Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Toronto ... in the winter

As if winter wasn't cold enough in New Jersey, I'm heading to Toronto, Ontario tomorrow, eh. This little trip is cleverly disguised as training. What that really means of course is we'll spend the day talking around issues and not having any questions answered.

On the bright side, I get to see some of my colleagues from Canada and spend time in a city I've not been in before.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

You probably don't care

But since I work in the steel industry, I find the hostile takeover bid by Mittal Steel of Arcelor Steel quite interesting. Like everything else, most of the steel companies in the world are starting to be controlled by a few companies ... very few of the them U.S. companies. My mill is owned by a Brazillian company, and Mittal and Nippan both own many of the other U.S. mills. It's becoming more and more difficult for U.S. companies to compete with the upcoming Asian markets. This is especcially true in the North East, where power costs more than anywhere else in the country, people get paid more and we're next to an ocean so importing is becoming a serious issue. I guess it's why so many companies are embracing lean manufacturing (after Japan whooped the U.S. for a few years I guess).

Friday, February 24, 2006

More info you don't need

Now that I'm feeling better, I have to say that I'm amazed by the body's ability to continue to generate material far after the stomach and intestines are vacant. Even after the chicken picatta, apple pie, and salad were gone, my body was still able to produce something for me to offer to the porcelain gods. Today I am finally able to replace some of the missing sustenance without feeling likely to assume the position. I wonder how long it would take to be truly empty?

The office, finally

With all the traveling Ryan and I have done recently, it took us waaayy too long to finish the office. To be honest, there were a couple times that Ryan wanted to get it finished up and I, well, didn't. I blame it on the weekend couch gnomes.

Last weekend Ryan finished up the caulking and paining on the window frames. We painted the room and Ryan hung the blinds while I was away on my ill-fated business trip. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you actually get motivated.

The first picture is what the office looked like when we moved in. Since then we have replaced the windows, framed them out, painted the walls and put in furniture (of course).

The second picture is the after shot. I think I'm going to add some pictures from our various Hawaii trips and put up a painting I bought from a woman in Hawaii to finish up.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I was pukin' in Georgia

After a successful day on a benchmarking trip to Cartersville, GA, our host took us to the Appalachain Grill. "The best meal in Georgia!" "This place is great!" I was looking forward to the highly praised meal, and indeed, it was good. We had fried green tomatoes, salad topped with walnuts and cranburys, chicken piccata and apple pie for desert. Yummy ... until 1 am.

When I woke up with a terrible feeling in my stomach. I threw up from 1 am until 11 am. I was supposed to be on a flight at 3:45. Fat chance. My co-workers brought me medicine and gatorade and took me to a hotel near the airport where Becky came and babysat for the night. Thank goodness she lives in Atlanta.

I finally got home this afternoon. I don't feel great, but have managed to keep down some food today. Food poisoning sucks. Sisters rock. Being sick away from home is really lame.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

At Volcano

Some of the monsooning we experienced.


Here is the opening of a cave we went exploring.

Cool looking orchids

In Hilo.


There are apparently wild donkeys hanging out in Waipio. We also saw wild goats at one of the more deserted beaches.

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley is a beautiful valley that you have to have 4 wheel drive to get into. It used to be the vacation spot for Hawaiin Kings and Queens. A couple thousand people lived here at one time until a Tsunami wiped it out in the early 1900s. It's slowly being repopulated, but still only a few dozen people live there, without running water, electricity or other creature comforts.

The end :(

On Friday we really just hung out at some beaches and soaked the last of the Hawaiian rays. Our trip home was sad (and long). Like last time, Hawaii is one of the only places I've visited that I really wanted to stay. I'm going to post a few more of our favorite pictures from the trip, in no particular order.

Whale Watching

Since it was whale season in Hawaii we had to go on a whale watching cruise. Right now, it is calving and breeding season, so guess what we saw? First were two groups of three, a mother, her calf and her escort. Before we went in, we also saw a female being followed by a couple of amorous males. She turned on her side and slapped the water with her flipper to let the guys know she wasn't interested just yet.

These are amazing creatures. They are the size of a bus. A couple times, we got to see them right off the bow of the boat. We also got to see spinner and bottle nosed dolphins, taking a free trip in our wake. This was maybe the coolest experience of the vacation.

One of God's little clues

That maybe we shouldn't go any further into the water. The ocean was super rough the entire time we were in Hawaii. Apparently the ocean is rougher in the winter anyway, but it was even rougher than normal because of some strange ocean currents. This beach had tide pools where the ocean broke on the lava before the pools. It makes you feel very insignificant to observe the awe inspiring power of the ocean.

The aftermath

We had to get a picture of the aftermath of all our 4 wheel driving. The jeep looks red in this picture, but it was Illini orange. Even after we took it through the car wash, you could definitely tell we had been off roading. Ooops. The good news is we didn't get charged extra.

