Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami day!

It's a bit like a "snow day" only a bit wetter....:0) I shouldn't joke, it could have been serious, and Hawaii, wonderfully and efficiently, took it very seriously. We've had a number of tsunami warnings this season, but the difference with this one, is they actually detected a wave in the middle of the Pacific, which meant it went from a warning to a reality. My day started with a 5am phone call from Cape Cod. A friend back there that works for SEA was calling me to see if I could help get their boat out of the harbor because a tsunami was coming. This was the first I had heard of the tsunami.

I checked in with the Red Cross at this point, as I knew we would be gathering to plan what, if anything, was needed later in the day. They were happy for me to put myself on the watch list for the evening, to continue with shelters if any were set up while I was offshore.

So I gulped down some breakfast, quickly checked the tsunami warning system here to look for the extent (at that point they were warning of 2m surge) and jump in the car - just in time for the first sirens to go off at 6am. I got down to the dock just as the sun was rising. The rest in pictures.

Sunrise over Snug Harbor in downtown Honolulu. I and three other volunteers got there at 6.30am and we had a slot to leave harbor at 7am - this slot was vital, as things were hectic, all the boats were trying to get out, as in a tsunami, the safest place to be is at sea. Any boats left behind risk being slammed around in their moorings and tipped over in the waves - at sea, the large waves don't appear until close to shore, so you just ride over the top.

Sunrise over the wheel house (yes I know there is no house, but that is still what it's called). The SEA vessel Robert C Seamans is a 134ft Brigantine sailing ship used as a floating classroom for undergraduates from all over the USA. It's being docked here in Hawaii for 6 months, as they've been hit by the recession, so had to cancel their spring program. SEA runs out of Woods Hole, so I know many folks who have done SEA, and over the last few months i've been helping put together a short cruise for Hawaii students, hopefully at the end of May.

Sailing out of the harbor (well, steaming, not sailing, unfortunately the sails had been packed away for storage, so we were entirely under steam). Usually they have a crew of 30 people do this. We had 6. Their minimum to sail is 4. We were super busy at the cast off and docking, so I would personally, hate to try and do it with 4!

Honolulu from the water.

We sat at at the 1000m depth line (about ten miles off shore) - as at this depth the tsunami would hardly be felt at all. There were lots of boats out, everyone who could left the dock. I was texting with some students who have sail boats and were also out on the water. At this point we decided it would be fun to turn on some of the science equipment, so we had some current meters going and a bottom sounder. We were all outside when "it hit", so we don't know yet whether it showed much, but it'll be interesting to look at that data later!

The moment "it hit". In reality, it was just a 2ft surge that hit Oahu, and a 6ft one that hit the Big Island, so a good thing, not quite a false alarm, but no major damage done. We did actually feel it which was amazing. For about ten minutes the water got choppy and confused, and then went right back to steady and calm. Eeeery.

Heading back in. I like that I live in the time that I do. We were not out of phone reception at all, so on my iPhone I could get emails and updates, so before we headed in I knew my car would still be there, and the islands had got off lightly. I can't imagine what it would have been like to head in to no news, not knowing what we would find. But I guess in that time there never would have been a warning in the first place, and maybe there would have been a few swept out to sea this morning.

Now thoughts turn to Chile. Everyone I know there has checked in which is fantastic, but there is still a lot of damage we do not know about as yet.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Welsh Cakes...

Erm, yes well. I'd already eaten a few before I remembered to take a this is what you get.....:0) Last night I decided to make some welsh cakes for my neighbors (who are welsh and french), as they just had their first baby yesterday! I haven't made these in a long while (I LOVE them!) and I had to find an american version to go with the ingredients I can get here, and then adjust it to what I had in my cupboard - but i've posted what I used over on my Craft Site - and it's pretty authentic, and definitely tasty with butter and sugar....:0)

I think last night I came to terms with something. I try really hard cooking and probably over 50% of the time, it just doesn't come out that well. I think I realised I am not a cook, I am a baker. I love baking and I just don't do it that much anymore. Mainly because of my waistline, but also because you can't swing a cat in my kitchen. I need to bake more, I enjoy it. I just need to give away my treats....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Playing catchup...

Why does it always feel like i'm playing catch-up rather than being on top of things? Ish, what I would do to have a personal organizer! So in addition to expenses for travel, for interview clothes, gifts (for my lab tech and for a new baby next door!) of course I realised it is also tax time. I wish my memory went back a year ago, but i'm sure when I owed last year I went and changed my W4. This year however I seem to owe more! Maybe I didn't do it? Either way, a) i'm glad I looked now so at least I don't suddenly have to produce it on april 15th; and b) i've already made an appointment with HR to change my W4 tomorrow!

I wish I understood the whole thing more, as i really feel like i'm doing something wrong. If anyone has any good W4 advice for "guessing" how many exemptions I should take that would be awesome - it's been an interesting situation - in Massachusetts I always seemed to get $500 or so back, since i've moved to Hawaii i've owed nearly $1K each year! I do the turbotax thing, and being an alien don't have much to deduct, so i'm relatively sure I haven't messed that up too much....but ouch!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sadness and Spending

Well, i'm definitely back! It's been an amazingly productive week so far considering. Monday I skipped off and caught up at home and on ignored emails. Since then i've edited two student papers, reviewed a (terrible) paper that seemed to take forever and did the final revisions on a paper now submitted and in press. Papers and my big need this year, last year they were too long ignored in favor of writing proposals. It's a hard line to tow - papers don't get me money, they don't pay my salary - proposals won't get me a permanent job - so where should I best spend my time? Balance would be good, but when you're looking at your job ending soon, it's hard not to focus on proposals.

So sadness - this is my last week with my little peruvian lab technician. She's been fabulous and i'll miss her. She's really kept the lab going while i've been away, and is just the organizing figure head I need for my lab. I didn't get the funding to keep her going this year, and she got a fabulous fisheries job in Alaska. It's a great opportunity for her, and she'll love it i'm sure, but I am hoping she might decide to come back after, when that position finishes in the fall.

Spending. Well, being away from home is always expensive (though staying with my canadian family really helped me out this trip!), and when I returned i've been faced with 2 new expenses. 1) there was a power out while I was away that must have killed my TV. Ug. But there is nothing better to switch my brain from stress to relax than watching some trash TV or a movie, so, unfortunately, it's going to be replaced. At least anything larger than 20 inches is too big for my little place, so that keeps my costs down....:0)

The second expense is interview clothes. Yes, interview. I have an interview in Maine - which i'm saying right up front i'm not expecting to get as i'm the most junior person they're interviewing, but I am headed to Maine in May (when my teaching is done) to interview for a job at the Darling Marine Center. I would love a job there, but yes, it's totally unlikely. But there is something about having smart clothes that make you feel good to make an interview go well, and I realised on this trip, I seem to be lacking in that department. The set I wore for my interview in Hawaii I wore to my PhD thesis defense 5 years earlier. Two more years and Hawaii humidity has seen an end to those. I did an invited talk in Canada, and realised I really have nothing in the way of really smart clothes right now. But clothes cost money, and time, and I hate clothes shopping with a vengeance, especially here in Hawaii where I can't online order easily and the stores are always packed. Makes for an unhappy Rhian and an unhappy Rhian's wallet.

On the good side, as the interview isn't until May (and the symposium in June), at least I have some time to spread it out. I need 5 days of nice maybe an outfit a's a long ass interview....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Home again, home again jiggidy jig...

Well, I got here! Arrived around 11pm last night, got home around 12.30pm. Not a bad trip in the end, I managed to get rerouted tickets in Minneapolis, going through Chicago, LA and then on to Honolulu. I even managed to get upgraded, so I remained in first class (I'd been upgraded on my other flights), which was really nice so I arrived well fed and not having to duck into McDs at the airport. One of two bags went missing (a miracle, i've never made it back from Thunder Bay with bags) and then actually turned up before we left the airport, so I have all my goodies.

Jenny and Hannah came to pick me up at the airport, so so nice of them, little H was sleeping, so i'm hoping she behaved and remained asleep once home again. Jenny even furnished my place with some flowers and fridge goodies, which was a god send this morning, as I really don't feel like tackling the supermarket. I've even bunked off school today......:0)

Flowers from Jenny, handprint from Sammy and TSA bag inspection notice thanks to the USA.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Well, i'm still here! A major mess up with my tickets and I (hopefully) have a flight out tomorrow. Well, I do have a flight out tomorrow, from Minneapolis onwards I am not so sure. I have a 30 minute layover to clear customs, drop my bags and get to my next plane, so i'm 99.9% certain i'm going to miss it. Needless to say, not booking through that travel agent again......we'll see how far I get!

So what to do with an extra day? Sledding, toboggan and luge of course!

At the top of the hill....

Sliding down! I was on a small thin "magic carpet" sled.

The mini luge at the local park. Fun! And soooooooo fast!

And then we dropped into the ice racing going on - cars, with studded tires racing on ice. Bit like banger racing, only on ice. Think disney on ice. Fun!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Over the hills and far away....

My last week, in pictures, because it's 11.58pm and I have a 7am flight back to Hawaii tomorrow.....

I rented a mini-van for the trip to Lutsen Ski resort. Though a stressful rental (the car they were going to give us got in an accident the day before and they didn't have anything else, so we had to change company - all at 10pm at night!), it worked out perfectly, enough room for 3 adults, 2 kids, four sets of ski gear, two tabogans and a whole host of food and warm clothing!

Our hotel room, though very basic, was ski in ski out, so was awesome. Kim took this photo standing at our front door. Carney is already in his ski's, i'm a little less adept at getting the ski's on.

Another view from our front door, Carney and I on the ski lift going right over our hotel block. Lutsen was really awesome, we got a great deal on a two night stay (with ski passes included), shared a hotel room (two double beds) and had all our own gear. So combined with enough easy and hard runs to keep us all amused, it was a fantastic short get away.

Sammy concentrating hard on her ski form. Just as a reminder, she turned 3 last week. 3. Amazing....

The girls at the chalet at the top of Moose Mountain. I'm so going to miss the girls!

The view. That's lake Superior in the background.

Lake Superior formed the backdrop of most of the ski runs, it was so beautiful up there, and we really did get the best weather - snowing one day and clear the next.

Riding up in the cable car.

The lower Chalet - there were a couple of them around. No, I did not attempt the moguls. But I can now say green runs are no problem, and I tackled most blues just fine. One in particular was a little steep for me though....not quite up to the black runs yet.....:0)

Some other going's on this week, it hit a balmy 0C, so we decided to BBQ on the back deck (eating inside).

The girls all went to a winter carnival which was fun. Showing Sammy and Taylor how to pet a sled doggy. We unfortunately didn't get a ride, next visit.

On a sleigh ride around Fort William.

Today Kim and I went on a snowshoe around Kakabeka Falls. Only the falls weren't falling at this time of year. They were quite solid.

Snowshoe diva.

Tomorrow I am off. I'm going to miss the Mathesons so much. Storytime in particular.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Off to the hills....

Off to the ski hill tomorrow for a 2 day break - yay! It's been a hectic week, I haven't been home earlier than 11pm for the last three days, so i'm more than ready. Work wise too, everything is wrapping up nicely. Here are a few photos from some fun in the snow....

On Saturday morning we went to a winter carnival out at Fort William. They had an awesome tubing run! Roxane (from the lab) and me pull Sammy up the hill. She loved it, couldn't stop laughing, and at the bottom "again, again!".

Taylor gives a thumbs up for snow!

Walking on Water. I went and stood on Lake Superior today, in the background you can just about make out a lighthouse.

Frozen dock on Lake Superior.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Keeping clean....

Just in case mum was worried I wasn't keeping up oral hygiene while's a public event here!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Flying by..

My time is certainly flying by here. It's been a busy time since I last posted. I managed to catch a killer cold, lost my voice for 4 days and sounded like something out of a horror movie for a good chunk of time too and finally feel a bit more human today. Work has been busy, things at the lab are going great, should have my first set of sequences tomorrow, so we'll see what those bands are all about!

Other work things have not been going so well, the proposal I was writing has fallen through, a major player flaked on me, and now it's not going to go in. I feel like this is a real blow to me, I really needed something in this round. And I've been screwed over on a couple of other exciting projects, so i'm just feeling more than a little taken advantage of right now. It's so hard when I invest time and energy into things that don't pan out. All par for the course being 100% research grant funded, but doesn't make it any easier. I need to be better at saying no to things in the first place, then I wouldn't be in this position so much, so it's at least partly my own doing too.

For the funner side of this weekend, the Mathesons and I went ice skating on saturday morning, which was an absolute blast, and then we went skiing on sunday morning, which was also good. I've emigrated off the bunny slopes and onto a blue and even onto a green, and no major wipewouts (yes, a few minor ones, and a complete halt at one point....). So that's a little up in my world right now. Also, next Monday - Weds, we are all off to Lutsen, a ski resort just across the border in the US, so i'm really looking forward to that. Two days of un-interupted skiing, friends and fun!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Sammy! And Kathy! And Adam! And Nicola (for Thurs)! And Dad and Sanchia!

Quite the week of birthdays!

Happy 3rd Birthday Sammy!

Happy XXX Birthday Kathy!

Happy first Birthday as a pappa Adam S!

Happy Birthday Thurs for Nicola!

Happy Birthday Sanchia (Thurs) and Dad (Sun)!

Weekend Photos

The moonrises here are spectacular! Though I am hoping for the moon to fade away, as once it does there is a good chance of seeing the northern lights, which I have never seen and would love to!

Taken by Kim - me on the ski lift. The bunny slope ski lift that is. With a very vicious ending to it......having never fallen over on one before, i've come a cropper on this one almost every other run!

And at the other end! Photo by Kim!

And my teachers - Sammy (who turns 3 tomorrow!) and Carney. Photo by Kim.

The snow bunnies! Kim, Taylor and me! Photo by Kim.

Indoor 10K

This weekend there was an indoor marathon, half marathon and 10K. Considering I haven't run for 6 weeks (since the marathon - yikes!) I decided the 10K was enough, and boy was that a smart decision. Saturday we went skiing in the afternoon (so much fun!) and I came home with a migraine. Then the dregs of a cold got to me and I've been stuffed up and hoarse ever since. So I ended up not eating much saturday night, feeling like poo, but better enough sunday AM to go and do it anyway. To be honest I was intrigued. And I was somewhat of a celebrity coming from Hawaii. But it was pretty good, quite a few people, so I didn't totally bring up the rear. 1hr and 5 minutes, not bad.