Good Bye 2011

Firstly, last night I had a dream where my parents adopted a Persian Arabian American boy. All I can say is, what the hell....?

2011 is a depressing year in America (Ready to kiss 2011 goodbye? - via MSNBC) due to hostile national politics and a terrible economy to say the least, and it hasn't been any less demoralizing or depressing on the personal front either. 2011 was supposed to be my personal year of growth and opportunity. Hell, my birthday this year even landed on 11-11-11. I thought that was supposed to bring good luck. I haven't been regularly posting on this blog for quite some time, mainly because of work and stress in the first half of the year and then emotional depression in the second half.

As always, I'm thankful for all the knowledge and experience I gained this year. And while a great deal of it was stressful, there was as much goodness in my life too. I am grateful for that. Many other things happened this year that I cannot talk about here, but I think I'm glad they happened. At the moment, I'm still not sure. It's probably safe to say, though, that 2011 was a year filled with unfortunate circumstances, awkward relationships, and way too much time to think. But no regrets. We move on.

This year, I graduated from Cornell for a second time. I visited Boston to see Myra; I visited Hawaii for the first time with Stephen, Farrah, and Benson; I visited Denver to see Hans; I visited State College to hang out with Taylor; I visited Washington, DC to see Mony. I worked with and led an amazing group of guys for CUSD. I got a free ride to New York City for a weekend on CUSD-business. I designed and built furniture for the new basement. I accomplished a personal biking goal this summer across Jamaica Bay. I got sick only once this year, in October. I started leaning toward casual veganism. Hans, Myra, and Sebastian (OTEC-1) came down to New York over my birthday weekend. I baked a two layer cake.

I've applied to hundreds of jobs. I've had several phone interviews and two face-to-face interviews. I even trekked up to Cornell for one. This December I got a job offer in DC, and I moved there officially over Christmas. Toward the end of the year, I saw many old friends in an effort to remember old roots and re-experience the good times.

Nearing sunset on Christmas Day, in WDC.
But looking forward, I anticipate 2012 to be one epic year. I'm excited. (It's also the year of the dragon next year, which isn't necessarily good for dragons like me, according to Chinese thinking. But it should be okay.) Not only will it be a big year for personal growth, 2012 has the London Olympics, the US presidential elections, and the 2012 apocalypse. (For the record, my money's on either an asteroid or an earthquake.)

Obviously 2012 will be life-changing for me. I am starting a new life soon. There's quite a bit that I want to accomplish in the year, but here's just one lifestyle idea I think we all can get behind... I once heard someone say as he was saying good bye, "Make it a great day, okay?" Thank you. I will try. Every day.

Finally, it was much harder to choose 2011's personal photo of the year than last year's, which was taken of me, by Hans. But I think I'll choose this photo for 2011 because, although I just took it last weekend, it does summarize a great deal of what this year was about for me—first, family; and second, trying to move on with life. This picture was taken when the whole family went down to DC to help me move into my new apartment on Christmas weekend.

Happy New Year. Here's hoping for a kick-ass 2012.

Steve Jobs

I finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson earlier this week. It was worth it, and I recommend anyone who is remotely interested in modern technology to read it. A great writer is complemented by an extremely fascinating life story. (I hope I don't come off as too biased because I am, just a little, but it'd definitely one of the better Steve Jobs biographies I've read so far.)

Here are some quotes I wrote down as I was reading the book...

Steve Jobs cover.

"Reflecting years later on his [Jobs's] spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. 'The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,' he told me. 'I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don't. It's the great mystery." (p. 15)

"'He was an enlightened being who was cruel,' she [Brennan] recalled. 'Thats a strange combination.'" (p. 32)

"The calligraphy course would become iconic in that regard. 'If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.'" (p. 41)

"This fusion of flower power and processor power, enlightenment and technology, was embodied by Steve Jobs as he meditated in the mornings, audited physics classes at Stanford, worked nights at Atari, and dreamed of starting his own business." (p. 57)

"It was Sunday, June 29, 1975, a milestone for the personal computer. 'It was the first time in history,' Wozniak later said, 'anyone had typed a character on a keyboard and seen it show up on their own
computer's screen right in front of them.'" (p. 61)

"'His [Markkula] values were much aligned with mine. He emphasized that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Our goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.'" (p. 78)

"'I got a feeling for the empowering aspect of naďveté,' Atkinson said. 'Because I didn't know it couldn't be done, I was enabled to do it.'" (p. 100) "'You did the impossible, because you didn't realize it was impossible.' (p. 119)

