. He spent the next hour or so as we got our luggage and rental car pointing out everything he could that was different about Maui to PROVE that we weren't back in Oahu. He must've used the expression, "SEE! It's different!!!" a hundred times before we finally conceded that we really did fly somewhere new.

OMG... As the shuttle bus pulled up to the rental car company and I saw the hords of people waiting outside with luggage and the insanely long line of people waiting inside, I just about choked. I thought we were going to be there all night.

I tried to be sneaky on my BlackBerry and went to the company's website to see if I could sign myself up for their premier membership to get us into special counter with no line. The website was down though, and I could hear the customer service people at the counter apologizing to people for the wait because their computers were down.

An hour later, I made it to the counter and watched the lady fill out the forms by hand that are normally done by the computer, and then she picked up the telephone to call in the order and process the credit card, etc.

Okay, before I get much farther, I'll just say that we will get out the more complete photo album on Shutterfly later. I'll try not to inundate you with too many pictures here, but just try to provide a recap of our vacation so far.

We got checked into our hotel, the Wailea Marriott, and walked to dinner at a really good cheeseburger restaurant.

I love my boys, but sometimes they drive LW and I nuts when they can't follow Rule #1.

My first Mai Tai in Maui

Sunday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel. They somewhat covertly stuck a vacuum cleaner in my walet as we got off the plane in Maui, so the prices at breakfast shouldn't have surprised me, but they did.

I took this picture during our walk to breakfast. This is the Serenity Pool just outside our hotel room. This pool is for adults only.

After breakfast, we put on our bathing suits and headed to the kids' pool. Between this and the two water slides, this is worth the price of admission to the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, so I think that just about paid for our hotel room.

When we started getting hungry for lunch, we got cleaned up and headed into town. LW likes doing lots of cross-checking research with multiple travel guides. Peggy Sue's Diner in Kihei had good reviews as a kid-friendly restaurant in both the Maui Revealed book and in the Frommers Hawaii with Kids. They had AWESOME old-fashioned milkshakes, too.

After lunch, we drove up to the Iao Valley in central Maui. First we went to the Nature Center, which had good reviews in the Maui Revealed book as a hands-on, kid-friendly place, and it was. The boys really enjoyed it.

As we were leaving, I'm not sure who this was, but he must have been a celebrity. He was very concerned about paparazzi, even the 6-year old variety.

From the Nature Center, we headed farther up into the valley to go see the Iao Needle. I was thinking this was going to be more of a "hike," but it was really just a short walkabout. GPS trip mileage said we walked 0.6 miles and had about 143 feet of elevation gain (including both going up to see the Needle and going down to the stream bed and back up again).

This is the "Needle."

Here's the trail map for anyone else headed this way. (Click on image for larger view)

ES had the camera and took this photo of me carrying YB after he slipped and fell and got a boo-boo. How did my youngest son get to be 4 years old?! He's HEAVY! I got a good workout carrying him back up the stairs from the stream to the parking lot though.

ES also took this picture of LW.

Of course, we had to get a geocache while we were there. (Another photo by ES)

We stopped at the store to pick up some basic stuff like breakfast so we could save some money on eating out. After going to the room to put the milk in the fridge, we walked to the hotel restaurant to check out their menu for dinner. LW and I decided to just get salads, so it didn't require another home equity loan to eat there this time.

We enjoyed the walk to dinner. The boys continued to do their best to help keep me in shape.

We also really enjoyed the sunset from our dinner table.

Luckily, LW overheard someone talking about Aloha Airlines stopping their services on 31 March (tomorrow) and that everyone had to rebook their flights on Hawaiian or United. I let my fingers do the walking tonight, read the news on the Aloha website and went on over to Hawaiian Airlines and booked us some new flights home.

Well, that brings to an end our first day and a half in Maui. On the agenda for tomorrow is more pool and waterslide time. Then Tuesday we're going on a boat ride to go snorkeling at the Molokini Crater.

A lightbulb went off over my head

Today I had one of those "sharp-like-marble, quick-like-tree" moments. YB was very excited when we found POG juice in the store. He loves POG juice and started hugging the bottle. As we were walking through the store, my mind started wandering from one topic to another and I ended up asking myself, "Self, where did they come up with the name POG juice anyway?" Suddenly, the lightbulb went off over my head. It JUST dawned on me why they call it POG juice...

For LW, it was a slap-her-palm-on-her-forehead moment as she questioned why she ever married such a dunce. In my defense, I can't say that I've devoted much, if any, brainwaves to solving this riddle before today. Surely if I had, it would have instantly occurred to me like it did today. I just always thought it was some native Hawaiian language term for the juice.

Sometimes it really amazes me that the Navy qualified me to operate a nuclear reactor.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Carne Asada Burritos

Our neighbor across the street gave us some intel on a taco shop down Kam Highway that she said was really good. Since she's a fellow San Diego native, I took that as a high-compliment for a taco shop and went to check it out for lunch.

I walked in the door to Diego's Taco Shop, and...
[Cue sound effect: Angels singing Hallelujah Chorus.]

I felt like I had been instantly teleported thousands of miles across the ocean to San Diego.

Anyone who has lived in Southern California and developed and appreciation for the hole-in-the-wall taco shops you find on every street corner. Around San Diego, they come in every variety of _____-berto's. There's Roberto's, Adalberto's, Umberto's, Yourberto's, Myberto's, Wouldn'tchyaliketobeaberto's-too... It's hard to tell one from another.

Without even tasting the food, I felt right at home in Diego's, because the decor precisely matched the standard San Diego taco shop. The strip-mall store-front... The painted cinder-block walls... The pressed-wood, formica veneer, curved bench seating... The white plastic menu board with the individual black plastic letters pushed into the slots... The little clear-plastic cups with lids that contained the toxic-waste-sludge-style hot sauce in both the green and the red varieties... Things like "carne asada" and "horchata" on the menu... One person at a simple cash register taking orders and writing them on a slip of paper at the counter, then handing them through the window to the short-order cook at the grill in the back... Your order handed to you in a brown paper bag with your food and some paper napkins inside.

