Monday, August 31, 2009

Blame the Dog!

I showed these to my wife and uttered only one word: “See?”

She wasn’t amused.

It wasn't me. It's the dog's fault.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Morning Musings

Most mornings find me still in bed at 8 o’clock, no matter what time I awakened – finishing up HLN News & Views, watching morning shows and/or Sports Center on TV.

Saturdays are a little different – no morning shows, so it’s mostly sports that wake me up, particularly during Major League baseball and college football seasons.

Sundays dawn to the most relaxing of mornings –sports if there’s an early baseball game on, but mostly cooking shows, followed by having a breakfast that I whip up for the wife and myself.

I noticed a few things this Sunday morning. I was watching “Guy’s Big Bite” on the Food Network, ‘cause his potato-onion-artichoke hash looked intriguing and I’ve grown into liking his style once he stopped doing all the basic stuff in his early shows.

A self-confessed detail geek, I often read the fine print at the end of the show. Today, I saw something interesting. Today’s show was copyrighted MMXIX. That’s 2019. It should have been MMIX (2009).

So what does that mean? I dunno. Does it negate the copyright claim because the date is inaccurate? I dunno. Can people swipe material verbatim off the show until 2019? I dunno. Can people use the images and video without giving credit? I dunno.

Bottom line: I dunno. But it’s fun to speculate.

Then, while reading the Sunday funnies, I found out that the character Ziggy keeps extra postage stamps with him when he stands in line at the post office, in case the rates go up before he reaches the head of the line. He’s supposed to be a loser, but in an odd way, his logic makes perfect sense to me.

Finally, elsewhere in the funnies, I was reminded that if you wait for something to happen, someone else will seize the opportunity right out from under your nose (vultures waiting for a rabbit to die, only to have an eagle swoop down and grab the rabbit).

Hmmmm. Quite an interesting morning, I’d say.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Children of the Gods (2009)

Actually, the entire name of this feature is “Stargate SG-1 Children of the Gods FINAL CUT,” the re-edited version of Stargate SG-1’s two-part pilot episode, which takes place two years after the Kurt Russell-James Spader film, “Stargate.“

I have had the recently issued dvd for a couple of weeks now, and finally got a chance to watch it last night. I was pleasantly surprised and highly entertained by this greatly improved product.

Series co-creator Brad Wright revisited Children of the Gods a year ago and felt he could have done a better job. So, applying all that they had learned during the series’ 12-year run, they changed a lot of the original footage, deleting this and adding that.

In the original 1997 version, Christopher Guest’s (Teal’c) voice was a bit high-pitched and not as deeply resonant as it was toward the series’ end. So they had the actor do some ADR (additional dialog recording) work for his entire dialog in the reissue. The result? Teal’c sounded more confident and stronger.

Amanda Tapping’s character, Capt. Samantha Carter, had a rather silly introduction scene that was replaced it with some footage that had originally been deleted, resulting in a slightly longer – but vastly improved and more-subtly humorous – first meeting with Col. Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson).

Technology, especially CGI, had advanced to such an extent in 12 years that the producers were able to fix flaws in the picture, add in exciting effects, improve scenes, and better integrate the work they’d originally doled out to various sub-contractors.

The result is a vastly superior product, more contemporaneous than if they’d just slapped the original parts 1 and 2 together.

In the bonus featurette – Back to the Beginning – Mr. Wright explains the process they went through, with an eye to releasing a top-shelf product that would do justice to the longest-running science-fiction series in the history of television.

They did a commendable job. If you’re an SG-1 fan, you need to watch this.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stressed? Try Grass

No, I’m not talking about THAT kind of “grass.” Rather, I’m referring to the grass that’s growing in your lawn.

Did you know that the scent of mown grass is both a proven tension reliever and a memory booster?

I heard about it this morning. Apparently, scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia have discovered that freshly cut grass releases a chemical that does just that. That’s why it’s so relaxing to be around plants, to sit under trees, and to fall asleep on the lawn.

And, they’re putting their money where their mouths … er, noses … are. They developed an aromatic spray called “Serenascent” that smells like a freshly mowed lawn, emulates a walk through a lush forest, and produces the same relaxing results.

I just got in from mowing the lawn … (Yawn) … so please excuse me while I lie down on the … (Zzzzzzzz).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nature’s Perfume? Pee-yew!

I first noticed it this morning when I woke up – the cloying, heady sweet smell that I always forget but inevitably comes crashing down on me during the waning days of August, reminding me of gardenia perfume on old women.

The mock orange (Philadelphus) hedge next to the house is blooming again and the Manoa winds are wafting its honeybee-attracting aroma my way. Lawdie, it gives me a headache.

At least I can close the windows, head back to the bedroom or my home office and turn up the air conditioning in those rooms.

But I will never forget reporting a week before classes began in August when I was teaching at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Crawford Hall was old and had no A/C. So I had to open the windows when I was in there, which made it rather comfortable when breezes swept through my corner office.

However, just outside my window were a couple of mock orange trees that released their power during the hottest and most humid days of late summer. I could either close the windows and suffocate in a puddle of sweat, or open them and choke on the floral fumes.

Still, I guess gently choking for a couple of weeks is a small price to pay for the luxurious greenery of the plant’s leaves.

I just wish the aroma smelled like … subtle vanilla. Or sliced cucumbers. Or even pizza.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Canstruction? Whaddat?

I took a gander at some pretty nifty sculptures at Pearlridge Shopping Center yesterday – the “Canstruction” competition entries (as in food cans).

Canstruction is being called “the most unique food charity in the world.” (There’s actually no such thing as “most unique,” as there are no degrees of uniqueness. Something is either one of a kind, or it isn’t. But that’s the writing instructor in me talking.)

More than 130 cities across the US and around the world are hosting the event this year, with local teams of architects, engineers and students designing and building sculptures consisting entirely of food cans.

The public votes on these creations in an unusual manner: one can of food equals one vote. At the close of the exhibition, all of the cans used in the competition and collected through public voting are given to local food banks. Since the competition was inaugurated in 1992-93, more than 10-million pounds of food have been collected for the needy.

In Honolulu, the competition display is at Pearlridge Center Uptown. Build-out was on August 15, and the exhibition runs until Sunday August 30, closing with presentation of awards. This 4th annual Hawaii event is sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, Hawaii Chapter, and will benefit the Hawaii Food Bank.

I viewed the exhibition yesterday and was quite impressed with the thought and talent that went into the designs. The specific cans used were very relevant to the theme of each sculpture.

For example, the Spam musubi sculpture consisted of a base of rice bags topped with Spam cans, and wrapped around its girth with packages of nori (toasted seaweed) – the exact ingredients required to make a Spam musubi.

Here are a few examples of what’s on display:

Aloha shirt and lei

Poi pounder

The Spam musubi

There’s also a gecko, the Arizona Memorial, a “shaka” hand signal, shaved ice, the Hawaii quarter, and a train. All are very familiar Hawaii icons, whether you’re local or a visitor. Display boards explain the significance of each theme as it relates to Hawaii.

If you haven’t seen the exhibit, you’d better hurry. You have less than a week before they tear it down and give the cans of food away.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Journal? Nah. Blog? Yeah. Part 2

(Tuesday, September 9, 2008) Mowing the Grass: Woke up this morning with an itch in my brain to start a blog. So here we go. I think I'll start mowing the grass and painting in the lines. BBL.

That was my first “Left Field Wander” blog entry, nearly a year ago. The “grass” and “lines” phrases reference a baseball field (“left field”).

I don’t know why I had this urge to blog. Maybe it was because my friend Melissa Chang kept telling me to read hers. Maybe interesting things were starting to happen in my life? Or, maybe I was getting bored in retirement.

At any rate, I dove right in. Setting up the blog was fun. I’ve always been a closet web designer, having started maybe six to eight websites in the past dozen years or so. There’s something quite creative about the process.

Before I regained control of myself, more blogs were added to my repertoire:

· Stamps ‘n Things (stamp collecting) on September 17, 2008.
· The Monkey Seas (my monkey figurine collection) on October 21, 2008.
· A Place for My Taste (restaurants I’ve been to) on November 11, 2008.
· Heart-Throb Pinchy (my “pet monkey’s” travels) on March 29, 2009.

Today, they are thriving. The thing about writing a blog is that there’s so much to write about. One can post pictures, videos, music … you name it. You can’t do that with a written journal. Maybe that’s why blogging appeals to me – the variety, the possibilities, the opportunity to be creative in a way that just plain words on paper can’t provide.

