Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cock fighting is just plain foul

The other day Ron spotted the neighbor over the fence and offered him one of our giant cabbages. We certainly have plenty, after all, and have shared with two other neighbors as well. This neighbor, a Hawaiian, had a gift in return: two bags of freshly smoked pork! Onolicious! It's really good just dipped in the sweet-hot Hickory Farms mustard we got for Christmas. Giving and sharing whatever you have is a strong part of Hawaiian culture. Once, at the airport, I commented on how nice a woman's lei smelled. She smiled and gave it to me. What a lovely custom.
Not all cultural practices and customs are created equal, however. There was a front page article in the paper today about the impact of a new federal law making cock fighting a felony. Cock fighting is technically illegal in Hawaii, but it's fairly prevalent here, especially in the Filipino community. Arguments in favor of cock fighting in the paper came from frustrated chicken owners who feel their culture, customs and way of life are being ever threatened by mainland influences, by people with different values who just don't get it. Hmmm... human sacrifice and burning witches at the stake were once regular cultural practices too, but we no longer condone them. While I don't equate the killing of humans with the death of chickens, it does seem we should have evolved by now so as not to sanction practiced animal cruelty in the name of cultural practice. Of course, I'm just one of those haoles from the mainland who don't get it. Cops say that whenever they bust up a cock fight, there's always plenty of gambling involved, not to mention alcohol and drugs. Ironically, proponents claim it to be a wholesome activity the whole family can enjoy. Apparently, they bring along the kids, the grills and a picnic and make a day of it, like one big tailgating party. Amazingly, owners often attach sharp, metal barbs to their roosters' feet so that they can inflict more damage and make for a particularly dramatic and bloody contest. Nice, huh? Many of the men quoted in the article said that they would probably quit fighting the chickens if faced with the possibility of felony charges. In my enlightened opinion (if I don't say so myself), that is a very good thing.
I will say, however, that the chickens are beautiful.
I think we set a new record this week. A new record during our tenure on the island anyway. We had five days with no rain. It began misting heavily this afternoon, however, so everything's getting well soaked yet again. Since the water tank is down to about half full (or is that half empty?), a little rain may actually be a good thing. Sheesh. Did I just say that?
A hui hou. Aloha.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pipe dreams

They say that home ownership is the American dream. It's a bit more like a nightmare at times if you ask me. Sometimes, I really do pine for the good ol' days, when any malfunction whatsoever could be fixed with a call to the landlord. We have a pipe that leads into our utility room and pump. That pipe is firmly embedded, ensconced and totally stuck in sidewalk cement outside. It is also PVC, which isn't supposed to be exposed to the elements. But it is, cuz copper costs plenny kala and we've pretty much concluded that our house was a no frills kind of construction project. Anyway, the pipe coming up from the cement elbows at a right angle then goes through a hole in the siding and into the utility room. Several weeks ago, I heard a hissing sound coming from what I thought were our gas tanks, located right next to the pipe. At first I thought it was a gas leak. Yikes. Thankfully, it was not. Instead, the elbow in the pipe had sprung a tiny leak and was misting water. Ron did his usual repair/Jerry rigging and was quite pleased with the results after much gluing, taping and clamping. Just Wednesday morning, he commented on how well his repair had worked. About an hour later, I heard that familiar sound again. This time it was louder. We went outside and found the pipe not misting, but spewing. Spouting. Erupting. We had our own Italian fountain. So we turned off the water and made our way to Ace for some piping.
After some consulting with the expert there, about five hours of sawing, hammering, wrenching and more, we fixed it. Sort of. It's not a bad fix, but it's not perfect. I have to say though, that we made a pretty good team. There was no swearing. We took turns sawing, hammering and holding the flashlight, as our project took us well into the night. (We had to record Lost.) It will need to be redone by a professional who can replace one or both of the original pipes and refit the elbow properly. Fortunately, I have a friend at the gym who works as a plumber. He's the plummer at the Military Camp, but he does some work on his own as well and he agreed to come check it out. I'll give him a call next week.
I actually poured a wine tasting for someone from Gunnison this week. His wife was my optometrist there. Small world, eh? It made me a little homesick.
The weather's been very nice the past couple of days. I stopped in the park yesterday on my way home from work to take a couple of pictures at sunset.
Today, I heard a beautiful song on the radio. I'd heard it before, but it really struck me today. Keali'i Raichel has a lovely voice and this is such a sweet, mellow melody. Hmmmm... I guess that makes it a mellow-dee. I've attached a link to a sample of the song. It's called Ka Nohona Pili Kai The title translates roughly as "The dwelling near the sea." Or it could mean "A home by the sea." The word nohona literally translates to either life or dwelling. So I think here it conveys the concept of home. I think....
Hawaiian music is nice, but I found bluegrass helped me pick up the pace on the treadmill today. Nothing like a little Foggy Mountain Breakdown (Flat and Scruggs) to get the feet flying.

Here's an irony for ya. In Hawaii, as everywhere across the nation, the local police have embarked upon an aggressive click it or ticket campaign and are issuing citations with fines of $92 for people who neglect to fasten their seat belts. Seams reasonable, right? After all, seat belts save lives. So when you're driving or riding inside the steal casing of an automobile, you must be buckled in. In Hawaii however, it's legal for humans to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. They do so, of course, without helmets or seat belts. Go figgah.....
A hui hou. Aloha.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cherry wine makes me feel real fine

A coworker and I polished off a fellow worker's bottle of Colorado Cherry Wine tonight, so it was an especially tasty (and tipsy) pau hana.
It was hot today, especially in the tasting room, which doesn't have the best air circulation. With no trade winds, it's humid, too. But it didn't rain and the vog was a little less thick today, so that's good, yeah?
With all the talk of buying local and sustainability as today's buzzwords for a better world, we are finding it increasingly difficult to do this. Today at Safeway, Ron found shrimp from China and Taiwan and Vietnam and scallops from Bangladesh, but none from the U.S. Yikes! I'm thinking the waters off the coast of India are not the place from which to harvest filter feeders you actually plan to eat. Here in Hawaii, we're seeing tuna and mahimahi from far away places like the Marshall Islands and Australia, when those fish can be readily caught off our own shores. Even the edamame they sell comes from China. Soybeans grow nearly everywhere, including here, but the only ones the local Safeway caries come from there. We try to buy most of our produce at the local farmers market. It's fresher, cheaper local, requiring a minimum of fossil fuels to transport. But there are many food items it's virtually impossible to buy locally. We hear of locally grown pork and lamb, but I have no idea where or how to purchase it; it's not at any of the grocery stores. Local grass fed beef is available and I buy that when I can. Chicken? Our choices are Tyson or Foster Farms. It's tough to find free range and/or organic chicken let along local. And yet there are chickens roaming all over the island. I suppose I could just go grab one. Of course that would never work for me. By the time I got the feathered foul home, I'd have critter named. It would soon be part of the family. Foghorn Leghorn was one of my favorites as a kid, after all...
I do buy local eggs when I can. It pains me a bit, because they cost twice as much as eggs shipped across the ocean. But they do taste great and I know they're fresh and free of chemicals. The point I'm trying to make, I guess, is that this island is capable of producing enough food for everyone who lives here. It did so before Captain Cook arrived. There were some 400,000 Hawaiians living here then and they did quite nicely without edamame from China, Chicken from Arkansas or fish from wherever. They had chicken, however, along with pork, fish, vegetables and fruits. The islands were self sustaining for quite some time after Cook's arrival, even as hordes of immigrants began to swell the population. People grew and raised their food here. They didn't have ready access to Apples from Washington and didn't feel compelled to buy fish from SE Asia.
There's talk about a Super Wal-Mart being build behind the existing smaller Wal-Mart in Hilo. It would be built on Hawaiian Homelands land, so would not be subject to any state or county zoning regulations. I know I'm just a malihini haole, but aren't Hawaiian Homelands supposed to be reserved for Hawaiians? And with thousands of Hawaiians on a waiting list to receive Hawaiian Homelands land and/or homes built on said land, I'm wondering how many families will actually live in the Wal-Mart? I'm very confused. Of course, that could be because I drank a little too much cherry wine.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


The vog was thick as toolie fog today, so we spent most of the afternoon indoors. This morning, however, we ventured to the Maku'u market, where we had a taco and some Thai curry for breakfast. I love being a grown up. You can do or eat whatever you want, when you want, where you want. One of the local county council members was there. She actually holds informal town meetings and talks story with constituents at the market. That's a pretty cool idea, if you ask me.
Some of my tea cuttings are beginning to grow. A couple of them are ready for slightly bigger pots. It won't be long before they'll be big enough to put in the ground. Once day, I may actually be able to brew a cup of tea from leaves I've actually grown.
A very interesting Hawaiian man came into the winery Saturday. He was very knowledgeable about the island and encouraged us to pay attention to it; to learn what it is and what it provides. "Take some time to stop and smell the roses," he said. He knew about the history of volcanic activity on the island, the flora and fauna, the history of humans and development. I wish I'd had more than a couple of minutes to talk story with him. He was accompanied by and 80 year old man of Japanese descent. This man had been instrumental in the building of the Mauna Kea access road. The younger Hawaiian man had worked with the older Japanese for many years and was taking him around the island to see locations the older man had not visited in awhile. There was a very obvious friendship between them, built on mutual respect.
We're still trying to pawn off some bad wine to our customers. The problem is that in a tasting room, people actually get to taste the product before buying. So they can tell with a sip that the stuff is crap. We make two types of Symphony wine; one dry and one sweet. A recent batch of the sweet stuff came out dry and bland. I have been telling customers that this particular batch of the wine is tasting a bit tart and less sweet than usual. That is an extreme understatement. Not many people like it, so we can't sell it. I first suggested dump the stuff, write it off and move forward. "Management" said that was not an option. I then suggested we earmark the bad bottles for distribution rather than the tasting room. People don't taste wine before they buy it at the store, after all. Management thought this was a brilliant idea. Nobody, however, has taken any action to pull the crappy wine from our shelves. I don't mind selling stuff, as long as what I'm selling, be it a product or a service, is of high quality. I don't like selling crap. I won't lie about the product, so if someone says the wine tastes like Robitussin, I don't disagree. Actually, I think that comparison doesn't do justice to most cough syrups on the market, which actually taste pretty good compared to this particular batch of wine.
The other wines are actually tasting pretty good. The Hawaiian Guava recently won a silver metal at the Pacific Rim International in San Bernadino. Not too shabby. It's not a wine I would buy for myself, but it is a very rich and flavorful sweet, fruit-blended wine. The blush is darn tasty too. Still a bit sweet for my taste, but it has a very tasty, unique fruit flavor. It's made with Jaboticaba, a tropical berry.
Tomorrow, it's back to the gym. Flabby flabby flabby......
A hui hou. Aloha.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Produce, pooches, pontifications and ponderings

The lettuce is coming up.... A home grown salad is just around the corner....

Hawaii is the land of the lonely dog. For some reason, people think nothing of getting a puppy, playing with it while it's cute and little, then once it's bigger, tying it to a chain outside in the yard for the rest of its life. With the exception of food and water, the dog has no direct contact with people or other dogs. These miserable excuses for human beings take a social, active pack animal and isolate it for life. Tragic. Of course, not everyone in Hawaii does this. And Hawaii is not the only place I've seen this. But it is a more common practice here than other places I've lived. I see these poor dogs, tied out, alone, day in and day out. They bark when they see passers by. That's their only connection with the world beyond the chain. It breaks my heart. I really don't get it. Why have a pet if you don't plan to love and care for it like a member of the family? What's the friggin' point? One dog down the road that had been tied out has disappeared. My neighbor thinks the dog may have died. Again, tragic.

While my house may be located in the land of the lonely dog, there are no lonely dogs here. Only happy dogs (and cats) that get lots of premium food, treats, petties, playtime, love and affection every day. They are full-fledged members of the Todd-Niederpruem pack.

A man came into the winery the other day with a profound message on his shirt. I've also seen it on bumper stickers. It read: "I aspire to become the person my dog thinks I am." Now that's an lofty aspiration. Then there's my favorite bumper sticker of all time. I saw it again just other day. It says, "What would Scooby do?"

If you loath bureaucracy, you'll love this story. As you may remember from an earlier blog entry, Ron and I purchased a new water heater. It was rated energy efficient, which qualified us for a rebate from HECO - Hawaii Electric Company. We filled out the form provided to us by Sears and included our original receipt, which had all pertinent details of our purchase. In completing the form, we accidentally missed a small line asking for the date of purchase. Now, the date of purchase was printed on the receipt, so you'd think that the clerk processing the form might have simply written it the space required. Nope. Instead, he/she highlighted the space, then mailed the form back to us as incomplete. They did this six weeks after we hand delivered it to the HECO office, along with our receipt. True story.
Today, Crawford and I made our semi-annual trip to the vet. She was, as always, a very good girl. The clinic finally hired another veterinarian. Still, the place was packed and patients backed up because one of the vets had an emergency c-section to perform on a mommy dog. I think it was a dog. It might have been a cat. Anyway, Crawford's in excellent shape for an old girl with no spleen. Plus she loves to ride in the car, so we had a lovely afternoon together.
Here she is, waiting for peas from the garden. She loves sugar snap peas. Veggies are good for dogs.
We have cabbage coming out our ears, so we're sharing with neighbors. I've been making coleslaw and fish tacos, both of which utilize the lowly cabbage to its full sweet, tangy, crunch effect. I have created a delicious coleslaw dressing. Here it is:
Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and mayo. I used light mayo. If you want it slightly less tangy, use a little more mayo and/or a little less vinegar. Add in about a tablespoon of honey, a pinch of cracked black pepper and a pinch of celery seed. Whisk it all together, making sure the honey dissolves completely. If you don't like honey, you can substitute sugar. Shred a bunch of cabbage and a carrot. I like to throw in about half a cup of raisins and maybe some diced apples or dried pineapple bits. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss. Yummy (if I don't say so myself)!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Robin Williams is our new best friend

Last week we watched Man of the Year with Robin Williams. It was OK, though a bit more serious than either of us anticipated. Anyway, the next morning when we woke up, Ron turned to me and asked why I had left the water running at Robin William's house and ruined his floor.
"You had a dream about Robin Williams?" I asked in return to his question. "Me too," I said. I told him I had dreamt I was riding my bike not far behind another man, when the man fell. I stopped to help. It was Robin. He had skinned his knee, so I put a band aid on it from my first aid kit.
"Well that explains how we got invited over to his house," Ron said. Kinda scary that my dreams explain his, don't you think?
There were people from Poland at the winery today. That's really really far away. I could go for some good kielbasa right now....
Tomorrow, we'll be heading to the west side for a Costco run. Little thrills, yeah?
A hui hou. Aloha.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The slacker returns

I know, I know. What a slacker. The truth is, nothing earth shattering has occurred recently. Wait. I take that back. Today the earth literally did shatter, right into the ocean. I heard on the news today that a 16 acre shelf of lava recently formed by the current and ongoing eruption of Kilauea broke off into the sea today. It did so in chunks, sending steam plumes and debris from 200 to 1000 feet into the air. Pretty spectacular, huh? When the hot rocks fall into the cool ocean water, they do plenty of snapping, crackling and popping.
I spent a few hours at the Hilo Library today. It's really nice there because it's so open to the outside. There are rooms and tables with absent walls and views out into a garden courtyard of sorts. Very nice. It was peacefully quiet too for awhile, until a group of kids came in and sat at tables next to me. They were chatting away. I think they were confused and thought they'd gone to the cafeteria or the beach or something. So, I moved. What a stodgy old fuddy duddy I've become.
I promise to take some pictures this weekend. So tune in next week for some island eye candy.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Funny bumper sticker if the week:
Honk if you're Jesus.
I think the implication here is that if you are not Jesus, you should NOT be honking.

Tomorrow, I get to go to lunch at the Hilo Yacht Club. The Yacht Club is interesting, because there are actually no yachts. There's no boat harbor. No slips for your schooner. It's just a restaurant, a bar, a pool and some tennis courts. It's a private club, so it'll be fun to check out the restaurant, which I've heard is good. The local chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Women) is holding its annual luncheon there.
Not much else is new. Winery work kicked my butt today, but it was still pretty fun. We had visitors from France who live in New Jersey and from Tahiti who also speak French. Tres bon. Oui oui.
A hui hou. Aloha!