Saturday, October 31, 2015

Phone Pix 56: Happy Halloween!

It's the night that the Great Pumpkin rises from the neighborhood pumpkin patch, so to get in the mood, here are some pictures I took with my mobile phone camera.

Treat the tricksters right, okay?

Ghoul, Oct. 13, 2014
Safeway Beretania, Honolulu, HI

Floral Pumpkin Display, Oct. 13, 2014
Safeway Beretania, Honolulu, HI

Produce Pumpkin Display, Oct. 13, 2014
Safeway Beretania, Honolulu, HI

 Witchy Witch, Oct. 13, 2014
Safeway Beretania, Honolulu, HI
Wizened Old Man, Oct. 1, 2015
Safeway Manoa, Honolulu, HI

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What’s in a Name?

When non-Americans name products that land on American store shelves, or when immigrants open a business establishment with a name that makes sense in their native language, the result is sometimes hilarious.

I’m sure the names are not intentionally funny, I’m sure it all makes sense in their language. Unfortunately, Americans tend to think anything that sounds like something they’d make fun of is funny, no matter if it insults the namer.

Asian products and words tend to tickle our funny button more than any other language. Take for example, this beverage:

Or this Vietnamese restaurant:

Y'know, they really should consult someone familiar with marketing in the Americas.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Valet Scanner

Let's see now. How often have I used card scanners to get things done?

Well, I posted about our Azura Hotel room key in Santa Rosa. Then there's the Queen's Hospital Radiation Oncology sign-in reader that we used in July. And of course, the supermarkets scan our loyalty cards all the time to apply coupons and discounts.

During my March stay at the Luxor in Las Vegas, I used a valet scanner for the first time.

Just scan your claim ticket, and in a few minutes, someone brings your car up to you. No errors, no wrong cars, for sure.

I thought that was pretty nifty.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Random Musings 27

Won’t showing guts in battle end up with me showing guts in battle if I lose?

* * * * *

Could it be that speaking in the present tense only makes the present tense?

* * * * *

So, tell me, what would happen if I unbutton my belly button?

* * * * *

When I get old and die, will I live to regret it?

* * * * *

I wonder if companies that make colonic enema kits ever get behind in their work and fall into arrears.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Fantasy vis-a-vis Reality

Baby Blues

How come the older we get, the bigger our fantasies? Leave it to the little ones to be devastatingly insightful. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

So What Sport is This?

I’m not a big fan of local sports, but for some reason I started reading the attached story that ran on the left side of Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser Sports Section front page. Guess I thought it was about football because of the headline, and football somewhat interests me.

Well, I read all the way to the bottom of the 11-inch story and nowhere did reporter Cindy Luis mention what sport she was talking about. Actually, I figured it out in the second paragraph when the words “stuffs” and “kills” appeared.

It was about University of Hawaii Wahine volleyball. But not once in the story does the word “volleyball” appear.

In Journalism School, I was taught that the pertinent facts should be presented in the story lead … The first – and at minimum the second – paragraph, so as not to keep the reader guessing. The reader should not have to solve a puzzle. What if someone who’s not conversant in volleyball lingo reads the story? Major confusion, right?

Actually, any fervent sports fan could figure it out quite easily, but that’s not the point. The point is, there are certain basic journalism “rules” that should be followed, and I think clearing up what sport is being discussed is tops among the list.

Usually at least a clue appears in the headline, or in the smaller teaser head on top. Not this time. Nothing. Nada.

But everything has its good points. ‘Way down toward the bottom, there’s mention that the University of Southern California Trojan women’s team is firmly entrenched in first place with an unblemished 20-0 record.

Fight on!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Intolerance (1916)

The Sacking of Babylon (Scene from Intolerance)
D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance is his three-and-a-half hour black and white silent masterpiece, presenting four separate stories illustrating society’s intolerance of others.

I’d seen portions of the film before, but never sat down to watch it in its entirety, until I DVR’ed it last week when it was on Turner Movie Classics. I’ll admit here and now that it sat there in the DVR queue just waiting for me to find a large-enough chunk of time to watch it.

I finally committed myself to the movie on Sunday afternoon.

It’s not easy to watch silent films. In fact, I find it difficult to wrap my brain around the stories. Silents to me require greater concentration (can’t let my mind stray for a second or I’ll lose the train of thought).

Intolerance tells four interwoven stories:

1. An American modern story (c. 1914), about average Americans trying to survive in a society of clashing capitalism and striking workers, made more intolerable by puritanical morals and crime.

2. The fall of magnificent Babylon (539 B.C.) caused by a conflict between Belshazzar of Babylon and Persia’s Cyrus the Great. Each side has its own religion and cannot tolerate that of the other.

3. The intolerance of French Catholic royals who perpetrated the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572 of Protestant Huguenots during the Renaissance.

4. A Biblical “Judean” story about how intolerance toward outcasts and religious threat led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Tying them together is the symbolic mother played by silent-movie icon, Lillian Gish, who represents the passing of generation as she rocks her baby in a cradle. Her participation probably helped the film’s popularity, despite the fact that she’s hardly recognizable at all.

Intolerance is a somewhat captivating film once you get into it. Many of the scenes drag on and on, but that’s the way they did it in those days. Would I watch it again? No, but I’m glad I sat through it at least once.

I think that’s pretty tolerable of me.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fight On! Beat the Irish!

Today marks the 89th meeting between the University of Southern California Trojans and the Irish of Notre Dame, a football rivalry that began on Dec. 4, 1926.

The story is that the wife of USC Athletic Director Gywnn Wilson and the wife of Notre Dame Coach Knute Rockne were the catalysts for what is now the most celebrated intersectional rivalry in college football.

Marion Wilson and Bonnie Rockne set the foundations in a one-to-one conversation where Mrs. Wilson sold Mrs. Rockne on the virtues of traveling to Southern California to enjoy warm weather apart from the freezing winter temperatures of the Midwest.

As for me, well, my first college game outside of Honolulu came in 1964, after I flunked out of the University of Hawaii and moved to Los Angeles. Flunking out was bad, but there was a good side to it. My Hilo High School classmate was attending USC and invited me to sit in the student section during the game against the undefeated #1 ranked Notre Dame.

I remember emerging from the Los Angeles Coliseum’s tunnel and feeling a bit giddy and unsteady. I swear I almost stumbled and fell. There were 108,000 fans in the stands, the Trojan student section filled with white shirts (me too), and I felt as though I was being sucked into a maelstrom.
My heart quickened when the Spirit of Troy, the Trojan band, marched out of the field tunnel in crisp formation, playing "Fight On." And I became a hooked-in fan when USC's white stallion, Traveler, carrying Tommy Trojan on his back, galloped around the stadium to the roars of the crowd.

The Irish, 9-0 near the end of the 1964 season, were favored by 11 points over the unranked Trojans (6-3). And what a great team they had, featuring their star quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte and outstanding receiver Jack Snow. USC’s quarterback was Craig Fertig, the principal receiver was Rod Sherman, and the top Trojan running back was Mike Garrett.

USC upset the Irish 20-17, ruining their hopes of a national title (they ended up #3). We had hoped the great victory would have thrust us into the Rose Bowl, but UCLA was given that honor by the committee.

The next year, 1965, the Trojans were undefeated early in the season; the Irish were 3-1. The tables were turned and they beat us 28-7.

This year’s game is unusual. The Trojans are playing their fourth consecutive game against the Irish, with four different coaches – Lane Kiffin, Ed Ogeron (interim after Kiffin was fired), Steve Sarkisian, and Clay Helton, USC’s offensive coordinator who is interim head coach because Sarkisian was fired last week.

It’s sad about Steve Sarkisian. He has alcohol problems and it showed during a game or two, and practice.

So anyway, there is always great drama when USC and Notre Dame clash helmets on the field. This year promises to be no different.

Fight on!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Phone Pix 55: Verticals

Two things are basic in nature - horizontal lines, and vertical lines. Sometimes they're natural (although as we all know, nature abhors straight parallels), sometimes they're man-made.

