Monday, January 31, 2011

Crush that Smoke!

Do you become irritated when second-hand smoke wafts your way? How ‘bout stinky cigar smoke? Does sweet pipe smoke merit an exception?
Are you a smoker who is courteous of others and only smokes where it’s permitted and/or tolerated? Or do you not give a hoot?
If you’re a smoker or a chewer, you might want to skip going to Bhutan on your next vacation. You see, this tiny nation in the Himalayas is the first country to go totally smoke-free. And they’re pretty strict about it too.
Case in point. A monk … a MONK! … became the first one arrested and charged for violating the new law. They caught him with 72 packs of chewing t’backy.
The sale of tobacco of any sort has been banned in Bhutan since 2005. But wouldn’t you know it, it’s being smuggled in from neighboring India. Result? The ban has been virtually snuffed out and it’s difficult to enforce.
But the police ARE making an effort. They’re allowed to enter homes and threaten shopkeepers who sell the nasty stuff. And, if you’re a smoker and can’t provide customs receipts for imported cigarettes, they you’re in a heap of big trouble, mister.
You know how long Mr. Monk can spend in jail because of his infraction? Five years. The good news is, not smoking or chewing t’backy for five years will certainly help him kick the habit
And you think OUR “no smoking” bans are tough!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Something Fishy

I’ve seen birds of all kinds and even turtles during my walks at Magic Island. I’ve also seen little fish cavorting in schools.
But I haven’t seen one of these. It’s a fish, of course, bigger than most I’ve seen. This piscatorial wonder is oh, about 9 inches long, the largest that I’ve seen gliding through the shallow, peaceful waters of the lagoon.
My first thought was that it’s a mullet. But it wasn’t rooting around on the bottom as mullet are prone to do. Plus, it didn’t have the appropriate hair.
Any idea, anyone? Anyone?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Peacocks Beware!

I’m a little late with this, but a week ago, a woman charged with cruelty to animals was acquitted by a jury of her peers.
Her crime? She got fed up with the constant racket and bird droppings caused on her property by peacocks that were allowed to run free in the area. So … she whacked one on the head in her rage and frustration, prompting the State of Hawaii to file charges against her.
Last May, after bludgeoning the bird, Sandra Maloney (thinking the bird was dead), carried it into some bushes, intending to … cook and eat it later.
She’s been exonerated. And in the process, has gained the sympathy of those who can’t stand the excessive noise and poop pellets left by these large birds. Peafowl are considered feral animals and not wildlife, according to the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.
You know what? I really don’t blame her. Peacocks are beautiful, but they sure can be obnoxious pests. I’m glad she was found not guilty.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Magic Island Lagoon

Click on picture for a larger image
Honolulu’s Magic Island has been around for 47 years (since 1964), and one of its best features is the sheltered lagoon at its very tip.
Thirty acres of reclaimed reef formed the basis of the man-made peninsula. Originally, a new resort complex was planned, a project that would have added two additional islands. However, the Magic Island peninsula was converted into a public park.
Those who are familiar with Magic Island probably don’t know that its official name is “Aina Moana,” which means “land from the sea.”
It’s one of my favorite walking sites, and I always spend some time wandering the inland circumference of the large swimming lagoon that wears its pristine white sand like a tiara.
The water in the lagoon is serenely peaceful; nonetheless, a lifeguard station helps ensure the lagoon users’ safety in the event something should happen.
It’s so peaceful there. I love to sit on the lagoon wall and gaze out at the ocean.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lunchtime is for the Birds

“We’ve been doing our part to keep wildlife in Hawaii well-fed,” he said facetiously, tossing more leftover rice on the driveway.
For the past few months, we’ve taken our leftover rice from the night before and put it in a small bowl in the fridge. The rice partially dries and hardens, making it easy to separate the grains with a little bit of water.
This rice isn’t wasted ... well, not in the general sense of the word, but old-time great-grandmothers would argue that the only way not to waste rice is to eat it.
I scatter the rice in the driveway and retire quickly to my reading spot (a director’s chair in the open carport) to watch the birds attack their lunch – demure zebra doves, larger spotted doves, ubiquitous mynahs, red-crested (Brazilian) cardinals, northern (Kentucky) cardinals, and red-vented and red-whiskered bulbuls.
Occasionally, I’d see a linnet or a Japanese white-eye (mejiro) checking things out from the branches of our nearby Pirie mango tree.
Who knew leftover rice had the power to bring the avian world to our backyard?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No Longer ‘The Jewel’

