Monday, February 29, 2016

Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)

Written about five years before 1960's To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman was rejected, put away and forgotten. It remained unpublished until its rediscovery in late 2014. Consequently, Go Set a Watchman is a pre-written sequel of sorts, albeit an unintended one.

It's 20 years or so after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout's all grown up, now living in New York. She's not called Scout anymore, having reverted to her given name —Jean Louise. Back in Maycomb, Georgia, on her annual two-week vacation, Jean Louis is "almost in love" (her own words) with Henry Clinton, her father's law office assistant.

Little Jeb is gone, struck down prematurely in life. Housemaid Calpurnia has retired. Aunt Alexandra Finch Hancock now lives with Atticus Finch, who at 72 is somewhat hobbled by rheumatoid arthritis.

Torrents of memories flood her thoughts. There are, of course, a few memories of what transpired in To Kill a Mockingbird, even though that book had not yet been written. Some of her present recollections are delightful, but to me, some are quite frankly irrelevant and boring. The Rev. Moorhead takeoff, for example, went way too long.

I whizzed through Alexandra's 10:30 morning tea hutch so I wouldn't doze off, it was so long-winded and boring. The "tossed brassiere" incident, however, is a gem.

The thing is, Go Set a Watchman merely ambles until you reach Chapter 16. That's when author Harper Lee finally gets to the point.

Jean Louise reexamines the past, confronts the present, and contemplates the future. Dr. Jack Finch, her uncle, explains the social change that's upsetting her—how changes are actually the resetting of old ways in different form. He explains that she is a bigot, in the truest definition of the word. She'd called Atticus a racist, delivering a lengthy diatribe that reinforced her opinion.

That's no surprise, unless you see it from the perspective of a To Kill a Mockingbird sequel, which it is not. If you take into account this was written before To Kill a Mockingbird, then where's the surprise coming from? The problem with reading this story written before, but taking place after To Kill a Mockingbird (which is not an actual sequel) is that one tends to think of Jean Louise as Scout. We feel like picturing her the way we knew her in To Kill a Mockingbird, which hadn't yet been written.

The first third or so of Go Set a Watchman reminds me of how my first novel (never written) might have been—loosely scattered memories tossed together into the salad bowl, dressed with a sweet-and-sour vinaigrette of sorts. I probably wouldn't have caught my stride until my second book.

But then, I’m no Harper Lee.

My Verdict: 4 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Drama
Published by HarperCollins, 2015

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hilo Days: Honesty Pays

I learned pretty early in life that if you make a mistake, own up to it and face the consequences. Sometimes you receive a reward for it, or however you want to rationalize it. For your enjoyment and edification, here’s another story from my long-gone Hilo Days website.

Being Responsible

I [once] had to pay for one of my pranks.  You know how "boys will be boys"? Well, while walking to Japanese school one day, as we passed Lincoln Park, I grabbed the math book of one of the younger kids who was walking with us, and ran 'way ahead of him.

About a block and a half ahead of him, I turned to see him huffing and puffing, chasing me for all he was worth. I stopped, and put his book on the back fender of a car that was parked there. Just before the kid got to the car, it suddenly pulled out of the parking space.

We both stared with our mouths open as the car — and the math book — disappeared down the street. The poor kid started to cry and said he was going to get it from the teacher for losing the book.

Of course, big man that I was, I told him not to worry, that I would go with him to his class tomorrow, explain what happened to the teacher, and pay for the lost book.

First thing the next morning — and I do mean first thing — the kid sought me out and reminded me of my promise.  So, trembling in my shoes, I went to talk to his teacher. It was Mrs. Baptiste, my fourth-grade teacher.

I explained the situation and told her to let me know how much the book cost.  She was pretty nice about it, and I think she was proud of me that day. I forget the cost of the book — it was about $7 or so, and it did hurt financially.

However, remember that I told you earlier that I was lucky. Someone else must have been proud of me that day because the very next week I made a phone call from the public phone at the Hilo Library.

When I hung up the phone, this avalanche of dimes came pouring out. It was about $4 or so — not enough to make up for the entire cost of the lost book — but enough to replenish my piggy bank.

In retrospect, I guess I should have turned the money in.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Staring Eyes

As I was walking from the Las Vegas Monorail into the SLS Hotel and Casino (see my Feb. 11 post), I became uncomfortably aware that I was being watched.

Passing a huge wall covered by what looked like little teeny green plants, I saw two eyes peering at me. I unconsciously drew back, stopped, then moved in for a closer look.

They weren't eyes. They were round rivet thingies inserted into the wall, creepily framed by washers.

What the heck were they doing there? What was their purpose? Who put them there? And why? Why? Curious minds want to know.

Ahhhh, sweet mysteries of life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Delta First Class

  I got to fly back to Hawaii in Delta Airline’s first class cabin this past December for the first time in a year or so. It was the first time I've flown first class in their B767-300ER, and I have to say the cabin configuration struck me as just a little strange.  
Check out how, in the first row, they give you an amazing amount of leg room (no, those aren't my legs).
The seat controls are on my exclusive console top on the right, and (hallelujah!) easy to read and access.
The LED reading light to the right of my head looks like a microphone, and silly me, I almost started singing over my shoulder.
The chair actually opens up into a sleeper bed, which accounts for the hole in the wall in front of me. It also vibrates in different places if you want a massage.
So what about the meal? For dinner, flight attendant Toni offered a choice of chicken or pasta.
I chose the grilled chicken breast with broccoli and yellow zucchini over sweet red pepper rice pilaf, accompanied by a dinner salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette, and a warm ciabatta bun with butter. The chicken was moist and tender, and very well-flavored, as were the veggies and pilaf.
For dessert, they treated me with a four-ounce cup of creamy vanilla Marsala gelato that I finished off with a cup of hot tea (no little teabag saucer, unfortunately, so I disposed of the used teabag in my empty cold drink glass. How gauche of me).
I'm happy to say that Delta first class was as pleasant an experience as Hawaiian Airlines first class, and in a few ways (all involving the chair), better.
The only thing is ... I got the last available first-class seat, and because of the cabin arrangement, I was somewhat close to the restroom. Eww. Actually, I'm just being an unreasonably petulant snobbish spoiled brat; it wasn't bad at all.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Where Hawaii Ranks 39

Maybe we don’t resemble a "typical" American state because we don’t get enough sleep? And maybe we don’t get enough sleep because we stay in some of the best hotels in the nation? Hmmmm, could be.

Most Sleep-Deprived States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016)
  1. HAWAII (56.1% heavy-sleep duration)
  2. Kentucky (60.3%)
  3. Maryland (61.1%)
  4. Alabama (61.2%)
  5. Georgia (61.3%)
States with the Least Sociodemographic Resemblance with the U.S. (WalletHub), 2016)
  2. Maine
  3. Vermont
  4. North Dakota
  5. California
States with the Least Economic Resemblance with the U.S. (WalletHub, 2016)
  1. Alaska
  2. Maryland
  3. Wyoming
  5. Montana
Most Romantic U.S. Hotel (Traveler’s Choice, 2016)
  1. Henderson Park Inn, Destin, FL
  2. Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, SC
  4. Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, CA
  5. San Giuliano Hotel, Palm Springs, CA
Most Small U.S. Hotel (Traveler’s Choice, 2016)
  1. Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, MO
  2. San Giuliano Hotel, Palm Springs, CA
  3. KALAEKILOHNA, Naalehu, HI
  4. Inn of the Five Graces, Santa Fe, NM
  5. Lumiere Telluride, Telluride, CO

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Bull No Shit ...

While driving home recently, I saw this sign posted on a telephone pole: “Real Estate Investor Needs Trainee. $150K. Text me: XXX-XXXX”

Yeah, right. Like somebody’s going to pay a stranger $150,000 to be trained. More likely the advertiser will hit up the “trainee” for a fee, providing techniques and suggestions and a list of potential “targets.” Sounds like bullshit to me.

That reminds me of a time in the long-ago past when Dad came home from his med office one day and said he heard something interesting at lunch: "The bull no shit, the grass no grow."

In other words, even though someone presents you with a load of crap, it’s likely that it will provide the fertilizer for something to grow, something that will be useful to someone, or something, else.

So is there a third party (or fourth or fifth) that will benefit if someone answers the “trainee wanted” ad?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Random Musings 29

If we ever become a paperless society, where are house dogs going to poop?

* * * * *

I went to bed and fell asleep last night; then when I woke up, it was seven hours later. Did I just time-travel?

* * * * *

Smoke signal = American Indian wireless, right? What if it’s a windy day? Would they have to use a landline?

* * * * *

How long do I have to stand in front of the microwave oven waiting for it to preheat?

* * * * *

I wonder if there’s such a thing as “red-neck Egyptians” who lived in the south of Egypt, and if so, did they wrap up their mummies in duct tape?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Phone Pix 63: Las Vegas

Since I'm on a Las Vegas kick, here are some phone pix taken during trips to Las Vegas during the past 2-3 years. No casino pictures this time, just interesting scenes encountered during my holidays.


Wall Painting, March 13, 2013, Las Vegas Museum of Natural
History, Las Vegas, NV
Wall Painting, March 13, 2013, Las Vegas Museum of Natural
History, Las Vegas, NV
Waterfall, Sept. 6, 2013, Mirage Hotel Foyer, Las Vegas, NV
The Bellagio, May 20, 2014, seen from Mon Ami Gabi,
Paris Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
Red Rock Canyon Plains, March 11, 2013,
Red Rock State Preserve, Las Vegas, NV
Egyptian Obelisk, March 11, 2015, Luxor Hotel,
Las Vegas, NV
The Venetian and Harrah's, Dec. 15, 2014, seen from the Mirage Hotel
Volcano" Attraction, Las Vegas, NV
Door Pulls, March 10, 2015, Luxor Hotel,
Las Vegas, NV
Eiffel Tower and Montgolfier's Balloon at the Paris Hotel, March 11, 2015,
Seen from Mon Ami Gabi, also at Paris Hotel Las Vegas, NV

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Luxor Sphinx

When I was in Las Vegas this past December, I spent some time at the Luxor, where I'd stayed earlier in the year. While there, I took a few pictures of the huge sphinx that's part of the architecture. So before it gets up and walks away, I thought I'd share a couple of pictures with you:

By the way, that beacon that lasers upward at night ... they say it can be seen from Los Angeles when the sky is clear and there's no LA smog messing up the air.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

SLS: End of the Line

At the north terminus of the Las Vegas Strip monorail sits SLS, fka The Sahara, one of the legendary Rat-Pack hotels, that shut down in 2011. It's been the SLS since August 2014.

I heard that SLS Hotel & Casino President and COO Rob Oseland said "SLS" stands for "Style, Luxury and Service." It was actually inspired by the Mercedes SL500. Who knew? And now that I know, who cares what it means? Just call it SLS and leave it at that.

However, in retrospect, I should have done some Internet research before taking the monorail there during my recent December Vegas holiday.

Then I would have paid more attention to the 3D video hanging over the Center Bar. Or ordered the not-on-the-menu tater tots at Umami Burger. Or placed a bet on the tiny sports book situated in Umami. Or taken a picture of the Sahara door-handles chandelier.

Instead, I wandered around in an uneducated daze, signed up to be a member of their slot club, The Code, and pressed buttons on slot machines. Good thing I did too. I won some dinner money:

It's a classy place. I should (and likely will) go back there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Riding the Rail

Every now and then, I eschew renting a car when I visit Las Vegas. When I do that, my inter-hotel/casino and restaurant transportation is accomplished by taxi.

Or, if I stay on the east (Flamingo, Harrah's, MGM Grand) side of the Strip, I occasionally go via the Las Vegas monorail. Usually, I buy single-ride tickets @ $5, unless I plan three or more rides in a single day ($12/day). I'm cheap; I like to save the $2 and give it to the room maid as a tip.

By the way, if your party is three or more, it's a little cheaper to get into a cab.

A small bonus: An event/attraction discount coupon booklet is available at each station. I almost always pick one up ... I just never use it.

The only problem is that although the monorail stations are attached to the various casinos, the walk from the station into the casino is pretty long. And if you want to visit a casino on the other side of the Strip, the walk is even longer. When I have to do that, I just hail a taxi instead because the old people in our party can't handle the walk.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Where Hawaii Ranks 38

Here are five more “Best/Worst” lists in which Hawaii or Honolulu is mentioned. Top five results as usual, except for a few where I couldn't find lower-ranking states for the category.

Worst U.S. Airport Food (AirportXP, Phoenix Marketing International, 2015)
  1. HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL (45% Customer Satisfaction)
  2. Ronald Reagan Washington National (50%)
  3. Tampa International (53%)
Happiest States in America (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 2014)
  1. Alaska
  3. South Dakota
  4. Wyoming
  5. Montana
Pedestrian Fatalities in Traffic Accidents (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015)
  1. District of Columbia (39%)
  2. New Jersey (30%)
  3. Rhode Island (27%)
  4. HAWAII (25%) (Hawaii also ranks #1 in traffic accident pedestrian fatalities ages 65+, and #1 in ages 75+.)
Lowest Monthly Median Starting Salary (WalletHub, 2015)
(Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  2. Brownsville, TX
  3. Santa Rosa, CA
  4. Oxnard, CA
  5. Irving, CA
Lowest Housing Affordability (WalletHub, 2015)
(Most Unaffordable Housing)
  1. Miami, FL
  2. Newark, NJ
  4. Glendale, CA
  5. Los Angeles, CA

Friday, February 5, 2016

Emus 1, Australian Army 0

Esmeralda the Emu, Kentucky Down Under (Photo by Craig)
When I visited Kentucky Down Under in Cave, Kentucky, ‘way back in 2011, I had a jolly interface with a real, live emu. Y’know, it was one of the ugliest birds I’ve ever seen. Big too, about 6-feet tall when its head was held high.

I dubbed it Esmeralda because … well, just because.

Anyway, at the time, I had no idea what historical influence the emu had in its native Australia. Only recently did I find out about Australia’s Great Emu War of 1932.

See, during one of the annual migrations of emu from inlands to the coast, the birds discovered ample cleared lands and water in Western Australia’s farmlands. They ate the farmer’s crops, ruining the marginal farmland.

The farmers, many of whom were Australian and British veterans of World War I, were furious and demanded that the government do something about the problem. The Australian government capitulated and in October sent Maj. GPW Meredith and two soldiers to eliminate the problem.

Emu "Solder"
Unfortunately, heavy rainfall delayed the actual operation until November. But the tactics they used failed. Ambushing 1,000 emus, their guns jammed and the birds fled. They stalked the herd, killing 50 birds by Nov. 8 before withdrawing.

The emus persisted and four days later, military action resumed, eliminating a total of about 980 emus.

But gangs of emu are persistent if nothing else, and the farmers requested more military involvement in 1934, 1943 and 1938. But the Australian government had enough and turned a blind eye to the requests.

Winner: The emus.

I kid you not.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What the Hexx Going On?

The Sugar Factory at the Paris Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip has always been calling my name, but thinking it was just a dessert place, I never took the time to try it out. And then, when I finally did, it was too late.

In March 2015, it was renamed and re-conceptualized. It's now called "Hexx Kitchen + Bar."

The View from My Table
"Hex," of course, means a whole bunch of things, including a black magic spell. I always thought it also meant "jinx." Maybe that's not what the Hexx owners meant, but they may have accidentally hexed Hexx.

I had breakfast there in December, and a couple of little things went wrong.

First of all, the chair in the outside patio dining area was butt bone bruising uncomfortable because of the vinyl-coated metal-wire weave design. Uh huh ...

Then, my waitress Julia, a lovely, personable young lady, was late with my coffee and apple juice. She said she was clumsily delayed because she knocked them off her tray. Her self-admonition: "I am anything but graceful." Uh huh ...

Then, halfway through my banana-nut French toast, I had to remind her about my side order of sausage. She went to check and when upon returning with them, apologized before saying, "The "kitchen read the order wrong." Uh huh ...

The French toast with bananas and berries was not bad, but although the sausages were tasty, they were dry (not juicy inside in the least). Uh huh ...
There was a couple seated next to me who wanted lunch. Unfortunately for them, lunch started at 11 a.m. and they were 12 minutes early. So they just sat there and had to talk to each other.

They looked mighty uncomfortable (must have married for a few years and were all talked out), so he whipped out his mobile phone to kill time.

She, on the other hand, occupied herself with a minute-by-minute, then a final 10-second countdown, to 11 o'clock. Then, she announced "Bingo! It's eleven!" before lapsing into silence. And him? He grunted.

Twelve minutes later, Julia finally brought them menus and was advised, "We're starving." Uh huh ...

Definitely "Hexxed."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Phone Pix 62: Grocery Produce

We sure are lucky to live in America ... Hawaii in particular. Not only are we offered fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world, we also can select those that are grown here in Hawaii.

Maybe that's why I like to take phone pictures in supermarkets. The offerings are so fantastic, they're enough to make a more unfortunate visitor break down and cry.

To wit:

Papayas, Aug. 12, 2013, Foodland Supermarket, Honolulu, HI
Okra, Aug. 20, 2013, Chinatown
Marketplace, Honolulu, HI
Mini-Pumpkins, Oct. 8, 2013, Safeway Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, Aug. 14, 2014, Trader Joe's, Fremont, CA
Nectarines, Aug. 18, 2014, Sprouts, Fremont, CA
Apples, Nov. 13, 2014, Times Vineyard, Honolulu, HI
Various Chinese "Choy," Nov. 22, 2014, Marukai Market,
Honolulu, HI
Broccoli, Nov. 22, 2014, Times Beretania, Honolulu, HI
Nectarines, June 9, 2015, Costco, Honolulu, HI