Friday, May 31, 2013

Francis Pope’s No Dope

He’s definitely no dope.
In fact, Francis Butthurst Pope is a kid after my own heart. He’s a bit didactic too (like me); certain language misusage bugs him, as it does me. I’m a farther/further nut, as you know.
Master Pope is comic star Big Nate’s nerdy friend. They became buddies when Nate whacked Francis on the head with his Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox.
Apparently, Francis deserved it – he was snoring during Kindergarten naptime.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Backyard Critters

My son has a small backyard area at his San Jose home, most of it is tiled over, but there are quite a number of plants alongside the adjacent walls.

One of the things I like to do is wander around, peering at the plants, trying to find little bitty wildlife (mostly insects) that are crawling around the branches, flowers and leaves. It sometimes means turning the leaves over, but more likely than not, all it takes is a sharp eye.

I'm sure I've missed a whole bunch of critters; you gotta be in the right place at the right time. But I photographed quite a few on my last visit to San Jose;

Asian Ladybug Beetle, Male, No Spots
Asian Ladybug Beetle, Pupa
Blister Beetle
Crane Fly
Honey Bee
Another Honey Bee
And of course, as always, there are a few that I can't specifically identify, despite all my best efforts. Anybody out there know exactly what they are? Help!

Unknown Snail
Unknown Fly
Another Unknown Insect

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Disappearing Fingerprints

Not My Actual Fingerprints,
But You Get the Idea
One day in the not so distant past, I noticed it was harder to turn caps on bottles, to grip jar lids, and to turn newspaper pages without licking my fingers.

What was happening was that my fingerprints were beginning to disappear. Ever curious about why body parts change, I did some research on Google.

It's a common phenomenon amongst older people. As we age, the ridges of the fingerprints become broader and the depths of the furrows become shallower. That's because the skin on our fingers becomes less elastic.

I didn't know that. But now, I do. No wonder my fingertips feel smooth. And here I thought my hands were getting younger.

Not so, huh?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dust Ball ... or Dead Bird?

"Watch out when you walk over there," the wife warned, pointing out something brown and roly on the pathway between two rows of rose bushes, "There's a dead bird on the ground."

We were at the Louis Benoist Gardens checking out the beautiful crop of roses (we do this every time we visit San Diego's Almaden Winery Neighborhood Park).

So what did I do? I immediately went over to see what she was talking about. It looked more like a dead mouse than a dead bird, although there were some feathers protruding from the brown mass.

Actually, I told the wife, it looked like a four-inch long dust ball. Y'know, some blades of grass, maybe slender twigs, blown around by the wind, gathering things as it rolled around on the ground. Things such as dead leaves, dust, dirt, bird feathers.

I gave it a nudge with my toe and it was soft with quite a bit of give. I think it was a dust ball. The wife, on the other hand, kept looking the other way.

So what do YOU think? Dust ball ... or dead bird?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Louis Benoist Gardens Revisited

It’s been over a year since I wrote about the Louis Benoist Gardens in the Almaden Valley neighborhood of San Jose, so I thought I’d share some pictures I took during our recent visit to the rose garden, which is just down the street from my son’s home.
The rose garden itself was established in 1941 and is so well-maintained. It’s a joy to wander amongst the bushes, lean over and smell the gorgeous roses of every variety and color.
Here’s what some of the flowers looked like when we visited this year:


A fellow named “Andrew” commented on my February 2012 post that the roses reflect his grandmother’s love of the flowers. And rightly so, for this was her garden. Thanks, Andrew.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Additional Anti-Germ Effort

Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu may have had these for quite a while, but it's been quite a while since I wandered the halls there.

During a recent visit to accompany the wife and wait for her as she underwent a procedural scanning, I had time to find a morning cup of coffee. On my way back from the hospital cafeteria, I saw this sterilization station.

In and of itself, a sterilization station isn't anything new; I've seen them for years in various hospitals.

But what was new were the disposable masks that they had available (the mask dispenser is visible on the left side of the antiseptic lotion dispenser). It's about time someone thought of making them available to hospital visitors. Sterilizing hands has become de rigueur, but the offering of masks is something new to me.

I did have a bit of a cough, so I took one and used it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

‘Snake-viator’ Found at Honolulu Air Base

While reading USA Today on my iPad yesterday, I got a news alert from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It seems that the military found a flying snake at Pearl Harbor-Hickam Airfield.

