Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Most Memorable New Year’s Eve

Over the years, I’ve spent New Year’s Eve in many ways, in whatever city I lived it (‘cause Mom always said it was a good tradition to spend New Year’s Eve in the house you live in).

I’ve frozen my feet and butt off on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena staking out a viewing location on the street for the Rose Parade the next morning. And, sloshed through a flooded public restroom to use the urinal (something quite tragic and funny about THAT one).

I’ve watched fireworks on the Las Vegas strip, both out in the freezing night amidst a drunken mob of partying cretins, and from the warmth of a hotel room where I could watch it on live local Las Vegas television.

I’ve played fireworks from our front porch in Hilo, lighting the firecracker packets for Dad so he could toss them out into the front yard and make mini-craters for the kids to use as toy soldier foxholes the next day.

I’ve also lit a couple of 10,000-firecracker strings with the “bomb” at the top in our driveway, then used a power leaf broom to pick up two or three huge cartons of red paper when our $100 fireworks investment had exploded in an atomic-bomb cloud of smoke and ashes.

I’ve rolled hundreds of maki sushi in one day … totaling thousands over the course of the 30+ years that passed since I returned to Hawaii (but that’s a whole ‘nother story in itself).

I’ve had champagne, cold duck sparkling wine, beer, mochi, hot ozoni soup, huge prime ribs, lots of noodles, tons of sushi, and every imaginable sort of food put before me on the table.

But all of those pale in the memory of New Year’s Eve 1999, when Honolulu welcomed in the year 2000. It was the year of Y-2K, the year that all of the world’s computers were going to crash due to a software design flaw. It was the year everybody panicked and some even fled to the hills.

One of my clients was the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which manages hospitals on Oahu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. They had a Y-2K prevention plan, and as their public relations consultant, I was present at their computer headquarters at Leahi Hospital.

At a couple of minutes before midnight, they pressed a button and turned off all of the system’s computers. We then repaired to the roof of the hospital, emerging into what could easily pass as the Apocalypse … the battle of the century … the middle of a war zone. The Vietnam Tet Offensive would have paled in comparison. The "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad would have paled in comparison.

It looked like every aerial rocket, every firecracker, every sparkler, every fire fountain, every ounce of gunpowder in the world was being lit at that moment. East, west, north, south and all points in between – no matter what direction you turned, as far as you could see, it looked like the island was on fire.

The spectacle took my breath away! Not only the sight, but the noxious pall of smoke that rose up steadily from ground level all the way up 50 feet onto the roof where we stood, our legs trembling at the experience. At about 12:10, it started to abate, and we decided to get back into the air-conditioned building so we could breathe again.

The IT guy turned the computers back on, everything worked, and we entered the new millennium (a year early).

And THAT was my most memorable New Year’s Eve.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Affordable Death and Appurtenances?

On my way home from my mom’s house on Monday, a large business sign caught my eye and diverted my attention from my driving.

“Affordable Casket & Mortuary” was visible from the freeway. Apparently others have noticed it too because there have been complaints that Affordable Casket & Moanalua Mortuary is not being respectful of the dead.

Wait a minute. You mean to say that a business that advertises its name is guilty of being disrespectful?

I did a little more research and found that what people had complained about were their full-page newspaper ad and a brightly lit window display (since removed) that showed a mannequin sitting at a desk with a row of caskets behind him.

The owner says the response has been more positive than negative.

Personally, I don’t agree with the complainants. But … ask me if I care. Go ahead, ask me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blackout Friday Night

The Friday after Thanksgiving may be the traditional “Black Friday,” but this past Friday was a literal “black-out” day. Actually, it was a black-out night.

The lights went out in Honolulu and the whole island of Oahu around 6:30 p.m. and stayed off all through the night. They’re still not sure what caused the outage (are they ever?), but they suspect an electrical storm on the Leeward coast.

We’ve been through this before, so we turned on the wind-up radio and learned that the entire island was dark. Fortunately, I’d just gotten out of the shower so I didn’t have to conserve hot water like the rest of the family. We broke out the flashlights and battery lamps and I repaired to the bedroom where I cracked open a book for the first time in a long time (usually I just read on airplanes).

Reaffirmations: It’s difficult to do crossword puzzles with a wind-up flashlight, and reading in the rather dim and flickering spotlight the flashlight produces is hard on the eyes.

Around 10 p.m., I just gave up, turned off the flashlight and went to sleep. It’s amazing how much I missed my TV and DVD player.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Sushi

I used to enjoy the Christmas season when I was a kid, when I was in college, when I lived in Los Angeles, and even when I first moved back to Hawaii.

But then, my wife’s family’s business intruded. They run a Japanese okazuya (delicatessen) and spent both Christmas and New Year’s Eves catering sushi for sale.

My efforts to instill the Christmas spirit were consistently dashed by tired people coming home and just plopping down in chairs, exhausted from hours of back-breaking work. So, eventually, I gave up the decorating and playing of Christmas songs. In time, they had me there with them, rolling maki sushi. That's when I learned how to grumble and become a grumpy man.

And ever since, I do not enjoy the Christmas season, no matter how much I try. This past day before Christmas, I hauled my buns over to the deli once again to help them roll sushi. In recent years, I limit myself to rolling about a fourth of whatever is ordered – this year I rolled 65 rolls of maki sushi.

At least they don’t work on New Year’s Eve any more. That was the back-breaker. But that’s another story. Maybe I’ll tell you about it next week.

Monday, December 22, 2008

No More Hawaii Winter Baseball

Major League Baseball has decided consolidate its fall and winter minor league off-season developmental leagues and locate them in Arizona.

For Hawaii, this means the Hawaii Winter Baseball league will shut down, as its three-year contract with MLB will not be renewed. The decision was made at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas.

This is the second time HWB has shut down. It operated from 1993 through 1997, then went on hiatus until 2006 when it kick-started once again. Twenty-three major league clubs participated, along with half (6) of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, and Lotte of the Korea Baseball Organization.

I enjoyed going to the Sunday game at the University of Hawaii at Manoa stadium with my son, munching on roasted peanuts and washing it down with Diet Pepsi. I used to bring half of the bag home to share with my wife. We’re going to miss that, all of us.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Won a Dollar Today

… from my wife.

We went out to breakfast and when we were done, she said she needed to drop by a vendor’s place in Waikiki to pick up some fresh fruit for the platter she was making for a holiday gathering we’re attending tonight.

And then, she needed to drop by a tenant’s apartment to give him some Japanese mochi.

I grumbled, of course, because after all, I am the husband and I’m lazy and I wanted to get home quickly so I could watch NFL football on TV. I told her that was going to take an hour to do.

Now, you need to understand that my wife has absolutely no concept of time and how long it takes to do things: “Nah, 15 minutes at the most.” I bet her a dollar that it would take at least an hour. She took me up on the bet.

It took 1 hour and 10 minutes. I’m a dollar richer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How Very Stupid

The other day, as I was having breakfast at a local coffee shop, I heard a fellow in the next booth answer his cell phone: “555-9876, this is Joe Aldritch speaking.” (I changed his phone number and name to protect his privacy.)

I just shook my head. If I could hear him say that, others could as well, any time he answered his phone with that greeting.

How little effort it would take for an unscrupulous person within earshot to take down that information, do a reverse phone number look-up, find out Joe’s address, and cause all kinds of havoc with his identity.

Some people are so stupid, aren’t they?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A “PC” Christmas Wish

Peace on Earth, good will toward men! (Hmmmm, “men” seems kinda sexist and gender-specific.)

Peace on Earth, good will toward all mankind! (Yikes! Same problem.)

Peace on Earth, good will toward men and women! (Wait, “women” has the word “men” in it.)

Peace on Earth, good will toward humans! (Rats, “humans” also has the word “man” in it.)

Peace on Earth, good will toward all persons! (Oh my lord, “persons” has the word “son” in it.)

Peace on Earth, good will toward gentlemen and madams! (No good … “madam” has an “Adam” in it.)

Peace on Earth, good will toward all homo sapiens! (Yeah ... I think that’s it!)

