Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shaved Ice in San Jose

We did some wandering around at the Blossom Hill Farmer's Market this morning in San Jose, situated in a small shopping center not far from my son's house.

I took a bunch of photographs and my camera is now filled with images of terrific produce that I can't get out until I return home. See, I have a Sony camera and downloading the pix requires some software that I don't have with me. So y'all will have to wait for another time.

Fortunately, however, I did use the wife's cellphone to take at least one shot to share with you right away. I would have used MY cellphone, but wouldn't know it, the battery petered out just as I was about to take the picture.

Anyway ... thought you might enjoy seeing that Hawaiian style shaved ice is popular in California. The only differences, of course, are the syrups. They use a lot of commercially prepared product, whereas in Hawaii, the true traditional vendors make their own syrup.

The shave (shaved) ice we tried today was not bad, but yes, one can tell the difference. Take my word for it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lego of Me, Lego

The wife and I were babysitting my 3-year-old grandson last night while his parents went out on a well-deserved anniversary dinner date alone. And that gave me an opportunity to bond with the cute tyke while the wife did the dishes.

Well, what he wanted to do was open up and play with one of his birthday presents that he'd gotten a week earlier, so I let him pick one.

Wouldn't you know it, he picked the Lego City Fire Truck kit. Now ... those of you who've helped your child put on of these together know what it's like - hundreds of tiny pieces that preschool-sized children just can't put together by themselves.

Enter grandpa, winner by default of the "Lego Construction According to the Directions" assignment.

Have you ever tried putting something like a Lego toy together while a small boy is messing around with the pieces and having fun playing with the tires while you're desperately trying to hurry up and get it done while babbling mindlessly trying to keep his attention?

Suffice to say it didn't take just 10 minutes ... or a half-hour ... or even an hour. Nope. It took me two hours to put the fire truck together, opening the three packets of Lego tiles in order, while trying to keep the related pieces and my mind in one place.

I haven't been so focused on a task in at least a couple of years.

One thing I have to say about my grandson: He's a rambunctuous boy, but he kept his cool throughout the whole time, carrying on a conversation with me about how the tires were going to the fires (his own pun!) and how he's helping.

The only consternation was when I couldn't find a couple of necessary pieces. So I skipped them, only to find them later and having to take the toy apart so I could install the stabilizing bars (in the picture with the blue tip on the side of the fire engine).

That, and the fact that I had a few pieces left over. Is that supposed to happen? Oh, and they forgot to include the black cord that was supposed to be the fire hose. And I couldn't get the ladder to hold on to the swivel. And I couldn't get the basket at the end of the ladder to attach. Did anyone see the Magic Glue?

I was sorely tempted to place the finished fire engine and rescue rubber boat on a high shelf so no one could play with it and take it apart. But that would spoil everything. So, I released custody of the darned thing to my grandson, to take apart and rearrange and jumble with every other Lego piece he has or may accumulate over the coming years.

Grandkids are fun.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Southwest Airlines' Boarding System

It's been a few years since I've flown on Southwest Airlines, and when the wife and I took a side trip from San Jose to Las Vegas this week, we were able to experience their new (well to me, anyway) boarding system.

When last I flew Southwest, you had to line up in columns: A, B, C and D. The earlier you checked in, the higher in the alphabet you lined up. The ultimate was to score line A, which means you got to board first. Check in later and you got relegated to line B or higher.

Boarding early on Southwest is important because there is no assigned seating. First-come, first-get. That's important not only because you get to sit in the front of the plane, but you also get your choice of overhead luggage compartments.

And for people on short trips with just one little roll-on, that's highly desirable.

They changed it a little since my last time. Now they have these numbered stanchions that indicate a position within each lettered line. Therefore, now, the earlier you check in, you're guaranteed not only to be in the A line, but also in a higher position. A-1 is the ultimate, then A-2, then A-3, etc., all the way to A-60. Once the A's have started boarding, they set up the B line (B-1, B-2, yadda yadda), and so forth.

When I checked in online in San Jose, despite filling in the form and clicking on the "Check-In" button precisely 24 hours prior to our departure, we were assigned A-55 and A-56. It turns out you can get even earlier check-in (36 hours) by paying ten bucks a person and about 50 people must have done that because there they were, in front of us.

Still, we got good seats together just north of the wings.

On the return trip, I was unable to get to a computer exactly 24 hours prior to our flight. By the time I found a FedEx Office, it was 23 hours and 35 minutes before our flight. I was a little depressed, thinking we were going to be relegated to the B line and possibly even the C line.

