Sunday, September 30, 2007

Real Break-up Letter

If you're ever having a bad day, check this out:

Dramatic Reading of a Break-up Letter

What's worse? The life of the author, or poor ol' Chris?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Roach part 2 - Erratum: The Price of Paradise

Erin and I were watching a perfectly legally copied DVD in the living room when Erin heard something in the kitchen. I hit pause and we listened carefully. I didn't hear it until after I saw it: Another giant flying cockroach. He was buzzing around the light above the kitchen sink in a moth-like fashion and then settled down in a crevice between the window and the wall. Erin and I shot each other a glance. No words were necessary, we both knew we had to put this roach to bed for the night.

Erin grabbed the broom and I grabbed a Dansko (Erin once told me that Dansko women's sandals are the ultimate roach flatteners). Erin flushed the critter out onto the counter/sink area and it scurried behind the dish rack. With a couple jabs from the broom, the roach flew out and made a break for the unopened moving boxes. But I was waiting with the shoe and knocked him to the ground with the first hit, and then de-roached him with a second strike while he was flapping on the ground.

So here's where the erratum to my previous post comes in: This sucker was smaller than the previous roach, and this one was definitely bigger than 1.5 inches. So roach #1 had to be at least 2 inches. Inspection of my sandal with a measuring tape, and a quick comparison of the roach to my shoe in the picture reveals that roach #1 was about 2.2 inches long with a 4 inch wing span. That definitely puts it in the Texas size class, albeit at the lower end of the scale. One word: Ew.

Also, quick note to nature: Isn't it enough that roaches can live anywhere, eat anything, slip in and out of tight spaces, survive nuclear Armageddon, and always survive the first hit from a shoe? Was it really necessary to grant them the ability to fly? That's just gratuitous and wrong. What's next, opposable thumbs and lasers?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"sing mee-maw": owen's new favorite song

owen hasn't choreographed his own dance to it, but it's certainly at the top of the charts in this two-year-old's book. we recently got Common's latest cd, Finding Forever. needless to say, it's received a lot of airtime in the johnson house. it's thursday at 7:57 am and so far today owen has asked for his old favorite "ya-ya" only once. he's asked for "sing mee-maw", aka Drivin' Me Wild, four times. the "sing mee-maw" title comes from chorus "it's this thing yo, it's drivin me wild, i gotta see what's up before it gets me down".

i ask you: how can a mother deny her son access to a solid hip-hop song with a great message?

and here's footage from one of our recent dance sessions:


Monday, September 24, 2007

The price of paradise

Eighty-five degrees and sunny every day is all fun and games until you meet your first cockroach. The roaches here aren't the scatter-when-the-light-comes-on type. They'll stand their ground, and maybe even taunt you a bit. The other night Erin and I were watching an perfectly-legal, downloaded television show on the office computer when I went out to get a glass of water. When I returned, I saw a gigantic roach perched above the doorway to the office. He was all, and I quote, "Sup?"

At first I was pretty startled, seeing as the thing looked about as big as a house cat, only more muscular. After I gathered my senses, it occurred to me that it was "only" about an inch and a half long. That's about an inch and a quarter longer than I'm looking for in a roach. I grabbed a sandal (slippah) and told Erin to turn on the hallway lights as soon as I took my swing. If he was going to dive at me, I wanted to be able to see it. So I crept up to the doorway and took aim. The roach was all, "Oh hell naw, stop playin!"

I swung my sandal in a wide arc, intending to hit him as hard as I could. Right before the sandal reached him, he started to fly away and I only managed to clip him on his left side. The hall lights turned on in a blaze of 75 watt brilliance. The blow knocked him back into the wall with a muted thud. He then rebounded, fluttering down toward the laundry closet. I wasn't in the mood to search for a 1.5 inch roach among my dirty socks, so I started flailing wildly with my slippah. On the third or fourth swing, I landed a solid hit to the roachicular region, flattening him into the carpet, but not before I twisted my knee. Damn, I had my first roach fighting injury.

As I stood there, hobbled and out of breath, the roach started to move! I was only able to stare dumbly as my defeated foe tried to get to round 2. But Erin raced in, took my weapon and finished the thing off. She looked back at me, tossed her hair and quipped, "I had to put my foot down on that issue." Man, with a dry, cool wit like that she could be an action hero!

Here are some post-action pictures. Johnsons 1, Roach 0. We won the first battle, but the war is still raging here in Honolulu.

Fig 1: My right slippah. Roach shown for scale.

