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Archive for December, 2009

A Whale Tale and other things

Yesterday I saw my first humpback whale.

It was both very exciting and very anti-climatic at the same time. When you see photos, you’ll understand why.

J had duty yesterday and I wanted to get out of the house, so I drove through downtown and past Diamond Head to where some of the really good overlooks of the Pacific are, looking in the direction of the Big Island. I stopped at a place with a lot of traffic, thinking there would be something interesting there, but it turned out to be mostly tourists. There are always a lot of them, especially from the various Asian countries that fly here regularly, and it can make a scenic spot not so pretty any more. I sat on the wall at the top of the overlook for a while anyway, enjoying the view and made friends with a lady out there looking for whales. She’s one of the whale counters– people who work with the Hawai’i Humpback Sanctuary to take a census every winter of the whales in the area. I learned a lot from her, most notably that I should come back in another month to actually see them. After a while, with no whales in the immediate vicinity, I drove down the road to the Blowhole to see if I could spot the resident sea turtles there.

I found the turtles after a while, and had fun watching them pop up in the surf from time to time while the crazy people who decided to go swimming in the winter surf (that’s NUTS, people!) were down below. I chatted with some locals, mostly about how crazy the people swimming were, and then as I was getting ready to leave, a guy with binoculars shouted, “I see one!” I immediately asked where, and he showed me what to look for in the water. After about ten minutes, it surfaced again. Are you ready? Here it is!

That’s it! You might have to click on the picture to enlarge it, but it’s the little poof of water in the middle. I know, not what you expected. But it’s a whale and I saw it! Apparently next month, when the mothers have their calves, they’ll come very close to the shore and we’ll be able to really see them, not just the little poof of water as they breathe. I saw it three times, moving along toward the north, and then it went out of view. I can’t wait to see them more up close next month. ^_^

Christmas was a good day, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching J rip into his XBox 360. I think that was the single fastest unwrapping job I have seen in my life, and I have seen my brother unwrap Star Wars stuff. No joke. (You can see it, too– click here!) I think it was worth it, too– the graphics look so much better on our big TV than the old console had, and they don’t make games (or even sell them, in many cases) for the old one, either. The other bonus? Most of our old games (excluding some of the really old ones) will play on the new system, too! The kitties got plenty of new toys, too, including a box full of wrapping paper– Caspian’s favorite!

Saturday night we went to see STOMP, which is in something like its fourteenth season. It was an awesome show. If you like the drumline in a marching band, and dance and music all thrown into one, you’d love STOMP. This is the best montage I could find of the show on YouTube. We were sitting in the right wing on the ground floor and it was just plain fun. I think we’ll try to go back next year– apparently they come every year for Christmas.

Today has been a quiet, relaxing day, which I needed. I’ve done laundry (which had reached frightening heights in the closet…) and when J came home around lunch, we wound up heading to the pool. We’ve both been stuck inside for too long, and it was good to get some sunshine and just sit and read for a while.

I’m about to upload photos from this weekend, so look for them soon, and if I don’t talk to you before then, have a wonderful and happy new year!

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The stockings were hung by the, well by the TV with care (after all, let’s be honest, shall we?),
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.

It is still Christmas Eve for me, though for almost everyone who reads this it’s already Christmas morning or even solidly into the day. That’s okay, though; I’ll get to enjoy Christmas a little later than you tomorrow. ^_^

This evening has been interesting, since J has duty today and tonight. I went and had dinner on the ship with him (which involves lots of carbs, always, and yet they worry about too many sailors being overweight… hmm), which was nice. Apparently I’m allowed to do that any day that he has duty and they’re not swamped with drills or jobs or anything, which is good to know. I can also take him dinner and still eat on the mess deck with him, too. The “dining room” (this is not its real name, but “mess deck” just sounds odd) reminds me of the cafeteria in elementary school, with the sectioned trays and the buffet-style serving. The food is even similar, though someone in there knows how to make some yummy macaroni and cheese. We sit at diner-style tables in a little room surrounded by TVs, usually with sports shows playing, and which was decorated for Christmas tonight. There weren’t many people there, as it’s a holiday and only the people with duty had to stay, so it wasn’t too crowded. We sat with the four other people in his shop who were there for a while, and then he took me on a little tour of part of the ship I hadn’t seen.

After that, I went home and got him a change of clothes because he had gotten permission to come across the street with me to the base chapel and go to Christmas Eve service with me. It was so nice of them to let him go, though I suspect he may have been the only person to ask. We walked over there and had a Lessons and Carols service with plenty of music and even a hula performance to “Silent Night.” Then we walked back to the ship and said goodnight. I’ll pick him up in the morning.

This is one of the ways the Navy makes life interesting; holidays are sort of scheduled, and you have to make the best of them. I’m spending Christmas Eve mostly by myself, but I’m okay with that. I have the cats and I have music and plenty of good movies to watch, and I’ve got a nice big mug of hot chocolate, so it’s going to be a relaxing night. And I think that might be exactly what I need tonight.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm all is bright.

Merry Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka, and all the best to you and yours. ^_^

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Lighting up the Honolulu Hale

Today is the first day of winter. I wore shorts and a tank top to celebrate.

Last night I went with a friend (one of J’s co-workers’ wives, the only one I can talk to for more than five minutes) to the Honolulu Hale for their Christmas display. We took a trolley through downtown to get there, passing the Christmas lights and enjoying the surprisingly cool air; we both wore long sleeves. The trolleys were entertaining, too; when we passed other trolleys (or fire trucks), the driver rang the bell and everyone leaned out the windows to yell as loudly as they could. Wild.

Aloha Tower is completely lit and the palm trees around it glow with their lights and you could hear carolers singing throughout the place. I think it might have been a school group. We didn’t stop at the Tower, just drove past slow enough to see the lights, then continued to the Hale. “Hale” means “house” in Hawaiian, and the Hale is the House of Honolulu– the mayor has his office there, the city council meets there, etc. It’s a historic building with lots of windows and such, right down by Iolani Palace. The park around the Hale and Palace had been turned into a winter wonderland, with huge displays that might have been floats in a parade, rides (including a train that was flashing and playing music) and a gingerbread house with Santa sitting inside for pictures. It was crowded and full of kids but still somehow beautiful. There were lights in the trees as big as globes, and all sorts of other decorations, and a huge tree out front.

The best part was the Palace, which is covered in round paper lanterns that light up after dark so that the entire building and grounds are covered in red, green and white orbs. Carriage rides picked up passengers behind the Palace, including one designed to look like Cinderella’s pumpkin coach, complete with white horse and bright lights outlining the pumpkin shape. The whole thing was very local but very fun.

Christmas in Hawaii is turning out to be interesting. Not bad, just a little different, and so far I like it.

[update]
I’m currently uploading photos to the photo journal so you can see, too. ^_^

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Today I finished my Christmas shopping for J. He and I went into Target together with a set budget and then went in separate directions with the object of meeting at a designated time in the coffee shop, our gifts for each other in sealed bags. It was a fun way to do Christmas shopping. We only ran into each other once, but it meant I had to keep an eye out for him everywhere I went in the store. It also kept either of us from having to ditch the other (as we only have one car) to go shopping, or having to walk around a mall or something, plus it cost less overall. Not a bad idea, really.

When we got home, we wrapped a couple of gifts together (not to each other, of course), and he suddenly looked at me and asked, “Do we have the stuff to make your mom’s apple cider?” We didn’t, but I gave him the short list of ingredients and sent him to the store. It’s simmering on the stovetop now and smells wonderful… Between that and the balsam scented candles, it smells almost like the holidays in here.

We saw two movies this weekend that I want to recommend: The Princess and the Frog and A Christmas Carol. The first is a kids’ movie. The second is not. The Princess and the Frog is beautiful and is a “classic” Disney movie, with a princess, a plot, a definite setting (1920s New Orleans) and fun music. My favorite? The firefly character from the bayou. ^_^ A Christmas Carol is about 95% true to Dickens’ text, which means it is a ghost story, with a lot of bitter before you reach the sweet. It captures the feeling of the original story and I got much more into it as a story than I usually do with adaptations of it.

Anyway, there is my two cents’ worth of reviews.

It’s “cooling off” here in Hawai’i; the highs are around 80 degrees and I’ve seen people in sweaters. This is very strange to me. I didn’t understand why stores started stocking scarves and gloves a month ago, much less sweaters, but I guess people will wear anything for the sake of fashion. Of course, there are still decent bathing suit sections in each store, too, so maybe that’s the balance.

I found a gecko living in my shower the other day. It was about an inch long and very skinny (as there are no insects in my shower), so I scooped him into my hand, where he sat on my palm, cleaning his face with his tongue. I carried him downstairs and put him out in the front garden. I’ve been finding them in stranger places lately; I assume the cats are getting better at catching them, so they’re hiding in more difficult places.

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The Two-Day Bug

Why do I always catch the Two-Day Bug?

This, I feel, is a deep philosophical question that needs an answer. It can’t be medical, because I don’t have to come into any physical contact with anyone else who has the Two-Day Bug du jour to also come down with said Bug.

