Site Hacked (Again) … Fountain Under Construction

Fountain Blocked Off
Fountain Blocked Off

I opened this web page yesterday evening to write a blog post to find that one of the main files for the website had been hacked (once again). It took several hours to get a backup restored. The site is back in operation. I’m pretty frustrated with this problem. Frustrated enough that I’ve just paid $90 for a security company to protect the website. The setup of this system is also very convoluted. I’ve spent considerable time on hold waiting for chat support to come online.

The replacement of the tile in the fountain pool is now underway. The fountain has been cordoned off and today a crew were down there hammering off the existing tile. The head guy for the construction crew says they have a six-week budget to do the work and based on how things went today, he’s sure it’ll take the full six weeks. The grounds are so pretty it’s unfortunate to have all this construction going on. It seems to me that there have been a number of problems with the whole update project. For instance, the flagpole! The wrong top was shipped, the project guy thought he could get away with painting the ball on the top the right color. Nope. The Church wants things done as close to perfect as possible. Further, the flashing around the bottom wasn’t sent. Finally, the middle section of the flagpole isn’t straight. The project guy decided to put it up anyway, but position the bend so it wasn’t noticeable from the street. Wrong. So, they’ll spend money (for which they won’t be paid) to take it down when the straight piece arrives. And why did the manufacturer ship it with a bent piece? This is one example of several where the contractor tries to “make do” with the wrong stuff and the manufacturer or supplier knowingly ships stuff that doesn’t meet the specification (if they didn’t know, that’s even a bigger problem). Well, I should end the rant: </rant>

Grounds Keeper
Grounds Keeper

There are several (four, I think) grounds keepers to maintain the gardens, lawn, and area around the Temple. These folks work hard and definitely do a magnificent job. The grounds are always manicured and inviting. I wonder sometimes if they know how much the work that they do affects the visitors who come to the Temple and to the Visitors’ Center? Every day visitors tell me how beautiful everything is and how peaceful the area feels. The fellow in the picture has some hand sheers and is trimming the bush around the big light post base (the light that goes on it is out somewhere for refurbishment and the return date is still unknown). He spent the entire day yesterday trimming these bushes and plants in the courtyard at the Visitors’ Center. I’ve chatted with him a couple of times and he is the nicest guy one could ever meet. One very important work they do is pick up the massive palm tree branches that come down from the palm trees. Those things are huge and heavy and make quite a noise when they come down. I tried counting how many royal palm trees there are going from the Temple out to the beach, but I couldn’t see them all and stopped counting at 150. That means there are always downed branches to be picked up.

Regular Visitor
Regular Visitor

We have three or four people who come into the Visitors’ Center every day. Nina has written about one lady on her blog. This fellow is at the Center every day as well. He is most of the time homeless, although recently he acquired a small motor scooter that he rides around. He comes in every day to charge up his smart phone. It generally takes the phone about three hours to recharge. He visits with the missionaries a bit and then goes on his way. He has gotten himself mixed up with drugs and that pretty much rules his life. Hawaii’s climate is nice enough year around that it’s easy to be homeless over here. Along some of the beaches the State has built lockers for people to use, most of which are used by the homeless folks who sleep on the beach at night.

Yesterday afternoon we volunteered taking tickets at the Aloha Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Since the luau includes a show and the show starts at 5pm (the luau opens at about 4:45pm), most of the guests are lined up and waiting to get in when the gate opens.

I find it a bit interesting that there are always (1) a few people who pay for the luau and then don’t come and (2) there are always a few people who arrive at about 6:15pm or later when the show is over and most of the food is gone. The schedule of available events at the PCC is set up so that by 5pm everything at all of the “islands” is finished so that people can go to dinner.

