photo by EfrankE

Friday, May 28, 2010

In Second Grade, We Learned to Knit

I could push a pin through the starting point on the graph where the deplorable state of modern American education became personal.

Whereas pre-war America had operated under a consensus regarding the importance of thorough schooling in the “Three R’s” I grew up under the tutelage of the “new math” (intuitive math replacing logical math), social studies (replacing American history) and, rounding out the curriculum, knitting.

Digging through old piles of stuff recently, with the goal of tossing most of it, I ran across a piece I wrote as a second grade reporter for the school newspaper describing the progress our class had been achieving. Whoever typed it up must have corrected my spelling and cleaned up the syntax because this far exceeded my capabilities at the time.

From the March 30, 1961 edition of the West Viewer:

In our room we have been studying about wind. We have found material in our science books we had at home and in library books.

We saw some movies and strip films and listened to some special radio programs. In class we tried some of the experiments we saw in the films and some we found in the books. We were to try an experiment at home, then write up the results and bring the paper back to school.

We used several kinds of thermometers, hot water, ice cubes and fans. When those of us that tried an experiment about evaporation are able write up the experiment we will finish reading our reports to the class. Some of us had to wait several days for the evaporation experiment. We found out that a larger opening on a jar or pan can speed up evaporation.

We have been weaving and knitting in our room. We took turns using the looms and helped one another. Some of us put designs on our mats. After we finished a mat, Miss Bennett said she would teach us to knit if we wanted to learn knitting.

We practiced on some small lengths of yarn. Now we have started scarves for ourselves. Guy C----- has made a scarf and sent it to a friend in England for a birthday gift. He made a nice design by using two colors of yarn. Michael F-----, Donna M-----, Phyllis T----- and Andy W----- have finished their scarves.

Now some of us are making slippers. Carla P------ and Michael F----- have almost finished with their slippers.

Miss Bennett puts the stitches on for us and now we do most of our knitting at home. Miss Bennett picks up the dropped stitches before classes start in the morning, at recess, and after school. We are keeping her and her mother busy doing the crocheting part at home. Some of us can do spool knitting.

After Miss Bennett teaches some of us, we try to teach someone else so that Miss Bennett can have time to cast on stitches for someone else to start another piece of work.
–Miss Bennett’s 2nd grade

That was my report, published on legal size paper in purple mimeograph ink. The story was buried on page 4, I believe because reports of other events going on at the school were judged to be more noteworthy than a tally of knitting accomplishments by Miss Bennett’s second grade class.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Choose a Career

Sometime during my senior year in high school, each of we students were told to write out our intended occupations, what we planned to do after graduation.

I had absolutely no career direction at the time. I had always viewed becoming competent at something and making a living as distant future situations.

My friend, Darron, had suggested to me that a couple of good career possibilities were, 1.) shepherd and 2.) organ grinder. I gave some thought to his recommendations and agreed they were not bad choices, so those are what I wrote down.

Shepherding seemed like honest work and not overly demanding, except, I reasoned, when you might have to pull a double shift if your reliever calls in sick. Shepherds often fared better than most others in the Bible. God seemed to favor them. Moses was a shepherd. King David started out as a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. God sent the angels to shepherds to first announce Jesus’ birth…

On the other hand, if you were a professional organ grinder you got to have a monkey, which also counted as a business deduction on your taxes. I had never seen very many organ grinders around so I supposed the market wasn’t over-supplied with them. Image in the field seemed to be paramount, though. Could I grow the requisite mustache to be able to pull off the full effect? Probably not for another year or so, I concluded.

Having been lying in bed off and on over the past few days trying to get over this cold that invaded my sinuses, eyes, ears, throat and chest, I’ve been musing over my career choice and path.

It's never been a secret that I drifted into architecture sideways, starting off studying something else. One of my instructors told me he thought I should go into architecture. Really?, I thought, well…er, uh, yeah, okay…, I guess.

And that was about it. I made the change and continued through school, spent a few summers working construction, graduated, got my first architecture job, and then another, and on and on until finally becoming my own boss almost eleven years ago.

My 40th year high school reunion is next year. I made the 10th and 25th but couldn't make the 5,000 mile trip from Hawai'i to the others. I’ve been wondering this week how many of my former classmates made their career decisions thoughtfully and deliberately versus how many just wandered into a path, as I did. I wouldn’t mind listening to some of them tell their stories on the subject.