In talking with other bloggers, I often ask if they feel a responsibility to post an article every day. All of them said they did not. Some said they post by necessity, when something happens that is directly related to the theme of their blogs.

But I do feel a responsibility to write something each day, especially in this blog I fondly refer to as my “Wandering” or “Wanders” blog. It’s not quite as critical to post in my other blogs, as they aren’t time sensitive.

I use Google Analytics, which tells me how many people have read my blog each day, what they have read, how long they’ve hung around, and where they’re from. On days that I skip posting, the visitor numbers dip. So it behooves one to post regularly, if only to maintain interest and the visitor count.

Where do I get my ideas? From watching HLN in the morning, from watching my favorite morning news and talk shows, from reading the newspaper, from laughing at the funnies, from movies I’ve seen, from books I’ve read, from creative pieces written over the years, from things that irk me or make me laugh, from my experiences as a college professor … but mostly from just plain living – past, present and hopefully future.

Blogs are very personal, indeed.

Blogging gives meaning and purpose to my life. It affords me an opportunity to exercise my brain so it doesn’t turn to mush during my retirement. It gives me renewed interest in local events, trying new restaurants, as well as rediscovering history and locations that I’ve experienced in the past.

It keeps me alive. So I’m going to keep on keeping on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Journal? Nah. Blog? Yeah. Part 1

It’s not easy writing a journal. It’s a lot easier to write a blog. Let me explain.

In elementary school, the teacher made us write little compositions: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” and “What I Did This Weekend,” and “Things I Like to Do.” That was fun. After all, we were kids and highly impressionable.

In intermediate school, my English teacher encouraged us to write journals – something about something every day. I could never get into that. I was too busy with pre-teen activities. Then in high school, I had my news writing class to fulfill my writing urge.

In college, I was much too busy to keep a journal. And then I started working, and who has time to write for pleasure? Honestly, I just couldn’t figure out why and how people could keep diaries to record their inner-most thoughts. Everything just seemed so … personal.

About 10 years ago, I saw a blank journal book on sale at Barnes & Noble. Aha! This was the incentive I needed to begin my incredible journal journey. It was beautifully bound, smartly masculine distinctive. I had just bought a $400 Waterman’s fountain pen and could use it to indelibly record my inner-most thoughts – finally.

My first entry was a page-long description of what I was going to write in the journal, the discipline I would instill in myself – including things like: No writing drafts on a computer, only using my fountain pen, thinking through what I wanted to write before putting ink to paper … you know, parameters and stuff.

Guess what. Yep, you got it. That was my first and only journal entry.

Two weeks later, I carefully tore out the used page and gave the blank journal book to my wife. She said she wanted it for work, but I never saw her use it. It’s probably sitting in a desk drawer somewhere, rusting away.

End of hand-written journal. May it rest in peace.

Tomorrow: Blogging

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It Was a Day like All Days

Personally unspectacular and inconsequential.

I’m talking about yesterday, our Admission Day holiday – Aug. 21, 2009 – the 50th anniversary of the day Hawaii became a state.

I suppose I could have made a big deal out of it. After all, when the 25th anniversary rolled around in 1984, I designed a first-day cover cachet for the 20-cent stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service to commemorate the event.

This year, the USPS issued a 44-cent stamp with first-day sale in Honolulu. (Did you notice the price of a stamp has more than doubled over the past 25 years?)

It wouldn’t have taken much effort to design an envelope, print some up, and take them to be stamped and cancelled at the state’s Golden Anniversary conference at the Hawaii Convention Center. But I didn’t want to hassle the crowd. Retirement does that to you, it calms the fire just a bit.

I also was thinking of applying some local post labels I’d made up to envelopes, taking them to the neighborhood post office, buying some of the new Hawaii statehood stamps, applying them to the envelopes, and asking the people there to cancel them by hand. But I got lazy.

So I spent the day in the comfort of my home, relaxing. I’ll wait for the USPS to put their official first-day covers on sale at their website, order a few, and decorate them with cachets on my computer. I’ll also apply my local post labels on some (or maybe all – it remains to be seen).

Sure beats standing in lines and dodging crowds. Plus, I got to watch baseball on TV.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What? No Samples?