Fig 2: We pay our respects to the recently departed. "When you get to hell, tell em the Johnsons sent you!"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

picture of us

I just realized there are no pictures of Erin and me together anywhere on this site. This is primarily because Owen doesn't know how to operate the camera in anything but play-back mode.

Erin was looking through the various pics on her camera phone and found a long-arm photo of us riding the BART. Paradise is nice and all, but I do sincerely miss the Bay Area. Berkeley/Oakland/SF peeps, remember us the next time you're riding the Richmand/Daly City line.

Friday, September 21, 2007 WOW!

Jerry Sanders is the Republican Mayor of San Diego.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Owen Ya-ya!

It's been hard to get action videos of Owen lately because he's become obsessed with watching videos of himself doing things. So if I get the camera out while he's doing something entertaining--which is about every 10 minutes--he'll immediately stop and run around to see the playback, even if I didn't manage to film anything. He just doesn't get that he has to do something on film first in order to watch himself.

Erin's dancing distracted him long enough for me to catch him in action in the video below. Notice at the end when he sees the reflection of the camera in the TV screen and tries to climb up my leg to watch the instant replay.

This is the same Jewish Wedding song that Owen was dancing to on bubble wrap in a previous post. And no, neither Erin nor I have any Jewish ancestry. Owen apparently developed his own heritage (no jokes about a Jewish milkman! Harold Greenstein was a gentleman and a consummate professional.)


Here's a video of Owen watching the previous video. Very meta.

Monday, September 17, 2007

weekend update

hands down, this has to have been our busiest weekend in hawaii. we didn't plan it that way, nor am i complaining. it's been a blast and certainly left us all exhausted. here's a quick recap:
  • friday: DATE NIGHT! our pal, laura (she's rad, btw), came over to sit with owen so we could have a night out. we went to tokkuri-tei for dinner, which i'm pretty sure translates directly to "crazy japanese". it was unreal. it's known as an izakaya (basically a tavern, but the name comes from "i (to remain)" and "sakaya" (sake shop) where customers were allowed to stay and drink/eat). a few things we ordered - squid pancake, assorted sashimi, fried octopus, ikura with shredded daikon... oh and a large sake! we finished the evening with a trip to leonards for their famous malasadas. what a treat :)
  • saturday:
7:30 AM - owen and i did a whirlwind tour of the farmer's market and stocked up on all this for the week (see photo). highlights were mangosteen (purplish spheres up front) and fresh whole wheat bread. that's also some grass fed local beef from the north shore(burgers tonight!)
9:00 AM - john and owen had some special play time while i went to an indian cooking class at our neighbor's house. with the help of chef ganesh we learned to make: chana masala, eggplant garlic curry, assorted pakora, roti (potato suffed flatbread), saffron rice, and mango lassi. the coolest part (other than eating it!) was getting orders from ganesh and creating the "foundation" of all indian dishes, which is centered on onion and a bazillion spices and herbs. i'm still full!

1:30 pm we RAN to catch the bus down to waikiki to watch the thunderbirds airshow. john and i were pumped about the f16s, as was owen. he kept saying "airplane really fast" and asking for more each time they zipped by. honestly though, he was WAY more interested in the birds he met at the park:

  • sunday: after john spent the better part of the morning moving one of these for a friend, we worked the two-year-old-birthday-party circuit. we iced cookies and celebrated with alex, then headed up the road for noe's party (owen's new partner in crime, who lives next door). owen certainly enjoyed hanging with all the kids and had a special bond with a little girl, zaffie, who seemed to love elmo as much as he does!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stuck in my head: Sufjan Stevens

I have a secret: I grew up listening to "contemporary christian" music. It was a common teaching in my church's youth group that most of the evil that enters a young person's life comes from the sin of listening to "secular music." I can vividly remember a guest speaker laying the blame for the nation's excessive teen pregnancy rate at the feet of Tina Turner. All the same, I have to admit that the relentlessly upbeat, sugar-coated lyrics of the likes of Micheal W. Smith, and the soldier's call to duty of Carmen held a lot of appeal for me as I struggled through my preteen years in St. Louis, MO. Yup, I couldn't get enough of the rock-n-roll stylings of Steven Curtis Chapman and the soothing acustic guitar of Rich Mullins. I loved the God rock!