As it turns out, we were assigned A-50 and A-51, a skosh better than our flight over, despite the later check-in. Why? I think it's because in San Jose, the people checking in were residents using either the early check-in option, or their home computers and I was competing with that. In Las Vegas, however, the passengers probably were all tourists chasing around town looking for a computer or check-in kiosk in their hotels (and we all know how slow THOSE are).

Anyway, we got even better seats on the return flight to San Jose.

The only thing about Southwest is that our gates always seemed to be the one farthest from the rental car and/or shuttle bus dropoff points.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yakety Yak Yak

Two versions of a recent conversation in my household the day before we left for San Jose:

Version #1 (In my dreams)
  • Me: We’re leaving for the airport at 11:45, so call your brother at 11:15 and tell him we’re ready.
  • Wife: Okay.
Version #2 (Reality bites back)
  • Me: We’re leaving for the airport at 11:45, so call your brother at 11:15 and tell him we’re ready.
  • Wife: 11:15?
  • Me: Yes.
  • Wife: Call him at 11:15?
  • Me: Yes.
  • Wife: So we’re leaving for the airport at 11:45, right?
  • Me: Right.
  • Wife: Okay, it’s 10:15 now, right?
  • Me: Right.
  • Wife: So I should wait an hour before calling him, right?
  • Me: Right.
  • Wife: Guess I should get ready now, then.
  • Me: Yes.
  • Wife: Okay.
What can one do but shrug it off and think "Oh well."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Irregularity Ahead!

Dannon claims that its Activia brand of yogurt will help with irregularity, but I'm not so sure it can remedy mine.

For the next couple of weeks or so, the usually daily posts on my Left Field Wander blog will appear on an irregular basis. I'm going on a trip with the wife to visit my grandson in California.

My other blogs will post automatically as as I schedule them 'way in advance. But the Wandering blog is usually done daily and I don't know how often I'll be able to get to a computer 'cause I don't want to lug my laptop along and my iPad isn't up to the task of posting new entries.

So ... take your vitamins, get plenty of exercise, drink lots of liquids, eat lots of roughage and some Activia every now and then, and you'll stay regular. Don't worry about me. I'll catch up later.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pass the Booster Shot

“Look, if you want us to say it a special way, why don't you spell it the way you want us to say it, huh? You ever thought about that?" – Nadia Giosia, on Nadia G’s Bitchin' Kitchen

People sure have problems when they try to pronounce “Worcestershire Sauce,” don’t they?
Even the celebrity chefs make fun of it during their programs. I’m talking hotshots like Michael Chiarello, Emeril Lagasse, Kelsie Nixon, Roger Mooking and Paula Deen. Nigella Lawson doesn’t even pronounce the entire word, calling it “Wooster” sauce instead.
When I was a kid, we sometimes called it “Booster shot.” The fact that Dad was a doctor probably had something to do with it, but we eventually settled on “Wooster-sher.” Even my iPad plays games with the words and tries to auto-correct its spelling to “Woe heaters ire.”
I looked it up in the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, and they said it’s pronounced “Wooster-sheer.”
Here’s a sure-fire cure: Instead of trying to pronounce the word, just say, “Pass the Lea & Perrins.” That works too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Navel Invasion

"Adam and Eve"
By Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1533
How come most classic paintings of Adam and Eve show them with belly buttons?
Adam was created by God and was the first human on Earth. So why does he have a navel? That human feature only occurs in mammals that are connected to their mothers in utero by an umbilical cord that supplies nutrients to the unborn baby.
Since Adam didn't have a mother, how could he have had an umbilicus (i.e., navel, belly button, piko [Hawaiian], oheso [Japanese])? And since Eve was created from Adam's rib and also wasn't born of a mother, how come SHE is shown with a navel?
Maybe the artists thought the Creator was thinking ahead and gave each of them one so they'd have a handy place to put their salt while they munched on their celery sticks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Wonder It’s Cloudy

I read in the newspaper recently that clouds seem to be hanging a little lower in the skies since Y2K rolled around – as much as 1% lower than before Year 2000. That translates to 100-130 feet lower than usual.

Scientists are not too sure of why this is happening, stressing that their 10-year study isn’t long enough to provide sufficient data.
Yet the fact remains that the clouds are lower, so something obviously is going on. Could it be that too many people are on Cloud 9, weighing it down? Maybe.
But I have a direr, and possibly more accurate, observation: Joe Btfsplk of the Li’l Abner-Fearless Fosdick comics of old is back in town.
I kid you not!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tree Toad

Have you ever seen a toad (bufo) hanging from a branch? I mean, how can that be? Everybody knows that bufos live on the ground slurping up insects and other small stuff with their sticky tongues.