The Dole Pineapple Plantation tourist trap was on the way home from Haleiwa, so we stopped by there on Wednesday, for the first time since I last visited the place about 30 years ago.

Back in the late ‘70s, the pineapple variety garden display was situated at a fork in the road.

People would park alongside the pineapple fields and dash across the two-late “highway” to walk amongst the plants.

“I didn’t know pineapples grew on the ground,” you’d hear. “I thought they grew on trees” was another comment from folks who obviously thought the pandanus (lauhala) fruit were pineapples.

The misconceptions are understandable, but they remind me that many people still don’t know that cows have to bear calves before they give milk, or that chickens don’t have to breed in order to lay eggs.

Nearby, alongside the road, was a Dole stand that gave out free samples of pineapple, where gracious hosts would also sell you a whole fruit if you wanted one.

The current Dole experience is 100% commercial. It’s turned into a huge enterprise with the world’s largest maze, a train ride, a shopping mall, tours of the grounds, a little farmer’s market stand, a big ol’ parking lot that can accommodate tourist buses, and a much-larger display garden of pineapple varieties.

But alas, I was dismayed to discover that one can no longer get a free sample of pineapple. Practically everybody who was there when we visited didn’t care about that, because they didn’t know. But I knew. And somehow, I felt a little cheated.

Oh well … c’est la vie. I probably won’t go back there again anyway, unless a visitor asks me to take them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Plovers Are Arriving

Yestersday, I saw my first Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva, aka “Kolea” in Hawaii) of the season strutting around in the yard next door. I believe it’s a female.

The plovers arrive annually in August and September, after a 50-hour non-stop flight from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska, and will leave the islands in late April or early May.

Last year, a female claimed the territory encompassing three adjacent grassy yards on my side of the street. This is probably the same bird, as plovers reclaim their favorite spot when they return each year.

Arrival of the plovers signals to me that the long, hot days of summer are soon to be replaced by the coolness of autumn. It’s about time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oxymoronic Moment

You know what an “oxymoron” is … a phrase of two or more words that are diametrically opposite and cancel out each other.

When I was maintaining my Heavenly Tiramisu website (since sold), I mentioned that “healthy tiramisu” was oxymoronic, like “military intelligence.”

Well … I got a really irate comment in my guestbook from a serviceman who lambasted me and raked me over the coals for not respecting our men in uniform.

Of course, I do respect them. And I do understand how this person could have been offended. So I did the only thing I could do. I appended a short note saying just the right things. Then when his comment cycled off the guest book page, I deleted it … because it was MY website, not his.

Yesterday I saw another example of an oxymoronic phrase. Check out the name of this boat:

I hope I don’t get any irate letters from bums!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don’t Drink the Water

The wife and I had an interesting walk today at Honolulu’s Waterfront Park. A passel of surfers were taking advantage of the hot and sunny Hawaiian summer’s day, cooling their jets at the popular Point Panic surfing spot.

Who can blame them? The waves were rolling in nicely and the two dozen or so surfers we saw were having a great time.

Check them out:

We stood there watching them ride the waves for a while, and then continued our walk along the seawall.

A sign caught my attention – it was a warning that the water was polluted with sewage and advised people not to swim or fish there. Yikes!

I looked at the sign, then to the surfers in the ocean, back at the sign, and then turned to my wife who was shaking her head in disbelief. I guess surfers are like golfers. Golfers will golf in the rain, and surfers will surf anywhere there are waves to be ridden.

We continued onward. At the end of our roundtrip stroll, we spotted a guy posting more warning signs. As I took more pictures of the surfers, the wife meandered over to the man and started talking to him.

It turns out that he also works as a food service inspector for the State of Hawaii Department of Health, and used to inspect the wife’s local delicatessen as part of his route. Talk about a small world! He remembered my wife and got into a conversation with her about the deli and the rest of the family who own and run the establishment.

Had he been putting signs up all day? Actually, he just started, AFTER the surfers got into the water. Apparently there had just been a sewage spill at the Ala Moana Sewage Pumping Station about a mile up the coast near Honolulu Harbor.

I can only imagine the faces of the surfers who so far had a good day in good surf out there in the sun, when they came ashore and saw the signs.