I had a carne asada burrito, and [cue sound effect again: Angels singing Hallelujah chorus] it... was... awesome! Their version is slightly different than in San Diego, but I just asked them to hold the sour cream and add the guacamole and it was perfect.

Flashback to when I first left San Diego and moved to the east coast, I went through some serious withdrawal symptoms (even more so than for the Henry Weinhard's). I seriously craved carne asada burritos and could find none. One of my parental units forwarded me a newspaper article a long time ago that said some types of chilis used in cooking Mexican food really ARE addicting, so it was understandable that I was having such cravings.

My mom gave me a real treat just before I left on my first deployment. She packed up a Roberto's carne asada burrito in a box with some dry ice and shipped it to me overnight.

As a department head on a boat out of San Diego, we had a standing order from the Captain: If anybody went off base for lunch to Santana's or Adalberto's (the two closest taco shops on Rosecrans) , they weren't allowed to return to the ship unless they brought the Captain a carne asada burrito. While we were on deployment, if you looked at our JMCIS / GCCS-M screen (geographic display of where you are in the world), we always had a waypoint saved for Santana's that kept us up to date on how many miles we were from home. During our transit home from deployment, we had a posted countdown of miles-to-go to carne asada burritos.

Anyway, done with the flashback and returning to the present.

For anyone else from socal living in or just visiting Oahu, if you want your carne asada burrito fix, go to Diego's!

Update 8/21/2008: While I do love carne asada burritos, at some point I decided to branch out and try something new. The rolled tacos at Diego's are also really good, and my new favorite is the carnitas burrito with guacamole.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Beer Geysers and Flooded Laundry Rooms

Man... This is only my third day on leave, and I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

After poor, sick LW recovered from her bout of laughing at me and coughing from the smoke in the kitchen, taking pictures of my "quesadillas" (the "before") and her "quesadillas" (the "after"), and asking if I wanted mine "cajun style" (blackened), we sat down to a nice Family Movie Night of the Bee Movie.

Aside about the movie
: I enjoyed the second half of the movie I was able to watch and hear, more to follow on that...

Now for my second installment of Stupid Kevin Tricks (in the same evening no less):

I plopped down in my la-z-boy recliner, put my feet up, reached for my bottle of Sam Adams next to my chair... and knocked it over with the tips of my fingers. I quickly uprighted the bottle, and the amount actually spilled wasn't that bad, but my bottle of Sam Adams suddenly turned into this frothy, sky-rocketing beer geyser, spewing brown foam up out of the bottle like some kid's "volcano" science experiment.

I was dumbfounded. For a moment, I just froze and couldn't figure out what to do. In hindsight, I should've been like that little boy in Holland and just plugged my finger in the hole of the bottle.

So you're saying to yourself, "Self, if he didn't do the obvious immediate action and put his finger in the bottle to stop the beer from spewing all over the recliner, the end table, the lamp, the carpet, the legos on the floor, the children sitting on the floor watching the movie, the couch he ran past, the bookshelf behind the couch, the kitchen floor, the kitchen counter, and finally the sink, then what DID he do?" Well, I grabbed the bottle and ran with it into the kitchen to dump it in the kitchen sink... while the spewing geyser left frothy brown splotches on the carpet, the lamp, the end table, the recliner, the kids, the legos, the couch, the bookshelf, the kitchen floor, the kitchen counter, and the kitchen sink.

It was kind of like falling down a flight of stairs. It was like someone pushed the "slow motion" button on my life and I just couldn't seem to make it to the kitchen fast enough.

For about the next half hour, I was wiping up beer along the kitchen floor and dabbing at the spots on the carpet and the furniture with paper towels while LW got the spot-bot and started treating the areas of the carpet along the trail of brown spots I had left. The boys were annoyed by all the noise from the spot-bot that made it so they couldn't hear the movie.

Aside: If you have small children and don't have a spot-bot, why not? It works like a champ, and we've used ours A LOT.

Like I said though, the second half of the movie was pretty good.

Between the stench of charred-black quesadillas and the frustration of the mess I made with the beer, I was pretty exasperated when I went to bed.

Today's a new day though... right???

So there I was... Not long after waking up and coming downstairs, I was sitting in my recliner catching up on my blog and news readings. There was this nagging voice in the back of my head though. At first, it was one of those subconscious, sixth-sense type of nagging voices, but it continued long enough that it eventually crossed the threshold into consciousness. I said to myself, "Self, what's that noise?" Gee, Self, it sounds like running water. One of the boys must have left the water running in the bathroom.

I told ES to go turn the water off in the bathroom. He walked over to the bathroom and told me it wasn't on in the bathroom. I asked him where the sound of running water was coming from. He said it was coming from the laundry room. [Cue warning light and alarm going off in the back of my head.] I got up to investigate. As I walked through the kitchen, the sound of running water got louder and louder. When I rounded the corner of the kitchen counter to where I had a clear view of the laundry room, I discovered a pool of water spreading across the laundry room floor and into the pantry and kitchen.

Okay, self, let's not screw up the immediate actions for THIS casualty. Let's see, what was the first step? Sound the alarm and announce the casualty. I yelled loud enough for LW to hear upstairs, "FLOODING IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM, BRING TOWELS!!!"

I felt like a kid splashing in puddles out in the street on a rainy day as I stepped barefoot through the water into the laundry room to identify and stop the source of the leak. I found the deep sink was plugged and the water faucet was on, so there was a sheet of waterfall flowing over the countertop onto the floor.

Now for my third installment of Stupid Kevin Tricks in less than a 24 hour period:

I said to myself, "Self, you need to quickly secure the source of the water and then unplug that drain so the water goes down the drain instead of on the floor." My hand darted to the faucet and shut off the water, check. Then, without taking into account WHICH faucet I had just turned off, my hand immediately thrust itself downward into the sink to pull the plug on the drain.