So how'd this one get up in a tree? Here's how:

One day, the wife saw a stinky, shriveled dead toad splayed out amongst her orchid pots and recruited me to get rid of it. She wanted me to put it in a plastic shopping bag, bundle the bag up right and throw it in the green-waste recyling bin.

Heck no, I wasn't getting close to the smelly thing. I mean, it really reeked, and I sure didn't want it stinking up the bin.

I picked it up with a small rake and flung it far away toward the base of our pyrie mango tree. Unfortunately, a branch from our neighbor's tree was hanging over the fence and the toad got caught in it. Incredible stroke of luck. Ninety-nine point ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the toad would have hit the branch and fallen to the ground.

That just wasn't to be this time. The stinky dead bugger caught one leg on a twig and held on for dear life ... er, I mean, death. And lordy lord, I wasn't going to go up there and cut it down. So I left it there.

The wife had the last word. A couple of days later, the branch and stinky toad carcass were gone. She'd made the young man who comes to do our yardwork cut the branch down, wrap up the noxious toad in a plastic bag, and toss it in the green-waste bin.

Poor guy ... the yard guy, I mean, not the toad. He had to smell the damned thing. Ewww!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Where Hawaii Ranks 11

The results of the National Wellbeing Index poll conducted throughout 2011 by Gallup and Healthways are out.

The six basic categories of wellbeing considered were life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access.
Hawaii is ranked #1 in overall wellbeing, placing first in two categories: Emotional health and Healthy Behaviors.
Top Overall Wellbeing
1.       HAWAII (70.2 index score)
2.       North Dakota (70.0)
3.       Minnesota (69.2)
4.       Alaska (69.0)
5.       Utah (69.0)
According to the poll, Western states continue to have higher wellbeing. The lowest wellbeing states are in the South. The 10 states with the lowest wellbeing are (worst first, in descending order): West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Delaware, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee and Nevada.
So now you know.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Puppy Abandoner Tagged

It’s bad enough that a guy from Toledo, Ohio dumped six puppies into a suitcase and abandoned them along with their mother in a trash bin, he’s also made the “stupid” list.
Two counts of abandonment were filed yesterday by the Humane Society against a man who dumped the puppies. How’d they find him? The suitcase he used had a baggage tag on it with his contact information.
Apparently, he was moving and when he couldn’t sell the dogs (English bulldog mix), he just left them outside a Toledo business. Passersby rescued the animals and called the Lucas County Dog Warden’s office.
Stupid guy … doubly stupid!
I kid you not.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Keep Yer Distance!

Pristine 1975 (?) Buick
While driving around in western Kentucky last week, I chanced upon this beautifully restored Buick in a parking lot ... sitting there, all by its lonesome, straddling four parking spaces, away from the general pack of cars.

I think it's a 1975 Buick Skylark convertible, but I could be wrong. When I was a kid, we used to have a 1956 Buick and it looked nothing like this one.

The owner did a good job on it. The paint was perfect, no scratches, valleys, bumps or pimples. No dust or dirt on the finish either. It was simply amazing.

If I'd bumped into the owner, I'd have shaken his hand for preserving such a beauty.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hilo Days: Mom, the Great Cook

Here's another story from my old "Hilo Days" website that chronicled my life in my hometown of Hilo, Hawaii. It's an excerpt from a limited edition book that I made for members of my immediate family.

One of these days, I'll start another blog and run all of the stories there.

Mom, c. 1950
Mom, the Great Cook

Our yard on Ekaha Street had a lot of grass. Well, when we first moved there, the back was nothing but four-foot-tall California grass. Dad hired some older kids from the church Christian Fellowship club, and they all came over one weekend to do some clearing.

I knew most of them, as I saw them every Sunday at church. I would guess they were in intermediate or high school, and to me they all looked like adults (remember, I was only in the first grade).

Anyway, I tried not to be spoiled and useless, and helped as much as I could, dragging weeds around and working up a few beads of sweat that dotted my mainland-milky white skin.

The kids worked through the day, and by the end of the day, several columns of white and black smoke were rising from our back yard. The massive California grass growth had disappeared, and red dirt was exposed.

I don't know whether Dad bought seed, or cuttings, or what, but in a few months, the back yard was covered with grass Wailuku grass, we called it. The kind that grows real fast in the rain. And remember, it rained a lot in Hilo.

Mom made special oven-baked barbecue hot dogs for their lunch. Actually, it was the first time I'd ever had that particular dish. Great stuff. The older kids scarfed up the whole shebang in nothing flat.

