Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mission Control has Arrived

First off, I need to apologize to my legions of fans (all 3 of you). I have been absurdly busy with work and clocked in 55 hours last week and plan to do 55-60 this week. I will try to be more diligent with the posts. I was lacking for material but the mother load came when Mission Control dropped down from the sky this past Sunday.

For those of you not in the know, Mission Control is an elite tactical unit that is able to devise, develop and implement some of the most comprehensive battle plans that the world has ever seen. Mission Control has been behind some of the most important happenings of recent memory. They were responsible for locating and destroying the home of Uday and Qusay Hussein and rumor has it that they have been providing the paparazzi with up to the minute pictures of the now bald and never to be hot again Britney Spears.

Captain Cambodia killed 3 people within minutes of taking this photo

Mission Control has a simple mantra, "To work within the shadows for forces that you will never know about. If you find out, we will hunt you down and kill you". To the public, they are known only as The Black Widow and Captain Cambodia. Using my numerous connections within both the defense contracting and underworld, I was able to utilize their tactical operations for our cross-country trip. Captain Cambodia equipped The Little Civic That Could with a GPS tracking system as well as 4 high powered nuclear warheads. He likes to travel with some firepower "in case things go down".

Mission Control sat 45 floors beneath the Pentagon during our 3 day trek. They were in constant communication with Team Nicholson via cell phone, text message and The Force. The Black Widow gave Jessica a ring and at times a hologram would come out of it and she would speak to us in parables. I didn't think that it was necessary for her to dress and talk like Yoda but hey, to each his/her own.

According to classified documents, Mission Control thwarted three separate attempts on our lives. We had a close call in Texas after I cut off an 18-wheeler and he tried to run me off the road. Within 30 seconds, a black B2 Bomber came thundering out of the clouds and vaporized the truck. Needless to say, we weren't bothered much for the rest of the trip.

Rumor has it that The Black Widow was at the wheel

Mission Control will be here for the week and we travel to Honolulu via Apache helicopter this weekend. Be sure to check the blog for future developments.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

'Anini Beach

Monday, March 19, 2007

The New Arrival

Last week, we posted some photos of the albatross couple that lives outside our back porch. We got a book about these birds to learn more about their life cycle. Each year, they come to land in November to mate. In December, they lay a single egg, which hatches in February. The chicks look like giant gray fluff balls. One parent sits on the new chick until it's too large to cover. Then, eventually the parents start to leave the chicks alone for periods of time. The chicks stay within 50 yards from where they're hatched. They grow bigger and bigger over the next several months, and eventually start testing out their wings. One day in July, they'll walk to the ocean bluff and jump off for the first time, a process called fledging. They'll remain at sea for 3 or 4 years, covering thousands of miles and traveling as far as Alaska. Then, when sexually mature, they return to where they were born to mate and start the cycle over again.

Each November, the adult albatrosses return to their home. We now realize why this one particular couple enjoys hanging out behind our patio so much. In the bushes in front of the apartment next to us, they have a chick! He is pretty big now and just hangs out all day long. He's old enough now where the parents will leave him alone for periods of time, going off by themselves or socializing with other adults on the golf course. As he gets older and ready to fledge, he'll lose his fluffy gray feathers and replace them with the white adult feathers. There is another couple that lives in the middle of the course, and their chick lives among some trees there. We can see him with binoculars.

The proud parents:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

'Opaeka'a Falls

These photos were taken from look-out points along the road, right across from each other. They show 'Opaeka'a Falls and the Wailua River.

Kuilau Ridge Trail

These shots were taken last week while we hiked the Kuilau Ridge trail on the east side of the island. The hike itself was pretty easy, at about 5 miles round trip and with only gentle inclines. But it offered some great views of Mount Wai'ale'ale, the wettest spot on earth, located in the center of the island. It averages 440 inches of rain a year.

The Na Pali Coast

These photos are a bit overdue - we took them a couple weeks ago from the top of Waimea Canyon Drive. The 19 mile road curves north along the side of Waimea Canyon. You can look east to see the canyon below at multiple look-out points along the road. At the top of the road, there are a couple look-out points that face west, towards the famous Na Pali coastline. These shots were taken from those points. It was a little bit cloudy that day, so some of the valley is obscured by haze.

On the way down the road, we stopped to take this shot of the waterfalls in Waimea canyon.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunrise this morning

At 6:30 am this morning, I was rudely awoken by Conor. He insisted I had to see this sunrise over the golf course from our back porch, and that it would be worth dragging myself out of bed at such an ungodly hour. As much as it pains me to admit it, he was right.

Life is Sacred

Something very disturbing happened today. I pray to God that this is my only serious posting on this blog. Jessica and I went to Tunnels Beach in Ha'ena this afternoon to go snorkeling. We haven't been to Tunnels Beach since our honeymoon, where I was swimming with 6 foot long sea turtles. This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island and the day was perfect - not too hot but lots of sun.

About an hour and a half in, I'm reading my book and suddenly, I hear 3 women screaming. Jessica says that about 30 seconds earlier, she saw a helicopter flying over the water and all of the sudden, she hears a big bang, like it hit something. Then, it started wobbling from side to side. The helicopter immediately goes off course and starts heading for land, still upright but losing elevation quickly. It disappears out of view beyond the horizon. Less than a minute later, two men run up and start asking what direction the helicopter was headed. They start running so I grab my shoes and start sprinting after them. When I get to the road, I see a huge truck with a ton of guys yelling, "The copter crashed. It's that way!"

