Monday, March 30, 2015

"Music to Code By" by Carl Franklin

I heard about this music while listening to .NetRocks!, which is a three days a week podcast talking about different pieces of the software industry, particularly the pieces of interest to .NET Developers, with the occasional geek out on some other topic, like whiskey or space based power generation.  It is put together by Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell.

Music to Code By is music as productivity aid. You can either order the music either as a CD or get a download. If you buy the CD you get the download free. It comes with three tracks; Blue, Orange, and Yellow.

This isn't music you’re going to want to sit and listen to. The tracks aren't mind-numbingly boring, but it takes real effort to listen carefully to any of these tracks the whole way through. However, they’re really pretty good at encouraging focus on whatever task you’re working on. I loaded all three of them onto my phone and I've used them at work when I really need to focus on getting some work done.

All three are instrumental and all three seem to be mostly variations on a single motif. This gives each track a particular tone. “Blue” is really mellow. “Orange” is the darkest of the trio. It makes me think of sunset, maybe with storm clouds on the horizon. “Yellow” is the lightest with a cheerful tone.

My experience with Airbnb in Ala Moana.

I guess the place to start on this is with the room I rented for the week.

It is “Allabout the Beauty!” and is listed by Skye.  From the picture I can see that she’s added a dresser of some sort next to the electric outlet on that wall.  It should make a good place to put your charger and have the phone charge overnight.  The room and the bed are quite comfortable and there’s plenty of storage for clothes.  Here’s the picture I took looking out one of the windows in the room.

Skye was friendly and helped me with the few things I needed help with.  The location is pretty good for food, it’s in the Korea town area so there’s a great deal of decent Korean food.  You can also walk to the Ala Moana Center or Ala Moana Beach Park fairly easily.  Having said that it is probably a twenty minute walk to that beach and if you want to walk to Waikiki it is more like forty minutes.  If you want to be on the beach every day this location wouldn’t be the best choice, but if you want somewhere to serve as home base while you explore the island this is fairly well placed as it is very close to the H1 and everything on the Waikiki end of Honolulu.  Also, the price is lower than any of the hotels I saw at $88/night.

Moving from my particular experience to the overall Airbnb experience there are a couple of watch outs.  The first is that you don’t simply book a room.  Technically, Airbnb is just a platform for individuals to rent out homes, rooms, or couches.  When you go to book a place you’re actually asking whoever listed the property whether they’re willing to host you.  They can say “No” and don’t have to give a reason, so make sure you line up the room ahead of time to avoid being caught without.  Another point to remember is that when you show up at a place you’ve got 24 hours to tell Airbnb if the location doesn’t match the ad.  After the end of that time Airbnb pays the host the full amount for the stay.  This also means you can’t easily cut a stay short.

There are a couple of things you can do to guard against a bad stay.
  1. Most importantly, check the reviews and pay attention to what they say.
  2. Read the house rules.  They probably won’t be front and center when you’re bookig.
  3. You can see where the building is, so do a quick search to see if anyone else has talked about the host or the location.
  4. Check to see what the mapping sites show at the location.

Overall I prefer the certainty of going to a hotel rather than using Airbnb, but for those that want a more personal stay Airbnb is well worth considering.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

News from last week

At work we got finished with everything we needed to get done on Friday.  Then we got a pair of changes to the requirements.  The ladies that will be using the system are going to send us the details so we can get into the new work on Monday.  The work is getting more interesting as I get further into it.  I’ve also gotten some feedback from Ashley, the recruiter with Teksystems.  They’re getting very positive feedback from HMSA.

This week was quite a bit quieter than the last few.  I haven’t gone to any events after work.  The major news is that I’ve finally got my home internet sorted out.  My choices were Oceanic Time Warner Cable or DirectTV.  The apartment is wired for Oceanic and I went with them.  The tech came by on Saturday and got the internet and TV setup.  I only got the most basic TV some it is staying off just like it was when it wasn’t plugged in.

This last weekend was a good one for staying home.  It rained off and on all day Saturday and Sunday.  Also, the Vietnamese place I mentioned last week is called "Green Papaya".

Sunday, March 22, 2015

News from last week

Work continues to get more interesting.  We’re heading into crunch time with one of the applications I’m helping with.  Another, where I’ll be the developer supporting the other team, has had several meetings.  I've learned how the initial developer has the work put together, but I’m also learning about the political situation in the office.