Well, okay, it’s not an actual flying snake, rather it was a juvenile “Ornate Tree Snake” (Chrysopelea ornate), aka a flying tree snake, aka a golden tree snake. The squirmy bugger was about a foot-long and apparently hitched a ride from Guam. It’s now in the hands of the Hawaii State Dept. of Agriculture.
I learned that the flying snake is a relative of the brown tree snake, well known for wiping out the bird population of the U.S. island territory of Guam. Why “flying”? Because they can launch themselves between trees.
~ Photo from Honolulu Star-Advertiser News Alert

It’s actually very pretty, although I suppose ophidiophobes (people who don’t like snakes) would argue otherwise. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. But if you’re smart, you won’t mess with the flying snakes … they’re a bit venomous.
I’ll just stand to the side and admire pictures (or the actual animal) of the snake aviator … what I’ll call a “snake-viator.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Favorite Neighborhood Farmers Market Closed

What an awful surprise it was when last we visited San Jose. The Blossom Hill Farmer's Market, which I'd featured in a blog entry last year, has closed.

And here I'd been planning to go there on the first Sunday of our visit. Good plans, 'cept when I found out they had been forced out by the shopping center because of complaints by a couple of the commercial tenants that the market was hogging all the parking spaces.

Seems kind of petty and short-sighted to me, after all, the market brought in a lot of people to the area, most of which I'm sure hung around a bit afterwards to patronize the shops and restaurants.

I was told that the market closed in October, a month or so after our last visit, and that despite a meager temporary relocation to another area in the center, closed completely. The booth holders scattered to other farmer's markets, none of which is as convenient to the wife and me as the Blossom Hill one was.

Rats, oh rats.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Signs of My Times

I saw these signs on the wall of the San Jose Scrambl'z Restaurant on Almaden Expressway:

Sometimes, I absolutely DO NOT succeed the first time I try something. So maybe I won't try skydiving. There's not much room for error in that, is there?

Now THIS one, I can truly relate to. I've always said I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. People used to laugh, but lately they've looked at me and said, "You really haven't grown up yet, have you?" Or, "Oh, grow up!"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No Tanks to You

When we had brunch at The Fountain Restaurant in the classy downtown San Jose Fairmont Hotel, I had thought about wearing a shirt that said "Thanks to You" on the left breast.

However, it's a good thing I didn't. Check out the sign at the front door. They don't want people eating there in "Thanks tops" ...

Oh wait, they said "tank tops." Never mind!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lucky I Live Hawaii

I love walking around Magic Island and watching the waves hit the breakwater at the lagoon. It's warm now in Honolulu, the waves are powerful, and I thought I'd show it to all you poor people suffering in unseasonable cold on the mainland.

Ahhh, lucky I live Hawaii.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Spider in the bathtub, toodle oodle ay. Okay, okay, please forgive my taking terrible license on the song, "Singing in the Bathtub."

But hey! Have you ever been surprised by one of these critters sliding around in the bathtub as you're about to step in for a relaxing shower?

I found this little bugger in the bathtub shower one evening while in San Jose, and let me tell you, it was quite the surprise. Luckily, I wasn't actually stepping into the tub or I might have knee-jerked and hurt myself.

It was probably a harmless spider, but who wants to take a chance anyway? So I picked it up with a piece of toilet paper and dropped it in the toilet, watching it swim around for a little bit (why do we get a perverse pleasure out of doing that?) before flushing it down.

Notice how I had the presence of mind to take a picture first? What's with that anyway?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms

I took some pictures of beautiful pink flowers on trees near the driveway of my son’s San Jose home in February 2012 and have been trying to identify them ever since. People in the neighborhood had no idea, and although I looked at countless pictures of “pink flower trees” on Google Images, I had no luck.
There was one more possibility: Contact the housing development people and ask them. Ahh, but I’m lazy; I want answers to be real handy and easy to find. So I didn’t do that.
Then, just this past April, when the wife and I were in San Jose for my grandson’s birthday, we took a drive to the Japanese Heritage Park in San Jose. As we were walking along one of the pathways, we came across some of those very same trees.
I searched all over for some sort of identifying sign, but found none, resigning myself to the possibility that identification was not on the near horizon. However, we saw some landscapers trimming the hedge separating the park from the street, so the wife walked over and asked a trimmer if he knew what kind of tree had those pink flowers.
He knew what they were! Bless his heart. 

They are Kwanzan cherry trees (Prunus serrulata), native to the Far East (China, Japan and Korea). They can be grown all over the U.S., but are most prevalent in Washington D.C.

For you gardening and landscaping enthusiasts out there, they grow in zones 5 and 6, where the climate is cool and dry. For best results, the Kwanzan need full exposure to the sun.

The flowers, which begin appearing in the Spring, last the longest of all cherry tree varieties. They grow to 15-25 feet tall, with a spread of 15-25 feet, spreading symmetrically toward the top like a vase.

Ah … at last! Pink flowering tree bliss.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

No Buzzard Buzz, Please

You don't wanna hang around a lactose-intolerant buzzard after it's made a meal of a dead cow. The buzz it creates is nothing to sneeze at.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hollywood Park at the Finish Line

I found out about a week ago that Hollywood Park, where I first saw live horse racing, will close at the end of the year. It seems the land is too valuable, and that developing the land will prove more feasible in the long run.
Now known as Betfair Hollywood Park, the track and surrounding land was purchased in 2005 by Hollywood Park Land Co., and with a business name like that, you just knew what was on the horizon. Looks as though they’re planning housing, commercial centers, parks and an entertainment complex. The Hollywood Park Casino (cards) will remain.
I remember going to Hollywood Park when I was in college. As we drove through Inglewood, we were approached at every stoplight by people selling tout sheets with “guaranteed winners.” I forget what they wanted for their tips, but I think it was something like $5.
Of course, being poor college students, we didn’t have $5 to spare. In fact, we only brought $10 or so to wager – two bucks on a race, to win, or across the board. We'd drive away, the touts yelling obscenities at us in every language imaginable.
The thing is, we knew nothing about the science of horse race wagering. It meant nothing to us to read the Daily Racing Form because we weren’t regulars and had no idea what the previous results of each horse meant. All I knew was that if the horse looked good, I would bet on it. The problem was that ALL the horses looked good. I mean, they were thoroughbreds, for crissake.
Anyway, we tried all sorts of methods to pick winners. The craziest was going to the restroom. As we peed, we’d count the seconds it took to empty our bladder. One-two-three-four … all the way to the end of the race post positions, then we’d start over. Whatever number we ended up on was the post position we’d bet on.
I peed away more money than you can imagine. The only time I ever got to go to the payoff window was when one of my horses came in third. I collected $2.80 on my $2 bet (but I did get my $2 back as well).
But y’know, it was fun. I saw some good races there, including the Hollywood Gold Cup. Never saw a Kentucky Derby winner or potential participant, however. The greatest horse I ever saw was the big, black gelding, Native Diver, who won the Gold Cup three times in a row.
I also saw Willie Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro race, and I ate a lot of hotdogs there. And yes, I cut class to go to the races. But shhhh, don’t tell that to the wife.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hummmmmmmm ...

One of the little things we enjoyed during our recent trip to visit family in San Jose was the appearance of hummingbirds every day in their back yard.

Those little buggers sure are difficult to photograph. I often had to use the multi-exposure feature on my camera and sacrifice focal acuity in order to take their pictures. Also, I often had to guess where they would be and aim my camera in the general direction, hoping I could find them in the final pic and enlarge their image.

There were three that appeared every day. One was obviously a juvenile as it would sit on a branch and chitter away, calling for its mother. The second was obviously the mother. She was the one hovering around lemon blossoms and roses, dipping for nectar, then zooting over to feed her kid.

A third would appear every now and then, enticing the mother to do some dancing in the air. I'm presuming it was a male hummingbird.

I bought a hummingbird feeder from a little bird shop in Los Gatos and hung it from one of the trees. That was a hit with the hummers, but one has to be there at the right time, camera at the fore, all focused in on the feeder so when they came, the snapping could begin. I had to be fast because they were there for only a few seconds.

I did manage to get a dozen or so fairly good pictures; here are a few:

Aren't they precious?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

He's Not THAT Old, Is He?

Here's something that surprised me. The guy who was my grandson's instructor during swimming lessons on the day I was there is a lot older than he looks.

According to his short bio posted on the bulletin board in the lobby area, he has been working at the swimming school since 1212. Since 1212? He's been working there 801 years?

Wow! He sure knows how to preserve his youthful appearance, doesn't he?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Where Hawaii Ranks 19

Here we go again. Let’s see where Hawaii ranks in a few more “Best, Least, Most, Worst” categories.

States with the Least Freedom (George Mason University Mercatus Center, 2013)
  1. New York
  2. California
  3. New Jersey
  5. Rhode Island
North America’s Most Congested Cities (TomTom, 2013)
  1. Los Angeles (33% longer)
  2. Vancouver (32%)
  3. HONOLULU (30%)
  4. San Francisco (29%)
  5. Seattle (26%)
Best State to Live In (CNBC, 2012)
  1. New Hampshire (288 Quality of Life Points)
  2. HAWAII (284)
  3. Vermont (255)
  4. Maine (254)
  5. Tie: Minnesota and North Dakota (250)
Cities with the Worst Traffic (INRX, 2012)
  1. Los Angeles, CA (Congestion Score 28.8)
  2. HONOLULU, HI (26.0)
  3. San Francisco, CA (23.5)
  4. Austin, TX (20.7)
  5. New York, NY (19.9)
Highest Hotel Room Rates, 1st Quarter 2013 (Smith Travel Research, 2013)
  1. HONOLULU, HI ($233.33 Average)
  2. Miami, FL ($223.71)
  3. New York, NY ($210.57)
  4. San Francisco, CA ($165.68)
  5. New Orleans, LA ($180.51)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hilo Days: Roaches … Eww

Before moving to our Kaumama home, we lived at what would later become known as “Obachan’s House” on Barenaba Street in Hilo, Hawaii. In my since-closed website, Hilo Days, I opened the narrative with a description of the neighborhood and of the house.

Here’s part of that story that deals with my trepidation when it came to nasty dive-bomber cockroaches that are so plentiful in Hawaii.

The “B.R.” Days, Part 1

The house occupied a corner in a right angle bend of Barenaba Street. We had a backyard of sorts. It wasn't really a backyard, just an area full of rocks and gravel with some grass poking through here and there.

The outside clothesline took up most of the space, but I guess the most interesting thing about the back area was the cesspool that lurked below the surface.

There was a small hole (about three quarters of an inch in diameter) where the cement floor of the downstairs met the cement rise of the house's foundation. This was the dreaded "cesspool hole" (actually, it was a drainage that led directly into the cesspool). God only knows what crawled around in this hole.

One day I saw something I'll never forget. I was taking a bath [in the downstairs furo], gloriously enjoying the soak, pretending I was a Navy frogman. I was dunking my head under the water and (ahem) making "nature bubbles" when I just happened to glance at the cesspool hole.

Something ... ye gods ... something was moving in the hole. It looked like two wires testing the air. A shiny thing surreptitiously peered out, then zipped back into the hole. It did it again! And again!

Mesmerized by this strange phenomenon, I forgot about blowing up U-boats with "nature bubbles" and stared intently at the hole. And then slowly, ever so slowly, a gigantic cockroach of a size as yet unmatched made a permanent impression in my preschool brain as it crawled boldly out of the cesspool hole. As if it owned the world, it started toward me.

I feel sorry for those who bathed after me. I confess. After all these years, I confess. I increased the volume of the tub water by a couple of ounces. I ducked behind the edge of the tub!  Gathering my courage, I peered over the rim, only to discover that the roach was gone.

But where had it gone? Did it return to the cesspool? Did it run under the washing machine? Or had it crawled up the side of the furo? I didn't wait to find out. End of bath. To this day, I still can't stand the dirty buggers.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Almaden Winery Neighborhood Park

Click on the Picture for a Panoramic View

It’s one of the wife’s and my favorite walking venues whenever we visit our son and his family in San Jose – Almaden Winery Neighborhood Park – is just a short stroll down the street from the house.

Originally the site of one of the oldest grape farms and wineries in California, grapes were planted in the area in the mid-19th Century. Have you heard of Paul Masson? He was the son-in-law of the original Almaden Winery owner. The winery was eventually owned by Louis Benoist, who established the garden that bears his name.
The upper area of the park has two playground areas for kids, and a large lawn for romping. The lower area houses the Louis Benoist Garden of roses and a beautiful set of walkways. It’s a peaceful area, at one end of which is a beautiful, red-brick community center.
Along one neighboring fence are lemon and tangerine trees with fruit-laden branches that lazily drape over to the Almaden Park side.
One of my favorite morning activities (when I can find a free morning) is strolling in the park with my camera. Here are some pictures I took during my most recent visit there. Enjoy!
A Host of "Mini-Daisies"
Neighboring Lemon Tree
Neighboring Tangerine (Mandarin Orange) Tree
Peaceful Shaded Area
A Small Portion of the Louis Benoist Rose Garden

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Passed by eBay

"Hey look!" I cried out as we drove along Hamilton Avenue in San Jose, "It's eBay headquarters!"

Gotta tell you, I was a bit excited with this discovery, what with my being a frequent bidder on their website (got a lot of my current collections there). I knew eBay was located somewhere in the vicinity, but had no idea until we stumbled upon it.

The wife and I had just had breakfast at Café San Jose, and as it is difficult to get out of the parking lot and make a left turn onto busy Hamilton Avenue, I had decided to just turn right and drive to a shopping area in Campbell, called The Pruneyard (great name, huh?), which was just a mile or so down the street.

We were on our way back when I spotted the sign.

The wife's reaction? "What's eBay?"

Women. Or more specifically, wives. Or most specifically, my wife.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Orchid Bloom

Our purple Cattleya orchids have been blooming lately, so I thought I'd post this beautiful duet ... no extra talk. Just beauty. Enjoy.