Sales Managers on the Road: Tweeting through Toronto

I spent the better part of a week recently at Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference; "WPC" in Microsoft-speak.  I thought I'd try summarizing the week by collecting up my tweets here.  Why? First, because I'm lazy.  Second, because, you know... social media and all that.  Plus, I feel a little sorry that Twitter is getting dumped on.  But mostly, I'm being lazy.  Or as they call it, "repurposing content."

This year's conference was held in Toronto, a city I visited many times during my days at BNR/Nortel, and during my time at SOMA Networks.  It's been about ten years since I was last in Toronto (ask me about the rooftop lounge at Hooters) so I was interested to see what was old and new.  

This probably happened the last time I flew to Toronto out of SFO:  I'm on a United Airlines flight, but it's operated by Air Canada.  Which means I've gone to the wrong terminal.  Grrr.

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Next stop:  the gate.  Since my days of holding duper premium elite gold extra-special status are long over, I'm waiting for my "zone" to board when I see a couple of passengers push forward to test whether the gate agents are checking which zone you're in.  Turns out, they are.

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On the plane now, ready to enter my usual sleep state that's brought on by flight attendant announcements.

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It turns out that this year's conference is sold out, for the first time ever.  That means I'm in Toronto with 15,999 of my closest friends.  And they all made hotel reservations before I did.  So I'm staying nowhere near downtown and all the events.  But, Toronto now has very nice subway service from the airport to downtown, so that will work.  And on my arrival at conference registration, there was this moose...

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Free, working, Wi-Fi on comfortable and quiet subway trains.  Take notice, CalTrain!

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I once had a goal, while working at Nortel, to stay in every Canadian Pacific hotel in the chain; they're all magnificent.  I stayed at the Royal York once, when Nortel had their big user association meeting in Toronto and when there was a big Marketing and Product Management pow-wow on what we needed to do next with Nortel's phone  system.  It was also at this time that Nortel announced quality problems in one part of the manufacturing business (the biggest part), which caused the stock to plummet in value.  I thought some of my colleagues, who had left most of their retirement savings in Nortel stock, were going to die right there outside the hotel.

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I remember riding in a taxi down to the Billy Bishop City of Toronto airport, on a flight to Ottawa (so much nicer than schlepping out to Pearson).  Once you got past the Skydome and the CN Tower, there wasn't much going on.  Now, that's completely different.  There's the Air Canada Center, the Rogers Convention Center and a ton of condo developments.

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On to the conference.  Microsoft and GE announce a partnership focused on "Internet of Things."  I just liked this quote.

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The moose I expected.  A Blue Jay wouldn't have surprised me.  But... woodpeckers?

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How times change.  Three years ago, Dropbox was seen as "consumer" and Box was for the enterprise.  Now...

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CGNET was nominated for a Microsoft partner award.  We didn't win, but we're already doing work with the guys that did win.  And they have a Tesla as a company car.   That's pretty cool.

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I was looking for a place to grab a bite when I ended up meeting some new Microsoft partners at another event.

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More "keynote" tweets, including an announcement that Facebook has adopted Office 365.  I was just around the corner, you guys could have called me!

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Back to the convention hall.  On the way they're handing out...

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"Digital Transformation" was one of the buzzwords of the conference, but there's some truth behind it.  Businesses are moving to digital infrastructures, and those that can't support that movement are dying off.

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Time now for a happy hour out on Lake Ontario.

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Here's a nice picture of the Toronto skyline.

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I've already told the story of how I didn't realize the celebrity athletes were real.  Until I saw Bill Walton.  Trust me, I'm standing next to him.

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The next day I had to stay in my hotel room to finish a report.  I had TV on for the background noise.  Listening to the Canadian version of Guy Fieri and his shtick was...

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See, Microsoft's cloud platform is called Azure, so naturally...

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A nice quote from the Women in Technology session.

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Last party, lots of food options.  I chose...

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I couldn't leave until I'd listened to Gwen Stefani.

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And I leave you with some Canadian humor.

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The Urge to Create Meaning

I have been reading (slowly; I'm still on chapter one) a book about the origins of modern Mexican culture. It's fresh hamburger for culture geeks like me. The author was discussing how the Mexicans had created a pantheon of gods, which they used in part to make sense of their world. 

Side note: Don't go all Marvin Harris critique on me. I'm not saying Mexicans or anyone else "invented" a cosmology in order to explain their world. Maybe they did this purposely; maybe it just happened. The point is, however it happened, it seemed to work.