The picnic I went to last Sunday was fun, though there isn't anything to report from that.  On Thursday I went to a different event.  It was a get together put on by a company in Chinatown that just opened a coworking location.  I figured I’m not going to need it anytime soon, but many of the folks meeting there were well worth the trip.  I talked to several developers about mobile development and a website consultant about his business a little.  I also spent some time talking to a young man that is a senior at UH Manoa.  He co-founded an entrepreneur club there.  We spent some time talking about the differences in office culture between Hawaii and the mainland.  We also talked about the differences between the way developers see the world and the way business people see the world.  Particularly in the context of an event his club is involved with.  Start-up Weekend is what I remember him calling it.

The weather has warmed up and we've had a little bit of rain in my area of Honolulu.  I went to the Ala Moana beach on Saturday.  I went into the water briefly, but only part way up my shins.  I did spend a couple of hours working on getting a more even tan.  The farmer’s tan I got hiking up Diamond Head was pretty pronounced.  While I was at the beach I saw a rainbow over the Ala Moana Center.  I've seen a couple of rains like that since I arrived.  Mostly they don’t last very long and it never gets all the way overcast.  Generally, the sun is shining while the rain falls.

This next week is going to be quieter.  I might go to an art event at the local art museum Friday, but maybe not.  Then on Saturday the cable internet will finally be setup so I can stop tethering to my phone for internet.

Looking it over I've got a whole lot of posts that are part way done that I should finish since this is going to be a quite week.  I’ll give a quick list with one liner comments.

Zaratez Mexicatessen – This is a lunch place with pretty good burritos.  I've been twice.

La Pizza Rina – Italian food.  Don’t bother with the pizza.  I've heard better things about their lasagna and sandwiches.

Pho Bistro – Tasty Pho and decent service on a somewhat run down corner.

Yogur Story - Pretty good food with an odd mix of sandwiches and breakfast food.

Sorabol – A Korean restaurant with tasty food.

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers – A pretty good burger joint more or less across from Don Quijote.

There’s also a Vietnamese place just mauka from the Ala Moana Center that was quite good, though the name escapes me.

A tiny shop with no dedicated seating selling Korean food along with fish and chips further mauka on Ke'eaumoku St. 

A little unnamed stall in the food court at Don Quijote selling really good gyros.

Don Quijote – it’s like a guy that owned a general store heard about Walmart and Sam’s Club and decided he could do that in a shop selling lots of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese goods in a one story building that fills the block.  It’s kind of remarkable really.

Airbnb – It worked well for me and Skye, the lady renting the room, was great.  Could be a better price than the local hotels, but probably less reliable on quality and less able to handle unexpected changes.

TheBus – Honolulu’s bus system.  It works pretty well and at $2.50 one way it’s also very reasonably priced, though it doesn't compete on ETA when compared to a car.  I should see if Uber or a car-share app is available in my area.

Hopefully, I’ll make the time to put together more detailed reviews and commentary on these, but no bets.  I've been getting out exploring the area, which feels weird compared to my tendency to stay in when I was in Chicago or Indianapolis.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Diamond Head State Monument and Park

Diamond Head, called Le'ahi by the native Hawaiians, is one of the obvious landmarks near Waikiki.  According to the notes they had navigational fires on the summits along with a temple to the wind god to protect the fires from strong updrafts.  Today there is a lighthouse at the base of the makai (seaward) slope of Diamond Head.

In the early 1900's the military created a Fire Control Station in the rim of the crater.  The path hikers use was mostly created then.  Most of the monument is still controlled by the federal government and is restricted access.

Here's a map showing the overlapping areas.  The green area is the monument.  The blue area is the park or public access area.  The park and the road in were opened to the public in 1973.

The area inside the crater is drier then the areas outside the crater and there are some birds and other life to watch for on the trail.  There are several signs at the Information Booth next to the parking lot.  One critter I didn't see mentioned are the tiny mice that I saw several times along the trail.

The trail is only .75 miles and the first .2 miles is paved.  Having said that it rises some 560 feet from the trail head to the summit.  Also, the switchback to get up is roughly carved out of stone and has been somewhat eroded by the weather and ~800k people that climb Diamond Head each year.  Hikers are advised to wear proper hiking shoes rather than the slippers (flip flops) that tourists often wear around Waikiki.  If you didn't bring water bottles you can get water here.  Either from the vending machines at the comfort station or maybe from the food truck that sells hamburgers, hot dogs, and shave ice along with drinks in the parking lot.

Shortly before the first flight of stairs is a small platform holding the rusting remains of a winch and cable system that was used in the 40's to hoist machinery part way up the crater wall to the Fire Control Station.

After the first flight of 74 steps you'll come to a tunnel carved into the crater wall that is supposedly 6'1" tall or maybe a little bit taller.  On my way in I didn't see the sign showing the height.  I saw it on my way out.

At this point you get to chose between climbing the 99 steps to your right which have overhead pylons to hold camouflage netting.

