No turtles at Turtle Bay, all turtles at Kamehameha Highway

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So today was a day of tikitouring around the island, waiting for buses, and swimming with turtles! But first it was time to get there.

Kathryn is a person driven by coffee. When travelling, she prefers Starbucks. This cracks me up because oh she’s such a coffee snob at home, but take her out of the country, and it always defaults back to Starbucks. Turns out their coffee machine was broken today, and instead of providing her Banana Bread, they provided Pumpkin Bread.

So after we reset our moods, we then headed to Ala Moana Shopping Centre, which is the main bus transfer point. We caught the 55 bus which travels on the Windward side of Oahu, so we got to see the other side of the coast. It’s a long bus ride, about 2 hours 50 minutes to Waimea Bay, and along the way you get to see the real heart of Oahu, the rural side of life, and something a little different from all the high rises and glamour of Waikiki. There’s a really fancy Mormon temple if that’s your cup of tea. So now I can say I’ve seen two, the Waikato one, and the Oahu one.

Turtle Bay ResortAfter being on the bus for at least a couple of hours we decided to get off at a place called Turtle Bay, because obviously, we wanted to swim with the turtles! There were no turtles there.

We decided to stop by and have a bit of lunch here. Kathryn got the cheeseburger, and I got an Ahi sandwich. Ahi is a fish that is seared on both sides, but is still pretty uncooked in the middle, but it really was very delicious. I think the awkward thing about ordering food in the USA is paying, when we were done, we got up, talked to the person at the till who then said our server will be bringing us the bill, who then took our credit card, charged the card (without me signing it), and then I’m left to provide a tip inside this weird black thing. Why can’t I just pay as I leave? Why is it so awkward? What is 15% of $39.97?

We then decided to head out into the water pictured to try and find these turtles. Turns out because there were so many people there, the turtles decided to head down the road(!) so we were told from a New York couple (originally from Chicago). We decided to make like the turtles and head down the road also.

So then we waited for the bus talking to someone from Pennsylvania. With Philadelphia at one end, Pittsburgh at the other, and a really rural setting in the middle, some people say it’s a bit like having Alabama in the middle. The two cities vote Democratic, and the rest vote Republican, and so we talked to the person a bit about how politics in America seems so partisan, so divided, and she agreed. We then talked about the socialist paradise that is New Zealand, particularly ACC. Sure it makes petrol twice as expensive in New Zealand as it does in Hawaii, but the concept of giving up the right to sue each other for accidents and in return having this comprehensive no faults accident cover saves a whole bunch on lawyers fees and suing each other.

But I digress. The bus came, she went back to Honolulu, and we continued on our way towards Waimea. We then decided to get off at Pupukea. Pupukea has basically the only set of traffic lights on the North Shore, and is where the Foodland supermarket is. A great place to grab yourself some snorkels for $10, a bit of food, and then head to the Three Tables.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCKNgZfM0Ik

This isn’t my video, but it gives you a taster of what we experienced. It’s just amazing, it’s like swimming in an aquarium. We saw so many fish, so close, it really was amazing. I would just float, not really moving, not really breathing, watching small yellow and white striped fish, large black fish, tiny shoals of white fish, I would have seen hundreds of fish. Just awesome, and only about 50 people, which would equate to about 10 meters worth of people on Waikiki!

After that we decided to head to Haleiwa, which is famous for its Shaved Ice. We just missed the bus which meant another 40 minute wait. We got pretty tired of waiting 40 minutes for the bus all the time. Maybe next time around we just rent a car, but this whole driving on the right side seems pretty complex to me, let alone understanding the intersection rules.

Along the way Kathryn told me to get off the bus now, and in the middle of nowhere, turns out the beach was full of turtles! The turtles did end up going up the road, and had decided to hang out at a small beach that has seaweed and algae growing on some rocks which are the food of the turtles. Some where just beached on the rocks relaxing, and others were playing (if turtles can play) in the surf, and others just floating around. We jumped in and ended up swimming with turtles (though no closer than six feet). Just amazing. Who can say they’ve swum with turtles in the wild?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1Q_DRp1TEo

Another thing ticked off Kathryn’s bucket list – Wholphin done, swimming with Turtles done.