Incidentally, my classmate, Darron, chose to become a medical doctor and work as a research scientist at a major university, which was probably a good career choice. I doubt that either shepherding or organ grinding could have matched the benefits of his current position.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

50 Years After the Hilo Tsunami

I’m a little behind here, fighting off a cold and lacking energy. but...

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the 1960 tsunami, which devastated Waiakea town (a town section of Hilo) along Kamehameha Avenue and the Hilo bay front. Where once stood houses and businesses there is now a wide, open-space buffer, including park areas and the soccer fields all of my children played on in inter-island competitions while growing up.

The tsunami collapsed house against house as it rushed up the slope of the town. Sixty one people perished. Waiakea Town was condemmed and deeded over to the state.

Hilo, the County of Hawaii government headquarters, is on the windward coast (opposite side from Kona) of the Big Island, the Island of Hawai’i.

On February 27 of this year, our family woke up to tsunami warning sirens, due to earthquake-generated concerns) here in Kona. Condominiums along the shore were evacuated, businesses were closed and nearly everyone moved up the slopes of Hualalai as a precaution

Down the road from where we live, a group set up a few shade tents right off the highway on the edge of a precipice, along with tables, chairs, coolers and barbecue grills to watch the big one hit about a thousand feet lower and a mile away. We watched for it while attending a house blessing event at 600 feet elevation and a clear view of the coastline about ½ mile down slope.

The anticipated tsunami never arrived, thankfully. The drama far exceeded the event. This was a good thing, in spite of the potential for producing cynicism in some people from, yet another, “false” alarm. As the Hilo tsunami demonstrated, it’s important to be vigilant and responsive to warnings. Complacency can become fatal along the island coastline.

Click here to read one survivor's recent recollection of the 1960 Waiakea-Hilo Tsunami.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

10,000 Days Below the Volcano

This last week we passed the 10,000th consecutive day of volcanic activity on the Big Island. Eruption activity began January 3, 1983.

Here’s a time-elapsed clip of minor activity occurring at Halemaumau crater on a day the trade winds were blowing.
Video clip used with permission by EfrankE

Most of the flowing lava comes out of the side of Mauna Loa. The volcano has overlaid old lava with new, destroyed homes and forest land, closed a main road with lava and even extended the cliffs of the island a little farther out into the sea, but mostly it has produced a lot of steam and gas emissions. Note: The banner photo at the top of this page is a shot of Hualalai Mountain, a dormant volcano which separates us from the actively volcanic south-eastern part of the island.

The output of sulfur dioxide varies from 200 tons to 2,000 tons per day. It acidifies the rain, at times, to the detriment of Big Island crops. When molten lava flows into the ocean the sulfur dioxide combines with the seawater to form steam clouds of hydrochloric acid. It’s good to avoid the area on those days.

It’s always more pleasant in Kona when the trade winds are blowing, sending the vog (volcanic version of smog) southward and out into the Pacific. In the summer, Kona winds prevail much of the time and bring the vog northward along the leeward coast, spoiling otherwise pleasant views.

The long-term health effects of breathing air with a high concentration of sulfur dioxide for 27 years are still unknown, though not expected to be beneficial.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It’s For the Children

It’s tough starting a new business in the current economic climate. Our research suggests that tapping into parental insecurity, competitiveness and, in may cases, guilt remains a potent marketing force not yet fully exploited by industry supermarket stand periodicals (last stop along the impulse sale trail).

Some time ago my “son and only” came up with a magazine idea that seems destined for every preschooler’s mother’s nightstand reading pile. We believe we’ll still be the first to enter this sub-market sub-niche. With the summer solstice arriving next month (northern hemisphere only, condolences, Australia), we feel the timing couldn’t be better.

Actually, the whole idea was my son’s and he’ll be doing most of the work. I’m just tagging along for encouragement and profits. I’ve tried hard to pass along to him everything I’ve learned about business. You’ll note from the photo the essential tools I’ve emphasized - serious demeanor; upright posture; conservative, navy blue suit; red power tie; gum-soled wingtips - it’s all there.

He got off to a slow start and the entire operation is still being run out of his briefcase but recently he has gotten a head. He decided to go with his guts because corporate headhunters charge outrageous fees for bringing in a CEO. There was a wide selection of CEO's available on e-bay at very reasonable prices. He went with the cheapest (figure at middle right in photo) to keep overhead down, which so far, he’s doing. Being especially compact, our CEO can fly for a $25 baggage charge to most destinations.

