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Writers gotta write

My work laptop blinks at me. It stares. It glares.

I hide in the glow of my home laptop. I avert my gaze. I search for answers in Pandora.

Today, I put what looked like a blank CD in my player in the car, driving back to the office after an early-morning project meeting.

Blank is deceptive.

Nothing is really empty. Nothing is really blank. Blank paper is potential, is it not? The blank CD? Not so. It was one of my “D” playlists (see: (someday) “Sandman playlists”). Which Sandman sibling?

The appropriate one. Doesn’t the appropriate one always appear? 

Not really. Some of them like to try to shove their way into every situation. Why do I smile when I think how inappropriately they behave sometimes? 

Maybe because that’s what life gives you more often than not. The Endless sibling you least want to see. And then it laughs, grabs some Chex mix, and sits back to watch.

So, what happened when my playlist played today, of all things, *my* song? I wanted to speak. For some of us, that translates to “write.”

Why worry about the things that keep me from my blog (my poor, neglected little space here)? Why worry about taking time away from my technical writing? Why worry about garnering attention? Why worry about going unnoticed? Is not writing for the sake of writing good enough?

Why am I writing so ambiguously?

How do you catch a wave upon the sand?

I’ve been wanting to reignite my blog for a while. It is true that I rarely have brain power after work and after caring for home and family to articulate all the things that run through my brain. It’s also true that a lot of what runs through my brain these days is triggered by local and world events around me, and that train of thought somehow inevitably leads to musings of an opinionated matter. But why should I worry about sharing such musings here? This is my space. My blog. Musings of a cynical optimist. Writers have quiet courage. Or, we should, shouldn’t we?  Some have loud, seemingly fearless courage. Some, not so much.

But what do we all have?

We have words. We have words. What are your words?

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Answers

Still looking for time to blog. I have motivation these days. Until then, will have to just repost my latest musing:

In the quiet of my nights, between 2-year old “tuck tucks”, spousal good-nights, and 8-month old early-a.m. cries, I spend a part of my “alone” time praying. Between work deadlines, familial heath concerns, and some sort of mid-life-crisis-level fear of death, it’s often hard for me to hear answers these days. But life is not always about answers. It’s about the dialogue we share, the fears we admit, the failings we face. It’s about the strength we share, the joy we find, the truth we seek, and the integrity we hold. May we all hold each other up as we seek our own answers. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a universe to keep us “old folks” from falling down.

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Stagnant Again

Hmmmm…..the blog is getting a little musty. 

Should I continue with this blog, or start anew? Either way, it’s time to blog again. 

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Snorkel Trips in Maui

[Note: This is a reprint from my August 2008 post]

I’ve been wanting to do a quick review of snorkel tours on Maui.  Now, I am combining it with my latest beach snorkeling experience. 

Beach Snorkeling

Sweetie and I went snorkeling a couple of weeks ago.  Finally!  We are such home bodies, you might almost never guess we live in a tropical paradise with year-round sun and warmth.  But after I raved about how wonderful the snorkeling was at Tunnels Beach in Kauai, Sweetie said “Well, let’s go out one day in Maui.”  So we did.  He took me to a few places I had not been to before.  We drove south past Kihei and Wailea to Makena and got into the water at Five Graves.  This is a place to snorkel, not to lay around.  It is very rocky and we were lucky that there was almost no surf.  We were able to get in and out of the water easily.  This is a good dive spot, from what I have read.  The snorkeling was good and we were close to Turtle Town (see a sea turtle say hello over HERE).    We didn’t see any turtles and were heading back to shore when we passed another snorkeler.  He said “Did you see the turtle?” and pointed us back out.  Sweetie scouted around a little and lo and behold, he found the turtle.  I found another one, but they weren’t swimming around too much.  Just hanging around the sand below us. But I love spotting the turtles!