Now it was around 5pm and we decided to skip Haleiwa and head straight back to Waikiki. We caught another 55 bus and noticed at Haleiwa that everyone got off the bus. Have you ever had a feeling that something’s not quite right as you’re the last couple on the bus? That happened to us in Japan once as the train we were on heading into the city stopped at a station and then started going in reverse. Well, we were in a similar situation. Turns out the 55 is the long bus to get back home, and the 52 was the express bus back to Ala Moana. We got off the 55 in the middle of nowhere, and waited about 15 minutes for the 52. Turns out all the people that got off the 55 at Haleiwa were on the 52. Looks like we didn’t get the memo. An uneventful ride home, a very tired and sunburnt Kathryn and I, and now we’re crashing out.

Tomorrow, a day of shopping at Ala Moana.

See life at the Sea Life Park

Seeing life

Nothing beats seeing life at Sea Life Park (OK, I’m done using that phrase).

Today Kathryn and I decided to head to Sea Life Park to see the world’s only Wholphin. I thought that would be a cross between a whale and a dolphin. Turns out not only is that incorrect, that’s not even feasible.

It’s actually a cross between a false killer whale (which is a type of a dolphin) and a bottlenose dolphin (which is a type of a dolphin).

Anyways, first thing’s first, and that’s getting to Sea Life Park. From Waikiki, the easiest way to get there is either The Bus route 22 or 23.One goes via Diamond Head (23) and the other (22) goes via Hanauma Bay. It’s $2.50 for a ticket, and that includes a 1 two hour transfer to another bus. It’s a pretty sweet deal. I still enjoy the fact that it’s a flat fee no matter how far you go.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq1vPk6Q0Fc

On the bus they really crammed in the people. Put in this way, OSH would have had a nightmare if they had seen how many people were on this bus. You know when you have to stand in the center, well imagine two lines standing in the center of the bus. That’s what this was like. Ended up standing next to these two people who were heading up to Diamond Head, started talking to them, and I asked them if they were Australians. Turns out they were New Zealanders. Awkward.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr-7-u0s0SI

About an hour later we made it to Sea Life Park. If you brought in a wrapper of any item made by Love’s Bakery then you get half price general admission, bringing it down from $30 per person to $15 per person. That’s a great deal considering a Love’s Chocolate Pie costs $2 from Walmart.

Once inside we saw some awesome massive Sea Turtles. They looked so big that you could ride one. But you can’t because of various state and federal laws. One thing I noticed about the USA, so many laws covering so many things. You spit on the bus? Well that’s a Class C felony punishable by a $500 fine and/or no more than six months imprisonment. Sell your bus transfer ticket to someone else? $ay aloha to an up to $2000 fine and no more than one year imprisonment.

But I digress. The next thing we saw after the turtles was the wholphin, and it was awesome. They’re so large, like twice the size of a normal dolphin. But then again, hybrids do look twice the size of their parent animals, check out Ligers. Well, maybe not mules. But they’re the exception to the rule. Anyways, enough biology.

We then stayed for the Dolphin show which was good fun. Dolphin shows all look the same, show a couple of flips, play with a basketball, push the trainer around. I did see the trainer use a dolphin as a surfboard. That was pretty cool.

We then checked out the stingrays, taking note of some Americans mentioned how Steve Irwin died. Turns out he acted like a shark, and the stingrays took offence to that.

After that it was the bus ride back to Waikiki which was fairly uneventful. So much so I fell asleep a couple of times. Travel’s always tiring, and time seems to move so quickly when travelling. Unlike working, where time moves at a more slower pace.

One final thing that was cool was we paid $10 more to get an upgraded room. We were staying on the fifth floor with a room with a view of the building next door. Kinda creepy that I could see into other people’s hotel rooms. For that $10 more a night we’re now on the fifteenth floor with an awesome view of the sea (past some other hotels closer to the beach of course). Best upgrade ever!

A great shuttle, a tired Kathryn, we still went shopping

So remember my great plan to make my own Business Class? Totally worked! The Emperor Lounge at Auckland Airport is really worth the $50 with some nice (and some average) food, the chairs are massive, the TVs were good, the showers were amazing, the relaxing was complete. If you’re doing a long flight, and you like yourself, you should do it.

