Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eww! What’s Eating You?

Every now and then, I like to revisit the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History. It’s easy to find, just drive north on Las Vegas Boulevard, pass through downtown, and go about a mile more. On the right will be Cashman Field, where the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team plays, and right after that is the museum. 
The featured displays change every now and then. The last time I checked it out, they had a small dinosaur exhibit that supplemented its much larger animated dino room. You can always tell right away what the new exhibits are; they have a large poster in front that clues you in. 
This time, they were showing a special exhibit about insects that feed on us. Literally. While we’re totally unaware, like when we’re sleeping. Y’know, bed bugs, lice, leeches … things like that. You have to step into a dark room where most of the exhibits are either video or posters, with some interactive stuff. 
The host is the comedian Carrot Top, who by now is a Las Vegas institution. The last time I went to a Las Vegas 51s baseball game, they gave me a Carrot Top bobble head doll dressed in the 51s’ uniform. I still have that stupid thing, by the way.
Because the room is so dark, it made it difficult to take pictures. With a flash, things didn’t look good. And without a flash, things REALLY didn’t look good. So I had to satisfy myself with some slow-shutter speed snaps.

Oh well, it was nicely educational and I’m sure little kids will enjoy it. After all, don’t they like gross stuff and sour candy?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Going Red with Rental

Check out my rental car from Hertz. It’s a red Volkswagen Golf. Quite a surprise, actually … when Hertz sent me an email telling me the stall the car was in, and the color, and the make, I have to say I had never heard of a Golf.

All I could picture was a golf cart. Me, driving around Las Vegas in a gold cart. Hey, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad after all. But nah … it’s too hot this week for that.

Turns out the Golf is quite a neat car. The test of a rental car with me is, would I buy one and drive it around town? The answer is usually “maybe.” But with the Golf, I’d answer “yes.” It’s very roomy inside for a small car, the only problem I had was getting in. I’m a kind of big guy whose gut gets in the way when I try to bend at the waist, so the top of my head was rubbing the top of the doorway, messing up my baseball cap.

Plus, I like red rental cars. It sure makes it easier to find your car in a parking lot, and as soon as a hotel valet drives it up for you, you know it’s yours. C’mon, admit it. How many times have you stood there while the valet announced your number, oblivious to everything because you couldn’t remember what kind and color car you rented? With a red car … no problem.

And hey, other drivers can see you on the freeway. And that’s no small safety issue.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bellagio Conservatory Summer Display

One of the first things I always do on a trip to Las Vegas is run on over to the Bellagio Hotel & Casino and see if they’ve done anything new at their floral conservatory. That’s what I did early Monday, and yep, they changed it.

For some reason it didn’t strike me as spectacular as their winter and spring displays. In fact, some of the same elements were there (different and new flowers, of course). But, I gotta admit, they do a good job of it.

An element that I always enjoy is the floral depiction of a famous artist’s work. This time it was Claude Monet’s “Cap Martin Near Menton.” What and where that is, I have no idea. Still, it was pretty.

And, as usual I took a plethora of pictures. Unfortunately, I can’t show you all, but here are several that I like:
Flapjacks (Kalanchoe luciae)


Orchid Flower Cart

Garden Frog

Great Herons
Wonder what their plans are for the fall?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thank You, M Resort

Once again I’ve been favored by a hotel in Las Vegas; this time it’s the M Resort ‘way out there at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard (“The Strip”). I’ve talked about this place before, it’s beautiful and it’s really not that long a drive. Just head down the Strip, pass Mandalay, pass the outlet mall on the left, pass South Point Hotel & Casino on the right, and look in the distance … you’ll see a hotel out there. That’s the one.

So I open my mail one day in June and saw what they were offering: A $10 credit on their machines, 10x points on certain days, and two free buffet meals at Studio B in the casino. Quite coincidentally, I was planning to do a Vegas trip at the end of August, and the days of the slot promotion and free buffet coincided with a special offer I got from the Monte Carlo Hotel on the Strip.