We drove south again towards the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve Area and Waiala Cove.  We snorkeled from Waiala Cove.  In my opinion, you have to be a little careful snorkeling from here.  The water is very very shallow.  This means, in order to not touch the coral, you have to stay floating on your stomach as soon as you get into the water.  You have to swim out a little bit before you can tread water without hitting the coral.  Of course, people will just stand up, adjust their masks, hug each other (a couple I saw), wave to family members, etc. etc.  But you should not do this unless you can find sand to step on and avoid the coral.  Check out some coral reef etiquette guidelines HERE.  That’s another reason I liked Tunnels Beach so much.  Lots of sand around the coral.  When I was ready to get out of the water at Waiala, I had to belly paddle all the way up to a little strip of concrete that jutted out into the water.  Of course, I was being so careful of the coral, I totally forgot about the waves behind me.  Luckily, Sweetie was already out of the water and ran over to haul me out of the water as I tried to crawl from my knees to my feet without being smooshed by a wave. 

Finally, we kept driving south just to take a look at La Perouse Bay.  Pretty, but I don’t know that I would try snorkeling here.  There is much less protection from the surf.  So, unless you come on a very windless day, the surf could make the water too murky. 

Note:  Just this week, the Department of Land and Natural Resources has closed off a large portion of the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve.  You can still drive to La Perouse Bay but you cannot walk around the lava rock for the next two years (until July 31, 2010).  For those of you who have heard about the lava-rock trails to snorkeling sites like the Aquarium and the Fishbowl, you can no longer legally walk there.  Waiala Cove and areas north of the cove will still be open.  You can read the news article HERE.

Snorkel Tours

During the last couple of years and visits with friends and family here on Maui, I have paid for a few different snorkeling trips.  I have gone out snorkeling with the Pacific Whale Foundation, Gemini Sailing Charters, and Maui Classic Charters.  You can follow the links below to any of those websites.

Here is my basic statement on Maui snorkeling:  It all depends on the weather. 

You should be aware, whenever you plan a snorkel trip on Maui, that it can rain any day of the year and it can be windy any day of the year.  OK, some seasons are better than others.  Taking my mom out snorkeling in February probably was not the best time.  But there are no guarantees for calm seas and clear water.  You just have to take your chances.  That being said, the best time of day to snorkel is in the morning.  As early as possible before the winds kick up.  You may see that many snorkel tours have a morning snorkel and an afternoon snorkel.  Often, the morning snorkel is more expensive.  There is good reason for this.  Once the winds pick up around Molokini or anywhere offshore, the water becomes more murky, the fish scatter away, and it is harder to get back into a boat that is bobbing like mad in the water.  Having taken an afternoon snorkel tour, I would now always advise to pony up the extra money and go for the morning trip. 

If you go during whale season (roughly December to April), you get the added bonus of seeing whales on the trips in and out.  This is no small bonus.  It is quite a treat to see the whales close up.  If you come during whale season and just want to go on a whale watching trip, I think you can do fine with the cheapest trips.  There are sooooo many whales during the height of whale season, you can’t miss them. 

After that, there are not TOO many differences between the tours.  They all offer good, basic snorkel trips.  They all provide the gear, including some prescription masks.  They all have friendly staff.  There are really only a few differences.  Here are my rundowns, based on my trips.

Gemini Charters (http://www.geminicharters.com/).  They depart from Ka’anapali Beach .

This is Sweetie’s favorite group to snorkel with.  A little more expensive, but good. 

Good Stuff: 

  • ·        They use a catamaran, and it is quite fun to zip out on the water in a smaller boat where you can sit out on the trampoline nets and feel the spray wash over you.
  • ·        They travel to Honolua Bay, which Sweetie says is better snorkeling than Molokini.
  • ·        The BEST food I’ve eaten snorkeling.  Really yummy food.  You know how I like food.  I must have gone back to the buffet three times.
  • ·        The catamaran has steps that drop down straight into the water.  Easier to climb back onto the boat while snorkeling. 

Not so great: 

  • o   They are more expensive.
  • o   If you can’t go to Honolua Bay because of the weather, the alternative spots aren’t that great.  They don’t go to Molokini.  I was disappointed going in March because it was too windy to go up to Honolua Bay.  That’s why I paid more money.  We ended up traveling up and down the West Maui coast looking for a spot to drop anchor.  But, as I said, there are no guarantees. 

Maui Classic Charters (http://www.mauicharters.com/).  They depart from Maalaea Harbor. 