It started yesterday with the sniffles. Now I’ve got a full-blown Sinus Party happening in my head and down my throat and it’s not fun. I haven’t been anywhere much lately, except when I was outside (I’ve been avoiding stores and therefore holiday shoppers like the plague… no pun intended) and have no idea where I got this thing. J says it’s “going around” in his shop and that it only lasts a couple of days (which they always do… Why are there no Three-Day Bugs?) but I haven’t been around anyone in his shop, and he hasn’t been home except for last night, when I already had the sniffles. Explain that to me!

Okay, I’m done complaining now. I’m having oranges and crackers and maybe some chicken soup to my meals today and slept 10 hours last night and will hopefully sleep 10 hours tonight and then this thing will be toast.

[UPDATE]

There are new photos on the photo blog of the house decorated for Christmas and of some scenes from around Honolulu, if you haven’t seen them yet. ^_^

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Today, after leaving my next door neighbors’ house, where I’d been invited for brunch, I found another of my neighbors that I’m not terribly familiar with standing at the bottom of my driveway. I say standing, but she was actually in more of a crouch. And holding an aerosol can. And spraying little spots along the driveway edge. Lots of little spots.

Finding this a little, well, weird, I went down to see what she was doing on the pretense of bringing my trash can back to the garage, as the garbage truck had come a couple of hours earlier. We then had our Very First Conversation as Neighbors.

Me: What are you doing?
Woman: I’m spraying them! Haven’t you seen them?
Me: Seen what?
Woman: The maggots.
Me: What?! Where?
Woman: (while looking at me like I’m stupid) They’re all over! They were all over the driveways, and now they’re all over out here!

I looked around and sure enough, the culdesac looked like it was slowly moving because there were thousands (and I’m not exaggerating) of maggots swarming across it. I quickly looked to my feet and didn’t see any there, or on my driveway. We continued our Very First Conversation.

Me: Where did they come from?
Woman: I don’t know, they were in the trash cans. I didn’t see them until we got those recycling bins, though, and I think it’s because you don’t put bags in them!

Yes, her sentence was really that confusing. I think she was reaching a state of maggot-induced-panic. At this point, I went and checked my recycling bin, which was clean, as was my trash can. I pointed both of these facts out to her and told her that I’d call maintenance and see what they could do about it. She bent back to her task, sniping the maggots. One. By. One. Did I mention there were thousands of these things?

Let me point out here I would be a lot more disgusted by this if I hadn’t spent the last couple of years feeding mealworms to various animals. As it is, I’m bothered… but somehow entertained.

A couple of hours later, they were gone. This is the part that bothers me; maggots you can see are merely gross, but maggots that have disappeared have gone somewhere.

I think J and I are going to spend tomorrow putting insecticide around the house, again… After all, the problem with maggots is that you can’t be sure what they’ll morph into…. Elgh.

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Giving in to the Geckos

I have finally caved to the geckos.

Not the in sense that I am still not planning on shooing as many of them back outside as I can, but they definitely scored a point against me tonight. I was running late to get to the final write-in for NaNo, and saw a little gecko on the wall, up above the cat climber where the wall is about, oh, twelve feet tall. I stopped, and looked, and considered very hard going to get the step ladder to catch the gecko… and then thought “Oh, it’s just a gecko!” and walked out the door.

Score one for team gecko.

I suppose that really illustrates where I am mentally with Hawai’i at the moment, too; I’m tired of “dealing” with the differences, so I’m starting to just shrug them off and move on with whatever it is I’m doing. This is a very good thing. Now I just need to get myself onto some kind of reasonable schedule so I can get things (i.e. maybe my novel?) done. The one thing I’ve taken to like a gecko on the wall (go ahead and groan, you know you want to), is so-called “Island Time.” I have no problem just sort of showing up when I feel like it and getting things done when I feel like it. Now, sometimes this means I want to go now and I want to get whatever-it-is done immediately, but it’s still just a whenever I feel like it sort of thing. Hm.

We have decorated the house for Christmas, but I haven’t started on my cards yet. I usually send them out around the second week of December, but I don’t know if I’ll make it this year because I can’t seem to find a craft store that carries card stock that I can use. This is another thing I have not gotten used to; there are plenty (and too many) things from the mainland here, but never what I really want. For instance, there are more Taco Bells than I’ve seen anywhere else, but no Michael’s crafts.

Well, I am off to get some sleep and start trying to recover from NaNo 2009. Next year should be a world better; I’ll have time to plan things, for starters.

Can you believe it’s already December? Where did time go?

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