That Monte Carlo offer, by the way, was for three free days. I’m here for five days but only am paying for two … at a very low price of $35 a day (I think that’s what it was).

Anyway, I digress. As soon as I arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday (7:15 arrival), I picked up my bags, rented a car, and drove out to M Resort. I had a 30-minute wait before Studio B opened, so I sat down at the video poker machine with my $10 free play. By the time I saw a few people standing in the buffet line, I quit … $29 ahead of the game.

The Sunday Seafood Buffet ($39.99 a person) is excellent and huge. There are hundreds of dishes to choose from, all of them prepared excellently. As usual when eating at a buffet, I went theme – a few items on the plate, from 4 to 5 plates, not stuffing myself, certainly not eating until I’m ready to pass out.

Here … I’ll share a picture of the first plate: the salad plate.

I wasn’t much into seafood that day, but I did eat a couple of oysters, an unusual offering for a buffet. The salad plate was followed by the custom omelet and breakfast meats plate, the beef short ribs and barbecued pork ribs and lamb ribs plate, the other hot items plate, and finally the dessert plate. I’ve already written about Studio B in my restaurant blog, so I decided not to rehash it here (or there, for that matter).

The décor is certainly food-worthy, along the wall above the food preparation and hot trays is an array of video screens, with Cooking Channel programs presented in living color.

See that? That’s Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. To be truthful, I had to look up her name because although I’ve bumped into the program occasionally on The Cooking Channel, I don’t watch her regularly. Before her show started, they were showing Paula Deen’s son Jamie’s program. I don’t watch them either, and okay, I admit I had to look up his name.

But hey, can’t complain … it was free. Oh, and the waiter tip and hotel parking tip? Compliments of M Resort and the money I won playing video poker that they staked for me.

Life is always good, but sometimes, life is gooder than usual.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spotty Postings Ahead

Things will be a little spotty here at Left Field Wander once again as I’m going to be in Las Vegas for a week (and it's not that special offer I told you about yesterday).

Although I plan to take my laptop with me, and I plan to update the blog from there, but it isn’t always easy to write and post entries while I’m on a trip, so things may get a little uneven, about what you’d expect from out of left field.
My other blogs have been prewritten and prescheduled, so you can wander over to them … they alternate, so check the bottom of the right-hand column here to see if they’ve been updated before you check them out.
Take care of each other, now.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Free Vegas Offer Postcard

I got this postcard in the mail the other day, offering me a pair of free airline tickets to Las Vegas on “A US Airline), plus a three-day, two-night hotel stay.

All I have to do is call that toll-free number that’s listed on the back of the card and give them the special RSVP code. Apparently, according to the postcard, they’ve been trying to reach me and inform me of this fantabulous offer.
They do stress that this is not a timeshare or land-sale offer – two of the most notorious presentation ploys there are (you’ve seen those ads before, haven’t you?) – which makes me wonder, what exactly are they going to try and sell me?
Well, I tell you what. I’m not going to fall for this. First of all, it’s a bulk-mail offer and I’m not so special. If you look in the upper right corner of the postcard front, you’ll see some white lettering. It’s the name “Donna Scaff” in mirror image, which means the postcard just before mine was sent to her. This ink offset phenomenon happens when something’s mass-printed, then names are applied separately by letter press, and the cards are bundled tightly to be taken to the post office.
Special indeed! Harumph to that.
Hey, if you think you might want to call them and take advantage of their offer, be my guest.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Random Musings 18

I wonder how long it takes an elephant to blow its nose … or a giraffe to throw up.

* * * * *
If I grumble all the time when my belly hurts, do I have “irritable growl syndrome”?
* * * * *
I haven’t lost a tooth in decades; I wonder … does the Tooth Fairy charge an inactivity fee?
* * * * *
If I threw a party for all my friends with split personalities, would I have to buy a lot of extra nametags?
* * * * *
I miss my cat when I’m not home. Should I get him a cell phone so he can meow at me when I’m not there?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Really Junk Stuff

I’ve seen celebrity cooks on television make Kale chips a few time, namely Anne Burrell and Giada DeLaurentis, and they made it look so good. A perfect, tasty crisp-able to munch on while reading on my iPad.