"Before and after he was rich, and indeed throughout a life that included being broke and a billionaire, Steve Jobs's attitude toward wealth was complex. He was an antimaterialistic hippie who capitalized
on the inventions of a friend who wanted to give them away for free, and he was a Zen devotee who made a pilgrimage to India and then decided that his calling was to create a business. And get somehow these attitudes seemed to weave together rather than conflict." (p. 104-105)

Jobs: "I never worried about money. I grew up in a middle-class family, so I never thought I would starve. And I learned at Atari that I could be an okay engineer, so I always knew I could get by. I was voluntarily poor when I was in college and India, and I loved a pretty simple life even when I was working. So I went from fairly poor, which was wonderful, because I didn't have to worry about money, to being incredibly rich, when I also didn't have to worry about money. / I watched people at Apple who made a lot of money and felt they had to live differently. Some of them bought a Rolls-Royce and various houses, each with a house manager and then someone to manage the house mangers. Their wives got plastic surgery and turned into these bizarre people. This was not how I wanted to live. It's crazy. I made a promise to myself that I'm not going to let this money ruin my life." (p. 105)

"In various interviews, Jobs had been referring to computers as a bicycle for the mind; the ability of humans to create a bicycle allowed them to move more efficiently than even a condor, and likewise the ability to create computers would multiply the efficiency of their minds." (p. 115)

"One day Jobs came into the cubicle of Larry Kenyon, an engineer who was working on the Macintosh operating system, and complained that it was taking too long to boot up. Kenyon started to explain, but Jobs cut him off. 'If we could save a person's life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?' he asked. Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if there were five million people using the Mac, and it took ten seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to three hundred million or so hours per year that people would save, which was the equivalent of at least one hundred lifetimes saved per year. 'Larry was suitably impressed, and a few weeks later he came back and it booted up twenty-eight seconds faster,' Atkinson recalled. 'Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture.'" (p. 123)

"When the design was finally locked in, Jobs called the Macintosh team together for a ceremony. 'Real artists sign their work,' he said. So he got out a sheet of drafting paper and a Sharpie pen and had all of them sign their names. The signatures were engraved inside each Macintosh. No one would ever see them, but the members of the team knew that their signatures were inside, just as they knew that the circuit board was laid out as elegantly as possible. jobs called them each up by name, one at a time. Burrell Smith went first. Jobs waited until last, after all forty-five of the others. He found a place right in the center of the sheet and signed his name in lowercase letters with a grand flair. Then he toasted them with champagne. 'With moments like this, he got us seeing our work as art,' said Atkinson." (p. 134)

"Eve thirty years later, reflecting back on the competition, Jobs cast it as a holy crusade: 'IBM was essentially Microsoft at its worst. Hey were not a force for innovation; they were a force for evil. They were like ATT or Microsoft or Google is.'" (p. 136)

"So the '1984' ad was a way of reaffirming, to himself and to the world, his desired self-image. The heroine, with a drawing of a Macintosh emblazoned on her pure white tank top, was a renegade out to foil the establishment. By hiring Ridley Scott, fresh off the success of Blade Runner, as the director, Jobs could attach himself and Apple to the cyberpunk ethos of the time. With the ad, Apple could identify itself with the rebels and hackers who thought differently, and Jobs could reclaim his right to identify with them as well." (p. 163)

"'Each one thought he was smarter than the other one, but Steve generally treated Bill [Gates] as someone who was slightly inferior, especially in matters of taste and style,' said Andy Hertzfeld. 'Bill looked down on Steve because he couldn't actually program.' From the beginning of their relationship, Gates was fascinated by Jobs and slightly envious of his mesmerizing effect on people. But he also found him 'fundamentally odd' and 'weirdly flawed as a human being,' and he was put off by Job's rudeness and his tendency to be 'either in the mode of saying you were shit or trying to seduce you.' For his part, Jobs found Gates unnervingly narrow. 'he'd be a broader guy if he had dropped aside one or gone off to an ashram when he was younger,' Jobs once declared. / Their differences in in personality and character would lead them to opposite sides of what would become the fundamental divide in the digital age. Jobs was a perfectionist who craved control and indulged in the uncompromising temperament of an artist; he and Apple became the exemplars of a digital strategy that tightly integrated hardware, software, and content into a seamless package. Gates was a smart, calculating, and pragmatic analyst of business and technology; he was open to licensing Microsoft's operating system and software to a various of manufacturers. / After thirty years Gates would develop a grudging respect for Jobs. 'He really never knew much about technology, but he had an amazing instinct for what works,' he said. But Jobs never reciprocated by fully appreciating Gates's real strengths. 'Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he's more conformable now in philanthropy than technology,' Jobs said, unfairly. 'He just shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas.'" (pp. 172-173)