But I've grown up since then, and I'd like to think that my musical tastes have as well. As I exited the world of christian music around 9th grade and took a look around me and found an vast, exciting musical landscape laid out before me. Sitting in my bedroom at 10pm secretly listening to worldly radio stations while my parents slept, I found that music didn't have to be good on one side, and evil on the other. Music could be about how opposites attract, or how we can use rhythm and dance to overcome poverty and drugs (ahhh, the day I smuggled my first Paula Abdul CD into the house). Not to say that Janet Jackson is the end all, be all of music. Far from it. It's just that through her dance moves I learned everything doesn't have to be about one's walk with god, or how Jesus is your best friend. Not to mention the higher production value, better lyrics and greater street cred.

After leaving home and entering college, I dove head-first into the gigantic music library at UMR's student radio station, KMNR. The more I splashed around, the more I fell in love with, gulp, secular music. The Cure (brand new to me in 1996), Stone Roses, Braid, EPMD, U2, A Tribe Called Quest, Blackalicious.

I credit my late arrival into the world of worldly music for my present-day eclectic music tastes. My iTunes library wanders from rap to country to punk even a little bit of christian music. But I should be careful with that description. You wont find Amy Grant in any of my playlists, that's for damn sure. But I do have music by people who call themselves christians: Pedro the Lion, The Danielson Famile and the guy in the video below, Sufjan Stevens.

There's not a lot of sugar in these lyrics. Tons of biblical themes, but very little cliched, modern christiandom. Just great music by grown-ups dealing with grown-up things--who happen to live by the teachings of a Jewish prophet who was killed for his crazy ideas of loving one's neighbor as yourself. I admit, it's enough to occasionally put a lump into the throat of this calloused non-believer!

If you liked that, check out Sufjan's version of The National Anthem

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Error message

Sometimes astronomy is exciting. You go out, use a gigantic telescope to collect light from a distant star so far away that the light left in like 1700AD. You sit down at your computer and use that light, in the form of a digitally-recorded image, to measure the movement of the star and notice that the star's velocity is changing in a very predictable pattern. Then you get to use that pattern to divine the existence of a planet orbiting a distant sun. You found a planet, a world, another place in the Galaxy! That might be someone's Jupiter that they look up and see in their night sky. Perhaps some alien got excommunicated from their alien church for proposing that their Jupiter orbited their sun, rather than their home planet. Maybe that world you detected from your night of observing inspires poetry and songs among an alien people.

Other times astronomy is less exciting and much's the word? Buggy. For example, today I got the following error message:

Ionization (call_external): EOS_list_species - this error should never happen

No other information was given. No advice. No helpful suggestions. Just the fact that whatever happened should never have happened. Ever. Then the program died gracefully, leaving me wondering where it all went so wrong.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Song Lists circa 1999

Erin was unpacking and came across a historical treasure of vast importance: two of my old college radio song logs from 1999! I've transcribed one of the two lists below, along with the scanned images of both logsheets. If you look closely at the second logsheet, you may be able to detect the anxiety of a person just days away from graduation and having to move 2000 miles across the country. 3 short months later I met Erin during Spring Break in San Francisco. 4 short months later I received my acceptance letter from the UC Berkeley Astronomy Dept. The rest is, as they say, history...

DJ: JohnJohn Time: mid-3am Day: Wednesday Date: 10 Nov 1999

Artist - Tune

American Football - Five Silent Miles
Mineral - Forlvadell.
Rainer Maria - Lost, Dropped and Cancelled
Pedro the Lion - Big Trucks
Radiolaria - Cellophane
The VanPelt - Shame On You
Vitreous Humor - Why are you so mean to me?
Aloha - i never use the shoreway
Haywood - The kids are taking aim
Atavin - fortune telling fish
Les Savy Fav - We've got boxes
At The Drive-in - Rascuache
The Union of a Man and Woman - Sixteen cars collide
Bedhead - The rest of the day
Silver Scooter - Good man down
Rainer Maria - Put me to sleep
Braid - A dozen roses
Errortype II - Born in the 80's
Lustre King - Don't Kid the Midget
Pilot to Gunner - Wires
Flin Flon - Upper Ferry
Tristan Psionic - Air Traffic Control
Juno - All Your Friends are Comedians

Man, that new Rainer Maria EP sure did rock!

Monday, September 10, 2007

no berkeley bowl, but you can bet i'll be back

i'm hereby vowing to spend many a saturday morning produce shopping at the kcc farmer's market. i ventured there saturday with our awesome neighbor, wanee.

we pulled up, parked and headed into a mix of people and smells that made me feel right at home. the first booth on the right is a local coffee producer. sipping a cup of just brewed coffee and snacking on a carrot/pineapple/coconut oatcake we walked up and down the isles checking out local & organic produce. paradise in paradise! there were plenty of hawaiian specialties to take home too- candy sweet tropical fruits, fresh roasted kahuku corn, organic fresh tofu, nori rice cakes, local honey, locally made portuguese sausage and more. lots of amazing cut flowers and more mangoes than a girl can handle.

armed with $23, i filled my bags with: japanese eggplant (which i roasted with some a quick tomatoes/herbs and goat cheese and served with polenta for dinner last night), okra, vine ripened tomatoes (i made a salsa fresca tonight for our chicken fajitas), mangoes (i'm trying my hand at chutney making tomorrow), a bag of spinach/tatsoi greens, apple-bananas (shorter and fatter than the ecuadorian versions i'm used to eating, but just as tasty), sweet potatoes, and a yummy treat of thai red rice with coconut milk and sesame seeds. AND don't forget about breadfruit. without really thinking it through i asked the vendor, "what do you do with breadfruit?" to which he jokingly replied "you eat it". totally walked into that one! the goal is to cut an X at one end and roast it for about 45 minutes, then eat it - of course.

so, yeah. it's certainly not a one-stop-shop like berkeley bowl, but i know where i'll be getting the veggies and treating myself t0 some fresh cut ginger flowers :)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Stuck in my head: Kanye meets Zach

Sometimes Youtube can be so beautiful. I found this a while back, but I can't remember if I was searching for Zach Galifianakis (gal-eh-fin-ah-kis) or Kanye West because they are two of my favorite artists in comedy and hip hop, respectively. Now they're my favorite in both realms at the same time!

Kanye is often credited as being part of the "conscience" hip hop movement along with Common, Mos Def, Talib Kwali and the Roots. However, instead of explicitly denouncing the negative aspects of ghetto culture and/or promoting alternatives, he instead revels in hip hop's extreme hypocrisy (HipHopCricy?), injecting his lyrics with a deep sense of irony, "Now I'm tryin' to right my wrongs/ It's funny cause those same wrongs helped me wright this song." He drags the dark secrets of hip hop out into the open and shines a bright light on them. Whether they hold up under scrutiny is up to his audience to decide.

At the same time, Kanye reveals a lot about his personal life. His first two (big) albums were "College Dropout" and "Late Registration". In the first, he wrestles with his decision to drop out of college (duh) and pursue music. The second is in part his attempt to make up for his forsaken education by holding class himself on subjects ranging from blood diamonds, to the rap's ironic acceptance among suburban youth, to drug addiction.

Zach Galifianakis, on the other hand, is just one funny dude. His brand of dark, avant-gard humor really resonates with me. "One of my New Year's resolutions was to stop saying, 'You go girl' to myself. I broke that resolution yesterday because I finished a puzzle." Or one of my other favorite lines, "I wear a lot of Axe Body Spray. But since I live in a mostly black neighborhood, I have to call it Ask Body Spray."

The only sad thing is that given his ego, I doubt Kanye West would approve of Zach's take on his music. But the Amish backup dancers! Come on, that's just great. A blinged-out Will Oldham? Seriously? Wow.

Catch Kanye West's new album "Graduation" on September 11.

Aside: You may also remember Kanye as the guy who reminded everyone that "George Bush does not care about black people." after the Katrina disaster, on national TV no less. Yes, I agree, he's much more articulate after rehearsing, but you know you'd be nervous too, all looking around for the Secret Service and/or Dick Cheney.

Stand Up Paddling

I was hanging out with Owen this morning while Erin was out at the giant Saturday morning farmers market (Mommy sto', bee wan) when I received a phone call from my friend, former office mate and fellow IfA postdoc Jon. He said he was heading down to Kaimana Beach to do some stand up paddle boarding. A couple weeks ago Jon told us about his new hobby and Erin and I had mentioned that we'd like to give it a try sometime. Well, today was the day!

We didn't bring the camera, but the video below gives you an idea about what stand up paddling is all about. The vid nice and cheesy, just like old fashioned surf videos. You can get the gist of it in the first minute or so.

Just like the guy in the video we were going to do some board work in relatively calm water. The video was filmed at Ala Moana Beach, which one of our favorite haunts. Think salt water swimming pool, which is great for Owen. Kaimana is a little rougher, with little 1-foot waves coming in past the reef.

Jon gave me some basic tips such as: head straight into the surf, fall flat so you don't hurt yourself on the coral, stay relaxed and keep your back straight. A lot of the advice about how to react to the waves and keeping my balance was very similar to what I learned when I played football. Paddling into surf or covering a wide receiver, it's all about keeping your torso over your hips.