If you're the average citizen of Mexico and Central America, with no formal education, no literacy, forced to work for someone else and/or pay them tribute (or die) it makes sense that you'd want a way to make sense of your life. Even just the activities we now see as part of daily geology, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, were scary and required some explanation. So, there arose a belief system that said (for instance) that there were all these gods, who didn't care that much about you and could fuck up your life if they chose to. If you placated them, they might not bother you; then again, they might anyway (this was one of the differences between native beliefs and the Christian beliefs of the invading Spaniards.) The populace dealt with changing beliefs and circumstances by inventing or promoting new gods and demoting others. (This is akin to my notion of "culture as an adaptive system" that was my Great Thought at Stanford. Whether it really was a great thought or just the result of too many beers is an ongoing question.)

All of the above would be stock anthropology fare, except for an "aha" moment I had at work soon after starting the book. I was in a meeting with one of our product partners. They had been trying for some time to reinvent themselves, and they wanted to come and explain what the new company was all about.

Our CTO and I sat down and listened as they pulled out their PowerPoint slides and started explaining how the world had changed. That's when it struck me: these people had to describe a reality in order to make sense of the actions they were now taking. Absent that explained (and, for them, hopefully convincing) point of view, their changes might not make any sense.

Thinking back over my years spent explaining product roadmaps and strategy positions, across hundreds of PowerPoint presentations (thankfully, a rare occurrence for me lately) it all made sense. To enact a new reality (for you, your country, your company) you first had to answer the question, "why?" Why do this? Why not keep doing what you've been doing? What is the rationale for change?

Having seen these slides in a new light, I started noticing how common these kinds of presentations and stories are. "Let me explain why, before I explain what."

The problem with these explanations, the problem with religious and cultural world views, is that they are but one interpretation of events. How many other interpretations are there, leading to how many different prescriptions for action? The book I was reading was all about the world view of the Conquistadores compared to that of the indigenous peoples. One set of observable events, two interpretations, two courses of action.

All of this had led me to a new way of viewing these kinds of stories. I like to ask myself not just "why" but "why this point of view?". It also made me realize that, for all our trappings of modernity, in some ways we're not very different than our pre-literate ancestors.

Culture, for the win!


The Yin and Yang of 2015

2015 was a year of yin and yang; probably every year is like that.  Mostly, this was a year that went by very quickly (where did the time go?) but also very slowly (during rush hour).

  Yin-Yang

  Yin-Yang

McCloud Thanksgiving

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Family Christmas togetherness

Norovirus

Booming business

Freeway gridlock

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Blown up workout schedule

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No-shave November

A grey beard

30 selfies

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Halloween at the Hollywood Bowl with Wendy, John, Holly and Kenny

Being lost in the town you grew up in

Watching Stanford football and texting with John Gless

Losing to… Northwestern??

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The passing of friends

Weddings, anniversaries and babies

 
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Acts of terrorism The kindness of strangers
So much to share Time's up/pencils down

 


We Have All Been Here Before

Department of Obscure References

The media feed after the ISIS attacks in Paris had a familiar feel to me.  People seeking answers. People seeking revenge. People seeking solutions. People feeling like their story was being overlooked.

  • What about the massacre in Beirut? Mali? Kenya?
  • Ban the refugees!
  • It's all ___'s fault!
  • More wiretaps!
  • More drone strikes!
  • Bomb Raqqa!

And on and on.

I remember, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a similar dialogue.  It was mostly carried out via email then, but the flow was the same.  People were hurt. They were afraid. They needed to make sense of something that made no sense at all.  And I remember, as I read the back-and-forth, thinking that we needed to cut each other some slack.  Someone took the conversation too far down the patriotism road for your liking.  OK, you disagree, but have a little patience and understanding.  You don't have to agree to feel their pain.

I've spent a good part of the last few weeks in LA, where the media is obsessed with the shootings in San Bernardino.  Maybe this is because it's a hot story.  I think it's also because people are hurting.  How could this happen to us?

Overlay the silly season that is the run-up to Presidential primaries and you have a recipe for extreme "look at me" views as candidates vie for attention and media coverage.  These stories further stir the pot, as people debate the talking points on their merits, or debate whether the points have any merit at all.

Through all of this, I suggest attaching a human face to the group you want to address.  Think about your Muslim friend, your relative who works in government.  Think about families you see that are struggling to find a safe place to live.  Would you say the same things to their face?  Maybe that should be the test.

 


The 2015 Garden in Review

The gardening season is a little like the PGA Tour.  You can "wrap around" by planting over-wintering crops such as garlic and green manures.  In this case, there really is no end of one season and beginning of another.  But for the sake of declaring the season "over," let's consider that this year's garden is done.

The pictures are here:  Now let's talk about what worked and didn't work.

Winners

Tomatoes

A big winner was tomatoes.  We have a good system down now.  My brother Patrick dries and saves seeds from the best tomato plants of the previous year.  My sister Cheryl and I baby the seedlings along with heat mats and grow lights.  Then, first weekend in May, it's into the garden.  While we cut back on production due to the drought in California, we still had a good variety of plants, with lots of production.  Patrick was nice enough to find and develop my favorite, Oaxacan Jewel.  We also had Sun Gold (a favorite), along with standards like San Marzano. But there were some new ones as well, such as a Roma that produced great dried tomatoes.

Potatoes

Potatoes also did well.  The biggest reason for improvement over last year's crop loss was moving them to a different bed.  Last year's bed had (and still has) a resident gopher, who eventually ate through the roots of every plant.  This year, we planted potatoes in a smaller, but taller, and gopher-free bed.  Lots of soil amendments and regular watering meant that the crop came in great!  As an added bonus, we were able to harvest a few "volunteer" Kennebec potatoes from a different bed.  FTW.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers were also a winner this year.  We grew them for pickling.  These were either Jackson Classic or Alibi; I can't remember.  Despite being planted in the aforementioned gopher-infiltrated bed, we were able to get a good crop without losing too many to the little varmint.  We tried enclosing the plants in tomato cages, in the hopes that the plants would grow up the cages and get the fruit off the ground.  But that didn't really work.  I think a trellis will be the way to go for that.  We did a better job of picking the cucumbers regularly, which prevented the eventual discovery of baseball-bat-sized fruit.

Mixed Results

Squash

Squash, specifically pumpkins, did pretty well.  We didn't plant summer squash, since we knew it would be likely that they would go un-picked for long periods, resulting in squash too big to want to eat.  But Cheryl likes to plant pumpkins for harvest and display around Halloween.  We planted these on the perimeter of a greens bed, and tried to trail them out onto the surrounding ground to give them room to grow.  We got enough for a small door display (Cinderella type), and a couple of sugar pumpkins suitable for eating.

As with corn, we're finding that it's hard to justify growing our own when the local farm stand has tons of pumpkins available.

Basil

Basil would have made it to the Winners category, except that we mostly let it go to seed.  It's hard to process a 4'x4' bed of basil, unless you want to make a lot of pesto.

Artichokes

We planted some artichokes last year in the half-barrels, and were happy to see second-year growth.  Unfortunately, the chokes haven't been as tasty as we would like.  Maybe we're not picking them at the right time.  This is another why-grow-it-when-you-can-buy-fresh-locally item.

Asparagus

We're thinking that our asparagus bed is not producing as much as we would like.  We're not sure if there aren't enough plants or if the bed needs more nourishment.  Asparagus is also one of those vegetables you want to check on every day, sometimes multiple times a day.  There's nothing worse than an overly tough asparagus stalk that was perfect for eating yesterday.

Beans

I really like growing beans.  And last year's attempt was a bust.  So I was happy when I was able to get beans growing this year.  I grew French Flageolet beans (thinking they were the main ingredient in a cassoulet I remember having in Paris), but I didn't get much production.  Plus, these are closer to haricots verts in that they need to be picked and eaten at an early age.  I had waited until they were plump, by which time they were past their prime.  I got more production from the Italian Tongue of Fire beans, but both varieties were planted in a bed that has a gopher.  As a result, the gopher managed to chomp through many of the beans' roots, limiting what I was able to grow to harvest stage.

Losers

Peppers

Peppers were a big loser this year.  The ones I planted in my home garden were quickly devoured by a grasshopper (more on that below).  The peppers we planted at the Hubner Farm were left without water for a few weeks, killing off most of them.  The replacement peppers never really had a chance to set fruit before the end of the growing season.  We also had a problem with a viral wilt, which damaged some of the peppers.  I did manage to get one batch of pepper sauce out of the peppers (see photo album) but not the Cayenne sauce I've produced in the last couple of years.

Garden Greens

Greens we planted at the Hubner Farm (arugula, mixed greens, lettuce) did pretty well.  Providing some sun shade helped them grow without bolting. 

Greens at my house, on the other hand, were a complete bust.  Apparently a grasshopper had taken up residence in the garden.  While it didn't touch the tomato plants, it did eat everything else I planted.  Anything green was eaten down to ground level in a matter of hours.  If you check out the picture of our round planter with greens, you'll notice that the grasshopper ate the green lettuces and left the red ones.

The best natural control for grasshoppers is a chicken, but with Mona's interest in chasing birds that wasn't going to work.  I would have considered renting one for a day.

We continue to learn and refine our garden approach.  Hopefully we can see more success than disappointment going forward!

 


I've Changed My Terms of Service

I'm sure you've seen--or rather, skimmed past--the Terms of Service that govern services like Facebook, LinkedIn and the like.  Similar to End User License Agreements, these are the things you skim over so you can quickly click Accept and move on.