In 1985, Jobs: "Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get struck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. / I'll always stay contacted with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I'll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I'm not there, but I'll always come back.... / If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you've done and whoever you were and throw them away. / The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to say, 'Bye. I have to go now. I'm going crazy and I'm getting out of here.' And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently." (pp. 189-190)

"He [Jobs] later claimed it was mainly out of curiosity. 'I believe in environment more than heredity in determining your traits. But still you have to wonder a little about your biological roots,' he said."
(p. 254)

"For all of his willfulness and insatiable desire to control tags, Jobs was indecisive and reticent when he felt unsure about something. He craved perfection, and he was not always good at figuring out how
to settle for something less. He did not like to wrestle with complexity or make accommodations. This was true in products, design, and furnishings for the house. It was also true when it came to personal commitments. If he knew for sure a course of action was right, he was unstoppable. But if he had doubts, he sometimes withdrew, preferring not to the about things that did not perfectly suit him." (p. 315)

"At times Jobs displayed a strange mixture of prickliness and neediness, he usually didn't care on iota what people thought of him; he could cut people off and never care to speak to them again. Yet sometimes he also felt a compulsion to explain himself." (p. 316)

"One of Jobs's great strengths was knowing how to focus. 'deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,' he said. 'That's true for companies, and it's true for products.'" (p. 336)

"One of the first things Jobs did during the product review process was ban PowerPoints. 'I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,' Jobs later recalled. 'People would confront a
problem by creating a presentation. I want them to engage, to hash things. out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they're talking about don't need PowerPoint.'" (p. 337)

"After a few weeks Jobs finally had enough. 'Stop!' he shouted at one big product strategy session. 'This is crazy.' He grabbed a magic marker, padded to a whiteboard, and drew a horizontal and vertical line to make a four-squared chart. 'Here's what we need,' he continued. Atop the two columns he wrote 'Consumer' and 'Pro'; he hobbled the two rows 'Desktop' and 'Portable.' Their job, he said, was the make four great products, one for each quadrant. 'The room was in dumb silence,' Schiller recalled." (p. 337)

Ive: " Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn't just a visual style. It's not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of a complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it's manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential." (p. 343)

"Design was not just about what a product looked like on the surface. It had to reflect the product's essence. 'In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer,' Jobs told Fortune shortly after retaking the reins at Apple. 'But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers.'" (p. 343)

Jobs: "The older I get, the more I see how much motivations matter. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft don't really love music or art the way we do. We won because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you're doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you're not going to cheese out. If you don't love something, you're not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much." (p. 407)

"So he [Jobs] had the Pixar building designed to promote encounters and unplanned collaborations. 'If a building doesn't encourage that, you'll lose a lot of innovation and the magi that's spared by serendipity,' he said. 'So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.' ... 'Steve's theory worked from day one,' Lasseter recalled. 'I kept running into people I hadn't seen for months. I've never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.'" (p. 431)

Apple core values, by Cook: "We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that's not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make; and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don't settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we're wrong and the courage to change. And I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well." (p. 488)

Jobs, on liberal arts and technology: "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. We believe that it's technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing. Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. Folks are rushing into this tablet market, and they're looking at it as the next PC, in which the hardware and the software are done by different companies. Our experience, and every bone in our body, says that is not the right approach. These are post-PC devices that need to be even more intuitive and easier to use than a PC, and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to be intertwined in an even more seamless way than they are on a PC. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon, but in our organization, to build these kinds of products." (p. 527)

After Jobs gave his son Reed one of his bicycles: "When Reed said he would be indebted, Jobs answered, 'You don't need to be indebted, because you have my DNA.' A few days later Toy Story 3 opened. Jobs had nurtured this Pixar trilogy from the beginning, and the final installment was about the emotions surrounding the departure of Andy for college. 'I wish I could always be with you,' Andy's mother says. 'You always will be,' he replied." (p. 540)

"He got Apple back on track by cutting all except a few core products. He made devices simpler by eliminating buttons, software simpler by eliminating features, and interfaces simpler by eliminating options." (p. 564)

*****

And other pages of interest to me: P 112 quote on managing, ideas, and stealing. P 310. Apple is like a ship with a hole. P 350-351. iMac handle's design rationale. P 512. Jobs quote to destroy Android. P 544-545. Advice to Obama, and about education. P 563. "Future of the Internet and How to Stop It," and the harm of integrated argument.

The Uncommon Cold

According to my notably feeble memory, this is the first I got sick in 2011. It looks like it's an ordinary cold. And I was two months from claiming a full year free of sickness!

For me, these bouts of sickness always begin with a scratchy or sore throat. Then it progresses to the runny nose phase that can last a few days if I'm not careful. Depending on the severity of the cold/flu, it will sometimes be followed by a fever, and sometimes with body ache. The runny nose would then switch to a stuffy nose, which means a stuffed nose and lots of mild coughing is next. Yay.

Although it's been a while since I caught a cold, this is also a short one, which is welcome. First symptoms set in this past Sunday; recovery begins tomorrow.

Kevin Fact 15

Maztah ball soup is my favorite soup. Not bad for an Asian American, eh?

Update

Yeah, I'm still here.

Getting involved with several personal projects this summer. Going to be MIA for a while. Updates to come.

Kevin Fact 14

Sometimes, I refuse to answer questions on exams or refuse to participate in class on a matter of principle. Yes, there are questions either too dumb to answer or not worth answering. Maybe that's why I don't do well in school anymore; I've become too clever and too principled for my own good.

Kevin Fact 13

I watch movies with English subtitles turned on. It is probably a habit from back when I watched television and my parents would have closed captioning turned on.

Air Traveling in 2011

Flying Delta, in MSP.
By this Saturday, I will have traveled through 10 different airports within three weeks: JFK, ATL*, DEN*, MSP*, ITH, DTW*, LAX, SJC*, PHX*, EWR. So much traveling! But it's awesome. (* = first time)

In addition to the above, I have been at these airports at least once while traveling: ANC, NRT, TPE, HNL, SEA, MCO, TPA. While I haven't been to too many places (only 17 airports in my lifetime), about 60% of all the airports I've ever been through happened in the past month.

I have only been on a handful of major airlines: Delta, Northwest, American, JetBlue, Continental, and China Airlines. By Saturday, I will be adding US Airways to the list.

And for the record, Minnesota–St. Paul International is my favorite airport.

10,000 Feet Up

10,000 feet up. Rocky Mountain National Park.
Full of poor parking. Hans's car to the right.
While I am still in the process of working on the Colorado photos (I took over 1000 and many of them are duplicate attempts or just downright not worth showing), I would like to mention two things I learned on my trip:

1. The air is really dry in Colorado.
2. Most drivers do not bother parking straight in their spots, although often times they are at least within their lines.

Seven Days in Colorado

Elk, grazing.
Colorado is a really nice change of scenery, much unlike what I am used to in the East. Prior to this trip, the closest I've ever been to the Rocky Mountains was Las Vegas. Now, I suppose I can say I have actually been on one of these mountains, in Rocky Mountain National Park (my first American national park, I think). It was amazing. And the fact that we can go from a warm 60 degrees in Denver to really cold, and tons of snow at 10,000 feet up was cool and interesting, to say the least (pun, intended).

 And, OMG, real life elk!

Garden of the Gods, CO.

Kevin Fact 12

I know many people associate Champagne or other sparkling wines for celebrations and happy occasions. My grape wine of choice is Sauvignon Blanc from California, especially during relief after a high-stress event. It's just tradition, I suppose. Tonight is one of those nights.

American Airlines and JetBlue, JFK Visit

Checking out a B777.
JetBlue Ramp Tower.
Yesterday, I went on a field trip with the Airlines Management class from the hotel school to JFK in New York. It was definitely weird being so close to home (about 20 minutes away on a good day), but we spent all of our time at the airport, visiting American Airline's hangers and Terminal 8 and JetBlue's Terminal 5.

We left Cornell at 4 am, getting to Terminal 8 at around 9:30 am. We left there around 4:30 am to return around 9:30 pm.