Good Stuff: 

  • ·        They offer a decent, basic snorkel trip out to Molokini.
  • ·        They have a slide on the boat.  Nothing big.  A tiny slide they bolt into place on the side of the boat.  But the kids/teens on the boat really seemed to enjoy it.
  • ·        Less expensive than Gemini or Trilogy (another popular group with catamarans)

Not so great:

  • o   They claim their BBQ is superb.  I didn’t think it was anything special.  But, to give them credit, my opinion may be tainted by a small bout of sea-sickness due to the choppy waters. 
  • o   Harder to get in and out of the boat using the platforms on the back of the boat.  In calms water, it would be fine – there are staff folks there to haul you on board.  But it was really choppy when Mom and I went out and we had to wait for one woman who was having a very very hard time getting back on the boat.  I had a brief moment of panic myself as I floundered in the big waves. 

Pacific Whale Foundation (http://www.pacificwhale.org/).  They depart from Maalaea Harbor.

Good Stuff:

  • ·        Once again, a good basic snorkel trip.
  • ·        Probably the most knowledgeable naturalists on board during whale season.  I had the best whale viewing while on the Pacific Whale Foundation boat. 

Not so Great

  • o   These trips can get crowded.  The Pacific Whale Foundation boat is much larger than the Gemini catamarans.  So, you are snorkeling with a much bigger crowd of people.
  • o   Food was ok.

That’s about it for my reviews.  If I think of anything else, I’ll add it in.  In my opinion, if you want to enjoy some basic snorkeling on Maui, rent some gear, get up early in the morning, and go to a beach with some coral around.  If you hit it on the right day, you can see plenty of fish right off the shore.  If you want the full vacationy feel of a trip, with food and sun and sailing (though most don’t actually sail), splurge and take a guided tour.  I found on most of my trips, when I wasn’t feeling seasick, the boat rides around Maui are as enjoyable as the snorkeling.  Some of my pictures from February are over HERE.  The catamaran trip was almost worth the price itself.  And did I mention the yummy food???

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And I suppose everything new is old.

It’s ironic, I think, that there is so much chatter on Facebook from people who are trying to jump onto Google’s social networking site.  I think that is what the chatter is all about.  I can’t be certain.  I am what you would call  a “late adopter.”   I’m not hot and heavy to try the latest newest thing.  I still carry my personal flip phone.  Smart phone foisted on me by my workplace.  OK, I’ll admit I like it for Pandora and Pocket Frogs.  But the smart “phone” part of it confuses me still.  Exactly *how* do I playback that voice mail blinking at me?  Not very intuitive.

So, we fickle tech users jump to the next new thing, do we?  Is that what we do?  And the next and the next.  Until we’ll be able to transmit thoughts across the air mind to mind instantaneously.  Until we can know what our friends and family are doing before even they do.  Until our appointments take care of themselves and we don’t even have to show up for any human interaction anymore.  Until we can do half of everything we need to in four times the time, leaving us somehow with one-tenth the free time we had three years ago.  But, that’s ok because……….because………..well, because we’ll be hip to the latest gadget, in tune with those in the know, and keeping up with the Smiths. 

Well, I think it’s time for this hip gal to deactivate, rejuvenate, and maybe spend more time writing blogs and other things that consist of more than 52 characters.  Or however many characters our short-attention-span media allows us these days.  It took my slow-tech, low-tech ass a long time to join all my “friends” on Facebook.  If they are going to turn around and abandon me and my 3,782 pictures and my pithy status updates – well, heck!  I’m just going to call them on the phone more often!  *gasp* 

Take that.

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We had a day scheduled with Aunt C. (mom’s oldest sister) and Uncle P.  Aunty R. picked us up and she spent the day with us on our travels.  Truth be told, I had no idea where we were going.  None whatsoever.  But our day was in Aunt C.’s hands and that was good enough for me. 

We drove through a thick fog to Aunt C. and Uncle P.’s apartment building where we transferred to their car.  They live next to a lake – Sempachersee.  Though we couldn’t see it through the fog.  We headed back through Luzern and kept driving south.  And driving.  And driving.  Since I had no idea where we were going, I didn’t know how long it was going to take.  We were in the car for a couple of hours before we stopped for some pictures.  And what a stop!  It was the end of the morning and look at how calm the water was.

Look at that gorgeous reflection!

