January 2007

Scott Adams’ blog is about the funniest I’ve seen. Sometimes even better than his cartoon, which has been a daily antidote to office boredom than I can’t live without–no that’s no logic error. I can’t live without office boredom because I can’t live without a day job in the office (at least for now), and therefore I can’t live without a strong antidote to office boredom either.

One of his latest pieces is about how to avoid knowing the result of Australian Open before watching his recording. I remember seeing somewhere that humor is about absurdity, which is definitely true here:

Halfway between my home and my office – a 47 second walk – lives a friend who is a tennis pro. He knows the result by now. He might have stayed up all night to watch. If I see him, or either of his tennis-playing sons, my plan is to jump into the community pool and stay underwater until they leave.

But the next paragraph isn’t absurd at all in itself, but it still makes a banal everyday event funny:

When I turn on my TV to watch the match, there will be a two-second delay before I can hit the right sequence of buttons on the remote to switch to the TiVo. In the past, I have heard sporting results in that two-second gap. I’ll have to hit Power and Mute almost simultaneously, then switch to TiVo with my eyes shut in case there’s a picture of one of the players hoisting a trophy. I’m already doing some warm-up exercises to get it right. Power-mute-TiVo, power-mute-Tivo, power-mute-Tivo.

And how not to watch a recording? By not recording at all! Before we left for Hawaii, I setup the DVR to record the semifinals and finals, after I was very pleased to find that the program guide is available a week in advance. But when we got back, nothing was recorded. Not a single minute. I could swear I heard the TiVo God’s thundering laughter above.

BTW I read an article by TiVo’s CTO Jim Barton on ACM Queue (April 2006) about the history and technology behind TiVo. It’s a true fascinating piece of hardware, software, and network engineering, where every design decision is a tradeoff. The most important one that makes TiVo successful? “It just works.”

Things we did in our last two days:

  • Haleakala National Park: We drove all the way to the 10,000ft summit–that must be the easiest mountain “climbing” ever. The road is extremely well paved, and really a piece of cake for driving compared to Hana Highway. The desolate scene within the dormant volcano is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, but it’s a pretty boring landscape.
  • South Maui: Coming down from Haleakala, we drove around Kihei and Wailea. There’s a stark contrast between the high-end resort hotels in Wailea and the working-class residences in Kihei. Had dinner at one of Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurant, again very nice.
  • Outrigger canoe race: We first saw scores of canoes getting to Black Rock from our balcony, and later when we did a last walk on Kaanapali beach we saw people getting to the finish point at Whaler Village.
  • Iao Valley State Park: We booked a guided rain forest walk, but the guide called in sick (we suspect that s/he went surfing instead). The valley vista is very different from other places on the island, but the park is too small.

We wrapped up the wonderful vacation with a 2nd trip to Mama’s Fish House. It’s not as shockingly good as the first time, but still very pleasant.

The last thing we did on the island is to munch away 3 apples at the airport, since no fruit is allowed back to the continent. A guy sitting beside us gorged 2 big apples all by himself. Then came the long flight home, and the vacation is over 😥

We booked a tour for 10am, but they had some technical problem and had to move us to 3pm, so we went to snorkel at Black Rock for a few hours first.

We caught some glimpses of quite a few whales on our way to and back from Molokini, but nothing could have prepared us for this afternoon. We saw several groups of whales, maybe a total of more than 20 individuals. The main group is 5-6 males chasing and fighting for a female, kept circling and surfacing.

Then on our way back, the captain made a detour to see a mother whale and her calf playing. We saw maybe 10 breaches of the mother. Indescribable!!!

I’ve never heard of snuba diving, but when it was advertised on our way to Molokini, I felt it’s something I should try, since we won’t do any scuba diving. It turned out to be one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.

Snorkeling is fun, but you’re confined to the surface. Scuba diving is the ultimate, but it’s scary and requires a lot of training. Snuba diving is scuba on leash: you’re connected to an oxygen tank on a floating raft by a rubber hose, so you don’t need to carry the oxygen, but of course you can only go as deep as the tube length, which assures safety.

