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Wednesday--Thursday, Nov. 9--10: School of Information

As part of CITI's move to the School of Information, we're all reapplying for our current titles. The stakes aren't particularly high, in theory--it's not as though we're competing with anyone for our jobs--but it annoys me anyway. I suppose it's good for me somehow.

So Thursday was my big day, with a talk at noon surrounded by a day of meetings with SI faculty.

I only got that date Thursday, and between jet lag and my desire not to work Saturday, that didn't leave me with much preparation time.

Marius and Niels were also in town, so I had dinner with them and other folks Wednesday night at the ABC, though I did skip the book group meeting on Tuesday. (It was for a book I'd read before--American Gods--but not one I was that interested in, and I wasn't going to have time to reread it anyway.)

I thought the talk went reasonably well, considering, but it was hard to tell what I was really supposed to be doing. I didn't feel like I made a particularly good impression, and I wasn't really thinking well on my feet throughout the day. But some of the faculty were interesting, so it was fun to talk to people.

The process of becoming something more like a "real" faculty member in the new department is going to be frightening, I think. We'll see.

Saturday, Nov. 5

It was my birthday, so I got breakfast out. I chose the Cloverleaf. It's cheap, underrated, and not too noisy, unlike some of the other local places.

We went to juggling, then to Cottage Inn afterwards. I just went for the company, and had a hot apple cider--no need for food so soon after a big breakfast.

My parents gave me a bathrobe when I went off to college, but I must have lost it at some point. I don't remember when. I'd been complaining about the loss recently, so Sara made up for it with a soft fleece bathrobe as a birthday present.

My parents renewed our New Yorker subscription. I've actually started reading the articles, not just the cartoons. It's nice for travel, as I can take a bunch of old New Yorkers with me (they always pile up) and discard them as I read.

Friday, Nov. 4: bananas

I kept notes and pictures for Hawaii, but my memory of ordinary days back in Ann Arbor is gone.

So instead I'll write about bananas. They had more than one variety of banana in the markets in Hawaii. The one I kept getting was the apple banana, which seemed a little smaller, firmer, and tastier. I liked it.

Thursday, Nov. 3: back at work

The plane arrived early in the morning. The shuttle that was supposed to be waiting for us didn't show up, so we eventually gave up and took a cab.

I thought it would only make my jetlag worse if I immediately went to sleep. I also didn't see how I was going to avoid sleeping if I stayed at work. So I went to work, where I deleted spam and did a few other odds and ends.

After work I went to the WBWC's annual membership meeting. It was at the ABC, and they showed "The End of Suburbia". Which I found unenlightening. It makes an argument I'm sympathetic to, but one that I've already heard, and didn't present any evidence to speak of. The room was packed, so I guess the way to get good meeting attendance is to hold it in a bar. (Or was it the movie?)

Wednesday, Nov. 2: Coffee, flying home

After another pleasant breakfast overlooking the coffee plantation, Hans showed us around. He was totally geeked about coffee, and seemed like he might talk all day about it to a willing audience, so Sara was reluctant to ask him all the questions she might have for fear that me and one other guest would be bored. But I found it all pretty fascinating. We got to pick a couple beans and bite into them. There's a small, mildly sweet, red fruit around the coffee beans. He was growing a wide variety of other stuff too.

We should have done some more sightseeing, but I was nervous about getting to the airport on time, so we tried and failed to find one thing, then spent some time driving up and down Alii and looking at a few things, and had a snack at a coffeeshop.

So we arrived at the airport much earlier than necessary, dropped off the car, went through security and the agricultural inspection, then found a place to sit.

The ride home was very long, but uneventful. With Sara to guide me we had less trouble finding the other terminal in LAX. She also insisted we stop by the international terminal, where we picked up some good Japanese take out.

We watched "The Perfect Man" on the way back, but I had to look up the movie on United's web site to remember that. It passed the time, but it was a very forgettable movie.

Tuesday, November 1

We'd been kind of pessimistic about the bed and breakfast based on the website pictures. But it turned out to be pretty neat. The hyperactive owner, Hans, insisted that we get up for breakfast at 7:30 so he could go off to a coffee-roasting seminar. We should have been irritated by his various admonitions the night before, but instead were bemused by them. Given my mild lingering jetlag I was happy enough to get up then anyway, though I'm usually a late riser.

As it turned out, it was a very pleasant setup--each room opened onto a porch and we ate our breakfast off a little table flanked by lawn chairs where we could sit and look out over Hans's coffee plantation and the coast beyond.

My goal for the day was to try some more snorkeling, so we set out for Kahaluu beach park, which the guidebooks and innkeepers were unanimous in recommending as an ideal beginning snorkeling park.

The Kailua-Kona coastal area seems to be one long string of resorts, hotels, restaurants and beaches along Alii drive. This beach was right off Alii, and featured concessions with snorkeling equipment. So we got outfitted and dived in. I'll never look at a beach the same way. I tend to assume it's all just water and sand under there, but it turns out the sea is full of fish. Who knew?

And the fish here were numerous, colorful, varied, and totally indifferent to swimmers. The coral and urchins were cool too.
I might have spent the day there, but I hardly ever swim, and found it tired me out quickly. The mask also became a little uncomfortable after a while. So after a couple sessions I decided I was ready to just sit on the beach. Sara failed to entice me back into the water despite her reports of watching a giant green sea tortoise swim underwater.

I wandered around the nearby tidepools, though, and saw some more fish, basking sea turtles, and lots of crabs.

We drove up Alii drive to lunch at a sushi place. It was yummy--Thai and Japanese food seem to be the way to go in Hawaii. Then we sat on another little beach for a while and watched kids playing with boogie boards in the surf.

One of the guidebooks suggested dinner at Huggo's, where you could supposedly watch Manta Rays at night. Huggo's looked expensive, so we tried their bar next door. It was perched attractively right over the water, and had spotlights over the water, but the tide looked too low for much sealife. We had a drink and some appetizers anyway, then went back across the street to a good Thai restaurant for dinner.

Monday, Oct. 31

Today was the day to leave our hut and continue our clockwise tour of the big island towards our Kailua-Kona bed and breakfast.

In all I think we probably did more driving than either of us have done in years. We spread our still-wet clothing over the back seat, but it didn't dry even after we'd passed the southermost tip of the US (near where we stopped for a boring but OK lunch), so we brought back to the dry side of the island a musty smell to remind us of the rain forest.

We escaped the smelly car to visit Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and walk along their self-guided tour.

We also stopped a while in a little town where Sara picked up some fabric and I remedied a couple problems at a local drugstore:

  1. I realized that I had left my watch beside the tide pools the day before. My watch (a Casio LA11WB-1) has the best countdown alarm ever: it only supports seven fixed intervals (1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes), but that's enough, and you can operate it very quickly without even looking at the watch face. So I was delighted that they had a version of the same watch for about $12.
  2. Since Ajit gave us this digital camera I've prided myself in my second-rate photography. But on this vacation I'd had a plan: to replace the bad photography with far, far worse drawing. I hadn't gone so far as to actually purchase any supplies, though, and given how rural most of the island is, this was the first time I'd run across a place selling ordinary unlined paper.

Once we found the bed and breakfast in the dark, the owner recommended a restaurant as being particularly representative of the local food. We found our food there fine but boring. The traditional hawaiian taste seems to run towards slightly boring. But I was glad to have tried it. (And my dinner--shrimp in some sort of coconut thing--was tastier than Sara's.)

Sunday, Oct. 30

The Sunday market just off the highway a little past Pahoa was an odd flea market/farmer's market combination with a lot of hippie-ish locals hanging around. We walked through everything once then picked up some food (crêpes and barbequed rice triangles) which we ate at a picnic shelter at Lava Tree State Monument on our way to the coast afterwards. It was, as usual, raining, so we were grateful for the shelter, though it didn't protect us from the mosquitos.

Our coastal goal was the Kahopo tide pools, which we'd heard were fun for snorkeling. On the way there we also stopped by a big warm tidal pool for Sara to swim a little, then got lost on the mesh of little gravel roads in the subdivision surrounding the tide pools.

The snorkeling was neat once I figured out where I was supposed to put my mouth and got over the strangeness of breathing with my face in the water. You get to see weird tropical fish like you'd normally only see in someone's aquarium, but they're just hanging out there among the coral.

I managed to cut myself on some lava, so we cut it short and headed back.

On the way back we had our first long drive along a one-lane road carrying two-way traffic. I got the hang of it after a while, though I was a lot more timid about it than any of the locals.

There were surfers out at Isaac Hale Beach Park, so we stopped watched a while; when the rain picked up again Sara retreated to the car, and I followed a few minutes later.

For some reason I'd thought it'd be a good idea to go in the tidepools with my t-shirt on and between that and the rain we had a lot of extremely wet clothing.

We set our clothes out on the porch in hopes that they might dry a little if it ever stopped raining for long enough, then we had another dinner in our pleasant little hut and went to sleep.

Saturday, Oct. 29

In the morning we walked to nearby Kehena beach. It took some time to find the steep rocky path down. There was one woman swimming, but it looked too scary for us, with big waves and lots of craggy sharp lava surrounding the small black-sand beach. The blocky vertical cliffs looked like some spray-painted foam movie set.

We drove back to Hilo for the farmer's market, then had lunch at a pleasant Japanese place called Miyo's. I got the soba and sashima, Sara got tempura and sashimi, and both were great.

Sara's family never visits any place without a trip to the local botanical gardens. We overshot the Tropical botanical gardens north of Hilo and had to backtrack along a narrow ocean-side road to get there. It was scenic but somewhat intimidating for people that ordinarily never drive.

I'm not really a nature lover, but even I found the botanical gardens interesting thanks just to the sheer strangeness of the plants, some of which would have looked completely in place in a movie set on, say, Venus.

The gardens also had some macaws. I wondered why one kept saying "Oh no!" before noticing the plaque explaining he and his partner were named after the bay (Onomea) which the gardens were built on.

We found Larry and family again at the gardens, after we visited Rainbow falls in Hilo, we saw them ambling around Hilo's japanese garden. At that point is was almost embarassing--did they think we were following them?--but we had a nice talk with them. It turns out his son and daughter work at General Dynamics (previously Veridian, previously ERIM) in Ann Arbor.

By then it was dark, so we drove back and had another dinner in our weird little octagonal hut.

Friday, Oct. 28

Nate, Kirk & Patty departed early in the morning, leaving us with a breakfast of rambutans and papaya for breakfast.

The first stop was for food, gas, and a Hawaii map at a local convenience store. From there we drove to the Volcano National Park visitor center. After watching their introductory movie Sara noticed Larry N. in the audience, a UM biology professor who was also in grad school with Sara's dad.

After a chat with them we looked around the nearby volcano art gallery and ate lunch on their porch, then walked across the way to the volcano house and looked out over the crater.

Finally we set off around crater rim drive, stopping along the way frequently for scenic outlooks. Larry and family (wife, daughter, and son-in-law) showed up at the Jagger museum, so Sara chatted some more and took his picture for her dad.

By now we were behind schedule so we took off towards our next lodging. The local natural foods grocery in Pohoa provided us with some more groceries, and we arrived around nightfall, in time to make ourselves a pleasant dinner of bread, cheese, beans, nori rolls, and more.

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