Magazine issues are expected to appear semi-annually, at first. The winter issue will carry a special insert for markets in Arctic Lapland, Siberia, and much of Canada featuring topics such as “Selecting the Right Artificial Light Array for Your Child to Stare At During the 6 Dark Months” and “Comparing Videogame Screen Backlights – You’ll Be Surprised Which tested out for Optimum Radiation Benefit.”

This will probably end my previous part-time, fill-in work, advice giving, since I won’t have time for 2 extra jobs. Plus, there’s just too much free advice available out there and the market for my services faces relentless competition from other opinionated people. Never saw that coming.

This, though, has to be a sure-fire winner.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Hair Up There

It had been three to four weeks, so today it was time for another haircut. I’m still trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance that occurs by looking at my reflection uninterruptedly for twenty minutes, or so. My mind cannot seem to accept that what’s in front of me isn’t some kind of distorting, carnival mirror that stretches the width of the reflected image.

My barberette was in true form:

She: “Your hair’s gotten long this time.”

I: “Think I should go for the Mohawk?”

She: Manages polite, yet undoubtedly fake, smile with no comment.

I: “Okay, then what about a Faux-hawk?”

We finally settled on a No-hawk, which closely resembles “The Usual.”

To help attach an increase in status to the style that has become my last stop along the hairstyle option spectrum before the “Michael Jordan” terminus, henceforth "The Usual" will be re-named after former University of Hawaii, and now SMU, head football coach, June Jones.

In the future, when, or more probably, if my barberette ever again asks me how I want it, I’m going to request the “June Jones.” That’s June Jones, not June Cleaver, got it?

The "June Jones" (formerly, a.k.a, the "No-Hawk")

The "June Cleaver" (not recommended for most men)

The "Michael Jordan" (a.k.a. the "Hair Graveyard")

Monday, May 17, 2010

You Get What You Pay For…

…after that you must hire an Attorney to get someone else to pay for what you wished for.

Every now and then, someone comes along who can reveal the big picture in the most cogent way. Today, enlightenment is provided by subcontractor/business owner, Pete Battisti, commenting on the faster, cheaper, better expectations of building project owners, particularly as the process is likely to occur more and more in a dog-eat-dog recession economy.

“In most cases, owners get what they pay for and sometimes more than they bargain for when they select the low or unqualified bidder, and it all starts at the drawing process and continues:

--Owner hires low bid architect, possibly unqualified.

--Owner hires low bid general contractor, possibly unqualified.

--GC hires low bid subcontractors, possibly unqualified.

--Owner enters into contract with GC.

--GC enters into contracts with subcontractors.

--All contracts are written to limit the owner’s liability.

--All subcontracts are written to limit the owner’s and GC’s liability.

--All contracts require special endorsements from subcontractors protecting (defending) the owner and the GC.

--All contracts are written with “no” payment guarantees.

Construction begins

Project is completed.

--Owner is not happy because the job took too long to build, had cost overruns, and was not up to the quality that was expected.

--Law firms clean up the legal issues through litigation and or arbitration.

--Insurance companies settle liability claims.

Project complete."

Battisti summarizes: “If everyone really wants projects built faster, cheaper and better, why isn’t there a delivery method that achieves this goal?

“Why isn’t there a vaccination for cancer, or for that matter the common cold? Why don’t cars get 300 miles per gallon of gas? Why can’t we stop illegal aliens or street drugs from entering our borders? Why have we become a consumer country rather than a producing country?

“The simple answer is, there is more money in the treatment than in the cure in the short term.”

And that, for those who are paying attention to the recent machinations of international finance, is also why the foundational causes of the dire problems that most of the economies in the world today are experiencing are not being properly rectified.

Sharp vision is essential for those working at the front end of the food chain in a shark’s world. Pete Battista has flipped on the light switch and adjusted the focus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Princess Ka’iulani

Familiarity with anything more than a few facts regarding the history of Hawai’i is a rarity among the vast majority of non-Hawai’i born residents of our state.

Still, anyone who has connected at all with Hawaii’s people and culture knows generally about the armed takeover of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and its annexation to the U.S., led by American and English businessmen in the last decade of the 19th century.