Remember when I told you I had a new default radio station? “The Jewel” – 99.5 FM? The Hawaii radio station that played some very beautiful, really oldies music – easy listening and golden oldies rock and roll from the ‘40s through the early ‘70s?
Well, that didn’t last long. Soon after Christmas, right after they regaled me with Christmas music all the time, 24 hours a day, they changed their format.
KHUI 99.5 is now “Hawaii Christian Teach and Talk Radio,” simulcasting with KGU 760 AM, so it’s no longer “The Jewel” … not on the air, and certainly, not in my book.
Needless to say, I’ve changed my default back to 107.9 FM. It used to be Oldies 107.9, and they used to play music that I grew up with. I remember hearing pop music from the ‘40s on the radio when I was a kid in Hilo, I love ‘50s and ‘60s music, and could tolerate some of the later ‘70s music.
But y’know, “oldies” is a relative term. Music from the ‘80s is 30+ years old now, and music from the early ‘90s is 20 years or older. And 107.9 has “youthened-up” its music to include those.
Their format is no longer “gold,” it’s “kool gold.” Not exactly what I like, but until someone comes up with something better, it’s the best I can find in Hawaii.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Yeti Thumbs Up

It’s not just “the best,” it’s “Yeti’s Best Legendary Fruits and Vegetables.”
During a recent trip to Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall, I turned the corner and was confronted by a virtual “wall” of produce boxes proclaiming that the apples they supported were nothing less than “Yeti’s Best.”
It’s packed and shipped by Christensen Produce, Inc. I couldn’t find much about them on the Internet, but did come across a Christensen’s Produce Co-op page on Facebook. Perhaps it’s the same company? According to the information on their page, Christensen’s Produce Co-op does bi-weekly distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Their Facebook pictures look good.
Also credited on the boxes is “Brown’s Finest Produce.” Couldn’t find anything about them either.
So, do I have a lot of information to share with you? No, not Yeti.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Out for a Stroll

After a nice lunch at Kona Brewery in Hawaii Kai, who should we meet but two ducky couples out for an early afternoon stroll.

They wandered out of a boat slip at the Hawaii Kai marina, onto the walkway, between some tables and chairs at a corner restaurant, then past an array of parked mopeds, as we paused to let them cross in front of us.
“Good afternoon,” I said. “Quack, quack!” they replied, proceeding on their merry way.
Guess all was ducky with them!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Odd Instrument

During my walk this week at Ala Moana Beach’s Magic Island, I came across these two men doing some measurements with a very odd-looking instrument.
It looked like a flying saucer attached to the top of a pole.
They were busy discussing some figures that were displaying on a small instrument taped to the side of the pole, so I didn’t want to interrupt and ask what the heck they were doing.
So … lemme speculate: I think they were either measuring ambient sound, or the salt content of the air near the ocean.
I could be wrong, and I probably am. Anybody else have a clue or a guess?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Leave My Zodiac Alone!

Yikes! According to Minnesota Planetarium Society astronomers, I’m no longer a Libran. I’m a Virgin. Holy mackerel, who knew!
That means I’m no longer a Monkey Libra (Lunar Zodiac in concordance with the Astrological Zodiac). I’m now a … *gulp* … Virgin Monkey? What?
And, apparently, the poor new Scorpions now have very few Scorpion friends. We’re told that with the New Zodiac, the constellation Scorpio covers only one week (check the listing that follows). And lookit, there’s a new one added in between Scorpio and Sagittarius – Ophiuchus, the snake holder.
Here’s what the New Zodiac looks like:
  • Capricorn: January 20-February 16
  • Aquarius: February 16-March 11
  • Pisces: March 11-April 18
  • Aries: April 18-May 13
  • Taurus: May 13-June 21
  • Gemini: June 21-July 20
  • Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10
  • Leo: August 10-September 16
  • Virgo: September 16-October 30
  • Libra: October 30-November 23
  • Scorpio: November 23-29
  • Ophiuchus: November 29-December17
  • Sagittarius: December 17-January 20
What in heaven’s name (literally in the heavens) is going on here?  What am I going to do with my Libra tattoo? It’s those goldurned astronomers messing with the astrologers, I tell ya.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Paddle Boards