I run back to get Jessica and we jump into the car to see if we can help. We see a ton of commotion about a half mile down. We turn in and see that the helicopter crashed and is on its side. Some of the guys from the truck are tending to a woman who is clearly in bad shape. There are probably 8 or 10 police officers, but no ambulance. Finally, several ambulances arrived, one by one, to carry away the injured to the hospital.

There were a ton of men and women in swimsuits helping out and I'm guessing that a few of them were doctors. If it weren't for their assistance, things could have been much worse. At this point, one person died and three are in critical condition. We saw the pilot walk away from the crash, and luckily he's doing ok. This is the second helicopter crash in 4 days and within a few hours, it was one of the top stories on The crash on Thursday took 4 lives. To make matter worse, there were 3 couples and each spouse lost a loved one. The pilot also died in Thursday's crash.

Story from MSNBC

Story from Kauai's newspaper

Jessica and I took helicopter tour with no doors on our honeymoon and something tells me that it might have been the last time we get on one. I held Jessica tight and told her how much I loved her. Please do the same.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Mighty Albatross

There is an albatross couple that have a nest about 100 yards away from our porch, within the trees on the golf course. We often look out the back windows and watch these graceful sea birds glide over and across the greens. Albatrosses are highly efficient in the air. Their massive wingspan allows them to cover great distances with little exertion. These birds spend 90% of their lives in the air, and can travel 150-200 miles without resting. Sadly, 19 of the 21 species of albatross are threatened with extinction. The island of Kauai is making great efforts to preserve these amazing birds.

Today, these two came to visit. They strolled along the grass path in front of our porch, stopping to check it out. We took these photos from our back door as they passed by. Albatrosses mate for life; this couple seemed to be very much in love, stopping to click their beaks together and following each other around. They were, quite literally, two love birds. Kauai is such a romantic island that even all the animals are in love here.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nightmare on Kalihiwai Street

One thing that takes a little getting used to here is the various breeds of wild beasts roaming about. Our last home was a rustic farmhouse-style dwelling, and it seemed to be designed to make the residents at one with nature. Our new condo is much more modern, so luckily we expect far fewer (so far none) encounters. With the nightmare in the past, we can now tell the tale that haunted our dreams for the past 6 weeks.

The cockroaches are loathsome. Here, they can grow to be as big as your thumb, and some also fly. Although at home these guys would be the stuff nightmares are made of, here they’re still not the most dreaded beast. There is one creature that will paralyze you with fear. One creature that makes the appendage-sized cockroaches seem pleasant. This beast is loathed above all others. It is the dreaded centipede.

You may think you know about centipedes. Perhaps you’ve even seen one. You have no idea. Here, the centipedes can grow to be a foot long. They can live for 5 years, and are as thick as your finger. They have huge tentacles emerging from their heads. And they bite. A bite is rumored to cause pain on the level of a gunshot wound. Although these things can’t actually kill a human, if you’re bitten, you’ll wish you were dead.

Our first encounter with one of these beasts happened about a week into our stay. We were forewarned when we arrived, so Jessica was constantly on guard. Then, it happened. As we were getting ready for bed one night, Jessica spotted the tail end of one of these things slither under a door in our bedroom. It was fatter than her middle finger. She handled this surprisingly well, by only letting out a piercing shriek and fleeing for her life to higher ground on top of the bed. A little background information: Jessica has a severe phobia of all things long and multi-legged due to a caterpillar incident in her childhood. She’s been paralyzed with fear back home from similar creatures 1/20 of the size. Under the circumstances, it’s a miracle that she didn’t faint and go into cardiac arrest from the shock.

Conor came running, armed with a large stick and hiking boots. He cautiously staked out the room while Jessica remained frozen on top of the bed. After searching for several minutes, he found nothing. They waited a bit, and finally Conor removed his hiking boots and cautiously continued getting ready for bed. They were discussing what to do next. All of the sudden, Conor stopped mid-sentence and screamed “HOLY SH*T!!” In one swift movement, he catapulted his 175 pounds on top of the bed faster than an Olympic high jumper. Then, in horror, we watched as the entire beast came into view. It was reddish black, and 8 inches long. Living back east, we could have never imagined that such evil actually existed outside of Hollywood films.

It scuttled across the floor, running the entire length of the bedroom, and found sanctuary in a dark corner. At this point, Conor carefully crawled down from the bed and went to re-arm himself. Jessica trembled in fear, plugging her ears and gently sobbing. Conor returned to fight the battle of a lifetime. With a giant stick, he stabbed and prodded as this beast hissed and fought with everything he had. Even after being decapitated, the many pairs of legs still writhed against the cold stone floor. We didn’t feel settled until the corpse had been severed into four pieces.

Although Conor wanted to take a picture, Jessica wouldn’t allow it. That picture will forever be implanted in her memory – she didn’t want to have to deal with it on her hard drive as well. We did find a photo from a Kauai exterminator’s web site, and it's the closest likeness we’ve found to the beast we met that night. If you think you can handle it, click here. But don't say you haven't been warned.

Our New Apartment

Last Thurday, Conor and I moved into what will be our permanent dwelling for the remainder of our stay on Kauai. Our new home is in Princeville, a resort town on the North Shore located about 10 minutes from our last house. It's a spacious, one-bedroom condo on the first floor. Our porch looks out onto the 8th hole of the Princeville golf course, an amenity that Conor seems to appreciate much more than me. You can also see the ocean peeking out over the course from our porch. So far, we're enjoying our new digs!

The dining room and kitchen:
View towards the front door (the bedroom is off to the right):

The view towards the porch and back door:
View to the right from the porch:
View looking straight out from the porch:
View to the left from the porch:
Our first visitors: