Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hawaii Part 4

Mokoli'i Island, photo by Benjamin
One day, we drove to the North Shore of Oahu. At certain times of the year, the North Shore is where all the really big surfing goes on. When we were there, the waves were pretty small, so no surfing. But we did go snorkeling. No pictures from that, unfortunately.  We stopped at a park where you could see Mokoli'i Island. Benjamin had kayaked there on an excursion with members of his program.  This time, we just observed from a distance.

Mountains to the south of Mokoli'i/Kaneohe Bay.

Here's a red-crested cardinal that we saw at the park. Neat - not native, but neat.

We were staying in the Manoa Valley, where the University of Hawaii at Manoa is located. At the top of the valley is the Lyon Arboretum, a university-owned arboretum. Of course we had to visit it, and we did, on our last morning.

This was a little more like what I was expecting from Hawaii - tropical, rainy jungle. We didn't get to see nearly enough of the gardens, since there were tons of little paths wandering through the forests, and we had to stay on the main one due to time constraints. But what we saw was very cool.

This is a Thai-style walking Buddha statue in the gardens.

Manoa Falls. Photograph by Benjamin
 Right next to the arboretum was Manoa Falls. I didn't get a chance to take the hike, but Benjamin did with some of the other people in the program. No-one paid any attention to the danger signs. Including Benjamin.

Photo by Benjamin
This is a statue of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China. Although this was a Chinese cemetery, there is no explanation of why the statue is there. There were a lot of statues around Honolulu though, so I guess it isn't really out of place.

And one last look at Benjamin, standing by the Center for Korean Studies on the University of Hawaii campus. He was in Hawaii for three weeks for work purposes before I came to visit and bring him home.

Now that I am done with my Hawaii pictures (I took a lot more, of course, but I won't subject you to those unless you come to visit us) I will have to find something else to blog about. Ah well, fall is almost here, and with it (slightly) cooler weather, so hopefully we will be able to do some hiking soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hawaii, Part 3

One of the days in Hawaii, we drove out to the westernmost tip of Oahu, to Kaena Point. It just goes to show how different the various areas of the island are; Honolulu and the Manoa Valley are pretty lush, while this side was much more scrubby and dry.

 The point is a sort of wildlife reserve, specifically for birds and Monk Seals. Because the birds that nest in the area did not evolve with predators and nest on the ground, they are vulnerable to introduced pests, such as mongoose, so this fence was built across the point to keep them out.

To get to the point, you go through this air-lock like contraption. Pretty cool actually.

There are tide pools and some vegetation on the point, and presumably, at the right time of year, birds. We didn't see anything nesting, since it was the middle of August.

We did, however, see some Monk Seals. They were sunning themselves on the rocks, and weren't particularly active.  It was the middle of the day, after all.

After we hiked back to the beach from the point, we took a cue from the seals and sunned ourselves and floated in the water. I didn't like everything about Hawaii, but I did enjoy having the ocean so near, and I could easily get used to floating in the ocean every day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hawaii Pictures Part 2

So, as I said previously, we are big nerds when it comes to arboreta and botanical gardens.  On our honeymoon, we managed to spend about 5 hours in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and every time we go visit my parents in Bellevue, we have to stop by the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. And it is not uncommon for Benjamin to stop on a hike to examine a tree (hey, his dad is a forester and he was a forest fire fighter in college. He comes by his interest honestly).

Benjamin, trying to blend in.
 All that is to say that we are pretty used to looking at trees. But the trees in Hawaii, wow. I have never seen so many enormous trees. The one pictured above is big all right, but it probably wasn't the biggest. And the other thing about these giants is that they are not really that old. Most of the gardens we toured weren't planted until the early to mid-20th century, so they were, at most 120 years old! Just. Wow.

Not only were there enormous trees, there were also some very weird trees. Like this one, which is only improved by the signs. According to the self-guided tour flyer we had, the cannonballs are bluish inside, and smell really bad.


These things really are about the size of cannonballs, and it would be extremely unpleasant to be conked on the head by one.


One of the gardens had a ton of epiphytes.The tree in the picture below is actually all epiphyte, just hanging out on a dead stump.

I had no idea how many different varieties of palms there are. The ones we probably all think of when we hear "palm tree" are Caribbean Royal Palms, and as their name suggests, they are from the Caribbean. I didn't really get a good picture of one, because they are so tall, and pointing a camera into the sun isn't really a good way to take photos. But they do have a very strange, um, appendage called the crownshaft, which we noticed on some trees on campus before we got to the gardens, and which we both thought looked rather phallic. Benjamin doesn't really have a dirty mind, so if he saw one and thought that, well...