In spite of the speed of my hand going down into the water, my hand didn't make it to the drain before a new alarm bell started sounding in the back of my head, "HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! PULL YOUR HAND OUT OF THE HOT WATER YOU DUMB-ASS!!!" Yes, it was the HOT water faucet that I had just turned off.

I went splish-splash-splish-splash back through the pond into the kitchen and grabbed a pair of barbecue tongs, then splish-splash-splish-splashed my way back into the laundry room and pulled the plug from the deep sink with the tongs. LW showed up with a bunch of beach towels from the upstairs closet and threw them on the floor in the kitchen to create a dike and pushed the water toward the laundry room. Whew! Crisis under control.

GMJ always says bad things happen in threes. I say WE'RE DONE.
1) Proving I can't even cook a simple quesadilla without filling the house with smoke.
2) Dousing everything between my recliner and the kitchen sink with Sam Adams.
3) Flooding the laundry room.

We're done. No more. Nada. I hereby declare that the remainder of my vacation shall be PERFECT. Murphy and his gremlin minions can go bother somebody else now!

Where there's smoke there's...

Quote of the Day: "Daddy, why is there smoke in the kitchen?" - YB

Ummm... because Daddy was trying to cook dinner since LW is sick.

I still can't believe I screwed up something as simple as quesadillas.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kayaking on Pearl Harbor

Since the boys are on spring break and things seemed relatively calm and under control at work (knock on wood), I decided to take some leave to spend time with the boys while they're out of school. Unfortunately, poor LW has been sick with a fever and spent most of the day yesterday in bed or in her recliner.

One of my guys is doing his reenlistment underwater next week, so I wanted to make sure my scuba gear was still functional. I took the boys with me over to the Hickam AFB dive shop yesterday and checked out a scuba tank. The plan was for us to go to the base pool to test my gear and just to swim and have some fun. We got to the pool and it was PACKED. In fact, they were at capacity and not allowing anybody else come in. There was a line of people waiting outside for a one-for-one exchange (one person comes out, another person gets to go in). So we bailed out and headed back to the car.

On our way home from Hickam, we stopped at Go Bananas. I've been wanting to take the boys kayaking for a long time. They rent kayaks at both Outdoor Rec on base and at Go Bananas on Kam Highway, both on the order of $30 for a full day rental. I was a little hesitant about it for several reasons.

1. It's been several years since I've been kayaking, so I wasn't confident in my skills at handling the boat.

2. Neither of my boys have ever been kayaking, although they swim pretty well and would do fine with life preservers on.

3. In order to mitigate the risks associated with factors 1 and 2, I wanted to go someplace calm and not too strenuous. I asked the people at Outdoor Rec, and they recommended a couple of places on Kaneohe Bay. The problem with that is the weather can be totally different on the windward side of the island, and I can't find any webcams or other real-time means to check the conditions over there before I spend $30 on a kayak rental and then drive all the way over to that side of the island.

The people at Outdoor Rec didn't seem very comfortable with the fact that I wanted to take kids with me kayaking and were not very helpful with information or recommendations how or where to do it safely. That sort of fed my hesitation to give it a try.

I'm really glad I stopped at Go Bananas yesterday. Steve and Kevin at Go Bananas were both really enthusiastic and encouraged me to take the boys out. They talked to me about different models of kayaks that would support taking kids along and what their advantages and disadvantages were. They also recommended a couple of places to go on Kaneohe Bay, so I still had not overcome the obstacle of knowing the conditions on the water before paying for the kayak rental.

Then Steve said, "Wait, you're military..." Yeah? He said, "Why don't you just go kayaking on Pearl Harbor? You couldn't ask for a calmer spot to try it out with your kids." I didn't know I COULD go kayaking on Pearl Harbor. He was absolutely right though, not only is it likely to be calm here on Pearl Harbor on the leeward side of the island, but it's also right next to our housing area and a lot easier to check the weather conditions before we head out.

Steve told me that they rent kayaks at the Rainbow Marina - the Navy marina next to the ARIZONA Memorial parking. Thanks, Steve! (Why didn't the Outdoor Rec people tell me that?!?!) So we went over there to check it out.

Sure enough, the Rainbow Marina has kayaks for rent - $5 per hour single or $7 per hour double.

This morning, ES and I headed over to the Rainbow Marina right after they opened at 0930 and checked out a double. ES impressed me with how well he paddled on his first time out.

ES paddling with McGrew Point in the distance.

Ford Island Bridge, ARIZONA Memorial,
and Mighty Mo in the distance.

The guy at the marina who outfitted us and got us in the water was also really nice, enthusiastic about taking ES out for his first time, and gave us helpful advice. We followed his advice and stayed upwind of the marina (so the wind would blow us back toward the marina). We did two laps north from the marina, past the Admiral's boat house, along the shore of McGrew Point and back to the marina again.

We were only out there for an hour, so it was a good introduction for ES and a heckuva lot cheaper and less time consuming than a full-blown expedition across the island to K-Bay.

Now that I've been able to get out there once with just ES for a practice run, I would feel a little more comfortable about renting a kayak for longer drive up to the windward side of the island. (Especially since there's a geocache to get on one of the streams over there). Given the prices are about the same, the staff is more helpful, and the shop is a lot closer, we'll probably go to Go Bananas to rent if we do embark on an expedition to the windward side.

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Why do I do that? Why do I jinx myself? When I started writing this blog post yesterday, everything was calm on the boat. Of course, I had to write that into my blog, so today I got the phone call about one of my guys getting arrested. Note to self: Typing "knock on wood" apparently doesn't have the same effect as actually knocking on real wood.
I know, I know, it's just superstition, right? But aren't all sailors superstitious?

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Two Thumbs Up for Bose Customer Service!