Taking Tickets
Taking Tickets

The luaus at the PCC are quite the affair. The whole affair is kind of hidden from view. After we tear off the luau portion of the ticket, the guest gets a lei and then the photographer takes a picture of the family or group together with some members of the cast (the pictures can be purchased later in 8×10 format for $18 or two for $30). The dinner is buffet style. An emcee coordinates the whole show which includes performances from the other islands such as Tonga, Samoa, or Fiji. A pig is put into the ground earlier in the day, taken out at the beginning of the luau, and served as part of the meal to those who are interested. The show always ends with a “fireknife” presentation. This is kind of a teaser for the real show later in the evening.

Entrance to the Aloha Luau
Entrance to the Aloha Luau
I took the picture of the entrance into the luau near the end of the presentation. Nina is standing on the left. We have matching clothes … her in a muumuu and me in a matching Hawaiian shirt. The young lady that hands out the leis is sweeping up the area. They work very hard at keeping the whole area clean and swept (reminds me somewhat of Disneyland and their obsession with cleanliness). The luau is on the east side of the walkway so it gets the afternoon sun. That means that I wear my hat while we’re there taking tickets. I’ve got a pretty good tan but don’t want to get a sunburn!


A Very Busy Saturday

Fountain at the Visitors' Center
Fountain at the Visitors’ Center

What was planned to be a fairly leisurely Saturday morning proved the maxim that what can go wrong will, at the inappropriate time. Actually, nothing really bad happened, just that I got to spend a goodly part of the morning doing bicycle light repair work. One of the bicycles had a low rear tire. When I went to pick up the bike, I was told that the lights weren’t working. I checked, and they weren’t working on that bike nor on the other bike. So I brought the bike and the lights from the other bike back to the house and pumped up the tire. I checked the other bikes near where we live. Those lights weren’t working or were very dim. The lights all needed those little round batteries, some took CR2032 and others CR2016. I didn’t have any of either, so I went to Ace Hardware to pick up some batteries. They had a few, but not nearly enough. The auto parts store in the same strip mall had a few more and could order in the rest that I needed to arrive later in the day.

So, most of the bikes now have lights working. There aren’t any bicycle paths in the town of Laie and there are very few street lights. The back light on one bike is not functional and will need to be replaced. The sister missionaries who are riding bikes are always coming home after dark and not having lights is pretty hazardous. There are four companionships who are riding bicycles, five companionships who have a car to drive, and four companionships who have neither a car nor a bike, only their feet.

The revised landscaping is under way and the fountains have been updated. We still can’t put up a flag, though. The pole looks a bit dorky without a flag on it!

Life is tired tonight.

A Calm, Cool, and Collected Preparation Day

Horse Parking?
Horse Parking?

Thursdays are our Preparation Day for this transfer period which goes through the end of June (six weeks) when our schedule will switch and Wednesday will be our Preparation Day. This P-Day (as it’s called in missionary parlance) was the first one since we’ve arrived where we didn’t have to make a trip into Honolulu for anything. As a result, we’ve had a nice, calm day off from our normal activities. It has been a delightful day, actually.

One of my responsibilities is to maintain the sister missionary bicycles. Two of then have had a recent spate of flat rear tires. I patched both of them last Tuesday and both tires were flat again yesterday afternoon. The tires themselves were getting pretty bare and the tubes have been patched multiple times. Time for new tires and inner tubes. Ace Hardware has them in stock. Total bill for two tires, two inner tubes, and two hand grips: $85. That’s why we patch as much as possible. I get reimbursed for the maintenance costs, but want to keep the expenses down as much as possible.

We were planning to do a Facetime call with our daughter and family in Chandler, Arizona (grandson Jackson’s birthday is today …. happy birthday, Jackson!). We finally worked out a schedule to do the call at 4:30pm our time  (7:30pm Chandler time). So after lunch we did a little local sight seeing. We drove north then west along the Kamehameha Highway past the Turtle Beach resort and to the town of Haleiwah. That place is a fairly major tourist stop with plenty of shops selling surfboards, shave ice (for some reason here it’s called shave ice rather than shaved ice. I haven’t had one, maybe if I did I’d know the difference. It is Very Popular with the tourists), and bikinis. This is a one-lane-each-direction road with plenty of traffic both directions. We got back just in time to make the Facetime call.