It's pretty hard to stay up, but after a couple tries I managed to paddle about 150 yards out over the reef. At that point I realized that I only had instructions about how to go straight out, and no instructions on how to turn and get back. So I did what I knew how to do best: I fell. And then swam back to shore, pushing the board and paddle ahead of me.

Erin hopped right up on the board and went straight out on her first try. Jon laughed and said, "Women are always better at this than guys." Erin was definitely a natural. Not to be outdone by Erin, I went out again and managed to paddle about 300-400 yards out, turn around and paddle back while only falling twice.

Talk about a full-body workout. Even my toes are sore. We'll definitely be doing that again soon. Stay tuned for some cheesy surf videos, Johnson-style!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Dude, where's my laptop?

I received this forwarded email from an astronomy professor who had his computer recently stolen. I've changed his name to protect his identity since I didn't ask for permission to post it in a public forum. I didn't ask for permission because I didn't want him to say no. This is just too good not to share.

Dear Robert,

I'm a student in Singapore, a small country in North West Asia. I am using your notebook, it is Macbook pro Core duo 2.0ghz. I has bought it from Ebay in Singapore last few days. And I found your information here.

But I have a problem that you set password on your computer, and now I cannot install more applications, and I cannot also set my information in this notebook. If you don't mind, would you like send me the password of this notebook, and I can change the information. Thank you very much and nice to see you.

-Danny Cheng

Little Bubu - small company but great desire - Ask 4 more 0908567800

My thesis adviser is also on the list and offered this idea:


I'm stunned and speechless. But here's my suggestion.

Dear Danny,

If you send me $100, I will send you the password.


Classic Owen

Here's a fun clip of Owen telling a story about his trip to the playground with Daddy. It's from back in 2006, so you'll have to excuse the choppy, unsynched video. You know how technology was back then...

Here's the thrilling conclusion of his story

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Missing items

Now Apu, Mrs. Simpson claims that she forgot she was carrying that bottle of…delicious bourbon (looks at bottle). Brownest of the brown liquors. So tempting. What's that? You want me to drink you? But I'm in the middle of a trial. Excuse me...(runs out of the room)
-Lionel Hutz, Attorney at Law

We're slowly discovering that Hawaii is lacking some key institutions that we've taken for granted in the past. For example, there's no Ikea. You can't even get your Umplong office chair or Oklog pencil holder shipped here! There's no Trader Joes, so gone are the days of Two-buck Chuck and vegetable medley with eggs for breakfast. There's not a single casino anywhere. And today I learned there's no BevMo! How am I supposed to tend to my vices?!

Not only is BevMo missing, but my favorite bourbon, Knob Creek, costs 42 bucks for 0.75 liters at Safeway. That same 3/4 liter bottle is $18.95 at the San Pablo Ave. BevMo in Albany! Granted, I get pretty good whiskey mileage (about 0.25 liters per month, or 400 mpg, even better if I'm not playing home-game poker regularly), but a 100+% price hike is more than just a little bit annoying.

Fortunately, I found a $33 bottle at Longs. But please bring a couple liters if/when you come for a visit. I'll even let you have the first drink!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

saturday in kapiolani park

this morning, owen and i took john to the airport for his second "bye-bye airplane" to the big island to use the keck telescopes. it's a super quick flight (about 40 min) from oahu to hawaii meaning that daddy will only be gone until tomorrow afternoon.

we already had the jogging stroller packed in the trunk for a stroller strides class, and before class began, we took a short detour to watch a garbage truck empty 6 dumpsters. owen was in heaven, and i'm pretty sure we'll know every sanitary engineer on the island before the year is up.

once class was over we joined the other moms and their keiki (children) to make a sea-life
mural. after about 20 minutes of coloring and gluing, owen was done, so we grabbed "mommy coffee" and "specail milk" (vanilla-flavored milk) and headed to the okinawan festival in the park.

about 24% of oahu's population is of japanese descent, making the festival a big deal. we perused the seleciton of goldfish for sale where i made promises of purchase once we get a fish bowl. then over to watch some taiko drumming and do a little dancing. our last stop was at the giant plant tent where we bought our first plants on the island: two orchids, a dainty bansai and 4 herb plants - cilantro, dill, mint, & thai basil.

on our way out of the festival we walked past the food vendors where they were selling all kinds of festival food. it was just too hard to decide between the uchinaaguchi (pigs feet soup) for 7 scrips or anadagi (okinawan equivalent of a doughnut) for 5 scrips. with a scrip line 25 people long and a fussy two year old, i had to make the responsible decision to head home for "baba nite-nite".

guess now i've gotta go buy a fishbowl :)