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward All Homo Sapiens!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eau de Bergere

If you see me walking down the street, next time we meet … take a sniff! If you like the cologne I’m wearing, just ask me what it is. Chances are I’m wearing the new cologne, “Flame.”

The best part about it? It’s only $3.99 for a bottle that the manufacturer calls, "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

Yep, you read that right … flame-broiled meat. The newly announced scent is a product of Burger King. According to their promotions department, "Flame by BK captures the essence of that love and gives it to you. Behold ... now you can set the mood for whatever you're in the mood for."

Oh lawdie me! Now I’m in the mood for a Whopper!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Curling Up With the Spirit!

I saw on the local news this morning that the first-ever Santa Curling Championships were held over the weekend in the English county of Kent.

Most of the players came from United Kingdom (England, Scotland, the Channel Islands), but participants also came from Canada, Germany and the United States. They were bonded not only by the passion for the sport of curling, but also for their competition garb – Santa outfits!

I thought that was pretty cool.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It Wasn’t a Dream

The booming explosions filled the morning darkness and I stirred restlessly, incredulous thoughts running through my mind. What was that? What was going on?

And then … I woke up. But it wasn’t a dream. No, it was the sound of aerial fireworks exploding in air, heralding the start of the Honolulu Marathon at 5 o’clock this morning.

Something like 23,000 runners (46,000 feet, 460,000 toes) began pounding the pavement at the start of the race near Waikiki. I didn’t hear those, thank heavens!

I suddenly realized that once again, I missed running in the marathon. Oh well, there’s always next year. Yeah, right!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Greatest Game Ever Played

I’m talking, of course, about the 1958 National Football League championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants, played in on Dec. 28 in Yankee Stadium. It was the first and only NFL game to be decided in overtime, and was the most impactful professional football game ever played. You can read about it in Wikipedia.

My interest in the game stems from the fact that my former insurance agent (and still my friend) Al Barry played in that game as an offensive lineman for the New York Giants.

What a pleasure it was tonight to watch the ESPN documentary of the game, and to see Al as one of the guest commentators on the program. The guy is now 77, but he looks as young as he did many years ago when he and his wife Phyllis visited with us in Hawaii.

He’s written a book, The Unknown Lineman / The Lighter Side of the NFL. I’m going to have to read it, for sure. It’ll be available after Jan. 1, 2009 at However, if you google it, you’ll see it’s currently available at, and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Goat Herders Needed

Picture from

(7/29/2008 Bid Number/Type: ITSF09000054/MQ SVC-Landscaping/Maint)

Clear brush, shrubs, plants, weeds from 22 acres of property at Laguna Honda Hospital, 375 Laguna Honda Blvd. Clearing must be performed by goats and supervised by goat herders who will stay on site with the goats to monitor cutting activity, moving fences and goats. This price to include all transportation, fencing, monitoring, herders, and all other charges pertaining to proper care and handling of these animals. The city to be held harmless for any loss of goats, theft or otherwise. (San Francisco's Office of Contract Administration)

Only in San Francisco. I kid you not …

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bah! Humbug!

I’ve turned into the true personification of the Grinch … or maybe Scrooge. I’ve come to resist putting up the Christmas tree each year. Am I a bad person?

This year I tried the “Ignore it and it might go away” ploy, not mentioning the words “Christmas tree” to anybody. Didn’t work. My brother-in-law Ron bought us a tree and dropped it off at our house the day before Thanksgiving. It sat there until this past weekend when I was forced to put it up or suffer the wife’s silent treatment.

It’s not that it was difficult; it’s just that it hurt to put up the tree. I mean, literally it hurt.

First, I lifted the tree out of the bucket of water. Water? No water. My other brother-in-law Howard didn’t replenish the water in the bucket. And we all know how those evergreens suck up water like nobody’s business. I can just see the tree a week before Christmas, turning brown before its time.

Next I had to snip some of the plastic thread netting around the base of the tree so it would go into the tree holder. Didn’t open it up enough. As I started to tighten one of the three bolts, Howard started on another. Unfortunately, the netting wound around his bolt.

My right thumb was aching (after all, I’d had trigger thumb surgery earlier in the year and it still hurts from time to time). Then, after tightening the second bolt, I had to remedy the fouled up third one, trying to free it from the netting with a pair of small scissors. Now my thumb REALLY hurt.

And my shoulder hurt too (after all, I’d gone to physical therapy to try and heal shoulder tendonitis this year). It really hurt. And my knees hurt ‘cause I was kneeling on the ground, bending forward to cut the netting and tighten the bolt.

When that was done, I had a hard time standing up as my legs had gone numb and weak from all that squatting. And they hurt too.

After making some final adjustments, I picked the tree up with my arms around it, and carried it into the house. The tree was a little too tall for the doorway so I tilted it back and took it in bottom first. I had to catch myself as I felt like I was going to fall backward. You know the leg stance that weight lifters take when they do the snatch? Like that. Now the small of my back was hurting too.

Okay, so I’m struggling into the house, unable to see where I’m going, when I whack my left toe on the base. I can’t put the tree down, I can’t hop around holding my toe (oh yeah, it hurt). So I shuffled to the designated spot and put the tree down.

Done at last, right? Nope. The wife had me lifting and moving it (no leverage) to position it just right. Finally, she was satisfied.

I stepped back, walked around the tree to look at my magnificent work, and noted that … the tree was crooked.

See what I mean? Just call me Grinchie.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don’t Forget to Turn Your Clock Back

No, I haven’t lost it, I know most of you had to turn your clocks ahead an hour a couple of months ago. (We don't do such things in Hawaii.) But, it was announced this week that 2008 will have an extra second!

The U.S. Naval Observatory’s Master Clock Facility in Washington DC will be adding a “leap second” to the clocks of the world. This will happen at 6:59:59 p.m. Eastern on New Year’s Eve. They do this every now and then, ever since 1972. So far, this will be the 24th leap second added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

There’s a big ol’ explanation about this but in simple terms, the clocks have to catch up with the Earth’s rotation.

So there’s that extra time you’ve been craving … what are YOU going to do with that extra second?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What I Want to Know Is ...

Y’know those mall directories that show a schematic of the store layout? Some of them have indicators that say “You Are Here.”

What I want to know is … How do they know where I am? It’s just amazing!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The USC-Notre Dame Rivalry

I’m a couple of weeks late in talking about this, but the USC-UCLA football game this past weekend reminded me of the great rivalry between the University of Southern California Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It also reminded me of the first USC game I ever attended, in 1964.

This greatest of intersectional rivalries was first played in 1926, with the Irish winning 13-12. Three years later, they would play before the largest verified crowd in NCAA college football history – 112,912. Over the years, Notre Dame won 42 times, USC won 33 times (including the other weekend), and there were 5 ties.

The one and only USC-Notre Dame game I attended was a great one. My friend Earl Nitta (Hilo High School classmate) invited me to attend the game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. He told me to wear a white shirt, and loaned me another student’s ID card so I could get in at the student price.

The guy in the ID looked nowhere like me and I told Earl that. “Don’t worry,“ he said, “over here they can’t tell one of us from the other.” He was right, I zipped through the turnstile in a trice, excited that here I was, about to attend my first BIG college football game (the Honolulu Stadium only held 28,000; that day at the Coliseum, there were 108,000 people in the stands).

When I walked out of the tunnel, I was overwhelmed by the noise and the size of the crowd. I swear to God, I felt myself leaning forward and almost fell! I tell you, I was speechless. The crowd was magnificent! Tommy Trojan came riding out on Traveler, brandishing his sword! The USC band came marching out of the tunnel onto the field playing “Fight On,” the Irish band was in the stands playing the Notre Dame fight song, I had tears in my eyes, and I swear my knees were shaking.

THIS is what college football is all about.

Notre Dame was ranked #1 in the nation; they were undefeated and favored by 11 points. This was the legendary Ara Parseghian’s first year as their coach, and he had them at 9-0. John Huarte was the Irish quarterback, and he would end up winning the Heisman Trophy that year. His favorite target was Jack Snow, who went on to star for the Los Angeles Rams.