Ewwwwww! I hope they went straight home to take a soapy hot shower.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Next Best Thing to Being There

Webcams have been around for quite some time now, and I’ve used them to talk to people all around the world. But the value never really sank in until my first grandson was born.

It’s a real pleasure to watch him grow up (four months old now) in California while I’ve still got my feet planted in Hawaii.

This real-time medium has been a godsend to grandparents all over the world, I’m sure, not to mention those in the military service who are able to keep touch with loved ones at home.

The wife is particularly enamored of the webcam and looks forward to times when Joey is cleaned up, awake, fed, and happy. It’s pretty entertaining to watch her wave her hands in the air at the little boy with a silly grin on her face. Bless her little heart.

When he’s on webcam, activity in the house comes to a grinding halt and everybody gathers at the kitchen table to crowd around the laptop, their eyes glued to the screen. Heart-warming, it is.

It’s the next-best thing to actually being there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Forgive and Forget?

Former Atlanta Falcolns quarterback Michael Vick is back. He’s served his two-year sentence for his maltreatment of dogs when he was organizing and participating in dog-fighting events.

The Philadelphia Eagles have announced he has signed with the team after being reinstated by the NFL with an unprecedented four-game suspension that will be served at the start of this season. It’s a one-year deal ($1.6 million) with a second-year option ($5.2 million), plus $3 million in incentives over the next two years.

No question about it. Vick is an extraordinary football talent. He’s still young (29) and can still have a productive future ahead as a professional football player.

Will the fans accept him as he is – a tarnished and often-vilified individual who says he’s contrite and extremely remorseful for what he did? Already PETA is criticizing the Eagles organization for giving him his second chance, and protesters showed up at training camp yesterday to voice their displeasure. (Albeit the television coverage showed a mere handful of supporters and detractors, but you know how the media is in playing up and exaggerating any sort of controversy.)

Here’s the way I see it. The rabid fans will make a lot of noise; the rabid animal-rights people will make a lot of noise. But they are a huge minority (an oxymoronic statement, if ever I heard one). In general societal context, the vast, vast majority don’t really care passionately enough to do anything of substance about it.

The playing field will become the courtroom. The ones who really matter to the Eagles – the fans – are the ones who will determine whether or not Michael Vick is indeed afforded his chance on and off the field to prove that he has learned his lesson and that he still has the burning desire to continue his career.

Forgive? Of course. Forget? Well, these things can never be forgotten. One can only watch in interest.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bishop Museum 2009

It’s been about 15 years since I last visited the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and a lot has changed since then.

For one thing, Hawaii Hall has been renovated and looks brand spanking new again. The life-size sperm whale (innards and out-ards) is still there, looking as imposing as ever, and all of the artifacts and artworks that have been publicized and featured as Hawaiian icons are on display.

Big ol' life-sized shark

An i'wi (frigate bird)
I’ve always enjoyed the life-sized wildlife models that suspend from the hall’s ceiling, allowing the hall to represent the Pacific Ocean.

Giant Monarch butterfly
“Backyard Monsters: The World of Insects,” with its giant robotic creatures, is being exhibited in the Castle Memorial Building. Somewhat similar to the bugs on display at Pearlridge Center, the Bishop Museum event does feature different insects (except for the battling Atlas beetles). Some of the museum’s preserved insects were displayed, supplementing the robots.

Black-lighted time tunnel

The Richard Mamiya Science Adventure Center is new since I last visited the museum. Its displays and interactive hands-on exhibits basically tell the story of how Hawaii was formed and grows – geology. Not exactly my cup of tea, but somewhat interesting, nonetheless.

We waited until the remnants of Hurricane Felicia had passed, so as not to have to deal with dark clouds and high humidity. The day was bright, but the humidity still lingered and we were pretty much drained when we left the museum three hours later. The buildings are air conditioned, one has to walk outside to get from one to the other.

It was pretty much worth the price of admission. If you’re a kamaaina (local Hawaii resident) and can produce suitable identification, you’re entitled to a substantial discount on your entry fee.

I think I’ll wait a while before going back. But not than 15 years this time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Twitteritation (n): The state of being irritated when someone tweets on Twitter in your presence, particularly when they should be paying attention to you.

