Photoshop is a time sucker


Two weeks later, and my photos are finally going online. I downloaded the trial version of Photoshop, which lets you try it out for 30 days, and went a little nuts cleaning up the pictures. In any event, they’re here. I’ll post later to point out some of my favorites, but they’ve got some descriptive headings if you want to take a look right now. Needless to say, as cool as these pictures are, they don’t begin to compare to what the actual beauty of the place is.

[Update 2015] In an effort to reduce the number of holdover pages on the blog, I am slowly (very slowly) integrating these albums into the appropriate historical posts on the blog itself. As such, photos now appear directly below.

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home sweet home…


I’m home (as if you couldn’t tell from the random flurry of new blog posts that are not actually from today). I had an excellent time (other than the part where I had to fly for 26 hours in each direction), and I’m completely exhausted. I’m going to be working on cleaning up the photos from my trip for a bit (which may involve purchasing some sort of photoshop product), but in the meantime, I thought I’d share one of the coolest things ever.

There is this lake in Palau that many many years ago got cut off from the ocean, isolating a population of jellyfish from any of there natural predators. Over time, these jellyfish, not having any predators, lost their ability to sting, and live in a symbiotic relationship with the algae inside of them. They basically survive through photosynthesis, even though they’re animals. Which is just really really cool.

Even cooler? you can go swimming with them. Upwards of 16 million of them live in this lake (they were all but wiped out from the temperature changes from El Nino a few years back, but the nodules or eggs that they laid in the walls of the lake managed to survive and repopulate the lake).

Hit play to check it out for yourself.

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Things that have struck me as odd as I travel the 20-odd hours back around the world to get home (mind you, I’m still sitting in the Houston airport waiting for my last leg):

  • crossing the international dateline is just…weird. For instance:
  • my flight from Guam to Honolulu took off at 6a.m. on Saturday, April 8th. It landed in Honolulu at 5:30p.m. on Friday, April 7th.
  • I saw the sunrise Saturday morning from Guam, and I just watched it again, Saturday morning, from Houston.
  • If you fly through Guam, you have to go through immigration control at least 3 different times – Once when you get off the plane in Guam, again before you get on your next plane from Guam, and yet again when you go through Honolulu. Nevermind that Guam is part of the U.S.
  • you don’t automatically get lei’d when you get off the plane in Hawaii. Apparently you need to sign up for that sort of thing.
  • the movie “The Family Stone” makes about the same amount of sense regardless of whether you’re watching it with or without headphones.
  • the movie “Just Friends” is just awful, with or without headphones.
  • the movie options flying from Honolulu to Houston were severely lacking.
  • I can apparently fixate on that little GPS video of my airplane’s location for hours at a time
  • a Houston airport Starbucks cappuccino (which is presumably marked up from the regular Houston Starbucks) is still an entire dollar cheaper than any New York Starbucks cappuccino.
  • there is an actual Fox News Channel store in the Houston airport (that’s when you know you’re in Bush country). Ironically, the New York Times is displayed prominently for sale at the front of the shop.
  • Taco Bell actually has a breakfast menu. And they won’t serve you lunch items in the morning. As if anyone is going to go to Taco Bell for eggs.
  • On closer inspection, the Fox News Channel store is just another generic magazine shop selling t-shirts, candy and Martha Stewart Living, only with Fox News playing in the background.
  • four hour layovers before the final leg of your trip seem like less and less of a good idea when you’re stuck sitting through them
  • The Houston airport (or at least Terminal C) apparently doesn’t have wifi. much less free wifi.
  • Needless to say, I’m exhausted. I slept on the leg from Guam to Honolulu, but that seems like ages ago. My next vacation is definitely going to be just a bit closer to home. Like the Jersey Shore.

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Almost over.


My bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

Unfortunately, my plane doesn’t leave for another 16 or so hours. I say unfortunately because I’ve officially reached the point in my vacation (as I do with all good vacations), where I’m just ready to go home. I’ve done enough diving, enough visiting, enough getting sunburnt and eaten by bugs that I’m ready to sit in my air conditioned apartment, watch all the crap that is hopefully stored on my TiVo, and sleep in my own, posturpedic bed with my good isotonic pillows.

Did I mention that I woke up yesterday morning with a crazy pinched nerve in my shoulder that is making it extremely painful to sit up, stand, lie down, sleep, raise my right arm, or move my head? So that’s fun. It’s also making me dread the thought (more than normal) of sitting in a coach seat for 24 straight hours. It’s feeling a bit better today than it did yesterday, but that’s not saying much. I could also be getting used to the pain, so who the hell knows. Needless to say that the overwhelmingly wicker furniture at the resort is not exactly designed for such circumstances.

Right now I’m enjoying the last few hours of air conditioning my room has to offer (I have to check out a 2 p.m., and then go to the airport at about midnight!).

Overall though, the vacation was great – I did some awesome diving, got to hang out with my brother, and generally relaxed. Met a bunch of neat folks thanks to the diving, and drank lots of margaritas. Also spent a decent amount of time making fun of the Noni juice people (although, as my brother pointed out, we laugh now, but they’re all 350 years old).

Anyway, I’m going to take one more nap before I have to give up the room (and before you make too much fun, remember that I was up at 4 this morning thanks to the shoulder).

See y’all back on the other side of the world.

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One more time…


There is free wifi here in the lobby, but I’ve been having a hell of a time trying to do anything other than check my e-mail. The speeds are so slow (I think they’re slower than dial-up) that everything keeps timing out before I can upload anything. We’ll see if the prior blog entry will show up this time (I originally tried to post it four days ago). Since then, I’ve been diving several more days, hung out with my brother a bunch, and traveled down to carp island to get eaten alive by the mosquitos (fun! even more fun? mosquito bites combined with major, peeling sunburn!). Needless to say, my plan for today involves spending a lot of time in the hotel spa. and the shade.

Also needless to say – given the internet speeds, I’m obviously not posting pictures until I get home.

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I so needed this…


Got to Palau Monday night (Palau time), to find my brother waiting for me at the airport, which was a nice surprise (he told me he was going to send a taxi for me). At 8 the next morning, we were already waiting for the boat to take us diving. Did two dives on Tuesday (Blue Corner and Turtle Cove), which were pretty amazing, and two more on Wednesday (Blue Holes and New Dropoff). These were really stellar – I think every single iconic scuba image has been photographed here. Oh, and on Tuesday we also went to Jellyfish lake, which was totally amazing and surreal. There are millions of these jellyfish that have been cut off from the ocean (and natural predators) for so long that they’ve lost their ability to sting. They evolved to survive via photosynthesis with the algae that lives inside of them. Pretty awesome.

Today’s a day off (and my brother had to go to work), and I’m just going to relax and nurse my sunburn, which only exists on the back of my neck and the backs of my arms from my elbow to my shoulder. So not only does it hurt, it’s incredibly silly looking.

As far as pictures, I’ve taken a bunch, but I may wait to upload them until I get home. They have wifi in the lobby of the hotel, but I swear it’s a wifi router hooked up to a dial-up connection – very very slow. According to my brother, the lowest level of DSL service you can get on the island, which has a speed of about 36.6 kbps (yes, slower than most dial-up these days) costs about $700 a month. Something about the scarcity of satellites over the region and whatnot make it incredibly expensive, and incredibly difficult to hook up. Needless to say, I’ve got better things to do than sit for several hours watching my photos upload.

Anyway, having a great time, wish you were here, blah blah blah…

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The longest week ever.


This seriously felt like the longest week ever.

Work was crazy, to the point where I was having crazy stress dreams that woke me up hours before I needed to be awake (my favorite? the one on Tuesday, where my dream that my blackberry was going off actually woke me up because I thought I needed to check the damn thing). All leading up to last night, when I was at work past midnight.

But now? Now I’m officially on vacation. One would think that this would indicate to my subconscious that I could sleep in (my plane leaves overnight tonight). One would be wrong. I fell asleep at about 2 in the morning, and woke up at…six. No alarm clock, no pressing need to do work. Just me and my lovely new insomnia. So now it seven, and I’m doing laundry so that I can at least pretend to be productive.

Anyway, all of these crazy long days made this week seem like it took just forever to get done. I’m sure part of it is the fact that there was a big shiny prize at the end of the week being, you know, not have to go to work for two weeks.

Just to give you an idea of how nuts I was this week, here’s an approximation of the conversation that I had with a friend at work yesterday:

ME: I’m going crazy! I’ve got too much to do before I leave! I’m going to be here all night!

FRIEND: [says something about wanting to go to the 32nd floor]

ME: why? what’s on the 32nd floor?

FRIEND: you didn’t see the e-mail?

ME: what e-mail?

FRIEND: the one labeled "Film Production"

ME: No – It was clearly not related to the crazy work I’ve been doing, so I ignored it.

FRIEND: [shows me the email]

Contents of said e-mail? A notification that sections of our offices will be unavailable for the next week and a half, while [extremely attractive, academy award-winning, awesomely liberal actor/writer/director (but not a blogger!)] will be filming a movie!

There goes my fantasy that the only thing keeping us apart was that I had no chance of meeting him, ever. No. Apparently it’s my inability to read a friggin’ e-mail.

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As if I wasn’t excited enough…


How’s this for a vacation destination review…

From 1,000 Places to See Before You Die

Palau: One of many island constellations in the Pacific galaxy that is Micronesia, Palau’s 343 islands are surrounded by spellbinding waters that many cognoscenti say offer the best diving in the world. The meeting place of three major ocean currents, these waters support more than 1,500 species of fish and four times the number of coral species found in the Caribbean, and are known for their extraordinary drop-offs and wall diving: the Negemelis Drop-off is widely considered the world’s best, a technicolor reef that begins at 2 feet and plummets vertically to more than 1,000 feet. The legendary Blue Corner is one of the planet’s most exciting sites for the sheer abundance, variety, and size of its fish life – and those schooling gray reef sharks! More than fifty WWII shipwrecks – the remnants of an aircraft carrier attack – rare and exotic marine species, and visibility that can exceed 200 feet add to divers’ wonderment.

And that’s just the beginning. The book recommends two places to stay, and they happen to be the same two places that my brother booked me at. Because he’s awesome (he did spend some time working in the hotel industry before he became a do-gooder, but I sometimes forget that he has this skill).

I’ve already ordered a big-ass strobe light (that better arrive at the shop before I leave) so that I can better capture the color underwater (my photos from Curacao were quite…blue). and I’ve started the list (a necessary obsessive-compulsive tendency that occurs in the weeks leading up to any big trip. I’ve been known to have to turn around halfway to the airport because the tickets were still sitting on my desk. The lists are a must!).

Now I just have to find time to buy some completely unnecessary additional beach clothes and a good, large carry-on bag, and I’ll be set. I think…

I’ve already blocked out the part about having to fly coach for 25 hours in each direction. Really. I’m not thinking about that part at all.

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Biting the bullet.


It’s been about a year and a half since my last real vacation (diving in curacao). Sure, I took a few days off last February/March and stopped off to visit my brother in Vail, and I took a week of last July to move, which was technically vacation time (although certainly more stressful than actually being at work), but I haven’t taken a real, honest to goodness, sit on my ass, do a little scuba diving, no cellphone reception vacation in quite some time. Plus, the crazy work related travel that I had to do all last fall completely bit into my normal vacation scheduling (I usually go away in October). Needless to say, I’ve been feeling a bit…not relaxed.

So anyway, even though I’ve got a million different things going on at work, I decided about a week and a half ago to put in for vacation time. I actually had no idea what I was going to do yet, but with more school vacations coming up, plus spring rapidly approaching, I thought it would be good to just reserve some time and come up with a plan later. I’m taking the last week of march and the first week of april off, and after much consideration, and even more e-mails back and forth, I’m actually going to fly 25 hours in each direction to go visit my brother in Palau. Which is about as far away from here as you can actually get without taking a spaceship.

And I’m stuck in coach (nevermind that I have a gazillion miles – Continental has a stranglehold on the micronesia routes, and apparently you can’t upgrade if your life depends on it). This should be fun.

Actually, I’m really looking forward to everything but the flight. I’ve been to Europe a bunch of times (both for fun and for work), but I’ve never been anywhere in Asia or the South Pacific. I’ve already started reorganizing my dive equipment, making lists, and generally hopping around in a giddy mood. I have a giant world map hanging on my office wall, and I spent a good 40 minutes staring at it on Monday – granted one of my bosses was in my office with me, and we were actually having a conversation about the trip, so it wasn’t that weird, but still.

I’m excited. And the tickets are nonrefundable.

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