USC, coached by the legendary John McKay, was unranked, with a modest 6-3 record. But Trojan quarterback Craig Fertig overcame a 17-0 Notre Dame lead. Rod Sherman caught critical passes, Mike Garrett (he won the Heisman Trophy the following year) tore through the Irish line, and USC held strong against Notre Dame’s last-second desperation drive, winning 20-17.

Notre Dame’s national title hopes were crushed and they fell to #3 when the next ratings came out. The Trojans were optimistic that they would be in the Rose Bowl, but unfortunately, they didn’t make it that year.

Although I’ve been to other USC football games since, nothing will ever compare to my first big college football game experience in a big time venue between two storied big time universities, two future Heisman Trophy winners, and two marching bands playing the greatest fight songs in the world.

I've been a USC fan ever since, and I'm reminded of all this each year when USC plays Notre Dame. Tradition is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

And, I am forever indebted to Earl, God rest his soul.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Two ‘Black Fridays’

Black Friday of course is the Friday after Thanksgiving. It got its name because traditionally, sales are high on that day and the stores finally are able to make a profit for the year – black being the color ink accountants use to denote monetary gain (just as red denotes a loss).

The day has turned rather ugly lately, as retail merchants take advantage of the occasion, open their stores early and heavily discount their prices in the early hours. Consequently, huge mobs sometimes wait for the store to open, and rush the shelves crudely, rudely and maniacally when the doors open.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

Usually I don’t venture into retail territory until the week after Thanksgiving, ‘cause I value my bones, my flesh, and my life. However, I got caught up in the Black Friday mess twice ; both times were on the mainland.

The first was in 2003 when we spent Thanksgiving at my son’s new home in San Jose. Naive fools that we were, we decided to drive to the huge Gilroy Premium Outlets in the land of garlic. Big mistake! The freeways were packed, the parking lot was packed, the restaurants were packed, and the stores were overflowing with people.

I ended up driving the car around, dropping off family, picking them up when they were done, then driving them to another area.

The second time was this year. I’d learned my lesson about shopping on Black Friday, but being in Las Vegas, we unfortunately had to get from here to there and back again. We didn’t hit any shopping malls, deciding to wait until after the weekend.

But we did get caught up in traffic. Huge traffic! It took us 45 minutes to get from the north end of the Vegas Strip (Stratosphere) to Tropicana. The thing is, we HAD to take that route, as Interstate 15 was jammed and looked like a parking lot. We didn’t get a heck of a lot done that day.

Black Friday … bleah!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What a Great Tradition!

The annual USC-UCLA football game was played today in the Pasadena Rose Bowl, the 74th time the cross-town Los Angeles rivals have met on the gridiron. The tradition started in 1929, but because USC dominated year after year, the game was suspended from 1931 to 1935 until UCLA established itself in football.

USC Coach Pete Carroll arranged to have his team wear their cardinal home uniform for this game to recall the traditions of the past. Consequently, for the first time in 26 years, both USC and UCLA wore their home jerseys in the same game.

USC was assessed a time-out right after the opening kickoff for that (there's a rule against the visitor wearing their home colors), but UCLA immediately called a time-out of their own. What sportsmanship. It brought tears to my eyes.

This game always excites me more than any other, even when I’m just watching it on TV. What a great experience it was today to once again hear both schools' fight songs. Can you believe I actually sang the words to both USC’s “Fight On” and UCLA’s “Sons of Westwood” when their bands played them?

What an emotional game this always is. Such history, such tradition.

Friday, December 5, 2008

‘Lost-and-Found’ Experiences (Continued)

The other “Lost and Found” incident happened at the end of our vacation when we were at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas heading toward our departure gate.

We’d passed through security as usual, and while walking to the gate, I detoured into the men’s room for a little bit of relief.

As I was leaving the restroom to rejoin my wife, I remembered that I had her driver’s license in my pocket and needed to give it back to her. (I usually hold on to everybody’s after the security check and return them when we reach the gate.)

Something was wrong. I found just hers in my pocket. So we scurried over to some seats so I could put everything down and conduct a pocket-by-pocket search. No luck. I looked through every compartment of my carry-on bag. Again, no luck. My driver’s license was nowhere to be found.

“Stay here, watch my bag, and wait for me. I’m going to retrace my steps from the beginning,” I told her, and headed back to the passenger screening area, scanning the ground every step of the way, even waiting for the same tram that brought us over from the main terminal so I could search where we were situated during the ride.

I reached security without finding the license, so I went to the office and asked if anybody had turned in a driver’s license. “Not today,” they replied. Then a nice, very sympathetic TSA officer came out, asked me which line I had gone through, and did a search of the area. No luck, no license. He gave me a card with the Lost and Found inquiry phone number and told me to call in a day or so, and if they found it soon, they’d announce it on the PA system.

So, I headed back to the gate, again scanning the ground and under the same seats on the tram. There were women sitting there, and they gave me the stink eye ‘cause they thought I was trying to look up their dresses; that is, until I explained what I was doing. I even went back into the men’s room and checked out the area I’d used. I got a few disgusted looks from the men who were using the urinals in the same area; guess they thought I was trying to sneak a peek.

When I got to our gate, I looked high and low for my wife. It was about 10 minutes to loading time and I thought she’d wandered off somewhere. Just as I was about to cross the line from mildly concerned to mildly panicky, she appeared.

And … she had the license with her. Hallelujah!

Her story: When I had headed back to security, she went to the “white courtesy phone” and asked the operator if anybody had found a driver’s license. The lady replied “No, but I’ll put an announcement on the PA system.” She did that, and of course I didn’t hear it because I was on the tram returning to our satellite terminal from the main terminal.

After a few minutes, the phone rang and the operator told to see a lady in a black hat in another concourse who had found the license. The other concourse was quite a healthy walk away, but with my heavy carryon bag in one hand, and her heavy carryon in the other, and her heavy coat and purse in yet another (wait, that’s three hands!), she trudge over to find the lady.

When she got there, she saw … FIVE women in black hats. So she began with the closest and asked each in turn if she was the one who found the license. No, no, no and no. Finally she approached the last one, spotting a white “card” in her hand. THAT was the right lady.

The woman said she had found the license on the tram, and was going to mail it back to me, but then she heard the PA announcement so she picked up the “white courtesy phone” and told them she had the license. My wife thanked her profusely and gave her a big ol’ hug.

I asked wifey if she had gotten the lady’s name and address, but she said she didn’t think of it and besides the lady’s plane had begun loading up its passengers. That was fine. So ... all those plans I had been making in head about how I was going to get the license replaced when I got home just slipped right out of my consciousness, to be cast aside and forgotten.

My wife done good. I think I’ll forgive her for the lost-earring incident. Whattaya think?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

‘Lost-and-Found’ Experiences Bookended Our Vacation

I just got back from my 86th visit to Las Vegas (I know, I know; that’s another story in and of itself), one that was unusual because of two incidents involving lost items.

On the flight over from Hawaii to Los Angeles, my wife lost an earring on the plane – not a real expensive earring, but one that she liked. It was right after we both came back from the visiting the water closet, and I had just fallen asleep (it was the red-eye flight, of course), dead tired.

I was rudely awakened by a sharp jostle and the panicky sound of “I lost my earring!” So being the dutiful husband, I sleepily helped her look for it, and then ended up standing in the aisle, holding onto two pillows and two blankets, her jacket, her purse, and her under-the-seat carryon in my arms, while she searched both our seats.

The fellow across the aisle woke up to the sight of my butt stuck in his face. “Sorry,” I muttered, as he craned his neck trying to see around me at the commotion.

A flight attendant came by to see what was happening, and soon was involved in the search. She ripped off the seats and felt between the cushions. The noise and her jostling of the seats in front of us woke up the occupants of that row and they peered back to see what was happening.

Okay, a break here to count those who were involved or interrupted: Me, my wife, the guy across the aisle, the two people in front of us, and the flight attendant – that’s 6.