I've seen things and been to places the general public will never get a chance to see and visit. I sat in the captain's seat on an AA Boeing 777 at the AA maintenance hanger. (They were changing out a windshield panel, and looking at the Japanese in the plane, our guess was it was a JFK to Tokyo plane.) I sat in first class on the same plane. I touched and walked under the belly of a few AA Boeing planes. I stood up close to a real-life jet engine. I sat in a "Even More Legroom" seat on a JetBlue A320. I got to visit the flight operations offices, crew lounges, and ramp towers of both AA and JetBlue. We met many interesting people, including pilots, flight attendants, and operations and tower control people. They answered a lot of our questions, which was really cool. Oh, and of course, we got a lot of free stuff.

All in all, it was an epic trip. Jealous much? :-)
Goodie bags.

I Be Cooking

Deep Fried Cauliflower.
Pesto Spaghetti
This year's self-improvement theme—aside from the continuing last year's theme of becoming a pro at air travel—is cooking. I've been regularly making food since coop summer and started doing the "Wine Dinner" thing senior year. This 2011, however, I'm turning up the heat (har har).

This weekend required new techniques and stuff that I can actually say I'm more comfortable doing again when I need to. (A lot of this was a first attempt on my own, and I was honestly a little scared of deep frying stuff.) The deep fried cauliflower required use of my new whisk and tongs, both of which I purchased not even two weeks ago. The pesto spaghetti required the use of a blender for the sauce.

I suppose I'll get a little more serious into food photography as I try to get better at both cooking and making photographs.

Check out my Flickr set 'Food and Cooking'.

Via the conversion of sound into cogitation...

I was cleaning my room and ended up browsing through my high school yearbook, reading the messages and notes that old friends have written in it. One of my closer friends wrote me a short message in a small box. After seeing how little he wrote, I yelled and asked him to write more (on Post-its) as an addendum. What a smart ass...
Via the conversion of sound into cogitation through my auditory canal, I perceive that 1 Mr. Kevin [C] desires that I write more in his annual folio. For this reason, I shall resume ejaculating the boundless praise that he is deserving of. While I may not be exceedingly fond of his visage, I've come to enjoy the company of its twisted features, finding comfort in its striking angularity and pallid hue. This horrid sight is but a prelude, a mask disguising the wonder that is Kevin. I am afraid that a man of my oratory and literary faculties will be unable to accurately convey his greatness, but I shall attempt nevertheless. 
Kevin [C] was born in a log cabin in Formosa in 1988 to Taiwanese butternut squash farmers. He soon grew to be a stalwart, a mighty slayer of insects. Then he went to Brooklyn Tech and eventually met Kent. Since then, his overwhelming intellectual and firm grip on reality have markedly diminished, but in the process, gave him some memorable moments with the aforementioned Asian. Hopefully the moments will be cherished long past their occurrences, living forever, chronicled for eternity in both their minds and Gmail mailboxes. Hopefully.
It's funny how stupid and simple things like these can bring such solace when it's being sought.

Kevin Fact 11

Sunset in Hawaii.
Anyone that knows me knows that I can be very sentimental at times, chewing on the past and thinking a lot about what-ifs and how-did-that-happens.

It is nearly time to go back to school for the last semester at Cornell ever, a semester I haven't been looking forward to for a long time now. Campus will be painfully empty after I return to campus and realize that all the December graduates did not. (We were the leftovers, pursuing our M. Eng's after our undergraduate graduation last May.)

For better or for worse, 2010 was simultaneously the best and worst year of my life. Right now, life is not good. But I do have a knack for fixing things; I'm sure I will pull myself through this trough of life. Or am I just taking credit away from Time?

[Hawaii 2011] Day 7: Dole Pineapple Plantation Maze, H3, and BBQ

Scenic point off H3, taken straight from the iPhone.
Stephen and Farrah finishing the maze.
Today's our last full day in Hawaii, in which a 30% chance of rain turned out to be yet another perfect-weather day. In the early afternoon, we went to the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa. Benson and I finished the "world's largest maze" in about 40 minutes, beating Stephen and Farrah by a few minutes. The pineapples were awesome. Earlier in the day, I tweeted: "A slice of fresh pineapple is a bite of pure happiness. And I had three." That pretty much sums up the day.

Tonight's Dinner.
After the Dole Plantation Stephen and I really wanted to check out the mythical (not really) H3 "interstate" highway. I must say, it is one of my most favorite highways to drive down. The scenic value of it is off the charts. We stop several times for scenic views and photos.

Dinner tonight comprised of steak and hamburgers that we put on the grill along with a whole ton of leftovers from the week. Benson made the burgers and prepped the steak. I did the grilling (for the most part, until Benson started yelling at me; haha). All in all, we had a great time, sharing stories and answering Farrah's silly questions like, What was your favorite place we went to this week?