Well I've decided to change my terms of service, at least when it comes to LinkedIn networking.  More accurately, I've decided to revert to something closer to my original terms.

When I started on LinkedIn, I took seriously their advice to "only connect with people you know."  I even remember an email exchange with a (somewhat distant) co-worker who wanted to make sure he really new me before he accepted my connection request.

This advice from LinkedIn was in contrast to the "LION" (LinkedIn Open Networker) approach, which was much more promiscuous about connecting.  Their argument was that you never know who you're going to want to know or be able to help.  OK, that's a valid point.

Maybe a year ago, things at LinkedIn seemed to change, in two important ways

  • LinkedIn made it much easier (a one-click experience) to request a connection.  Click the button and someone receives your connection request, with a stock "I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn" message.
  • LinkedIn seems to have changed its stance on curating connection requests.  It seemed (and seems now) that anyone who's a member of a group with me can send me a connection request.  There doesn't seem to be any more of the LinkedIn "show me you know this person" hurdles to jump over.

In a fit of pique, I decided to go ahead and accept these connection requests.  Hey, if LinkedIn was going to make it that easy, then I was going to oblige them.  Often I would notice that the requester would show up on my "who's viewed your profile" list, making me realize they were mass-mailing these connection requests and really weren't even aware that they'd sent me a request.  So for a while I would write to them, explain that I wasn't sure if they intended to connect but I was happy to accept.  Sometimes people would write back and say that, indeed, they wanted to connect.  And I've built some good relationships out of these kinds of blind-date connections.

More and more, however, things have been getting a bit spammy.

  • Susan sends me a connection request
  • I accept
  • Susan sends me a message, pitching me on her/her company's services (lead generation and outsourced software development being the leading examples)
  • I explain that I'm not in the market for these services (something they could have surmised had they bothered to check), but hey, good luck with it
  • Susan never contacts me again

After a while, people like Susan (and their associates) show up in my news feed, and I have to work to remember:  is this someone I have a professional relationship with?  As with other social forces, the noise starts to overcome the signal (what?)

So as of today, I've started purging my connection lists of people that seemed to want to treat networking like a one-night-stand.  And I'm turning back people that have no connection to me, and haven't included a personal note with their connection request.

I've had some great conversations with people I didn't previously know, so I'm certainly still open to requests from out of the blue.  But if it looks like you're just following the LinkedIn Path of Least Resistance, and it looks like you want to sell first and help later, then I can say "it's not you--it's me."

As in, "I have this strange desire to know first and sell later.  So find a way to connect with me, show me that your interest is more than transactional, and we'll talk."


When Love Wins

Last week was a momentous week, especially with the Supreme Court affirming the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  I happened to be driving past the Facebook campus on Friday, and noticed that their "like" sign had been covered in the rainbow-colored gay pride background.

Twitter no doubt went crazy (I stayed away) but when I checked in to Facebook there were scores of posts celebrating the news, and lots of people changing their profile photos to include a gay pride background.  As I said in my Facebook post, I thought this was a big day for America.

I also noticed what was missing: reaction from those who didn't favor the idea of same-sex marriage.  Some of these friends are prolific posters, so I knew it wasn't because they had nothing to say.  More likely, they were holding off.  This got me thinking that it might help to explain my position on the matter.

First off, living in the San Francisco area, we're used to "live and let live" being the dominant ethos.  It can be easy to forget that what seems normal here is far from normal in many other places.

Second, my happiness had to do with empathy for the gay and lesbian friends and co-workers I've known over the years.  Seeing someone have to avoid sharing their personal life for fear of rejection or retribution just seemed like a terrible way to live.  For me, this ruling was about being able to say, "this is who I am!"  I couldn't be happier knowing that this roadblock to living a genuine life had been removed.

I have friends who object to homosexuality on religious grounds.  I get that, and I'm not here to change their minds.  I don't think the Supreme Court ruling threatens their beliefs.  Freedom of religion is a strong value in our country.  What you choose to believe about others, as a result of your religious beliefs, is up to you.

I also think there are those that equate marriage to a religious institution and event.  It is that, but that's not the "marriage" that is in question here.  I focus on the ability to obtain a marriage certificate--a legal document from the government.  This ruling doesn't mean that churches are now going to be obligated to conduct wedding ceremonies for people living a life those churches don't believe in.  I had the opportunity to get married in a church, and the religious leaders made it clear what was required of me (and my spouse) for that to happen.  It was in essence a business transaction:  you do this for us, we do that for you.  Even the fact that I belonged to the church didn't grant me any special privileges in that regard.

Having just finished reading a book about the struggle for ensuring voting rights for black Americans, I see this ruling in that context.  This was a great victory, but the struggle to grant equal rights to those whose sexual preferences are different than my own is a struggle that continues.