The movie, “Princess Ka’iulani,” portrays the story of one of Hawai’i’s last royal heiresses in line to the throne, from childhood to young adult, as she experienced the circumstances of that period. Historical events, instead of providing the narrative, play out in the background.

Memorable in the film is the depiction of the legitimate rulers of the constitutional monarchy. Faced with the realization that it is outside of their nation’s power to physically resist the takeover, the royal rulers choose to act with humble dignity, wisdom, faith and courage to preserve the identity and place of the Hawaiian people.

A good movie, in my opinion, is one that lasts no more than 90 minutes, or so, which is the case here. Beyond that criterion, the film is a well-crafted presentation. There are no wow-factor, CGI scenes and only one explosion, but the acting is good, the cinematography not bad at all and the deliberate pacing allows the story to develop coherently. Additionally, you can watch this entertainment with grandparents or younger children without concern for embarrassing language or subject matter that will leave you ill-at-ease.

I recommend the movie for having qualities similar to “Chariots of Fire,” if you can recall that movie from the early 1980’s. In both films, the directors set out to make a good movie without spending tens of millions of dollars by focusing on plot, character development and conflict resolution.

Perhaps the movie will be found to be more meaningful to those who live here in the historical after-path (to coin a term) of the events portrayed, but I believe many others will find the movie a rewarding experience, as well. Not being a major studio production, it probably won’t be in theater release for very long. Before it disappears, try to see it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chinese Dogs Sent into Space for What?

In 1957, Laika the dog was launched into space orbit by the Soviets, blazing a path for human spaceflight. Today, the Chinese regularly launch dogs into space with their own astronauts.

There is a notable difference in the designated role of the dog between the two space programs. The Soviets sent Laika into orbit primarily to determine whether humans could survive weightlessness in space.

The Chinese send dogs, or as they are widely known in the western world, Man’s Best Friend, into space as part of a healthy breakfast, or whatever meal they are consumed as a menu item.

The UK Telegraph reports that Former astronaut and China’s first man in space, Yang Liwei, commander of the Shenzhou five 2003 space mission explains in his autobiography, The Nine Levels Between Heaven and Earth, “Many of my friends are curious about what we eat [in space] and think that the astronauts must have some expensive delicacies, like shark’s fin or abalone. Actually we ate quite normal food, there is no need to keep it a secret.”

One item that stands out on the listed menu of normal items includes dog meat, specifically, the type sourced in Huajiang County in Guangdong, which is esteemed in China for its nutritional benefits. Not significantly, dog shared the menu on day three of Liwei's mission with baby cuttlefish casserole and eel with green pepper.

Hope I’m not making everyone too hungry to read to the end of this post.

To capsulize, somebody in the Chinese space program made the decision that shark fin was too extravagant for space missions, but dog as a nutritious, yet familiar, comfort food would contribute to the fitness and focus of the astronauts in the performance of their mission, and that there is no need to keep this a secret. Tough call, but you gotta just trust the experts in these things.

Does this post have a point, you ask? Well, no, not a very strong one, other than, it can help make some sense of things to view people and their activities in their cultural context. That, and the term “puppy chow” might lose a lot in translation depending on how good the foreign language dictionary is that you might be relying on.

A few years ago here in Kona, while waiting to pick up baby girl from middle school, a ten or eleven year-old girl passed my car while walking her pet Vietnamese pot-bellied pig on its leash. I watched the two of them stroll down the sidewalk until they turned the corner. disappearing from sight. In some (probably only non-gated) subdivisions in Kona, domesticated pigs may be kept as pets. Doesn’t keep me from eating bacon, though.

One of my Filipino buddies here always claimed he had the best recipe for cat. He remained tight lipped about giving up the family recipe, but he did let slip that the secret lay in the ginger. I’ve never personally tasted it at any cookouts or potlucks as far as I’m aware, … maybe, though. He did mention it tasted pretty much like, what was it again? Oh, yeah, cat.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Resolving the Real Men vs. Quiche Controversy

Back in the early 1980’s, Reader’s Digest published excerpts from a book entitled, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. The title / statement / opinion insinuated that no manly-type male would ever eat something soft and gummy, like quiche, when instead he could choose to rip into more rugged table fare, like steak or pork chops. Sadly, publication of the article unleashed far-reaching repercussions on the unsuspecting male public.

