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Showing posts from August, 2007

Gecko II: This time it's personal

We were eating dinner the other night and we experienced a gecko visit. The little guy was scampering along the floor and I grabbed the camera. Owen was in a weird state--he couldn't watch yet he dared not turn away from the little beastie that had entered our house. Here's the video. Note the "Hmmmm, mmmm, MMMM," uttered by Owen. This is the classic lullaby, Brahm's Lullaby which Owen hums when he's sleepy, scared, or being approached by a gecko. His Baba (pacifier) gave him the strength to endure the ordeal.

e komo mai, a hawaiian welcome home

there are still boxes to be unpacked and pictures to be hung, but it's already feeling like home. my favorite feature of our place is our vaulted ceilings - it makes it feel so big!

Keck time!

It's been a little while since I've posted here because I was busy last week preparing for my first solo night on the Keck 1 Telescope. The twin Keck telescopes are the largest visible light telescopes in the world, with a diameter of 10 meters. I've spent about a dozen nights at Keck as a graduate student observing with my advisor, Geoff Marcy , and/or various collaborators. But last night was the first time Dad gave me the keys to the Corvette--and I didn't even have a curfew! Sunday morning, Erin and Owen dropped me off at Honolulu airport and I caught an Aloha flight over to The Big Island (that's its actual name!). The flight took 45 minutes and I drove a rental car another 45 minutes from Kona International Airport to Keck HQ in Waimea. One of the great things about observing at Keck is that you can observe from sea level instead of having to spend the night at 14,000 feet where the actual telescope is. It may sound a little silly, but yes, I traveled an hour

mystery destination

about two weeks ago we received a message from liz & lindsay to a "mystery destination". with all the craziness of moving, we needed to wait until the right time to fully appreciate our hawaiian scavenger hunt. the opportunity presented itself saturday afternoon, armed with directions and a well rested toddler, we were off: the address was 1383 queen emma street. all we were told was that it was open 24/7 and that it wasn't food (and i'd been wanting some dim sum- manapua , to be exact). we got off H1 and turned onto queen emma st. all we saw was a church and a school. hmmm. it was late in minnesota, but i called our trip advisors anyway: "you're the only person i would have answered the phone for," liz says as she picks up. "i'm confused," i say, "it's just a middle school." "it's there, just look next to the church." so we circle the block and try again. there it is, 1383 queen emma st. the sign reads "

Moving day, revisited

The moving van arrived Monday at noon. The relocation company only provided a basic unloading service, so we hired two college students, Dave and Dane (not pictured), to carry the boxes up the stairs and into the various rooms. We found a Sony 29" TV* in the apartment when we moved in and fortunately (for us and Owen) one of the first boxes off the van was the DDD player. DDD Woowoo in tha house! We're pretty exhausted right now. More updates later. However, I will say: Sleeping in your own bed after spending 3 weeks sleeping in hotel beds is definitely enough to make you feel that way! *Who would leave a perfectly good 29" Sony TV behind? you may ask. People who realize the thing weighs as much as a small car. Seriously, it must have been carved out of lead. But the picture is beautiful and it has more features than our old 27" Sony. w00t.

The eagle has landed!

Zooish folk dancing

This was my first week at home with O-man in HI, and I've been doing my best to stay busy so I can avoid thinking about all of our stuff floating across the ocean. (Aside- our delivery is scheduled for Monday at 9 AM - woohoo!). Thursday morning we went to the Honolulu Zoo. Right after walking in, there's a sign that reads "Best zoo for 2300 miles" and has arrows pointing to all the better zoos, thousands of miles away. I'm no zoo connoisseur, but I was actually quite impressed! We loved the watching the kookaburra splashing in its bath, growling at the tiger, and found that the zoo has the best playground on the island. Good thing our $25 annual membership fee will get us into the zoo to use it whenever we want! ($25/year pays for 2 adults and 6 kids. SIX KIDS!) Owen at the petting zoo Did I mention we shared some shaved-ice (strawberry and coconut)? Today we got a care package from a friend and Owen fell in love with the bubble wrap! He started singing his favo

I have a new web site

Follow one of the tubes in the system that is the internet to this here URL: I made it with my new computer. Oh New Hotness, what can't you do? World hunger? No problem. I'll use my computer to ship you some food. World, just send me your address and credit card number.

You didn't think I'd use this thing for work, did you?

