22 Aug 2006

Part 3: Hawaiʻi


Though I'm pleased that ATA now cross-lists with Southwest, they pretty much suck. Asked at the airport what food was served on the plane, answer: nothing, not so much as a peanut, unless you paid for it. Credit cards only, no cash. Also, they wouldn't give you have pillows or blankets unless you bought them. The staff was uniformly surly and passive-aggressive, one of them picking an argument with the woman in the seat next to me over the credit-no-cash thing (she hadn't heard the announcement). A passenger got stuck behind the drink cart on the way back from the bathroom---it happens---and both of the attendants on the *other* drink cart made a huge production of warning the attendant the passenger was behind. As if this is not something that occurs on every single flight ever. Echhh.
When we touched down, I called and surprised Mike, who had checked the website, which said we were still over an hour away. It took forever and a day for my luggage to hit the baggage claim, but it did and we went back to his place, where I checked email and read up on bus schedules and tourism guides.


Called the local Catholic Church to ask about holy day Mass schedules. They said it wasn't an HDO; I thought that was set at the national level, not diocesan. Whatever. I decided to spend the day wandering downtown, ended up at the cathedral anyway and went to their noon Mass. Funky layout---it's long and narrow like all the old churches, but they've put the altar and lectern (and for that matter the cathedra) down the central axis, with all the pews parallel to the axis of the church and facing the middle. Fortunately, they appear to have preserved the pre-Vatican II altar in its entirety, along with the altar screen in front of it (which I had thought fell out of ecclesiastical architecture before the Reformation, but evidently not). Gorgeous. And this is the oldest active cathedral in the US, so I suppose that counts for something.
Grabbed sushi from a take-out place not far from the cathedral, then walked around the Fort Street open-air market and then Chinatown. There are a surprising number of fresh-food markets down that way. Anyway, caught the bus back and relaxed a bit.
Gaming! Finally got a chance to learn Cities and Knights. Good variant. Tried to get midnight sushi (cheaper after 10:30, otherwise they just have to throw it out anyway) but they were closed early on Tuesdays; ended up at Zippy's instead.


Went with Mike on an errand and discovered that Home Depots are pretty much the same everywhere. Prices not too much worse here, either.
Thought it'd be nice to go on out to Makapuʻu Point to walk the trail, and there's a bus line that goes pretty much there. Guide book said to take the golf course stop, then walk along the road ahead 20 minutes; I missed the stop, but figured I'd just hike back instead. The problem being that the road between Makapuʻu Point and Sea Life Park (the next stop) is mountain on one side and cliff on the other, with not much space for walking. Ah well, didn't seem too dangerous except right after the curve, when I couldn't see the cars. Anyway, I walked the trail, and it's pretty neat to be at a place where you get about 240 degrees of nothing but ocean. You could even see Molokaʻi from there. Walking back, I figured I'd go back to the golf course stop---which actually turned out to be further away, and still no real place to walk---and then I ended up sitting there for nearly an hour. One bus schedule said the busses were supposed to be every 30 minutes; the guidebook said the last one was at 7:15. At 7:20 I sighed and called Mike and Tami... fortunately just then the bus showed up!


Morning and afternoon:
I spent all day at the Bishop Museum, which is a pretty neat place. First cut-stone building in the islands; with permanent exhibits on Hawaiʻi and Polynesia (though much of the Hawaiian stuff was closed for renovations, alas). Also, lauhala weaving and hula demonstrations. Also, a real melted lava demo. And a planetarium show on Polynesian navigation techniques. (Also, randomly, the travelling Grossology exhibit.) It's like three different kinds of museum rolled into one. Not to be missed.
For dinner, wandered over to the strip mall restaurants, and tried the Korean place. They actually served a bi bim bap with raw meat and egg in a hot stone bowl: perfection. (And for the squeamish, after you mix everything together the meat and egg end up being lightly cooked by the bowl, actually.) Followed that up with a trip to Cold Stone Creamery, which I'd heard raves about but managed to never hear their gimmick, which is that they have a cold stone (as such) that they mix the ice cream on. All those nifty Ben and Jerry's inventions? You could get them here, except that they'll mix the ice cream and the stuff (cookie dough, banana, sprinkles, Heath bars, whatever) on the spot. Way cool.


Figured it was about time to hit the local yarn shop. Ursula's Needle Arts is on Kalākaua just a couple blocks from here, so I headed over there. The shop would pretty much fit into my bedroom, but it's neatly arranged and has a surprising amount of stuff. Ursula herself was clearly a German emigré, and the other women in the shop (occupying that common yarn-shop niche of customer-and-salesman) were a mix of Hawaiian-born and mainlanders. It was a great group. The $4-a-ball sale of a discontinued yarn was pretty great, too... fortunately, I had happened to bring my checkbook with me, though, because they didn't take credit cards. I literally can't remember the last time I wrote a check for a store purchase; weird.
Wandered generally towards Ala Moana mall, got some excellent pho in a little Vietnamese hole in the wall on a little side street, then wandered the whole mall for a few hours.
Mike's friend Torin took us (well, Mike drove, but you know) to a Bon dance, which is a traditional Buddhist thing where a central tower that's all decorated and has music loudspeakers, and a broad swathe of ground (well, parking lot) around it, where people dance in a repeating pattern that slowly advances counterclockwise. Sort of a line-dance, except circular. Each song has its own separate dance, though of course there are a lot of individual moves that show up throughout. The dance seems to be a sort of offering in honour of ancestors, at least originally, although many of the people were doing it as a strictly cultural event. They have a few of these every weekend all summer, hosted at various temples all over the islands. This particular one also featured a troupe of taiko drummers, most of them quite young, who were very good. I also got a chance to look at the inside of a Buddhist temple, and was slightly surprised to find that it looked more or less like any other church, except for what was on and over the altar. Some year I should really check out what a Buddhist service would be like. We ended the evening at Zippy's again, where Mike was denied twice before he picked a dessert they weren't out of.

"Puritans came frequently to Vagabond-camps bearing the information that at the time of the creation of the Universe---thousands of years ago!---certain of those present had been predestined by God to experience salvation. The rest of them were doomed to spend eternity burning in hellfire. This intelligence was called, by the Puritans, the Good News." --Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver

Posted by blahedo at 5:00am | Comments (0)

21 Aug 2006

Stupid Tourist Tax

Ugh, I hate paying Stupid Tourist Tax. How on earth did I manage to miss the fact that if I went to a tropical rain forest there might be a few mosquitoes? (Yikes, make that a ton of mosquitoes.)

Though, I have to admit, as Stupid Tourist Taxes go, $4 isn't bad.

"Why did Daniel refuse to hate Roger? Not out of blindness to Roger's faults, for he saw Roger's moral cowardice as clearly as Hooke peering through a lens at a newt. Not out of Christian forgiveness, either. He refused to hate Roger because Roger saw moral cowardice in Daniel, had done so for years, and yet did not hate Daniel. Fair's fair." --Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver

Posted by blahedo at 5:19pm | Comments (0)

20 Aug 2006

Part 2: San Francisco


Arrive at the downtown Caltrain station at 11:30. Begin hike towards hostel, up 4th. Passed a Filipino Days parade going the other direction; got to Mission Street a few minutes shy of noon and decided to hit St Pat's 12:15 instead of one of the afternoon Masses as planned.
Brunch is two puff pastries from Beard Papa's, a little shop basically next to the church. I then continue towards the hostel. A few blocks along, I'm thinking, hey, pretty flat, I thought San Francisco was notoriously hilly? Then I turned a corner. San Francisco is pretty hilly. Found the Adelaide at the end of a short dead-end alley just off Taylor, checked in, and dropped off my stuff. Made connection with cousin Dan, a lifelong resident of the city, who offers not only to give me a driving tour but to feed me as well. The tour was a perfect mix of tourist stuff and stuff you'd never normally see, along with running commentary of the last several decades of city history. Dinner was a baked frittata made by Dan's wife Joan. MMmmmm.
After I got back to the hostel, I really didn't feel like going out again. I read for a while in the common room, logged in to check email, and ended up in bed just before midnight.


I tried to get off to an early start, took a brief detour to complain about CNN after breakfast, but made it off relatively early anyway. Walked down to the Muni station, got sidetracked into checking out UN Plaza and the City Hall, then really did get on the Muni to head out to the Mission, the original mission of the Franciscans in the area, founded just a few days before the Declaration of Independence was signed (though of course this was in Spanish Mexico at the time, so that wasn't very relevant). The original adobe mission building still stands and is in active use, though the parish's regular Sunday Masses are in the adjacent basilica. Nifty place. After wandering around the Mission District for a bit, I took the J back downtown and connected to a bus up to the marina, where I meant to check out the wave organ, although the tide wasn't right to really show it off. Good view, though.
At this point, I headed back to Chinatown for lunch, then walked to the Cable Car Museum, which is A) free, and B) actually the working hub of SF's cable car system. I spent not nearly enough time there before I had to dash back to the hostel to pick up my backpack and continue on down to the BART station. BART trains turn out to be very fast and surprisingly quiet, prompting one to use verbs like "whisked". In point of fact, the train whisked me through a tunnel under the bay, then past Port of Oakland and on to the Oakland Coliseum, where I transferred to the AirBART bus to the airport. Check-in was easy, security was easy, and before too terribly long I was on a plane to the 50th state.

"I'm just a cranky old alum out looking for trouble. Clearly I've found the right place." --Eric Stuckey

Posted by blahedo at 4:57am | Comments (0)

18 Aug 2006

Part 1: San Jose

Thursday: transit.

Fly out of Midway around 1:15, brief non-plane-change layover in San Diego, arrive in San Jose around 5:30 local time.
Fly out of Midway around 3:15, arrive in San Diego and first learn that we won't change planes, but then someone changed their minds and we did change planes (and didn't leave for another hour and half). Finally arrived in San Jose around 9:30, sans luggage and all things considered liquid, including lens solution, which is liquid, and toothpaste, which really isn't.


Competed. Took 5th in silver rhythm (from a semi), less well in other events. Ran into Mike and Jayne from Rhode Island.
Ate at a little coffee-shop-and-bakery a few blocks away. Went back to watch early rounds of some pre-champ and champ competitions.
Went for sushi at the place next to the coffee shop. When Bryan and Jill left to watch the evening events, Kathy and Ian and I walked to a bar. Then back to the hotel to get Kathy's ID, and then back to the bar again. Learned what bars smell like when they don't smell like smoke. Otherwise uneventful.


Got up before the slowpokes and got a chance to wander around SJSU and downtown San Jose. A lovely little semiburban city. Got sucked into a Borders, but escaped with little damage: one book I'd been meaning to buy for a while, and just one clearance item.
While Bryan and Jill watched Michael and Amelia, Kathy and Ian and I found some Indian fast food (naan wraps---the ultimate fusion food). While eating, Marissa and Michael and Dave (from BBDT) walked past. Chatted with them for a bit, before they headed back to the comp. Wandered over to The Tech to spend the afternoon.
Walked to San Pedro Square to find food. Settled on one place that looked nice and posted decent prices, but after we'd asked for a table, the host asked whether we wanted the other restaurant that shared its front door. So we went to the other restaurant, but this appears to be its back door actually, and there's no host at this end, so we walk all the way through the place and end up seated on the patio on the other side. The food is adequate. We then go back to watch evening events, where we get to snark about the costumes and the embarrassingly low quality of the rhythm events. Took a BBDT reunion photo with Michael, Marissa, Dave, Angie, and Alex.

Sunday morning:
Took the trolley to San Jose Diridon station, where there is no marking as to how to get to the Caltrain area; fortunately someone else was headed the same way, or I would certainly not have thought I was supposed to open the gates onto the tracks to cross them. Purchased a ticket from a vending machine, which gave no indication that it only gave change in quarters, even if you give it a twenty. Proceeded through the tunnel, which gives no indication as to the correct platform for northbound trains; ran up the wrong ramp before running back down and up the right one. All this running about with full hiker backpack and satchel cause serious windedness, requiring eyes-closed slow-breathing rest before getting back to normal. Fortunately, the train seems to have deparated in the direction of San Francisco and I had a full ninety minutes to rest and get started on Quicksilver.

"Folks, the President needs a break. He's like a Black-and-Decker cordless Dirt Devil vacuum. If you don't recharge his batteries, he can't suck!" --Stephen Colbert

Posted by blahedo at 2:52am | Comments (3)

14 Aug 2006

Still not convinced

Indeed, I'm less convinced before that our current administration isn't just giving us a snow job over this whole airline security kerfuffle. I was just watching CNN in the hostel's* dining room, and this is as close to a direct quote as I can do from memory:

VOICEOVER: American travellers adapted quickly to the new set of luggage regulations. But what if the terrorists think the same way? Security experts are now worried that terrorists can use the new regulations to attack planes from the cargo hold.

"EXPERT": Here at LAX, we simply don't have the ability to scan large pieces of cargo for explosives. We are working with companies to develop this technology even now.

VOICEOVER: Blah blah blah greater danger blah blah terrorism blah blah new regulations blah blah blah.

But here's the thing: although travellers are checking more luggage---an obvious consequence of restricting what they can put in their carryons---and therefore the system is at higher flow, the regulations on checked luggage haven't changed at all. So all of this "new danger", "we were caught unawares", etc, it's all a great big lie: they have said that they don't have any specific knowledge of plans to stick bombs in checked luggage, and the generic danger is absolutely no worse than it was a week ago. The entire purpose of this media campaign of Michael Chertoff and the other members of the administration is to create fear and terror in the population, presumably in an attempt to get permission (or forgiveness, or complacency) for more rounds of their treasonous, failed policies.

*Ooh, forgot to mention: I'm in San Francisco right now, in a downtown hostel at the end of a dead-end alley. I'm off shortly to explore a bit. I'm really in a much better mood than the rest of this post would seem to indicate. :)

"And I wonder if that includes Jesus of Nazareth, who, as Gibson may have discovered during his extensive research for his movie, was Jewish. Maybe the fact that Jesus' mother had a nice Catholic name was confusing." --Fr Jim Martin, SJ

Posted by blahedo at 10:15am | Comments (0)

10 Aug 2006

Credibility shot

I realised to my surprise as I was reading about the whole airline security hubbub that the Bush administration credibility was so thoroughly shot that I still kind of see this, at least the US end of it, as just a stunt. This level of cynicism surprises even me, honestly. But although we apparently have very detailed information on the plot, we don't even know at all what kind of "liquid" is involved? And more importantly, despite the fact that, again, we have very specific information about which flights and what people were involved and how this plot was supposed to work (involving flights originating in UK, even), no "liquid" is allowed on airline flights anywhere in the US, period, including toothpaste, which isn't much of a liquid. And the threat level is "raised to orange", when we had gotten rid of that whole system because it was stupid and meaningless then, and just as stupid and meaningless now, except as a means to instill terror in the entire population and use fear to boost the popularity of the administration.

It'll probably work, too.


"Baseball caps are inelegant. They are boyish. They are a symbol of the American determination to make every occasion, however special, into a subset of "casual Friday." They are sporty in the obnoxious extreme. They are everything that has gone wrong in American style since mid-century." --PeaceBang

Posted by blahedo at 9:29am | Comments (2)

5 Aug 2006


I schlepped over to Monmouth tonight to catch the last showing of Godspell. I'm glad I didn't call ahead to reserve a ticket, because they were sold out (all three shows had sold out in advance!), but as it happened someone didn't show up and I was able to claim the very last ticket.

I had never seen it before, and was keen to; I'd heard some of the music and was generally aware of it as a JCS-ish 70s rock opera that retold the Gospel according to St Matthew. Seeing this instance of reinterpreting religious text and subtext into a popular mode made two things clear: why this might ever have seemed like a good idea, and why it might not be a very good idea. It seems nice that it gets people all fired up about Jesus or whatever; but there is a danger that it can somewhat cheapen the religious experience, making it just another rock concert.

Which is not to say the show was without a few powerful moments. There were only a few, unfortunately. Seen simply as spectacle, the picture brightens a bit; there were several beautifully-executed comedic moments, and the music was fabulous. There were a few of the usual suspects up on stage, plus a few I'd not seen before. Jesus, as played by Mike Axtell, had a striking singing voice, and even showed off his piano skills, accompanying two of the numbers himself (including one where he was also the lead singer). I almost feel like the musical talent in this show was squandered, because there was so much unison singing—this cast could have pulled off music considerably more difficult than this.

It sort of made me wish this had just been a musical revue. The non-musical parts were much more hit-or-miss. As I mentioned, there were some powerful moments and many comedic moments, but for the most part the acted parables dragged considerably. There could have been lots of reasons for that, but based on the R-M article about it I'm going to blame the improv nature of the scenes and guess that they just hadn't had enough rehearsal to work out their dramatic/comedic timing. Alas.

I will say this, though: picking Matthew's Gospel for this show was certainly no accident. When the writers were putting it together in the early 70s, Matthew's hippie Jesus was certainly an irresistible show topic, with messages of peace and love laced throughout nearly every parable. The betrayal and death and resurrection, while present, are not the focus. I just wish that the calling-out of the hypocrites and the Pharisees, written 35 years ago and based on a 2000-year-old script, didn't read so strongly as an allegory of our country's current political atmosphere....

"I buy Cosmo occasionally. I get a kick out of finding out what men are really thinking." --Neal Groothuis

Posted by blahedo at 11:58pm | Comments (0)