August 2004


We're getting that busy weekend syndrome again. Evan had to show up at the high school football field to practice some marching band tunes for the upcoming football season. BA plays Union (I think) next Friday and many people are excited. I'm not one of them but since he's in the band, I'll be there for that.

BA has one of the finest and largest marching bands of any high school in the area. That's the public face of it. The private face shows a marine boot-camp of a band program that is all work and no play for anybody, including parents. That's why we chose not to participate. I think the word got out several years ago that “the Pride” was a little over the top so they instituted another band – The Tradition. It involves less practice and lower standards. Woo Hoo! We're in! The Saturday practice was an amalgam of both bands and they sounded fine so let the games begin. Just don't make me sell any more peeler cards.

Amid this activity came the scout troop's rummage sale. I went up to check it out and saw, to my consternation, a police car. “Great” I thought. The boy scouts are being busted for selling crap on the street. But no, the cop was a former scoutmaster and was there to pass the time. Nice guy too. It is widely thought that we should not drive with cell phones but this guy had so much comm gear in his car, I have to wonder how he ever manages to drive. But they do. They must practice driving with distractions.

Then there were my projects. I needed to refinish the kitchen island's table top and fix a rotted post on the front porch. I went to borrow the brother-in-law's air compressor to power my nail gun and wouldn't you know, it was broken. It's broken beyond repair it seems so I'll just have to swing a hammer manually like I always have. Darn. I just bought that gun too – and I still haven't fired a nail with it. I decided to get fancy and put some wood preservative on the bottom of the post that I fixed in the hopes that it would not rot any more. Nasty stuff, that. Don't get any anywhere you don't want it – it'll stain a nice copper color. Not generally what you want on your white T-shirts.

I was so busy with my projects that I missed Norm's woodworking show on Saturday. Now, *that's* too busy.

Then there was the yard mowing and the oil changing. Just another day in Dad's world. When school started, everyone whined about having to get up at 6:00 am. Welcome to my world.

Anybody tried http://www.flickr.com ? Looks pretty good.

I'll pay anyone $300 to go negotiate the sale of a car for me. I'll tell you where it is, exact specs and everything – you go haggle with the salesman. Mel wants a new ride and neither of us can stand the collasal waste of time that is the modern car salesman.

Can't afford what we want anyway so I'm disgruntled anyway.

Well, at long last we have stepped into the 21st century and gotten some cell phones. It isn't like me to not embrace every gadget but they've always had those nasty montly bills. Plus, I've had no real need for one.

I still don't; Mel got one and there is one spare that Evan or Erin will carry as needed. Perhaps I can carry one as needed but I'm not the primary user. That hasn't stopped me from playing with them extensively and also playing the game that came with it.

I like their marketing hype. According to the plan poop sheet, it looks like we can text-message but in fact what it says it: Text-messing pay per use — Included!

In other words, I do *not* have text messaging. What a goofy world. Of course, I'm a scientist and I see the world differently from a marketing type person.

Anyway… call us! I wish I could remember the numbers.

Well, my workhorse of a Canon printer finally bit the dust after at least six years of faithful service. For a consumer appliance, that's ancient.

We went shopping for another one. It seems that you can always buy the on-sale HP printer and when it runs out of ink, it's cheaper to buy another printer than it is to get new ink cartridges. That's just silly.

So I bought another Canon – after pricing the cartridges first. It even makes edge-to-edge photos and for only $50 for the printer. Life is good.

Gotta go. Got chores to do. Got pens to finish.

Made some more pens yesterday after all that busy parent-with-teenager stuff. One of them splintered off dissappointingly but I managed to salvage a servicable pen out of it anyway. I've made three so far. Big fun.

Things often don't go the way you expect and my first thought was: “Thank goodness we didn't have Mel make some big travel arrangements to come with me.”

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I got up at 5:30 am to get ready to leave. That number is important later in calculating just how many hours I was awake that day. We showed up at the office and picked up our gear and headed up to the airport. I had a voicemail on the company's cell phone from one of the crewmembers who was in Honolulu at the time that there had been some sort of problem with one of the rockets or flight control computers and that the mission might be delayed. There would be a meeting later that day that would make a decision – but that decision would come after our flight was to leave so we went on.

I guess the long flights like the one from DFW to Maui are among the few where you get food these days so we did get a tiny meal. The roll was about as long as my index finger and amused me by its smallness; masquerading as a real roll. My coworker had a bunch of frequent flier miles that he cashed in to upgrade to first class so I didn't see much of him. We also got to see “Shrek 2” and “13 Going on 30”, both of which I enjoyed.