The picture was taken on the way towards the Turtle Bay resort in a neighboring town that has a plethora of food trucks and eating establishments, including Wili Wili Plantation.

This has been very pleasant day.

New Sister Missionaries

View From the Temple Corner
View From the Temple Corner

Two new sister missionaries arrived this afternoon. One is from Cambodia and the other from China. They arrived in Hawaii on Monday afternoon, spent two nights at the Honolulu Hawaii Mission Home, and came up to Laie this afternoon on the return trip of sending two of our sister missionaries out for their three-month full time proselytizing assignment. Nina is busy sizing the muumuus the new missionaries will be wearing starting tomorrow morning at the Visitors’ Center. We won’t be there; Thursdays are our Preparation Day for this six-week session. The best part is that we don’t have to go into Honolulu tomorrow to do any shopping! We can use the day for whatever here in the area.

I do have a couple of bicycles that need tires fixed. I’ve patched both of them recently, so this means buying two new tires and inner tubes so that the bikes can be really fixed. We’ll also go to the Temple for a session. Then I think some local sight seeing might be on the agenda.

The Temple Corner is in the back left side of the Visitors’ Center. The hall has four large murals on the left show the history of temples and four large murals on the right discussing the ordinances and ceremonies we perform in the temple along with pictures of some of the rooms in the temple. At the end of the hall is a large picture window looking out on the Temple. There are four chairs and a bench situated to look out the window. We get quite a few people who live in the area who come into the Center and sit in the Temple Corner to read or meditate. It’s a very peaceful part of the Center.

Yesterday I had a pleasant surprise visitor to the Center. This was a fellow I’d worked with at LSI Logic in Colorado Springs twelve years ago. He was in a serious automobile accident that severed both of his legs below the knees. He’s a member of the Church and a good father. Of course, he had no idea we were here; they were visiting Hawaii for the graduation of a son from the University of Hawaii and came up to Laie to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. When he came in, I knew that I knew him, but couldn’t place him. Fortunately, he immediately recognized me and we had a nice conversation catching up on the intervening years. I’m sure that we’ll have a number of these pleasant surprises while we’re here.

Today was a fairly busy morning at the Center. A group of twenty-seven Chinese from Beijing came in on a tour and spent close to a half-hour at the Center. One of our Chinese sister missionaries fielded questions very handily and they took a lot of Church literature with them as they left. I took a family reunion group on a tour as well. They were here from San Francisco and had all attended a session at the Temple before coming to the Center. Then I had a nice time with a young couple from Vancouver, British Columbia who were here on their honeymoon. They were a lot of fun. They’ve been sweethearts since high school. Both of them had served missions and then got married four days ago in the Vancouver Temple. When she learned that Nina and I will celebrate 51 years in a couple of weeks, she said she was pretty sure they’d be able to do the same fifty-one years from now, but at the moment they were busy figuring out how to live together as two fairly headstrong individuals. He chuckled and agreed. I told him the secret might be to think about it in missionary terms: he’d never have to change companions and he would never be the senior companion. It didn’t mean he should be the junior companion, either.  I think that piece of advice was well received as they both liked the idea.

So what do I do to celebrate fifty one years on June 12th? Time to put my thinking cap on!

Life is full of wonderment.

Odds ‘n Ends

Skateboard Rack
Skateboard Rack

The land in this area are fairly flat, sloping gently towards the west until the mountains rise abruptly high in the sky. This place is also the home of Brigham Young University – Hawaii. The combination results in a lot of young people moving around town and the campus on skateboards. They obviously need a place to store and lock the skateboards while they’re in class … and a skateboard rack definitely fills the bill. I suppose these kinds of racks exist elsewhere in the world, but this is the first place that I’ve seen them.