The book’s title quickly became a slogan of masculine reaffirmation, which, paradoxically, if not naturally, opened up a whole new set of opportunities for humiliation by one’s male peers.

The year the book came out I was playing on a Kona men’s league softball team. A fielding error often led to being called a “quiche-eater,” the implication being that only a squishy, overly-sensitive man like a Phil Donohue, or an Alan Alda, would have missed such an easy play, or perhaps that the fielder must have forgotten to bring his manhood along that day. The accusation usually developed like something along these lines:

“Aaaah! Quiche-eater!

“Who’re you calling a quiche-eater?”

“You, who else? Only a quiche-eater would miss an easy out like that!”

“Oh, yeah? What makes you the expert?

“I’m the captain, the titular head of the team!”

“You’re a titular head, all right!”

“YOU’RE the titular head.”

“No, YOU are!”

“That’s what I said!”

“Okay, then!”

Eventually, quiche-related criticism would wane and play would resume until the next unforgivable error.

I’m sure you can grasp how formative life lessons like this can leave a man apprehensive about ever being caught eating, let alone making, quiche. However, since my masculine self-identity is feeling quite invincible at the moment, I will unflinchingly confess to both.

Yeah, you heard right, I’m admitting it! I made a quiche as a gift for my wife for Mother’s Day. I was in need of some sort of gesture to show appreciation for the five pups kids she popped out. I knew she liked quiche. The rest of us have learned to eat it. Helpfully, she brought home all of the necessary ingredients from the grocery store so that I wouldn’t have to leave the family kennel compound on a special trip to town.

Flowers and a Hallmark card with supplementary, handwritten, emotive sentiments would have been the easy way out, of course. My gift was a much more creative, personal, and quite possibly more-economical, expression of love and appreciation.

I assume, my well-contemplated gift was blissfully received and will reap handsome dividends, relationship-wise, for the near term. I should probably ask though, just to make sure.

Here’s the recipe source. Incidently, don’t worry if all the bacon pieces fall to the bottom. I found out ex post facto that’s to be expected. Also, you may want to use the fancier French cheese (as far as I know, we’re still back on friendly terms with the French) instead of the thriftier Kraft-brand Swiss cheese that I used. I used heavy whipping cream in place of creme fraiche.

Men, you might want to take a shot at this. The recipe is pretty easy and women seem to savor the results. Importantly, almost nobody uses “quiche-eater” as a derogatory expression anymore. In fact, the term has almost passed from the collective male memory, possibly due to resigned acceptance of the U.S. Department of Defense's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, or maybe from pressure brought to bear on the media from quiche industry-aligned politicians and interest groups.

Whatever the reason, today it’s become possible for real men and quiche to co-exist peacefully to a degree unimaginable a mere three decades ago.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Mayberry? Now I’ve Heard Everything!

Longtime friend and former Kona resident, Steve, now settled in North Carolina, sends back this headline from The Mt. Airy News: Establishment for Adults Only Eyed in Mt. Airy.

The town of Mt. Airy, NC was the inspiration for fictional town, Mayberry, the setting for the Andy Griffith Show. Mt. Airy was Griffith’s hometown. It likely would have become a decaying rural remnant of the past had the town not gained a second life attracting rube tourists who are enticed into experiencing a commercialized simulation of early 1960’s Mayberry. I was a visitor there in 2001.

Steve, summarizes, “The folks in town think that a new night club opening out on the highway is going to be a str1p club because the owner put up a sign out front with a woman with her leg around a brass pole.”

Optimistically, he continues, “Personally, I think it will probably be a school for women firemen.”

Makes sense to me. Some firemen like to play pool to relax. It's logical that firewomen would find relaxation in the same activity, right? Plus, Steve, a media specialist and university instructor, has not only been long-immersed in regional sign traditions but also holds a master’s degree in Appalachian culture, so I’m leaning heavily on his analysis.

Let us all hope he’s right. If it’s the alternative possibility, it’ll be another nail in the coffin containing my treasured, childhood TV memories.

Thanks for the heads-up, Steve. Please keep us apprised of any further Mt. Airy and/or firewomen-related developments.

