Thursday, March 31, 2016

Good Hygiene? Not Always

Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to practice good hygiene. Sometimes, it pays to be lazy and keep your fingernails and toenails on the long side. As long as you don't rip your sheets. Y'know?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Gone Fishing ... (Sort Of)

Off on a vacation trip to celebrate a Golden Wedding Anniversary with the wife. See you in a couple of weeks, likely on March 31 (or maybe a bit later).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Phone Pix 65: Flowers

Since Spring is just around the corner, I thought I've give you who are suffering from the ice and snow and cold winds of Winter a preview of what's to come.

Y'know ... a tease of Spring's beautiful floral bounty. Enjoy!

Yellow Hibiscus Hedge, Jan. 26, 2015, Aiea, HI

Pointsettia "Christmas Flower," Feb. 26, 2015, Honolulu, HI

Ground Cover, April 24, 2015, Home Depot, Fremont, CA

Ground Cover, April 24, 2015, Home Depot, Fremont, CA

White Roses, April 24, 2015, Home Depot, Fremont, CA

Ground Cover, April 24, 2015, Home Depot, Fremont, CA

Ground Cover, April 24, 2015, Home Depot, Fremont, CA

Orchids, April 24, 2015, Home Depot, Fremont, CA

Asters, June 9, 2015, Costco Iwilei, Honolulu, HI

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Classic Japanese Films: Kwaidan

Thanks to my new Roku 3 and my Hulu subscription, I've been able to view a number of classic Japanese films preserved by Criterion that I'd seen a long, long time ago.

One of my favorites has always been Kwaidan ("Ghost Story," pronounced KWAI-dawn), which I first viewed soon after its release in 1964. An impressionable young man in college, I pretty much experienced a chill and the shivers at the end of the four obake ("ghost," pronounced o-BAH-keh) stories:

"The Black Hair"
A poor samurai leaves his loyal wife to work far away for a rich family. He gains a new wife (unfortunately a shallow woman), and a new position as a district governor. He eventually tires of his new wife and returns home to attempt reconciliation. His former wife appears happy with the renewed arrangement. But … just wait and see what happens when he wakes up the next morning by her side.

"The Woman of the Snow"
Two woodcutters find refuge during a snowstorm, but the elder of the two is killed by a Yuki-onna (“woman snow spirit,” pronounced you-key ohn-nah); the younger is spared, but only on condition he never tells anyone—ANYONE—the reason why. Unfortunately, he later marries and has children, but just can’t hold back and tells his wife about the woman of the snow.

"Hoichi the Earless"
A blind musician specializes in singing about The Tale of the Heike (Hey-ee-keh) and the sea battle between the Taira (Ty-rah) and Minamoto (Mee-nah-moh-toh) clans. He is called upon to perform before a royal family, which turns out to be the ghosts of the battle. His friends write a sutra (“prayer text,” pronounced soo-trah) on his body, but forget his ears, which are subsequently ripped off by the ghosts who come to get him.

"In a Cup of Tea"
A writer keeps seeing faces in a cup of tea while waiting for a visit from his publisher. It’s driving him mad, and when the publisher arrives, the writer is nowhere to be found … except … in … you know where.

Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Released: 1964
Length: 183 minutes

Friday, March 11, 2016

Alas, Babylon (Pat Frank)

Alas, alas, that great city, Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come. ~ Revelation 18:10.
If you start reading Alas, Babylon without any knowledge of its 1950-1960's contemporary times, you might think that Harry Hart "Pat" Frank was talking about today.

All the world political scenarios are identical to today: Middle East tension, military secrecy, social fear and paranoia, apocalyptic talk, spy satellites.

But no, this classic "day after" novel was published nearly 60 years ago, in 1959, proving once again that the old adage, "The more things change, the more they stay the same," is true.
If you could see it [Sputnik], then it could see you.
Doomsday. Even those who never experienced the looming dread of the Cold War, the Missile Gap, nuclear submarines, and "duck and cover" cannot avoid the chilling shivers when they hear the word. Images of madmen with their fingers poised on the "Fire!" button crowd our minds and inflame our fears.

In Alas, Babylon, those nightmares come true.

Randy Bragg and his small group of survivors in Fort Repose, Florida, are hurled back into pre-technology America—no electricity, no radio, no television, no mail, no commercial food supplies, no law and order.

And of course, no Internet, no computers, no smart phones, no iPads and tablets (these things hadn't even been thought of yet, must less invented) ... just Conelrad 640 and 2240.

So, what happened? A young U.S. Navy ensign F-11-F Tiger fighter pilot accidentally sent a Sidewinder missile into the Syrian port of Latakia, touching off a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
When Moscow quits talking, I'm afraid they're acting.
Then, when the reader's nerves are sufficiently on edge following a skillfully induced and tense buildup, two nukes slam into Florida—the Strategic Air Command base at Homestead, and Miami International Airport. Another follows almost immediately, wiping out the Tampa/St. Petersburg-Sarasota area. Not long after, Jacksonville is obliterated.

Randy Bragg correctly surmises that the Soviets hit everything they could, with everything they had, all across the country. In that moment, everything changes. And I mean EVERYTHING. Good Samaritans become a thing of the past. Altruism falls by the wayside. Only family and really close friends matter.
Oh, the foul, life-destroying, child-destroying bastards! Those evil men, those evil and callous men! God damn them!
Alas, Babylon is damned scary, but not sensational horror. It is
predictive, perhaps prescient. Its plot outline has been used in nearly all other post-nuclear or apocalyptic fiction: Heavy chaotic traffic, runs on supermarkets, hoarding, shortage and bartering, breakdown of law and order, marauding escaped convicts, foraging and looting, isolated hysteria ... and radiation poisoning from nuclear fallout.

More importantly for Fort Repose, human person-to-person relations change. They reset, shift and change, many for the better, but unfortunately, many for the worse. It's the model upon which subsequent post-apocalypse stories have been based.
The very fact that I must speak to you as the Chief Executive of this nation must tell you much. [Josephine Vanbruuker-Brown, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare]
Pat Frank takes his time introducing the principal and supporting characters, something for which I have always been grateful. It gives the reader a chance to experience and accept each in turn without having to cope with bunches of new people every couple of pages.

Having read this gripping novel in its Reader's Digest Condensed Book incarnation, I eventually bought the paperback when I was in college, and read it countless times during the Cold War era, the perfect atmosphere for such a nuclear war thriller. Alas, the paperback was lost several years ago.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I was jogged out of inaction and purchased the ebook edition (unfortunately, with lots of errors in the optical character scanning). I guess I can thank Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, and the recent Cold War drama, Bridge of Spies for that. They reminded me of Cold War America.

Things close optimistically, but don't be complacent, don't dismiss the scenario as implausible and irrelevant. We are as close to it today as we were 50 years ago.

My Verdict: 5 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Drama, Post-Apocalypse
Published by J.B. Lippincott, 1959; Harper Perennial, 2013

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Baseball is Back!

Major League spring training is well under way, and preseason games have begun in the Cactus (Arizona) and Grapefruit (Florida) Leagues.

Fifteen Cactus League teams are re-honing their skills and vying for starting roles in all positions; fifteen are doing the same in the Grapefruit League.

In the Grapefruit League, the National League East Atlanta Braves are still my team of choice for nearly 40 years. They have a plethora of new names on their roster, as well as some familiar ones, and some long-absent ones (e.g., fan favorite Jeff “Frenchy” Francoeur).

Currently playing their spring games at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida, the Braves are limping along, losing more than they’re winning (so what else is new?), anticipating Opening Day against the Washington Nationals on Monday, April 4.

Their home field is Turner Stadium, their last season there before moving to their new home at Sun Trust Park in the Cumberland Community Improvement District in time for Opening Day 2017.

The Braves’ social media is all a-twitter and we eagerly await the cry of “Play Ball!” on April 4, when all teams have an even record and hope springs eternal … again.

Go Braves!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Local Honolulu Fails

Recently, I’ve encountered a number of shopping fails in Honolulu. The culprits: KFC and Safeway.

One afternoon, the wife wasn’t in the mood to cook dinner, so she asked us what we wanted to get. My BIL said he wanted KFC spicy wings, so I decided to follow suit—more or less. I didn’t feel like the wings, and I was tiring a bit of their dinner box, so I went online to see what else was in the offing.

Many years ago, when the advertising agency I worked for did KFC’s public relations, I helped launch their chicken sandwiches. Hey, I thought, maybe I’ll have one of those.

Their website pictured different sandwiches than I was familiar with, but that’s to be expected. One of the sandwiches that caught my eye was the “Double-Double Sandwich.” So I set my mouth on that one. Either that, or Chicken Nuggets.

When the wife returned, she’d gotten me a 3-piece box. The KFC she went to (Beretania and McCully) didn’t offer the Double-Double or the nuggets.

Damn. Fail!

Then, a week or so later, I wanted to get some stuff at the local Safeway. I wasn’t in the mood for a longer drive, so I went to the Manoa Safeway, about a mile from the house.

I needed a small cup (personal-serving size) of plain, unflavored yogurt. No such luck. Despite displaying a plethora of yogurt products, the only plain yogurt they offered came in 32-ounce tubs.

Fail! See?

To make matters worse, I needed individual artificial sweeteners—a small box to tide me over until I could buy an inordinate supply at Costco. Nope. They had zero Splenda or anything decent, only the pink one that’s full of cyclamates.

To make matters even worse, I needed maple syrup. We’d run out and I had to use some of that Log Cabin colored corn syrup that was hiding in the back of the fridge. Log Cabin, Aunt Jemima and the rest of those “pancake sweeteners” have no maple syrup in them. Did you know that? Just caramel-coloring and corn syrup.

Well, you guessed it. No small refrigerator-door size bottles of maple syrup. Only those big plastic jugs that take up half the top shelf in the fridge. I bought one anyway, and transferred the contents into three small Tazo iced tea bottles that fit nicely in the refrigerator door.

Fails galore, right? Well I fooled them, da dirdy ratz.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Where Hawaii Ranks 41: Women's Status

According to a study by WalletHub, 2016, Hawaii is the 10th best state for women. Hawaii scored in the top five in six relevant categories of comparison, both good and bad.

If you’d like to see their complete rankings for women’s state status, go HERE.

Highest Women's Health Care and Safety
  2. Vermont
  3. North Dakota
  4. Minnesota
  5. Massachusetts
Highest Women's Life Expectancy at Birth
  2. Minnesota
  3. California 
  4. Connecticut
  5. New York
Lowest Female Uninsured Rate
  1. Massachusetts
  2. District of Columbia 
  3. Vermont
  5. Minnesota
Lowest Female Homicide Rate per 100,000 Females
  1. South Dakota
  2. North Dakota
  3. (Tie) HAWAII
  4. (Tie) Iowa
  5. Montana
Lowest Female Percentage Who Voted in the 2012 Presidential Election
  1. West Virginia
  2. Arkansas
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Arizona
Lowest Median Income for Female Employees
Adjusted for Cost of Living
  2. Oregon
  3. California 
  4. Montana
  5. Maine

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Where Hawaii Ranks 40: State Capitals

WalletHub has released its 2016 rankings of the nation's state capital cities. Honolulu ranks 44th overall, and ranks in the top five in seven related categories.

If you'd like to see their complete ranking matrix, go HERE.

Least Affordable Housing
  2. Hartford, CT
  3. Boston, MA
  4. Providence, RI
  5. Richmond, VA
Highest Quality of Life
  1. Olympia, WA
  2. Santa Fe, NM
  4. Salt Lake City, UT
  5. Atlanta, GA
Least Affordable
  2. Hartford, CT
  3. Boston, MA
  4. Providence, RI
  5. Albany, NY
Lowest Median Household Income (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  1. Hartford, CT
  2. Providence, RI
  4. Harrisburg, PA
  5. Trenton, NJ
Highest Debt as Percentage of Median Income
  1. Columbia, SC
  2. Annapolis, MD
  4. Tallahassee, FL
  5. Olympia, WA
Most Attractions
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Austin, TX
  4. Denver, CO
  5. Atlanta, GA
Lowest Percent of Millennial Newcomers
  1. Jackson, MS
  2. Trenton, NJ
  3. Annapolis, MD
  4. Topeka, KS

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Phone Pix 64: Black and White

Every now and then, I like to convert color images to black and white (gray scale), reminders of the good ol' days when color photography was still in its infancy, a bit expensive, and processed prints took a long time to get back from the drug store.

In 1950s-1960s Hilo, Hawaii, that's what we had to live with because color processing had to be sent to Honolulu, then returned to the drug store where we'd dropped them off. It took a week to 10 days.

Now, I just open them in Photoshop, click on "Gray Scale," and voila. Nostalgia. See?

Ominous Sky, Sept. 28, 2013, Fremont, CA

Zippy's McCully Tree Burl,
Aug. 23, 2014, Honolulu, HI

Garden Hose, Feb. 26, 2015, Honolulu, HI

Sawed-Off Branch Scar, Feb. 26, 2016,
Honolulu, HI

Dead Tree Stump, Feb. 26, 2015, Honolulu, HI