LW bought me a really nice set of Bose ear-bud headphones for my MP3 player back before I left on deployment in 2006. I lost the silicone ear pieces that slide on top of the headphones though. I checked the Bose website to see if I could just order more, but didn't see them. So I called Bose. I got a real, live human being on the phone, and he was very friendly and helpful. I explained what I was looking for, and he said no problem, they'd send them right out. I asked him if he needed my credit card info and he said, nope, no charge.

Low and behold, the new ear pieces arrived today via 2nd Day Air. That's awesome!

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

I took the boys by the package store to pick up some sprite and orange soda and other stuff, and I happened upon this...

Now, I need to take a step back and explain that I LOVE Henry Weinhard's beer. Living on the west coast, I could always find Henry Weinhard's at the local grocery store, and it was a staple in my fridge. When the Navy transfered me to the east coast, I suffered from withdrawal for a time, but eventually learned to make my way through life without Henry's. I've always missed it though, and I've always been excited to have some whenever I go back to visit family on the west coast.

So to find ANYTHING with "Henry Weinhard's" on the label in the package store immediately caught my attention and gave me a spark of hope. I swung my cart around and headed for the beer aisle to see if they had any of the real stuff, but alas... they did not.

Even though it was just root beer, I still had to buy some, and I will say it was pretty darn good root beer.

There's a glimmer of hope at the end of this tale though. I went to the Henry Weinhard's website to get a link for my blog here, and they had a list of their distributors... One of which is right here in Waipahu!!! So there MUST be REAL Henry Weinhard's somewhere close by on the island. I've just gotta call that distributor tomorrow and find out what stores keep it in stock.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pinewood Derby

Tuesday night was our Cub Scout Pack's Pinewood Derby.

I wanted to make a race car. ES wanted to make a HMMWV (a.k.a. "Humvee"). It's "his" car, so I went with his choice. We looked up some pictures of Humvee's on the internet and used a pencil to sketch the basic shape on the block of wood. (The top two drawings were the initial ideas I had drawn when ES told me he wanted a Humvee).

After we sketched the outline on the side of the block of wood, I used the saw to cut out the rough shape and the sander to smooth it out.

Next, I asked ES what color he wanted his Humvee to be. He said he wanted camouflage. We went to the NEX and looked through their selection of paints. ES decided he wanted gray and brown. So first we put down two coats of the gray.

Then I asked ES if he wanted a tiger-stripe pattern or a spotted pattern. He said spots. So we cut a small circle out of the middle of an envelope (thanks for the Easter cards, Uncle Jon! :-) ), and held the envelope up and sprayed little splotches of the brown on it.

Here's a not-so-good picture of what the car looked like when we were done painting it.

Well, it only weighed-in at 3.4 ounces. Pinewood derby cars are allowed to weigh up to 5.0 ounces, and the more weight the better. So there was a group of people there with a hot glue gun, gluing spare change onto their sons' cars to bring the weight up.

Note to self: Hot glue guns are very very very very hot, and it really really really really hurts like hell when you burn your finger with one.

It works out to about 0.1 ounces per quarter, but the glue has some weight, too. I ended up gluing 8 quarters on top of ES's car, and it weighed in at exactly 5.0 ounces.

Here's the lineup (photo by YS - his car is the third from the left in the back row):

Here's ES's Humvee-Plus-Two-Bucks going down the track:

Here are the Tiger Cub Den winners receiving their awards:

Aside: Like our new Cub Scout Pack t-shirts? I think they came out pretty nice.
Knowing that Humvee's aren't very high-speed/low-drag type of vehicles and anticipating the results of the race tonight, LW and I tried having a talk with ES about the concept of good sportsmanship before we went to the Cub Scout Pack meeting tonight.

He just did NOT get it. He was getting rather annoyed with us telling him he should tell the other boys that they did a good job and refused to listen to us.
Aside: On a positive note though, I have noticed a positive trend in ES's attitude lately. More and more, I see him becoming downright... dare-I-say... helpful. It happens sporadically, but it's been happening more frequently, and it's warmed my heart to see it. I'm trying hard to make sure and give him positive encouragement and tell him that he did a good job when he does helpful things.
Even though he was unwilling to learn about good sportsmanship tonight, ES did learn through empirical observation an important lesson in aerodynamics. Humvee's are not aerodynamic. After losing every single heat, ES then talked to me about why the other cars were faster and I think he now understands the concept. We agreed we would make a race car next year.

In the meantime, ES won the "most unusual" award from the Cub Master. :-)

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm such a sucker

Anybody need a newspaper?

So there I was, working with the saw out in the front yard, cutting out the design on ES's pinewood derby car. [Aside: Yes, ES is participating in making his car, but I was doing the cutting with the saw.] I see this pretty middle-school-aged girl in a red and black dress start at the end of our street with a clipboard in her hand, going door to door.

When she walks up to my house, she's very perky and smiling and asks if I'd like a free copy of the Honolulu Advertiser. I said, "No, thanks!" She said, okay, thank you, and proceeded on to the next house.
Tangent: I haven't picked up a paper newspaper in I don't know how long. Am I the only one who thinks paper newspapers are totally useless? At least in a neighborhood where every house has at least one if not two or three computers with high-speed access to the internet and all the news they want - tailored to their interests no less. Why would I pick up a hard-copy newspaper? I do pick up the Navy Times in hard-copy, but that's mostly so I have something to read in the bathroom. For day-to-day current events and news, I read it all on the internet. Anyway, back to the story...
Fast forward ten minutes or so later. I see the once-perky, previously-smiling little girl slowly walking back up the street, hugging her clipboard to her chest, with a look of sadness on her face like she was about to cry. My heart sank. As she walked by on the other side of the street in front of my house, I stopped sawing and called across the street to her, "Any luck?" (already knowing the answer from her body language). She continued shuffling her feet walking on up the street, but slowly turned her head toward me and shook her head no. So, in spite of the fact that I have absolutely NO need for a free copy of the Honolulu Advertiser, I asked her what I had to give her in return for my "free" copy of the newspaper.

Her face lit up. "Really???" she said as her sad face spread into a smile from ear to ear. She proceeded to give me her schpeal about what a great deal she could offer me on the newspaper and that some percentage of what she sold went into her college fund. She asked if she could interest me in the $5 option for 4 weeks of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday papers.

I gave in and gave her the five bucks. I have no idea what I'll do with the newspapers other than toss them in the trash (sad, I know - they don't recycle here). It was worth it though from the expression of joy on her face. I think it really made her day.

I'm such a sucker. I've often wondered if I have the word "gullible" tatooed on my forehead because I have a tendency to be too trusting of human nature and allow strangers to take advantage of me.

LW is going to laugh at me when she gets home. (She's off getting that pedicure she's been wanting for weeks).

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Family Movie Night

Friday for family movie night, we went waaaaay back and watched Space Camp (1986!!). OMG! That was SO bizarre seeing Lea Thompson and Kelly Preston as teenagers (17 and 16 years old respectively). Man, I had such a crush on Lea Thompson back when Back to the Future came out (1985). There's another classic movie we need to add to our family movie night list - Back to the Future.

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Ford Island Bike Ride

Saturday morning, I took ES on a 10-mile bike ride around Ford Island and back. It was about 2 miles over to Ford Island, about 6 miles going around Ford Island (roughly following the path of the Ford Island 10K I ran last fall), then 2 miles back home. ES did great. It was a decent workout for me, and I think ES had fun, too. I got to point out several things that I saw and learned on the Remembrance Tour that ES couldn't go on (no kids under 8 allowed), like the spot where USS NEVADA ran aground to make sure they wouldn't block the channel for other ship's that were able to get underway.

Self-portrait on a stop during our bike ride around Ford Island.

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Pinata Observations

We went to a friend's birthday party and they had a pinata for the kids. I cringed when I saw it because I had recently read the A Team's post about the dangers of pinatas and blindfolded, aluminum-bat-swinging, sugar-hyped small children.

I don't know if this is some sort of universal truth, but I made an interesting observation. Somehow when the kids got in line, all the little boys were first and all the little girls came second. When the boys swung the stick, they all swung it like it was a bat, and they kept hitting and hitting and hitting that pinata from the side, but didn't break it open. When the little girls swung the stick, they swung it over their head like an axe or sledge hammer. They kept beating DOWN onto it, and the rope holding it up couldn't take it. It wasn't long after the girls got up to bat that the pinata was ripped off the hoist rope - still structurally entact mind you, but not attached to the hoist anymore.

Why is it the boys swing it sideways like a bat and the girls swing it over their head like an axe? Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?

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Discovery Channel

ES has figured out that the Discovery Channel is pretty darn cool. There are all sorts of shows about military equipment, nasty, muddy, yucky, disgusting jobs, and smashing stuff up. It's very fitting for that destructive little-boy obsession with things that go bang. It seems like the TV has been on in the background continuously on the Discovery Channel all day.

I'm glad though, because I just saw this really cool show on secure internet commerce,, eBay, and stuff. They showed a really cool, simple analogy that explained how Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) works, and it makes SO much more sense to me now! I understood the basic concepts of it before, but they did a much better job of explaining it in simpler terms that just about anybody could understand.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No Free Parking... er... Lodging?

Free Hotel Room!

Even though I think she's an snob and an idiot, I feel like I should give a shout-out of thanks to the lady in the Beemer who backed into LW in the preschool parking lot. Thanks to her, we got a hotel room for the night of the sub ball.

Okay, I still don't understand this. LW has tried to explain it to me, but I still just don't get it. I know that LW already wrote about it, but let me try to explain it as I understand it and see if it makes any sense...

This lady backs her Beemer out of her parking spot at YB's preschool parking lot the same time as LW backed out of her parking spot. Their bumpers came in contact. LW's back right corner bumper came in contact with the lady's back left corner bumper.

There's a small scrape on the paint on each of the cars.

At the time, LW and this lady agreed the damage looked superficial and said neither of them intended to submit a claim. The Beemer Lady said she was gonna talk to her hubby about it, but she'd give LW a call if she was gonna submit a claim.

Fast forward some time later when we get the phone call from our insurance agency that the Beemer Lady filed a claim against us and thinks it's all LW's fault. On a subsequent trip to the preschool, LW found the Beemer Lady pointing at the bumper and loudly exclaiming to another lady, "See how BIG the DENT is?!?!" OMG you are so lame!

I've seen the Beemer in the parking lot with my own eyes, and you can hardly see the damage because it's along an edge. Granted, my opinion is biased, but I think it's much more noticeable on LW's car because it's a scuff along a flat surface, but it's still not a big deal - that's what bumpers are for, right? It's very minor cosmetic damage.

We had to fill out all these insurance forms and send them into our insurance company. Plus we had to take LW's car in to have the damage appraised. It came out to something like $584. I was shocked - it really doesn't look like it needs any more than some touch-up paint.

Well, the insurance company called... and all of them in the office discussed it and agreed it was 50/50 blame on LW and Beemer Lady. LW and I couldn't agree more. We're totally cool with that. Apparently Beemer Lady wasn't. She protested and was not happy with the insurance company. The agent on the phone told LW that the only reason he can figure the lady doesn't think it's her fault is because she drives a Beemer. LW and the insurance agent both had a good laugh about that.

Anyway, besides not understanding weirdo Beemer Lady, here's the other part I REALLY don't understand:

Because they determined the blame was 50/50, they paid each of us (I mean LW and Beemer Lady) 50% of the damages. So they sent us a check for $267.

Um... Why??? We've got a $500 deductible. I guess I can understand the only paying us 50% of the damages since it was 50% LW's fault, but even then... if 50% of the damages was less than our $500 deductible, then I would expect them not to give us a single stinking cent. LW pointed this out to the agent on the phone, but he insisted they were sending us a check for 50% of our damages.