Stand Up Paddle Boarders at Ala Moana Beach
It’s an old fad, but it’s been making a comeback at Hawaii’s beaches –Stand Up Paddle boarding (aka SUPs). It’s basically a surf board that you stand up on, moving yourself forward with a long paddle.
First utilized by Waikiki beach boys in the 1960s, the sport was popularized at the turn of the 21st Century. But with the growth of such equipment, laws and regulations soon follow. SUPs are classified by the U.S. Coast Guard as vessels, which means riders are obligated to wear flotation devices when paddling in certain areas.
Some controversy erupted at Ala Moana Beach Park, where I took this picture, when swimmers and paddlers were trying to share the same waters, oftentimes leading to loud conflicts. The paddlers are now restricted and cannot enter certain areas that are reserved for swimmers only.
Hopefully, the SUPs in the picture I took yesterday are outside the swimmers’ area. And hopefully they are not in an area designated by the U.S. Coast Guard, because they aren’t wearing any floatation devices.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Edgar Allan Poe Toaster

Today is the 102nd birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, born on Jan. 19, 1809, died on Oct. 7, 1849. And, for the second year running, the mysterious man who left three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac at Poe’s Baltimore grave has not made an appearance.
Since 1949, the ritual has been observed and recorded. But the tradition was broken last year, and apparently it’s fallen by the wayside, although there are those who believe it will eventually be re-established. The legend is that a man dressed in black with a white scarf and wide-brimmed hat toasted the literary genius until his death in 1998, when his son began carrying on the tradition.
A few years ago (2007), 92-year-old Sam Porpora alleged that he and four other guides made up the legend as a promotional idea to increase visits to Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The Edgar Allan Poe Monument
There are actually two sites of Poe’s grave. Poe originally was buried in lot 27, the family lot, and a marble headstone indicating the original burying place was placed near the plot in 1913. A monument dedicated to Poe was erected on Nov. 17, 1874, and this is the Memorial Grave most viewed.
When I was attending a conference in Baltimore in (I believe) 1994, our Environment Section took a tour of the city, including a “ghost tour” at Westminster Church. After crawling around under the church and listening to a rather eerie lecture by one of the guides, we went to the Poe monument.
Lo and behold, a man dressed in a black cape and a wide-brimmed black hat, with a white scarf wrapped around his neck stepped out from behind the monument and identified himself as the Poe Toaster. He proceeded to tell us a history of Edgar Allan Poe, then answered our questions.
Whenever it became obvious that he didn’t know an answer, he would launch into recitations from Poe’s works.
That, I have to say, was one of the best conference activities I’ve ever attended.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Random Musings 5

Everybody hates changes. Now even I do. Didn’t before, but I guess I’ve changed.
* * * * *
I’ve always been puzzled by the Dead Sea Squirrels. What’s the big deal about dead squirrels? And whoever heard about sea squirrels in the first place?
* * * * *
How can people in the South eat gumbo all the time? What do they see in it? Me, I could never have soup full of that green rubbery guy with the funny-shaped head.
* * * * *
There’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Witness Protection Program. I wonder if there’s a Jehovah’s Witnesses Program? If not, why not?
* * * * *
Looking at the moon the other night, I wondered what a full moon is full of … Remorse? Sound and fury? Crap? Or maybe itself?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Whole Foods Market

It’s been about three years since Whole Foods Market moved into the Kahala Mall, but last week was the first time the wife and I ventured into the store.

Although one can find Whole Foods throughout the United States, there are only two Whole Foods Markets in Hawaii. One is in Kahului on the Island of Maui; the other is the one we visited at Kahala Mall on Waialae Avenue.
Whole Foods reminds me in part of Lunardi’s in Los Gatos and San Jose, which the we patronize quite often whenever we visit family in San Jose. That is, it’s not your usual supermarket. Like Lunardi’s, Whole Foods doesn’t not carry what you can find in your local Safeway. Instead, the brands are all natural and organic.
Their displays are very eye-appealing as well – a long meat case, a large deli section with lots of food prepared on the premises, a very nice coffee counter with varietal coffee beans on display and for sale.
Deli Foods Counter Area

The Coffee 'Store'
We wandered around for quite a while, just soaking up the sights and aromas of the food, before making our purchases. We’d actually gone there with a purpose – to use a gift card that we received for Christmas to purchase ingredients for a big ol’ pot of beef stew.

Needless to say, we didn’t stop there. Funny how one seems to buy more food than one needs!
I’m going back there soon.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

She Didn’t Talk Because … ?