One of our few group photos, at sunset.
We all fly out more or less together tomorrow afternoon. Benson's the first to fly out at 4. Stephen and Farrah at 5. And I am peacing out at a late 10 pm, which means I'll have a lot of time to kill at the airport tomorrow... or something. My itinerary has me going to Seattle for a short layover, which will be nice to visit for real some day. And then home via JFK from there. What a trip.

[Hawaii 2011] Day 6: Snorkeling

Hamauma Bay from an overlook.
We went snorkeling and I saw fish *this* big at Hamauma Bay Nature Preserve. Afterwards, Stephen wanted some bigger waves, so we hunted for some at Makapuu Point Beach. Disgustingly and amazingly, we had KFC for lunch in between going to each beach. For me, I think today helped me learn about how (just) okay I am at swimming and helped me overcome some of my fear of it (not that you'd know if you saw me this week; I was doing everything). And speaking of doing things I don't like or am afraid of, I've started eating tomatoes. (For the record, I still don't like them, but I've become braver.)
Some really nice waves at Makapuu.

Today, we did some epic sightseeing on the way there and back.

By the way, the weather forecast for today was 70% chance of rain. This is the most gorgeous 70%-chance-of-rain day I've ever seen.
Stephen, Benson, and Farrah (buried).

[Hawaii 2011] Day 5: Polynesian Culture Center

Stephen and I tried to make fire unsuccessfully, twice.
Today we spent all of today visiting the Polynesian Culture Center, which was apparently one of Hawaii's biggest tourist attractions on Oahu. It took about two hours to get there. We left around 10 and got there a little after 12 (all the while I had to pee really badly; I was the first one off the bus, let's say). It covered the islands of Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Fiji, etc, with a themed area for each. Tried some Hawaiian poi for the first time, and I honestly didn't think it was that bad once you think about how it was made. It's basically mashed starch, which was so bland and flavorless and purple it was weird in an awesomely weird kind of way. There was music, a luau dinner and an amazing show called 'Ha: The Breath of Life,' which was so amazing. (No photos allowed though.)
Mid-day boat parade showcasing the different islands.
This Japanese audience member was hilariously oblivious to what's going on at one of the mini-shows.

[Hawaii 2011] Day 4: Rainy Day, Please Go Away

View of the Pacific from Aloha Tower. Honolulu Airport to the right.
There was some pretty heavy rains this morning, and tonight, I can see lightning in the distance. There was an emergency broadcast on the television about storming and flooding in the north side of Oahu, where we're going tomorrow. We went to Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium near Pearl Harbor (it's kind of like a flea market / night market), followed by more shopping and drive-around sightseeing. I think I have all my take-home souvenirs and gifts prepared. In other news, I drank a lot tonight because I needed to.  All in all, today was pretty crummy day. I hope it gets better.

[Hawaii 2011] Day 3: Sightseeing

View of eastern Oahu.
Today we went sightseeing at Kualoa Ranch, on the east side of Oahu. It was pretty awesome doing the touristy thing. There we met some really cool farm animals (video to come), and we got to drive ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) around the area. In the afternoon, we went back to [try and] build an Aztec pyramid this time, in Ala Moana beach. It was pretty good given the bad sand. Also, so far, I've been to two Apple Stores in Hawaii, both within walking distance from "home."
ATV riding.
Pyramid-building, again. Smaller, but better.

[Hawaii 2011] Day 2: Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
We paid our respects to Pearl Harbor, its history and its people. We visited the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri battleship, and checked out the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Also, it was cloudy and started raining today. Quite unusual, but appropriate for the occasion I suppose.

[Hawaii 2011] Day 1: Waikiki Beach

Pyramid Building on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii.
We spent the morning figuring out what we were going to do this week. And then we went to the beach for the rest of the afternoon followed by an amazing dinner prepared by B. Wong. It was a nearly perfect pyramid, using just our hands and a frisbee to smooth things out. We also had a moat in front of it to divert some of the water as the tide came in. We noticed some people taking pictures with/of it when I went back to sit down, so we decided to etch our names onto the sides of it. Then, we proceeded to destroy it before we left. In retrospect, I feel just a little bad for defiling and destroying it at the expense of others' enjoyment.

Video of the sand pyramid found here for now: MobileMe gallery.