For the first time, a scuba diver leads the group of 8 people. It took a while to feel comfortable, and then it’s pure bliss. Why argue whether we know how a fish feels? Just do a dive and follow a fish. The original schedule includes a 2nd snorkel site called Turtle Island, but the weather wasn’t good over there so we came back to Molokini. A 2nd snuba diving is offered, and only me and my diving partner (two persons use one oxygen tank) took it up. With much fewer people and the hose length doubled to 30ft, it was a lot more enjoyable. We saw a sting ray just as we got down, and made a big circle around our ship (J saw our raft moving on the surface). Truly, truly awesome.

Before dinner, we went up to the north-west end of the island to see surfers at Honolua Bay. It was almost like what we see on TV. Truly, truly amazing.

The sushi dinner that caps off the great day is of no less quality. What a day in, on, and from the ocean!

One of the best on-shore snorkeling place in Maui is the Black Rock, only a few hundred feet away from our hotel. What a place for our first snorkeling experience! It’s a surreal feeling to swim with the fishes. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s Molokini snorkel cruise!

The only other event in the day is the Old Lahaina Luau, reputed to be the best in town. The food and show were ok, but really toursy. It’s kind of fun to see 500 people together in Hawaiian dress and vacation mood.

I can’t argue whether it’s indeed “the world’s most beautiful drive”, but it’s surely a heavenly hell of a drive!

Cringing at the thought of being among tourist cars crawling along the way, we started the day at 7am. In an hour or so we got to the first vista point, overlooking a large bay with dozens of surfers. We stopped there again on our way back at about 4:30pm and there were maybe a hundred.

Soon afterwards the speed limit becomes 15mph with never-ending curves and endless single-lane bridges and narrows. It’s really quite stressful for driving: constantly spinning the wheel, shifting the pedals, and fighting off the temptation to take your eyes off the road for the scenery. The way back is even more difficult since the drive is mostly on the edge side and most hairspin turns are to the right, unnatural for a right-handed driver.

We got to Hana at about 1pm with maybe 10 photo-snapping stops. After a quick lunch, we stopped at Waianapanapa (how many A’s are there?) State Park and Keanae peninsula on our way back. The most remarkable view and sound is the roaring sea crashing into pitch-back modern-sculpture-like volcanic stones. Together with those black sand (volcanic ash) beaches along the way, the contrast to the beaches on the west side of the island where we stay is truly amazing.

The real highlight of the day, though, is our dinner at Mama’s Fish House. Recommended by a friend, it’s the most expensive meal we’ve ever had ($200 total), but it’s well worth it for the best fish dishes we’ve ever had. We got there at 5pm and it was already more than half filled. Most fish entrees are fresh catch of the day (with the fishing company name listed). The Ahi (bigeye/yellowfin tuna) sashimi appetizer is gorgeous. J had A’u (marlin/swordfish) and I had silver-mouth Lehi (snapper) with crispy skin, both incredibly tender and juicy. Compared with them, the Opah (moonfish) we had for lunch yesterday, which wasn’t too bad at all, was like rubber.

Jet lag got us up before 7am, making the morning long and enjoyable. We strolled along the beach up and down, passing half dozen resort hotels–Kaanapali is purported to be the first planned resort in US, and it certainly shows.

Then went to Lahaina about 11am and stayed until about 4pm in the toursy area. Most stores sell identical stuff, but it’s still a nice and lazy walk, especially under the huge Banyan tree. I bought a shirt and pants–I think the very first time in my life when I actually want to buy some clothes for myself. Have to wear a Hawaiian shirt in Hawaii, don’t you?

The highlight is that during our sea-side lunch, there’s a whale playing not too distantly, stirring up massive amount of water. What a contrast to our last whale watch attempt at Cape Cod, where we sailed 2 hours in miserable wind and rain, only to catch 3 fleeting glimpses of a tiny patch of a whale’s back.

We went back to Lahaina for dinner at a Japanese steak house. Nice wrap-up for a Lahaina day.

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