I also know, without a doubt, that if I tried to ride a skateboard I’d be dead. Almost instantly dead … skull broken wide open as it smacked the pavement as the skateboard went one way and my body went the other, arms flailing. It’d be a pretty fast perishment, though. I go down hard and fast. It’s kind of fun watching the young, not necessarily athletic, folks cruise around the area on their skateboards. That got me to thinking about the energy used on a skateboard vs walking vs riding a bicycle. I think it takes the same amount of energy to move a certain mass a certain distance regardless of the method, so the calorie usage should be the same regardless. I’m thinking that the only difference is calories expended per unit of time. Experts, please clarify / correct my thinking!

The days really do run together here, since most days are pretty much the same as the day before. I was sure that we were assigned to work at the Polynesian Cultural Center this afternoon. When I mentioned it over at the Visitors’ Center, it turned out that the assignment is next Tuesday, not today. I’d have figured it out sooner or later (hopefully before changing clothes and going over to the PCC), but that pointed out the immediate need for an accurate calendar.

They're in Love....
They’re in Love….

One of these days (hopefully sooner than later) my Apple Watch will arrive. It hasn’t been shipped yet since I’ve not gotten an email to that effect and my credit card hasn’t been fully charged. When it arrives I’ll need to clean up the calendars that I have on the computer. Right now everything on my calendar appears two or three times depending on whether I entered it on the Macbook calendar or on Google Calendar. They’re supposed to sync, but that process is quite flawed for some reason. In the meantime, I used a paper calendar. It’s a small spiral-bound booklet published by the Church for use by missionaries. Each booklet covers six weeks. Most of the features (all of which are important to the young missionaries) aren’t necessary as I don’t have the same reporting requirements as the young missionaries. But, it fits nicely in my shirt or back pocket and works very well for my needs.

Since we didn’t have to go to the PCC this afternoon, instead we did some laundry and did a little bit of shopping. After the stop at the drugstore (to buy a new hairdryer for Nina. Her old one lit up like a firecracker this morning showering her with sparks. She yelped pretty loudly…), we stopped for a short walk along the beach. The temperature was just right although it was a bit windy. Nina loves the beach and got a brief “pick me up” as we strolled along a few yards behind a young couple obviously quite taken with each other. I almost wrote “shot in the arm” rather than “pick me up”, but didn’t because we both got a different shot in the arm yesterday when we got the final Hepatitis A and B shots. These are expensive vaccinations, but they’re done and we won’t every have to do them again. Now all they need to do is to be effective.

Barefoot in the Sand
Barefoot in the Sand

Nina has posted some pictures on Facebook about seeing various flip-flops on the beach when she does her morning walk. They’re there because people walk down to the beach and shed the flip-flops (the footware for at least 90% of the people here is flip-flops) while they walk along the beach. Nina did the same. She likes the feel of the sand on her feet and between her toes. I don’t. I wear shoes … water shoes, tennis shoes, or just ordinary shoes. I don’t like how the sand stretches the arch of my feet so I want something with more support on my feet. The only place I wear flip-flops is in the shower at a campground as an athlete’s foot preventative measure.

So, tonight before posting this blog entry I put together the new calendar for this six-week span. Missionary transfers happen every six weeks and the Missionary Daily Planners are built for a six-week period of time. Each six weeks starts a new planner. I should have written mine in pencil, though. I started putting the dates at the top of the pages … April and then May. Halfway through I realized that the dates were May and June. Somewhere I’ve lost a month in my memory. Then, as I started correcting that by lining through the wrong dates, I noticed that I had skipped a day, twice. The dates go May 20 followed by May 21, not May 20 followed by May 22nd. So that had to be corrected. Maybe I should buy some white-out….

Life is full of complex minutia….


Schedule Change … Transfer Time

(Temporarily) Flagless Flagpole
(Temporarily) Flagless Flagpole

As part of the ongoing renovations on the Visitors’ Center grounds, a brand spanking new, very tall flagpole has been (almost) installed. However, some of the flashing to go around the base of the flagpole wasn’t delivered and the wrong kind of a ball to go on the top of the pole was delivered. All of this was discovered as the flagpole was being installed. The result: a flagpole that we can’t put flags on (yet). The contractor can’t release the flagpole until it’s complete and signed off by the Temple authorities and we can’t use it until it’s been accepted by the Temple. Meanwhile we have this very tall pole sticking up in the air. Almost daily I’m asked, usually by someone serving in the military, why we don’t have a flag on the flagpole. Most think the reason is rather crazy, but such is life over here. Lots of things just move along at a different pace.

On a different note, all of the electronics in the Visitors’ Center are now working once again! The air conditioning in the Asian Theater is now working and all of the touchscreen monitors that weren’t working have been replaced and for the first time since we’ve been here, all of the displays and exhibits in the Center are fully functional. That’s really cool! (The cool part literally applies to the Asian Theater. It’s now quite chilly in there. The theater is so named because of the Asian motif in the room).

Taking Tickets at the PCC
Taking Tickets at the PCC

We volunteered on Saturday taking tickets at the Prime Dining eatery at the Polynesian Cultural Center. This is a buffet style restaurant a bit more upscale than the Island Buffet venue. The other two options for the evening meal are luaus at either the Hale Ohana or Hale Aloha. Those luaus are complete with the pig roasted in an imu and a show. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we’ll be ticket takers at the Hale Aloha.

At each of the food venues members of the cast for the evening show are at the entrance where a photographer takes a picture of the family or group with the cast member. These 8×10 photographs are then available for purchase following the meal (and show at the luaus). The photos are $18 apiece or two for $30. Most people buy two pictures. I wouldn’t have expected that, actually. In the picture to the left, Nina and the photographer were having a great laugh about something. The photographer is a senior in high school and is just delightful with a great sense of humor.

Sunday was Ward Conference for the Laie 3rd Ward, the Ward that we are assigned to. After the meetings the Ward has a big potluck dinner. No assignments, everyone just brings something to share. An incredible amount of very good food showed up! These folks over here know how to do a potluck dinner. Seconds and even thirds were available and some of the desserts were so good they must be sinful. As we were eating our fill, the Sunday School President asked me if Nina and I would be willing to be substitute teachers. I told him that we would be happy to do that (oops … I haven’t told Nina about that, maybe I’ll wait for her to read it on the blog…..). It sounded like there are substitute opportunities coming up when school lets out and families start taking their vacations. I enjoy teaching Sunday School and particularly enjoy teaching classes to the teenagers and young adults. This should be fun and interesting.

This is transfer week. The new companionships were announced on Saturday evening and literally every sister missionary companionship is being changed, except one. Two sisters are going elsewhere in Hawaii for their three-month stint as full-time proselytizing missionaries, two brand new sister missionaries are coming in from the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah, and three sister missionaries are coming back to the Center after their three-month full-time proselytizing assignment. This is also the week that we swap schedules with Elder and Sister Jensen, the other senior missionaries. That means we’ll be working at the Center Sunday through Wednesday in the morning, have Thursday off as a Preparation Day, and work Friday and Saturday evenings at the Center. This will be our schedule for this week and the following five weeks when we’ll switch again.

Yesterday (Sunday) evening we held a musical fireside at the Visitors’ Center open to the public. Several of the sister missionaries performed either solo or in groups and many of them were called extemporaneously to talk briefly about their missionary experience. At the end all of the sister missionaries sang “Gethsemane” and I accompanied them on the piano. A YouTube recording of the song:

We had a great turnout and the missionaries performed very well. My part actually worked out OK, for which I am very thankful!

Life is pretty much sublime….

A Semblance of Normality Restored

Which Way Does the Wind Blow?
Which Way Does the Wind Blow?

My Macbook has been fixed and is back home. The new keyboard and top case make it look like it’s almost new! The dining table is about the only place to set up our computers and they usually stay set up on the very small table all the time, even when we’re eating. I’m going to have to get a lot more coordinated or start moving my computer off the table when it’s mealtime! I don’t need to go through this problem again.

We drove down to Honolulu on Wednesday to do some shopping and picked up the Macbook on the way followed by a stop at Costco, Walmart, and Radio Shack. Yup, there are still some Radio Shack stores open, although I read yesterday that someone has offered to buy the “Radio Shack” name. I wonder if the remaining stores go with it? I needed a specific, not generally stocked USB cable to go between my Nikon Point-n-Shoot and the computer. I apparently left the cable back in the US. I haven’t been able to find it anywhere until I went into the Radio Shack store at the (very upscale) Ala Moana Mall in Waikiki. I’m certain I paid twice the regular price (1) because we’re in Hawaii and everything (except pineapples and papaya) is more expensive and (2) this is a mall that caters to folks with LOTS and OODLES of money. The cable works, it’s (hopefully) a one-time purchase, so life continues.

One the way to Honolulu we stopped at the Kualoa Regional Park, a large, beautiful park on the ocean, so that Nina could pick up a piece of coral to send to daughter-in-law Maureen back in Connecticut. While there I noticed the trees along the beach and the steep mountains behind and took the picture (top right). It’s clear that this is the “windward” side of the island! I don’t remember ever seeing the wind blowing to the east. It’s always coming from somewhere in the east, some days much stronger than others.

Before the Tunnel
Before the Tunnel

There is a steep mountain range that essentially bisects the island of Oahu from south to north. For many years the only way out of Honolulu to the north shore were a couple of arduous roads up and over mountain passes. Then in the 1960’s plans were made to build three tunnels and associated highways through the mountains. The plans met with every obstacle and protest imaginable, with the H-3 Interstate not completed until 1997 after the Hawaiian Senator Inouye got the highway exempted from environmental laws as a rider to a Department of Defense funding bill.

This picture was taken just before entering the almost-mile-long tunnel through the mountain. I love the mountains around here. They are sharp, steep, high, jagged, and delightful. As an aside, it kind of seems that every project to build anything around here meets significant opposition and protest. Construction of a thirty-meter telescope is the current target. A news report is here and a discussion of the project is here.

Our shift at the Visitors’ Center for today and the next six days is the morning shift. Missionary transfers are next Tuesday so we swap work schedules with Elder and Sister Jensen, the other senior missionary couple serving with us. Transfers happen every six weeks and that’s when we swap schedules. On the new schedule we’ll be on the morning shift Monday through Wednesday, have Thursday off, and the afternoon shift on Friday and Saturday. Our Sunday schedule (9:00 – 11:30 am) will not change for the remainder of this year. We had a large tour group from mainland China (mostly from the Shanghai area) at the Center this morning. These are days when I wish I remembered more Chinese, although the Chinese visitors always seem to be surprised that I know even a few words. I’m agan in several more Chinese photo galleries….

Life is pleasantly tired….

Talking and Teaching Accomplished. Kicking Back….

Beach at Sunset
Beach at Sunset

Nina and I both spoke in Sacrament Meeting in our assigned Ward this afternoon. She gave a great talk. Mine went OK (I never know how my talks really go). An hour later I taught the lesson in Priesthood Meeting in the High Priest Group. I also felt that went pretty well. This is a good ward and we’re starting to get to know a few people in the Ward.

The Center wasn’t particularly busy today. I’m pretty sure it was because today is Mother’s Day and people were attending to that rather than sight seeing. On Sunday mornings we’re only there two and a half hours from 9am to 11:30am. The Center usually gets busier on Sunday afternoons.

Because the young missionaries are allowed to call home on Mother’s Day, Nina and I have been taking our computers over to the Center so the sister missionaries can use Skype to make a video call back home. They are all so excited to see their family and talk about their mission. We take the laptops over for them to use so they can walk around the Center showing their family back home where they spend their time. It has been delightful watching them talk with their mothers over the past couple of days.

Our Mother’s Day was also very nice. Thanks to all who called to talk with your mother. I can’d say enough about how nice that is.

So, the dishes are done, I’ve only got one small mess to clean up and put away, and we’re ready to call it a night. We’ve got the weekly Visitors’ Center Training Meeting tomorrow morning at 7:30 am and with that, another great week in this little corner of paradise starts up!

Live is sanguine!