Monday, May 30, 2005


Day 9 - Maui

After waking up at 1 AM feeling terrible, I got up at 8 AM and felt much better than yesterday. I'm bringing all my cough drops to dinner to give away to my travel companions (four of whom have gotten sick). The Sepocol was a big hit.

Our big plan was to wake up at like... 6 or something today so we could get on the road to Hana nice and early. It seemed like a good idea since the road is supposed to be pretty long and the idea was supported by the uber guidebook of the century, Maui Revealed or whatever it's called. Well, apparently Tracey made an executive decision to let me sleep in or something (funny how I got up before her) so we didn't get out until around 9. Then, we tooled around at KMart and stuff and finally hit the road at 11.

The driving was pretty interesting. If you enjoy driving I really suggest you try this. I do get carsick and this is the only time I have ever gotten a little bit nauseous as the driver (normally being the passenger or worse, the back seat makes me ill). Tracey took a ton of pictures all of which are fantastic. It's hard to believe that some of them are real. I have a billion to post but no time really.

Speaking of no time, we were really in a hurry so there was a lot to miss on this road. We did see all the waterfalls visible from the road and then some (a couple of smaller ones at the side that were not mentioned in the guidebook). We stopped and ate at Halfway to Hana (really 2/3 of the way to Hana). We stopped for pictures four or five times. Unfortunatley, we had to turn around pretty much as soon as we arrived in Hana. One really memorable moment was coming out of one turn and seeing a road about 500 feet above our current altitude in the next mountainside. I thought there was no possible way we could get up there but after a few hairpin turns we started the ascent. This road has tons of altitude changes so this wasn't unusual but it was interesting to really see ahead of time just how high we were going. The cars on this higher road looked so small.

Put the bags out tonight with White tags on a Pink tagged floor. White is the color used by 8, which is Steve's floor and leaves earlier than ours. They said we can do it so we'll see how it goes when we get off tomorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Day 8 - Maui

I feel sicker than ever. My throat is so sore I can barely swallow.

Tonight, on the bus to the Lu`au, I ran out right as we pulled in to the hotel where it was being held. That shouldn't be a problem because every hotel gift shop has cough drops. Unfortunately, it rained pretty hard right before we got there. All 13 busses had to wait for 30 minutes. I thought I was going to die. Eventually I got off with the "I have to go to the bathroom" excuse and bought some. Tracey also needed some gum because her breath was totally garlicky.

We rented a car today and drove to Lahaina. We were going to just drive around but again I was out of cough drops and had to go to Long's. Long's is the Hawaii drug store and seems to be almost half as prolific as ABC stores, which is quite an accomplishment. I bought some uber halls or something that had benzine and menthol. They work pretty well. Unfortunately I left most of them in the rental before the Lu`au. After we found the Long's we didn't really have time to explore Lahaina. Driving through it reminded Tracey of Key West and I agree. We had to get back to the ship for her Spa appointment.

The rental is a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It has a nice trip computer and a weird shifter. I think it's in 4 wheel drive mode all the time as well. The theory is that we will need this to drive "the road to Hana", but Maui Unleashed or whatever it's called disputes that idea. We'll see.

You know, I can't stop thinking about Maui X-stream Software and the surrounding controversy when I'm in Maui and to a lesser extent Hawaii at large. I can't imagine that there are even a dozen programming jobs in Maui. Real programming jobs are probably pretty hard to come by even on Oahu. It's a very unusual setting for this kind of controversy. GPL violations are totally against the "Aloha spirit" I'm pretty sure. I should have gotten their address and checked it out if it was nearby.

I need to create an avatar of Elvis from Blue Hawaii. I have a specific scene in mind for a still or an animated gif. When I get back home I'll have to grab the DVD.

Friday, May 27, 2005



This is hot:

I want one. I think I can Martha Stewart one with some electrical tape.


Day 7 - Kona

Jason called. Apparently several people have booked the December cruise. How exciting! I hope we get a lot of people, it's so fun to cruise with people you know. Unless you have an upper respiratory infection. I really haven't seen our travel companions much, and when I do I"m feeling nervous about being possibly contagious.

