Wednesday: 07.December.2005

Pearl Harbor Day 2005 & Aloha Memories from Hawaii

Pearl Harbor day: "A day that will live in infamy." (1941) Here's an interesting perspective from the Japanese viewpoint. (Every story has two sides, and history is written by the victors.)

I was stationed at Pearl Harbor (Honolulu) for a couple of years. Worked on Ford Island, in the middle of the harbor.

After driving thru the 'cane fields to the north, I took the 7:20 ferry every day past the Arizona Memorial, as the sun rose over Diamond Head. Not bad for a 20-year old punk from the East coast. (I hear they've since built a road to the island. What a shame.)

Hawaii was, for me, the first place away from Connecticut (where I grew up) that felt like home. I'd lived other places (Florida, Maine, Illinois, Idaho), but never long enough for those places to become home.

I remember the moment well. It happened suddenly. While walking down Ala Wai Blvd (in Waikiki), fast as you snapped your fingers, it hit me: Hawaii suddenly became my home. The experience surprised me. And in that instant, Connecticut became some far, foreign, obscure, tiny place. Those roots were uprooted.

I enjoyed that cranial reorientation, cuz Hawaii is a great place to call home. At least, back then it was ('80's). The Dog has since returned and sadly called it seedy.

I have many good stories from that era. You might think it difficult to lose your car in Hawaii (a dang island). But it's not. You wouldn't believe how many people lost their cars in Hawaii. Some found them, and some never did. =)

One of the most lasting memories came after a 3-month tour at sea.

continued

We (entire ship's crew) had left Guam ("Where America's Day Begins") the previous day (Sunday) at 6PM, flew all night for 12 hours and landed at Honolulu International at 6AM.

Because we'd crossed the International Date Line, we got to live over the SAME DAY (July 29th, middle of summer) .. a very cool mind-warp .. the closest thing to time travel we're likely to experience.

Six months earlier, my shipmates took this same flight on New Year's day, and were able to celebrate the same New Year *twice*. But I reported aboard a few months too late for that.

Anyway, being early Sunday morning, most Hawaiians were still in bed. Roads were empty. Hawaii's roads are rarely empty, so it added to the surreal atmosphere.

From the airport, we took a taxi to a Waikiki. The driver was a big Samoan, probably 400 pounds. The Dog & Courtland (a responsible older guy whose job it was to keep us youngsters out of trouble) took the back seat, leaving the front for me.

Nobody said a word. It surprised me nobody was talking, especially these guys, but I couldn't say a word either. After 3 months on a nuclear submarine (stainless steel pipes and Navy-green paint .. where everything is un-natural, including the lighting), you experience sensory deprivation. By contrast, Hawaii seemed hypnotically beautiful. Like in a trance, I felt numb yet hyper-alert, taking in all the natural beauty.

As the Samoan drove that taxi down Ala Moana blvd, the sun began to rise over Diamond Head. It flickered thru the trees that line Ala Moana park .. hypnotizing me. A few joggers were out for an early-morning run. They seemed to flicker-by in slow motion. Like a strobe-light, everything moved in slow motion.

A song came on the radio (turned down low): FM by Steely Dan .. a nice, slow groove, with the refrain No static at All ..

"Can you turn that up a little?" I asked quietly, like in church .. cuz that's how life felt at that moment:> No static at all.

We'd just finished 3 months at sea (underwater, which felt like 3 years), and now we had 3 months of R&R coming, with pockets full of cash (cuz you can't buy anything at sea).

Could be compared to being buried alive, then resurrected to this gorgeous tropical paradise. We rode the rest of the way without saying another word, listening to that song, staring out the window, overwhelmed by the natural beauty, with another chance to live over the same day. Only *this* day was gonna be a whole lot better than the last one.

The Dog still talks about that taxi ride. I sent him a note saying, "Happy Pearl Harbor day." He wrote back, "No static at all."