"You got to nip it! Nip it in the bud!"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother’s Day Post, Addendum

The woman who bore me adds enriching detail to the experience of my birth (from her side; my recollection’s unreliably vague):

(front, left to right: Mike'itect, his mother; back row: other people)

"Back then, the hospital personnel were surprised at my request to have the scene photographed. It’s just too bad that you are pictured so far in the background, however, with a head the shape of a watermelon and one eye swollen shut, perhaps it was for the best.

"Six weeks later, I worked evenings [as a nurse – ed.] at the hospital and saw my [delivery] doctor. He then confessed, 'I probably should have done a Caesarean Section.' I thought to myself, Ya, think? Duhhhhh…

"He was probably trying to decide what to do … as he sat in my labor room while he should have been teaching a class and/or going home.

"While laboring in la-la land, I lay wondering why he was always in my room, especially when he had told me months before that I would have no trouble because, 'You’re as big as a cow!' (Oh, Doc, you probably say that to all your patients.)"

To use refereeing terms, it’s unlikely any doctor today would place himself in the precarious position of admitting he called a bad game. I have to conclude that, as the hours passed, the doctor was concerned enough about either my mother or me to remain personally vigilant.

Hard to believe my mom didn’t experience Post-Delivery Stress Disorder every time she looked at me. The sufficiency of God’s grace.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Mom on Mother's Day

Sorry about the 40 hours of labor.

Reckon I must'a camped out along the way & drug my heels some toward the end o' the trail.

Were all hospitals back then this bright and cheery, or were we just lucky?

Glad I lost the watermelon head. Bet you are too.

Many thanks for birthing me. I like to think it made the world a better place.

Lord Jesus bless you, Mom. Have a happy Mother’s Day!

Me (or I, whichever is thought today by most experts to be grammatically correct)

Looks like I pulled on my own boots the day of the photo. Mostly always was independence-minded, 'less'n I needed t' borry a dollar or two.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Randy’s First Resume

What did YOUR first resume look like?

Graduating from architecture school during the years of the Carter recession, I found the prospects of obtaining first-job professional-employment with a skimpy resume about as promising as trying to separate the fly droppings from the pepper.

A young graduate that our Midwestern office hired in the early ‘nineties, Randy T., went through a similar experience. He once noted that if he had been completely honest about his qualifications, his first resume would have looked like this:

RANDY T--------

309 E. John Street

Champaign, Illinois 61820

(217) --- ----


To obtain the position for which I am applying.


University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Degree: Master of Architecture

Graduation Date: May, 1993

Degree: B.S. Architectural Studies

Graduation Date: May, 1990


Barracco’s Pizzaria, Evergreen Park, IL

- Delivered pizzas really fast.

- Got some awesome tips from some rich dudes.

- Managed to control my temper when I got stiffed.

Sportmart, Orland Hills, IL

- Wore a tie to work every single day.

- Put sporting goods on the shelves for people to buy.

- Was never more than 7-1/2 minutes late to work.

- Did not stare at the babes trying on shoes in the shoe department.

Southwest Pet Shop, Bridgeview, IL

- Could catch up to 14 goldfish in one swoop of the net.

- Mopped the whole floor at least 5 times a day.

- Counted change real good.

- Could carry over 100 lbs. of dog food at a time – impressed the delivery guys.


- Collect frogs and some lizards.

- Go fishing whenever someone will take me on his boat.

- Sleep in real late on some Saturdays.

- Cut the lawn before my dad gets pissed.

- Go driving around late at night to find toads breeding in ditches.

- Sneak in U-turns when there’s no cops around.

- Stick sleeping people’s hands in warm water and laughing as they pee their pants.

- Ate 13 White Castle burgers for lunch once.


- Dad (not when he’s in a bad mood, though)

- Mom

- Faith, my sister

- Grandma D-----

- Grandma T--------

- Grandpa T--------

- Michelle, my girlfriend

Long story short, we hired him. Not on the basis of this resume (which we hadn’t yet seen), of course, but the strength of his padded one was, if not compelling, much more impressive - to architects, anyway (probably not as much to herpetologists).

I haven’t seen Randy in 15 years. I’m sure he’s found success. He told me once that, back when he worked at the pet shop, he personally taste-tested all the brands of dry dog food. Otherwise, he explained, he couldn’t have honestly told the customers which one was the best.