Now, I’d be the first to admit that I tweet a few times a day. And sometimes I even tweet from my cell phone. But I do know my limits. Just as I turn off my cell phone while having a meal with someone at a restaurant, just as I turn the cell phone ringer off when I’m at a meeting, I do not tweet when I’m in the presence of someone else.

The Twitter phenomenon is a fad that fulfills a current need. But it IS a fad that will lose its popularity when something better comes along. Remember the first cell phones? Big and bulky, some even came attached to a large box that hung from your belt. They’ve morphed into total communication devices – albeit larger than the Dick Tracy wristwatch phone that we marveled at in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Case in point (one that frosts my butt): On Monday's "Live with Regis and Kelly," Twitter king Ashton Kutcher introduced Kelly Ripa to Twitter. Like many impressionable young ladies, she became hooked. On Tuesday, when Regis returned from a “work-cation,” she had a computer in front of her and tweeted during the show. Today, she kept asking producer Michael Gelman to check Twitter for her.

I’m sure that during commercial breaks, she was running to the computer and tweeting. Which is fine, she can whatever she wants off-camera.

But when she tweets and talks about tweeting to such a large extent during the show, now THAT irritates me. It feels just like she’s answering the cell phone at breakfast.

For years now, I’ve been watching Regis and Kelly Live every morning when I wake up. If this obsession with Twitter keeps up, I’m going to switch over to Christie Paul on HLN during Live’s host chat.

So what am I really trying to say? I’m saying that we’ve become more than a self-indulgent society. We’ve become a curious and rude society. Suddenly, people outside the range of our vision, strangers we don’t even know, are more important than the ones we’re with. We ignore present company to cater to others elsewhere.

It’s like a interrupting a conversation to answer a phone call.

That’s rude … just so rude.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Peanuts! Potato Chips! Ten Cents!

Ahhh, the sounds of the ballpark. ”Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never get back.”

Baseball games may come and go, year after year, but the cry of the vendors hawking their peanuts and Cracker Jack will live on in my memories and continue until the game is gone forever from our lives.

When I was a kid in Hilo, there used to be a guy who looked like Jerry Lewis (I swear to God) walking around in the stands and crying out, “Peanuts! Potato Chips! Ten Cents!” For one thin dime, for one-tenth of a dollar, you could get a small brown paper bag stuffed with your choice of roasted or boiled peanuts.

Can you imagine a baseball game without peanuts? The Birmingham Barons minor league baseball organization did. They voluntarily made their home field – Rogers Park Stadium – peanut free for one night, to accommodate an estimated 1% of kids who are allergic to peanuts.

It’s the same ballpark where NBA megastar Michael Jordan played when he tried out for professional baseball.

For several consecutive days before the game, they conscientiously scrubbed down the stadium to remove any traces of peanut residue, and during the game, banned all peanuts and peanut-related products from vendors.

A peanut allergy is serious stuff. Exposure could cause a child’s immune system to over-react, leading to anaphylactic reactions such as life-threatening airway constriction. A child could choke to death.

Making an entire ballpark peanut free may seem a bit extreme just to accommodate such a small minority of kids with problems, but I’d forego my peanuts if it means just one more kid can enjoy a day at the ballpark for the first time in his/her life.

A tip of the baseball cap to the Barons!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Focusing on Medicare

I finally got serious about boning up on Medicare since I’m now eligible for the benefits.

About a month ago, when I became eligible (three months before my 65th birthday) I started being inundated with information about Medicare – not only from the Social Security Administration, but from every health-care provider in the United States. It’s amazing how they know I’ve reached the qualification age.

I just tossed the information into a pile on my desk with the intention of wading through it soon.

Well, yesterday was the “soon” day to do that. The piles of information were enough to drive one into medical madness with so much information. I tossed 90% of it.

The booklet that gave me the best rundown was from United Health Care, the insurance provider for members of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). It brought me up to speed.

But I wanted to talk to a real live person face-to-face, someone who could answer my specific questions. I found such a guy at the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA), by the name of Young Sohn, who proved to be an excellent information resource.

Okay, I’m ready. I now have to register for Medicare Parts A and B, and then I think I’ll sign up for HMSA’s 65C Plus Plan (sorry, United Health Care, but I do appreciate the booklet you sent me).
Who knew retirement and getting old would be so complicated?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

San Diego has gone to the dogs – the bulldogs, that is. Sponsors took their fingers off the “paws” button and launched the inaugural “Running of the Bulldogs” Saturday, obviously cashing in on the popularity of Pamplona Italy’s annual “Running of the Bulls” event,

But if you expected dangerous excitement and gored spectators, you are barking up the wrong tree. hosted the puppy march and encouraged owners to systematically plant their dogs on the ground one step at a time and give their pet dogs a chance to strut their stuff.

The $10 fee included admission to the post-run Launch PAW-ty at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center. A portion of the proceeds benefitted the FACE Foundation, which helps animal owners who can afford emergency or critical care for their pets.

Owners and pets were not allowed to run willy-nilly over the course. All dogs were required to be friendly and leashed. Aggressive dogs were not permitted to participate.

Any and all breeds of bulldogs were welcomed (American, Aussie, English, and French). Owners could wheel, walk, trot or run their animal at a pace comfortable to the dog. Dog wagons and strollers were allowed, in order to not over-exert the dogs.

Owners had to dress in all white and/or light khaki, and all participants received a Running of the Bulldogs tee-shirt. Costumes for the dogs were also encouraged.

By the way, the San Diego Humane Society’s 23rd Annual Fur Ball is scheduled for this coming Saturday, August 8. I wish I could be there!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Grinch Bureaucrat + Radio Station With Heart = Disneyland!

Eight-year-old Daniela Ernest of Tulare, a central California city just south of Fresno, had a good idea. She opened a lemonade stand in front of her house to help raise money for a family vacation to Disneyland.

Daniela priced her product, made of freshly squeezed lemons, at $2 for a 32-ounce cup. What a deal, what a deal!

Then, along came Tulare code enforcement officer Richard Garcia, who shut her down because she didn’t have a business license. The city claims he wasn’t on lemonade patrol, but just happened to be in the neighborhood on another case. And, he called city officials to see where she could relocate her lemonade stand.

It turned into a big deal, with Daniela eventually appearing before the City Council, which is now contemplating a nominal license fee (or possibly even a fee waiver) for kids under a certain age who want to open a lemonade stand.

All’s well that ends well. A Visalia radio station bartered a deal with Daniela. They provided Disneyland passes for her and her family in exchange for 30 cups of lemonade.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Country-Fried Steak

I had a treat for breakfast yesterday, one of my all-time favorites – country-fried steak, aka chicken-fried steak.

What’s not to like about a thin steak covered in chicken batter and deep fried until the outside is crispy and the inside is still tender, smothered in peppery-creamy white country gravy, with scrambled eggs, a side of hash browns and crispy English muffins?

Unfortunately, it’s one of those dishes that one doesn’t find a lot in Hawaii. When I went on business trips to the mainland, I’d often seek it out at restaurants. If it was on the menu, more times than not I’d order it. No more business trips these days, but I have found it in many Las Vegas restaurants.

But Hawaii? The only place I’ve found country-fried steak is at Denny’s. That makes sense since Denny’s is a national chain and its fare is generally “non-local” and caters to mainland tastes. No Portuguese sausage or Spam to be found.

Going to Denny’s generally means either a traffic/parking battle in Waikiki, or a 15-minute freeway drive to Pearlridge Shopping Center. I choose the longer drive since parking at Pearlridge is plentiful and the whole experience is a lot more comfortable. Besides, you can do some major shopping after breakfast at the center.

Yum! I’m going to write it up in “A Place for My Taste” (link in the right-hand column) soon.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It Was a Zoo Out There

The wife and I took a walk at the Honolulu Zoo today, despite the torrid tropical summer sun that beat down on us, yet still occasionally cooled by the trade winds that blew in from the Pacific Ocean across the street at Kuhio (Waikiki) Beach.

She hadn’t been there in, I suspect, at least 25 years, so it was kind of a treat for her. We walked and walked and walked and stood and peered and sought out the animals who were hiding in the shade, out of the merciless heat.

Honolulu Zoo is nothing really special insofar as zoos go. It definitely can’t compete with the National Zoo in DC, or the San Diego Zoo, but it’s a nice zoo that’s trying hard, improving its exhibits when it can.

As we stood in line to buy our tickets, it looked like “Kid’s Day at the Zoo.” I counted no fewer than 10 kiddie strollers in line with us. The parents looked primarily local, but these days, one can’t really tell, as tourists often bring their own strollers with them.

Anyway, I saw a couple of signs that gave me pause to chuckle. Maybe you’ll get a kick out of them too.

Sooo ... Is waving permitted?

I'm so glad you told me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

X-Files Season 7 Cliffhanger

I’m pregnant.

That was FBI Special Agent Dana Scully’s revelation at the end of X-Files’ Season 7, in the “Requiem” episode after the aliens’ took her long-time partner Fox Mulder for a ride into space.

(If you’ve already seen all of the X-Files, and particularly the 8th and 9th seasons, please bear with me. I’m working my way through the entire series on dvd and just saw this episode last night.)

Scully’s pregnancy brings up a few questions that I’m sure will (might) be answered in Season 8:

Question 1: Whose baby is it? Fox Mulder’s? Someone else’s?
Question 2: Wasn’t Scully unable to have babies after her “abduction” and alien encounter?
Question 3: If the baby is Mulder’s, when did it happen? There have been a few “fade-out” moments when she and Mulder could have been sexually intimate, but I figured those were just teasers.
Question 4: Will the baby survive?
Question 5: Not a Scully question, but ... Will Fox Mulder return?

Sure, I’ll find out when I start watching Season 8. But it’s interesting and fun to speculate about it now, because when the episode “Requiem” was being shot, producer/writer Chris Carter wasn’t sure whether X-Files was going to return for another season. He needed to air an episode that could serve as a series finale. Carter talked about this in “The Truth about Season 7,” one of the bonus features in the dvd set.

In other words, he was going to leave his audience guessing – about Scully, and about what really happened to Mulder.

One just cannot trust series writers and producers, no?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The "Don't Remember Rule'

We get “Pickles” daily, but for some reason, it’s missing from our Sunday paper, necessitating a web search every now and then so I can catch up with my favorite retired couple and see what I’ve been missing.

“Pickles” just cracks me up. Take this one, for example:

I knew about the” 5-Second Rule,” re dropped food, but the “Don’t Remember Rule” is a new one on me.

Click on the picture to see a larger, more readable version.

Monday, August 3, 2009

An Anole Display

As I was waiting in the parking lot for the wife to complete her blood-giving at the med lab this morning, an anole came hustling long the wire fence in front of the car.

As anoles are wont to do, this one stopped, bobbed its head a couple of times, and flashed its bright red dewlap. That could mean only one thing – a rival male anole was around somewhere.

Sure enough, just after I snapped a picture, a bigger one jumped up from the other side of a wooden slat and chased the first one away.

I had to shoot through the windshield and blow the picture up a bit, so it’s not quite in focus.

Wildlife adventure in a parking lot! Don’tcha just love it?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Favorite TV Commercials

Once in a while I’ll see a commercial on television that just tickles me.

I’m talking about ads like the Stanley Steemer spot featuring the dog Toby and his “new trick,” where he’s sitting on his butt, rear legs spread out, and front paws dragging him across the carpet.

Another is the Jack in the Box commercial with the “Mini Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich” jingle featuring a dancing Jack, kids, and regular people like you and me (okay, younger than me).

These two just crack me up.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Yesterday is History

I watched “Kung Fu Panda” the other night, and a phrase by the wise turtle kung fu master Oogway caught my attention:

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

The first inclination I had was to attribute the line to the script writers. But I dismissed that rather quickly, for as talented as writers are, they generally are not philosophers. Being a curious sort who values bon mots and deep thought-producing phrases, I did a little research.

Here’s what I found:

Some people believe that the phrase was made popular by Joan Rivers. Joan Rivers? That smart-aleck comedienne? Yep, that one. But others think she got it from an address by Eleanor Roosevelt, who was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first lady. And still others think Mrs. Roosevelt got it from a poem by Laszlo Kotro-Kosztandi.

I tried to find something – anything – about Kotro-Kosztandi, but there’s not much to be found, but I did find a project agenda that lists a “Laszlo Kotro-Kosztandi” as a speaker from Romania. The project took place in 2008.

What are the odds of two people of different generations having the same name? If this is the same man, it is highly unlikely that he could have written his poem when Eleanor Roosevelt was alive.

So … I’m leaning toward the belief that the quotation should be credited to Mrs. Roosevelt.