I spent part of my afternoon playing around with PhotoBooth using the iSight camera that is built into the monitor of New Hotness. In the background is the desk of one of my office mates, Miguel. He's not here because it's Hawaii's Statehood Day, an official state holiday. My other office mate is to the right. Space is at a premium around here but fortunately my officemates don't make much noise. Berkeley People: It's kinda like sharing an office with two Fitzes, only without the imminent danger of a stabbing* to break the tedium. *Don't provoke him. He'll do it.

Our new car's new name

Well, the results are in. After a surprising turnout (21 votes!), we have a...well, we have a tie. The name Lakshmi received 10 votes, while Sandy got 10 as well. Anna played the role of Ralph Nader and picked up the single vote that would have been the tie breaker. ANNA!! Erin and I are debating what to do about this unexpected turn of events. Perhaps the name will be Sandy Lakshmi. Or Landy. Or Slakshmi! Suggestions?

So tempting...

poke power

don't go thinking that I mean poke-mon. i mean, poke (pronounced poh-kee). it's the hawaiian word for "section" or "to slice or cut". poke is fish salad that is right at home on hawaiian tables. and let me tell you sushi lovers, it's divine! i'd heard of poke before, and even remember eating it a few years ago at a pacific-rim-tapas-fusion restaurant in berkeley called grasshopper. turns out that native hawaiians used to eat a form of poke right on their fishing boats. the modern version got popular in the 1970s and has strong japanese influence. i was blown away when i went into foodland and saw that the entire fresh fish case had 8 choices of poke. sure enough, you can buy it already prepared, or do it yourself. a standard poke has: fish - sashimi grade cut into one inch cubes (ahi, aku, tako, crab, mussel) finely chopped onions/scallions seaweed sesame oil, chiles, and soy sauce some people add tobiko, tomato, tofu etc. anyhow, i got a litt

Hurricane Flossie

I had the following conversation Sunday afternoon: Lady we met on the beach: "So as an astronomer, have you been keeping track of the weather lately?" Me: "Huh?" Lady: "There's a hurricane coming this way." Me: "Really? A hurricane?!" Then I got this email: Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students, At the Director's orders IfA Hawaii (Big Island) facilities will be evacuated for 24-hours starting 0700 14-Aug-2007 to ensure the safety of our employees and their families. While we expect to return to normal operations Wednesday 15-August-2007 in the event that major damage is sustained please call the Manoa main office 808-956-8312 for further information. We will also use local radio stations KWXX 94.7 FM Hilo and KUPA 670 AM Hilo as needed. Yup, Hurricane Flossie hit the Big Island about an hour ago. Flossie. What kind of a hurricane name is that?! It's windy here in Oahu, but no rain tonight. However, it's a very different story a

It's here!

Old busted Mac Mini 1.4 GHz PowerPC G4, 500 Mb RAM, 80 Gig HD w/ 20" display New hotness! 20" iMac 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo, 2 Gig RAM, 340 Gig HD, dual monitor w/ 20" display Well, actually, to be fair A) most people would do just fine with "Old Busted" on their desks and B) New Hotness is especially hot because it uses Old Busted's 20" monitor. But keep in mind that the "monitor" on the left of the second photo is the entire computer . The whole computer is not much bigger than an Apple 20" monitor! Also, a lot of the Hotness is about what's inside. That 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo probably runs about 10-20 times faster than Old Busted's PowerPC G4. All that processing power makes for some serious Achewood reading !

Almost here!

I ordered my shiny new 20" iMac last week and I've been tracking its shipping progress like an obsessive person ever since. That FedEx vehicle is like Santa's sleigh to a geek!

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Owen loves garbage trucks. Whenever we put our car in reverse and back up, we hear from the back seat, "Boop, boop, boop." Fortunately for our little sanitation department aficionado we're staying in Waikiki, which is apparently garbage-pick-up central of Oahu. Trucks drive by every day except Sunday, and FOUR different kinds of trucks come by Saturday morning! Oddly, not one of them is a recycling truck. You'd think a community living on an island would be particularly interested in a single-stream recycling program. If you were thinking about Hawaii, you'd be wrong. Owen's love of garbage trucks is not too surprising. When I was his age, I'd make piles of toys around the house and push an old suitcase from pile to pile. I'd then throw the toys onto on half of the open suit case and then dump the toys from one half into the other. "MMMMMMrrrrrr mmmmmmm RRRRRRRRR, buuhhhhssshhhhh!" Memories of my own experimentation with a career in trash re

"We'll just eat a lot of fruit"

This is an Erin report :) I'm officially a contributor now. "We'll just eat a lot of fruit." I'm pretty sure I said something to that effect before we moved here. I'd heard and read that food was more expensive on the islands, but never believed it could be that much more than buying food at Andronico's in Berkeley. Also faced with the strong urge to drop a few pounds for the 356 day/year bathing suit wardrobe, I thought that we'd just cut out a lot of processed foods, and we'd stock up on produce and lean protein. I'd failed to consider that much of what's available in the supermarkets here is shipped from somewhere in South America (via the mainland), and that I haven't seen a single cow since we've been here (we did see plenty of "free range" chickens at the roadside cafe on the north shore - Owen spent much of our lunch hour chasing them among all of the tables). Anyhow, I have found myself faced with a grocer

Nonna Out

My mother-in-law, aka Nonna, aka My Baby Gramma, flew back to Houston last night. She was with us in Berkeley for 2 weeks before our big move, flew to Honolulu with us and stayed for 11 days. For most people, having their mother-in-law hang out with them for a month during a stressful transition period would be a recipe for disaster. However, when I married Erin I hit the mother-in-law jackpot. I really don't know how we would have survived this move without Marie. She took care of Owen when we needed to get away, but never told us how to raise him. She never complained and never meddled. She helped us pack, did the dishes, helped with laundry, paid for more than her fair share. But most importantly she was great company and a fun person to hang out with. Who could ask for anything more from a mother-in-law? Hurry back, Nonna!


Owen and Daddy at Sunset Beach.

Car names

We learned from Erin that Hindu people bless their cars with rice and swastikas. But we Johnsons have historically blessed our cars by naming them. Past cars and names include: '83 Toyota Tercel SR-5 - The Johnmobile '91 Mazda 323 "speed-hatch" - The Mazdaradi '95 Acura Integra GS-R sedan - Patty '01 Honda Accord LX coupe - The Silver Bullet '06 Honda Civic LX sedan - Inari '93 Honda Accord 10th Anniversary Edition sedan - " ?? " Now we need a name for our newest car, and this is where you, the loyal reader of can help! Simply respond to the poll at the top right of this page (sorry if you already voted. I had to modify the first draft and accidentally erased it.)

Our car was blessed, an Erin Report

Our beautiful beach-beater came to us via Ali, who was letting her go because he was selling most belongings before returning to India for the next few months. When we first drove her as our own, I reached up and began to peel away a golden sticker from the inside of the windshield. I quickly stopped myself and we have since come to love the three Hindu deities that adorn our Accord. I'm not superstitious, nor do I worship Hindu gods/goddesses, but something about taking a sticker off that was put there as part of a Hindu blessing ritual made me feel like I'd be ending our good luck streak. I did a little research on Hindu blessings and learned that many Hindus believe in blessing everything, especially the tools they use in daily lives. From what I understand, the puja, or blessing ritual, is preformed by a pujari (Hindu priest) upon the purchase of a new car. The purpose is to rid the car of all bad influences. Hands are washed with holy water, the owner is given three


I was sitting at my desk doing some SCIENCE when I felt something brush my knee. I thought it was my headphone cable, so I moved the cord to the side. Then I felt it again. Assuming it was a spider or something I brushed my knee and damn if a tiny gecko didn't just drop to the floor! It looked a lot like this guy, about an inch long, really fast and a little perturbed. While I was scrambling around the office all excited, trying to find a cup so I could move the little guy out of the office, my office mate, Kristen, calmly used her hand to scoop it up and set it outside our window. She then went right back to work. My heart was pounding from the excitement of having a lizzard crawl on me, and she treated the whole gecko visit as if a fly had buzzed through the room. I guess I have a lot to learn about gecko-human relations around here.


Here's a really funny video of Owen imitating Mommy and Daddy on the phone. He's about 1.2-1.5 years old in the video. He doesn't do this much anymore these days now that he can actually speak English.

Beach pics

Owen with Mommy's goggles, getting ready for trip to Ala Moana Park. Erin and Owen at Ala Moana Beach. Nonna (Noh-nah, a.k.a. Marie) at Kailua Beach Owen, Nonna and me, digging at Kailua Beach Sand is AWESOME! Owen's first major injury (first-degree popped blister). He's bonked his head a million times, but this is the first injury to draw enough blood to induce panic. He was hobbling around the apartment like a WWII veteran. Check out the make-shift butterfly bandage Erin rigged up from a regular Bandaid. Our temporary apartment lacks a tub. But it does have a large sink, which is crucial for getting AWESOME sand out of Owen's hair and various nooks and crannies (don't ask).