The flight attendant reclined my wife’s seat, waking up the man behind her. He asked what was up, the flight attendant told him, and he got involved in the search (that’s 7 people now). He bent down to see if he could locate it under my wife’s seat from his side, and in the process, woke up HIS wife (that’s 8).

He said he could see something under my seat, so the attendant gave him her flashlight and he proudly proclaimed, “I see it!” The attendant got on the floor, reached under my seat, and retrieved the earring. She gave it to my wife, who was eternally grateful and thanked everybody, profusely apologizing to everyone around us for waking them up.

When we returned to our seats, she started to put her earrings back on. “Lemme see them,” I said. Thinking I just wanted to view the items that had called all the ruckus, she gave them to me. I put them in my pocket, and within minutes I fell back to sleep.

I’ll tell you about the back half of the “lost-and-found” bookends tomorrow. Right now, I’m going to take a nap. Recalling all this has made me sleepy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Song of the South?

Anthony Duda of England had set up a charity for Tanzanian children, and wanted to promote it to the world. So he did what he thought was the most logical thing to do – he changed his first name.

To … (are you ready for this?) … Zipardi.

Zipardi Duda. My oh my, what a wonderful name! Plenty of sunshine goin’ his way. Zipardi Duda, Dipardi … hey! And apparently, the Disney Company gave him their blessings.

He did this in January 2002. Why am I only hearing about this now?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Park Walk 'Unusualities'

On my Monday walks at Waterfront Park, I try to be on the lookout for unusual things and occurrences. There were a few today:

1. A rubbish barrel had tipped over in the strong sustained wind coming off the ocean today, and the wind was blowing the poly rubbish bag inside out like a huge balloon (see picture to the right). It normally wouldn’t have been doing that, but the bottom of the barrel had rusted away.

2. I saw one of the park's many feral cats lying on the walkway, rubbing its belly against the ground as it crawled forward. I guess it had fleas or some kind of unhealthy itch. Looked pretty strange. Y’know, I even forgot to take a picture of it.

3. There were a lot of plovers there today in the grassy expanses. I counted 17. Normally I’d only see about a dozen. Hmmmm, I wonder if the birds were playing a trick on me and relocating to another spot ahead of me after I’d counted them?

4. I found a pair of women’s soppy cotton panties (or maybe it was a little toddler’s pants) on the seawall. I picked it up with a branch and tossed it in the rubbish barrel (not the one with the “windsock” bag). Hope the owner didn’t want it back!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

You Are ...

A happy thought that brightens mind,
A smile that warms the face,
A jewel hidden I must find,
A song to mark my place.

A gentle touch that soothes the soul,
A whisper that I long for,
A presence that will make me whole,
A hand to open door.

A crystal drop that lights my heart,
A shiver of emotion,
An emptiness when we kiss and part,
An ocean of devotion.

(I wrote this little poem in November 2005.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Na La’au o Hawai’i: Hawaii’s Woodshow 2008

You probably missed it – the 16th Annual Juried Woodworking Exhibition that opened a three-day run today at the Hawaii Convention Center. And if you did, you’d better just mark your 2009 calendars the first chance you get and make sure you don’t miss next year’s show.

Sponsored annually by the Hawai’I Forest Industry Association, the show features many of the state’s outstanding wood artists, whose work is juried by three judges.

The “Best in Show” Award was won by R.W. Scheurenbrand for his “Arch-Top Guitar” (see the first picture); I checked my program for his asking price, but it’s not for sale.

Here are a few more pieces to covet:

The 105 displayed works, of course, are for sale. But unless you’ve got a hefty checkbook, don’t even dream of owning one of the more expensive pieces. Prices ranged from $50 for a pen set to $50,000 for a piece called “Waiomina” by Robert Holden.

The vision of the artists, their creativity, their knowledge of wood, and their talent in realizing the medium’s full potential is simply awe-inspiring. I walked around snapping picture after picture, wishing that I owned some of the pieces.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Polar Bear Debby is Gone

There was a story on CNN and in the local newspaper a couple of days ago, chronicling the death of Debby, the world’s oldest living polar bear that died in a Winnipeg, Canada zoo.

She had been captured as a cub in 1966, and had been living in the zoo since 1967. That would make her 41 years old when she was euthanized due to increasing poor health and internal problems.

Apparently, polar bears thrive in captivity. The average life span in the wild is 25 to 30 years, but most don’t make it to 20. In zoos, however, they can live up to 45 years.

Tell that to anyone you see holding “Free the Polar Bears” signs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I’ll Have a Chili Moco, Please

I’m sure you’ve had one of those days when you woke up hungry and could almost taste a particular dish, then spent the next few hours wishing you could have it for breakfast or lunch.

That’s the way I woke up this morning – with a desire to have a chili moco for breakfast.

What the heck is a chili moco, you ask. It’s a variant of loco moco. And what the heck is a LOCO moco? Okay, I’ll tell you. Loco moco was born at KK’s Place in Hilo when I was in high school (early ‘60s) and has become a popular addition in most Hawaii restaurants. It’s a bowl of rice under a hamburger patty, smothered with brown gravy, and topped with one or two eggs done the way you want. Chili moco replaces the gravy with chili con carne.

So I went to Zippy’s for breakfast and ordered (I thought) a chili moco. Michelle brought me a loco moco. I told her I thought I’d ordered a chili moco. No problem she said, and brought the bowl back into the kitchen. Now, I probably HAD ordered loco moco in error, but she said she had misheard me. That was nice of her.

As I read my morning paper and sipped on my coffee, I could hear her telling the cook off and on to be careful with the eggs and don’t break the yolks ‘cause the guy who was on the TV news and first in line to get the flag stamps was the customer waiting for it.

The replacement was ready in a zippy. (Get it?) I’ve had my chili moco and all is well with the world.

Aren’t they nice at Zippy’s?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Champion BeachBoys!

The 2008 Hawaii Winter Baseball championship game was played today at Les Murakami Stadium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, a season-ending confrontation between the two division leaders – the West Oahu CaneFires and the Waikiki BeachBoys.

It was a fun Sunday at the ballpark. I got to see a 3-run homerun by the BeachBoys, I got to see the CaneFires third-baseman take a tumble on the pitcher’s mound as he raced in to catch an infield pop fly (he dropped it), I got to do the arm dance to “YMCA,” and I got to munch on some yummy roasted peanuts.

I got to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the umpteenth time in my life (it NEVER gets old), I got to inhale some Magoo’s pizza before the game, I got to laugh at all five silly-looking mascots for the first time this year, and I got to turn in a Sony digital camera that someone had left in my seat the night before.

The stands were pretty much filled up today, more fans in the seats than I’d ever seen for any game this past season. Guess the West Oahu people turned out in force.

All in all, it was a good day.

Oh … I almost forgot. The Waikiki BeachBoys won the game and the championship, 5-1. They were happy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Annual Fall Rose Show

A story in this morning’s paper alerted me to a rose exhibition that was open today at the Kahala Mall, which is generally thought of as Honolulu’s most upscale shopping mall, situated in an affluent residential/business area of Honolulu.

Having little else to do today, I pocketed my camera and headed over to the show. As it turns out, it wasn’t a very large show, but the flowers were immensely impressive. I’m was glad I took my camera along and started snapping away.

Anybody who missed the announcement, or who isn’t tuned in to the Honolulu Rose Society’s newsletters and/or website, or who wasn’t at the mall by chance today, won’t get another chance until next year. Too bad … wish you could have been there.

Here are a few more rose pictures to drool over.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jennifer vs. Angelina

*Yawn* I woke up a little early this morning and turned on the TV. Showbiz Tonight was on CNN Headline News and they were talking about Jennifer Aniston being upset with Angelina Jolie for stealing Brad Pitt away from her.

Yadda yadda yadda. Just as I was about to change the channel and get away from all that nonsense, they flashed the results of a CNN telephone poll asking who viewers sided with – Aniston or Jolie.

Apparently, many people are upset at “the other woman,” because 70% (Team Aniston) favored Jennifer, with only 30% favoring Angelina (Team Jolie).

Wow. Who knew? Ask ME if I care. Go ahead, ask me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Somebody Explain This to Me

In an official news release (August 5, 2008), Max Hofheinz and two other University of California at Santa Barbara physicists announced that they used a superconducting electronic circuit known as a Josephson phase qubit, developed in a laboratory, to controllably pump microwave photons, one at a time, into a superconducting microwave resonator.

"The resonator is the electrical equivalent of a pendulum," Hofheinz said. "In quantum mechanics the energy, or amplitude of motion of this pendulum, only comes in finite steps, in quanta. We first carefully prepared the resonator in these quantum states, and showed we could do this controllably and then measure the states.

“Then we 'kicked' the pendulum directly, a method where the amplitude can take on any value, and appears to not be limited to these quanta. But when we look at the resonator with our qubit, we see that the amplitude does come in steps, but that the resonator is actually in several such states at the same time, so that on average it looks like it is not limited to the quantum states."

I kid you not!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Veteran's Day Tribute

... Honoring the 442nd Regimental Combat Team from Hawaii that fought in World War II.

Two years ago, I paid tribute to the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team from Hawaii that fought in World War II by issuing this cover picturing the color guard at attention. I made 50 of these.

The 442nd, aka “The Purple Heart Battalion,” was composed primarily of Japanese-Americans, and served in Europe in Italy, France and Germany. It was the most highly decorated unit in the history of the U.S. armed forces, with 21 Medal of Honor recipients.

During a time when Japanese-Americans were being interned in camps by the U.S. Government, many soldiers of the Hawaii National Guard, along with volunteers, joined the Army (2,900 men from Hawaii, and 1,500 from the mainland). The battalion was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion – the “One Puka Puka” (“puka” means “hole” in Hawaiian) – and was a part of the 442nd.

According to Wikipedia: “The 442nd is commonly reported to have suffered a casualty rate of 314 percent, informally derived from 9,486 Purple Hearts divided by some 3,000 original in-theater personnel.” Compare this to the official U.S. casualty rate in World War II of 93 percent.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Monday Walk in the Park

The wife and I go for a long walk every Monday at Honolulu’s Waterfront Park in the Kakaako area. It’s one of the prettiest areas of the city, washed by a cool sea breeze and the sound of the surf hitting the sea rocks.

Today’s walk was additionally rewarding. In addition to the green grass and trees, the ocean and the sky, the surf was up. The area is also known as Point Panic and if you have an early evening dinner at John Dominis Restaurant, you can watch the surfers ride the waves. There’s no beach to land at, so they drop off their ride before they can crash on the sea wall of huge rocks.

I walked out to the end of a seawall to take this picture. That made me a little nervous; my balance isn’t all that it used to be when I was younger.

And, I finally was able to take a picture of a white cattle egret. Last week, we spotted three of them cavorting on the expansive lawn, following a riding lawn mower and snatching up the displaced insects in its wake. There was only one there today, but one was enough!

It was a fast bugger, and I couldn’t get closer than 20 feet or so before he’d scurry off on those long legs of his. Good thing my camera takes high megapixel photos so I can enlarge and crop the picture!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Home Grown Boys in Winter League

Kala Ka’aihue and Kaimi Mead

Two local Honolulu high school baseball stars are getting in some extra practice and playing time in the Hawaii Winter Baseball league, as members of the Honolulu Sharks.

In today’s game against the Waikiki Beach Boys, Kala Ka’aihue and Kaimi Mead played significant roles as the Sharks powered over the Beach Boys in the last Sunday game of the season.

Ka’aihue drove in the Sharks’ second run with a screaming line drive into right field, allowing his teammate on third to scurry home. Mead pitched two scoreless innings to help keep the Beach Boys at bay.

First-baseman Ka’aihue is a 2003 graduate of Iolani High School in Honolulu. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 22nd round (654th overall) in the 2003 draft, and was signed by the Braves as a free agent in 2005. He is currently a first baseman for the Mississippi Braves (AA), and was named the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs after helping his team capture the Southern League Championship.

Left-handed pitcher Mead is a 2003 graduate of Roosevelt High School where he lettered in paddling and baseball. He was drafted out of Hawaii Pacific College in 2008 by the Cleveland Indians in 18th Round (561st overall). This year, he achieved a 5-8 record with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

There are more Hawaii players in HWB, but these two were playing in the game I attended today. Very impressive indeed.

(These photos were taken using my Sony Super SteadyShot [DSC-T70] camera from the stands.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Picking the Low-Hanging Fruit

You’ve heard that cliché before. In business, “Pick the low-hanging fruit” simply means to take the easiest deal. Its derivation is obvious. The lowest fruit on a tree is the easiest to pick. You simply reach up and pluck it off.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been eying some guavas on a neighbor’s tree that’s been hanging over our driveway, one in particular. Each day it got yellower and yellower. Each day I could see the pesky bulbul birds also giving it the eye.

Today, I succumbed and picked the guava. I mean, it was just hanging there, low and easy to grab. I think I’ll let it sit for a day or so, then slice it up and enjoy the watermelon-pink flesh with vigor, which I’m sure will take me back to my youth when we used to raid wild guava trees on bike rides in Hilo, Hawaii, where I grew up.

My grandmother’s words will echo in my mind as I eat the guava: “Don’t eat too many guavas, or the seeds will collect in your appendix and you’ll have to get an operation.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Two Great Election Night Speeches

We held an election in America yesterday. One man won, one man lost. But the man who lost emerged a winner in my heart, to stand alongside that man who won. When all is said and done, the United States of America is the winner because of what these two men said in their final speeches of the Presidential campaign.

Both were eloquent, both were inspiring.

Sen. John McCain’s concession speech moved me to tears as he called for a reconciliation of Americans and asked us all to cherish our citizenship.

“I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that too,” Sen. McCain told America.

“In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.”

“Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We MAKE history,” Sen. McCain concluded.

It was almost as if Sen. Barack Obama picked up where Sen. McCain’s speech left off.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said in his opening.

He paid tribute to Sen. McCain: “He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for American that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.”

His words also brought me to tears as he issued his challenge to America.

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people WILL get there.

“There will be setbacks and fall starts … I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.”

President-Elect Obama talked about 106-year-old Ann Nixon Cooper, who was wheeled over to her Atlanta polling place on a hospital gurney and voted by touching her finger to a screen placed on her bed. I felt my heart in my throat.

And I felt hope rise up within me as he concluded: “This is our chance … this is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.”

Two thoughts:

1. If Sen. McCain had campaigned using the sincere tone and passion that punctuated his concession speech, and not evoked a combative spirit in the final month of the campaign, the election possibly may have turned his way. That was the John McCain that I was leaning toward voting for early in the campaign.

2. President-Elect Obama is an inspiring speaker with deep and inspiring words. The sincerity of his messages and the hope they carried swayed me to vote for him. Now all I want is for him to do the work he was elected to do, and lead us in fixing the country.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Annual HSNA Coin Show

This past weekend, I spent my waking hours at the annual coin show of the Hawaii State Numismatic Association at the Hawaii Convention Center. Three days of being one of three stamp dealers in the largest coin show in Honolulu – in the entire state, actually.

This was the second straight year that I participated as a seller. My sales both years have been enough to make back my table fee and expenses, plus a small profit. If you work out the finances of the thing, I earned 52 cents for every hour I spent during the show itself.

Not the best investment in time and money, but all-in-all, it was worth it and fun. Lots of my regulars stopped by, as well as people I see only once or twice a year when I set up at the larger shows. One of the customers brought packaged Japanese crackers and passed them out to the dealers. Being that Friday was Halloween, I dug up some old Halloween covers I made (2006) and put them on sale for a buck apiece. I sold a dozen or so.

The hardest part of the show was lifting cover-stamp-filled suitcases into my car trunk and back seat – five of them in all, each weighing from 25 to 100 pounds apiece. Had to lift them in and out four times; my back is sore today.

A newspaper photographer dropped by my table on Sunday and took some pictures of a customer digging through my boxes of covers. His picture didn’t make it into the paper this morning, however. Shucks. I could have become famous through association.

It was fun. I’m debating whether or not to do it again next year, especially since they’re raising the table fee. We’ll see … but I’m inclined to think that I will.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breakfast at Denny's

This morning, I had the convenient opportunity to have breakfast at Denny's in Pearl City. On my business trips to the mainland, Denny’s was one of the first places I’d stop at for a meal when I got off the airplane on the West Coast. Usually the overnight red-eye flights from Hawaii get there at an ungodly hour and the only place I could find open was a Denny’s.

As for the one at Oahu's Pearlridge Center, I don't get out that way very often these days and haven't been there in years. I used to make a special effort when I was an avid baseball card collector to drive there during baseball season when they were giving out "Grand Slam" baseball cards if you got one of their Grand Slam breakfasts.

But that changed when I shut down my sports-card collecting avocation.

I got one of their specials today – the prime rib skillet. It sounded tantalizing, and their “beauty shot” made it look huge and inviting as well. But y'know, the trouble with hyperbole and beauty shots is that the actual product generally pales a little in comparison. This one didn't live up to the expectations.

That’s not to say that the meal was not good. In fact, it was pretty tasty. Except that my scrambled eggs were a bit overdone; I like them soft and creamy. Instead of the thick prime rib sticks that you see in the picture, I got cubes. The roasted peppers were intensely tasty, the scrambled eggs were piled up on hash browns. And, I also got three tortillas with salsa and sour cream. Most importantly, their coffee was almost as good as what I brew at home.

If I’m ever back out that way again, I may go back to Denny’s.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The ‘Fish Prints’ Restaurant

“Gyotaku” is a traditional form of fish printing originating in mid-19th Century Japan. Ink is applied to a fish, then rice paper is rubbed onto the fish. When the paper is removed, an impression of the fish remains on the paper.

“Gyotaku” is also the name of a popular Japanese restaurant in Hawaii that has won numerous food critics and customer awards for its food. Its walls are adorned with gyotaku art by Naoki Hayashi, who uses non-toxic acrylic paint and frames his print with koa wood.

I’ve known the owner, Thomas Jones, since the 1980s when he first came to town to manage the Waikiki restaurant Kyotaru, which had just purchased the Columbia Inn restaurants. Tom has an interesting story, rising from dishwasher for the Kyotaru enterprise in Japan to president of REI Food Service (owners of Gyotaku) to Hawaii’s Small Business Person of the Year in 2005.

I had lunch at the King Street location the other day, as I do every few weeks. My favorite order is the Gyotaku Lunch Box featuring assorted sushi, shrimp and vegetable tempura, shoyu chicken, salad and miso soup. Check it out:

If you live on Oahu and haven’t been to either their Pearl City or Honolulu or the new Niu Valley location, do yourself a favor and try it sometime.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

RCA Products Are On My S**t List

I don’t hold many grudges. But RCA is one company that I absolutely don’t patronize.

Back in the late ‘60s, when we were just starting out married life, the wife and I went to the discount chain White Front in Southern California and bought a 21-inch RCA black and white TV set, one of our first major purchases.

After a week or so, the trouble started – the picture would collapse into one little horizontal line in the middle of the screen. So I hauled the set down to the nearest RCA for its warranted repair. A couple of days later, they called me and said the set was fixed.

Yeah, right. Back home, I turned it on and in a few minutes, the picture collapsd again. The next day, back it went to the repair shop. A day later, they called, I picked it up, took it home, plugged it in and turned it on …You guessed it, big ol’ horizontal line again.

Repeat the entire exercise (back to repair shop, etc.) … and then repeat again. I quit. I wrote a seething letter to RCA, sending a copy to the White Front store.

Never heard back from RCA, but the White Front manager called a couple of days later, told me to bring the set back to the store, and he’d give me a replacement. I took him up on the offer, picking out a nice set with a comparable price. He told me to pick a different one, one that cost about 50% more than the original. Now THAT was customer service.

I went back to that White Front many times, even when we moved and going there was really out of our way.

Since that time, I’ve refused to buy Whirlpool appliances because Whirlpool was owned by RCA; I’ve told TV repairmen not to use the RCA tubes they were going to use; and I’ve gone out of my way to say “no” to RCA, no matter how inconvenient it became.

Just the other day, I had to buy a universal TV remote control to replace one I’d lost. The ones with the best features and prices at the store were made by RCA. I passed those up and got a Sony remote.

I don’t hold grudges … just one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken, an American Idol loser, has come out of the closet and professed his gayness (gaiety?). I meant to say something about this when it first made the news about a month ago and such a big deal was made of it.

What I wanted to say was … Who cares?

Ask ME if I care. Go ahead, ask me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Beautiful Red Hibiscus

One of my favorite flowers is the hibiscus. Although they grow well in Hawaii and can be found on almost every street and in many yards, they aren't really native to the islands. In fact, they can be found all over the world in temperate climes.

Over the past few years, I’ve taken a number of hibiscus pictures from plants in my back yard, the University of Hawaii, and other locations. Just the other day, as I was waiting for the wife in the back of the family business, I spotted this one.

I did have my camera with me, but unfortunately the battery had just died and that $400 piece of electronics was totally useless.

But I did have my cell phone and used that instead. Not bad. I was surprised at how good the picture turned out.

Sometimes I surprise myself!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pizza Omelet

I had a pizza omelet for breakfast this morning. Muy delicioso.

It’s not difficult to make. The first thing you need is leftover pizza. We had this (Pizza Hut leftover from last night). Then eggs, of course; I use one egg and one fake-egg (egg substitute) equivalent.

I scraped the goodies off the top of two refrigerator-cold pizza slices and nuked it in the microwave. Then, I made my omelet, gently nestling the resultant Italian gooey stuff into the middle of my scrambled eggs before folding it over onto my plate.

If I had some extra pizza sauce, I would have artistically dribbled some over the folded omelet.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Mystery: The Lonely Pottery Vase

After breakfast on Sunday, the wife and I took an invigorating walk at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, one of Honolulu’s better, yet lesser-known, attractions.

Built on a former municipal landfill, the park encompasses 30 acres or so of lush green grass, picnic pavilions, rolling knolls and meandering walkways.

The pedestrian promenade hugs the shoreline, affording a magnificent view of body surfers, sailboats, cargo ships leaving Honolulu Harbor, airliners heading west for Japan from Honolulu International Airport or turning east to the U.S. mainland, sea birds, stray cats, little black crabs and the peaceful Pacific Ocean.

And … a narrow-necked vase of fired pottery sitting there on the rocks.

As I sat in the cool shade of a rest station, I pondered its existence, wondering who put it there and for what purpose. Was there a religious or mystic significance to its purpose? Is it a memorial of a sort? How long has it been there? Do people move it from time to time?

I guess I’ll never know.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

They're Ba-a-a-ack!

The Pacific Golden Plovers have returned to Hawaii!

They make the continuous two-day flight from Alaska before winter settles in, escaping the frigid Arctic cold. They then gorge themselves on our plethora of insects and fatten themselves up for their long flight northward to their mating grounds in the late spring.

The little female pictured here arrived in our neighborhood about a week ago and has been grazing the lawns up and down the street. I'm not sure if it's the same one that comes every year, 'cause surely it can't be THAT old, although banded individuals have been known to return to the same area for 20 years or more.

The Hawaiians called the plover "Kolea," which means "one who takes and leaves."

It can take all the insects it wants from my lawn, and I will bid it a fond farewell when the time comes, then await its return next year.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Treasure Light

I crawled into a cave one day and found a battered box,
It lay among the leaves and moss, fast bound with rusted locks.
The chest lay heavy on the ground, dug deep throughout the ages,
With stories saved within its strength, and deepness in its pages.

It budged so slightly at my pull, it moved a single inch,
I tugged with sinews in my back; I felt my muscles pinch,
I vowed to bring it to the light, discover what’s inside,
The rocky ledges difficult, I would not be denied.