Like your first love (after mom), Hawaii holds a special place for me as that first home-away-from-home. Memories still bring a sigh of nostalgia. After hearing how run-down it's become tho, I don't think I could return. I don't want to ruin those memories.

Anyway, here's remembering a day that continues to live in infamy, and other famous days that refuse to die.

Posted by Rad at Wednesday: 07December2005

Tuesday: 06.December.2005

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child

Been meaning to mention the 100-dollar laptop. (You probably heard of it.) A program to seed the world's poorest children with inexpensive laptops.

What a cool idea! The news gave me new hope (after all the depressing news we keep hearing). I'd love to get my hands on one.

Brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte. He's the guy who founded MIT Media Lab (1985). He also wrote Being Digital (translated into 40 languages, worth reading for the excellent mind-torque), and founded Wired magazine (back when it was worth reading). If this laptop thing flies, what a legacy he'll leave.

To this end a non-profit group called One Laptop Per Child has been formed. The project isn't a done-deal yet, but several companies have ante'ed-up $2-mil each, including Redhat, AMD & Google (the RADIFIED website makes money for Google every day).

continued

The laptops will run on Linux (which many colleges do already) and come with a dang hand-crank. When I heard about the laptops on TV, I thought they were joking about the hand-crank. I forgot much of the world has no reliable electricity. They'll also come with wireless capability.

I realize kids can't eat a laptop, and given the choice, hungry kids would always choose food over a laptop. So the question of priorities comes into play. People smarter than me will have to sort that out.

Good discussions at WSJ, BBC, Washington Post & World Changing. For more info, search "one laptop per child negroponte". Cross your fingers. Let's hope it flies.

Along these same lines (of hope for the world), we have Bill Gates using his billion$ to confront the problem of world health. But we'll save that discussion for another day. (I can only handle so much good news at one time.)

If you're more comfortable with depressing news, I heartily recommend the movie Capote (makes you wanna slit your wrists with a rusty hacksaw). Good reviews, tho.

Posted by Rad at Tuesday: 06December2005

Saturday: 03.December.2005

RAD Guide to Digital Cameras: Having Fun with Digital Photography

Digital cameras. With so many manufacturers & models, how do you select the right one? You could spend days researching them (like I did), comparing a myriad of features & specs. Heck, entire books have been written on the subject of digital photography.

Over the years I've received many requests for a Rad Buyer's Guide to Digital Cameras. But the subject is simply too large to do it justice, and there are already many good resources available, designed specifically for that purpose. No sense in re-inventing the wheel.

But, with Christmas approaching, the question has become common. My recommendation remains the same: Canon.

Unlike some other companies, Canon is (and always was) a camera company. It's what they do. Some points to consider:

continued

Point A: Cameras are all about glass (the lens). That's where the light comes thru. So compare lens specs carefully. The pro's have a saying: "There's no substitute for glass." Canon makes quality lenses (which co$t).

Certainly, other manufacturers make fine digital cameras. (I especially like the Fuji Finepix series.) Some of them may even save you money. But you can't go wrong with a Canon. The only negative with Canon is that they tend to be a little pricier than comparable models from other manufacturers.

Point B: Where to purchase your digital camera? Pro's told me about a place in New York called B&H Photo. Competitive prices. Quality service. That's where I got mine. Very professional. No sales tax except in New York. Their excellent reseller-rating is HERE.

Point C: Get a bigger memory card. Digital cameras come with small memory cards (e.g. 32-MB) to keep the price low. A 256-MB card (for example) would allow you take many more pictures (100 or more), without having to swap out the memory card.

Memory cards are not very robust. They have delicate connections. If you get a big memory card, you won't have to swap cards, which will minimize the chance of breaking something. Just download the photos to your computer's hard drive and clear the cameras memory. (Most cameras have a USB connection, so you never need remove the memory card.)

Point D: Most extended warranties are a big-fat rip-off, but digital cameras can be so expensive to repair that they are one of the few pieces of electronic equipment that actually justify purchasing an extended warranty. (Since you won't be fixing the thing yourself.)

