12 February 2006

The Window Seat

Once upon a time, a guy named Troy M. Litten travelled around the world and took a lot of photos of telephones, bathrooms signs, bus tickets, and other little items you find the world over. He turned these photo collages into a series of postcards. The collection is called Wanderlust and you can buy it from Amazon.com.

One of the postcards shows a bunch of photos taken from the airplane window.

I really liked his idea, so on every flight I've taken over the past two years, I've kept my camera nearby. After 70,000+ miles, I have a total of forty photos which I've whittled down to the best fourteen. So I present to you: The Window Seat.

11 February 2006

make your own ringtones

While in Hawaii, I couldn't get the song, "My Humps" out of my head. I figured the only solution would be to buy the song as a ringtone and use it on my phone. Unfortunatlely, there are six different ringtones for "My Humps" and none of them have the clip that I want ("I'ma git git git you drunk, get you love drunk off my humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps").

So, luckily, Wired magazine has written a very helpful article about how to create your own ringtones from MP3s. There are instructions for both PC and Mac and holy crap, it actually works. You have to download a couple pieces of (free) software and then send the file from computer to phone via bluetooth. The article says you can send your phone an email and then save the file attachment, but, I couldn't get that to work. The phone kept dropping the attachment.

Why can't you just use regular MP3s? Well, most songs are too long for one, and even if you edit them down, the file size is too large. Using Wired's method (and there may be better ones out there) it takes about ten minutes to choose, edit, save and send yourself the custom ringer.


So, by the time I figured all of this out, I decided I didn't want a "My Humps" ringtone (I plead temporary insanity). I think I'll make a Benny Hill one instead.

10 February 2006

Happy Hapa in Hawaii

Who doesn't like Hawaii? The sun, waves, beautiful beaches, and laid back island lifestyle make it a fantastic place for retirement, vacation, or even a trade show. Last week I spent three days as an exhibitor at the Hawaii Convention Center, and four days exploring the island of Oah'u. Since most of you have been to Hawaii, I'll skip the palm trees and ukuleles and go right to the zombie part.


I love being in Hawaii. It makes me feel good - both physically and mentally. The proof? My first night there I had one of my favorite recurring dreams. The dream basically goes like this: zombies roam the country in a post-apocalyptic world. I'm a zombie fighter and I live in the ruins of my old middle school. In the most recent version of this dream, I was armed with a high-powered squirt gun filled with Hershey's syrup I pilfered from the cafeteria. I hose the undead with a debilitating blast of chocolate and corn syrup stickiness - sometimes plowing down five or six of them in a row.

Middle school - corn syrup - zombies - there's a metaphor here, but we'll leave that for another time.

Things in the dream start to go bad after I shoot down a whole alley full of zombie prostitutes. A horde of angry (living) men chase after me with guns and clubs for ruining their Saturday night. About that time the alarm goes off and it's time to go diving.

Let's Go Scuba Diving

The great thing about scuba diving is that you can drop in on a dive site that seems totally mundane and then something completely amazing will swim by. In my case - it was a one of the most rare creatures imaginable.

We first saw them from the boat. It was cool to me, but the locals were not impressed. These guys make regular appearances topside during the winter in Hawaii. When I asked the dive crew what the chances were of seeing one during the dive, I received only smirks and eye rolling in response. They told me, "sometimes you can hear them- if you're lucky." We geared up, and jumped into the water, hoping we'd be some of the lucky few to hear their legendary song. After ten minutes of floating above the reef and looking for turtles, a large shadow passed above us and there it was - a humpback whale. Thirty feet long, it had approached in complete silence. The divemaster later told us his only inkling that "something weird was going on," was that all the small fish ducked under the coral a few moments before the whale appeared. The humpback stuck around for just a few moments before it slipped away into the blue.

The odds of diving with a whale are at least one in a thousand (I asked the divemaster - who makes nearly 1,200 dives each year if he had ever seen one underwater and he said "uh, no."). Not to mention, the encounter was a complete accident. There are plenty of dive outfits that hire airplanes to spot rare creatures and then radio the dive boat where to drop people (this is illegal to do with whales, but it's a common practice with whale sharks). To have a humpback whale appear in front of us underwater would be like opening your front door and watching a flock of bald eagles spell out your name in the sky. Okay, maybe not that rare - but there are fewer humpback whales left in the world than bald eagles (about 5,000 to about 6,900 respectively).

Hawaiian Pride

The other thing I love about Hawaii, besides the great diving, is Hawaiian pride. I know there's a dark side to it and the haoles who move to Hawaii sometimes have a tough time. Not to justify racism or anything, but, if you know anything about the circumstances under which Hawaii became part of the U.S. - well, the animosity is somewhat justified.

I'm no history scholar, but, I feel somewhat confident in the conclusion that the Hawaiian people are some of the few "native americans" the U.S. didn't manage to squash. Despite U.S. attempts to force Hawaiian kids to abandon their native language and traditions (Hawaii kids were forced to attend deliberately underfunded government schools) the Hawaiian culture lives on and is fully integrated into the tourist experience. Okay, so the staged luaus are cheesy, as are the "your hotel room was cleaned with aloha" cards they leave on the hotel beds. But there's a lot more out there. Hawaiian immersion schools exist in numerous places, and there is even an island, Niiahu, where non-Hawaiians cannot visit without a permit.

But foreigners are welcome at The Dole Plantation (shudder). I'm here to tell you that Waikiki unfairly carries the brand of "biggest tourist trap" in Hawaii. The (dis)honor truly belongs to the sprawling tropical wonderland known as the Dole Plantation.

The Good, The Bad, and The Yellow

Like fruit flies on a fruit cup, the Dole Plantation is swarmed with tourists all day long. Japanese and Americans arrive by the busload to suck down pineapple soft serve and wander through the world's largest garden maze (see, it literally is a trap). In the main building, every square inch that isn't occupied by a person is jammed with some type of pineapple-based product. The trademark Dole yellow blasts pineapple happiness from every part of the building. Seriously, is it possible to be attacked by a color?

From the instant I walked through the door I was very disoriented. I made my way down the yellow brick road of free samples and before long I felt as though I needed to breath into a paper bag. "Try some pineapple soft serve, pineapple jelly, pineapple lotion, pineapple lip balm, free sample, free sample."

But we all know that nothing in this world is truly free and everything comes at a price. I think the pineapple people in their hyper-tropical yellow shirts might have been on a mission to steal my soul. Looking back, I couldn't really see their eyes under those giant yellow visors, maybe these people used to be tourists just like me - and then they took one sample too many.

Calling on great inner strength and resolve, Barry and I both made it to the soft serve counter safely. We handed over $11.50 for three pineapple soft serve waffle cones and, at last, they revealed the exit.

The soft serve was quite delicious and it proved to be the perfect start to our last day on the island. We drove our rented Geo Tracker from the North Shore to Kaneohe Bay and back around to Honolulu. It was great to get out of the city and see the postcard perfect countryside.

The next day we squeezed in a hike to the top of Diamond Head before flying home. The next adventure? Chicago. Home to deep dish pizza and frostbite. Woooo.