Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Celebrating A Decade Of Blogging (4 Days Late Edition)

We've just passed the 10th anniversary of this blog, started back in October 1st of 2006 in a burst of creativity by yours truly.  I was looking for an outlet for all the myriad thoughts going through my head at the time, and blogging struck exactly the right note for me back then.  It was the perfect precursor to writing books, though I didn't know it at the time.  Maintaining a blog, at a breakneck pace for the first few years and then much less frequently afterward, prepared me for the discipline I'd need as a novelist once I retired.

I do most of my blogging on Facebook nowadays, but I'll always appreciate what I learned here over the past 10 years.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A 25th Wedding Anniversary In Paradise Part 3


For this final post about our Maui trip, Vicki suggested I put up the contents of her travelogue emails that were sent to a select few while we were way.  Here, then, is the 2-week trip through Vicki's eyes:

Vicki's March 2nd 2016 Update:

Thankfully we had a great, uneventful drive to Detroit on Monday after dropping off Jonesy with Susan.   One last pet and hug.   Then we sat in cat hair, but had a good drive to airport hotel.  Only one wrong turn as I tried to check us into the Courtyard Marriott rather than the Marriott which was one hotel down.  
Neither of us slept much on Monday night....we think 2 1/2 hrs followed by a long stretch of wakefulness, then perhaps another 2 hrs. Ah well...too excited I guess.   Breakfast in the hotel by 830, then the 9:30 shuttle to the airport and the fun began.   By late afternoon when we landed in Seattle we were both ready to call it a day, but not yet!   Food court dinner in the airport, lots of walking about, one gate change which required a tram to get us to another terminal, and then we waited....airplane lavatory problems...oh my!  

Finally in the air about an hour later than planned, with a wicked headwind, and turbulence most of the way....seat belts on folks!    And comfort class just barely, barely was an upgrade.   Matt's knees were touching the seat back in front of him....silly long legs.   It is after midnight when we land, closer to 1 am.   Off we go to find a pay phone to let our car rental guys know we are here.   Did you know that we saw about six banks of pay phones in various locations throughout the airport, and all but one of them had the phones removed.   Sad looking wires peeking out when we wanted a phone!   Finally made the call and waited maybe two mins....then did the contract/cash exchange in the parking lot.   Have I mentioned that we didn't sleep much the night before, did not sleep on the plane ( though I might have shut my eyes for a couple of half hour stretches)...so it is now 6 in the morning to us and we are taking on this strange car in a parking lot from a nice long haired hippy surfer guy.  Hmmmm.
Matt bravely figured out how to drive our Mazda hatchback, and we navigated dark strange roads for 40 mins to our hotel.  What are policeman doing with radar guns at 1:30 am?   Fortunately we were doing the posted road speeds of between 35 and 45 miles per hour the whole 40 mins.   Checkin was great....our heads hit the pillow at 2:15 Maui time or 7:15 Matt & Vicki body time.   We quickly fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.   All good. 

Vicki's March 4th 2016 Update:

Aloha,
Yesterday was lovely.  Up early, breakfast on the lanai, Trump in the news (do Republicans really care what Romney thinks?), then it's time to put the suits on and pack the beach towels.   I found our favourite beach from eleven years ago on the first try!   Matt was impressed.    This is the beach at Napilli that is perfect for tumbling.    It is a lovely bay and near the left side where we entered the waves are crazy big with a huge undertow.   We played there for at least an hour!   The game is to try and stay on your feet,  and for me to be close enough to Matt when I'm knocked over that he can grab me before I'm swept out to sea!   I'm still finding sand in my hair after 24 hrs and two showers later.
So after the first hour, more people started showing up at the beach and we decided to stroll further down, and while the waves were still big, it was safer to go just past the surf break and bob up and down.  I'm about two feet from shore and the waves are easily over my head, but the undertow is less, I just lift my feet and float on my back when it starts to pull.  Lots of sea turtles spotted.    Funniest part was when we were sitting for a bit listening to and watching the surf board instructor with her three middle aged trainees.  To her credit she did manage to get them all standing on their boards eventually, though I didn't see any actual surfing happen.



At the far end of this beach was a restaurant and a lovely shore line path along the rocks out to the far point of this cove beach....maybe a four min walk.   We had lunch at the restaurant...fish for Matt and a yummy spinach and papaya salad for me.

All of this before one o'clock.   A rest, some time by the pool at our hotel, out to Mamas ribs and rotisserie for take out ribs on the Lanai for dinner,   Then, lucky us, back to Trump and little Marco and lying Ted....we miss our Netflix and DVR shows....news in the US is tiring and laughable.  And this morning it is all about OJ Simpson...déjà vu! 