Don't adjust your colors

It's green sand. We headed back to the south point of Hawaii, which is the southern most point of the United States. This was defininately one of the most fun days of the trip. The south point is a 4 wheel drive to the green sand beach. This is a beach you literally have to climb down into. It's also the one where I got an earful of green sand that took almost a year to get completely cleared. I thought that this year it would be different. Alas, I still ended up with green sand in places it should never ever be. For whatever reason, Ryan seems to get away from the beach without getting knocked tail over teakettle.

As an aside, it looks like we're getting a blizzard this weekend, so I may actually have time to finish blogging the trip.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

So I have a thing for Hawaiians

I assure you, I went home with Ryan.

Luau on the table

The last time we went to Hawaii, we went to a Luau. This time, we went on a dinner cruise and it was soooooo much better. It was essentially a Luau on our tables. Yes, they are dancing on the table. The three Asian women behind them were too funny. They were horrified and couldn't decide if they wanted to watch or not.

The food was tasty and the adult beverages were cheap, so a great time was had by all.


I can't think of a better way for us to have spent our anniversary. In the morning we went on a snorkeling cruise, in the evening, a dinner cruise. This picture is actually from the first beach, but the pictures were better, so there you go.

Snorkeling in Kona

Our first day back in Kona we went snorkeling at a beach a few miles from our hotel. All you had to do was stick your face in the water and ....

We swam with at least 2 turtles (maybe 4, we don't know if they were the same 2 turtles over again). They are really beautiful, graceful creatures underwater. I got a little obsessed with turtles this trip. Pretty much all of my souvenirs were turtles (necklace, office holder, window clings, etc).

There were also beautiful and ugly fish. There is a fish that is usually yellow. In the waters off of Kona, it is black. People would pay thousands of dollars for it, because it is only black in Kona, no where else in the world. You know what happened when they took it away from Kona? It turned yellow. Hehe. One of God's little jokes.


Puna is the farthest east town in Hawaii. Apparently, scientists test "virgin" air there because it's been floating over nothing but ocean for thousands of miles. Smelled good.

Puna is a very cool town, and the weather finally broke the day we explored there. This is a natural steam room, created by volcanically heated steam that rises into caves like this one. It was not quite as warm as a sauna here, but very warm and steamy. This one even had benches put in there by locals.

We also got to swim in a natural freshwater swimming pool 40 feet from the ocean and saw a series of tide pools created by lava flows. You get to see things in Hawaii that you see no where else on the planet.

Whoa there in Waimea

My favorite sign of the trip. We took a really quick trip to Waimea, in the northern part of Hawaii. The town is primarly a ranching town. Apparently, the story goes that a couple of cows were a gift to King Kamemehea. He made it kapu to kill, harm, or eat them to give them a chance to multiply. Soon, they were hoodlums, eating everything in sight and literally running people out of their homes.
This Parker guy was a rancher in the mainland who was living in Hawaii. Because he was good with cows and guns, the King gave them the authority to start hunting the cows, and control the population. He started taking the best cows as payment, domesticated them, married the princess and was eventually deeded (through the royalty) a ranch with something like 125,000 acres (9%) of island. Paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) have been ranching ever since. Kind of a neat story, although indicative of how the Hawaiian lands ended up in non-Hawaiian hands.

That being said, this sign was the coolest thing in Waimea.

As close as we got

We couldn't get any closer than this to the lava. Still, it was pretty cool to see earth being formed ... in the driving rain.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Volcano was pretty much a wash out. It was driving rain the entire time. We have some cool pictures of lava flows and the lava tube we walked through, but they're on the other camera, so you'll have to wait. Once again, we couldn't get right up to where the lava was flowing, so we had to content ourselves with distant pictures of steam rising from where it was flowing into the sea. We couldn't get closer. The rangers said something about "unstable lava benches" bah.

We walked through an old lava tube while we were there. That was really cool. It was 1000 feet in complete darkness. We brought good flashlights, but at the end of the tube you literally could see nothing. Not your hand in front of your face. And your eyes never adjusted. It was pretty cool to see how lava reaches distant parts of the island.

Since it was monsooning, we headed back to Hilo and stopped at this botanical garden. Seriously amazing vegatation. Here's Ryan next to the biggest tree I'd ever seen. There were flowers that looks like they would eat you and some of the coolest looking vegatation I've ever seen.


After getting in late to Kona on Wednesday night, we spent the night in Kona and got up on Thursday to drive to Hilo. This is the view from our room, which was very pretty, but we quickly learned why the east side of the island looks like a rain forest.

This was about as much sun as we got during the first couple of days. Our room always smelled like must (although supposedly the "best hotel in Hilo"). I'm sure depression isn't as high here as in Seattle cause of the beaches and all, but I was happy to head back to Kona on Sunday.

Our first day, we saw some interesting waterfalls and other beautiful natural phenomenon. What was amazing to me is that in most places you hike for hours to see one gorgeous waterfall. Not here, you just pulled off the side of the road and it was beautiful. Not to be deterred, we left for Volcano on Friday.

Two Crazy Haoles

Aloha. We're safely back in New Jersey. Sigh. We had a great time, and next time the trip will probably be 2 weeks instead of 10 days. It's gonna take me a couple of days to blog our entire adventure, so be patient with me!

The first 3 days of our trip can be summed up in two words: It Rained.
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