I'm not into culture wars.  I don't celebrate the unhappiness of anyone who thinks this ruling is wrong.  I'm glad I have friends with diverse opinions; it makes like more interesting.  I don't expect to convince anyone to think differently about the same-sex marriage ruling after reading this.  I do hope they'll have a different understanding.


Ten Days in Paradise

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Sometime back in the fall, the family is sitting around the table discussing options for our winter vacation. The default option is to use our timeshare week in South Lake Tahoe and go skiing.  But this year Sean, Danielle and Brian (who all live in places where it snows in the winter) want to go somewhere warm.  I can understand that.  We check out numerous February vacation options and the one that seems to pop successfully out of the linear optimizer is Hawaii; specifically, The Big Island.  The last time anyone was there was for our friend Kaui's funeral, so there are some emotions to navigate.  But eventually everyone is on board and we're ready to go.  Brian is heading out first (and in first class--what a brat!), Sean and Danielle next, and Crystal and I last.  

Here's our account of the trip, complete with pictures of course.  So sit back, grab a Mai Tai or bottle of Longboard Ale, and enjoy!

Friday

Crystal and I fly from San Jose to Maui, and then on to Hilo. We stop in at Café 100 for some Loco Moco. Not too early to get into Hawaiian style! I ask the car rental agent if I need four-wheel drive to go across Saddle Road, and she gives me a "you haven't been here in a while, have you?" look. Turns out Saddle Road was recently renovated (thank you, Senator Inouye!) and is one of the best roads on the island. Our rental car seems to be having transmission issues, so I take it back and get upgraded to a practically brand-new Dodge Durango. Off we go.

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This is my first time crossing the island this way, and it really gives you a good feel for all the different climate zones that exist on the island. We cross the summit and drop into Waikoloa, just in time for the weekend going-home traffic. Even in paradise…

We catch up with Brian, Sean and Danielle at the Sheraton, where we're staying for a night before our condo is ready the next day. Lots of excitement as we catch up and talk about what we want to do for the week.

First up, dinner in Waikoloa at Roy's. The food is great, service OK. It's a great way to start our vacation.

Saturday

Check-out day at the Sheraton Kona and check-in day at the Kona Coast Resort just up the road.  The place is a little dated, but there's plenty of room and we're near the pool, restaurant, bar and barbecues so we'll take it.  It's right on a golf course (yeah!) which is closed for renovation (dang!).  After check-out we head down to Keauhou Harbor, to Akule Supply Company, for breakfast. Sean, Brian and Danielle have already been frequenting this place and like the food and atmosphere. This means another chance to sample the Loco Moco, which is fantastic.

Next up, we head to a local farmer's market to pick up fruit and vegetables for the week. (We always start out thinking we'll cook most of our dinners, but it never seems to work out that way.) It's amazing to see how many varieties of avocado and papaya there are on the island. Then there's the jackfruit, which is like a punk-rocker version of a watermelon.

After the market, we check into our condo and then head down the road for lunch at Da Poke Shack. I'm not that big of a poke eater, but this stuff is outrageously good. They serve whatever kind of fish they get that day, which in our case is tuna. There are a variety of preparations, but it really doesn't matter what you choose, because they're all good. And the Primo beer (the big dog in local beer before the craft brew revolution) is a nice touch.

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We reach Steve Doyle and invite him down for dinner. About the time I head to KTA to pick up some fish for dinner, a windstorm hits the island and knocks the power out. Good thing I have cash… Steve and I pick up on our mutual joke-telling while I grill up dinner. Mai Tai consumption is trending upward.

Sunday

Steve sleeps over, and we convince him to join us for brunch at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. This is one of those memory-lane events we've all been anticipating, since this was a favorite activity on earlier trips. We remember all kinds of great food, from sushi to fruit to all kinds of breakfast choices… all served in an open-air lobby. But first, it's time for a papaya breakfast, supplemented with Ahi jerky. Hey, those farmer's market fruits won't eat themselves!

This year's version of brunch doesn't match up to our memories. The venue has moved to another area of the hotel, apparently because that part of the Mauna Kea was damaged in the 2006 earthquake. The food's still good—very good—but the atmosphere is a little lacking and the overall feeling is this meal isn't going to live up to our expectations.

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After brunch we head over to Hapuna Beach, one of the best beaches on the island. Normally this beach has a wide swath of white sand.  But with the waves up and stormy conditions, most of the beach is gone. We spend lots of time in the water, but it's tough to catch any waves with the water so churned up.

After time at the beach, we head up to Kawaihae Harbor so Sean can show Danielle where he used to work. We head to the bar above the former Harbor Grill and Sean immediately reconnects with the owner. We have pupu's and Mai Tai's, judging the Mai Tai's to be some of the best on the island.

