Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Aloha and Mahalo

Despite it's reputation as a popular vacation destination, Hawai'i is not an easy place for people to love. It is large, and it is sparsely populated. The largest town here, Hilo, has 40,000 or so residents. It rains 200 inches a year in Hilo, and in fact there is a good chance it is raining there as you read this. The most popular tourist destination, Kailua-Kona, has just fewer than 10,000 residents (though you can find there a Hard Rock Cafe and an Outback Steakhouse). The "mega-resorts," with helicopter rides and lush green golf courses and pools that allow guests swim time with dolphins, are located on a desert coastline amidst a stark desert landscape of brown, crusty lava flows. There, perhaps 65 miles from rainy Hilo, less than 10 inches of rain fall in a year. A visitor has to work hard to uncover this island's charms.

That said, let me just say that I love it here.

My father and his wife have purchased a home on the northwest slope of Mauna Kea, which I am obligated to tell you is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base (which lies well beneath the ocean) to its summit. Even measured from sea level, it is 13,796 feet tall -- much taller than any mountain in Colorado (as measured from base, which is at least 4,500 feet above sea level, to summit), for instance.

Their home sits on ten acres of lush, green ranch land situated at an elevation of about 3,800 feet. The subdivision is located off a road called the "Saddle Road," which traverses a broad, eerie plain between two massive volcanoes, and which is explicitly forbidden on most rental car contracts. If you want to imagine what it looks like here at their home, think of Ireland -- with eucalyptus trees. The rolling hills here are insanely, intensely, almost impossibly green. Farm animals (horses, cows, goats, and sheep) roam between lots. Game birds -- pheasant, quail, turkeys, and one particularly tasty one called an Erckel's Francoline -- dart about and call to one another with such frequency that it hardly seems sporting to hunt them.

It's winter here, which means it's sort of cool up here on the mountain. It gets down into the forties at night, and tops out at 68 in the daytime (on a warm day). Looking up the slope, the cap of Mauna Kea is covered with a thick layer of snow. Look to the left, see snow. Look to the right, see the Kohala resorts, the beaches, and the Pacific Ocean. When I wander outdoors I can't help but stare slackjawed at the spectacle of the setting. It's breathtaking.

The house is south of Waimea, a cattle ranching town of about 8,000 situated about 7 miles away. Waimea is situated right at the line between the east side of the island, which is lush and tropical, and the west side, which is dry and desert. It is not uncommon for a bank of clouds to neatly divide the town in two -- at one end of the main street it will be pouring rain, and at the other end it will be sunny. Today was one of those days.

When I went outside this morning to walk the dog with my dad, it was exceptionally clear. I could see the waves breaking on the ocean 4,000 feet below and 10 miles away. Up the slope toward Mauna Kea I could see the bright new snow cover that fell overnight. Clouds were forming behind the ridge about a half mile from my dad's house, though, and a stiff breeze developed that was encouraging the cloud to encroach over the ridge and onto some of the homes upslope. It was like a toe testing hot water, with 100-foot tall wisps of vapor firing forward over the top of the hill, then quickly retreating.

I could smell the clouds (they smell sweet, like fresh cut grass, but without even a hint of vegetation), but they never got to where we were. At one point, I could see the house (which was at most a quarter mile away) was completely obscured by the cloud. Then the dog, which had gotten itself under a fence and into an open field, stiffened its posture and leaned forward intensely for a good two minutes. It stood still like that until we could cross the fence and sneak up on the spot to which the dog was pointing. Suddenly, a large game bird -- probably an Erckel -- exploded from the grass and flew away.

When I looked back at the house, the clouds had retreated completely. They stayed on the east side of the island. It was clear again.

It's not just the weather I like about Hawai'i. But that's as good a place as any to start describing what I do like.

I've missed my wife and my son terribly this last week. Still, it will be just a little bit hard to leave this place on Wednesday. In a strange sense, it will feel like leaving home to come home.

Aloha, and mahalo.

posted by Bill Purdy, 2:54 AM | link | 0 comments

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Love - Two Days Late

OK, so Jeannine bought me an iPod for Christmas. And it is awesome, I love being able to listen to music on my daily commute. One of the things I am doing is trying to put ALL of my CDs on the iPod to clear up shelf space in the house. And to get the CDs away from the hands of my ever-curious children. And to enable us to take our CD collection in the car with us on long trips. So, I am methodically going through my CD collection, loading the CDs into iTunes and then downloading them onto the iPod.

I’m Type A. Hardcore Type A. My CDs are organized alphabetically by artist’s name and then chronologically within a band. And there is a soundtrack section, a sampler section, a classical music section, etc. I mean, it isn't "High Fidelity" organized (that guy was crazy, I'm not) but it is pretty organized if I do say so myself. Some may say “That isn’t Type A, that is perfectly reasonable.” If you are one of those people, welcome to Type A. Have a seat.

Anyway, I’m through the “C” section of my endeavor. The other day I listened to “Love” by The Cult. Hot damn! What a GREAT record (album, disc, whatever)! I was seriously rocking out to good old (and I mean old, have you seen this guy lately?) Ian Astbury. This disc has held up considerably better than some of its mid/late 80s contemporaries. As an example of a disc that has NOT held up well without hesitation I point to “Brighter than a Thousand Suns” by Killing Joke. This is as bad as “Love” is good. “Brighter than a Thousand Suns” is so bad I was apparently compelled to write a negative review on Amazon. Twice. Two years apart. And when I was writing the second review I had apparently forgotten about the first review. If you compare the two you’ll see they say darned near the exact same thing. So, I’m consistent in my evaluation of that piece of crap. But I digress…

Back in 1985 when "Love" was released I was a college freshman as was our fearless Bitter Buffalo in Charge. Bill here had one of the original beige Macs. By original I mean 512K memory, an 400K floppy drive and a mouse the size of a brick. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. And it had MacPaint. One day I stopped by Bill’s dorm room (we lived down the hall from one another – the beginning of one of my longest and most cherished friendships) to see what was going on. He had his nose INCHES from the 8” monochromatic screen and was moving the mouse Ever. So. Slightly.

“Whatcha’ doin’ Billy?”

“Drawing this album cover in MacPaint for a cassette tape,” holding up the record sleeve.

I’ll be damned if that wasn’t EXACTLY what he was doing. This goon had determined what dimensions he had to work with to make his own cassette sleeve and was reproducing the entire cover in MacPaint. The whole thing. The customized font used in the title and track listings, the wings on the front cover, and even the little runes you see festooning the front and back covers. The whole damned thing. And remember, this was in 1985, before $80 scanners, digital cameras, and the like. He was doing it pixel by pixel. I was in the presence of greatness. Or evil genius. Or a guy who didn’t want to do his reading for “History and Politics of the American Workplace” one of our core courses. (I later came to realize that it was the latter of the three. After being roommates for two years I learned that Bill is – or was - a master of procrastination. A Master with a capital “M” as is his due.)

The point of this? If you haven’t dusted off your copy of “Love” I suggest you do so soon. Turn the stereo up and bask in its loudness. You know you want to.

posted by MGSoden, 3:30 PM | link | 3 comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gonzaga!

PRESS RELEASE
For more information please contact your local Officer of Politically Correct Thought

###

As a result of the recent "Brokeback Mountain" scandal at Gonzaga (Google it dummy - ed) several other cheers and taunts directed from one group to another (or individual athletes) at sporting matches have been deemed insensitive and are henceforth banned. As sampling of the banned cheers include:

"That's alright. That's OK. You're going to work for us someday" has been deemed offense to liberal arts students whose choice in major renders them unemployable in today's business climate. This includes Philosophy, the Fine Arts (visual, performance and music) and, of course English. A rider to this law also recognizes that the chant is offensive when directed by Ivy League students to State School students as it emphasizes the economic disparity between the two groups.

"It's all your fault!" when directed at goalies (hockey, soccer and lacrosse), place kickers, and relief pitches has been deemed offensive as it hurts the feelings of the individual player. We recognize that a goal scored against a team or a team loss is due to the communal "failure" to prevent such a loss and should not be ascribed to one particular player. We do, however, recognize that in individual events (eg. long distance running) any individual failing to come in first place CAN be heckled because it is indeed their fault for not winning.

"Hold that Tiger!" when shouted at a sporting event in which Princeton is one of the teams indicates a desire to violate the personal space of an individual. Banned.

"Kill the ref!" for obvious reasons. Deep psychological damage akin to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome has been observed in Referees subjected to this hateful taunt. Banned.