Vicki's March 7th 2016 Update:

Who knows where I left off....the days are starting to blurr....this morning after eight hours of lovely deep sleep, we are up before sunrise, stuffed full of breakfast and on the road by 6:40.    Heading towards the north shore of Maui and the hippy town of Paia.   Forecast is for rain on the north shore around noon, but we knew it was only about an hour drive.   Lovely morning but our trip took us right by the airport....I could feel the driver fighting the wheel to head home.

First beach was Baldwin.   We beat everyone there....including the lifeguards.....only one guy and his dog on the beach.   Amazing waves, sandy beach, but rocks at the shore break....so not good for sitting and getting knocked over.   But a lovely long beach, so off we went for a walk.   By the time we got back the lifeguards had arrived.    So it was time to leave and go find the second beach.  

We drove through the small one stop light hippy town of Paia and quickly found the surfers about two miles up the road....probably fifty or more....and huge waves.   Again, lovely sand, but not a swimming beach because of the rocks at the shore break.   We were surprised to see a charging station for cell phones and free wifi at the outdoor BBQ shelters at this beach.   And sure enough, not long after we found a spot for our towels on the sand, along came a millennial with her towel and cell phone....she talked the whole half hour we were there.   Watched some amazing surfers though!  

Back to Paia for a second breakfast as it is about 9:30 by now, then some 'main' street shopping...all shops seemed to sell cigarette rolling papers...hmmmmm.
Back to Baldwin beach for another hour of sand and fun....gets to be noon and no rain in sight but time to head back anyway.   So much sun and fresh air and standing in the shore breaks...which does manage to get me soaked, including my hair!  
Stopped in Olowalu at Leodas for pie and lunch...oh my....lovely pies, and more pies.   Picked out an apple crumb to take out, but while we were waiting for our eat in lunch (I had chicken pot pie), Matt decided it wasn't really big enough to share, so I quickly volunteered to get a lime pie....can't wait to dig into them later.  

We are both resting in our room slathered with After Sun Lotion now!

Vicki's March 8th 2016 Update (our actual 25th wedding anniversary):

It is around 8 am, and lovely out....short sleeves and shorts weather...currently 68, feels like 81.  However a cold front is coming today, with rain and it is only going to be 75.  Oh my!  Smiling!

Today's plans are in flux, but we are still packing sun screen, suits and towels!

Vicki and Matt...here is to 25 more!



Vicki's March 9th 2016 Update:

Lovely day yesterday at the resorts of Kaanapali....think Westin, Marriott, Hyatt, etc.   They certainly claimed a prime area of beach in Maui....but of course we found the free parking and shore access, so we had a lovely beach day and were able to grab lunch on the grounds.   Highlight was watching an enthusiastic golden retriever with his flip flop.    His owner would occasionally give it a good toss into the ocean and off this dog would go.   He was well trained to bring back the shoe, but not too close and then have a good water shake followed by a roll in the sand.  Adorable.

Lovely temps, great beach day, no rain until about 5pm....just as we were heading to Lahaina for the evening and dinner reservations.   Good news is that the rain was light and warm.   We had a good meal but in a very packed restaurant, as about half of their seating wasn't available due to the rain.   As we were finishing up, one of the staff came to check the tied down awning and informed us that the weather was going to get worse!    We took that as a sign to skip dessert, head out and enjoy ice cream in our room.   Within about ten minutes of getting back we decided that we should be good tenants and bring in the lanai table and chairs as it had started to blow!    Whew....lots of very strong winds all night!

A bit cooler today with early morning temps of 68....so grocery shopping, lunch in the room and off to the beaches a bit later today.   This will be our coolest day with a high of 73.   All uphill after today!

Appreciate the updates from home....sounds like Spring has arrived.

Vicki's March 10th 2016 Update:

Spiders = none!   😅 🕷
Cockroaches = none!   🐜
Sea turtles = lots!  🐢🐢🐢🐢 including the one this morning.   It is before 9 am and we are at the fun tumbling beach, but set up the beach towel about twenty feet further down the beach, and in the lovely clear water noticed a big rock to avoid.   While we are sitting there waiting for some clouds to blow over, we spotted a second big round rock....but it was moving!    It was heading for a lady in the water, so we were waiting for the scream, but she stayed calm!   Boring....it swam right up to her and it was big!

Kitty = small, skinny orange kitty.....not friendly, sniff. 🐱
Kitty = small, skinny Rascal kitty....aw, friendly, came for pets when I called.  😻
Whales  = lots but not up close...🐳🐳🐳 I think I've seen them everyday
Dogs = lots on the beaches...🐕🐕 🏊🏻 and fetching.
None of these 🦄

Today Matt got to pick everything, so we were up early, went to the tumbling beach, talked about TV shows and politics, lunch was takeout Teriyaki chicken, a walk, and then a joint effort logic puzzle (it was a hard one), and finally take out pizza.    We did another beach walk and saw a lovely crescent moon....but the crescent was on the bottom, not the side.   Silly latitude differences!

Vicki - still getting great Jonesy updates from Susan, and LV updates from R&M...fun!  Tammy is MIA!
 

Vicki's March 13th 2016 Update:

Can't believe we didn't have our camera today!   Lol!    Matt called me sleepyhead and woke me up at 6:45....sheesh...just because he'd been awake since 5:00....smiling.   He is doing his best to keep us close to Ontario time.   So we made our plans...drive North, find a new beach since we've only been to thirteen so far, and after that go back to the D T Flemming beach which has no shoreline rocks, nice waves and is pretty.

Best laid plans....all packed up, sunscreen applied, map at the ready to find the new beach, and we get as far as Kapalua (all of 8 minutes away) and it starts to seriously rain!   We come home for a bit.   Sun is shining here...hummpf.....so we repack our stuff and just head down to swim at our own beach Kahana, which is down the elevator, past the pool and onto the sand!   So we needed seriously less stuff....towels and shoes!    We put our stuff down and all of a sudden notice the great big sea turtle on the shore, about twenty feet from us.   As we are discussing if it is alive or not...it moves!   That was when we thought of the camera.   Turtles are really big and really, really slow.  This guy was huge.

So once he safely swam off, in we go.   Not as nice as most of the other beaches, but we knew that....better for watching wind surfers and regular surfers and taking short walks.    After lunch we tried heading north again...hoping that the rain had passed and it had....blue skies.   We decided on D T Flemming beach and we were glad we did.    Biggest waves yet!   Where was the camera?   Still back in the room...sigh.   The lifeguards had the beach divided in half between swimmers and surfers so that the surfers didn't run us over.   Matt and I took turns in the surf, so if one of us started to drown in those huge waves the other could alert someone!   Very strong undertow and just so much fun.   The undertow was good for about a fifteen foot ride to the right if you didn't have your feet down to brace yourself.   It was the only day that I wanted to have a boogie board.
We marvelled at the young couple with baby in arms....quite sure that Dad was going to go down as he kept edging further into the surfer, but he kept his footing somehow.
We decided many of the swimmers were chicken, or perhaps smarter than we were as they were often staying pretty close to shore.   Fun fun.
Sunset dInner was back to the Aloha Mixed Plate.   Outdoors, lovely, yummy food, twenty minute wait which was OK.  And we saw Rich there....or at least his twin....baseball cap and all...nice tan!

All good.   Sorry no pictures today!

Vicki ...Sunday, aka, one more day!

Vicki's March 14th 2016 Update:



One lovely last day in the land of crazy US politics, sunshine, lovely door open breezes day and night, sound of waves, beaches, beaches and more beaches!

Dinner last night was very good.  We went back to the Aloha Mixed Plate where we had lunch one day.   We both enjoyed our dinner in a pretty outdoor setting on the beach in Lahaina at sunset....nice!

Today we went to Napili beach in the morning....aka tumbling beach....and had a great time followed by lunch at the Sea House at Napili beach.  Great people watching cause it isn't only us getting knocked over by the waves.    After a rest, we headed out to Flemming beach to say goodbye.   Took turns being tossed about by the waves until we were both exhausted.   Dinner tonight is at the Beach House at Kahana beach.  I'm looking forward to that.   Then perhaps packing, but I may just live on the wild side and do that in the morning.   

We fly out at 12:20 HST tomorrow, Tuesday, and arrive in Detroit at 6:34 am on Wednesday...yawn!   But then it is onto the parking shuttle bus, over the Blue Water Bridge and onto the 403/401 to Susan's we go to get Jonesy!   Hopefully he still remembers us and doesn't want to just stay with Susan as her back up alarm clock.

Mahalo!

Vicki's March 15th 2016 Update:

One of us was up at 5:00 am....one of us wasn't!    All fed, showered, packed and ready to go....just waiting for the clock to tick on by for another hour or two before we leave for the airport and the fun begins!

Lovely morning here, sun shining, birds singing, view amazing, whales jumping, waves crashing.  Maui will be missed.

Vicki p.s. Thanks for all the birthday wishes yesterday.

Monday, March 28, 2016

What To Make Of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?

(There are some Spoilers for the film below, so stop reading now if you want to go into the film as unspoiled as I was, and then come back afterwards and read on.)

I've been looking forward to this movie since before it existed or was even announced.  Almost a decade ago, the film I Am Legend featuring Will Smith in a post-apocalyptic New York City showed a very quick glimpse of a combined Batman/Superman logo up on a building.  This quickly spawned rumours that Warner Brothers was planning a full-length, live-action feature that would bring together the planet's two most recognizable superheroes.  A World's Finest film, if you will.  That fanboy wet dream turned out not to be true, though apparently there had been something in the works a few years earlier, before being abandoned.  Meaning that it was nothing more than an in-joke stuck in there by the film-makers of I Am Legend.

