Saturday was the last full day of the official trip.  Some of the other guests invited us along on a 4×4 tour of the island and we decided to join them.  We took a water taxi over to the main island and got onto a land rover with open sides.  There is only one road on the island, circling the perimeter set in just a bit from the coast.  There was no speaker system in the vehicle and being by the back gate meant that I couldn’t really hear our guide very well, so I contented myself to sit back and enjoy the sights.  Most of the structures along the road are modest native island houses with the occasional restaurant and shop.  There are lots of people along the road selling fruit and other goods from tables.  Our guide tells us that people selling goods in this way are not taxed, only those with retail store fronts have to pay taxes.

Eventually we turn off the main road and go up a very steep hill to where the communications tower for the island is.  This hilltop view is nice because you can actually see in two directions.  The center of the island is oppressively hot without the water nearby to cool things down.  We work our way back down to the road, speckled with wild dogs and chickens, and find our way to another impossibly steep road.  This time the road ends at the site of an American WWII canon.  It is rusted from years of neglect, but you can still read the Bethlehem Steel imprint as well as other markings.  There was also an empty, rusting bunker adjacent to it that doesn’t protect anything but spiders anymore.  Down and up again to the last mountain stop, a man made plateau that is the future site of a home for the native family that owns the land.  We spend quite a bit of time here taking in the view, and asking our guide a great deal of questions about agriculture, road building, school systems, health care and lots of other social issues.  I wonder if these are the kinds of questions she is used to.

We also stopped at a residence that has a more permanent shop set up in their front yard.  She tells us we can get better prices elsewhere, but that we can see how dye and pattern techniques are done.  We watch a woman dye some fabric and lay it out to dry on a table, and then cover it with linoleum cut-outs of fish, palm trees and the words “Bora Bora”.

Our guide drops us off in Vaitape, largest town on the island and home of the pier where we will meet our water taxi later.  We have a nice lunch at a restaurant just a couple of blocks down, mai tai’s for the ladies, beer for the guys and a tahitian vanilla milkshake for me.  After lunch we have some time to do some shopping, but there isn’t much to see.  There isn’t a lot of variety from shop to shop, and the prices are pretty consistent, but we manage to pick up a few gifts for people back home and grab some food to keep in our bungalow (a baguette and a tube of cookies with a cartoon prince on them).

When we have exhausted our shopping options, we sit in the covered waiting area on the pier to wait for the water taxi.  The pier appears to be a hangout for teenagers, and we watch them do backflips and acrobatics into the water.  Eventually another couple from our tour rejoins us and the wife decides to jump in.  The teenagers cheer her on and help her out.  There was no ladder, just a high gauge rusty chain dangling from the fenders for large ships.  I am thinking about how nice the water looks but I don’t know if I want to get me street clothes wet, but when Amy asks me why i’m not jumping in I decide to go.  I can’t do flips like the teenagers, so I settle for a running start and a high jump with some spin action.  The resulting picture is actually pretty funny.  I manage to climb out on my own, but the cement of the pier doesn’t go down as deep as it looks, so when I place my foot against the wall to brace myself, it slips and I cut my leg on the rough corner.  Nothing serious, just another little souvenir from the excursion.

After we get back we decide to visit the hospitality villa for some free cold drinks on our way back to our bungalow to take a nap.  When we get there, they are setting up for a happy hour event, and the pool is shaded from the late afternoon sun, so we decide to hang out there instead.  While visiting and relaxing there someone calls from the private beach that there is an octopus.  We want to see it, but are certain by the time we walk over it will be gone.  Eventually Amy goes to look anyway, and then calls me down.  The octopus is slowly moving down the beach right where the water meets the sand.  Amy takes some pictures and then I take the camera and take a nice long video, watching it change colors and textures as it crawls across the sand, rocks and Amy’s feet.

We missed the window for our nap, so we went back to the bungalow to get ready for the Black Pearl Gala.  We are instructed to wear all black for this final and most formal of evenings with the group.  We don our badges and head down to the beach where we had the tiki party the first night.  There is live music with beautiful colored lights that cover the sand and trees and a single giant table stretching down the beach for all 70 or so guests.   We are seated for dinner and have another great meal by candlelight on the beach.