"We want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher" has been found to be disruptive to baseball pitchers at all levels of play (from local elementary school leagues to the Majors). Not only is it disruptive to the pitcher in question, it is unabashedly offensive to individuals suffering from bedbugs, fleas, poison oak, ivy or sumac, and psoriasis. Banned.

Furthermore, all cheerleaders henceforth shall be covered head to toe in burkas. Lustful male fans, and the occasional lesbian fan, when directing their gaze at bare midriffs, heaving chests and toned arms and legs are viewing the cheerleaders as objects and not individuals. This is sexist and continues the misogynistic, male-dominated, paternalistic society that is clearly the source of suffering and misery here and abroad.

Finally, there is consideration to ban all sporting events. For there to be a winner, there must be a loser. And nobody wants to be a loser. We are all sensitive, caring, feeling people NOT losers. This type of thinking devalues us all and is unacceptable. A ruling on this issue is expected in six to nine months.

posted by MGSoden, 1:51 PM | link | 7 comments

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shameless Marketing Ploy to Drive 5,000 More Visits

Sitemeter tells me 5,000 people have visited this little blog since I started it up. While I am impressed and somewhat humbled by this fact, I have to admit the numbers are slightly inflated.

First of all, I installed Sitemeter after I had accumulated an estimated 1,026 visits using some other counting method. That was, of course, just a guess. And it was probably a little on the high side.

Second, Sitemeter counts as a visit every time I stop by my own blog. I estimate I have looked at my blog (just to behold its wondrousness) maybe 1,000 times.

Third, lots and lots of people come here looking for answers to the burning questions in life. For instance:

Based on my estimates, then, I've had just 200 quality hits from my intended audience: my friends and family.

As far as I am concerned, that's way more than enough. Thanks to all of you for taking to stop by on the very rare occasion when I take the time to post. Thanks, too, to Patrick, Matt, Beth, and Dancin' Dave, for posting your thoughts from time to time. And thanks to D-Lee and Brooks for stopping by and sticking around -- it's nice to know you can still make friends from strangers in this age of faceless technology.

So, as a reward for your faithful readership, you get to look at a video of my cute kid (because nobody can resist a video of a cute kid). You'll need Quicktime to view it.

posted by Bill Purdy, 7:59 AM | link | 1 comments

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Post 101: Back to Hawai'i

My father lives in Hawai'i, which prevents me from seeing him too regularly. Two weeks ago, he had some major and highly unpleasant surgery. I (and everyone else) expected a long, difficult recovery process.

So, I began to research air fares to Hawai'i from Raleigh-Durham so I could visit him and comfort him, etc., even though I knew he'd probably be a major crank from the discomfort caused by the surgery and not a whole lot of fun to be around. I found that fares drop dramatically after March 1 -- in some cases more than 50% from the least expensive fare prior to that date.

I decided to book the soonest economically feasible trip, which has me leaving on February 22 and returning to Raleigh on March 2. That's a Wednesday to a Thursday. And it's, um let's see, just over two weeks away.

There is some risk associated with the timing of all this. Right now, at work, I am technically "on the bench" while I await a decision from our client in Alabama to either move forward with the data warehousing project we are proposing, or not. Our presentation to them, which was originally scheduled on January 23, has been delayed to Valentine's Day, February 14. If they elect to hire us to do the work, then I will lead the project. If they elect not to, then I will have to find something else to do with myself.

My concern surrounds the former scenario. Our client has indicated they'd like to move very quickly to ramp up if a decision is made to move forward with the project. Which means, unfortunately, they might be ramping up the very week I will be in Hawai'i. That would not look good. On the other hand, I DID miss the plane that was supposed to bring me to the kickoff meeting in November, and the client was willing to look past that. Maybe they'll wait for me this time, too.

The good news is that my dad's recovery to date has shocked everyone -- even his doctors. When I spoke to him the other day, he was cracking jokes (not all good ones, but I'm willing to let that slide), and he has even purchased a motorcycle to ride around his property (I guess a golf cart is too stodgy for him). Riding horses, it appears, will have to wait a while longer yet.

So, even though I will not be traveling with my wife and child (which would be my preference), at least I will be spending time with a father who is feeling much much better than anyone expected him to be.

posted by Bill Purdy, 11:11 AM | link | 5 comments