Through strain and sweat and even hurt, I slowly reached the day,
Worked to break the frozen locks, to view without delay.
With mighty heave, the cover gave a groan as hinges creaked,
With beating heart and shaking hands, I bent forth for a peek.

Expecting gold and diamonds, I moaned my sad dismay,
For nothing such did greet my eyes, nothing would allay.
I rummaged in the empty box, found only dusty paper;
It may as well be broken glass, it may as well be vapor.

I sat back on my haunches, leafing through the words,
All my strength sapped from within; then suddenly I heard
A voice that whispered from my heart, it said to look some more,
Within myself, connect the box with something in my core.

I found the book, ‘twas hidden deep, its cover broken worn,
Its pages brown and fragile, its binding crumbled torn.
It opened of its own accord, a glow came from within,
A single phrase revealed itself – it made me stop and grin.

“I love you,” did it simply say; “I love you” said it there,
An ageless phrase that lovers speak, and deep emotions share.
A tear or two ran down my cheek, for now it all made sense,
Who needs the wealth to substitute? Who needs that recompense?

The treasure box is but our heart, the gem inside is love,
The gold is light that shines within, with softness of a dove.
But love does not come easily, it needs a focused tending,
For if we hold the other dear, rewards are never-ending.

(I wrote this one day in 2005 when I was in a reflective mood.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Play Ball! Batter Up!

The middle of fall is Major League Baseball playoff and World Series time. October means BASEBALL! In recent years, October in Hawaii has meant a chance to watch future baseball stars of the U.S. major league clubs and the various Japanese professional teams sharpen their skills in actual game situations.

Hawaii Winter Baseball (1993-97, 2006-08) is in the third year of its reincarnation after a nine year absence. During its 2006 “re-inaugural year,” I went to most of the Sunday games. Last year (2007), UH Manoa’s Les Murakami Stadium was undergoing renovations and all games were played at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu, which made it a little inconvenient, so I skipped going that year.

The “Class of 2006” has already made an impact on Major League Baseball. Rick Vanden Hurk (BeachBoys) is now a starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins. Joba Chamberlain (perhaps the most visible HWB recent alumnus) and Ian Kennedy (CaneFires) have pitched for the New York Yankees in starting roles. Joe Thatcher (Honu) made his big league debut with the San Diego Padres as a reliever and works out of the bullpen. Nate Schierholtz (BeachBoys) spent considerable time with the San Francisco Giants as an outfielder.

Winter league baseball is fun. You get to see a lot of young players, and recognize their names when they begin their Major League careers. And, it fills a baseball void in Hawaii, which hasn’t seen even semi-professional baseball since the Hawaii Islanders left in 1987.

I went to my first game of the season today. It was like old times again. It’s gonna be a couple-a months of fun Sundays, that’s for sure.

The Second Time Around

Can you believe it? I read The Collectors by David Baldacci twice. Last week on my flight back home from Las Vegas, I opened the book and started reading. Jeez, I thought as I turned the pages, this all sounds so familiar. I had a feeling I knew what was going to happen, but couldn't remember the details.

The last time I read a book was several months earlier on another airplane flight. I'm so into watching dvds at home during my evening spare time that I haven't read a book in ages except on airplane flights back home.

To say the least, this was strange. The book was brand new, purchased a few weeks ago in anticipation of this trip. But it was published in 2006, so I maybe I bought it then and read it while on a previous trip. I just didn't remember doing it, or remember any of the details. Scary.

This time, however, I really got into the book. Baldacci is one of the many authors I've read over the years. The Collectors is a follow-up to The Camel Club and reprises the principal characters -- the four members of the Camel Club. They investigate a murder in the Library of Congress. Meanwhile, a young lady masterminds a scam of a sleazy Atlantic City casino owner. The connection between the two plots becomes clear later in the book.

I'm relieved. At least now I remember what I read!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Never Strangers, Ever Friends

I just got back from Las Vegas where I met some wonderful people from a discussion board that I frequent. Three of the group I'd met previously, but two were new.

All are dear friends, which is a phenomenon of the Internet that only those who've experienced it can understand. We all post at this board, and after a while, we get to know each other almost better than we know our own families.

It's so interesting to try and envision what a person will look like, based only on a posting name and what they write. It's a little easier on this particular board because we mostly use photos of our face as our avatars. Still, a photo is a mere capture in time and doesn't exactly project a person's personality. What they write does to a degree, but there's nothing like talking face-to-face.

I'm glad I got into this computer thing; I've made a lot of new friends from far-flung places, and met so many great people in person over the years.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tonight I'm a Yankees Fan

What a night of nostalgia and emotion it was. I'm talking about the final Yankees game to be played in Yankee Stadium ever. EVER!

I had planned to watch the Yankees take on the Baltimore Orioles in the ESPN game of the week, and turned on the TV early to catch the NFL news and perhaps see a screen crawl on the new college football rankings.

Instead I saw a notice that the pregame ceremonies were being covered on ESPN2, so I hastily switched over and caught a sight of the greatest living Yankees being introduced and standing at their positions. Wow!

The game itself really didn't matter much to me. The Yankees won 7-3, Andy Pettitte got the win, and Jose Molina hit the last homerun to be recorded in Yankee Stadium, bookending a most historical era started by Babe Ruth's first homerun in the first game played at the stadium.

It was the history, it was the legacy, it was the memories. When I was a kid, the New York Yankees were the team we listened to ... them and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I've been a fan of the Atlanta Braves for decades, thanks to cable television, but in those days -- the 1950's -- we only had radio. And we waited for the Yankees games.

I never got to watch a lot of baseball when I was growing up. Remember, this is Hawaii, and only once in a blue moon would major league exhibitions be played here. In fact, I consider myself lucky if I'm able to catch ONE major league game live at the ballpark a year.

So I wanted to watch this last Yankee Stadium game. Like I said, the game itself wasn't that important to me. Derek Jeter, the captain, had a lousy night batting and went 0 for 5 because of a sore left hand that was struck by a pitch the day before. But he won't be remembered for that, or for being the last Yankee to bat at the stadium.

I will remember him for the beautiful speech he gave on the mound, backed up by his teammates, when he thanked the fans and evoked memories of great Yankees, of great games, of great World Series in the past, and asked them to hold those memories in their hearts and share them with the upcoming generations, just as older memories had been shared with them.

And I will remember the team trotting around the warning track, paying homage to their fans, of every age, many with tears in their eyes.

Nobody seemed to want to leave. It was a special night. For me too. Just like the night Mark McGwire broke the Babe's record. Just like the night when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's record. I didn't want to turn the channel, I didn't want to shut it down.

Tonight, I was a Yankees fan again. It felt pretty good.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Butterfly

How lovely the scent that wafts in the breeze –
It beckons the butterfly, whispers, “Oh please
Come partake of this wonderful nectar inside,
Brush wings on petals, you won’t be denied.”

Consumed by the need to probe for the sweet,
The Monarch will hover, decision complete,
Committed to tasting the flavor desired,
A tongue flickers forth, its mission inspired.

Diaphanous touches cause dew to release,
Soft brushings of wings on petals increase.
Light as a feather on precipitous perch,
It sighs in relief, having ended its search.

The petals of rose spread wide and suggest
A union of flower and butterfly blessed,
Lo, the butterfly drinks through petals a-quiver
In concert with wings that shimmer and shiver.

I am the butterfly, she is the flower,
We meet in the garden, in pale misty shower
That kisses the cheek and moistens the eyes,
Then parting, I lift myself back to the skies.

(I wrote this poem in 2004 one night when I was in a very good mood.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spam and Eggs Breakfast

It's the all-Hawaii breakfast. Spam and eggs. So much so that many years ago, the Hawaii McDonald's franchises became the first fast food chain to serve a local menu, including Spam and eggs with rice.

Burger King has entered the fray and is now advertising its Hawaiian breakfast sandwich with Spam, eggs and cheese on a croissant, as well as a Spam Platter with Spam, scrambled eggs and white rice.