Jumped on board the plane, and since we were right up front we were the last to board, but that didn’t matter.See the video of the space for my little legs:  httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5aLmSUeb78

Take off was uneventful, just had to wait on the tarmac at Auckland Airport while the pilot rebooted one of the plane computers. So when a computer doesn’t work, you just reboot it. Even if it flies the plane.

Did hit a bunch of turbulence that was more intense than the 6.5 Wellington Earthquake. It was hardcore. Have you ever seen when someone loses all the colour in their face, and then gets sick straight away? Turns out Kathryn’s affected by turbulence a little bit more than I am.

Anyways, landed at 10.30am and after whizzing by Customs we hit the payphone, called the 1800 number for A8 Shuttles, and the guy was waiting outside for us, a five person van seating two, fixed price to Waikiki for $40 USD including tip. Great value, awful website. Actually, after doing research on a whole bunch of Hawaiian travel related things, all the websites look the same crappy style.

By this time it was around 11.30am and we were tired. The flight was 8 hours long, only got a couple of hours sleep, and still had the rest of the day to deal with. So first headed to the Ohana Waikiki West to drop off the bags. Now I don’t know anything about tipping, so I have to ask everyone. I don’t mind asking, but their answer is always, “If you enjoy our service, then feel welcome to give Mahalo!”

When you’re tired, exhausted, and just want to relax, the best way to do that, is to hit the beach.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tg8H7mGrKY

After a quick dip, the next thing was do was to grab a bite to eat. When you’re not in the mood to think about eating, head to a Food Court, so we headed to the Royal Hawaiian Food court. Kathryn went for the original Hawaiian Pizza. How original. I went for a Hawaiian style Teriyaki Chicken plate! Yum!

Finally near exhausted, we decided to catch the free shuttle to Ala Moana Shopping Center, so we could head to Walmart. Do you know why shuttles are free? because they suck, and everyone wants to catch them. So we ended up hanging out with 50 other people cramped, waiting in the basement of some building for the shuttle to arrive. Never again. Pay the $2.50 and get the bus. It’s air-conditioned,  and you get a ticket to use the bus again in the next two hours. Best value.

Grabbed a bunch of supplies, headed home, and decided to have dinner in, but first, tired as we were, headed to Forever 21. Kathryn got a sweet sweet dress for only $24. Everything is pretty cheap here.

Speaking of cheap, bought some liquor, a 750ml bottle of Smirnoff Vodka for $12. $12. Twelve dollars, that’s cheap as chips. in fact, the bottle of Chocolate milk was half the price.

Make your own Business Class on Hawaiian Airlines

Business Class SnacksSpent a pretty uneventful night at the Novotel. They may be expensive but they do provide an awesome experience. They gave us a complimentary late check out from 11am to 12pm, they held our bags from 12pm through to 9pm when we’re going to check in, and they printed our boarding pass for us as well. Nice one!

So we’ve got about 12 hours to kill from lunch time until midnight tonight. Thankfully Kathryn’s mum came up from Hamilton to visit us and take us to Mission Bay.

On the way back we stopped at Japan Mart in Newmarket. I read a post saying that the Hawaiian Airlines Business Class experience isn’t all that great, and it seems easier to make your own business class. Steps involved are:

  • Stay up until 24 hours before your flight and be the first to use the online check in. Book the bulkhead or exit row seats where available. Ours cost $100 per seat per flight, so $200 for Kathryn and I one way from Auckland to Honolulu.
  • Buy a pass to the Emperor Lounge at Auckland Airport. It’s $50 for 3 hours and lets you do all that good stuff that a lounge does like shower, eat some food, relax on nice seats etc. Closes at 11pm BTW. Though I did just found out that Auckland Airport has a free shower right by the arrivals area.
  • Buy your own awesome food. While it seems kinda weird to have to bring your own food onto the plane at least you know you’ll like the food, there will be enough snacks for you, and you get to choose what you like. I thought about bring a Gu Banofee Pie onto the plane, but Kathryn kindly reminded me that milk products should be refrigerated. Whatever I say. Don’t really recommend taking drinks with you with that whole liquid security restriction stuff happening at the airport.

