Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lucky We Live Hawaii

Family Circus
I'm telling you, there are times like this (the dead of winter on the mainland) that we in Hawaii are grateful we don't have to deal with children who have this problem.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Breakfast Beppo-ing at the Buca

With 92 restaurants (five in the United Kingdom), chances are there's a Buca dI Beppo Italian Ristorante somewhere you. Did you know that Buca, Inc., is owned by Planet Hollywood?

There are four Buca di Beppos in Las Vegas — one near the Atomic Testing Museum on Flamingo, one in Summerlin, and one at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. Since summer 2014, there's also a hybrid Buca Cafè Italiano in the Bally's Hotel where I stayed recently.

(Stupid question here: If they're owned by Planet Hollywood, how come there isn't one at the Planet Hollywood Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip?)

Anyway ... The Bally's location has a simple all-day buffet, or one can order separate breakfast or lunch dishes for singles. The dinner entrees are sized to feed two. Since I was staying at Bally's, I went there for breakfast one day and discovered that they have a pretty basic breakfast menu, nothing very fancy or innovative.

I had New York steak and eggs. Unfortunately, although nicely medium rare, parts of the steak were a bit on the tough side. I should have ordered ham and eggs. It's too bad Buca Cafè Italiano is the only restaurant serving sit-down breakfasts at Bally's.

By the way, "Buca dI Beppo" loosely translates as "Joe's Basement" — "Buca" is a Tuscan slang word for "basement," and  "Beppo" is a nickname for "Giuseppe" ("Joseph" in Italian).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Where to Cut?

This panel appeared in a CVS Long's Drug advertising supplement recently.

My question is: From which end of the condom are they going to take 30% off? The opening end, or the tip? And why do you need a card for them to do this?

Well, at least they offer a pregnancy test just in case they cut off the wrong end.

But wait. What's an "Early Result" pregnancy test that they mention? If you can find out you're pregnant six days before becoming pregnant, then I guess it presupposes they cut off the tip end?

I'm soooo confused!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Taxi Touch ‘n’ Pay

Las Vegas taxi companies are now trying to make it easier for you to pay your fare these days with talking touch screens on the back of the front passenger seat headrest.

A friendly voice advises: "If you can't see the screen, just touch the middle of the screen."

Wait ... what? If I can't see the screen. How can I aim my fingertip to its middle?

I suppose it's helpful if you want to charge the ride to a credit or debit card (the wife would have a total technophobic meltdown, however), but you have to proceed in an orderly fashion.

Nah. I'd rather just pay cash and ask for a receipt if I need one.

Besides, think of all the exotic worldwide germs thriving on the screen that came from passengers who didn't wash their hands. You're going to touch your finger to that?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The ‘Learning Something New’ Aphorism

“Frazz,” by Jeff Mallett, is one of my favorite newspaper comic strips to read during breakfast with my morning coffee.

I especially enjoy the insights of 8-year-old Caufield, a precocious and creative thinker.
Recently, Caufield was talking to the strip’s principal character, school custodian Edwin “Frazz” Frazier, who remarked that Caufield wasn’t usually averse to learning something new. (Caufield had just had another run-in with his teacher, the bespeckled Mrs. Olsen.)

Caulfield noted something about a phrase that always gets on my nerves: “You learn something new every day.” I have issues with those words.

First of all, nobody learns something new every day. If we did, you’d be able to tell me what you learned the day before yesterday, the day before that, the day before that, and so on ad infinitum.
You can’t. So you didn’t learn something every day. You may have heard something new every day, but you certainly didn’t learn it.

Secondly, Caufield is right. Everything you learn is new. Isn’t it? You’ve never learned anything that was “old” to you. “Learn something new” is redundant.

Right? Right! I hope you learn this from this and remember it.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

King Street Bike Lane Boondoggle User Numbers

I read in Tuesday's newspaper that the latest survey by the City and County of Honolulu's Department of Transportation shows that an estimated 700 bicyclists use the King Street Bike Lane on business days.

Let's assume those are 700 unique bikers, not 350 in the morning and 350 in the afternoon.

Before the bike lane was opened in August 2014 at a cost of $100,000.00, the DOT estimated fewer than 400 bicyclists used the same route to get to and from downtown Honolulu.