Okay, so I spot this package of Open Nature Zesty Kale Chips at the supermarket. Hey! Just what I need, I thought. It’s 100% natural, no artificial flavors of colors, and no preservatives. Only kale, cashews, sunflower seeds, red bell pepper powder, carrot powder, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, lemon juice concentrate, sea sale and spices.
Of course, I bought a bag. It wasn’t cheap – $4.98 a bag. But worth it just to try, right?
Oh lawdie, it was so bad. Looked like hell too. Check this out:
They should have left out the apple cider vinegar and lemon juice concentrate. The acidic flavor was the killer. Not that leaving it out would have helped.
I’m sure there are some who would like this … but not me. Not me. Ewwww, I dumped it all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Elijah Earnhardt has been banned from playing in his Dallas football league. The 6-1, 297-pound gridder had to face that reality recently, and probably is wondering how he’s going to explain it to his friends and neighbors.

The thing is, Elijah just wanted the experience of playing for a team before trying out at his school. See, Elija is only 12 years old. But he’s been deemed too big to play with others his own age. So says the Mesquite Pee Wee Football League.
Poor guy far exceeds the maximum weight limit of 135 pounds. That eliminates any chance of playing Pee Wee football. He’s just going to have to play for his school without getting any experience.
His mother, Cindy, isn’t happy. Not in the least. And hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She’s going to protest this and take her case all the way to the top if need be. Well hell, I guess Mama knows best, right?
I kid you not.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blankety Blank Cheat

What’s worse than an ace up your sleeve in a poker game? A hidden blank letter tile in a Scrabble tournament. No, make that TWO hidden blank tiles.

Well, one young player got caught doing just that in the National Championship Tournament, and was ejected from the competition.
Apparently, this has happened in smaller tournaments, but never … NEVER … in the National Scrabble Association’s championship tournament held recently in Florida. Florida? Yep, maybe the cheater got his inspiration hiding hanging chads.
We may never know who the culprit is, because he’s a minor and they don’t out cheaters by name if they’re underage (potential legal action, y’know), but he’s a Division 3 player, defined as someone who plays a great Scrabble game in the living room. Hey! I know a couple of people who qualify for Division 3.
There’s big money involved in the tournament. The winner will get $10,000, and that’s no stinky cheese. It’s known that some players do what they can (short of cheating) to improve their chances, even taking brain boosting mineral supplements.
Oh really? How do you spell “obsessed”?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Bulbul Foray

We have a bunch of red-vented bulbuls that frequent our neighborhood, along with their red-whiskered cousins. The wife doesn’t like them because they’re aggressive and she thinks they nip away at the mangoes and her orchid buds.

I don’t blame her, actually. Did you know red-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer) are on the list of the world’s 100 worst invasive alien species?
At any rate, I like their boldness. Sure, they startle quite easily and fly off to safety when they see you coming, but they do venture into the nooks and crannies of the house’s eaves looking for moths and other insects that might be hiding there.
I was able to snap a pic of one hovering near our rubbish bin, zeroing in on an insect it had seen there (the bulbul snatched it, by the way).
But the wife is right, they do damage crops, especially orchids if you let them. Oh, and they do have a nasty habit – they eat the fecal sacs of their nestlings.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hilo Days: A River Ran through It

Pity the kid who doesn’t have a river near home. There’s something adventurous about going down to the river and playing with your friends, getting wet, scraping your knees, netting mosquito fish, catching crayfish … it’s an integral part of growing up. Here’s one of my stories from my long-gone Hilo Days website:

The River
A stream – or as we called it, "The River" – ran through the cane fields not too far from our house. You got to it either by taking Wiliwili Street all the way to the end, then turning left on an access road until you got to the stream. Or, you could walk to the end of Ekaha Street, and reach the access road from the Kawasaka's property.
The stream was only about 15 feet wide, and just a couple of feet deep. You walked across a four-foot wide wooden bridge to reach the other side.
This little stream continued a long way. The only time it was ever visible was when it crossed the street between Carvalho Park and Hilo Memorial Hospital. It eventually joined up with the Wailuku River, which split near the backside of Hilo High School, forming the residential area known as Reed's Island, before coming back together near the hydro-electric plant behind the main post office.
Wildlife flourished in and around the stream. Typical of small Hawaiian streams, there were lots of crayfish that made their homes in the steep muddy banks, "mosquito fish" (or "medaka"), fantailed guppies, swordtails, red swordtails, snails, leopard frogs, bullfrogs, mongooses, centipedes and every insect known to man. There might even have been some dragonfly nymphs for all I know.
We usually played in the area by the bridge. The stream widened at that point, and there were a few large semi-submerged rocks to stand on. One rock in particular was flat, roughly round in shape with a diameter of about three feet or so, and jutted out into the stream just under the bridge. We stood there a lot.
At New Year's time, we used to bring our cherry bombs, Roman candles and sparklers down to the stream. We'd just wreak havoc on those poor aquatic denizens. I already told you about how we wrapped bread around the cherry bombs and blew up the fish.
We'd also catch crayfish, tie a Duck Brand to its back, and watch it try to reach the water before the firecracker blew. We'd light a Roman candle, and once it got started, lay it on the bottom of the stream weighted down with rocks, and watch the colorful incandescence pop to the surface. We'd light the sparklers and toss them in stream, polluting the water and air with the noxious fumes.
The crayfish were fun – but scary. They came in two flavors: young green ones, and old red ones. The green crayfish were no threat, but those crafty old red ones would head for your big toe straightaway while you were standing in the water paying attention to something else. The crayfish would then proceed to nip your toe with its big pinchers, hanging on for all its worth.
Even when you caught a crayfish, it would take a defensive posture with its pinchers in the air, wide open, ready to take off a piece of your skin if you weren't careful. You could pick them up by grabbing their back, but if you weren't careful, they'd snip your fingers.
If we had known at that time how tasty crayfish tails were, the stream's population certainly would have been sorely depleted. But we were from Hawaii, not Louisiana, so we didn't know crayfish tails from chicken lips.
Great fun, good times.

Friday, August 17, 2012

NBC’s Animal Practice Needs More Practice

On Sunday night, I was watching the Olympics closing ceremony entertainment on NBC when they cut their coverage to show a commercial-free episode of their new comedy, Animal Practice.

I’d seen their promos of the show every night during the two weeks preceding and was a bit intrigued … some of the little segments seemed so outrageous and funny. So, instead of being angry at their arbitrary insertion of the show, I demurred and watched it.
Boy … is it lousy. There’s no heart to it, everything seems just so mean-spirited, and even after loads to reflection, I can’t come up with any redeeming reasons why I should watch it. The characters are kind of offensive, Capuchin monkey included, each in his or her own way – either immature or too serious or dumb or condescending or timid or stereotyped. That wouldn’t be so bad if the blend was good.
Maybe if I read further reviews, say at the end of season 1, that tell me it matured and improved, I might give it another chance.
But as for now … fergit abouddit!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Violence on TV (Kinda)

What if you ordered a TV set online from and when you opened the box, you found an assault rifle instead?
That’s what happened to Seth Horvitz of Washington, D.C. Imagine his surprise when he discovered the misdelivery. It should have gone to the Independence Gun Shop in Duncansville, Pennsylvania, but somehow found its way to his doorstep.
He kind of panicked – after all, assault guns like the one he now “owned” are illegal in the nation’s capital. He couldn’t even drive it to the Metropolitan Police station because it’s also illegal to drive with one in D.C. So he did the only thing he could do, he called the cops and had them come pick it up.
So who’s fault is it? Nobody’s raising their hands – not UPS, which delivered the rifle to the address on the box; not Amazon, which packed the correct invoice to the correct party inside the box, not the gun shop that ordered the weapon.
I hope he had someone take his picture holding the rifle. After all, a Sig Sauer SIG716 is nothing to sneeze at and how many people can say they actually owned one, albeit by mistake and only for a short time?
The really bad thing about it? He couldn’t watch the Olympics on a brand-new flat-screen TV set. Oh, and he changed his mind about the TV set after the huge faux pas.
I kid you not!
(By the way, check out his thumbnail in the picture. Is that nail polish he has on?)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Doves Emulate Humans

We see a lot of doves in our driveway. Guess that's because we feed them, and they've taken to hanging around waiting for me to show up with some goodies for them.

I couldn't help noticing three pairs of doves yesterday, and called the wife over to take a look.

The doves reminded me of human couples: The first pair (#1 in the picture) were obviously still courting, or recently mated. I mean, they just pressed closely together. Y'know, newlyweds. The second pair (#2) probably had been paired for quite a while. They were close, but not pasted to each other. Like a man and woman who've been married a few years.

The last pair (#3) were like an old married couple. They hang around together, but would rather keep their distance from each other.

The wife didn't like that. She called me a disgruntled old coot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We Are … SC!

London 2012 was the most successful Olympics for the University of Southern California.

The final Olympics medal tally is in, and if the University of Southern California were a country, we would finish #11 in the medal count, right after South Korea and Italy, who finished in a tie for 10th place, and ahead of the Ukraine.
USC athletes (incoming students, current students, and alumni) won 25 medals (12 Gold, 9 Silver and 4 Bronze). South Korea and Italy each won 28, the Ukraine won 20.

This makes 100 years of Gold-winning performances by USC athletes, who have won at least one Gold medal since the 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden.
Now, we USC Trojans are holding our breath. London Olympics breakout star Missy Franklin has listed USC as one of the schools she plans to visit as she makes up her mind where she’s going to college.
Cal Berkeley, Georgia and Texas are also in the mix.
Hey Missy! Fight on for USC!

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Second Thought …

I watched the group synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics competitions at the London Olympics this year for an extended period, the first time I’ve ever done so, and have come away with a changed attitude – some questions, perhaps, but at least acceptance.
The first time I saw synchronized swimming, my first thought was, “Jeez, look at their hair and eyes! That’s kind of spooky!” because their expressions never changed, their smiles frozen on their faces, their eyes wide open even though I knew they must be smarting for being open in the water all the time.
The first time I saw the rhythmic ribbon twirling gymnastics, my first thought was, “Jeez, is THAT a sport? It’s just ribbons on a stick!” and then when they segued into playing around with hula hoops and volleyballs, it just hammered home the “fact” to me that they were just fooling around.
Well … no more. I’ll admit that the synchronized swimming is truly athletic, thanks to the “split” camera work during the coverage. I mean, they toss their teammate up in the air with their feet never touching the bottom of the pool. And to maintain their position with arms in the air and legs pumping madly underwater? Holy mackerel.
Rhythmic gymnastics is another story. What really caught my eye was the beauty of the participants. Most of the top teams appear to be Eastern Europeans, and wow oh wow, are they made up beautifully. Plus, they demonstrated such grace and form. Athletes? I think it’s quite borderline, myself. They breathe hard afterwards, but then so do ballet dancers.
Whatever … I have new respect for them all. Just goes to show, one has to really watch a sport for a long time to appreciate what they do.
I did, and now I do.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Where Hawaii Ranks 14

U.S. News & World Report recently released its lists of top travel destinations, and Hawaii ranks in the top 5 in a number of the lists.

World’s Best Beaches
1.       Bali
2.       Seychelles
3.       KAUAI (Hawaii)
4.       Maldives
5.       Anguilla
Best Honeymoon Destinations
1.       KAUAI (Hawaii)
2.       MAUI (Hawaii)
3.       Florence, Italy
4.       Crete
5.       Santorini, Greece
World’s Best Places to Visit
1.       London, England
2.       Barcelona, Spain
3.       Paris, France
4.       MAUI (Hawaii)
5.       New York City, New York
Best Summer Vacations
1.       Nice, France
2.       Mykonos, Greece
3.       MAUI (Hawaii)
4.       San Francisco, California
5.       Paris, France
Best Winter Vacations
1.       Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
2.       Playa del Carmen, Mexico
3.       KAUAI (Hawaii)
4.       Puerto Rico
5.       St. Martin, Virgin Islands

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic Gamesmanship

I hate when things like this happen …
Four badminton teams were thrown out of the 2012 London Olympics for trying to lose in their preliminary matches so they would face weaker teams in the next round.
Bye bye doubles players from China, Indonesia and South Korea.
If you watched video of the action (or “non-action” as the case may be), you saw players deliberately making weak shots into the net, or out of bounds. It was so obvious what they were doing.
That irritated Olympic officials, who decided to make an example of them and threw them out of the Games. Cheating? Or gamesmanship? You decide.
Taoufik Makhloufi, winner of the men’s 1500-meter Gold Medal, is proud of, and happy for, his win. And rightly so. Fifteen-hundred meters is a helluva long way to run. But his win wasn’t without a little bit of controversy (and possibly gamesmanship) even before the Algerian took his first step in the event.
See, Makhloufi stopped running in his 800-meter heat, raising the suspicion of Olympic officials. As winner of the event in the African Games last year, he should have qualified for the final in his heat easily.
Consequently, they expelled him from the games, concluding he threw the race so he wouldn’t tire himself out before the 1,500-meter race.
Still, they had a doctor check him out, and sure enough, the medico said he had a knee injury. So, they let him back into the Games and let him run the 1,500-meter finals. Amazingly, his knee had healed in one day. Miracle? Or gamesmanship? You decide.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hawaii’s Primary Election Day

It’s tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 11, a little more than a month earlier than it used to be. Changes in the election laws dictated that Hawaii’s primary elections be moved to August. Which isn’t such a big deal for me, but I know political strategists had a whole new ball field to consider.

Not only is the field-reducing election earlier, the pols have to give more consideration to running their advertising early because of the burgeoning number of absentee voters. The wife and I began casting absentee ballots quite a while ago; I like not having to drive to the polls and fighting traffic and long lines of voters on Election Day.
Okay … so it’s time for the political supporter sign count that I do. I admit I’d forgotten about it this year – when you’re retired, these things tend to skip one’s mind – but I had a chance to drive the mile between my house and Manoa Marketplace, this time keeping my scratch pad handy so I could take a tally.
A general observation: The number of signs for this primary is greatly diminished from the number of signs I’ve seen in the past, a bit curious because of some of the hot races.
Anyway, here’s what I saw:
Honolulu Mayor (non-partisan): Former City Manager Kirk Caldwell leads with 3, incumbent Peter Carlisle has 2 , and former Governor Ben Cayetano has 1.
U.S. Senate: U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) has 3, former U.S. Rep. Ed Case (D) has 2.
U.S. House: Charles Djou (R) has 1, incumbent Colleen Hanabusa (D) is nowhere to be seen.
Hawaii Senate 11th District: Incumbent Brian Taniguchi (D) has 3, incumbent Carol Fukunaga has 1.
Hawaii House 24th District: Challenger Kimberly Case (D) has 2 (I think those were hers that I saw), incumbent Isaac Choy has 0.
Honolulu Prosecutor (non-partisan): Deputy Atty. Gen. Kevin Takata has 1, incumbent Keith Kaneshiro has none. There’s a “Cal Lee Prosecutor” sign up, but I can’t find him listed anywhere as a candidate.
In the past, road signage along Manoa Road has proved prophetic more times than not. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow when the polls for the Hawaii Primary Election close.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beautiful Diamond Head

It's been a while since I ran a picture of the iconic Hawaii landmark, Diamond Head. So when I went for a walk recently, I took another picture of the landmark.