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We return to Kona and head to Humpy's Alehouse for burgers and beers. Crystal and I get into a conversation with a couple from Washington state who have retired and bought property on the south end of the island. They're telling us about starting out with no running water and no electricity. Crystal and I are thinking "oh, hell no!"

Monday

Today is our Big Adventure, a snorkel cruise to Kealakekua Bay on board a catamaran. It reminds me of sailing with Pam and Malcolm through the Greek Isles. The ride down to Kealakekua Bay turns into an impromptu whale watching trip as we see all kinds of humpbacks breaching a few hundred yards away from the boat.

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Snorkeling is great (I even saw an octopus) although crowded. It's a great ride back to Keauhou Harbor, with lots more whales to see and the waves crashing up against the shore. After we get back we head down to the Kona Coffee district. We make a brief stop at the Painted Church, then drive down the hill to Pu'uhonua Honaunau, aka City of Refuge; one of my favorite places. If you broke one of the many kapu's and had a hoard of angry warriors trying to chase you down and kill you, your one shot at redemption was to get to this place.  Here the local religious people would perform the rituals that would get you a reprieve.  (Confession would be a lot more popular if the alternative was being eviscerated.)  A lot of the grounds are under restoration so it's not as fun as we remember from past trips.

After that it's back to Akule Supply Company for dinner; awesome short ribs and (of course) more Mai Tai's.

We hear about an earthquake in Japan, and are happy to hear that the tsunami warning is cancelled.

Tuesday

Today's surf lesson is postponed, since the instructors are fully booked. So, on to Hawi, at the north end of the island. We take Highway 190, which traverses the mid-altitude side of the saddle, into Waimea (aka Kamuela). There's an awful lot of ranch country up that way. Sean is pointing out many of the highlights to Danielle, who has heard the stories of Sean's horse training days up country.

Next stop is Parker Ranch store, where we stock up on Hawaiiana. I see an agricultural theme and pick up a number of t-shirts. We head to Hawaiian Style Café for breakfast/lunch. Hawaiian Style is known for its large portions, which should only be eaten by paniolos before they start their day. It's interesting to note that the menu lets you know you can't order a split dish,  but any leftovers are fed to a local hog farm… lucky hogs!

We go on to Hawi, for a short walk through the center of town. The Batman rides outside one of the local stores are long gone, but in other respects Hawi seems about the same. 

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I want to go to the heiau there because it definitely gives you "chicken skin" but everyone else is ready to get back to Kona. We stop at Kapa'a Beach but it's too rocky for swimming. On the other hand, there's lots to see with the whales offshore. At some point we imagine them saying, "oh yeah?! Watch this!"

As we make it past Waikoloa Village we hit a horrendous backup on the road (there's only one) into Kona. Mostly it's just the traffic from everyone who lives in Kona (or south of there) and works at one of the resorts along the Kohala Coast. But there's also a delay due to people setting up a fresh memorial for those that died the past weekend in a head-on collision on the highway. So sad.

Eventually we make it into Kona and head to the Kona Brewing Company (yes, that one) for some brews and dinner. They actually have a large variety of beers (one of which features Kona coffee) and the food is OK; bar food. After that, we stop in at the Kona Inn (another Malcolm Brown recommendation) for Mai Tai's. We're not sure they're the best on the island (we're voting for the Seafood Bar in Kawaihae) but they're still quite good.

Wednesday

Today we learn to surf. After check-in and a pretty funny on-land practice getting up on a surfboard, we head down the road to Kahalu'u Beach. We're learning on long boards, which are pretty forgiving. There's not much surf, but we eventually decide to give it a try anyway. The beach has a rock jetty that protects a cove and coral reef, but there's a break to the right where we can sit and wait for the waves. Everyone manages to get up on the board and catch a wave at one time or another; Danielle seems to be a natural at it. As for me… let's just say there were some spectacular face plants into the water, and that I was advised at one point to not use a skiing stance on the board. We were joined at one point by a local surfer and his retriever (who swam out in a doggie life vest). At least the dog was kind enough to not show me up by surfing back into shore.

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After surfing we head into Kona to Broke Da Mouth Grinds for some lunch. Danielle found this place, and it's a winner. It's small and non-descript, in a business park. So the only thing it can have going for it is awesome food—which it does. The menu is a combination of Hawaiian and Philippines and it's good.

After lunch we head back to Kahalu'u Beach, this time for some swimming/snorkeling. It's a bit crowded but the sea turtle that decides to haul out and sun himself near us makes up for it.

Dinner find us back at Akule Supply Company for dinner. Then we walk back to our condo, stopping long enough to enjoy another wonderful sunset. After that, it's a game of Hearts. Brian correctly points out that I'm hard to play with, as I have a "go big or go home" strategy, meaning I try to run the board almost every hand.