I had Spam and eggs with rice for breakfast this morning. Made my own. And, I mush the over-easy eggs into the rice and season it with ketchup and shoyu. When he was a little tyke, my #1 son used to call it "matoo eggs." We still call it that in our house.

There's only one thing better, and that's Spam and eggs with FRIED rice. Now that's a breakfast worthy of anticipation as my eyes slowly focus on the KHON morning news while I'm lying in bed trying to will my stomach to stop growling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Pharmacy Run

I should buy stock in Costco. Every couple of weeks or so, I head on over to the Dole Cannery store and leave a sizeable chunk of hard-earned cash there, much of it in the pharmacy, as I am the appointed family "drug runner."

They love me there. Not because I spend a lot, but because I bring them a printed list of each person's requirements, noting the name of the medicine, dosage, number of refills remaining, and that date the prescription expires. They beam when they see me coming with the list in hand, they beam when they see me standing in the pick-up line 45 minutes later, and they beam when they hand me the meds.

The only problem with the "pharmacy run" is that they need time to fill the prescriptions. And that takes at least 45 minutes. Have you ever spent 45 minutes in Costco? That is soooo hazardous to your health and pocketbook. I'm always spending too much money as I wander the aisles, constantly checking my watch to see if the 45 minutes are up.

And the cart gets heavier and heavier and more difficult to push and steer. The worst is when wifey asks me to get a couple of cases of bottled water to sell at the family deli. I'd like to get them last, but those things need to go at the bottom of the pile. You can't put them on the top. And sliding them into the bottom rack can do wonders for your back.

I did it today. And I need a back massage!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Pickles Observation

My favorite comic strip is Brian Crane's "Pickles" -- about an older couple and their family. The husband, Earl, reminds me of me, 'cept I don't have a white mustache. His wife, Opal, doesn't remind me of MY wife, but she does resemble in general a few women I've come across.

Today's strip cracked me up. (Hope I don't get into any trouble for posting it here. Yikes!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pearls of the Sea

Diamonds are nice, they sparkle like ice;
They show off their fire, they inspire desire;
They come from below,
Compressed and deep,
Hidden from view
Their secrets they keep.

Emeralds are green, their beauty serene;
They give off a glow, they just seem to know
That we love to have
What they offer today –
Inspiring our words,
Fulfilling our play.

Rubies burn bright, they heat up the light;
Scarlet, cerise … they draw us with ease
Into magic romance
Of silver and gold.
While images promise
And wonders behold.

But pearls – oh the pearls.

Pearls have a luster that transcends the cold,
An essence of shimmer and global perfection;
Created by Him from natural life
To inspire emotion and inner reflection.

Far deep in the brine their colors do hide –
Pure white as the clouds, pink as the rose,
Black as the night, blue as the sky …
Their glory so secret, ‘til found they repose.

When brought to the light, a pearl will reveal
Its innermost beauty, its special appeal.
I’ve seen what it offers, I love what I see –
My lady, my pearl, my loving … and me.

(I wrote this in 2004, at a time when I was buying loose gemstones on eBay.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bye Bye Website

Many years ago, I had my first taste of tiramisu, that heavenly Italian dessert that I've often described as "heaven in your mouth." It prompted me to start a website that eventually became the #1 source of tiramisu information in the whole world. Throughout the years, millions of people visited the site and posted their ratings of tiramisu they've had in restaurants.

The website's success started to impinge on my freedom, and I soon found myself spending a couple of hours EVERY DAY updating the information and responding to emails from readers. Eventually it kind of settled down to where I was only spending a couple of hours a week, and most recently, a couple of hours every three months or so.

Today, about a dozen years after I launched the website, tired of it all and after careful consideration, I completed the process of selling it to another devotee. And of that, I have some mixed feelings. It's like giving your child up for adoption after 10 years of warm, personal caring.

But it's done, and I wish the new owner well in his endeavour.

Keep visiting and watch alongside of me with interest he makes his improvements.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Must Football Prevail?

Tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008) is a busy day for me. Not only do the USC Trojans take on Ohio State in the college football game of the week, I also have to set up at my stamp and coin dealer association's bourse (dealer market).

The bourse commitment was made early in the year when I paid my table fees for the 2008 set of shows, so I feel a financial responsibility to make use of my pre-paid fee. One thing that concerns is that this September show comes fast on the heels of an August show in which I participated three weeks ago. I'm a little concerned that sales might be down because of this. If I recall last year, the Saturday shows didn't draw very well during the college football season.

And on top of this, I've been a USC football fan since I attended my first game in the LA Coliseum in 1964 and watched Mike Garrett (now USC's athletic director) tear off long runs through Notre Dame, upstaging their eventual Heisman Trophy winner, John Huarte.

The Trojan game will be on ABC right smack dab in the afternoon portion of the stamp and coin show. If I stay at the show until it ends, I won't get home until the second half starts. I just might close up early and try to get home sometime in the first half. Unless there are customers at my table -- then, money talks!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I see You in the world surrounding me,
You fill my soul with wonder every day.
It is as though You want us all to know
How wonderful the beauty You convey.

I see You in the branch that reaches out,
Supportive of the leaves that gather light.
You bring the nourishment to all who want,
Work never ends from dawn to quiet night.

I see You in the rock that lies beside
The dusty road that carries me to Thee.
So full of strength on which Your home is built,
You resolutely hold the humble key.

I see You in the cloud that tumbles by,
The pure white softness simply melts my heart.
Like cotton rolling ‘cross an azure sky,
Your smile sustains me when we are apart.

I see You in the drop of rain that falls
To splash upon my face when it turns high.
You kiss my cheek and bring a smile to fore,
Your drops elicit such a sweet reply.

I see You in the golden sun that dawns,
And passes o’er me as the day does age.
When Sol turns crimson at the end of day,
I close Your book and mark the future page.

I see You everywhere in everything
That You’ve created for Your children to share.
I see You when my eyes do gaze upon
Most anything appearing anywhere.

(I wrote this poem in 2004.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Trigger Thumb

Say hello to my right thumb; it’s the star of my show today and in fact has been a focus for a couple of months. Back in April, it decided to give me trouble and signed up for the “trigger” option. That’s when the first knuckle (the one in the middle of the thumb) pops when you bend it. Like the cocking of a trigger.

My orthopedic surgeon gave it a cortisone shot and that cured it for a few weeks, but then Mr. Trigger-Happy Thumb decided to come back with a vengeance. Not only is it bothersome, it hurts too.

So … last Friday I had it operated on. One would think a “not-so-big-deal” event was in order. Uh uh. Nope. They reserved a big-ol' hospital operating room for me. The operation was at 8:30 in the morning but I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. I then moved from one waiting room to another, either shuffling about in that air-conditioned hospital gown or being wheeled around on a gurney bed, talking to maybe a half-dozen different people who kept asking me the same questions over and over again.

Specific questions: What’s your name? When is your birthday? Which thumb is it? What medication do you take? Do you have any allergies? I do understand why they do this, of course, but perhaps the next time I do something like this, I’m going to bring a card with all that information printed on it.

They stuck needles into the backs of my hands and eventually wheeled me into the OR with its lights blazing and another half-dozen masked strangers milling around. I felt like I’d been abducted by a UFO and was going to be experimentally prodded. The only familiar sound was my ortho-doc’s voice, which I heard throughout the operation.

I wanted to see what was going on because the sedative they used didn’t put me to sleep, but they draped a sheet between me and my outstretched right arm. Shucks. All I could do was count the holes in the acoustical tile above my bored face.

The operation was short, it ended pretty quickly and after a little cup of apple juice and three graham crackers, and a brief recovery period, they stuffed me into a wheelchair and sent me on my way to the front door.

You know what the hardest part of the whole ordeal was? I have a stretchy wrap around my right hand and can’t get it wet for a few days. So I’ve been taking my evening shower with the hand all wrapped up in a plastic shopping bag, taped to my arm so water won’t leak in. It's hard taking shower with only my left hand.

There are places I can't reach with the left hand, and as a result, I haven’t been able to wash my left underarm since the operation. It’s gotta be stinky.