So there I was, sitting quietly at the kitchen table, eating my eggs and chicken-apple sausage, sipping on my small glass of a├žai berry juice, occasionally taking a sip from my steaming mug of coffee, my eyes glued to the morning newspaper, reading a story about how they’ve found medical waste in runoffs from the recent heavy rains.
I just happened to look up, and there across the table was the wife, watching me intently. I returned her stare for a couple of seconds and with tacit gesture, indicated my curiosity at why she was looking at me.
Big mistake.
She started telling me how she wanted to say something but didn’t want to disturb my reading because she knows I don’t like to be interrupted so she decided to just wait for a more opportune moment when she could ask me about something that required my input and so she was waiting and waiting and that she remembered the last time that blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.
After a couple of minutes (literally, because I could see the kitchen clock behind her), I put up my hand and stopped her. I asked her what she needed me to say, took care of it in three words, and then went back to my breakfast and reading.
Now, reflecting on what happened, it’s cracking me up. Why? Because the wife spent two minutes talking about why she didn’t want to talk.
That’s hilarious, is it not?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tiger Sushi Roll

On a recent grocery shopping trip, I happened upon this unusual item in the supermarket’s sushi case – a “Tiger Roll.” I’ve seen sushi like this before, but never in a deli case.
The roll is created with green avocado slices and cooked shrimp, giving it the orange-striped tiger appearance. Inside is an extension of the outside – minced shrimp with avocado in a mayonnaise base.
Included with the roll is some gari (sliced pickled ginger), a little container of wasabi (Japanese horse radish), a slice of lemon, and a small packet of shoyu (soy sauce).
I want to tell you that we enjoyed every little bit of the sushi and ginger. Not because it was delicious (it was), but because it set us back $12.35 plus tax. That worked out to a little under $1.40 per piece.
Well worth it, I thought, but others in the family didn’t think so. Tough.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Forever Always

From now on, starting with the 2011 Lunar New Year stamp, all commemoratives stamps that you buy at a United States post office will be “Forever” stamps, which means that you won’t have to buy supplemental stamps to make up new rates should they go up.
In just a few days – January 22 – the Year of the Rabbit stamp will inaugurate this new service. It will always be valid to mail a first-class letter that weighs one ounce or less, no matter how high the rates go.
It’s about time they did this. Along with the flat-rate boxes, the Forever stamps reflect a change of thinking in the U.S. Postal Service.
Good move.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

There’s Snow in Hawaii

Photo by Adreli Vicente, 1/8/11
Once in every now and then, the nation can boast that on a specific date, every single state in the Union has snow on the ground. Yesterday, Wednesday, January 12, 2011, was almost such a day.
The only “holdout” was Florida.
According to the Weather Bureau, the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii are covered with 7 inches of the cold stuff. Pretty "almost-good" skiing conditions, I would think.
February 13, 2010 was the last time every single state in the Union recorded snow on the ground. And just like this year, Florida was the last holdout.
Are we due for an “all 50 states” count again this year? Hawaii’s ready … and waiting.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What? No Pepcid Complete?

I recently ran out of Pepcid Complete. You know, the antacid tablet that works better than any other I’ve tried? Usually I buy two big bottles when I’m at Costco and they last me quite a while.
When I looked for them at Long’s Drugs last week, the counters there were devoid of the product. Yesterday, I finally got to Costco and looked for them there, but there was none to be found at Costco either.
Was there a recall when I wasn’t looking? I had to check it out.
Turns out they were recalled last August because of defective containers (holes were poked in a few bottles when a machine screw stuck out too far). Consequently one of the Johnson & Johnson plants was closed and they couldn’t supply enough for the demand.
The product is due to return to the shelves in March.
Now, ain’t THAT a gas?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The BCS Championship Game

I have to say that last night’s BCS Championship Game between Auburn and Oregon was not what I wanted it to be. The final score (Auburn 22, Oregon 19) had nothing to do with it; I really didn’t care who won the game.
However, based on what I had seen and heard of the #1- and #2 BCS-ranked teams, I had expected a higher-scoring game. But it turned out to be a defensive struggle, which I suppose is fine, but again, I wish there had been more scoring.
Didn’t Oregon disappoint? They were unable to sustain their usual rapid-fire offensive play that early on was tiring out Auburn’s defense. And what about their uniforms, created especially for the BCS championship game? There’s nothing like fielding a team shod in fluorescent tennis ball yellow-green Hi-Liter shoes and socks.
As for Auburn, Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton was not terribly impressive, often over-throwing his passes. The defense had some dirty plays that were not only penalized, they were committed directly in the officials’ lines of sight and caught on camera. Football is a rough game, but kneeing a player when he’s down, or shoving on the facemask when he’s down – well, that’s just plain dirty football.
Oh well, at least it turned exciting during the final couple of minutes.
I wish they would have played that way from the get-go.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lucky Penguin