Today's the day I was supposed to SCUBA. Damn it. I have my C card and a bunch of gear (not my wetsuit, it doesn't fit - too fat). I hope I get well enough before I leave Oahu at least. I have to do something this trip. The Kawai snorkeling was good if nothing else and it used the majority of the gear I took.

Took an early tender to Kona. I heard a comparison from a shuttle bus driver (in Kawai) that Hilo and Kona were opposites in many ways. Hilo is cheap, Kona is expensive. Hilo is green and Kona is all moon-like and rocky. This is not entirely true. As I look out the window of the longboard bar (a very reliable place to get 1xRTT service on the Pride of Aloha) I see a lush hillside. The Kona hills seem to go on forever.

We rented mopeds in town ($25 apiece for 5 hours, very reasonable) and drove around the island such as we could. At the beginning, Tracey was having problems which for some reason caused her to need another pair of sunglasses. Also, she didn't like approaching the top speed of the mopeds. After climbing a few hills and looking out over the bay, she got used to it. The bikes became the limiting factor - trying to share the road with cars on a 35 MPH stretch when the bikes went 20 MPH uphill was tough. We pulled over a lot.

We went in to two housing areas. One was up a hill and was the highest area we drove to. The other was one Tracey randomly drove into because she saw a sales office sign. It was a new development where all the houses can see the ocean because of the grade of the hill. Prices started at 750K and went to 1.3 million for a two story house. We were told that Kona was the expensive side.

Watched the tenders get loaded on to the ship, watched Kona fade off into the mist, and caught up on blog postings. I'm still feeling sick today. I didn't eat too much at dinner. Now it's 1 AM, and the pain from my ears and throat has woken me up. Going to try to surf the net a little bit.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Day 6 - Hilo

Woke up very sick today. My throat was extremely sore. Not only that but I'd been asleep for like... 20 hours or something. Tracey does some investigating and determines that I have to see the doctor so at least we can cancel my shore excursions. The volcano one is scheduled for today and SCUBA tomorrow - ack!

The doctor is nice and ($75 later) dispenses some pills, some tussin and some losenges. The pills are "Diclofenac Sodium". I was too sick to discuss anything with him or ask what this medicine was. According to Google it's a "non-steroid anti-inflamitory". According to the $75 invoice he left in my room I have URI, which I am guessing means upper respiratory infection. I'm really bummed out about the volcano and scuba.

The cruise line partly made up for it. At 10PM Hawaiian time (which is like... 9AM Eastern or something - there's a 5 or 6 hour time difference depending on daylight savings) we drove by the lava flows. Wow. What an awesome sight. There's no way to get good pictures or video of this, you have to be there. These volcanoes add hundereds of acres of land every year.

I didn't really get to see Hilo too much. I did venture out a little bit to go to the Mauna Loa factory and gift shop. Macadameas are the best. I will eat 1 million. They don't seem to be any cheaper here unfortunately.

In the back of my mind I kept thinking about how Bill T says that Hilo is his fav and he wants to move there. The taxi driver that took me to the factory says that Hilo is the cheapest on Hawaii, even compared to Kona which is on the other side of the big island. Houses average about $300,000 which is not outside the realm of possibility. The problem would be finding a computer job. Plus, these islands are a little vulnerable to things like hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and in the case of the big island, volcano eruptions. Hawaiian women might make up for it all though. I wish I could see this the way Bill might have but I'm too sick.


Day 5 - Kawai

Steve, Andrea and I were trying to get back to Hanalei bay, one of the areas we saw during the movie tour, to do some swimming and snorkeling. Apparently it's just way to far from the port to be practical to get to (one cab quoted us $80). Andrea found a shuttle bus driver who was offering a shuttle to Poipu beach. The price was right so on a whim we took it. Fantastic! The snorkeling was great. TONS of fish, all different colors. Schools swimming directly under you. Each piece of coral hiding urchans in every crevace.

The ship left at 1 PM, so I only had about an hour and a half in the sun. Just long enough to get very badly burned on my back. Once we got back to the ship I fell asleep at about 2PM for some reason.