Enjoy ... and make sure you come over one of these days to see it personally from Magic Island.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympic Thoughts 2

Some of the athletes participating in the 2012 London Olympic Games have some rather inspiring stories – most leading up to the Games, some following heartbreak at the Games, and some involving both. I found many to be oh, so compelling; here are two that touched me:
Lori “Lolo” Jones: The 100-meter hurdles competitor from the United States has been the subject of much hype during the times leading up to the Olympics. Once considered a serious contender for an Olympic Gold medal, she tripped on a hurdle in the 2008 Beijing Games and finished out of the medals.
She has often been criticized for her values and her looks, and was the subject of an Aug. 4 column in the New York Times. Jeré Longman wasn’t gentle about it, talking about Jones’ failures on the track and subtly making fun of her.
The criticism obviously hurt her; on the Today Show preceding Tuesday’s broadcast, she talked about her disappointment in her fourth-place finish. And she unsuccessfully fought back quite a few emotional tears when she talked about how hard she’d worked and how much pride she had in representing the United States.
Lolo’s problem? She’s being herself. And some people just can’t stand that kind of honesty.
Liu Xiang: One can’t help but become emotional, along with millions of Chinese fans, at the tragic end to Liu Xiang’s 110-meter hurdles career.
After he suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and had to pull up before he even attempted the first hurdle in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was primed to repeat his Gold-winning performance in the 2004 Athens Games. But he didn’t get out of his heat.
He looked good, he looked happy, smiling as he poised to explode off the starting blocks. His start was a smidgen slow, but he at least made it to the first hurdle, leaping high to clear it. Unfortunately, he didn’t leap high enough and came crashing down to the ground, rolling over and gripping his right ankle (again!) in obvious pain.
Hopping off the track and seemingly headed into the training room, Liu suddenly reversed his direction and returned to the track, hopping on his left leg alongside the hurdles to the finish line. Brushing aside his disappointment, at least for the moment, he determined to finish the race.
I could feel the tears welling up when he hopped back onto the track, reached his lane’s final hurdle, and gave it a good-bye kiss, his career over, his dream unfulfilled.
It was not a good race. Three more runners fell, unable to finish. But the most touching scene happened after Liu “finished.” Two of his competitors – Andrew Turner of Britain and Jackson Quiñónez of Spain, supported him in their arms and helped him off the track. Competitors, yes, but friends as well.
*  *  *  *  *
The athletes are the Games; their stories are as compelling as the competition and quest for medals.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cordlessly Yours

Ah me ... comic strips like this one from Mother Goose and Grimm slap me upside the head and remind me that the world we live in today is nowhere close to being like the world we lived in a mere 10 years ago.

Who remembers Remington typewriters, Princess phones, adding machines and slide rules anyway? If it's not run by a rechargeable battery, it just doesn't belong in our pockets any longer.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Space in My Face

Curiosity Touchdown Confirmed
I had a wonderful experience last night, watching live coverage of NASA’s rover Curiosity as it attempted quite an ingenious, yet hazardous landing in Mars’ Gale Crater. It wasn’t the first time the U.S. has sent a rover to Mars, but it was the first time I got to watch it happen live with streaming video coming from NASA control.

First Curiosity Images from Mars
It was the first time I’ve watched a live landing in space on a surface that wasn’t the Earth’s, since I watched the first moon landing live on my 13-inch portable black and white television set.

Neil Armstrong, 1969
That was on July 20, 1969, as I was sitting in my apartment living room at 8:18 p.m. Greenwich, which translates to 12:18 p.m. in Los Angeles, California. Six hours later, I watched Neil Armstrong take the first human steps on the moon.
Now, THAT was exciting. But the pictures were in black and white, jumpy and blurry, and with harsh contrast. Last night’s images were amazing, a tribute to the advances in electronics and telemetry throughout the years.
Mars rover Curiosity
I have to say I was glued to my computer this time. It was pretty tense, to say the least.
Hope you got to see it; if not, there’s a recap on cable’s Science Channel at 10 p.m. Eastern tonight – Mars Landing 2012: The New Search for Life. Then, on Thursday, Aug. 9, watch for Martian Mega Rover, another chronicle of the Mars journey.
It was space in my face.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Huge Toll Bill

One thing I’m glad of about Hawaii: We don’t have toll roads (yet). So I don’t have to worry about racking up a huge toll bill.

I have to admit that a couple of times in Southern California, I’ve zooted past the automatic toll booth, setting off the alarm, because I didn’t have an adequate supply of quarters. Why the booths don’t have bill changers is beyond me.
But at least I was driving a rental, and I figure if the rental company gets hit with a bill, then they know where to find and re-bill me. That’s happened twice, as I drove to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana from Dana Point.
What prompted this confession was a story I read earlier this week about a Dallas woman who consistently scoffed at paying her tolls. The North Texas Toll Authority didn’t take kindly to that, and is trying to shame her into paying her $179,596.43 arrears (they identified her by photos taken of her license plates at the toll booths) for the more than 8,000 times she failed to pay the toll fees.
Well … good luck in collecting. Since they don’t have policing powers, they can’t arrest her. So they’re trying to shame Amber Young by releasing her name to the news media.
But you know the worst part? She’s only one of the delinquents. There are at least 22 more drivers who owe more than $100,000 apiece in tolls and penalties.
I kid you not! And you thought Hawaii drivers were bad?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Change is Inevitable

Last week, the wife and I decided to have breakfast at Denny's, Pearlridge Center, where we've had breakfast many a time before.

Usually, it's very busy when we get there and many's the time when we've had to wait for a table.

Not this time. There was no line. Denny's Pearlridge has closed. They actually closed a month and a half ago (why doesn't somebody tell me these things?) and we had no idea. Oh well, that's the way it goes.

I had to laugh at the sign they put up on the door. They misspelled "Waipahu." You know me, I laugh at mistakes like this. I mean, where the hell is Waipuhu anyway?

Okay, so we walk over to Big City Diner up the street and wait for 15 minutes until there's an open table. I guess lots of people went there after discovering that Denny's has closed. Gosh, and I had my heart set on having country-fried steak and grits for breakfast.

Another change: The monorail ride between Uptown and Downtown Pearlridge Center now costs a buck a person, a 100% increase since we were last there. There's no grumble about that, though. I mean, if someone can't spare a dollar, then s/he can just walk, right?

Change, change. Everything changes. How does the saying go? "The only thing that doesn't change is change itself."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Solar-Powered Attic Fans

When we had our roof upgraded earlier this year, we also upgraded our solar water heater, which had been in service for more than 30 years. We also had two solar-powered attic fans installed, the purpose of which was to make the inside of the house cooler for us human inhabitants.

The scientific principle is simple: Heat rises. Consequently, the attic becomes hot. By pumping out the hot air, cooler air enters the attic, effectively cooling off the interior of the house. We had two installed – one over the the living room attic, and one over the second-story bedroom attic.
Because the solar cells draw their energy from the sunlight, the fans require no electrical connection. Plus the fans are quiet. Once in a while, when everything else is silent in the house, I can hear the humming whir of the fans, but it's like white noise. You soon forget it's there.
I recommend them. They’re good investments.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Poop Poop Pi Doo

Whilst sitting in my outside chair the other day, just minding my own business, watching the doves peck away at the ground, I noticed a red-vented bulbul hopping around near our outside slippers.
I suppose it was keeping a sharp eye out for insects, because I’ve seen these birds swoop in, cling onto the house walls, and grab onto moths. However, they also peck away at the wife’s orchid buds, and for this, she tenders no mercy upon my little avian friends.
But if you look closely at this picture, you can see why the little bugger was visiting … he left a little plop (large, I suppose, in relation to his body) on our driveway. The nasty little critter.
The next time I see one hopping around on the ground, I’m flinging my slipper at it.