We found out we were heading southwest to the town of Gstaad.  I had never been to Gstaad!  This was a new adventure for both Sweetie and me.  Gstaad is in the canton of Berne (the city of Berne is the capital of Switzerland).  Quite a lovely little town.  Of course, I think I am understating it a bit since I have read that “Gstaad is known for its extremely luxurious hotels and shopping, high-society nightlife, fine dining, excellent service, and international stars. It is also one of the largest ski areas in the Alps.”   Pretty nice, huh?

We ate lunch at a restaurant at a hotel in Gstaad that had been recommended to my aunt and uncle.  I can’t remember the name but that is probably ok since I wouldn’t recommend it.  The food was ok, and the service was less than stellar.  Of course, my family was completely appalled by the service.  My uncle didn’t get his salad.  The waiter and waitresses never paid attention to us.  A couple of other things happened.  And then, when they left the bill, they put it down in the middle of the table instead of handing it to my uncle.  Both aunts were ready to take up arms.  Keep in mind, my mom and aunts had been raised while working with my grandparents in their hotel and restaurant.  That was the family business.  Customer service was the work they had been apprenticed to rather than going to a university in Switzerland.  They had all spent time waiting lots of tables (except maybe Aunt C. who was excused from waitressing due to extreme klutziness).  Being “in the biz,” they have pretty high standards for service.  But even I could tell our service was sub-par.  So much for high-class expensive ritzy towns.    We shook if off and walked up and down the boulevard:

 

And that was about it.  We got back in the car and headed west, then north. 

Uncle P. told us we were going to Gruyere.  Yes, Gruyere like the cheese.  Did you know there is an actual place/town called Gruyere??  I don’t think I could have told you that.  But there it was!  Tiny little village.  There is a huge parking lot at the bottom of the hill.  Most people can’t drive around the tiny little village.  We parked our car beside the fields of cows and walked up the path to the village.

Here is some information on the village.  For more, check out:

 http://www.la-gruyere.ch/en/welcome.cfm

 

We walked into town and promptly stopped at a hotel to have some drinks (remember what I said about the Swiss and food).  There were many restaurants serving raclette with Gruyere cheese.  We could smell the cheese as we walked by the shops.  Heavenly!  Cheese everywhere.

 

OK, here is something else I did not know.  Did you know there is an H.R. Giger museum in Gruyere?  He’s the guy who won an Oscar for his design/art/visual effects for Alien.  You can see more about it here:  http://www.la-gruyere.ch/en/navpage-ExcursionsFR-MuseumsFR-120106.html.  We didn’t have time to go through the museum or sit in the bar.  But Sweetie and I did run into the bar to take a couple of pictures.  I’m sure they must be used to people doing that.

Finally, we ran up to the castle to snap a couple of pictures and then hightailed it back down the village and down the hill to the car. 

Aunt C. had planned to prepare dinner for us and we needed to get back to the apartment.  All told, we were probably in the car for about six hours and out of the car about an hour and a half.  The scenery, of course, was gorgeous all along the way.

We shared dinner together and the happiest moments of my day were spending a couple of hours with my cousin who I had not seen since 1989.  It’s been a long time and he was living in Mongolia last time I visited the family.  He was back in Switzerland to work and save up money so he could go back and live a few more years in Mongolia.  He now speaks fluent English since he teaches it in Mongolia.   Some members of the family consider him an odd duck – what with living a simple life and preferring Mongolia to Switzerland.  He was always a nature-lover as a kid, which made us quite compatible running around my grandmother’s house: 

What’s that!  Ants devouring a bee on the sidewalk?  Neato!  Let’s watch it together!  I’ll take pictures!  (I still have that picture somewhere)

All the things the rest of the family may not approve of are just things that somewhat endear him to me – his lack of drive to make a lot of money, his love of the simple life in Mongolia, his disinterest in visiting America, his reluctance to join the military (which doesn’t matter – it’s compulsory in Switzerland and hard to get out of).  He’s a bit of an old soul in a young body, I think.  We talked about Mongolia and Maui and Sweetie’s work and my work and the Dalai Lama.  We only had a short amount of time to catch up with each other, but I was very happy for the time we had.  Who knows when I may see him again.

And that was the end of a very long day.

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What do people have more of?

E-mail addresses?

Phone numbers?

Blogs?

It seems insane to be putting up blogs all over cyberspace but, truth is, I’m still looking for a permanent home.  This is one option, so far.  But most of my blogging is still over here:

http://stonegirlblog.multiply.com

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