You see, Mom was a good cook. Years later, when I went to college, I asked her for a bunch of easy recipes. Included among the handwritten index cards was the recipe for the oven-baked barbecue hot dogs. I've embellished the recipe a little over he years, but to this day, it's one of my favorites.

Mom once had a bunch of her recipes published in a story that the Hilo Tribune-Herald wrote about her. We were all real proud, and I know she was, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Zippy’s McCully Renovating

If you want to eat at Zippy's McCully, you'd better hurry.
They're closing for a few months after this weekend for a few months. It must have been a couple of years ago when I heard this popular eatery was going to close for a major renovation. But then they kept postponing it and I forgot all about it.
When I went there for breakfast yesterday (our kitchen has been painted but is in the process of being restocked so I can't cook at home yet), I saw this sign on their restaurant door:
At the stroke of midnight Sunday, the restaurant, take-out counter, Napoleon's Bakery and Osaka Okazuya are ceasing service until the Fall.
The staff is being redeployed temporarily to other Zippy's locations throughout Honolulu and I hope they all come back to McCully when the place reopens. I've been eating there for years and have come to regard them all as friends.
Guess I need to get my chili moco somewhere else for a few months.

Monday, April 9, 2012

‘L’ Is For The …

A few weeks ago when we were checking out a house for sale in Manoa, I noticed something quite unusual on the living room wall:

It was a piece of art consisting of four mesh hands in various positions … intriguing indeed. I asked the real estate agent if she knew anything about it and she said it was created by the home owner’s son.
The hands were forming the letters “L,” “O,” “V,” and “E” in American Sign Language. It’s the kind of piece that one might find in one of the well-known art museums around the country. But here it was, hanging on the wall of a home not that far from where I live.
Kudos to the artist – Ehn (pronounced “Ian”) Nishioka, a junior at Iolani School, from whence my two sons graduated many years ago.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight?

It may be true, it may not be … but a recent study shows that people who eat chocolate five times a week ended up with a body mass index lower than those who shun it. This was reported recently in the morning newspaper.
The research was done by Beatrice Golomb of the University of California, San Diego, whose letter to the Archives of Internal Medicine provided some details.
Say you’re five feet tall and 120 pounds. One body mass index (BMI) equals five pounds – not a heck of a lot, but a five-pound loss is a five-pound loss, y’know?  Unfortunately, there aren’t any details as to what kind of chocolate was used in the research, or what type of controls were applied (e.g., diet and exercise).
But she did note that even if those who ate chocolate consumed more calories, the chocolate-BMI relationship still held true.
See? I knew those mini-Hershey candies served a good purpose.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Can't Stop Laughing

I don't know why, but this cartoon reached into me and touched every tickle nerve I have. Even now, while I post this, I'm having a good laugh.

God bless cartoonists and their sense of humor!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Frozen Moments in Time

The Former Sally Ann Motel, Lake Tahoe
About 40 years ago (has it really been that long?), I took the wife, my little son, and my in-laws on a Christmas holiday to Lake Tahoe. What a memorable trip that was.

First of all, we almost missed our flight at Los Angeles International Airport, getting there just in time to check in, thanks to traffic. Then, as we approached Lake Tahoe Airport (which isn't operating any more), we had to circle for quite a while because the runways were packed with snow and we had to wait for them to be cleared.

I think every barf bag on the plane was used. Even I, who never gets airsick, was about five minutes away from flagging down the stewardess (I didn't have one in my seat pocket ... the wife, y'know).

Okay, so we finally get our car and drive to the motel pictured above. It was a nice little motel called "The Sally Ann" that I found in the AAA Trip Book. It was still mid-afternoon, so I decided we'd go to dinner in Reno, about a 45-minute drive down the mountain. No problem. We got there fine.

Then, on the way back, it started to snow. It snowed and snowed and snowed. And then it snowed and snowed some more. I joined a short line of cars that crept up the mountain, occasionally trading the lead-off spot, slowly making our way back to the motel. That 45-minute Tahoe-Reno drive turned out to be a two-hour return trip.

I thought we were going to die. And believe me, even though everybody was tired, nobody was falling asleep. We thought we were going to die.

I can't tell you how happy I was to see the lights of the town appear before us, and the motel sign glowing in the snowfall. We took a cab to dinner and boy, could that cabbie drive, just plowing through the snow wall in the middle of the road, controlled skids and all that.

That night, the shower never felt so good, and my spirits were up because we didn't die. So I did the only thing a young man who grew up in Hawaii might do. I went for a walk in the blizzard. Oh, about a hundred yards down the road and then a hundred yards up the road and back.