Houses, cars and computers

We signed the lease for our new apartment! Here's a picture of the front of the place. We have the top floor. Also, we bought a new, old car today. We decided to go with an "island beater" instead of buying a newer car. The new place is just around the corner from the IfA and the island is too small for racking up too many miles each year. All we need is a ride to the beach. We found a beautiful, nearly mint-condition '93 Honda Accord 10th Anniversary Edition with 122K miles (similar to the stock photo below, but white with a blue interior). We took it to Cheng's AC Service and Auto Repair and it passed a general inspection. The transmission fluid was a bit low, driver's side power window and door lock needed to be repaired. The seller, Ali, was kind enough to deduct the repair costs from his asking price. We figure, heck, the car cost us only $2600. If it breaks, throw it away and buy a new one! (heh heh, not really) In research-related news, owen (the comput

Owen fits right in, an Erin Report

Owen at Waikiki beach His favorite beach past-times so far include eating pineapple (bought at ABC stores), digging with his yellow shovel, running into the water (but no deeper than his knees, mind you), burying mommy's feet and chasing birds. Oh, and don't forget about licking the seashells/rocks he finds. Seriously, we may have a future geologist on our hands. He has been a responsible sunbather, letting us know about an hour into the beach visit that it's time for "home" and "night-night". He's helping Mommy and Nonna establish a truly gradual base tan. Gotta love a kid who knows the value of a base tan - even though it doesn't really apply to him :)

First days on the job

Yesterday was my first day at work. Man, I love astronomy. I rolled in at 8:55am to sign and fax some forms (IfA form 5b, NSF Institutional Allowance Request, NSF Fellowship Starting Certificate, IfA Research Statement/Scope). I went to lunch with Mike Liu, got a tour of the department during which Mike introduced me to ~87 different people, and then went home at 2pm to move our stuff from the hotel to the vacation rental. No meetings, no orientations, no time cards, no HR videos showing the right and wrong ways to lift boxes ( Don't Do What Donnie Don't Does ). Overall, not much to report. The layout of the IfA is pretty confusing. I keep getting stuck on the 2nd floor really far from a stair case. Mike described the layout as "Two identical square buildings, where one square is kinda mirrored and connected by that walkway. Well, the other is not really like this one. Don't worry, you'll figure it out in a couple weeks." I tried to get some actual science d

Married Life

I was just looking back at the long, storied history of this here web log when I came across my first post, from so many hours and days ago. In said post, I listed all of the things I would talk about in the future times. The first item in the list said "being married." Huh? Why did I say I'd write about that? Today's post: Marriage. Today we talked about what meals we'd eat in the coming week and who would vacuum the living room...while gazing lovingly into each other's eyes. After that, it was business time:

Props to tha O dawg

I gotta give big ups to my main man, Owen. Today he completed his first 5 hour plane ride as a 2-year-old and he did better than most adults I know. We bought a separate ticket for him, which made all the difference, I think. We hooked up his car seat and rocked the flight. He cried twice, each time for about 10 seconds. When was the last time you sat next to a 2-year-old that good? I defy you to find a better-behaved kid on an airplane. The roughest part of the journey was about 2 hours in. I had everything planned out. I let him push all of the buttons for lights, volume, etc. Then I let him play with my cell phone and my iPod. Then we ate some food, read books and changed a dirty diaper (no thanks to the snooty flight attendant who acted like she had never seen/smelled a kid with a dirty diaper before). The next step in my plan was to pop the Baby E. into the Powerbook and feed him while he was nicely sedated by the moving colors and new words. When Owen gets tired and hungry, he&

HFS! We found our dream apt!

Our plan was simple. Get to Hawaii and hang out in a vacation rental for most of August while we take our time looking for a decent place to live. Well, things just got simpler today. Our plane landed at 10:30am this morning (more on our flying adventures later) and we spent the day hanging out in Waikiki. This evening Erin and I decided to cruise around town while Nonna (Erin's mom) put The Boy down for the night. While we were out, we got a call from a guy we've been in contact with about a 3 bedroom flat in Manoa (right next to the IfA). He asked if we could stop by sometime tonight. Um, heck yeah we could! We pointed the Hertz NeverLost GPS to the address and drove on over. When we pulled up we got to meet Faye, the super-nice, Japanese landlady. We introduced ourselves, gave her our renters resume and took a look at the place. Here are the highlights of the pad: 3 bedrooms (that's right people, you can have your very own guest room) 1.5 bathrooms (0.5 in the master b