(In the future, of course, it may appear to some to be prophetic, like the offhand reference to an at-the-time-fictional band called The Heaven Seventeen in A Clockwork Orange back in the 60s.  In reality, of course, real-life Heaven 17 took their name from that scene in the film, so neither of them are actually much of a prediction.  Unlike Back to the Future Part II getting the 1997 World Series winner right... hahaha, not really.)

Anyway, it's now 2016 and the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is here.  I've literally been counting down the days until its release, starting more than a year ago.  But it hasn't been an exercise without any concern, considering my ambivalence toward the film's director, Zack Snyder.  I've had very mixed feelings on his three previous comic book adaptations - 300, Watchmen and Man of Steel.  Each of them had worked well on certain levels and failed miserably on others.  Whereas I can always get solidly behind Christopher Nolan's first two Bat-flicks, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (not so sure about The Dark Knight Rises), I had serious reservations about Snyder's work.  Chief among those concerns was the fear that maybe he didn't quite understand some of the characters he was bringing to the screen.  His Superman in Man of Steel didn't line up all that well with the one I've spent most of my life reading about, especially when it comes to the whole saving people thing.  And there's a crucial scene during Rorschach's backstory in Watchmen that was completely blown in the movie, not to mention that in the comic there isn't actually any group called "the Watchmen" as the title of the 12-issue series refers to the quote, "Who watches the watchmen?"  It's used symbolically in the comic title but literally in the movie.  Arggh.  And so I've been naturally worried about him taking on Superman once again, this time adding Batman and (it soon came out) Wonder Woman to the mix.

Now that I've had a chance to see the final product, I guess I'd have to say that my fears were both unfounded and justified, in different ways.  Mostly unfounded, though.  The movie's strengths definitely far outweigh its weaknesses, though it has its share of liabilities, to be sure.  To get them out of the way first, I'd say that several of the minor characters were largely wasted (Perry White, Jenny Olsen, and to a lesser degree, Alfred Pennyworth); Lex Luthor's motivations were sometimes incomprehensible to me (he's worried about a super-powered hero he can't control so he creates a super-powered monster he has absolutely no way of controlling?); there's still an over-reliance at times on style-over-substance that's dogged Snyder's output so far; and many of the later scenes were so murkily-filmed that I could barely make out what was going on.  Or maybe that was just the crappy 3-D effect, which I freely admit to hating (to get VIP reserved-seat opening weekend tickets, 3-D was our only option).  And there are a few other issues of roughly the same importance, which is to say that it's far from perfect but there was nothing in it that came close to ruining my enjoyment of it (or Vicki's, for that matter).

Everything else, really, ranged somewhere between good and amazing, for me.  Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot were outstanding as the three heroes.  Bruce, Clark and Diana (the Holy Trinity of the DC Universe, for anyone not aware of that) were each uniquely defined, both in their civilian personalities and their more prevalent costumed ones.  Even their fighting styles differed, with Batman as the down-and-dirty brawler who plans ahead and uses every advantage he can find, Superman as the aloof god who tries his best to stay above the fray because he knows he can break someone in half by sneezing on them, and Wonder Woman as the warrior-born goddess who actually smiles at one point as they're getting their asses handed to them by Doomsday.  You can just feel how much she revels in epic battles against monsters, as if she were taking on Cerberus at the gates of Hell once again.  I loved all three of them and felt a thrill every time they appeared on screen together, costumed or not.  I just wish the fight scenes against Doomsday had been filmed better.

I loved that Lois and Clark were a couple and in love.  And that Lois was shown as doing actual journalist work, though I could've done without the "girl hostage" positions they put her in.

I also thoroughly enjoyed all of the back-and-forth between Clark and Bruce that leads up to their title fight.  Some critics have complained that it didn't make sense for them to fight, and yet all the explanation is right there on the screen.  Batman witnessed firsthand the destruction that came from Superman's take-down of General Zod in Man of Steel (shown in an incredible opening sequence that recreated part of the previous film's "destruction porn" climax) and he's determined to keep that from ever happening again.  If you think that's unrealistic, then you haven't been in an airport since 9/11 and seen just how much that whole experience has changed as a result of that one cataclysmic event.  Overreaction seems to come with the territory, unfortunately.  And for his part, Clark distrusts the vigilante justice that "the Bat from Gotham" is dishing out, exactly the sort of thing Superman has consciously refrained from indulging in, instead focusing on saving people (yay!) rather than punishing criminals.  And of course Lex Luthor is working away in the background, pushing the two heroes toward a confrontation through various means.  So I had no trouble believing they'd end up duking it out.

The fight itself is terrific, with Batman using green kryptonite to bring Kal-El down to his level so they can have an actual throw down of equals.  Except, of course, that Bruce is by far the better fighter (because he has to be, sans super powers) and if nothing else, this at least delivers the surprisingly-satisfying spectacle of watching Snyder's above-it-all Superman get the crap beaten out of him.  I was not the least bit disappointed in the Big Fight, personally.  And no, I didn't expect it to last for most of the film's 2.5 hours, as apparently some folks did.  Now that would be incredibly boring.

There's one aspect of the story that's stuck with me the most since we left the theatre, and that's Batman's dream sequences.  I was relieved to see that the scenes shown in early trailers of Batman being held prisoner while soldiers kneel down before Superman turned out to be a scenario playing out in Bruce Wayne's brain as he slept.  As I watched it in context on the big screen, I just assumed this was simply his subconscious mind giving free rein to his worst fear: Superman eventually goes bad and decides to take over the planet, and it's up to a resistance force led by Batman to try to bring him down.  As the two of them face each other in an underground bunker controlled by the Man of Steel, with Batman in chains and his captor passing judgement on him, Clark makes some oblique reference to how "you [Bruce] didn't save her" and we're left to assume that, in this scenario, Bruce imagines that the woman Superman was in love with had died somehow and that's what turned him into a super-powered Hitler.  That kind of makes a paranoid sort of sense, I guess.  And anyway, it's just a dream, right?

However, there's a second dream sequence shown around the same time, that's much shorter and yet even more attention-grabbing in its bizarreness.  In this one, an unidentified character appears to Bruce as he's sleeping and tells him that Lois is the key and that Bruce needs to listen to her this time.  Or words to that effect (I need to see it again as it all flew by very quickly).  Although the costume on this character is hard to make out, I almost immediately recognized him as the Flash.  For fans of the TV show, this Flash looks a lot different than we're used to.  The show features a costume straight out of the comics, whereas this interpretation was... something else.  Anyway, after that brief episode with the strange man in red, Bruce wakes up and sees that the decryption process he'd been running has finished, and the plot moves on from there.

But I couldn't stop thinking about that image of the Flash giving Bruce some sort of obscure warning.  I actually didn't understand its significance until I got home and started reading some of the reviews I'd avoided earlier.  And in one of them, an explanation's given that I think is probably 100% correct.  Basically, it goes like this: the Flash, who has the ability to move through time (as we've seen in the TV program and in hundreds of comics), has come back in time to either try to change what happened at the end of Batman and Superman's fight, or to ensure that it doesn't get changed.  Not long after that scene in the Batcave, Bruce gets the better of Clark and is just about to kill or seriously wound him with a kryptonite-tipped spear when Lois arrives, hoping to stop the fight and keep either of them from killing the other.  Women are so smart!

Anyway, what she says changes Bruce's mind, calming him down enough to listen to reason. Then the two heroes begin working together, and the first thing Bruce says is that he'll rescue Clark's mother (captured by Luthor's henchmen and given only an hour to live unless Clark kills the Bat) while Superman goes after Luthor.  That decision, this theory goes, ties directly back to what Superman said in the bunker dream about Bruce not saving "her."  But instead of it being Lois (the love interest) who was killed, it's actually his mother, Martha, that Kal-El was referring to.  And so now it all comes together (time travel alert! some heads may explode): in one version of the timeline, Bruce wounds Superman with the spear and Martha dies when the hour is up and she hasn't been rescued by anyone.  And that starts a sequence of events that leads to the bunker scene at some point in the future.  (I'm glossing over a whole 'nother aspect of the bunker dream, which is that it clearly shows parademons from the planet Apokalips as well as an Omega-symbol burned into the ground, which means the god-like villain Darkseid has come to Earth.  He'll undoubtedly be the big bad for the Justice League Part 1 movie that's due out next year, and yes, he's powerful enough to need six or seven heroes to fight.)  In short, Flash is using time travel (of some sort) to make sure that Bruce does the right thing at the end of their big battle - though why he didn't just say "Don't stab Clark, dummy; save Martha Kent instead" who knows - so that that particular, grim future doesn't come to be.

Now I'll be the first to admit that, if that interpretation's correct, then it was very badly scripted or edited.  For one thing, how is the audience supposed to know that the Flash can travel (or project dream warnings) through time, when the character hasn't even been introduced yet?  Having said that, I feel a little stupid that I didn't realize what was going on, as a) I know a lot about the Flash, and b) I know that, in the series Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1986, the Flash does something very similar when he moves back in time and tries to warn Batman about something that's coming.  So I totally should've picked up on this, and maybe I would've on a second viewing.  Regardless, this is one of the coolest bits I've ever seen in a comic book movie.  It's the sort of thing you might find in comics occasionally because they assume they have at least some readers who'll invest the time and energy in working it all out without being spoon fed.  I wouldn't be surprised if we get a scene in the JL movie that shows us the other half of the scene, which is the Flash recognizing that he needs to go back in time and warn Batman before the Big Fight or else the timeline's going to be changed by Darkseid somehow.  Probably because the villain's conquest of Earth is much easier if there's a a beaten-down, disillusioned Man of Steel who wouldn't offer so much resistance.  And if that's where this is all going, then it's pretty damned brilliant!  And exactly the sort of thing I love most about comic stories (end time travel alert.)

As I've mentioned on Facebook, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is unlike any other comic book movie I've seen before.  That's both a plus and a minus, as it's servicing comic book fans like we've never been serviced before (Watchmen comes closest in that regard, I guess) but it's not hewing to the line established by a dozen or more Marvel films of the past decade.  Those movies have been popular because they're good but also because they're comfortable and familiar and safe and inclusive in a way that Snyder's latest offering simply isn't.  It's something very different, and I think that's at least part of the reason why the mainstream critics have taken such a harsh stance against it.  They were expecting something a lot more fun, I imagine.  That, and the fact that many of them hate Ben Affleck and love to see him fail.

For my money, though, this is a really good film that I'm already looking forward to seeing again, warts and all.  It was truly a thrill-a-minute experience for this life-long comic book fan.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A 25th Wedding Anniversary In Paradise Part 2

Having gotten to Maui and acquired our rental car, all that was left to do was to start enjoying our vacation.  The only problem was: it was almost 2:00 a.m. local time (or 7 a.m. to us) and we were dead tired, so instead we headed to bed!

The next morning, we finally got to check out the view from our hotel room in the daylight:



Not bad!

Then we headed out for breakfast at the nearby Beach House at the Sands of Kahana, about a 3-minute walk away, and after that did a grocery run.  Our hotel room was nicely set up with a full kitchen: fridge, stove, oven, microwave and toaster.  This allowed us to eat every subsequent breakfast "at home" as well as a handful of lunches once we'd stocked up.

We didn't do a whole lot more that first Wednesday in Maui, other than exploring the area, eating meals and watching some of the US primaries coverage on TV (this was the day after Super Tuesday).  We were still pretty tired from the 24 hours of travel and hassle the previous day.

On Thursday, though, we began a routine of getting up early and finding a beach to enjoy.  This would be our pattern for the rest of the stay, sometimes exploring new beaches and other times returning to ones we'd already hit.  Vicki kept track of the number of different beaches we got to and it was up to almost a dozen by the time we were packing up on March 15th.  Our favourite ones were always wherever the biggest waves could be found, and there were several of thoseL Napili, DT Fleming and the Big Beach at Makena.

video


video
    
As you can sort of see in the videos, Vicki enjoyed body surfing on those big waves while I was more the "stand where they break and have them crash over you, tossing you around like a straw in a hurricane" type.  We both had a ton of fun though,, and our beach mornings were always the highlight of each day.

Oh, and that "getting up early" approach started innocently enough, with us going to bed early on that first Wednesday and then waking up around 5 a.m. the next day.  However, it soon dawned on us that there were several advantages to staying on that schedule - not only could we remain on an Ontario timetable which might reduce the jet lag when we got home, but the beaches were much less crowded in the morning than they were later in the day.  And with the kind of temperatures we were getting, it tended to be perfect on the beach until about noon, after which things would usually get hot.  Once we realized that, we stuck with going bed before 9 p.m. and getting up between 5 and 6 each morning.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A 25th Wedding Anniversary In Paradise Part 1

Vicki and I have been planning to return to Maui for our 25th anniversary for over a year now, and finally the time had come for it!  Vicki did all of the bookings, arranging for us to be on the Hawaiian island from March 1st through the 15th, with our anniversary right in the middle on the 8th.  We even went back to the same hotel we'd stayed in back in 2005, as we'd liked it so much.

We drove to Detroit on February 29th after dropping Jonesy off with our friend Susan.  He wasn't crazy about the car ride across town, but we knew that after he survived that ordeal it was going to be 16 days of fun for him, getting to know a new place and a new person, as well as being treated like a prince.

Our flight the next day was scheduled for noon but we'd wanted to get to Detroit on the 29th so we wouldn't have to worry about what kind of weather we might get on the 1st.  As it turned out, that was a wise decision on Vicki's part, as a big winter storm was forecast for here for the 1st and we would've been scrambling to figure out if we could get up early enough to beat it or somehow drive through it.  Instead, we woke up in our hotel room and had a leisurely breakfast before catching the shuttle to the airport and arriving with plenty of time to spare.  Oh, and it was carry-on only for this trip, something I'd seen Vicki and Tammy pull off for their trip to Italy last year.  Vicki only winced a little over that particular detail!



We got into Maui right around midnight local time, roughly an hour late thanks to a "problem with one of the restrooms" on our second flight out of Seattle.  Because we'd been scheduled to arrive late in the day to begin with, Vicki couldn't use any of the big name car rental agencies, as all of them closed for business by 11 p.m.  Instead, we were getting our vehicle from a bunch of surfer hipsters called Maui Budget Rentals.  To their credit, they handled our even-later-than-expected arrival with exceptional grace, showing up in good spirits within minutes of when we called after finally locating a pay phone in the Maui airport.  And so, by around 1 a.m. Maui time, or 6 a.m. according to our body clocks, we were in our red 2009 Mazda 3 looking for highway 30 to take us to our hotel in Kahana.

  

My brief relationship with Mazda did not make me a fan.  The unfamiliar polygon-shaped gear shift arrangement, combined with the fact that it was pitch black outside and I'd been up for 24 hours straight, led to me putting the car into "M" rather than "D" when I started it going, and therefore driving the first mile or so in first gear.  I'd never before encountered a car with both Automatic and Manual transmissions, and as luck would have it I'd accidentally put it in Manual mode.  Luckily, the high revs of the engine clued me into there being something wrong with my choice, and at the next stoplight I figured out how to get it into Drive rather than Manual.  This was only the first of several surprises our little red piece of crap had in store for us, as the trunk refused to open for us when we got to the hotel, despite us trying everything we could think of.  We were about to pull our luggage out through the back seat when the trunk magically opened for us on our final attempt, after which we never put anything into it again.  For more fun, about 20% of the time when either of us would take the key out of the ignition, the car would beep and indicate that the doors were open, even when they weren't.  When it was in that state, it was impossible to lock the doors with the key fob... seriously?!  Through trial and error, I eventually discovered that when it did that, putting the key back into the ignition and then immediately taking it back out again would fix the problem,  Yeah, that's good design!  And, as if all that weren't enough, on our final weekend in Maui, the Tire Pressure Low indicator light suddenly came on, accompanied by an ear-splitting series of beeps, necessitating us quickly stopping at a gas station to put some air into each of the tires.  Needless to say, this car was not my friend for the two weeks I was in it...

More to follow soon.  You know: like actual vacation stuff!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sixth Novel Update

It still takes me aback, momentarily, whenever I happen to land on the fact that I'm currently working on my sixth novel (and ninth book).  It doesn't seem possible, somehow, that I've managed to stick with that many writing projects over the past almost-decade.  And yet I have, with a lot of help from people like Vicki, my brother Rich, editor Ernesto and many others.

Which brings me back to novel # 6, now into its second chapter of writing.  Much to my delight, Tammy offered to act as the initial editor on this book last month.  Her workload is more reasonable at the new job with the Ontario Securities Commission, allowing her to commit to something as time-consuming as editing a book in her spare hours.  I know from past experience that she's an excellent editor, having gotten the benefit of her critical eye on No Brother of Mine, way back when.

For that reason, I was quite excited to receive her edits on Chapter 1 of the new book yesterday.  Vicki had read it already and offered some valuable feedback, but I knew Tammy's review of the material would go much deeper... and it did.  She spotted and excised dozens of redundant phrases, pointed out both the strongest and the weakest passages, and gave me reason to think I might actually be on the right path once again, for a first draft.

It's become increasingly clear to me that this is going to be my longest and most in-depth story to date, and I wouldn't be surprised if it weighs in at over 400 pages by the time I'm done.  (Chapter 1, for example, is a chunky 30 pages).  As always, I'm firmly convinced that this is going to be my best novel yet, as otherwise - what would be the point?

More updates later, as usual...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Bike Ride!

This afternoon, with no snow to be seen and a temperature right around 8 C, I was able to make the bike ride to the comic store probably as late in the year as I ever have: Dec 24th!  I could've done without the 50 km/hr wind gusts that slowed me down at various points along the way, but overall it was a beautiful day for it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Potentially Huge Climate Agreement Struck In Paris Last Week

The Paris Agreement on the reduction of greenhouse emissions could end up being one of those things that most people ignore while it's happening but which future generations consider among the most significant events of the 21st century.  Good on the world leaders for being able to make it happen!

At the very end of the article there's mention that

"All the countries agreed on demands from the US and European Union for five-year reviews of their emissions reductions – an exercise that had been resisted by China."

This seemingly trivial detail may turn out to be tremendously important, as it provides a framework for what's known as "inspection and adaptation" in the Agile software community.  The inclusion of a frequent, recurring process for seeing how you're doing, what's working and what isn't, allows you to adapt your methodology as you go along.  It takes away the necessity of getting everything just right from the start and empowers you to use whatever you learn along the way to do a better job.