This man slept good that night. The next morning, Christmas Day, it was like a winter wonderland ... except I couldn't see our car. It was buried in snow, the result of what they were calling an 80-year storm. The car wouldn't free, no matter how much I tried. Finally, the motel owner showed up, returning prematurely from a visit to Sacramento; he fired up a little Bobcat and pulled my car free.

Poor guy, he got a good talking to from the mother-in-law. She laid into him: How dare he go to see his mother in Sacramento and not tell us there was a storm coming. I felt sorry for the guy, I mean, even the weather experts never expected so much snow; plus, it wasn't his fault. So I had a short talk with him afterwards and apologized for the way she'd acted.

I did miss the longest NFL playoff game in history because I was outside trying to put chains on the car tires. The rental agency had only provided one set, and it wasn't that easy to dig the car out and install the chains. My legs felt frozen and the only thing I could think of was amputation below the knees ... "Operating room, here I come."

The snowfall had stopped and everything looked so white and pristine as we went to breakfast at Harold's Club. Oh, how beautiful the lake looked from 'way atop the hotel. Certainly worth all the trouble we'd gone through.

Heck, we even got a partial refund from Hertz because of the tire chain situation. I don't know what made me think of this adventure this morning. But I did. So there you are.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

For baseball fans, yesterday was the first day of the rest of the year. It was opening day in Major League Baseball, and the boys are back in town. Every team will start its season in the next couple of days; every team will feel it has a chance for the diamond ring come October.
I probably jinxed my favorite team   the Atlanta Braves   by placing preseason bets in Las Vegas that they will win the National League pennant and the World Series. They've got a good-looking team this year and open their season today in New York against the Mets.
We'll see if the Braves can get into post-season play after their 162-game season ends on October 3, either as the National League East Division winner, or one of two (one more than last year) wild card teams. I've got my fingers crossed for them.
It's a brand new season, and for the teams and us fans, hope springs eternal.
Go Braves!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

World War II Gun Emplacement?

I wish I knew what this concrete block along the seawall of Kakaako Waterfront Park is. I see it every time the wife and I go walking there.

In a perfect world, someone would have written about it in a blog or on a website somewhere, but an intense Google search turned up nothing.

My guess is it's the base of a turret, perhaps a World War II gun emplacement installed along Honolulu's shore to keep vigil over the skies, as anyone at the location can watch airplanes heading to the right, toward Hickam Air Force Base, which was strafed pretty badly during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

But the thing is, I don't know for sure. There's no plaque there or anything. If anybody has information, I sure would appreciate hearing from them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Humorous Sign Sighting

Signs like these can be found all over the United States, usually gracing one side of an aisle, hanging from a rotating exhibit, or a store wall.

So it's not surprising that when I walked into a gift shop near Lexington, Kentucky, that I came across these and stood there for several minutes just reading, visualizing and giggling to myself. I had to stop when I noticed several people casting odd glances in my direction.

See if they don't make YOU smile:

The last one is my favorite. An alert person will learn something useful and informative every day!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nosy Doggie

As the audience packed into the Woolshed at Kentucky Down Under in Horse Cave (I love that name), Kentucky, I was drinking in the Australian barn scene before me and getting used to the smell of animals and their doings (if you know what I mean), when something caught my eye.

On the stage, off to the left, I could see a doggy nose pressing through a gap in the wooden wall.

It was indeed a nosy Australian Sheep Dog, trying desperately to sniff out what was going on in the theater seats. Did I say "theater seats"? It was more like wooden-bench stadium seating.

Apparently this dog does this every time there's a sheep show. Nosy critter.

That's all, end of story. I bet you thought there was a clever and entertaining ending, right? LOL.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What's Up, Doc?

9:30 a.m. Thursday, March 29, 2012
See the policeman on the right side of this picture, holding his arms out to his sides as if to say, "What's with you!"? Also, notice the light is red.

Okay, here's the scoop. Last week, the intersection of Beretania and Punahou Streets was a mess – only one lane was open in either direction on Punahou because of road work, and two lanes heading downtown on Beretania were closed. It was an extension of work farther up the street, I reckon, as Punahou has been a mess for a couple of weeks now.
Anyway, I had whipped out my phone and had just clicked a shot of the mess when I noticed the cop in a "What's with you, buster" stance, staring at me, wiggling his fingers, obviously letting me know he was upset that I wasn’t paying attention to him.
But y’know, I was paying attention to the traffic light and frankly didn’t notice him telling me to proceed against the light. He gave the “the eye” as I drove forward just as the light changed and passed him.
Me? I just gave him a Queen Elizabeth hand wiggle-wave as I drove by. No harm, no foul.