So after all of that you’ve basically got a poor man’s business class for around $175 per person each way. I did get an upgrade once on Air New Zealand from Auckland to Hong Kong from Economy to Premium Economy for $225 Airpoints Dollars and for that you get the lounge, a slightly larger seat, and a nicer place to check in.

So now there’s only 3 more hours to go before being able to check in and enjoy the lounge and prepare for our flight. It’s going to be a bit of an adjustment going from 10 degrees outside to about 30 degrees outside. Hawaiian shorts, here I come!

A pre-holiday for the holiday

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In what appears to be the only reason for updating my blog, Kathryn and I are on a holiday. Once again we’re heading to Hawaii, but we’re also going to have a taster of Las Vegas.

We’re flying with Hawaiian Airlines who don’t really do flights from Wellington, nor do they have any connecting services. Instead we decided to leave a day before our flight to Hawaii, and caught a flight up with Air New Zealand from Wellington to Auckland.

One cool thing at Wellington Airport is the Flybuys Gumball machine. Basically scan your Flybuys card or your Airports card and you’ll receive a free gumball!

OK, so that might not be exciting to you (especially if you don’t enjoy lockjaw), but you can keep scanning them again and again and again. INFINITE GUMBALLS!

Now we’re relaxing at the Novotel Auckland Airport. The first room we had smelt a bit like standing water (you know, that smell if you leave the shower water around a bit too long), and when I closed the door to the toilet the handle came off in my hand. Now I’m not a particularly powerful guy (strong enough to crush a lesser man), but still, for the handle to come off, that’s no good…

Thankfully, Novotel were awesome and provided us with another room on the same floor that didn’t have a funky smell, and had handles that were Waylon-proof.

Our flight leaves at around 11.55pm tomorrow night, so not sure what we’re going to do for all of tomorrow, but one thing I am keen to do is do the Online Check In with Hawaiian Airlines. Seat Guru state that the best seats are in Row 11, and those seats can be selected and paid for (Hawaiian Airlines charge you for bulkhead seats) if you get in quick.

How to create Technology Roadmaps

I’ve spent the last few months of my time creating technology roadmaps for my employer. These are quite simple roadmaps, and the process I followed to create them was:

  1. Create or select a reference architecture – this will define the categories used in your roadmap, for instance, we should have an application server category, and of that, we should break that down into Java application servers, and .NET application servers;
  2. Identify technologies for each category – research and discover what technologies are in use;
  3. Define the lifecycle stage for each technology – determine which stage of the lifecycle the technology is in, a proposed technology, a budgeted and agreed technology, an approved technology, an end of life technology, or an out of support technology;

That’s it. Review every three or six months, and make sure the roadmaps are internally consistent. For example, since IIS 7.5 is only available for Windows Server 2008 R2, if you’re saying you’re replacing Windows Server 2003 with Windows Server 2008 R2, then by defacto you’ll be replacing IIS 6 with IIS 7.5.

My new hobby – BBQ Pork Spare Ribs

So I’ve found a new hobby, BBQ Pork Spare Ribs. I watched a show called BBQ Pit masters, which showed a selection of American BBQ Pit masters roasting various bits of meat and then deciding which ones are worth prizes of thousands of dollars.

I am not trying to make money from my hobby, but it is something I’m passionate about. And the best thing is, it’s a great hobby. It’s not like climbing a mountain. The steps to my hobby are:

  1. Get some meat – I prefer some nice pork spare ribs, around $10NZD for a small rack
  2. Make your own rib rub – I like to make a nice Kansas City Rib Rub
  3. Put the rub on the ribs – It’s a dry rub, so don’t go turning it into a baste
  4. Put it at 125 degrees Celsius for four hours – it gets slow cooked so that the meat nearly falls off the bones
  5. Mop the ribs with apple juice every half an hour or so
  6. Take the ribs out, and eat.

It’s a great past time, doesn’t take up a lot of time or effort, and at the end you have delicious ribs.