Point E: I prefer cameras with a little weight to them. Certainly, pocket-sized cameras are convenient, especially for things like hiking and backpacking, where weight and size is a factor. But pocket cameras are so light that (unless you use a tripod) you tend jerk the camera slightly when pressing the shutter-button, which blurs the picture. Cameras with a little more weight to them are less likely to produce blurred pictures.

Point F: Other items your might consider purchasing include a carrying bag, spare batteries, lens-hood and a mini-tripod. I have these items, but recommend you wait before purchasing them .. to see if you'll really need/want/use them.

Point G: Digital cameras are more sophisticated than conventional film cameras. So expect to spend time learning about them and how they work, especially how to use the controls of your particular model.

Point H: Use a tripod (or uni-pod) whenever you can. They make a big difference in image quality.

Point I: SLRs (such as the Rebel) represent the holy grail of digital photography. But they aren't cheap. Worth the cost if you can afford and will put its features to good use.

Point J: BreezeBrowser is a great little program for converting your pictures into web pages. But it works only with Canon cameras. Not only does it create the web pages, but also creates the thumbnails and standard-size images (postcard-size) .. all with the click of a button (suh_weeet) .. something that used to take all afternoon.

From the time I walk in the house, I can have the pictures uploaded to my hard drive and posted on the 'Net in 5 minutes, sending near-realtime links to familiy & friends.

Point K: If you don't have your own website, PBase is a good place to post your digital photos online. There are many others, such as Photobucket.

Point L: It's true what they say: a picture *is* worth a thousand words.

If pressed for a recommendation right now (December 2005), I'd have to go with the PowerShot S2 IS (which I just did). It comes with 5-megapixel capability & a 12-X optical zoom (digital zoom is worthless, you should disable it). But it all depends, of course, on your needs & budget. Ho-ho-ho. Merry Christmas.

There you have it: a micro-sized Radified Mini-Guide to Digital Cameras. Good things sometimes come in small packages.

Might have to paste today's entry into a separate web page. That's how all the guides began.

UPDATE: 05.dec.2005. I went ahead and created the aforementioned web page. See here: Radified Mini-Guide to Digital Cameras, which will be updated more frequently than this blog entry.

For more info on this topic, here is a Google search for the query: digital camera photography canon powershot

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 03December2005

Thursday: 01.December.2005

Tips for Enjoying the First Thursday Art Walk in Laguna Beach

Adios November, hola December. Friendly reminder for those of you who live here in Laguna (Lagunatics) that today is the First Thursday Art Walk. Things get underway ~6PM, and wrap up around 9 or 10. Maybe we'll see you out on the town, sucking up a little art, along with the free hors d'oeuvres and Chardonnay.

The secret to a good art walk (I've learned) is five-fold:

continued

1. Get an early start, before all the yummy treats are gone.

2. Wear comfortable shoes (we have lots of galleries to visit)

3. Wear a jacket you can easily peel off inside the galleries, cuz it's usually chilly outside this time of year, but the galleries themselves get toasty, due to all the hot lights (directed at the art) and warm bodies (looking at the art), and the poor ventilation most galleries have. Hard to enjoy the art when you're sweating your butt off.

4. Don't dress too sharply, or the sales people will come after you.

5. Be sure to visit the Laguna Art Museum (corner of PCH & Cliff Drive) cuz they always have cool exhibits and normally charges a $10 entrance fee on non-Art Walk days. (My favorite is the Peter Blake gallery, right across the street.)

If you need serious food, more than hors d'oeuvres, hit up La Sirena, downtown on Mermaid street, near the library. Best Mexican food you ever had. May I suggest a salmon sope (gringos never order a sope, pronounced "soh-pey"), the chicken tortilla soup and a strawberry-watermelon drink? Yummy.

Why do I feel like I'm forgetting something? (I hate that feeling.) MORE info.

For more info, here's a Google search, pre-configured for the query: first thursday art walk laguna

Posted by Rad at Thursday: 01December2005