Abruptly from the dark  two barely clothed native men emerge to walk around the table.  They take position on the beach near the water and scream out, asking for fire.  The guest on my left has a lighter, and the man comes and takes it, then targets Amy and pulls her up onto the beach with him.  She awkwardly lights the mans fuel soaked batons and comes back to her seat and then the fire dance begins.  Eventually the flames go out and they make Amy light them again.  The show was pretty entertaining.  Afterwards the CEO makes a speech, thanking everyone for their hard work, and asking for more to come.  Dinner winds down and a DJ starts up, but we end up turning in around 10pm due to exhaustion.  It’s OK though, we still have more time.

Friday morning we got up a little early for breakfast and then met up at the dock for a wave runner excursion.  Amy was nice enough to let me drive since we had to share a vehicle.  Since I have no experience with this sort of thing, I started out nice and slow.  Eventually I realized that with more speed I had more control, and very soon I was going as fast as the vehicle would go, doing sharp S-curves and jumping off the small waves from the wake of other vehicles.  So. Much. Fun.

We had a nice block of time to spend however we wanted before our dinner plans so we decided to explore the lagoon sanctuary .  There is a huge variety of fish and coral there, and there were only two other people present swimming so it felt like we had the whole thing to ourselves.  Here are some highlights from the pictures I took.

We hated to leave the lagoon, but we had to go get ready for dinner.  The plan was to take a sunset cruise over to a restaurant called Bloody Mary’s. Mary’s is the first restaurant built on the island, and it dates back all the way to the late 1970’s.  Impressive right?  Before dinner we had to pose for individual and group photos.  This was the first event with a dress code, whatever “Island Chic” means, I think we nailed it. The cruise was nice, drinks and music and beautiful views of the island and the surrounding Motus.

By the time we arrived at the restaurant it was already dark, and the dock was lit with runway lights up to the road, where an intimidating looking crossing guard made sure we didn’t get run over as we crossed the single road that runs along the perimeter of the island.  Once inside, we were invited to remove our shoes as the restaurant’s floor is soft white sand.

There was a huge buffet spread out and live music that was pretty amazing.  After everyone stuffed themselves the dancing began, and everyone had a wonderful time.

Eventually things wound down and we boarded to return to the resort.  It was quiet, and we sat out front and I stared at the stars while Amy dozed in and out on my shoulder.  I was almost sad to return to our room, but our evening treat when we arrived was a tray of chocolates and the ingredients to make a hot, fruity island tea.  Night night.

Bora Bora, Day 4 – Snorkeling, Island Party & Luau

2 Mar 2014 In: Adventures

This was the day that I realized blogging was going to be hard.  There is so much going on, and it is so much fun, it’s hard to carve an hour out of the day to stop and write.  We got up fairly early and had a nice breakfast buffet at the Tere Nui restaurant at the resort, then there were 4 boats waiting to take us on our snorkeling excursion.

We got on the first boat and met our guide, Steven, who was hilarious, silly, and made the entire day incredible.  He serenaded us on his Ukulele, told terrible jokes (yes, worse than mine), and talked to us a lot.  The first stop was on a sandbar where the water was about 4-5 feet deep where we could swim with the rays.  We were excited to see that in addition to the rays, there were also a couple of lemon sharks swimming around.  I took a bajillion photos, here are just a few.

After the rays, we went a short distance further around the island to a coral reef area for the second part of the snorkeling excursion.  I got some great videos on our GoPro, which I will share when I have more bandwidth, but here are some highlights.

After we finished at the reef, we set out for deeper water to swim with… sharks. Amy and I were both pretty excited about this, even more excited than when our guide pointed out a rare coconut fish (it was really just a coconut floating in the water, but everyone jumped to look when he called it out).  The water was pretty deep, and it seemed like a good idea to give these sharks some space. Some of them were 8 feet long or more, but they were beautiful.

We were all thoroughly exhausted by this point, so we made our way over to one of the Motu (one of the small islands making up the ring around the main one).  On the island we were greeted by some traditional polynesian dancers who where very sweet.  We ate off woven grass plates on a picnic table in the water, shopped at their little table of island crafts, and to top it off Amy slipped on her flip flop and ripped her foot open on some coral.  Oops.

When we got back to the hotel we had a little time to relax, but then had to head over to the beach behind the main restaurant for a Luau!  In the open air porch as we entered there was a shop set up where we could buy traditional island goods, then we made our way down to the beach where we sat around short square tables.  I decided to leave my food prejudices behind and try everything from raw fish to tuna steaks and loved every last bite.  It was probably my favorite meal of the entire trip.

After dinner there was a very elaborate polynesia dance performance.  The music was fun and the dancers were amazing.  At one point one of the male and female dancers were doing a solo and her skirt fell off and everyone whistled appreciatively, but she smiled and the show went on.  Towards the end of the show they pulled people up from the audience and made them dance with everyone and it was pretty funny.  Amy got targeted and pulled up and she did a wonderful job emulating the dancers.  Afterwords, the dancers posed for pictures with all the guests, which was nice of them considering how tired they all looked.

This will probably be my favorite day of the trip, even if i got a little burned.  I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire day!

Bora Bora, Day 3 – Travel & Arrival

1 Mar 2014 In: Adventures

We flew through the night from LAX to Papeete, Tahiti.  I was looking forward to seeing the island as we approached and was disappointed we were sitting in center seats with no window.  It didn’t matter though, because it was still dark when we landed.  We got off the plane and walked across the runway to the terminal, where we got a traditional island greeting.

After sitting in a pretty long customs line we checked in for our next flight, the 45 minute hop to Bora Bora.  We had to wait in the airport for a pretty long time, but we got a tip on which side of the plane to sit on to get the best pictures of the islands, so I snapped a few from the window as we flew.

Finally we are here! We get off the plane and walk to the small terminal and we are blown away by the beauty of this place.  After we check in, we board a boat and taxi to the actual resort, which is pretty close.  On the dock at the Four Seasons there is a Polynesian Ukulele player playing a cool island Ukulele.

Instead of going to our rooms, we go to the Sunset Bar and enjoy a buffet, have some drinks and get our welcome gift.  It is a large yellow beach bag with hats, flip flips sun screen and lotion for each of us.  We relax a bit, but not too long because we can’t wait to see our room.  The room turns out to be far, like… really far.  From the bar which is at one end of the resort, we are almost as far away as you can get, it’s a brisk 10 minute walk to get from one side to the other.

The room is amazing, and so much bigger than pictures can capture.  There is a lovely fruit board to welcome us, but we don’t spend much time in the room right away.  We change into our swim suits and go check out a kayak, tour the area around the resort, then relax by the pool

After we get back to our rooms we take time to unpack and settle in and take a quick nap before heading over to the tiki party.

We eat polynesian bar-b-que for dinner, small hors d’oeuvres on the beach and drinks.  There was also a foot massage station and Amy and I sat together and got a foot massage facing the water, which was pretty great.  We chatted with other guests and had a nice time, but ended up turning in pretty early.  The overnight flight from LAX wasn’t too comfortable and we didn’t get as much sleep as we would have liked.


Bora Bora, Day 1 & 2

27 Feb 2014 In: Adventures

After arriving in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, we worked our way over to the Marriott and checked into our room.  It was nice to have a moment to relax there before having to go to dinner with the Accelrys group.  We dined at the hotel restaurant and had a nice steak dinner while I got to know some of Amy’s co-workers.  I had a nice time, dinner wound down early and we went straight to bed.

The next morning we had a group breakfast in one of the small ballrooms in the basement of the hotel, after which we split into the employee group and the +1 group.  While the employees went to a meeting, the +1’s got on a shuttle down to hollywood and then transferred to a modified open top van for a “star tour” where we drove around and looked at celebrity houses.

After the tour, the Accelrys employee group met up with us on Rodeo drive where we had lunch at Via Alloro (Kids, of you are reading it, Rodeo is pronounced row-day-oh).  We had to hang out for an hour before the other group caught up to us so I drank 1000 glasses of water.  We had a 5 course meal and at the end they rolled us out on dolly’s because we were so full.  Once we escaped the 3 hour restaurant experience we had a little time to ourselves to look around and shop on Rodeo drive.  Amy bought a light sweater in case the island was cool at night, but just at Banana Republic, one block off Rodeo.  All we did on Rodeo drive was window shop and take pictures of ridiculous 2 million dollar sports cars.

After shopping on Rodeo Drive, we took a charter bus back to the Marriot, relaxed for a short while and then went to another group dinner.  After another stomach busting 4 course meal we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and headed back to LAX to catch our 11:30pm flight to Papeete, Tahiti.

Vacation can be exhausting!

Jesus Built my Minecraft Map

9 Feb 2012 In: Games, Minecraft

I am a lover of Minecraft. I go in spurts where I play it obsessively and then forget about it, only to repeat the cycle over and over.  Since I have logged so many hours, a lot of the novelty of the game has worn off.  Often times I will just create a map, and then wander and wander until I find something really interesting that inspires me to build.  A mountaintop lake, a floating island with a waterfall that I can swim up, that sort of thing.  Last time I was doing this, I was walking towards a hill when I saw a giant cross at the top.  When I got closer, I realized it wasn’t just a cross, it was a floating cross! Clearly my randomly selected seed was infused with the divine!

Pic so you know it happened:

Jesus minecraft screenshot

Rails gotcha using after_initialize hook and exists?

29 Nov 2010 In: Technobabble

While upgrading Ruby on Rails from 2.1 to 2.3, one of my models threw an ActiveRecord::MissingAttributeError exception when something used exists? to see if it was there. The issue turned out to be our after_initialize hook on the model. In our hook, we rely on looking up the value of one of the object attributes. This fails now because exists? only selects the primary key from the table, leaving the rest of the attributes undefined. Here is how we solved it:

  1. def after_initialize
  2.   do_something if foo_attribute
  3. rescue ActiveRecord::MissingAttributeError
  4.   reload
  5.   retry
  6. end

This will cause all the attributes to be fleshed out the second time around.

I wanted an easy way to encrypt and decrypt files in OS X from the command line, so I added the following to my .profile file in my home directory:

  1. enc() {
  2.   openssl des3 -salt -in $1 -out $1_enc
  3.   rm $1
  4. }
  6. dec() {
  7.   openssl des3 -d -salt -in $1_enc -out $1
  8.   rm $1_enc
  9. }

Now I can quickly encrypt a file using ‘enc’:

  1. $ cat secret.txt
  2. this is a secret!
  3. $ enc secret.txt
  4. enter des-ede3-cbc encryption password: [password]
  5. Verifying - enter des-ede3-cbc encryption password: [password]
  6. $ cat secret.txt_enc
  7. Salted__?<?7sT?s??Cp??x?toA?d6~r?r

And decrypt it just as easily with ‘dec’:

  1. $ dec secret.txt
  2. enter des-ede3-cbc decryption password: [password]
  3. $ cat secret.txt
  4. this is a secret!

A couple of things to note. The encrypted file is saved using a _enc suffix, but when decrypting, it assumes you type the original filename, not the _enc version. I don’t mind this, but it could be altered to be a little smarter in this regard. Also, when encrypting it deletes the original file for you, and when decrypting it deletes the encrypted version. I prefer this automatic ‘cleanup’.

3 Nov 2010 In: Uncategorized

Just a quick note to let people know I have started a new blog to follow the progress of my massive home remodel.  Join me on my adventure at This Dang House!

While building a Rest API call for our product, we needed the server to respond to a post with a “303 see other” response.  Unfortunately, in Rails when you do a redirect_to, it always uses the 302 response code, even when you set the status explicitly:

  1. redirect_to chunky_bacon_url(@bacon), :status => :see other
  2. redirect_to chunky_bacon_url(@bacon), :status => :303

These don’t fail, but they dont do what you would expect. In my test I asserted that the response code was 303, and the test failed.  After some digging I found that I could use the ‘head’ method to force rails to respond correctly:

  1. head :see_other, :location=>chunky_bacon_url(@bacon)

My response assertion passed. Yay. But it was short lived, because this assertion failed after I made the change:

  1. assert_redirected_to chunky_bacon_url(@bacon)

with an error deep inside response_assertions.rb.  Inside the ‘assert_redirected_to’ method, the following line failed because @response.redirected_to returns nil, and then explodes when it tries to call dup.

  1. original = { :expected => options, :actual => @response.redirected_to.is_a?(Symbol) ? @response.redirected_to : @response.redirected_to.dup }

I did some digging, and it turns out that when I used ‘head’ instead of ‘redirect_to’, the @response.redirected_to was never set.  I fixed the test by asserting string equality directly in the response headers:

  1. assert_equal chunky_bacon_url(@bacon), @response.headers["Location"]