Day 4 - Kawai

Kawai is really cool. It's nicknamed "the garden island". We did kind of a long tour called Hollywood in Hawaii. Kawai has hosted a lot of movies, some which you wouldn't expect. They gave us a long excel spreadsheet and an annotated map. As we approached scenes, a DVD player showed a short clip.

One of the stops was the Coco Palms, which as far as I can tell was only featured in Blue Hawaii. Elvis apparently liked the place and had his own suite. We spent way too long (in my estimation) tooling around this hotel property which has been unused since 1992. It's a big mess at this point although some people think it will be restored and reopened soon. The property was recently purchased for $10 million. I think it will need $50 million of work. Steve thinks $200 million.

The American crew on the ship is strange. It's really unusual to hear the chatter of the employees in English. Furthermore they talk the way US employees talk, IE about their boss, their shift, co-workers, etc. The service has been fair so far except for dinners. The dinner service is terrible. Extremely slow. Even the maintenance crew is American. One thing that's weird is that some of the employees are middle-aged and overweight which is unusual on a cruise - but not unwelcome. I don't mind a real crew on a ship rather than the artifically young crews from international cruises - as long as the service is great.


Day 3 - Waikiki

Pearl Harbor. December 7th is a date I won't soon forget. Visited the USS Arizona memorial with Steve, Andrea, and Tracey. What an experience. All I can do is offer a moment of silence in memory of those lost.

Boarded the Pride of Aloha. The ship is on Pier 11. It's right next to a shopping mall which I think is called the clocktower mall. There's a neat clocktower which we need to visit when we have the camera on the return trip.

The ship is OK, I'm still getting used to it. Finally ran in to Dave and Pam today.


Day 2 - Waikiki

The day started with hopping in a rented 2005 Mustang convertible and heading to the Dole plantation. Someone should have told me that pineapples are so awesome. I never really ate them before, but now... I'm addicted. I think they put crack in them at the Dole plantation. Since I've been there I've eaten something like 1200 pineapples. It takes almost 2 years to grow a pineapple, so I won't be trying to grow these at home, but I will be buying them at the Publix.

So, around 1920 (if I remember right, it's been a few days now), James Dole heads to Hawaii and realizes pineapple grows really well here. He buys up a ton of land really cheap, brings in a crapload of foreign labor from China, the Philipines, and Portugal (not enough Hawaiians to do the job I guess). We took a brief tour that shows all the Dole workers working at a very leisurly pace. I wonder what the working conditions were like back in the early days of the Dole plantation. What were they paying these laborers (if anything)?

After the Dole plantation, we took the Mustang around Oahu. We rode around the north shore (traffic was terrible!) and finally caught H3 back to H1 to Waikiki. H3 had a neat tunnel through the mountains in the center of the island. Spiffy.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Day 1 - Waikiki

Waikiki is on Honolulu. It was about 30 minutes from the airport in a cab. Tracey decided cabs were the best way to go and it paid off - we got a limo for a cab. The fare was $40 to the hotel for 4 which is roughly what the shuttle would have cost.


Open air everything - when we arrived, the weather felt a lot like the weather in Orlando. At first it seemed that we really hadn't left even. Eventually you notice that a lot of the island is open air. Our hotel lobby has no roof over half of it, and few walls. This requires cooperative weather and no mosquitoes. Florida fails both requirements. Now I understand why the term Lanai is so popular. Is the weather like this year round?

Aloha - The translation I heard was that Aloha means hello and goodbye, but there is more to this word than those two thoughts. I saw a number of usages that seem to infer some sort of Hawaiian identity or culture. Need to research that more.

ABC stores - Waikiki has more of these than Orlando has Walgreens and 7-11's combined. Some blocks have two. Our hotel has at least one inside and at least one outside. It's some sort of convenience store. Probably Hawaiian mafia.

Japanese - The Japanese are everywhere. It seems to dominate English as the language and Japanese tourists seem to outnumber American tourists. Do more Japanese visit Hawaii than Americans or is this a Honolulu or Waikiki phenomenon?

Verizon's 1x-RTT service is giving me 400 and 500 pings. I was getting 300s in Lake Mary so I guess that the transcontinental link may be a factor. Signal strength in the Hotel room is 100%.