Thursday

Last day in paradise for Sean, Danielle and Brian. We're off to Kona for Acai Bowls (another Danielle find) and Three-Stone Blend from Java on the Rock (thank you for the suggestion, Malcolm Brown!). Everyone wants some beach time, so we head to La'aloa Beach, aka White Sands Beach aka Disappearing Sands Beach. The surf is too rough for swimming, but it's fun to watch the waves.  A local snorkeler bags an octopus and asks us, "did you see that shark?"  When we say "no" he says, "neither did I!"  Ummm, k.

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We head over to Keauhou Harbor since it's the only nearby beach with decent swimming conditions today. Apparently the sea turtles agree, and we're happy to share space with them.

And naturally, since we're here, we stop in at Akule Supply Company for poke and burgers (along with more Lava Man Red Ale).

After swimming and a break, we're on our way to Kawaihae for dinner with friends Steve and Diane, at Café Pesto. This was always a must-do item when visiting Steve and Kaui, for goat cheese pizza. Then we're off to the airport to drop off Sean, Danielle and Brian. Crystal and I head back to our condo, which feels much larger and quieter than we'd like. We find a local cooking show to watch while we finish off the last of the papaya.

Friday

It's a little strange to wake up with our kids having gone back to the mainland. We head into Kona, to Island Lava Java for some fantastic coffee and breakfast. Suddenly we have to make our own choices about where to eat and what to do.  Where are the tour guides?

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The weather is great today. The winds have turned around and the surf is down at Kahalu'u but it's coming up elsewhere.

When we were in Havi, I learned about a program to grow all of the area's vegetables and fruit locally; apparently they import a lot of it, which makes no sense.  I roll the thought around in my head that maybe I could help the North Kohala food security program via CGNET, or SITIA. It's an interesting thought.

Crystal and I decide to head south, to coffee country. We stop at Greenwell Farms and get a personal tour of the operation. It turns out the "we're accepting cherries" sign refers to coffee cherries; it's roasting time! From Greenwell Farms we head over to the Painted Church, which is beautiful inside despite showing its age. And the view of the ocean from the church entrance is enough to make you not look and trip on the steps leading to the parking lot.

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After the Painted Church, we head down to the Kona Pacific Farmer's Cooperative.  Whereas Greenwell Farms buys coffee cherries from local farmers and processes them (as well as their own coffee), the Kona Pacific Farmer's Cooperative is more of a hippie-style shared resource setup.  Here, farmers come and use the equipment to process their own coffee (as well as macadamia nuts).  These guys have been around since 1910 and the tour is decidedly un-touristy.  They do have a nice garden with examples of common trees and plants from the island. I'm fascinated with all the chickens roosting in the shade of the trees.

We head down to Napo'opo'o Beach to see about swimming. It turns out this is the beach we had come to with Sean and Brian the first time we visited nearby City of Refuge. I remember them boogie-boarding. Now, the beach is gone. Hurricane Iniki sideswiped the island here, and took all the beach sand with it. We're at the other end of Kealakekua Bay, and can see the monument to Captain Cook at the far end, where we were snorkeling earlier in the week.

Heading back to our condo, we stop in at Sam Choy's for a drink, and to check out the view. The restaurant has a killer view of sunset over the ocean, but we've come a bit early to avoid the crowds. The hostess asks us if we want to sit inside or outside (outside, please) but seems confused when we tell her we don't want to sit in the sun. Apparently "outside in the shade" is not a combination she recognizes.  It's happy hour, and there's an incredible whale show going on out in the ocean. I think the difference between locals and tourists here is that the locals don't turn around to check out the whales breaching offshore.

We head back to Keauhou Harbor to swim, as the surf's been too rough elsewhere on the island. Our decision not to scuba dive tonight with the manta rays is a good one, as the dive boats are fighting five to six foot swells as the snorkelers and divers get ready to head into the water. We take tons of pictures of the surf crashing on the lava outside the Sheraton.

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Saturday

Today we travel to Hilo, where we will depart tomorrow for California. After checking out of our condo, we head in to Kona for coffee at Java on the Rock . We tell the server to say hello to Malcolm's sister-in-law. After coffee we're on our wait to meet Steve in Waimea. Try as I might, I still miss the turn-off to Steve's house. Steve takes us to the coffee house in Waimea, where they have a picture of Kaui on display. Sigh.

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Steve's going to drive with us down to Hilo, and Crystal has several stops planned along the way. Right on schedule, the mist kicks in when we get about a half mile out of Waimea. But then the mist doesn't go away as I had thought it would. And what I then think is a brief shower shows itself to be a persistent, heavy downpour. At one point it's raining about one to two inches per hour. We stop at Tex's Drive-In in Honaka'a, but with the rain and the long line we decide one less plate lunch will be OK.

