Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Superferry: Check, Maui: Check

It wasn't until Sunday that I finally visited another island in Hawai'i.  Some may laugh at this, but the islands are very far apart and not easy to move between (unless you have an endless supply of money for airfare).

Verena and Sophie went with Karen and I to Maui on Sunday.  We decided to take the Hawaii Superferry for several reasons.  First, the Superferry is somewhat new and an interesting way to travel to another island.  Second, it's slightly cheaper than a roundtrip airline ticket right now.  Third, it allowed more time on the island than a sameday flight would have.

So, what do I think of the Superferry?  Mixed.  For example:
  • We departed Honolulu at 6:30 AM, but they ask you to be there 90 minutes before your departure.  This turned out to be total nonsense, but we didn't know otherwise.  If you get there early, you're going to be sitting around for a while.  I think 90 minutes makes sense if you are taking your car.  We were just walk-on passengers.
  • Why do they check ID several times?  At airports you get asked by TSA and that's it.  The Superferry checked twice in Honolulu and two or three times in Kahului.  Sometimes they just wanted to see your boarding pass again, sometimes not.  That got annoying.
  • The Kahului port sucks.  It's a big tent in a parking lot.  You arrive at the check-in tent and, well, check-in.  They have you sit on some benches for a few minutes, then a shuttle bus shows up and takes you to another tent over by the dock.  There are two large tents next to the dock.  One is used for passengers waiting for the ferry and the other is used for the passengers coming off the ferry ("deboating").  The reason for this is they have to bus you over to the other tent.  You can't just walk because it's where all the cars are coming off the ferry.  Sometimes they might feel like moving everyone from one tent to another with no explanation.
  • There's no coffee at the ports.  If we are leaving at 6:30 AM and you want us there 90 minutes before the departure, have coffee.
  • The Kahului port has portable restrooms on the dock.  The Honolulu port has a real building and real restrooms.  Consistency.
  • They use portable worklights on generators to light up the port at night.  Why?  In Kahului, we were standing under the tent waiting for the ferry and right next to us is this huge generator powering 4 work lights.  Exhaust fumes and you can't hear enough to talk to each other.
  • It's very cold on the ship, and while a good reason is given on the web site and in the on-ship magazine, I still didn't see any of that until I got there.  I solved the problem by purchasing a Hawaii Superferry hoodie from the on-ship gift shop.
  • People smoke on the ship despite the fact that they say over and over again that the whole thing is non-smoking, even outside.  This should be enforced because when people are coming in and out, smoke blows in.
  • The mechanical staircase on the Kahului dock beeps over and over while it's activated.  This is very irritating.
But, despite all of that, I still think it was fun and I'm glad we took it.  They will improve over time, hopefully.

We rented a car on Maui and went to Lahaina.  Then we went to a beach.  Then it was time to leave.  Maui, only for a few hours.

There is a big Krispy Kreme free-standing store right after you leave the car rental place on Maui.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Packed Weekend

Verena and Sophie, friends of Karen's from Austria, are currently visiting us in Hawai'i.  Saturday they went snorkeling and then we ate at The Shack and then went to Pearl Ridge Mall.  I rode the monorail at Pearl Ridge, which some may laugh at, but I think monorails are cool.  I also wanted to see the LEGO exhibits at the mall.  We saw a few really interesting looking sculptures.  I bought some shorts, Karen bought some pants, and we headed home.  We had drinks that evening, which were Verena and Sophie's first mai tais.  Fun for all!

Sunday we went to the top of Diamond Head.  I ran up the 99 steps, which is my new thing to do.  It's really fun to do around all of the tourists who are out of shape.  It's one of the few instances where I can run and not kill myself.

After Diamond Head we went to Kailua Beach Park and beached for a while.  Very nice weather.  Then we came back home and made tacos and watched a movie.

The work week started.  I really would like 5 day weekends and 2 full days of working.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Monitoring Energy Costs

We have two utility bills that we have to pay each month.  The first is for electricity.  The other is for cable, which is how we bring the wonderful world of the Internet to our home.  We have nothing that uses natural gas.  Water, sewer, and trash are included in the rent cost.  We don't have local phone service because we just use cell phones.

The cable cost is fixed, which is nice.  Electricity changes though.  Some months it's higher, some months it's lower.  I don't generally care, but I do wonder how two people can spend $100 in power per month.  I mean, we have some lamps and the standard kitchen appliances (sans the dishwasher).  Our water heater is electric and I've wondered if it leaks electricity.  We do not have air conditioning, which can contribute a lot to energy costs in a home.

We do have my office at home.  I turn the computers off at night simply because it gets too hot in here.  The laptop runs on battery and I charge it when I need it.  I have an LCD panel for the non-laptop computers.

I have some ideas about how we can reduce our electricity bill.  It's not that it's too high, it's just something I want to try to do.  Is it possible?  Are there things in our home that are using power all the time that we don't know about.  I've read that chargers for things like cell phones, iPods, and laptops still draw power even if you don't have the device plugged in.  That makes sense, but I had never really thought about it before.  I usually leave all the warts plugged in even if I'm not charging.  Could that be defeating the purpose of trying to run the laptop off battery all the time?  Maybe.

The other thing I'm changing is our light bulbs.  We have a mix of old style incandescent bulbs and newer compact fluorescent bulbs.  Replacing 60W bulbs with 13W bulbs seems good too.  I did that back in Boston.

When I got back recently from the mainland [and after vacation], I turned on the office computers here.  Lots of hardware failures, including a dead hard disk.  I've ordered replacement parts, but since I was getting a new hard disk, I decided to try one of the Western Digital GreenPower drives.  Might just be a gimmick, but I figured I'd try it.

Going back to the light bulbs... in the USA, why are watts used to measure light bulbs?  Shouldn't we be using horsepower in the US?  A 60W light bulb would be 0.08 hp according to Google.  Maybe I shouldn't mention that.  GE might start labeling light bulbs with horsepower.  I'm not advocating that usage.  After all, I am metric-crazy as my friends might say.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

C&C Government Factory

I can't be the only one who thinks of Everybody Dance Now when I see a government vehicle.  Unlike certain other states, Hawai'i does not have forty billion license plate types.  The first three characters denote the service or organization or government whatever.  With the exception of the Honolulu Police Department (their plates start with HPD) and the Honolulu Fire Department (their plates start with HFD), pretty much all government vehicles have the first three characters on their plates as C&C, meaning City & County of Honolulu.  Sometimes it's on the side of the vehicle.  The lifeguard trucks say C&C LIFEGUARD on the side.  I want to get some letters and add FACTORY after it one day, but I don't think anyone else would get it.  Maybe xkcd can help me out.  Seems obscure enough for them to jump in.


Anyways, C&C Government Factory has been spending the day destroying our street to replace the water pipes.  I'm ok with new pipes, but since I work from home, this is becoming a noise problem.  They have been running a diesel powered walk-behind vertical circular saw that moves at about 0.000000000000000000001 m/s and makes the worst sound in the world.  I would close the windows, but then it would get to hot.  It's easier to blog and complain.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

iPhone 2.0

The new iPhones becoming available also meant the general availability of the version 2.0 iPhone firmware.  I connected the iPhone to my computer and let it update to version 2.0.  I should have waited.  During the update, iTunes crashed.  iTunes hasn't crashed for me before, so this was not good to see.  I had to reset the iPhone and then restore the data separately.

Version 2.0 was on the phone, but I noticed some things that don't work.  Mail.app crashes immediately on load and returns you to the home screen.  I have tried multiple restores of the firmware, but the results are always the same.  Mail just doesn't work now.

Logan suggested I delete the mail account and recreate it.  Sounded like a good idea.  I go to the settings screen and choose Delete Account and it doesn't do anything.  Account is still there.

On the phone side of the phone, voicemail no longer works.  I guess people can leave messages, but I can't access the voicemail.  Half the time when I try to access voicemail, the phone app crashes.

All in all, not that impressed with version 2.0.  I have spent some time today trying to downgrade, but that's against Apple religion, so I guess I'm stuck with 2.0 until they release another update.

I have set up an appointment at the Apple Store in Kahala tomorrow to see if they can fix it (if they could just downgrade to 1.1.4, I'd be happy with that).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Parents Visited O'ahu

My parents have come and gone.  They were visiting for 10 days and I tried to take them to as many interesting things on O'ahu as possible.  I think I exhausted them too because we skipped the Hanauma Bay snorkeling.  However, we did see and/or do a lot of things, including:
We also dined at a variety of places, including the Oceanarium Restaurant, Chuck's Cellar, Wai'oli Tea Room, and the Dixie Grill.  I think they had a great time.  My parents were amazed at the costs of everything.  I knew they would be, but when it came time to get lunch and breakfast and things like that, they were amazed at how high those things cost.

My dad is a WWII history buff and really enjoyed the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin, and the USS Missouri battleship and really just everything around that whole area.  He told me he never thought he would have been able to see Pearl Harbor in his lifetime.  Fortunately I moved to Hawai'i and he had an excuse to visit.  We arrived at the Arizona Memorial at 7:30 AM and left at 5:30 PM.  Yes, all day.  We saw the Arizona, Missouri, and Bowfin.  And all surrounding museums.  I read on Jorge Garcia's blog that the gift shop by the Missouri sold plush battleships.  I have to agree with Jorge that a battleship "doll" is a bit ridiculous, but I was still wanting to buy one simply because it is ridiculous.  Unfortunately they didn't have any at any of the gift shops and no one knew what I was talking about.  Oh well.

Both of my parents really enjoyed the Polynesian Cultural Center.  I have to say that I was impressed too.  Aside from everything costing money inside the center, it's still done really well and the shows and demonstrations are done well.  Of course, I have nothing to base this comparison on except that I saw similar performances at another luau.  Yeah, I'm not at expert.

Even with everything we did, there's an equal or larger set of things that we weren't able to do.  The next time they visit we will do other things.

I am currently uploading photos from their visit to my Flickr account.  Between my camera and their camera, we took over 1000 photos.  Probably the most we've ever taken on a joint vacation.  I have reduced the number by deleting duplicate or blurry photos.

Speaking of photos, I think I found a good job for when I get tired of software engineering.  I will use my camera to take pictures of people at a typical tourist location and then sell them the photo as they exit for $18 to $24.  Most places we went did that with photos.  Crazy.  We decided not to buy the photo from the dinner cruise.  Instead, my dad held it up and I took a picture of it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vacation

Vacation is awesome.  I wake up and have to do nothing for the day.  Today I got up and had breakfast while watching the news.  Then I read email (but didn't write any replies).  Then I took a shower.  After that the phone rang.  It was my parents telling me their current flight status.  I went for a walk.  Came back home and had some lunch.  Then I took a nap.  Then I got up and went for another walk.  Now I'm back at home writing a blog post.  It's really very nice.

I have taken 10 days of vacation because my parents are arriving tonight.  When they have visited me in the past, I only ever took a few days of time off and that was always annoying to coordinate when to do things.  I figure if they are taking vacation, I might as well do the same.  And it comes at a great time too since I just got back from the Red Hat Summit, FUDCon, and 1+ week of doom meetings in Boston.

I didn't really take any pictures while in Boston because I was working almost all the time.  More pictures in the coming days.  Maybe even video.

Time to burn a fresh copy of the Hawaii Five-O theme so I can play that in the car driving the parents back from the airport.