Time zone - I say it's 5 hours behind Eastern, Steve says 6 hours. We'll see :)

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Stupid machine!

The candy machine here is out of quarters or something, so don't use it or you will be shorted at least 25 cents! You have been warned.

I always wanted to write a stupid blog entry like this.

Monday, May 16, 2005


A break

Got pulled over for speeding in Louisiana. I was on the very lonely stretch of highway between Baton Rouge and Shreveport. The officer was parked in the tall grass growing in the center. As I approached, I spotted him, looked down at the spedometer (it said 80 as I recall), and looked back up. He was starting to pull out so I started to pull over. Eventually he was coming up behind me with the lights on so I pulled off to the side.

84 in a 70 was what he read, and he was probably right. He asked where I was heading - I said Dallas for simplicity. He took my license and went back to the car. When he came back, he handed me the ticket and clipboard and asked me to sign. As I signed, he said he was writing me a ticket for a seatbelt infraction. He said it would be something like $25. That's a major break and it was a big surprise. I thanked him and drove off, keeping a much closer eye on the spedometer (especially since I couldn't tell if he was following me).

My first thought was that I got a break because I was in Tracey's beater. I'm all stuffed in there so maybe he felt some sympathy. Others have suggested that it was because I pulled over right away. That's a possibility I suppose. I was just happy to get a break.

There's a picture I want to post from a prior trip through Louisiana. It's just a little landmark that I always notice when driving I-10. Maybe I will post it later.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


"Oh, SHIT" moments

You ever have a moment where you realize you just MAJORLY screwed up? That's an "oh, shit" moment. I remember one when I was working at my first real job, a big government defense contractor. I was doing upgrades of desktops from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. The basic steps were copy all their data to a shared drive, ghost the box and restore the data. This particular incident, the setup was a little challenging because the engineer had an unusual system configuration. I spent some extra time working out the details of the upgrade, getting everything ready, and then I slipped in the ghost disk and started reloading his hard drive from the image. "Wait... did I back up his data?" Oh, SHIT!

We had to buy a data recovery program to get everything back. He got back his important files and was back up and running with Windows 95. I had a great boss and everything worked out in the end so the worst part was the initial moment of dread.

These guys probably weren't so lucky. This is an incident that happened in 1993 while working on the Noaa N-prime satellite. On this particular day, the satellite was on a special platform that holds it in place and can rotate it from an upright to a horizontal position. Like any big company, there are a lot of procedures you need to follow when doing anything and they started going down the checklist of things to do. After everything was cleared, they started moving the platform to the horizontal position. When it reached 13 degrees of inclination, the satellite slid off the platform, got caught on the lip and tipped over. Oops! The person responsible for verifying the bolts that attach the satellite to the platform used a report to verify, rather than looking at the bolts. One report estimated that Lockheed may pay $400 million for the accident.

I like this picture. The guys in the background are looking at the fallen satellite, arms folded. Yep, it fell! Click to enlarge.

Some different angles with clicky goodness.


Guild Wars Screenshot Manipulation

Yes, I bought the game. It's wonderful eye-candy; haven't played enough to comment on the gameplay. Although first impressions are that gameplay won't be anything exciting. Warcraft is still the best I've seen so far.

Anyways, here's the original screenshot:

And my manipulation:

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


All my lava questions have been answered

Answer 1. A shovel.

Answer 2. Yes, you can cook with lava.

Cooking with lava


Wireless digital camera

How come nobody is making a bluetooth digital camera yet? I would totally photoblog if I could just snap pics and what not and have them sync up to my computer when the camera gets in range. The usb cable / card reader bullshit is just annoying.

Sony has one (DSC-FX77) but it came out in 2002 and doesn't seem to be available. A noname company Concord makes one but it's more of a webcam like toy than a digital camera. Kodak is working on a wi-fi camera but it's expensive and BT seems more appropriate for a transfer technology (standard profiles for interoperability, short range, good availability).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005



The upcoming trip to Hawaii means that I could possibly see some lava up close. I read that it's illegal to remove anything from a national park (including magma) but I have been fascinated with the idea of getting some molten lava. I've done a tiny amount of research and discussed this with my co-workers and we have some ideas.

First, I suppose when I am talking about getting some lava, I mean surface flows. While most of the lava from the current eruption at Kilauea travels through underground lava tubes, some lava fields from there have a dull red glow - evidence of an active and at least partially molten surface. The serious molten lava that travels through the lava tubes is about 2000 degrees farenheit. So, the dim red glows sometimes seen at the surface that I am interested in are somewhere between 1000-1500 degrees.

My first idea here was to poke the lava with a stick. The thinking here was that a small amount would stay attached to the stick and, because it is removed from the exposure of the surrounding burning hot magma, it would cool down quickly. Even if the stick catches on fire, I thought, it might cool enough when not being poked in to retain it's basic stick shape and hold on to some of the lava. This idea still has not gained any traction here at the office, despite my finding that searching Google for "poke lava with a stick" returns a result.

Jason suggested some sort of container on a stick, like a coffee can. I told him the sample size I was looking for was smaller, plus given the illegality I'm thinking about something less conspicuous. "How about a can of dip on a stick?" A can of dip is too cardboardey. "Altoids tin attached to your shoe!" This is a definite possibility. The Altoids tin would certainly sustain considerable damage, but I think it would also probably successfully get at least a little lava maybe.

Rick says he saw someone on TV with a giant heat resistant ladle. If I see one on the way I will see how much it is. Maybe K-Mart or Williams Sonoma would have something like this. If the price is right I'll consider it. Keep your eyes open for me.

Bill was the office naysayer. He didn't like any of these ideas. He said the stick would immediately burn and the Altoids would melt. His only suggestion for getting lava was to check Ebay. That's why we call Bill "Mr. Useless."

Monday, May 09, 2005


More cryptic notes-to-self

Mike at work is loading Gentoo. He didn't want to use genkernel to build the kernel and started with a clean .config. We ran in to some interesting roadblocks when trying to get an initrd to work. This crap is barely documented anywhere so here's my notes.

initrd has two direct prerequisites in the kernel - ext2 (file system) and ramdisk support (block device). Ramdisk support must be compiled with the enable initrd support option (this sounds dumb, but it got me).

mkinitrd checks modules.conf for any scsi_hostadapter modules, which are automatically added. It would be wise to ensure these modules were enabled in the .config.

To mount an initrd to peek in to the linuxrc:

# cp /boot/initrd-blah-blah.img /tmp
# mv /tmp/initrd-blah.img /tmp/initrd.gz # for simplicity
# gunzip /tmp/initrd.gz
# mount -o loop /tmp/initrd /some/mount

The gentoo mkinitrd wanted to change /proc/sys/kernel/real-root-dev. In order for that to work, I think the kernel needs sysctl support enabled (general setting).

Finally, there was a failure when nash tried pivot_root - it pivots the current root to /initrd on the real root. That directory didn't exist. Also, for some reason passing root=/dev/sda3 didn't work. root=0803 (device major/minor id for sda2) did. Still haven't tracked that one down.


The US Cruise Industry

I'm taking a cruise to Hawaii in a couple of weeks. I like to research, so I did a bit of research on the history of NCL's America operations. The US cruise industry has a long and probably boring history. Read on only if bored.

A company that operated a few small ships around the country called "American Classic Voyages" in 1999 decided to run their largest venture yet by far - an American flagged Hawaiian cruise line. The American flagging is important - the Jones act (aka the "PSA") is a law that requires a cruise voyage to include a non-US port if the ship isn't US flagged. To put it another way, if, say, Carnival brought one of their ships in (none of them are US flagged), picked you up on Honolulu, and dropped you off without sailing to a foreign port, they would be fined $200 x the number of passengers. ACV saw an opportunity here - a US flagged line could cruise around Hawaii for a week and not have to do the day-and-a-half trip to the nearest non-US port in the Fanning Islands.

ACV had to do a lot of lobbying to implement their plan. The act stipulates that an American flagged cruise ship must be American built as well as American staffed. ACV planned to buy one (foreign-built) cruise ship to start out and build another two ships in the US. A modern cruise ship had never before been built in the US due to high manufacturing costs. This never before attempted feat was made possible with a big loan guarantee from the US ($1.1 billion).