Anyway, returning to other palms - there are many, many varieties in the world, of all shapes and sizes.  Some are short and stout, while others are reeeeeeaaalllly tall.

And finally, since I seem to be going all classy today sarcasm, here is a photo of a sausage tree too.

Yup, those things that look like corn dogs are actually fruit, hanging on peduncles (which is now my new favorite word). Apparently baboons and giraffes like to eat them.

Next time I will give the flora a rest and give you some scenery.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I have more pictures, but it is almost the end of the work day, and I don't have time to put them up today. Sorry, you will just have to wait until tomorrow. 

In other, I don't really have anything else. Life is pretty boring around here at the moment (I'm not saying that as a bad thing, just a fact). Uhh, the weather cooled off enough for us to take Miikka for a walk, and he might just get another one today. So, yeah, tomorrow with the pictures.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hawaii Pictures Part 1

Dragon fruit
This time, I don't really feel like giving you a day-by-day account of our trip to Hawaii, but I don't mind sharing pictures.

Eucalyptus tree bark
 Most of these are from our visits to botanical gardens (yes, we made multiple trips to botanical gardens. We are nerds, get over it).

Supposed to be upright, but honestly, don't feel like fixing it, again.

Looking up at a tree from below.

Star fruit


Pepper corns


Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm Back

I'm back. Now that August is more than half over, I don't have as much to whine about.  The weather is a teensy bit more bearable (well, this weekend was grossly muggy, but only 94, not 104). And I have, or will have as soon as I get them off the camera, pictures.

Benjamin starts teaching again this week, and I am trying to get myself back into school-year habits as well. It's funny - I am not in school any longer, and the only way it really touches me directly is that Benjamin is up earlier in the mornings, but I still structure my life around the school calendar year. For example: I am trying to get myself out of the house earlier than I have been for the last 3 months. Now, in part this is because everyone else in the area is also getting out earlier because school has started everywhere and parents are dropping kids off and whatnot, but partially it is because I recognize that I have let myself slide, because it is summer. It isn't fall yet, and I refuse to say it is until late September - I am a stickler for the actual solstice-defined seasons - but it is school time now, so I have to behave accordingly.

Anyway, school-time habits include being a better blogger, as well as getting back into a proper schedule at the gym. I ran about 3.5 miles this morning, after not running for over a week. The first mile was hard, physically, and I walked for a few minutes after it, but I plugged along and eventually it got easier. Mentally, i knew I could do it, since I have already done it, so it was really just a matter of not stopping. Yay!

The reason I didn't go running, and another reason I took a break here, was that we were in Hawaii last week. Benjamin had been there for 3 weeks already at a sort of summer school for professors when I joined him.  Everyone asks how the trip was, and when I say "It was pretty good," they all want to know why it wasn't absolutely fabulous. Short answer? Too many other people, everywhere. Yeah, I probably should have expected that, since it is Hawaii, but the problems caused by so many people still caught me by surprise. But since I doubt you want to hear my rants about tourists and bad civil engineering decisions (seriously - who hides the entrance to a freeway like that?!), I will restrict myself to showing you pictures of all the fun stuff we did. Once I have the pictures off the camera. Hey- I got back on Thursday, worked on Friday, and was busy this weekend. Give me a break! It's on my calendar for tonight...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad blogger, lazy blogger

Can I tell you a not-so-secret? I hate August. It is too hot, all the pretty plants have died and everything turns brown. It has been too hot for our tomatoes, even the specialty varieties I planted that were supposed to be drought tolerant, and the only things growing in the garden right now are basil and collard greens. As a friend said, there is a reason the poor folk in the south eat lots of collard greens - they tolerate, even love, the heat, and go all summer.

The heat also makes it difficult to go out and do anything worth blogging about, like hiking, and to add to the depressing factor, the airwaves are full of ads and stories about going back to school (where I come from, no-one in the right minds goes back to school until just about Labor Day, but here they go back next week!). So apart from complaining about the terrible heat wave and drought we are in here in Arkansas, I really have nothing to say. Although, we have had rain and thunderstorms every day this week, which had taken a little of the edge of the heat and dryness. But it is still too humid...