So to make a long story short... since the annoying Beemer Lady put this check for $267 in our pocket, we decided to splurge and now have a reservation for after the sub ball. :-)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sony TV Repair

So, our new Sony TV all of a sudden got these two vertical lines permanently appearing on the screen, regardless of the video input source. I called Sony and they agreed it needed to be fixed under warranty. We had to wait about a week for the "part" to arrive on island, then a repair guy came out. The "part" was a whole new screen, but it works like a champ.

Funny story though, he said most of his work these days comes from Wii damage. He said he recently had to replace FIVE screens in ONE week from throwing Wii controllers into the TV screen! Can you believe it?!? Even with all those warnings on the Wii screen about fastening the wrist strap.

This warning message goes on the screen for several seconds before you can start a game. What else are these people doing with that time besides NOT fastening their wrist straps and making sure they have adequate room between them and their TV???

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

History repeats itself.

So there I was... (isn't that the way all good sea stories start?) I walked into the family room to find this pile of a gajillion little Chex Mix crumbs in the carpet where one of the boys knocked over their snack bowl. I got the vacuum and was in the process of sucking up all the little bits and pieces out of the carpet when I caught something odd out of the corner of my peripheral vision.

When I turned my head to the left, I saw ES's head and shoulders standing outside the family room window. He was standing in a very peculiar manner - very still and looking down. I said to myself, "Self, if I didn't know any better, I would think that's the position ES stands in when he goes PEE." I stopped the vacuum and walked over to the window. Sure enough, ES has his pants down and he's taking a leak into one of LW's flower pots, "watering the flowers" as it were.

I was beside myself. I yelled, "[ES's name]]!!!!!" loud enough that even with the window closed it startled him and pee flew in seven different directions while he cut it off mid stream and quickly pulled his pants back up.

I CANNOT believe he would do such a HORRIBLE thing!!! I mean, I don't know anyone ELSE in this family who has committed such a terrible crime! If there WAS someone ELSE in this family who had done such a horrible thing before when he was six years old, I'm sure it was because we had a HUGE back yard and I he was WAY up in the treehouse and it would have taken a LONG time for me him to climb down the tree and go all the way into the house to use the toilet. I'm sure my his father didn't understand my his reasoning either and I he got a spanking for it, too. Although it was certainly a MUCH shorter distance from the scene of this crime to our toilet (about 25 feet), not to mention the fact he had JUST walked through the house like 30 seconds before this, I didn't give ES a spanking. My booming voice pretty well scared the crap out of him... or rather, maybe it scared the pee out of him.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Right about the same time I received my first request to plug someone else's website on my blog, the February 2008 copy of WIRED Magazine came around with some pretty interesting articles about blogs.

Back in January, I commented on the Secret Life of a Blog Post article. Reading that article was the first time I had ever heard of a "spam blog." (Did I pick a nice color of poop for the words spam blog?). Since then, I've actually seen a bunch of them through Technorati. Technorati says my blog has an authority of "32" (other websites that link to my blog). When I click on it to check it out, I find a whole slew of these spam blogs that use a standardized format of, "[Fake gibberish user name] wrote an interesting post today on Here’s a quick excerpt..." and then a copy of text from my blog. I've been meaning to ask CC or Sarah how they get the copyright thing to appear on their blogs, but then... I don't know what good it would do. What can you do against these anonymous plagiarizing spammers???

: I do really like the wording in Sarah's copyright blurb:
Copyright © 2008 Sarah and the Goon Squad. This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact so we can take legal action immediately.
Okay, so setting the spam blogs aside, there was another article that I found pretty interesting in that same edition of WIRED magazine. This article actually kind of disgusted me. People like this are basically dishonest blog-sluts. I mean, I understand that some people have ad-space on their blogs and earn some cash from it, and I don't have a problem with that. It just seems pretty dishonest and deceptive to me to pass off your blog as your honest, candid opinion about things when someone is paying you just to mention their product. I tend to agree with the statement in the article that they are, "destroying the authenticity of the blogosphere by disguising paid messages as candid blog posts."


Okay, so just for the record, I'd just like to state that nobody is paying me a dime to write my blog. The products I write about in my blog are things that I have actually tried and liked (or not liked as the case may be), and I wanted to share my honest opinion with my family, friends, and anyone else searching the blogosphere for candid opinions on certain products. When I put pictures of company emblems in my blog, it's to break up the monotony of plain text on the screen and make it easy to go back and find a blurb about a particular product. I include links to other websites so you can go check out the product if you so desire, but it's because I honestly like the stuff, not because anyone is paying me.

If someone ever pays me to put something in my blog, I'll tell you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Night Food and Fitness


This past week, LW did a great job feeding me and the boys especially given the long hours I was working in shiftwork. She made the chicken tortilla soup and the chicken meatballs I've previously written about, both of which made for excellent leftovers for lunch at work. As a super bonus this week, she also made SPIEDIES! (The picture on the Wikipedia entry isn't bad). Spiedies are something I had never heard of before meeting LW. They come from New York and are a favorite in LW's family. We were excited in DC to find spiedie marinade at Wegman's (whatdya know, a store that originated in NY) and still had a bottle in the pantry that LW put to use. She also put in a special request for my MIL to bring us some more spiedie marinade next time she comes to visit.

Wednesday night we reverted to our old routine of going to Moe's for kids-eat-free night and the balloon-animal guy. I also got some Awesome Acai at Robeks. I wish Robeks was a little bit more conveniently located. I'd go there a LOT more often if I could stop by quickly on my way to work in the morning (like I did in Virginia). I wish I knew why Robeks doesn't give me a headache, but Jamba Juice does.

Friday night, since we were in the Ward Center, we went to Ryan's for dinner after we picked up our new shoes (see fitness section below). Although just about everything on their menu sounds delicious, but I was craving that seared island poke salad. I still have no idea what "frizzled ogo" is, but man is that a good salad!

Fitness Shopping

Okay, this post is going to be more about shopping than about fitness, but it's fitness-related shopping.

In a previous post, I mentioned I was shopping for some new running shorts. My friend Loping Squid recommended the Under Armour running shorts to prevent chafing. I finally made it over to Sports Authority one evening last weekend to see what they carried in-stock.

OMG I got dizzy from the dozens of different styles, colors, and sizes of UA shorts they had on display. It was actually frustrating trying to find the shorts I wanted. I had done all this research on the UA website, and had a couple of specific models that I was interested in trying-on. For example, I really wanted to SEE and FEEL the difference between the Escape and the Escape II. Just reading about them on the website, I couldn't tell if it was worth the extra $10 for the Escape II.

The problem is, looking at the shorts in the store, NONE of them have the NAME of the model on them. All they say are what they are intended for, such as "RUNNING" or "TRAINING." None of them say "Escape" or "Escape II."

So on my first trip to Sports Authority last weekend, I bought three pairs of UA shorts, one of each type from cheapest to mid-priced to OMG-I-can-only-afford-one-so-I-better-wash-and-wear-them-every-day expensive. Note that if you enter the number off the tag in the back of the shorts on the UA website, then it will tell you what model they are. Looking up the style numbers on the website, I found out that I purchased the Blitz Microshort, the Escape II, and the Fuel Short. Now that I have had the opportunity to wear each pair and can make an assessment of each.

Blitz Microshort: Mid-priced of the three I purchased at $34.99. These shorts weren't much different than the other shorts I already have. They didn't really prevent chafing, but they don't have a liner inside. They were nice, cool, and lightweight, but didn't really meet the purpose why I was shopping for them.

Fuel Short: Most expensive of the three I purchased at $49.99. These shorts have an integrated / built-in compression short on the inside. I wore these when we did our hike to Waimea Falls, and they were very comfortable. The compression shorts weren't too tight or constricting, and they did a great job of the intended purpose (preventing chaffing). They didn't provide a lot of support in the groin, but I was fine wearing them pretty much all day. The second time I wore them for Command PT - calesthenics and a two mile run. They weren't as comfortable for running due to the lack of support. I think I'll save this pair for hiking.

Escape II: Surprisingly the cheapest of the three I purchased at $29.99. These shorts have a very nice built-in liner (not compression shorts), and only a 6" inseam. I wore them for a 2-mile run on Sunday morning, and I was very pleased with them. They prevented chafing, and they provided better support in the groin than the Fuel Short did.

So out of the three I picked on my first shopping trip, I like the

Escape II

the best due to the support, the anti-chafing, and the lowest price all wrapped in one. I like the Fuel Short, too, and will continue to enjoy wearing them, but they're certainly not worth the extra cost over the Escape II. I plan to buy another couple of pairs of the Escape II shorts.

One other word of advice if you go shopping for UA shorts: plan on taking the time to try them on. When you get to the store, not only will you not find the style/model name on the tags, but you won't find any sort of size chart. The shorts are just labeled as small, medium, large, extra large, etc. If you look at the UA website, you'll see what size they recommend for each range of waist-sizes, but I found these were not accurate. For example, according to the UA size chart, I need an XXL, but trying them on in the store, I found the L fit me the best.

On Friday afternoon, we went down to Ward Center because LW wanted to go to the New Balance store and get some new shoes. I figured as long as we were down there, I should pick up a new pair of running shoes, too. We got there and found out the new 1062's just came out. They still had some of the previous model 1061's in stock. The 1061 is what I have been using and like a lot. If they had my size in the 1061, I would've taken them since they were on sale. Unfortunately, they didn't have my size, so I went ahead and got a pair of the new 1062's. Like the 1061's, I was very happy with how they felt great as soon as I put them on. There was no break-in or adjustment period necessary. I took the new shoes on my 2-mile run Sunday morning, and another 2-mile run for Command PT on Monday morning. Both times they felt great .

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dining In: A Lesson in Uniforms

This one almost qualifies for the Stupid Kevin Tricks files.

We had our submarine squadron Dining-In on Saturday night.

I clearly failed my JOs and did not provide adequate guidance to them to prepare them for this event. Shame on me. I forget that over the years, I've learned a few things the hard way about preparing for formal functions like this, and I could have saved my guys some heartache if I had shared some of those experiences beforehand.

So for anyone else headed to any formal functions in the near future (like, say, the Submarine Birthday Ball in one month), allow me to offer a few words of advice. Actually, here's a little thought-provoking quiz to help you start thinking ahead:

You are going to a formal function that requires a uniform you have not worn in a long time, not to mention the fact that you have had a PCS move since the last time you wore it. You should:

a) Wait until 1 hour before the event begins, then discover that your pants and/or jacket don't fit, and you're missing your shirt studs and suspenders.

b) Wait until 1 day before, then try them on to find out they don't fit. Hurry to the uniform shop and beg, plead, and pay the tailor "rush" fees to have your new pants hemmed.

c) Try them on at least a week before the event so you have time to buy a pair that fit and have them hemmed without any groveling or "rush" fees (because those darn dress uniforms are expensive enough as it is).
Oh yeah, new thought just came to my mind from reading the first couple of comments from Sam and C: If you are stationed someplace like, oh... say... around Dulles in Northern Virginia, then that "quick dash" to the uniform shop may involve a 45 minute drive (or much worse in traffic) to either Bethesda Naval Hospital or to the Washington Navy Yard to pick up your missing items. If you live someplace with NO Navy bases nearby like, oh... say... A2, Michigan, DRIVING to a uniform shop might not even be an option for you - so add on a couple of weeks for shipping from the NEX website.
One of my JO's got fined at the Dining-In for trying to "hydro" his uniform (he looked like a stuffed sausage). One of the master chiefs commented he was afraid one of the JO's buttons was going to pop off with enough velocity to kill somebody.

In my case, I said to myself, "Self, I just wore my dinner dress uniform to the Submarine Birthday Ball in Norfolk, so I'll be fiiiiiine." Okay, kids, I want you to go back and circle the key words in that sentence that should have caused alarm bells to go off in the back of my head.