I continue to find man-made ones, and when I do, if my mobile phone is handy, I snap a picture or two ... like these:

Wall Décor, March 12, 2015, Mandalay Bay Hotel &Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Wall Décor, March 12, 2015, Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Long Grass Divider, March 12, 2015, Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Raffles Restaurant, March 12, 2015, Luxor Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Raffles Restaurant, March 12, 2015, Luxor Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Raffles Restaurant, March 12, 2015, Luxor Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Bed, Bath & Beyond, April 17, 2015, Fremont, CA
Kendall-Jackson Winery, April 20, 2015, Santa Rosa, CA
Son's Fence, April 25, 2015, Fremont, CA

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Coffee Klutz

My single-cup Hamilton Beach “The Scoop” coffee maker has served me well for about a year now without a mishap … until Sunday morning.

To use it, just scoop coffee grounds into the handled strainer, insert it in the proper place, add water to the well, and press the start button. Of course, you can’t forget to put your coffee cup under the drip hole.

But before doing that, I always prepare my coffee mug with sweetener and creamer, because I’m lazy and would rather have the drip action incorporate them into the coffee. That way, I don’t have to stir it myself. Lazy, y’know.

So anyway, I did just that, and was going to close the scooper/filter lid, when my left arm bumped the protruding handle, sending coffee grounds cascading onto the shelf, the floor, and into my coffee cup. (insert 15 seconds of blasphemous cursing here).

I had to clean up and start over again. Good thing I didn’t have my eggs on the stove yet.

Okay … coffee made, breakfast made, everything’s ready at the table … plate, juice, coffee, Sunday newspaper.

I think my right arm was jealous that the left arm’s earlier action caused a lot of activity in the kitchen. It wanted equal time and knocked my full coffee cup over, creating a mocha-hued splash puddle on the table, the floor, and my lap. (insert 30 seconds of blasphemous cursing here).

Shaking her head unbelievingly, the wife (bless her heart), shooed me out of there and cleaned up the mess for me.

I may swear off morning coffee forever.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Code Black – ER on Steroids

I have to admit that I haven’t seen too many movies or TV shows with Marcia Gay Harden in it, but I can tell you that when I have, I’ve enjoyed her performances. Thinking back, the last time I saw her in a movie was the 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novella, The Mist. She played an obnoxious religious fanatic. 

This current television season, I’ve become hooked on Code Black, Ms. Harden’s tour de force that airs Wednesday nights on CBS. 

Every September, I pick a couple of new TV shows to watch – a few episodes, to see if I want to follow them for the rest of their lives. Since I was a fan of ER, which ran for 15 seasons on NBC (I saw every one of its 331 episodes), I gave Code Black a try. Guess I’m just a medical adrenalin-rush junkie. 

I wasn’t disappointed and was hooked after the first episode. Harden is great as Dr. Leanne Rorish, ER residency director of Angeles Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles. Originally cast as Christa, the older soccer mom who became a doctor, Harden brings experience and depth to her role. 

Maggie Grace (“Kim” in the Taken movie series, “Shannon” in the TV series Lost) was originally cast as Dr. Rorish, but was let go. Can you imagine her in the role? Nope. She lacks Harden’s gravitas. 

Episodes of Code Black, the condition level reached when the number of seriously sick or injured patients outstrips the emergency room staff’s ability to service them adequately, are wall-to-wall tension, so much so that when the emotional breaks arrive, I am deeply, deeply touched and have to reach for the Kleenex. 

I hope this series lasts for a long time. Medical adrenaline-rush junkie? Yep.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Things I’ve Learned in 70+ Years, Part 3 of 3

It started off as a baker's dozen of things I've learned during my 70+ years on Earth. Along the way, I've made it a point to jot down bright realizations or something that someone smarter told me. The list has slowly grown as I recollect what these smart people taught me.

11. Nothing starts the day off like a good bowel movement in the morning. I think you know what I’m talking about, especially if you’re a senior whose diet isn’t as balanced as it should be. Suddenly, prunes become more important. Applying this to your life and work, if you handle the bad stuff first, the day becomes much easier to handle.

12. Never pass up an opportunity to empty your bladder. This is related to #11, another excretory observation. You never know when you'll get another chance to empty your bladder. “I don’t have to go,” is the bane of more than one senior with an ego. Take care of things along the way so they don't become urgent issues down the road.

13. If you have to pick your nose, don't cut your fingernails first. There is a right and natural order of things in life. Things don't work right if the order is reversed. So as much as it’s unpleasant to talk of picking one’s nose, it has to be done, and let me tell you, cutting one’s fingernails and then remembering you need to “dig potatoes” (as the wife puts it) is frustrating.

14. Accept help when it’s offered. Put your pride and ego aside, eliminate any chance of physical injury. More and more, people offer to help me up when I really don’t need the help. They hold doors open for me, something I’ve always done for other people. What goes around comes around, and when a nice person offers to help you … say “Yes,” and later, “Thank you.”

15. A dry sponge can’t soak up liquids. My high school chemistry teacher said this in class one day, seemingly right off the wall. But y’know, he was right. If you’re going to use a sponge, you first need to get it wet, then squeeze out the excess water before it’ll clean your countertop. Similarly, your brain won’t function well if it’s not prepared ahead of time to cogitate.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Things I’ve Learned in 70+ Years, Part 2 of 3

It started off as a baker's dozen of things I've learned during my 70+ years on Earth. Along the way, I've made it a point to jot down bright realizations or something that someone smarter told me. The list has slowly grown as I recollect what these smart people taught me.

6. You might HEAR something new every day, but you do NOT learn something new every day. Can you remember what you "learned" the day before yesterday? We are given the opportunity to learn from our shortcomings, but what you experience becomes just a part of your background story. Just keep your eyes and ears open for anything that will make you a better person.

7. Don't argue politics or religion. No matter how much you try, you'll never change their minds. I learned this one in college political science. Political and religious good, but don’t get into these discussions with the goal of converting someone over to your side. Take it from me, it ain’t gonna happen.

8. Walk away from naysayers and negative people. They'll just bring you down to their level. I’m not saying you should become a Pollyanna. Just turn a deaf ear to those who have something negative to say about everything. Listening and politely nodding your head only encourages them. Negativity is not good for your mental health.

9. Friends and family always mean a lot, but when it comes down to it, you can't count on anyone but yourself. Trust in yourself; anything your mind can conceive and believe, can be achieved. Sure, besties provide a good shoulder to cry on. Sure, home is a good place to nest when things aren’t going well. But remember that no one can lead your life for you. At its core, life is a solo mission.

10. Don't worry, argue or get angry about things you cannot change. They won't change and you'll only hurt inside. Like political and religious arguments, some things just aren’t going to change. You are not omnipotent, you cannot effect change is some things. So don’t even try. The best thing to do is voice your disagreement, shake your head, and walk away.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Things I’ve Learned in 70+ Years, Part 1 of 3

It started off as a baker's dozen of things I've learned during my 70+ years on Earth. Along the way, I've made it a point to jot down bright realizations or something that someone smarter told me. The list has slowly grown as I recollect what these smart people taught me.

1. When you watch a movie, suspend belief and accept everything at face value. It's only entertainment, not gospel truth. So what, if something didn’t happen exactly as portrayed. Remember, it’s a movie. It doesn't really matter if they got the history wrong. It's only entertainment.

2. Live every day to its fullest before you get old, because old age isn't going to last very long. Maybe that's a good thing? I didn't want to spend a heck of a lot of time being old, so I did as much as I could when I was younger. You’re not going to have enough energy to do things when you get older. The mind may not age, but the body sure does.

3. Don't be passionate about extending your life by diligently giving up food you love. Enjoy it now, because you won't get a chance toward the end. This is a corollary to #2. If you avoid delicious, aromatic, satisfying food just because you read in a magazine that they’ll shorten your life, get back to eating what you enjoy – in moderation, of course.

4. Just because you see a garbage can, you don't have to lift the cover and poke your nose inside. Keep your nose out of the stink stuff, if you don’t have a reason to check. Do the same in your life. Don’t get so involved with other people's problems that it bothers you. If asked, help. If not, butt out.

5. Don't be in such a hurry to teach your child to walk. Just remember, you're also teaching the kid how to leave you someday. So often, I hear parents say, “When did s/he grow up?” If you don’t spend time with your children while they’re growing up, the jump from first step to “See ya, Mom” is going to seem like the blink of an eye.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Martian

Think of it … Matt Damon in space – on Mars, to be specific. Alone. A Robinson Crusoe stranded on a desert island without Friday. No food, no water. Jeez, now how frightening is that?

Andy Weir’s book, The Martian, opened in theaters yesterday in 3D. I may have to break my own theater-avoidance policy and go see this one. I’ve been waiting for it ever since I read the book and reviewed it in Book Boogie, which, by the way, was deleted a couple of days ago. 

In case you missed it, and want a preview of what it's all about, here’s the review: 
The Martian (Andy Weird) 

Botanist Mark Watney kept a diary – a log, actually – and it's a good thing he did, or we may never have found out how he became commander of Ares 3, the most recent of the Ares missions to Mars. Being as how Watney was the lowest-ranking crew member of the mission, the only way he could become commander was if he were the sole survivor. 

So, he's commander. Thanks to a wicked wind/sand storm six days into their month-long mission, the crew was ordered to abort and make their way over to the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle) for their return to Earth. But an antenna breaks loose and knocks Watney to the ground. When he comes to, the MAV is gone. 

Lucky for him, the Hab is still intact and operational, but no dish, no antenna, no comm, and about a year of food for one man. Lots of med supplies, the oxygenator works, the water reclaimer works. He's okay for now, his job is to fix the comm, then stay alive until Ares 4 arrives in four years. 

Watney mixes Martian soil with some Earth soil he brought along for experiments (after all, he IS a botanist), then adds desiccated human waste to start its bacterial regeneration ("My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain"). Thankfully, peas and whole potatoes were included in the food supplies, and they're easily grown. 

A lot of numbers are thrown around, but the prose does not seem didactic in the least; it all seems necessary and it all makes sense. Watney proves that high school algebra can help one survive. Process wonks who watch How It's Made and How Do They Do It? on cable's Science Channel will enjoy his journal immensely. 

Meanwhile, the Ares 3 crew is 10 months from home, and back on Earth, NASA has had its memorial service for Watney. Ares 4 is being prepped, but first they need satellite image recon to see how much of the aborted mission equipment survived. After all, if they can reduce the number of pre-mission supply probes, they'll conserve funding for Ares 4 and 5. 

They discover that ... Good Lord! ... Watney's still there, alive and kicking. It causes an uproar, and NASA's single-minded focus then becomes to bring him home. Less than a third-way through the story (and with an incredible boost from all things, NASA's 1996-1997 Pathfinder mission) contact is made and communication commences. 

What an emotional time for NASA, the returning crew, Watney, and the reader. There's many a time during these chapters that I actually got choked up. But of course, you just know something dire is going to happen. And it does. More than once. 

Author Andy Weir originally self-published The Martian in 2012; it was picked up by Crown and republished in 2014. Twentieth Century Fox has optioned the film rights, and Matt Damon is scheduled to play Mark Watney.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Phone Pix 54: Bottles

Beer, wine, vodka ... it's all good if you like booze. Me? I can take it or leave it as I'm not much of a tippler. Tell you what, though, I'd rather take pictures of the bottles and labels with my mobile phone cam.

The same goes for fancy olive oils. Both the oil and the bottles. Bottles, in fact, are art in themselves. Check these out:

Aug. 12, 2013, Las Rocas Wine, Foodland, Honolulu, HI

Aug. 30, 1013, Longboard Beer, Beretania Safeway, Honolulu, HI
April 20, 2015, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, Santa Rosa, CA

May 22, 2015 Ocean Organic Vodka, Beretania Safeway, Honolulu, HI
Sept. 24, 2013, Olive Oil, BR Cohn Winery, Sonoma, CA
April 20, 2015, Olive Oil, Kendall-Jackson Winery, Santa Rosa, CA