I just discovered that although penguins may be lucky, they sure can be dumb.
Case in point … It was snowing and icy as heck in German’s Muenster Zoo, and Penguin #459 decided to take a stroll. After all, it WAS weather she was used to.
Well, as resourceful as she was, the zoo keepers lost track of her until a visitor spotted her in … of all places … a lion enclosure.
She had wandered into a lion’s den. LIONS!
Here’s where the “lucky” part comes in: The lions weren’t going to step outside where the weather was freezing, so they stayed indoors where it was warmer, snoozing the day away. Good thing too, because it took practically a whole day for her keepers to get her outta there.
How? Herrings. A trail of herrings did the trick.
The penguin minder has given her a name: “Leona.” Me? I would have called her “Danielle.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hot Pastrami Sandwich

It’s been dozens of years since I’ve had a good, juicy, hot pastrami sandwich. I tried the Subway one last night, but it misses the mark by a mile.
A couple of years ago, I did a search here in Hawaii, trying a couple of places with absolutely no luck at all. People here think that all that’s involved in making a hot pastrami sandwich is to slice up pastrami, nuke it in the microwave oven, and put it between two slices of bread.
No sir. That’s not it. I didn’t find any that I liked. I even tried making my own, but that didn’t work out too good either.
The best hot pastrami sandwich I ever had was in Alhambra, California, in the very early ‘70s before the wife, my #1 son and I returned to Honolulu.
There was this little sandwich stand on Atlantic Boulevard (I can’t remember the name of the cross street, but it may have been Mission Road or Commonwealth Avenue) that made great hot pastrami sandwiches.
The pastrami slices were floating in a pan of juices. They cut a French bun in half, slathered one side with mustard and the other with mayo, and heaped piles of the wet, steaming pastrami into the bun. Then, they did something I’ll never forget … they dunked the whole sandwich into the juice.
The wet (but not entirely soggy) monster was then wrapped in sandwich paper and handed over the counter, with the owner pointing out a small pan of hot peppers to garnish if you wanted to.
When the wife and I visited the area a few years ago, I made it a point to find the stand. It wasn’t there. I could have cried. Nobody, but nobody, makes hot pastrami sandwiches like they did.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Not a Trillium

Dietes Bicolor
I saw this flower outside Assaggio Italian Restaurant in Mililani when we took my mom to a birthday lunch yesterday, and it brought back some memories. We had flowers just like this in back of our house before they were uprooted during renovations.
All this time I thought they were called Trillium, but a Google search failed to produce any pictures that would so identify the flower.
Well, as it turned out, it was Facebook and a good friend’s friend that came riding to the rescue.
The flower is a Dietes Bicolor, also known as the Japanese iris, African iris, or Butterfly iris. They are drought-tolerant and so are very suitable for xeriscaping. They’ll help beautify your garden as well, as they attract bees, butterflies and birds.
Thanks, Bev Upchurch of Nashville, and thanks, Helen Malanchak of New Zealand.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Only in Hawaii?

Hidden in the parking lot bordered by 11th and 12th Avenues in the Kaimuki (uptown) area of Honolulu is a little gift shop called “Sugarcane.”
I popped into the place yesterday after lunch at a local Mexican restaurant, just to see if they had any monkey figurines for sale. One never knows … I’ve found them in all sorts of stores here and there across the country, and even in Japan.
Ah, but I digress.
There were no monkeys there, but they did have some cute gift items for girls … nothing I could see for guys.
What REALLY interested me and got me to enter the store was this sign:


Not a fancy sign, just something tacked up to remind people not to track water or dirt or dust or mud into the store. More like a home, actually. Notice they said “feet” and not “shoes.”
I think it’s one of those “Only in Hawaii” things – here, people wear lots of slippers and/or go around barefoot.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Foiled by Garbage

I’ve always felt that anybody who’s brave enough to jump off a building and commit suicide is brave enough to face whatever it is in life that’s got them by the short hairs. I’m serious. Have you ever looked over the side of a tall building? I’m telling ya, that’s not for the squeamish.
And that’s why I think what happened to 26-year-old Vangelis Kapatos of New York City can only be filed in the “I think your suicide idea was pure rubbish” file.
The guy was pretty depressed after a month in Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward. Released just after Christmas, his next worry was possible ejection from his ninth-story, rent-stabilized apartment because he couldn’t afford the $572 rent.
So he did what he thought was his only way out … he jumped.
What he didn’t figure on was the huge pile of bagged garbage on the street below, part of the 77,000 tons of trash the city hadn’t been able to pick up since the post-Christmas storm left more than 18 inches of snow on city streets.
Wham! Or should I say, Whomp! He landed in the garbage. Today, he’s in the hospital … critical but stable.
I kid you not. I hope someone helps him pay the rent.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Koi in Hawaii

