Friday, July 31, 2015

Dormant Volcano

Nice, huh? I just thought you'd like to see a small portion of the Las Vegas Strip as seen from the Mirage Resort's porte cochere on a beautiful Las Vegas spring night.

That's the Mirage's "volcano" on the left, just before the "lava" starts erupting and flowing in its hourly nightly extravaganza.

For those tourists who've never seen the real thing, I guess this will have to stimulate their imagination. I've seen an eruption many times in Hawaii, but I still like to glory in the spectacle.

But for now, just feel at peace.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

No Butt Sniffers Here

At the entrance of The Country Way Restaurant in Fremont are two of these cigarette disposal sand trays. Cute little things.

Despite their stinky cigarette butt odor, there's actually a play on a popular term for someone who plays up to authority (i.e., kisses ass) – a butt sniffer.

Ergo ... No butt sniffing (or snuffing) allowed inside the restaurants.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fatherly Advice 1 of 5

These wise bits of advice from a father to his unborn son were posted on Facebook. I think it was a sign that I was meant to share it with you. There are 100 of them by Walker Lamond; here are the first 20. 
  1. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.
  2. Never cancel dinner plans by text message.
  3. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
  4. If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.
  5. Always use “we” when referring to your home team or your government.
  6. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.
  7. DON’T underestimate free throws in a game of HORSE.
  8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
  9. Don’t dumb it down.
  10. You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.
  11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.
  12. Never park in front of a bar.
  13. Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.
  14. Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first girlfriend.
  15. Hold your heroes to a high standard.
  16. A suntan is earned, not bought.
  17. Never lie to your doctor.
  18. All guns are loaded.
  19. Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.
  20. The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hilo Days: Now THAT Was a Car!

Back in the day, we had carnivals. They weren't like anything you see today. I mean, these were Carnivals with a capital C. Lots of games and rides, and some pretty nasty side show stuff too. One of the attractions I always remember is when Al Capone's car came to town.

I wrote about it in my now defunct "Hilo Days" website, but here it is for your bathroom reading enjoyment:

Al Capone’s Car

At least once a year, the E.K. Fernandez Carnival would come to town for a couple of weeks.  It situated all over the place, but generally near the present Hilo Civic Auditorium, or at St. Joseph's School, about a half-mile away from Obachan's house.

Invariably, it rained.  One of Dad's favorite saying was that whenever E.K. Fernandez comes to town, it was going to rain.  Come to think of it, I heard that a lot in those days.  I believed it too, until I realized that no matter who came to town, it was going to rain.  Hilo simply was the rain capital of the world.

One year, Obachan told me that Al Capone's (she pronounced it "Capo-nay's") gangster car was going to be displayed at the carnival.  I think it was Walter Janado and I who walked to St. Joseph's, and paid our dime to see the historic car.

It was an old '30s sedan, with bullet-proof windows.  The man showed us where the bullets had bounced off the windows, leaving little marks.  We gasped at the bullet holes in the fenders.  We gasped at the little holes where Al Capone's tommy guns stuck out.  We gasped at everything.

The car was probably fake.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Where Hawaii Ranks 35

We have too many cars on the Island of Oahu; Honolulu is a horror movie trying to get made when we head home after a long day on the job.

Not only that, but we pay a lot for our gasoline, and we need a high minimum wage to pay for our apartment rents. So it’s kind of surprising that Hawaii leads the nation in people who love their jobs the most, even if Hawaii is the worst state for business.

Worst Evening Rush Hour in U.S. (TomTom Traffic Index, 2015)
  1. Los Angeles, CA (80% congestion level)
  2. San Jose, CA (75%
  3. Seattle, WA (74%)
  4. HONOLULU, HI (68%)
  5. Houston, TX (68%)

Highest Average Price for Regular Gasoline (American Automobile Association, May 2015)
  1. California ($3.73)
  2. HAWAII ($3.23)
  3. Nevada ($3.22)
  4. Alaska ($3.16)
  5. Oregon ($3.01)

Highest Minimum Wage Needed to Rent a 2-Bedroom Apartment (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2015)

  1. HAWAII ($31.61/hour)
  2. Washington DC ($28.04)
  3. California ($26.65)
  4. New York ($25.67)
  5. New Jersey ($25.17)

States Where Workers Love Their Jobs the Most (, 2015)
  2. Utah
  3. Oregon
  4. California
  5. Washington

Worst States for Business (CNBC, 2015)
  2. West Virginia
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Alaska
  5. Louisiana

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Two Disappointing Recent Movies

As you may be aware, I shut down my “Shhh! The Movie’s Starting” blog a week ago. What it’s done is given me an opportunity to watch movies once again for just the pure enjoyment of it, instead of pausing occasionally to take notes and jot down some wonderful prose that sneaked into my mind.

When the hobby became work, it was time to retire the avocation.

It gave me a chance to watch recent movies with no ulterior motive in mind … just to enjoy. Instead of looking for something good to write about, I can now take a broader view and peer more deeply into their shortcomings. And I’m not so happy with what I’ve found.

Last week, I watched two comedies that I thought would entertain me and have me falling off the chair in laughter. Well, that didn’t work, they weren’t as pleasant and funny as I thought they would be. To wit:

Tammy (2014): With a cast that features Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Toni Collette and Sandra Oh, one would think the film has a lot going for it. The problem is the lead – Melissa McCarthy – plays her usual foul-mouthed, “I gotta compensate for being grossly overweight,” character. She’s not lovable in the least. And everybody is dropping f-bombs all over the place. No, not fart bombs, the other f-bomb (although farts would have been funnier than McCarthy’s rantings).

I love Susan Sarandon, but playing an alcoholic, foul-mouthed, anti-societal, gray-haired grandmother is a far cry from  her classics – Thelma and Louise, and Bull Durham. The other star-names are mere supporting cast members propping up the foul-mouthed leads.

We’re the Millers (2013): Jason Sudekis is not a bad actor. Neither is Jennifer Aniston (at least she’s gotten out of the romantic comedy rut). Their supporting cast is okay – Will Pouter is sufficiently weird, Emma Roberts is cute. The rest of the characters are just kind of squeezed in where the producers thought they should be. Pretty lame.

The plot is pretty simple and stupid. But the worst part? The f-bombs. Lots and lots of them.

I can just imagine a younger audience laughing at these two movies. I can just imagine an older audience laughing AT these two movies.

I do want to watch more recent movies, so I won’t let my HBO subscription lapse. But as you may have noticed in my movie blog, I seem to like the older movies on Turner Classic Movies.

Am I a crusty old curmudgeon, or what?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Yin-Yang vis-a-vis YING-Yang

At one of our family dinners at a Milpitas Chinese restaurant (The King Wah Restaurant), the waitresses taped a slip of paper with our order on the table. As I can't read Chinese, my son's mother-in-law asked for a printout in English.

That came in mighty handy when I wrote a posting of the restaurant for my restaurant blog.

It was while referring to the list during the writing that I saw it. They called the "Yin-Yang Fried Rice" "Ying-Yang Fried Rice."

Ahem. We all know that Yin-Yang refers to two opposing parts juxtaposed to form a whole ... like night and day, male and female, hot and cold, and so forth. You can see it at work in the Korean flag.

But most people arbitrarily say "Ying" instead of "yin," and in doing so, don't realize what they are really saying.

You see, although "Ying-yang" can be considered an alternate pronunciation of "yin-yang," it has a rather different meaning in English and American slang. "Ying-Yang" means either the human anus, or the male penis ... as in "up the Ying-yang." Look it up; there are even citations in English literature using the phrase in that context.

So, next time you are tempted to use the phrase in everyday conversation, please drop the "g" in "Ying."

Friday, July 17, 2015

Two Poles to Nowhere

SkyVue Poles on the Right
Two huge Ferris wheels were supposed to be online in Las Vegas by now, offering magnificent views of Las Vegas from on high.

"High Roller," of course, is already in operation mid-Strip at the Linq, but its competitor across from the Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Strip – "SkyVue" – is going nowhere. Its two 247-foot columns are pointing heavenward in what looks like a desperate plea for help.

It appears money problems and construction liens are the culprits. Building permits have expired, and in order for the project to continue, the develops will have to start over from scratch.

Originally announced as a 518-foot high wheel, the project was to cost $40 million. The developers had envisioned among other site attractions, a unicorn (!) petting zoo for children on the site, unicorn races, plus a nightclub and shopping complex. That was over a year ago.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Phone Pix 50: Wall Art

Everywhere you go, people want to know ... what's that on the wall? If they're not talking about insects, then they are likely talking about some sort of artwork attached to the wall. That's been happening since the day of old when knights were bold and castle walls were decorated with tapestries and weapons.

Today? It's mostly artwork of any and all kinds. So when something on the wall catches your eye, take out your phone and snap a shot or two.

Taken at Queen's Hospital, April 7, 2015, in Honolulu (Traditional Ohe Kapala Print by Kapa Maker Moana KM Eisele):

These car models were photographed at Cabrillo Park Cafe, April 24, 2015, in Fremont, CA:

Phone-cammed floral prints  at Honolulu International Airport Gate 4, April 28, 2015, in Honolulu, HI:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Household Hacks 2 of 5

Here are 10 more ways to make your life just a little more enjoyable:
  • Clean glass with newspapers.
  • Remove bugs from your windshield with baking soda paste.
  • Add bleach to vase water to extend life of flowers.
  • Shampoo your dog with kitchen dish soap (not detergent) to rid it of fleas.
  • Soak clothing blood stains with Coca-Cola and wash while wet.
  • Dab honey on a facial blemish with a dab of honey and Band-Aid kept on overnight.
  • Clean your can opener gears with wax paper.
  • Remove crayon marks from walls with WD-40.
  • Draw a line with chalk where ants enter, to keep them out of the house.
  • Kill weeds with vinegar.

More hacks are waiting in the hopper for next time.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Flora Around the House

Despite California's lingering drought, judicious watering of plants around the house can coax out some beautiful flowers. Here's what we found at my Fremont son's house in the spring:

And that's that. Beauty in an area recovering slightly from a nasty, nasty drought.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pump It Up

I recently had the chance to experience Pump It Up, the kiddie party place, when my grandson celebrated his sixth birthday.

In business since 2000, Pump It Up has 140 locations across the United States, primarily in the West, Midwest, East and South. It has three locations in the San Francisco East Bay Area: Union City, Milpitas and Santa Clara.

We went to the Milpitas location.

The reception area has a couple of fun things to complement the welcome counter – a funny house mirror, a board with the honoree's name on it, a personalized rolling bin for presents, and a stuffed toy grab machine (sneaky way to lighten parents' wallets.

They started the party off in the reception area with a descriptive video of rules, but of course, nobody paid attention as friends kept arriving.

Once that torturous requirement was done, everybody moved on to the first playroom filled with gigantic indoor inflatables that soon had the kids bouncing and climbing and sliding all over the place. And thankfully, not climbing or crashing into the walls.

It's like the kids were working off a sugar rush, it was so noisy and hard to move about with kids underfoot all the time. We spent 40 minutes there – too short for the kids, but a lifetime for the adults.

Then ... onward to the second room, with MORE inflatables and more activites, including a very popular wind tunnel machine that cost $2 a blow after which the kids would scream "One more time! One more time! One more time!" My son kept on swiping his credit card until they'd had their fill.

Forty minutes later, they sent us into a third room with long tables and lots of chairs, including an inflatable throne for the Kid of Honor, who sat there grinning from ear to ear while his gaggle of kindergarten friends screamed out the Happy Birthday song and every birthday-type tune they could remember from school.

But it sure got quiet when they started eating their pizza, chips, and cut-up fresh fruits, all preordered from Pump It Up, drank their soda, and smeared their birthday cake all over their mouths.

All tuckered out, the kids left one by one, receiving a goodie bag from the Birthday Boy and his mom, occasionally assisted by the one and only ... me. 

Want to do this? Here's where we were at: Pump It Up, 164 N. Abel St., Milpitas, CA, phone (408) 400-9663. Website:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

California Avifauna

Each time I visit family in California, I seek out plants, flowers, animals and birds to photograph with my digital Sony point-and-shoot camera. This time, I tried to concentrate on birds.

These are the results of my most recent visit:







These photos were the best I could do this trip. Some of the birds were cooperative; some were not. I think I've ID'd them correctly; if not, please help me and comment below.

The hardest picture to get was the turkey. I've taken and posted a few in the past, but for some reason, they were darned elusive this last time. I did see several, but I was always driving and couldn't stop to photograph. One even crossed road in front of me and I missed it.

The picture posted above was taken across the driver's body as we sped downhill on a curving road, making it unsafe for the driver to slow down with other cars behind us.

Every time I had my camera out and turned on, I had absolutely no luck. It's like the turkeys sent out an memo and conspired to remain hidden when they saw my camera out and ready: "MEMO TO ALL CAMERON HILLS TURKEYS: Craig will be driving in our area between 10 and 11 a.m., and 4 and 5 p.m. Stay hidden and off the road."

Okay, so the turkey picture sucks. But hey, one takes what one can get.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Art Museum of Sonoma County

On a search for culture in Santa Rosa, I went to the Sonoma County Museum on a Tuesday. Bad move. I should have gone to their website and checked their operating hours. I was very disappointed to learn they close on Tuesdays.

However, as I was reading their hours on the door, it opened and a nice young woman told me the newly split off Art Museum of Sonoma County was open, so I walked a short half block and went there instead.

The art museum opened to the public on April 12 with a pop art display titled "“Andy Warhol to Kara Walker: Picturing the Iconic.” The museum is very small, but the space pieces were nicely laid out. There's plenty of natural light illuminating the works.

So, here we go with some pictures I took of the works on display:

"Coca Cola" by Mel Ramos

"Hollywood Sphinx" by Robert Rauschenberg

"Clown Suit and Hat" by Jane Hammond

"Campbell's Soup Cans -10-" by Andy Warhol

"Gun" by Andy Warhol

"Profile Airflow" by Claes Oldenberg

"Four Panel Love" by Robert Indiana
The last one ("Love") was the basis of the design of a 1973 U.S. postage stamp.

The Art Museum of Sonoma County, and its sister, The Sonoma County Museum, are located in downtown Santa Rosa, next to each other on Seventh Street.