Anyway, all this is to say that I probably won't have anything to say for a week or two. You can always check back to see if I re-surface, but don't be disappointed if I don't.

Friday, August 5, 2011

One last set of Philadelphia pictures

Ha - thought I was done with Philadelphia, did you? Well, I have a bunch more, but I am getting rather tired of posting them, so I will just give you one last set.

I was actually there for a reason - the Special Libraries Association Annual Conference. Which Philadelphia put on the flyers that were hanging on the streetlights around the city. I presume that the purpose is two-fold: to welcome the visitors, and to let the locals know which group of weirdos has taken over the convention center that week.

This is a scale model of the convention center itself. Can you tell how huge it is? It covers at least three blocks, and crosses the street to another section as well (that domed building to the back left). The conference was only in the left end of the building, but I walked the length of it outside several times.

Double click on the picture to see it larger. This is the domed area, what used to be the Reading Train Terminal. That is a wood ceiling. It is huge. See the booth in the center? That was at least 6 feet tall.

And right next door to the convention center (and my hotel) was my favorite place in Philadelphia - the Reading Terminal Market. For those of you who have been to Seattle, it is sort of a smaller version of Pike Place Market, with Amish vendors (well, some of the vendors are Amish anyway). I bought loose-leaf tea, pastries, pizza, fruit, bread, breakfast (mmm...crepes - forgot to take a picture, I was too busy eating) and lunch there. If I lived in Philadelphia, I would be hard pressed not to spend every Saturday morning there...

So that is most of my trip to Philadelphia. Who knows what I will post about next week. Maybe the heat - we have hit 100 every day this week, and Wednesday we broke the all-time record for Little Rock, with 114. I am so ready for fall...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Record Heat

So, Little Rock just created a new heat record - 112 F. Yay us? Last night when I got home, I went out to the backyard to water some plants and let Miikka play in the water, but I had to run the hose for a good 4 minutes before it was cool enough to do either. Seriously, I could have made a cup of tea with the water that was coming out. And forget about a truly cold shower right now.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade

Before I get to the pictures of rainbow poodles and drag queens who have way better hair and makeup than I, quick re-cap of my tennis weekend, for anyone who is actually interested. I lost both my matches, but one I feel disappointed about my performance and one I don't. Friday night, I lost 5-7, 0-6. That one, I feel bad about; the first set was a mental battle for me, and I had been up 5-3 at one point, before collapsing. The second set was all about me mentally giving up. The woman I played was definitely better than me (she went on to play in the final match), but I should have been able to at least get a game or two from her in that second set. Ah well.  learning experience. The second match was Saturday, and I lost that one 6-4, 3-6, 0-1 (8-10 tiebreak). I don't feel bad about that one at all. The other player was a bit better than me, but we were still pretty evenly matched. I fought. And it was about 100, no shade, at 10:30-12:30 in the middle of the day. So that was my first tournament. I have my eye on one in October, one in which Benjamin and I can play mixed doubles together.

Back to Philadelphia.  The Sunday when I was doing all my sightseeing also happened to be the day of the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade. I didn't realize this until I was eating my cheese steak on a sidewalk table and groups of people began to claim other tables and line up on the sidewalk across the street. There was an excellent Lady Gaga - tried to get a picture, but I didn't have the right lens with me. I watched from my table for a while, but there were gaps between all the groups and floats - the city hadn't completely shut down the cross streets, so the floats would have to wait for cars to pass, and the groups all stopped farther up the route to vamp for the judges (or whatever you call that when they hang out in front of the judges table). I left and walked around for a while, then wound my way up to the head of the parade and grabbed a few more shots of floats.

This marching band was pretty good, although I can't remember what they were playing. I mostly liked the twirlers though.

Someone dyed their poodle herd in rainbow colors. The little pink one looks pretty happy - show-off! Personally, I can't imagine trying to dye a poodle - I have enough trouble getting Miikka bathed without adding a hair treatment!

I have no idea what this float was for - a nightclub maybe? I got a picture of another one that was definitely advertising a night club, but it was perhaps a bit much for my poor little blog. 

I think this one was in honor of gay and lesbian members of the military, but I could be wrong. The two ladies on the left look way better in those nurse outfits than I ever would, that's for sure. The one in with the red bandana looks an awful lot like Corporal Klinger from here...

And even the Park Service got involved - the judges' area was in the plaza area right outside. I probably missed quite a few good floats by wandering off, but I am glad I got to see some of it, at least.