One of my sons has an empty koi pond (small one) at the entrance to his new home, and I’m sure he has thoughts of doing something with it once he gets some other things done at the house.
The pond area is pretty small, so I don’t think he’ll be able to emulate the magnificent koi (carp) at the Pagoda Floating Restaurant, but a few of the colorful fish would certainly be a source of joy, I’m sure.
A Koi Swarm at Pagoda Floating Restaurant
As you know, I’m not a fan of the Pagoda Floating Restaurant, but whenever we’re there, I compensate for that by going outside to view the hundreds of colorful koi gathering in bunches whenever kids toss fish food pellets into the water.
Koi are a source of pride to the owners. In addition to the Pagoda koi, one can find nice public displays at Ala Moana Center mall level, and at the International Marketplace in Waikiki.
The first thing one might do is attend a meeting of the Hawaii Goldfish and Carp Association, which has regular meetings near his home. I suppose any tyro koi enthusiast has to be prepared for the amount of work involved, not only to set up the pond, but to maintain it as well.
Me? I’d rather keep a small aquarium. Easier to maintain. And cheaper too … prize koi run upwards of thousands of dollars.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Puka Probe

This isn’t going to be one of my better days. I can tell you that right now. Yesterday I started my preparation for a “puka probe” that I’m not looking forward to later today.
Monday was primarily semi-starving myself in the afternoon, no fruits and/or vegetables all day, and no solids after 3 p.m. Soup with noodles was permitted until 6 p.m., then ‘twas nothing but clear liquids (no coffee or tea). Finally, I had two little pills for dinner.
This morning, no breakfast (damn!) and no coffee (double damn!). I had to wake up at 6 a.m. and take two more pills. Then, at 7:30 a.m., I began drinking a half-gallon of water – not just plain water, mind you, but water mixed with PEG-3350 and electrolytes. That’s the killer part. Bleah.
All this is in preparation for the “puka probe” at noon. Everything should be done by 4 p.m. or so, and then I can finally have something to eat.

Afternoon breakfast and coffee, here I come!
*Sigh* … I can hardly wait.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year’s Fireworks

It was like a war zone in Hawaii early Saturday morning as the fireworks explosions continued past the midnight hour, heralding the start of a brand new year – 2011, which many hope will prove more people-friendly (and economy-friendly) than 2010 was.
Supposedly, this will be the last time that the New Year will be introduced in such a raucous fashion. As of today, a new fireworks ban goes into effect in Honolulu. You’ll still be able to buy fireworks, but only certain kinds, and only in certain quantities.
People can only buy firecrackers. No sparklers, no fountains, no paperless fireworks. And of course, no aerials, which have been illegal for some time now. You can’t buy them, you can’t sell them, and you can’t use them. Permits must be obtained -- $25 a whack and you can only get 5,000 firecrackers. If you’re really into long, loud demonstrations, you can buy as many permits as you want, but you have to get them at least 10 days before you’re going to use them.
Kids can’t fire ‘em off any more … only adults aged 18 and over.
Aerial pyrotechnics have been banned for some time now (1994), but the police says they’ll be coming down hard on the scofflaws. They promise big fines (up to $10,000) and maybe … just maybe, jail time as well (up to five years).
But y’know, I don’t see how the fireworks police are going to patrol the entire island and nab the perpetrators. That’ll be interesting, won’t it?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year’s Day Tradition

One of the New Year’s traditions that we regularly observe is the placing of kadomatsu at our front door and in the house.
It is customary to tie branches of pine (matsu) at one’s doorstep to welcome the God of Harvests to one’s home. In ancient Japan, it was believed that the god Oinari, the patron of prosperity for farmers and merchants, lived in the branches of the pine trees.
A special kodamatsu of bamboo, pine and plum is often placed throughout the house. The pine represents longevity, the bamboo represents resiliency, and the plum represents new beginnings and purity.
The bamboo is often cut at an angle, a practice that had its beginnings in the era of Shogun Tokugawa. In 1572, the shogun suffered his first and only defeat, and sliced the bamboo to show his intention – defeat his foe, Takeda Shingen, the next time they met in battle.
Interesting, huh?