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It's funny how the airlines keep trying to set up this class distinction on the airplane; we were told twice to stay out of the first class cabin and not to even use their bathrooms. I even heard one of the gate agents tell a woman she could not occupy first class because she had an infant and infants can't go in first class. (After having worked for the airline before, I suspect that this was an employee of the airline – I can't imagine an airline turning down paying passengers no matter how noisy and smelly they may get.) The seats are larger and the food is better but that's really the only tangible thing you're getting for your money. But they continue to throw in all the other stuff for atmosphere; getting on before anybody else, more food, all that “aura” stuff. As to the bathrooms I find it's easier to apologize than ask permission and I can tell you that those bathrooms aren't any better than the ones in coach anyway.

After about 14 hours in planes and airports, we landed on at Kahului airport and we had no sooner gotten off the plane than the cell phone rings. It was The Man.

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He informed us that the mission had been scrubbed for at least 30 days, maybe 45, and that we had to come back but The Man is one of the nicest guys I've ever worked with and he told us to just stay the weekend, enjoy ourselves, and come back Monday. Just call the airline and set things up. Now that's what I call taking one for the team! Sure, I'll stay in Maui for a couple of days! We had been looking forward to our 10 days there (although a lot of this would have been working) and so I was dissappointed but was still thrilled with the idea of spending the weekend there.

I was somewhat surprised to find that the airport was not air-conditioned. I guess they don't really need it but it seems odd to emphasize security when the building is open to the air everywhere. I guess it was built before security was such a huge issue.

Unfortunately, when we got to the hotel (resort condominium actually), there was a message for me from our travel gal. She had been in contact with the flight crew's mission manager and she had arranged return travel for all of them and, not wanting to leave us out, she had arranged ours too for the next day. In my little corner of the world, we were all hired at about the same time and there was no room for more people in the main building so we were installed in an office building nearby. Due to the strange vagaries of the local economy, the cheapest digs were in a large skyscraper-style office building which, of course, is percieved as being luxurious and flashy. Also, the nature of or contract was such that the work was new and interesting and not just the same old grind. I don't know how any of those guys in the other building feel but if I were one of the guys in the old building who had worked here for years, I would definitely have been jealous.

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As it is, there seems to be some awkward moments between our two groups and we are frequently left out of the communications loop. But the mission manager is a good guy and is sensitive to this sort of thing and he wanted to make sure that this time, we were not left out of the loop and so he made sure that the travel gal did our travel too. It certainly would have reflected poorly on us if we had showed up at the Maui High Performance Computing Center to run a test and not known that the aircrews had gone home.

Crap.

Of all the times to be left in the loop, it had to be during a time that would cut our time short in Maui. But that's the way it is. I couldn't (at least in my fatigued state; according to my body's clock it was bedtime) think of any way of spinning this back into a weekend that would not appear self-serving. The travel gal had had to come back into the office at what was her Friday night to do this and so it was guaranteed that she would not have been sympathetic. She would definitely have spread the word throughout the company that I was greedy jerk trying to mooch a weekend in Maui (which would have been true). All I could do was say 'thanks' and leave my bag packed.

So we had about a day on the island and it was back on a plane. You can click here to see the pictures for yourself. I took most of them from the window of the car. We decided not to waste time napping or sitting in a restaurant so we headed to the beach with our cameras to watch the sunset. After having done so, we got into the car and headed up to Lahaina which is where the shopping area is (or one of them perhaps, I'm not too sure). We walked up and down Front street for a few hours, getting T-shirts for the kids at the Hard Rock and snacking. In my 23rd hour, I decided I couldn't stand it anymore and had to drive back to the hotel and crash. It was only 10:30 but my body told me it was sometime tomorrow and that I was near to collapsing.

My body's clock woke me at what was 5:30 am locally so I got on up and made coffee. The change in time zones had left me with a pile-driving headache so I figured the more caffeine, the better. I can't complain; I have no real health problems, I don't take medicine, none of that. If I seem prone to headaches, that's not too tough to deal with. I went on.

We met up at the car at around 7:00 and headed back to the computing center to deal with our gear. We had shipped a lot of equipment that had to be shipped back but the guys there had already just taken care of that – easy to do since we hadn't unpacked it.

We decided to hit the road to Hana. That is the twisty, turny road that winds along the northern shore of the volcano. It reminded me of playing Grand Turismo on the playstation, I was steering the wheel back and forth just like I did when I was a little kid and my Dad would put me behind the wheel in our driveway back home. We stopped several times.

The first stop was at a fruit stand beside the road. They sold a small number of things: fresh fruit, fruit smoothies, candy, and banana bread. I know what that means – Mel makes banana bread when the bananas are about to go bad and so I figure where you find bananas for sale, you also find banana bread for sale.

The smoothies were interesting though since there was sugar cane growing everywhere (that used to be the big cash crop before tourists showed up). If you ordered a smoothie (pinapple, mango, banana, other tropical fruits I forget), the guy would signal the teenager outside who would take a big shiny cleaver and hack off each end of a stalk of cane – Ching!. He'd then split it and hand the pieces inside to the blender guy who would stick it into a thing that looked to me like a sausage grinder. It was a sugar-cane masher. The juice that ran out was collected, strained, and put into the blender along with the fruit chunks and ice from a chest. Man that was tasty! I also got some of their homemade candy made from coconuts and brown sugar. My coworker got the banana bread. We also got some sliced pineapple which, we were told, is better there than anywhere else while it's fresh. They were right.

We also hiked up into the forest at that point as we saw from our map that “Twin Falls” was up there. It was no more than a small opening in a fence. Apparently, they aren't too big on signs in Hawaii so we probably missed a lot. We only knew about the falls from our map and from the fact that there were lots of cars parked at the fruit stand and only a couple of people at the stand itself. The smoothie guy explained it to us and gave us directions.

After hiking for about half an hour and seeing all sorts of flowers and fruit trees everywhere, we arrived only to find that the last few feet required wading a stream. Well, not to be deterred, I shucked my shoes and socks and waded in. It was tough going for a tenderfoot like me because the little rocks hurt my feet and the big rocks were slippery but I soldiered on. About halfway across, I began to think about the possibility of pihrana or leeches but there didn't seem to be any of those. But we had already noticed a conspicuous lack of signage all over so I couldn't be sure. But I made it and it was worth it.

We drove on along the coast until we ran out of time. We made it as far as some pretty impressive overlooks which I dutifully photographed. Then, unfortunately, we had to head back to town and give thought to turning in the car.

We first drove around a bit to see the harbor and a large cruise ship that was docked there. We did what we could and saw what we could see before we headed to the airport. It's a pity that we didn't know that the flight had been delayed by an hour and a half. That would have opened up another possibility for sightseeing but we didn't know that. The lady at the ticket counter certainly did what she could to screw up my arrangements. I'm not sure what happened but I was worried about getting on a plane for awhile there.

Later on, in the waiting area, who should walk up but the mission manager and three of his flight crew! They had had to come from Oahu to Maui to get home. We also discovered that the first class cabin was full and that upgrades were not possible. Drat! They had much the same experience with the ticket agent that I did – worse in fact; they had to pay for their own tickets and get reimbursed later. Much later, the plane arrived.

It was the same plane and the same flight crew from the day before. And the same movies.

In the airport we had watched a little baby who had clearly learned to walk only recently. He was toddling up and down the concourse happily and did so many times. He must have put several miles on those little legs. I had never seen a happier kid – he was filled with the joy of mobility. He had only recently been crawling and wanted to make up for lost time.

I sat behind him on the plane. He was tired.

Actually, he didn't fuss too much. I did my part by making him laugh as he leaned over the seat at me. We got along pretty well, he and I, until he fell asleep in his mom's lap. So I feel I did my part for humanity. His parents had bought him a seat but he preferred to sleep on mom's lap so with a bit of shuffling around, I ended up with an empty seat on my left. Cool!

I tried to lean over into that seat and sleep but it didn't help much. Still, I could put my feet over there and really stretch out which I did before the guy on the other side could think of it. I actually fell asleep on the plane; which is unusual for me but of course, I was on short sleep rations as it was. I'm not sure how long I slept but it wasn't more than a couple of hours. Since my seat was in the very last row, I woke up every time somebody flushed the toilket or pushed the flight attendant call button. The flushing was the worst. I think that 767 toilet had enough power to flush a cantaloupe.

I felt pretty good after waking up but only for a short while. Very soon, I was feeling (as deriasys says) like a crusty dog turd. There was still the DFW to Tulsa leg to fly. That went pretty uneventfully. I got home around 10:30 am where Mel and Erin were blissfully happy to see me which is one of those things that makes coming home worthwhile. Evan was at a campout. They wanted to hear all about it and all I wanted to do was lay down and sleep. We compromised, I told them my story until they had to go pick Evan up at the church, then fell asleep. I vaguely remember them rummaging through my luggage looking for the T-shirts I brought them.

So Mel was happy that I wasn't away from home during the first full week of school and that she didn't have to attend all those parent meetings alone. The kids are happy because they just like it when everybody is home and nothing unusual is happening to our schedule. I'm reasonably happy that I got to see Maui but I still feel like Charlie Brown after Lucy yanked the football away since I was hoping to get a full 10 days out of the deal. Still, I get no sympathy from anybody when I express this so I'll just let it go.

Boy, I sure slept well last night.

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