On the other hand, it's particularly sad that the U.S. government is currently so dysfunctional that the agreement had to include wording to prevent the Luddite Republican party from vetoing America's participation in the deal.  Many Canadians like me were embarrassed by PM Stephen Harper's head-up-his-ass leadership over the past decade, but I can't imagine how awful the life of an intelligent citizen of the US must be these days with Donald Trump as the poster boy for one of the ruling parties.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Prime Minister Trudeau In The New York Times

Here's a pretty good article on PM Justin Trudeau from the Times, written by an expat Canadian who clearly knows his history.  And when he states that October's election was "nothing less than an existential struggle over what it means to be Canadian," he absolutely nails it.  Harper made a lot of us ashamed of our country with his pandering-to-the-wealthy, xenophobic, fear-mongering governing style that George W Bush would've approved of.  I don't profess to know how well Trudeau will do as a leader just yet but at least his espoused principles are much more in line with my own, something that clearly wasn't the case with his predecessor and his cronies.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

December Biking

Somehow the original post about this got deleted today, so I'm just putting a Reader's Digest version back out here for my own personal records:

I got a bike ride in on Thursday this week, heading downtown for lunch with an old Canada Trust friend.  The temperature was just above freezing but it was sunny and clear, and it doesn't get much better than that in December.  I may even get another ride in this week coming up, as it's supposed to be slightly warmer still.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Last Bike Ride Of The Year?

Today I did the 25-km round trip downtown to the comic store, picking up 3 weeks' worth of comics (5 books) and getting in a substantial bike ride for the first time over that 3-week stretch.  Now that I'm no longer doing a weekly spin class, I really feel it when I get back onto the road after a layoff like that.  I can only imagine what it's going to be like in the spring when I've had several months off...

Anyway, today was a beautiful day for it: 10 C, sunny with a moderate amount of wind to cool me down whenever I needed it.  I don't know if I'll get any more opportunities before the snow comes for good, but if today was the final ride of 2015, at least it was a really good one.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Six Months Til Captain America: Civil War

I'm ridiculously excited about the May 6th debut of Captain America: Civil War.  I really liked the first Cap film, and then absolutely loved Winter Soldier, so I've probably got unrealistically high expectations about CW but I can't help it...  Captain America, when done right, has always been one of my favourite comic book characters, dating all the way back to him being in the first comic I remember buying.  So how can I not be jazzed that the next installment is now only half a year away?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

9th Anniversary Of This Here Blog

While it certainly doesn't get the traffic that it used to, Kimota94's Place is still up and operating, 9 long years after I started it with a post entitled Misadventures in Blogland back on Oct 1, 2006.  A lot sure has happened since then:
  • I've enjoyed 7 years of retirement so far, and have never regretted getting out of the rat race at 45 for even a moment
  • I've written 8 books, starting off with 3 non-fiction before moving into the much more satisfying task of novel-writing
  • Vicki has joined me as a retiree after about 15 years of off-and-on contract work
  • Tammy's graduated from Western (and the Ivey School of Business) with an HBA, become an accountant and even lived in Australia for almost 2 years
  • We've been fortunate enough to get the best cat ever, as Jonesy joined our family a little over 3 years ago
  • I've finally tired of being a comic collector, deciding last year to begin selling off and giving away some of the 30,000 comics I'd accumulated over the course of 40+ years
  • I've managed to keep in touch with the work friends who meant the most to me from both of my last two jobs, even after 14 and 7 years, respectively
  • Life has gone on, as it always tends to do
Anyway, I'm not sure how much longer I'll continue to 'maintain' this blog, even at the reduced level I've sunk to lately, though it's already outlasted any reasonable prediction I might've made about its lifespan way back in October of 2006.  So that's something, anyway.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blue Jays Win American League East!

My last post was about the Jays ending their 22-year playoff drought, and now, less than a week later, they've clinched their first AL East title since 1993.  It was very impressive to me that the team simply went about their business over the past week or so as all the talk about 'clinching' this and 'magic number' that began to heat up.  At one point Josh Donaldson (I think) asked one of the TV guys how many games they needed to win in order to clinch, and the commentator started to explain how the magic number involved a combination of Toronto wins and Yankee losses... only to have Donaldson say, "No, I don't care about other teams and what they do.  How many wins do we need?"  That speaks volumes about this edition of Blue Jays:  they focus on the job at hand and play hard every inning as if it were the most important inning ever.  I can so get behind a club with that kind of mindset!

With today's 15-2 win over Baltimore and resulting title clinch out of the way, the only regular season goal left to achieve for the team is finishing 1st in the American League, ahead of Kansas City.  They currently lead by 2 games, with 5 games to go, and Toronto holds the tie-breaker if the two teams finish in a dead heat.  If the Jays can finish 1st, they'll have home field advantage throughout the playoffs (for as long as they last) because the American League won home field for the World Series by taking this year's All-Star game over the National League back in the summer.  Considering how well the Jays played at home in 2015 (53-28), that could end up making a huge difference in how deep they go in their first postseason run since 1993.