ACV's first move was to purchase a ship formerly owned by Holland America Lines - the Nieuw Amsterdam for $114 million. Through a special exemption granted thanks to their lobbying, they were allowed to register this ship in the US even though it wasn't built there. They still had to meet the requirements of staffing the ship in the US. Meanwhile, the government also granted subsidies to one of it's favorite subcontractors, Northrop Grumman who ran the shipyard responsible for building the two new ships. The two new ships were to be completed in February 2004 and February 2005.

Fast forward to October 2001. Both Northrop and ACV are in neverending mediation because both sides blame the other for problems resulting in delays that have set back construction a year to 18 months. Even worse, ACV ran out of money, claiming that the terrorist attacks ruined their bookings. The bankruptcy means the US government (meaning you, the taxpayer) needed to cover their loan guarantee to the tune of $200 million net. What does $200 million buy? Most of the hull of the first ship and a bunch of construction equipment. A rip off considering the amount of work needed to be done. Consider this - NCL bought the partial hull, the construction material, and some construction equipment for $2 million.

The ship ACV bought (the Nieuw Amsterdam) was still under mortgage from HAL, so they took it back and renamed it back to the Nieuw Amsterdam. It was later sold.

NCL is the current winner of government favor. They were granted the only exception to the "American built" provision of the law for up to three ships. The only terms left to meet are the "American staffing" terms. Their exception only allows for sailings in Hawaii. The Pride of Aloha was another ship renamed and sailed in. The upcoming Pride of America is the result of taking the first hull partially built by ACV/Northrop and bringing it to a European shipyard to be finished. - history of the Nieuw Amsterdam - A rundown
of the legislative mess (greased palms) - A nice summary of how
the Jones act affects cruises

Friday, May 06, 2005


The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I just realized that I haven't posted about this movie yet! I saw it the day it came out, despite the mixed reviews. I liked it! There were a few moments where I even got emotional seeing these incredible stories finally come to movie form.

I saw some criticisms that were right and some that were wrong. For instance, yes, the love story (stories) is (are) crummy and detracts from the story. No, Mos Def is actually quite good as Ford. Yes, the story can seem disjointed to someone who isn't fully aware of the backstory. No, the guide entries were very good and certainly met my expectations in narration and animation.

The first review I read (by Adams biographer MJ Simpson) was horribly bad. It was so bad that I expected the movie to be an unrecognizable shell of the story it depicts. This was not the case. There were several elements that I was sure even a moderately good movie would skip that made it in to this version. For instance, the mental monologue of the sperm whale. Fantastic.

Tracey hasn't read the books in a long time and doesn't really remember them. She picked up on a number of story elements that it seemed the movie didn't explain well. For instance, she knew what Zaphod did to his brain, but not why. The Heart of Gold didn't get the explanation it deserves. The infinite improbability drive was only partially explained and more work could have been done here. The drive in particular ties the story together so the adventure seems more non-sequitir if you don't understand it. More frustrating still is that Tracey didn't understand why one might need a towel! Still, as an adventure movie, Hitchhikers succeeds.


Google indexing

Why is it so hard to get indexed by google? I don't even care really but it's just so strange. I have 25 posts, I update it ... well ok, I hardly really ever update it. It's just so strange. I've been involved with a few other very low traffic specialty sites that have even had some SEO and gone nowhere with Google. If I was a spammer I could probably throw it on a link farm and it would be indexed in a few seconds once they had a few hundered "reliable" inbound links. Maybe I should try to get on DMOZ for fun.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Ghost disk

I need to blog this for the record. I know nobody cares but I'll forget otherwise probably.

If you have a ghost disk that uses the old MS LANMAN net.exe DOS client, it may have problems appending to files on a Windows 2003 server. IE:

> echo hi > new.fil

works, and

> echo hello >> new.fil

Returns access denied. After a few hours poking at this, I decided it was a problem with the redirector. There's a net command that shows you running services on the DOS client. I checked it and it indicated the BASIC redirector was running.

After that, I ran:

> net stop basic
> net start full

Relogged in, reconnected to the drives... Everything works. I don't think this is documented anywhere.

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