Or you can go around to your left and climb the outside of the rim.

It offered a respite from stairs so I went around that way.  This is one area where you can get some extraordinary views of Koko Head and Fort Ruger mauka (inland) from Diamond Head.

After taking in the views from this level you're facing more steps, metal ones this time, to get to the top of the Fire Control Station.

This leads to a path near the summit from which you can climb to the summit or enter the Fire Control Station.

I suggest going up to the summit for a spectacular 360 degree view of the area.

As you can see from the middle picture there are retired bunkers/gun emplacements visible around the rim of the crater.  From here the observers could see ships well out to sea and the artillery could be easily directed.  A note I saw there indicated that the artillery in the crater was capable of hitting Pearl Harbor on the far side of Honolulu.

At the top was a park ranger handing out tokens as souvenirs and offering a certificate indicating that you reached the summit of Diamond Head.

The other thing to see at the summit is an info panel with a map of the area and a compass indicating the directions to several sites of interest.  Including Australia some ~3800 miles away.

After this head back down go through the inside of the observation area.  You'll have to crawl to get in, but it is an interesting room with a flat slit giving folks in the room a pretty good view of the ocean in front of them.

The man in that picture will have to stay bent over like that for about another full step to get outside.

From here you go down the spiral stair, perhaps taking the time to look into each level of the station.

And then out a tunnel to the top of the 99 steps I didn't take earlier.

The walk down is an easier hike than the hike up, so expect it to go more quickly.  In several places there are signs warning hikers to stay on the trail to prevent uncontrolled erosion.  Often, as in the case below, going off the trail would probably end in broken bones as well as erosion from tumbling several hundred feet down the steep, rocky crater wall.

Diamond Head is a reasonable hike for anyone that is in okay shape even if they aren't athletic at all.  Having said that it is pretty much wall to wall tourists so you shouldn't think of this as a wilderness hike.  You can either take a car in for $5 or walk in $1 a person.  It is an easyish walk from Waikiki and a manageable walk from Ala Moana.  If you prefer you can also take a bus to the entry point of the state monument and walk through the Kahala Tunnel.  Do remember that the hikers aren't permitted to start for the summit after 4:30 PM and really you should plan on getting done and out of the park not much later than 5:30 PM, including 2 hours to climb to the top and then back down.  If somehow you don't make it down and out by 6 PM you could get locked in and be in real trouble.  The gate at the entrance to the Kahala tunnel is closed each day at 6 PM.

Diamond Head – There and Back Again

When I was planning my trip to Diamond Head I was thinking I’d take TheBus.  Diamond Head is 4 or 5 miles away and that is rather a long walk.  However, when I checked how long each would take the route that used TheBus took an hour and 50 minutes while walking only took 2 hours and I was pretty sure I’d beat the walking time.  So I ended up walking it.

The route I took to get to Diamond Head was an inland route passing through the mauko suburbs.  I passed a couple of different schools, one of which was founded in the 1840s.  Initially I was going through urban areas.  Later though the area turned more suburban.  Some of the houses in that area looked like nice places.  In several cases I saw big boats in driveways.

When I got closer to Diamond Head I encountered some wild chickens.  I got a picture of a rooster and a couple of hens.  Then just down the street I found a tree where the hen had laid her eggs in the fork of a large tree.  The eggs had hatched and the chicks were stuck up the tree peeping when the hen flew down to get food.  I tried to get a picture of that but wasn’t able to since the chicks ducked out of sight.

I also saw a couple of other birds that I got pictures of.

On my way back I decided to go through Waikiki.  I passed Kapiolani Park and the Honolulu Zoo on my way there.

Waikiki is composed of four different beaches from Kapiolani to Fort DeRussy.  One of those beach sections is also called Waikiki Beach.  I got a couple of pictures of the beaches though.  The beach looked nice, but it was incredibly crowded with tourists as was the road through Waikiki.  In the future I suspect I’ll either go to Ala Moana beach or maybe to Fort DeRussy beach.  The fort has some military connection still, so while the beach is public it isn’t crowded with tourists and Ala Moana beach is similarly open though without the military connection.

I did get a pair of pictures.  The first is the Diamond Head end of the beach.  The second was taken facing down the beach.  The pink hotel in the distance is on the section called Waikiki Beach.

News of last week

I’m mostly done settling in at my new apartment.  At work the settling in process continues.  I’ve been able to contribute some while I wait for the permissions I need to be granted.  We’ve been occasionally going out to lunch together.

The weather last week warmed up a little, but didn’t get into the 80s.  Next week looks like it will be a little bit warmer, though probably just into the mid-80s.  The office, on the other hand, was downright chilly.  Especially Friday when the blower by my desk was going full tilt.  It’s cool enough that I’m wearing the exact same clothes to the office that I wore in Naperville.