We drive on, and stop at Akaka Falls. It's still raining like crazy, but Crystal wants to see the falls. I kind of wish we could have reproduced the picture of Sean and Brian standing next to the sign at the falls, but that wasn't in the cards. I'm ready to get annoyed at Crystal for not following the suggested route to the falls, when—of course—her intuition or memory is correct and we've taken the short route to the falls. Despite saving so much time, we're still soaking wet by the time we get back to the parking lot. Steve, wisely, decides to wait for us and stay out of the rain.

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We drive on toward Hilo, and stop just outside of the city. We're at the cemetery where Kaui's ashes are interred. She's buried alongside her mom and grandmother. The spot overlooks the ocean, and (on any other day) would provide a great view of a large tree and the ocean beyond, very serene. Steve leaves the flowers he picked up in Honoka'a. The inscription on Kaui's headstone reads "Love One Another.  Rejoice Evermore.  Pray without Ceasing." The headstone is for both Kaui and her mom. Steve tells us the story about how Kaui was supposed to get a headstone for her mom, but never did. So it was up to Steve to rectify the situation, five years after her mom's passing. We all have a good laugh about that, such a typical Kaui story. Spending time at Kaui's grave was emotional, as expected. I sort of felt like we were holding our breath all week, waiting for this moment. But in the end, "turn the page" becomes the phrase that captures our feelings. Hawaii isn't the same without Kaui. Neither is Steve. Neither are we. But Hawaii would have changed regardless, and we have changed as well. It feels good, in an odd way, to feel like I can end this chapter and go on to the next one. I'll always miss Kaui, and I'll always remember so many good times we had with her. But I'm ready to live in the present.

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We drive on into Hilo, and check in to our hotel along Hilo Bay. We head over to Uncle Billy's for a Mai Tai, as Crystal's father had suggested. But the bar is closed, for good. Clearly, it's time to move on.

Back to our hotel to change out of our wet clothes. Steve and I are watching some comedian on Comedy Central, laughing our heads off. Seems like old times. We head out to Pineapples, a restaurant Steve recommends, for dinner and drinks. The restaurant is an open-air style, typical of Hawaii. So it's a bit cool, since the rain is still coming down hard. The overhang is keeping the rain out so we're OK. But there's something surreal about being in a restaurant in Hawaii in the pouring rain, while we watch an outdoor hockey game being played at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara.

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Sunday

The rain from yesterday has diminished to a drizzle. It's hard not to miss Kona, on the sunny side of the island.

Breakfast with Steve and Crystal at Kuhio Grille, "home of the one-pound lau lau". Sounds like gut bomb to me! One of the local high school basketball teams is at the nearby table; interesting to see what the players choose for their pre-game meal… Breakfast of Champions as they say.

On to Longs Drugs for some gift shopping before we head to the airport. There's an interesting only-in-Hawaii episode involving Crystal, a CVS discount card (or not) and the cashier. In the end, she gives Crystal the kamaaina discount, saying, "this really is the best island."

On to Hilo Airport. Steve decides to hang out with us until we need to get to the gate. One more opportunity to have a Lava Man Red Ale.

Time to check in. Hilo is a tiny airport, and every passenger flying out of Hawaii has to go through agricultural inspection, so I'm a little nervous about the time. As it turns out, we're two of about twenty people all told that are flying at this time, and the whole ticketing/baggage inspection/security routine takes about five minutes.  After that we're off, quickly leaving Hawaii below the clouds.

It's been a great trip.  We love traveling with our adult children; it's fun to see what they find fascinating and how they choose to spend their time.  It's great to see that Steve is doing well.  We went to Hawaii to relax and recharge.  Mission accomplished.


Goodbye, 2014, and Thanks for All the Fish

Departement of Obscure References

On this final day of 2014, it's time once again for me to yell, "You kids get off my lawn!" and publish the list of words, phrases, ideas and people that I'm done with.  And it turns out I'm not the only one publishing these kinds of lists.  Here's one example I heard about this morning.

But since this blog is All About Me, let's get to my favorites to hate on:

  • Onboarding
  • Selfie
  • The use of "hashtag", in word or symbolic form, anywhere outside of Twitter
  • And then the most amazing thing happened/you won't believe what happened next/this made me…
  • Share if you agree
  • Internet trolls
  • Event meaning sales event
  • Violence against women
  • Energy as a euphemism for oil
  • Institutional racism
  • Combining mental illness with easy access to guns
  • "Who's got it better than us?" (Turns out, lots of other football teams)
  • Enhanced interrogation techniques
  • Any Kardashian (a perennial entry)

Seems like a short list.  Maybe it's because fewer and fewer things bother me these days.

Happy New Year to one and all!