1) Key words that should cause alarm: "Just" and "Submarine Birthday Ball." Um... the Submarine Birthday Ball (in APRIL) was ALMOST a YEAR ago. Try the stupid pants on!!!

2) Key word that should cause alarm: "NORFOLK." Hello, you're in Pearl Harbor now. There was this little thing called a PCS MOVE in between then and now. Things tend to get LOST while moving HALF WAY AROUND THE GLOBE. Inventory your pieces and parts so you don't have to make a mad dash to the uniform shop!!!

There are many benefits to living in Navy housing. Not the least of which is I didn't have to make a mad dash to the uniform shop. LW kindly made a mad dash across the street to our neighbor's house and asked if I could borrow his shirt studs and suspenders, and he hooked me up. :-)

I have to give a shout-out to my LW here, because she was WONDERFUL in helping me get ready last night. In addition to straightening my bow tie and cumshawing missing uniform parts for me, she also reminded me that I had TWO pairs of dress uniform pants in the closet - the pair I got as a JO (that were cutting off my circulation) and the pair I got more recently that fit rather comfortably.

One more tidbit of advice:

My first port call in Chin Hae, Korea was downright painful. Every time we have a port call there, you go out to "dinner" with your sponsor Korean submarine's wardroom. The first time I did this, I thought "dinner" meant food would be involved, so I didn't eat before we went. Then I suffered the consequences the morning after that drink-fest. Someone then explained to me that before a night of heavy drinking like that, you should eat the greasiest burger or pizza you can get your hands on, or take some pepto-bismol. The reasoning was that the grease or pepto-bismol will coat your stomach lining and reduce the rate of alcohol absorption into your blood stream. I have no idea if there is any scientific fact behind that explanation, or if it's just an "old wives tale," but I tell you what. The next time we pulled into Korea, I used that trick, and it worked. I was much better able to hold my liquor and we drank the Koreans under the table.

Waimea Falls Hike

I know, I know, LW already scooped me on writing about Waimea Falls. Still, I want to provide my standard hike summary here for others considering going on this hike.

Family Photo at Waimea Falls

I'm sorry it has taken us this long to go to Waimea Falls. I guess I thought it would be a tourist trap, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a really easy hike through some really pretty botanical gardens. It wasn't overly crowded or overpriced, either. In fact, we decided to buy the annual membership. We figured we need to go 3 times in order to get our money's worth, and we thought this was a nice enough place to visit and uniquely Hawaiian that we were sure to come back a few more times with visiting family and friends.

We saw some BIG trees.

And we saw lots of peacocks and roosters.

In searching for information about it before we drove all the way over there to the North Shore, I was disappointed not to find a one-source website FOR the park. I did find this blog very encouraging that it was doable with children (note one of their pictures shows stairs - those are on one of the side paths, you don't have to take any stairs on the main path out to the falls and back).

YB at the Welcome Center

This is where you buy your tickets.

The path is mostly paved like this.
(Yes, YB is watching me with his binoculars.)

After swimming in the 70 degree water under the waterfall, ES offered this assessment: "Awesome" and "I don't ever want to leave here" and "I want to come back here EVERY DAY." Later, during the car ride home, I asked if this was better than the Makapu'u Ridge hike, and he said he liked them both, but he confirmed that this was also better than Lego Star Wars.

On our way walking back down to the car, the boys didn't want me to lose out on an opportunity for exercise, so they created some "drag" for me.

Oh yeah, watch out for the sentinel that guards the restrooms.

The map they give you at the welcome center.
(Click on the map for a larger view)

Update 4/26/08: Waimea Valley Grill. On our third visit to Waimea Falls, we actually ate lunch at the Waimea Valley Grill at the welcome center. Although the prices may seem a little high, the food ingredients were very fresh and delicious. I had the ahi sandwich, some fries, and a smoothie, and they were all excellent. My boys enjoyed their hot dogs. Here's the menu if you would like to see what they have and if you want to plan ahead to eat there.

: I know when I'm trying to decide on a new hike location, I search for an overview about the hike that will help me judge if it's doable with two little boys. For anyone else looking to do this hike, here's a quick summary:
Map: This hike is not covered by Ball (see this post for explanation). I included a scan of the map they give you at the welcome center above.
Mileage: My GPS trip odometer said 2.0 miles.
Elevation Gain: Approximately 300 feet of elevation gain at a very gentle slope.
Terrain: Entirely paved path, all the way out to the falls and back. There are several little side-trails with dirt paths, but you could easily take a stroller all the way to the falls and back.
Time: It took us 50 minutes walking up-slope (I hesitate to say "uphill" because it wasn't steep) to the falls, and it took us 35 minutes walking back down-slope back to the car.
Facilities: There were plenty, nothing super-fancy, mind you, but suitable for most needs nonetheless.
- At the welcome center is the Waimea Valley Grill (see menu above - $7 sandwiches / $10 plates). It was NOT your standard grease-pit hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken nuggets. They had a variety of Hawaiian-type things like kalua pork and ahi, etc.
- The bathrooms at the visitor center were old, but clean and had a diaper-changing station. Along the path, there were port-a-potties periodically.
- There is a small snack bar farther out along the path not far from the falls with shaved ice, snacks, and drinks.
- Out at the falls, there are "changing booths" to change into your bathing suits if you wish. These were really just wooden shacks with concrete floors - no bench, no lights, nothing. In fact, if you close the door, you won't be able to see ANYTHING because it's PITCH BLACK inside. So I stood guard at the door with the door open for light while the boys changed into their bathing suits.
- When the pool at the bottom of the falls is open for swimming, they have a lifeguard posted there. Note children under the age of 12 are required to wear a life jacket, and they provide the life jackets for free. The lifeguards are really friendly and will take pictures for you - bring a few bucks to drop in their tip jar. Note that if it's been raining heavily, they will not let you swim due to debris coming over the waterfall.