I’ve started going to events through  The first one was Thursday.  A get together at Dave & Buster’s for the happy hour.  I met a couple of interesting people there.  There is another with a different group this Sunday afternoon.

Today I walked up Diamond Head.  I’ve got enough pictures that I’m planning on doing two posts on that in the next few days.  Looking at myself in the mirror it’s clear I got quite a bit of sun

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hawaii – Apartment hunting

It was an interesting time and I learned a couple of things.  The first is this.  If you plan on moving to Hawaii find a place to stay for at least two weeks rather than the one I took.  Also, you should use several different sites.  I ended up using,, and

Everything I looked at and almost everything I found was owned at the unit level.  I saw one complex in Waikiki where the apartments were all owned by one group and rented out from an onsite leasing office.  Everything else was individual units owned by someone and rented out sometimes through a management company.

There’s a lot of variation between different managing agents.  Some want a big application fee, some don’t care about that.  There is variation on what is meant by Furnished and Partially Furnished.  The one partially furnished place I had included a stove and refrigerator and called that partially furnished though I’d call that unfurnished, at least as far as an apartment is concerned.  The place I ended up is fully furnished and includes plenty of kitchen appliances, like a rice cooker, and even had the cleaning supplies the prior renter had left, which was quite convenient when I went to do laundry on Saturday.  Another thing that matters is the personal rapport with the managing agent.  They’ve got plenty of leeway to make demands and when then they can pick and choose regardless of what they say while showing the unit.  The one thing all of them require is a showing.  You can’t even get serious about talking to anyone until after you’ve seen the unit.  Another thing most of the places liked was personal recommendations from folks already in the Islands.

Overall you might want to consider it more like buying a condo than it is like picking an apartment complex in Chicago or Indy, though the turnaround is faster since you don’t have to get financing.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hawaii – News 3/8/2015

I got an apartment and moved in last Sunday.  I’m at 1710 Makiki St for at least the next year.  It’s about a 20 minute walk to work each day.  I’ve got almost everything sorted out now.  The internet will be over a cable modem when that gets set up on the 28th.  Until then I’m using the “internet sharing” feature on my phone 5 GB a month should cover my needs if I’m careful to do stuff on the phone that can be done on the phone.  It’s an older one bedroom that came fully furnished even including some cleaning supplies.  It doesn’t have a lanai, but the way it is oriented I can open the windows in front and back and get excellent cross breezes more or less all day.  It also comes with a small potted plant on the front porch that I’m to keep watered.  Fortunately, I’ve been told it doesn’t need much water.

I’ve found a grocery store in walking distance and there are two farmers markets nearby on different days.  One is outside my new office on Friday around lunch time.  The other is an all afternoon affair just down the street in the parking lot of the Episcopal Church at the corner.  Below is a picture of that farmers market and a picture of the sign for the church.

I’ve been attending church at Ss. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox.  It has been interesting so far.  The priest is of Asian descent and comes from California.  He’s assisted by a priest that is a Navy Chaplain associated with the Pacific Command.  I spoke to him after church today and he spent a little time talking about writing doctrine for the Navy and assisting our allies with developing shipboard chaplaincies.  Church is about 25 minute walk from my apartment and maybe a 15 or 20 minute walk from work.

Work is going well so far.  It’s a large insurance company so they’re picky about security and require reams of paperwork for change management, which makes sense.  The people are hardworking and their attitude on matters that don’t relate to security are surprisingly laid back.  I’m finding ways to contribute while all the permissions issues are sorted out.  They’re talking about a crunch time towards the end of the month and I expect I’ll be fully up to speed with my required permissions by then.

One brief comment on the weather; I had the windows closed today as it has been a touch chilly the last few days with lows in the low-60s and highs only in the mid-70s, Fahrenheit.  This next week looks better as the highs are projected to be 80 all week with lows in the upper-60s or low-70s.

I’ve got three other random pictures I took while wandering around Honolulu.  The first is a view down the canal towards the sea.  If you look closely you can see the masts of a marina holding a bunch of small boats.

This second is of Ala Moana beach.  It is right next to the Ala Moana shopping mall and not far from Waikiki, though it is much less crowded.

The third is a picture I took because I was asked for a pic with palm trees.  This one is on Ala Moana Blvd in Waikiki not far from the bridge to the Ala Moana neighborhood.

I'm working on a couple of other posts still.  One on what it was like renting a place in Hawaii, another as a review for the place I stayed through Airbnb, and a couple of restaurant reviews.  I'll try to keep posting regularly.