Therefore, the new bike lane now benefits only 300 more commuters (an increase over nearly 2½ years) at an approximate cost to taxpayers of $333.33 per additional user. That's money you and I gave the city so the 700 bikers could breeze along nicely while we now have to deal with heavier afternoon pau hana (after-work) traffic.

I was hoping to see thousands making use of the bike lane every morning and every afternoon to make it worthwhile. But that hasn’t happened.

And, the city is planning to install bike lanes on South Street, the Ala Wai, and McCully Street soon. I wonder if they’ll make them as wide as the King Street one? I do know street parking will be severely curtailed and possibly eliminated when the new lanes go in.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the King Street Bike Lane is a boondoggle that wasted taxpayer money to benefit just a few of our fellow citizens, and it aggravates the hell out of afternoon drivers heading out of town on King Street.
But nobody in power seems to be listening, or to care.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My New Roku-3

Remember the last time I visited family in Fremont, CA, and made full use of their Roku? Well, my son, bless his heart, got us two Roku-3s for Christmas and installed them soon-after so we could begin using them.

I already subscribed to Amazon Prime so I could get special pricing on ebooks and other stuff I bought on, but never used their Amazon Video service. Well, now I can ... and I have!

I also subscribed to Hulu so the wife can watch some Korean drama videos (remember how she hogged the Roku at my son's house on a previous trip?) on her own living room TV.

Each has its benefits: Amazon has a better selection of movies; Hulu has the Criterion Collection and Science Channel process-geek series (eg, "How is It Made," "How Do They Do Ii").

Most other channels require subscriptions, but I found at least two (FilmRise and Watch Free Flix) that offer free streaming of "discount dvd-type" old B- and C-movies. Mostly the movies suck, but at times if you find the right ones, they can be humorously entertaining.

Netflix is on my home screen because they're offering me a free trial, in hopes that I will subscribe. But for now, I think Amazon Prime and Hulu will suffice.

Yep, I'm now in Couch Potato Heaven.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Martian

I finally got to see The Martian, in of all places my hotel room in Las Vegas. 

Based on Andy Weir's best-selling 2011 novel and released in 2015, The Martian is about astronaut Mark Watney's (Matt Damon) efforts to stay alive after being presumed dead and abandoned following a gigantic storm on Mars.

Watney uses his science knowledge to survive, knowing he has four Earth years (each day is a "sol") before Aries IV arrives. Thank God for the human waste the Aries III Marsonauts saved. With it, soil is produced and he grows potatoes for seed and food.

Meanwhile, NASA receives satellite pictures showing movement of Mars base camp elements. The discovery starts a public shit storm back on Earth. Led by agency director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), NASA tries to read Mark's mind and figure out what he's doing.

Communications are facilitated when Mark finds the 1997 Mars rover, Pathfinder, and turns on its still camera. It's a very emotional moment when they exchange their first messages, a moment that I fully appreciated and shared. And I fully understand how his returning Aries III crew feels when they are finally advised two months later — simultaneously offended and dismayed.

Problems do arise, but thank God for duct tape and the Chinese. The conclusion is tense and emotional; I loved the book with its twists and turns, and I love the movie for the same reasons. Plus, the '70s songs in the soundtrack are relevant and are there for a reason. Not to mention that there's real science involved in his survival story.

~ "Good thing I'm a botanist. Mars will come to fear my botany powers." ~ Mark Watney (Matt Damon)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Phone Pix 61: Restaurants

During the past couple of years, I've taken a number of photographs with my phone cam. Quite a few are of eating establishments, both inside and out.

Allow me to empty that particular photo folder:

Society Café, Sept. 4, 2013, Encore Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV

Take-Out Counter, Oct. 15, 2013, Zippy's McCully, Honolulu, HI

Table Setting, Dec. 24, 2013, Tango Café, Honolulu, HI

Wall Artwork, Feb. 1, 2014, Azteca Mexican Restaurant
Honolulu, HI

Japanese Lantern Display, July 24, 2014,
Tokoname Restaurant, Honolulu, HI
Maneki Neko Display, July 24, 2014, Tokoname Restaurant
Honolulu, HI

Japanese Geisha Doll,  July 24, 2014,
Tokoname Restaurant, Honolulu, HI

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Deep Thoughts on Infinity

Formula for why the sum of all natural numbers is not -1/12
from the blog, "Data Bonanza" 
Are all infinities equal? Why? Why can't some infinities be larger than other infinities? Why do I ponder this?

Why? And who cares, right?

But … stay with me now — there are infinite numbers between 0 and 1 (e.g., 0.01, 0.0025, 0.00968, etc.), with at least the same numbers (perhaps double or triple or more?) between 0 and 2. Right? And so forth and so on, ad infinitum, each infinity with more numbers than the ones before. So doesn't it stand to reason that some infinities are larger than other infinities?

And yet, whenever you add to, subtract from, multiply, divide, or raise or lower any number to the infinite power, the answer is ALWAYS infinity.

How come I’m thinking about this? Well … because my 6-year-old grandson who’s in the first grade brought it up during a conversation. First grade. Imagine that. And he helped me formulate the “Larger Infinity Hypothesis.” Amazing kid.

Ponder that. My brain is too small for all of this.

~ Inspired by my grandson, and something
Hazel Grace Lancaster said in the
film, The Fault in Our Stars

Monday, January 11, 2016

A 27-Million Visitor Count Mistake

Here we go again. It's another egregious error on the part of The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. This time, the boner appeared yesterday in Anthony Curtis' "Las Vegas Advisor" column that runs every Sunday in the local rag.

When I saw the headline, it tickled my interest. "A record 15 million" is unusual in itself, since I know a helluva lot more tourists hit Sin City (aka Las Vegas) annually.

The true figure emerges early in the first paragraph. Curtis actually said "42 million." But somehow, the Star-Advertiser headline writer must have had "2015" in his/her mind and keyed in "15" instead of the correct "42."

(Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

The thing is, apparently, nobody proofed the page before it hit the presses.

When I was editor of a weekly newspaper in Los Angeles back in the late '60s-early '70s, I fired a couple of people for errors like this. We were a small paper, but we had high standards. The Star-Advertiser is a much larger daily paper than we were, but apparently, its standards leave much to be desired.

Shame, shame!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hilo Days: A Fish Story

Mullet fish have made an impact on my life (at least a couple of times), feeding my soul and my belly. Here's a story I posted in my now-defunct Hilo Days blog many moons ago. Hope it entertains.

"Mullet" Over

Dad and some of his friends put together a hui and bought some property across from the Seaside Club.

The lot sported a tennis court, a mullet pond, a cold brackish-water swimming hole, and lots and lots of plumeria trees.

They decided to name it The Plumeria because ... well, you figure it out. We called it the "beach lot."

The family spent almost every Sunday at the beach lot, cleaning up rubbish, trimming back the greenery, and fishing for mullet. There was a picnic pavilion with lights and everything; I don't remember if it was already there, or if the hui built it.

A pathway led to the ocean — a nice frontage with a concrete walkway and a wonderful, large reef-enclosed swimming area with a sandy bottom. At low tide, you could almost walk the 100 yards or so out to the reef.

The mullet pond was well-stocked with mullet of all sizes, from small three-inch fish to some that approached a foot in length. I tried out all kinds of fancy lures, casting under the branches that overhung the water, getting into all the secret places that fish frequent.

I didn't catch much with my fancy gear, but it was fun. Most of my angling success came with a plain old bamboo rod, monofilament, a float, a weight and a hook.

Oh yes, and a piece of bread. We'd been setting up the fish for a long time. Every Sunday, Dad would stop by the bakery and buy a couple of loaves of day-old bread, which we used to feed the fish in the mullet pond. We'd toss the slices onto the water and watch the surface boil with fish. Little did they know they were being trained by skilled professionals.

I once caught two huge mullet at the beach lot. I was nosing around a weed-infested area that separated the pond from the ocean proper. We had an iron grate there to keep the fish in, and a channel where the fresh ocean water could enter and drain.

Anyway, I looked down and lo and behold, there were four of the largest mullet I'd ever seen in my life. I baited my hook with a ball of bread and slowly lowered it in front of the biggest one. It took one sniff, and sucked it in.

Yank! The monster fought like a . . . monster! The pole bent in half and I thought it was going to snap. Then the fish broke the surface of the water and I hauled it on land. It was a two-footer! Dinner. I went running to Dad with the fish and collected the accolades before rushing back to the magic spot.

After about a minute's wait, the remaining three mullet returned. Same story, and less than a minute later, I had number two flopping on land, about to join his companion in the frying pan.

This one was a little smaller, about 20 inches or so.

The adrenaline was flowing, and I dashed back for a third try. You know, those two remaining mullet never returned. I could just imagine them lurking in the weeds, and cursing me for catching their pals.

Too bad for them. The mullet fed our entire family that night, and they were delicious.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Yummy Greasy Burger

Hamburger sandwiches always taste best when they're dripping greasy and falling apart while you're eating them.

I remember when I had my first In-N-Out burger in Rosemead, CA, back in the’70s before the corporation got ahold of it and caved in to appeal to the "eat more healthy" crowd.
Same thing with Fatburger's sandwich — it used to be so delicious until it too was changed to appease the "eat healthy" critics.

Not that they aren't delicious today, it's just that they were infinitely more delicious when I used to have the real thing.

So what's with all this reflective nostalgia? It's because I recently had my first Johnny Rockets burger in Las Vegas for the first time since the one at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf in (I believe) 2005. I had my mouth set for either a hamburger sandwich or a prime rib. None of the restaurants in Bally's or Paris offered prime rib, so I went for the burger.

My cute little Johnny Rockets counter waitress Andrea took good care of me, showing me all the attention and friendly service one would expect from a Johnny Rockets. As soon as my order was ready, she brought me a Bacon Cheese Burger, a half-onions-half-fries side order, and a huge refillable glass of Pepsi (wish they had Coca~Cola).

The burger was just as I remembered it — moist and coming apart in the bun. I swear it was drippy juicy, almost greasy in a way.

Now, that was an old-fashioned burger like I remember.

Did I make you hungry?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Tasty Mistake

Until my recent trip to Las Vegas, I'd never had a Nathan's hot dog before. Wait, let me clarify. I have bought their packaged hot dogs from the sausage cooler at the supermarket; I just haven't had one form their hot dog stand.

Finally got a chance and had one for dinner. I walked up to their counter and ordered their Chili Cheese Dog with Sauerkraut, anticipating it so much that my mouth began watering.

A couple of minutes later, they called my number and handed me my dog. I found a seat in the Bally's food court and began munching.
Ooo, the pop when I bit into it released a flood of favor.
It wasn't until my second bite that I realized there was no chili. Checked my receipt, and there it was: "Cheese Dog with Sauerkraut." No chili. Damn. Just a large Pepsi.

Not only that, in my excitement, I forgot to order the Crinkle Cut Cheese Fries I'd been coveting — the ones with the Bacon and Ranch Dressing on top.

Ah well. It still tasted great, and just gave me an excuse (as if I needed one) to go back again.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I Hereby Resolve ...

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but I decided to make a few this year.

Therefore, in 2016, I hereby resolve to:
  1. Brush my teeth more than twice a day when I feel like it.
  2. Change my lounging-around tee shirt if it starts to get smelly.
  3. Stop eating a meal when I'm full.
  4. Substitute walking for driving when I run out of gasoline.
  5. Obey the traffic lights even if there are no cars or people around.
  6. Use the sleeper-timer on my bedroom television set unless I fall asleep early.
  7. Wake up early if I have to go to the bathroom.
  8. Give up my first-class airplane seat if someone double-compensates me.
  9. Be as courteous as possible until someone irritates or angers me.
  10. Stop farting in public unless I can't help it.
The wife took a look at these and … snickered.

Remind me in December to let you know how they turned out.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Phone Pix 60: Delicious Restaurant Plates

Let's start the New Year off with some yummilicious phone pictures of yummilicious plates of food that I consumed during the past couple of years!

Special Rodeo Steak Hash, Dec. 20, 2013, Hash House a Go Go,
Plaza Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
Crab Enchilada, Feb. 1, 2014, Azteca, Honolulu, HI
Cowboy Burger, April 21, 2014, Applebee's, Fremont, CA

Lunch Bento, April 24, 2014, Sushi Yat, Fremont, CA
Crab Frittata, May 4, 2014, Big City Diner, Honolulu, HI
Rib Eye Steak, May 20, 2014, BLT Steak,
Bally's Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Special Benedict, May 20, 2014, Mon Ami Gabi
Paris Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV

Huevos Rancheros, May 22, Red Rock Resort, Las Vegas, NV
Oyster Shooters, July 24, 2014, Tokoname Restaurant,
Honolulu, HI

Salad Plate, March 12, 2015, MORE Buffet,
Luxor Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV