Saturday, March 28, 2009

The big 5-0

They're worried in Fargo that the river will top out over the dikes.  Forty one feet.  Now those are some tall lesbians!  What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs who lives in Fargo? Bob.  Oh come on.  You're laughing.  Seriously though, doesn't that water look cold?  My heart goes out to those folks.  

Ron and I hit our favorite sushi place last night to celebrate me hitting the half century mark. It's been over a year since we've been there.  Same surly sushi chef, same ono food.  They carry a beer from Okinawa called Orion.  Good suds.

I've just turned 50 while living in the 50th state in it's 50th aniversary year.  I will travel to Alaska this summer which is the 49th state, but which became a state the same year as Hawaii, so is also celebrating it's 50 anniversary as a member of the union.  Is that some kind of karmic convergence or what?

At work Thursday, my co-worker brought in a batch of her soon-to-be-famous butter mochi.  It's made with mochiko flour (that's finely-ground rice flour), butter, sugar, eggs and coconut milk.  Hard to go wrong with those ingredients.  I'm a big fan of traditional mochi - most flavors anyway- so this wasn't much of a stretch for me.  Add in those other ingredients and you can't help but have a winner in my book.  OK, so it's not exactly health food.  All that butter should keep the blood sliding nicely through the arteries, shouldn't it?  That seems logical to me.

Did I mention it's been raining?  Last night, the local weather guy was bragging on the beautiful day.  Obviously, he hasn't been hanging around our neighborhood.  It's sunny and warm everywhere in the state except here.  I've got a pretty good idea why this house was such a bargain.

I'm watching a CNN special showing drug sniffing dogs and border agents rooting out drug smugglers.  Oddly, I see no examples of them confiscating Methamphetamine or Heroine or Cocaine or any other dangerous, addictive substances.  All they find is marijuana.  Bales and bales of it.  Weed.  Pakalolo.  Ganja.  What a ridiculous waste of money.  What if we legalized marijuana, grew it organically right here in the USA, licensed sellers, allowed only those 21 or older to buy it, taxed it, then spent the money we collected in taxes to build drug treatment plans and research anti-addiction medications for those hooked on those drugs that are the true scourge on our society, the ones that actually ruin people's lives (like alcohol, for example).  If we're worried about people operating motor vehicles with a THC buzz, we can inflict penalties and fines to discourage that.  Then, the drug cartels and their lackies wouldn't be killing people to get this particular product to market.  We'd save billions on drug enforcement.  We could focus our efforts where they actually might make a difference.  Our over-burdened prison system would get some relief.  Shoots.  We could grow plain old hemp too.  We could make stuff, like fuel and ropes and clothing and cosmetics, all from hemp, all right here.  

But what do I know. 

A hui hou.  Aloha!


Monday, March 23, 2009

No whining when there's good wine

It still raining. Really, this sucks.  

Hmmmm.... What's new?  Right now, I'm sipping a nice Spanish tempranillo which I opened with, of all things, a twist of the wrist.  Yes, screw tops are growing in popularity and are no longer for the cheapest, crappiest of wines.  This one's a 2005 Riscal.  It's light, as tempranillos are want to be, fruit up front but not over-the-top, a touch of pepper and a smooth, slightly tannic finish.  I'm enjoying it.  Perfect with Spaghetti.  

Lucy is curled up in the corner of the couch.  Mr. Sox just came in, soaked, water beading up on his back.  Now, he's washing his face.  The little ones are off somewhere, napping, or snacking.  Hoppsy is here, in a ball on her favorite, cushy living room bed, licking her paw.  Doc is outside, where it's cooler, listening for evil invaders.  Ron is in the tub.  Abner ran into the bathroom when he heard the water running, thinking the tub occupant was me.  He likes Ron alright, but he l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ves me.  We've just finished eating and I'm watching Dancing with the Stars.  I'm totally bummed that my favorite show, Kyle XY, is over.  

We met a new, cute dog on our walk this morning.  Coco.  Doc fell head over heals.  He became instantly obsessed.   He drooled on her, leaving this slimy, foamy skid mark on her back. It reminding me of a certain scene in There's Something About Mary.  I guess there's also something about Coco.

Apparently, it's sunny in most parts of Hawaii- Waikiki, Maui, Kona - just not here.  But here I am, hanging out in this dreary part of the rainforest, marveling at the invasive trees, ogling the occasional passing pig, feeling the dampness seep into my bones, my bones shriveling for lack of vitamin D, watching the grass grow, the mold grow, the rust grow.  Ah, but it's fine, really.  Because I have wine.  And thin mints.  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chowing down at Ken's

Ron had a physical several weeks ago and was given a piece of paper to submit to a lab for a blood test.  We went together yesterday, with plans for him to have blood drawn and for us to then go pig out at Ken's Pancake House.  He gets up at 3:30 a.m. to work, so to stay awake, he drank a cup of coffee.  The rules said that was OK.  BLACK coffee.  Unfortunately, he added creamer.  Even non-dairy creamer, they say, will screw up the results.  So, they turned him away to try again another day.  Not drinking any beer at all after 8:00 p.m. was so hard for him this time that I don't know when I'll get him to do it again any time soon.  Plus, I think he's worried about the cholesterol results, figuring he will be forced to give up his woeful eating habits.  So, in his mind, no results means no problem.  I'll keep on it.  It's gotta be done.

We ate at Ken's anyway, a place that's always pretty OK and from which nobody ever leaves hungry.  It was the first time we've eaten out in ages and the first time we've found a parking spot at Ken's on our first pass through the parking lot.  Times are lean.

My poor Hoppsy had been limping and gimping around a lot lately.  Poor baby.  I'm pretty sure it's just arthritis, and the vet suggested that as much last visit, but we'll return for an official diagnosis tomorrow anyway.  I don't want to be treating for chronic arthritis and walking her ever day if she's actually injured in some way.  So we'll whip out the old credit card and make sure.

I went to the gym late yesterday afternoon.  There were people there, which is unusual and a bit irritating, since most of time I have the place to myself.  I've come to think of it as my own private fitness center.  So there I am on the stair stepper, with a woman on my left and a man on might right, also trudging away to some tunes tunneling through wires from iPods to their earbuds.  I am sweating like the proverbial pig.  It's dripping off my nose and into my eyes.  The skin on my arms and legs are beading like freshly waxed car fenders in the rain.  I glance left, then right.  No sweat.  A little glistening, maybe, but no dripping, no pouring, no gushing.  Maybe I was working harder, at a higher level on the machine?  I had been on the thing longer than either of them.  Still, I think I'm just a sweater.  Not a cable knit sweater, or marino wool, but a sweater, the verb, not the noun.  Sheesh!  

Gotta get to work.  I've decided that my most recently written story will read better in the first person than third and since I've written the whole thing in third, it will take some time to revise.  Gotta go.  Hele on.  Wiki wiki. Chop chop. 

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A day without sunshine is just another day

This afternoon, a group of agriculture students from UH Hilo came in to tour the winery, after which those who were over 21 lined up to taste the wine.  These were fun kids, interested, funny, charming.  The tall one at the end asked me if I'd seen the movie Sideways
"Sure," I said. "And I've eaten at The Hitching Post several times."
"No way!" he said, laughing. "Really?"
"And," I added, "sometimes I even drink Merlot."
"Ah hahahahahahahahhahahaha...."  He thought that was hilarious.  It's nice to know I'm still hip enough to relate to the early 20s set.  This group was the most attentive I'd had in weeks.  They asked lots of questions, and laughed at all my jokes.  College students are a blast.

Our 2007 Pinot Noir is brewing.  OK, it's aging, out of the oak already and into the bottle. My humble opinion is that it should go back into the barrel for several months more.  Today, I did a blind taste test between ours and two fine wines from The Great Pacific Northwest.  Last year, our held it's own.  This year, no go.  It's still way young, to be fair, but super thin, fruit way up front and with little substance. Not to be mean, but I'd rather guzzle a glass of Welches. The 2005 Erath was delish, superb, with great structure, a smooth, lightly tannic finish and almost jammy enough to be a cab.  Loved it.  It reminded me of the High Density Pinot Noir I tasted last spring at the Melville Winery, Santa Barbara County, with 50% stem inclusion.  The stems give the Pinot some welcome heft without making it heavy.  I picked the Erath as my favorite of the three in a blind taste test.  Of course it's a $65 bottle of wine.  Guess I'll stick to my very respectable $8/bottle Gala Rouge, 2004, always on sale at Cost-U-Less.  Wish we had a Trader Joe's.  Wish we had a lottery.  Wish I'd find a suitcase full of cash washed up on the beach.  Not likely, since I rarely go to the beach. 

Today mother nature and Pele treated us to both rain and vog.  Double your pleasure, double your fun.  It's amazing there's any paint left on my car, let alone tissue left on my lungs.  

I wore a cute, shamrock scarf to add just a touch of flair to my ensemble for St. Paddy's day.  My very talented friend Lila made it.  She didn't really make it for me.  She made it for my dog.  But I talked to Hoppsy, who agreed to let me borrowed it for the day.  It looks better on her, but pulled it off.  

There's a blizzard atop Mauna Kea tonight.  If the weather clears, we could get a nice view of the white mountain.  

Yo homes, smell ya later!

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Go Irish!

Top o' the marnin' to ya, lads and lassies.  Happy St. Patrick's day.  St. Patrick.  It's a bit odd really, that St. Paddy, the patron saint of Ireland, was actually a Welshman.  Odd, but not so weird, as we're all Irish in spirit, especially on March 17, and the Irish are such a welcoming lot.  

Don't you just love Wikipedia?  Wiki, as in wikiwiki, the Hawaiian word for hurry up, or fast.  Not to be confused with hele on, which means let's go. Wiki wiki wacky woo! I don't know what that means.  I just like saying it.

I've gotta dig up something green to wear to work tomorrow.  Even in Hawaii, everyone's Irish. Places actually serve corn beef, cabbage and green beer.  I actually am Irish.  Authentically and unapologetically.  Of course, I'm more Irish on St. Paddy's day.  I'm also Scottish, which is almost Irish.  Scotch Irish, or Scots Irish, which is really Scottish.  They were Scots who emigrated to America from Ireland.  Seriously.  I kid you not.  You can check it out for yourself on Wikipedia.  The Scots Irish were orangemen, protestants, from Ulster.  Ulstermen on  my dad's side; Irish Catholics on me ma's.  No wonder I'm so psycho.  Ever hear of The Troubles?  Imagine being descendent from both sides.  Good think the ancestors got on their respective boats and married folks descended from other nations once they got here.  Ultimately, my parents didn't get along much better than the squabblers in Ireland (although they fell short of bombings and sabotage).  Good thing I didn't have to ride the boat.  Glad I was born here.  (Not here, here, but here, in the USA.) I don't do boats.  

At the Maku'u Market in Lower Puna on Sundays, there's a group of pasty guys who wear kilts and big, punk boots. They play music, though I don't recall if they blow bagpipes.  Maybe I'll swing on down there this week to see if they're still a fixture.  
I can't wait for St. Olaf's Day.  I'm Norwegian, too.  Oofdah!  Yah, sure.  You yust learn to say yam and they tell you it's yelly.  You know, it's really hard to find good Lefse here.  And National Bratwurst Day.  There must be one of those, right?  I'm German, too.  I remember a sign I used to see along highway 285 in Colorado, just east of Pine, that read, "Italian Bratwurst."  I always thought that was hilarious.  Sort of like Norwegian tortillas.  Wait.  That's pretty much lefse.  I've probably mentioned that in the annals of this venerable digest before.  Still funny. 

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said simply, "I am Hawaiian."
Good for you, I thought.  I'm Irish, German, Scottish, Norwegian and Native American, but I don't go around wearing a t-shirt claiming such.  Here, they do. "Proud to be, Portagee." "Filipino power."  Lot's of proud Hawaiians.  The Japanese don't do it.  Nor do the Chinese.  They have plenty of holidays and festivals of their own and are the majority, so maybe they just don't feel compelled to stand out any more than they already do.  Somehow, I don't think that mine proclamation would fit on either a shirt of a bumper sticker unless I used fine print or took up the entire bumper and either way, people would think I'm al kine lolo.  Of course, I could just say, "I'm Irish," and somehow, most everyone would appreciate that.  We do live in a weird world of multiple standards, don't we? OK.  I'm American.  How's that? Irish American. Cheers!

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Whose guarding the henhouse?

For those of you who have not seen the uncut version of the Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer feud, it's enlightening.  My only contention with Stewart is his support of the "loser" homeowners who got themselves into this pickle.  I agree that most are not losers, as Rick Santelli if CNBC claimed, but hard working Americans who got caught up in the scam of the century.  They're victims.  Still, plenty of people submitted fraudulent loan applications.  Some lied about their incomes.  Others went so far as to lie about having a job.  Of course, in the good old days, a person couldn't get away with that.  The financial institutions actually checked up on you, contacting your employer and requiring that you provide a W2 statement.  Still, it doesn't take a PhD in finance to know that if you make $50k/year, you cannot afford a half a million dollar house.  Even so, Stewart is 99.9 percent right here.  It's not really about Cramer.  He's just representative of the shoddy reporting and corruption that's infiltrated the media.  And where was said media, namely the self-touted number one financial network?  Where was the guardian-of-the-democracy press?  Nowhere to be found. I think that's due in part to the fact that they were benefiting from the bull market created by the housing bubble.  Shoots folks.  We've been calling it a bubble for years and everyone knew it had to burst.  Had to.  Because people making $50/year can't afford half million dollar houses and they were snapping them up like chachkis at a garage sale.  But nobody dug into it all while it was happening.  And if they had, I don't think most of today's journalists would have understood the intricacies of the markets, nor the impacts of various regulations or deregulation to have sorted it all out.  But some of those guys at CNBC understood and did nothing about it, reported nothing, until after it all came crumbling down.

As an aside, I heard yesterday that AIG execs are getting bonuses. What say we start flooding our elected representatives with emails demanding our money back?

I've been called into work today, which is shaping up to be the sunniest, most beautiful we've had in a month.  So much for my plans to start a modest tan line.  But I could use the kala (that's Hawaiian for money) since I will not be receive a bonus from Uncle Sam, so I'll drag my okole in and pour for the thirsty masses.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Controversial skit hits home

There's big controversy over Hawaii this week, and the focus of these verbal fisticuffs is, of all places, New York City. Saturday Night Live aired a hilarious skit last weekend that hit a little too close to home for our oh-so politically correct lieutenant governor, Duke Aiona. He found it insulting to the Hawaiian people and culture and plans to spend his time writing a letter to Lauren Michaels telling him so. Guess there's not really much for a lieutenant governor to do around here. Sounds like my kind of job. Most people here thought it was funny. As Bruddah Brad pointed out on KHBC Radio yesterday morning, it was no different than much of the sarcastic, self-deprecating humor of local comedians making fun of locals and tourists alike. Sure, it was over-the-top, but there were several grains of truth there, about the struggles and frustrations of working in the tourist industry in a place where the cost of living is through the roof. Duke's planning to run for governor. What a maroon!

Slow going at the winery gives us time to have tourists take our picture. Here I am with my esteemed colleagues, Kathie in the tie die and Lorena wearing aqua marine. Kathie's a Colorado/Wyoming transplant. Lorena is a born and raised Portagee island girl with a big smile and a generous heart. She actually lived on the same street where I live now when she was a kid, right next door to my very house! She knows some of my neighbors and used to play in my pond. How's that for coincidence? When I told her I liked Auntie Peaches Poi Balls, she made me some from her own recipe. They were ono. Of course, you can deep fry pretty much anything and it will taste good. I have awesome co-workers. They're hard workers, outgoing, fun, funny and kind, and they make the drudgery of saying the same thing over and over and over and over and over (keep going)..... tolerable. Hano hano, la la la la....

The rain has let up a tad, though not completely. Not enough to mow the lawn anyway. It's been downright chilly at night, dipping into the low 50s here in beautiful Glenwood. I know that doesn't seem so cold, but we've thrown an extra blanket on the bed.

So, check out these links and don't forget to click the ads on my blog. With every click, I can go, "Chaching!" In three years, I've made a whopping $10.42. So come on now. Toni needs a new pair of shoes.

As my one-time colleague Jeanette used to say when we worked together in the ol' check factory (with all due credit to Sonny and Cher): And the beat goes on.....

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tammy rules, Barbie drools

I am fighting a cold and while I don't feel great, I think I'm winning the battle, keeping the crud at bay. 

It's still raining. 
Twenty-seven straight days or something like that.  

Did you know Bargie is 50?  All my friends had them, but not me.  I had a Tammy doll.  She was bigger, with flatter feet to fit into sneakers (not molded to fit a miniature version of a 4" pump) and a more athletic build.  I also had a blue Tonka Truck (Tammy's ride) and Lincoln Logs (her house), an Etch-a-Sketch (not for Tammy at all) and lots of games and piles of stuffed animals, but no Barbie.  Never wanted one.  Wasn't the least bit interested.  A fuzzy, talking, gay lion (his name was Larry) seemed more real to me.  I always wanted Operation - "take out wrenched ankle" - but never got it.  Friends had it though, so I got to play a lot.

Alrighty then.  Did I mention that it's been raining?  A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Right arm.  Farm out.  Dig it.  Peace, love, tie-die, granola and underarm hair.  Oh, here's a hilarious little ditty from The Daily Show on the merits of CNBC's financial advice.  Is no one guarding the henhouse anymore?  

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Out on the town

Yesterday my friend/co-worker Kathie and I went to the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.  We saw the production Mauna Kea, Between Earth to Sky.  Pretty cool.  Imiloa is good fun and always educational.  The planetarium is small but cozy, with chairs that recline all the way back so you can see the entire sky.  Right now, their doing a laser light show of some sort on Friday nights, featuring U2 as the soundtrack.  I'd like to check that out.  The grounds at Imiloa are beautiful, a botanical garden featuring native and canoe plants, all labeled.  We opted out of a cruise through the foliage, since we were almost entirely drenched just running from the front door to the car.  Hilo had received over eight inches of rain as of 10:30 last night.  That total was the accumulation since midnight the night before.  Lunch got us wet again, from the car to the restaurant.  Funny.  We both own big umbrellas and raincoats, tucked safely away at home or in other vehicles.  Reuben's Mexican Food downtown was once a place to avoid at all cost.  Now, it's been remodeled, under new ownership and pretty good.  This is definitely not the west coast when it comes to Mexican Food, but Reuben's is respectable.  We powered through enormous, onolicious platters of grub, washing them down with maragaritas.  Kathie's good fun.  She's one of my favorite people on this rock.
Today, I'm feeling the onset of a cold.  It's still pouring and there's no escaping it, as it's raining over the entire island chain.  I'll have to brave the deluge at some point today. It's been two days since the dogs have had a walk and they're going a bit stir crazy. 

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Monday, March 02, 2009

All wet

Ah, so much fun to watch our net worth shrink daily.  It is satisfying to know that AIG will live another day to lose more of our money.  I don't think anyone currently serving in national government ever took a basic accounting class.  There's this concept called a sunk cost.  As humans, we have this natural tendency, once we've put a lot of money or time or effort into something, to want to stick with it even if it's a losing proposition.  Accountants would say that's counterproductive.  Any time or money you've already put into something is sunk.  It's gone - adios, bye bye - and therefore should not be considered in decisions about the future of the project or investment.  So, in situations when the benefit or profitability from an expense is unlikely to materialize, the prudent thing to do is to cut your losses, let whatever it is go and start from scratch.  Obviously, neither our Secretary of the Treasury nor our Federal Reserve Chairman have taken Accounting 101.  I learned that at Cal State Northridge, a fine, reasonably-priced, public institution.  Maybe basic accounting is not deep or intellectual enough for the Ivy League.

Meanwhile, here in Hawaii, Hilo High School is cutting teachers.  Hawaii has one of the highest per-capita incarceration rates in the nation.  A woman was stabbed two days ago in Honolulu for no apparent reason.  Her assailant man bought a knife at a cutlery shop, the went outside and killed the first person he saw.  She was just sitting there on a bench, minding her own business, eating saimin. Totally random.  She couldn't be some sleaze we'd be better off without.  Of course not.  She was a beloved teacher, wife and mother of two.  Just goes to show ya, shit happens everywhere.  

On the bright side, it's raining.  And since it's miserable outside, I'm less tempted to go out and spend money, which I don't have.  Oh I'm sure the sun is shining somewhere, like Kona or Phoenix or Death Valley or the Sahara Desert.  Hmmmm... Desert.  Dessert.  One little letter really makes all the difference, doesn't it. I think I need a cookie.

A hui hou.  Aloha!