And, of course, honesty is how you get ahead in the world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Back on Track

Just a quick report here noting that I did remember to wear pants to the gym this time. Had anyone there today noticed that Monday I had forgotten to cover the worn spandex? Hard to say. I did encounter a few uncomfortable looking smiles, but that's not unusual for me, even under normal circumstances.

Before leaving this afternoon, as I was tying the drawstring of my shorts I noticed that the waist seemed saggy. Man, looks like I'm losing some serious weight on my new year's eating plan, I thought. Finally!

With anticipation running high, I stepped on the scale for a more quantitative measure of my success. Huh?!... I tried zeroing out the scale and stepping on it again.

Sadly, I've gained about 10 pounds. The science is still being reviewed but preliminary analysis indicates that apparently both the scale and the bathroom mirror are accurate, and the worn waist-band elastic on my shorts is the factor skewing the expected results.

So, the good news today is that I left the house fully dressed per plan. The bad news is I was deceived by shelf-life-expired elastic into thinking I had successfully achieved a portion of targeted weight loss.

For any of you who are genetically predisposed to be slender and cannot find empathy in the situation, it is analogous to placing an order from Amazon on December 22 and receiving it on December 24, only to discover that instead of the i-pad you ordered, they shipped you a plastic three-ring binder. Or something close to that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pant-less in Kona

Back in college, one of my friends asked if anybody else had ever had that dream where you’re walking along and you suddenly realize you’re naked. An alternate version of the dream is where you find yourself in public in just your undershorts, like you forgot to get dressed before going out.

I was thinking, “Ever?!” Of course! It was in my top four most frequent dream themes, along with the ones where you can’t remember where you parked your car, or you’ve got a final exam (or semester project due) and realize you’ve forgotten to attend that class all semester, or you’re back in high school and can’t remember your locker number (or locker combination). Failed memory seems to be a robust theme in my less-pleasant dreams.

Anyway, back to the first paragraph – yesterday, that dream became prophetically fulfilled.

Late in the afternoon, I had driven to the gym, parked the car, bar-coded in with my pass, stretched out and was in the middle of my second set of chin-ups, when I noticed from the mirror on the opposite wall, that I had forgotten to put on my outer shorts.

I was wearing (this, usually sub-surface, for me) a faded pair of spandex compression shorts, extensively worn out in the seat from cycling, which, I suppose on some younger, more athletic-looking physical specimen would have caused little alarm, perhaps even admiration. Realizing my workout was abruptly over, I retreated to my car while trying to present a confident “Yeah, I dressed like this on purpose,” false facade.

When I arrived home, baby girl met me on the lanai asking if, instead of her going, I could go pick up beloved wife, whom I had dropped off on my way to the gym, with the assurance that I’d be staying there late to try to get in two days worth of workout. Naturally, she was surprised to see me so soon.

Wife: “Did you change your mind about going to the gym?”

I: “No, I went. I just came back because I forgot to wear pants.”

Wife: “I noticed you were only wearing the spandex.”

I: “You could have mentioned it.” Sheesh! What does she think wives are for, anyway!

Wife: "I thought that was just your new look. How could you forget to wear pants?”

I: “Well, there’s just so much to have to remember!”

Wife remained wisely silent.

I: “Okay, that did sound a little weak.” On a day when you forget to put on your pants before going out, there’s a low-probability chance that you, extemporaneously, anyway, will be able to come up with any kind of excusable reason for having done so.

Wife: “People work out in just spandex shorts.” She went on to cite son-in-law number two, who works out in spandex shorts.

I: “Son-law-number two is a competitive tri-athlete who weighs 50 pounds less than I at roughly the same height.”

Wife: “Well, at least you have something to write about in your blog.”

Small comfort, and this from someone who rarely reads my blog posts anyway, which, makes her like about 98% of everyone else I know.

In my defense, I had spent much of today trying to figure out the right fee to charge as part of our proposal for the first design job of its kind to come our way in years, and then kicking numbers around with my partner over the phone. I was still pondering our proposal on the way to the gym, present physically, absent mentally practically the whole time.

Jobs like this one we’re trying to win have become rare around here in the new economy As my partner says, each job that comes along is like a crumb that falls to the floor, which is immediately swarmed by 15 cockroaches architects. The trick is to submit a proposal that’s competitive enough to win the job but not so low that you wind up at the end working for nothing just to be able to complete the project and finish out the contract.

During tough times, it’s reasonable to expect that the architects who remember to wear pants have at least one leg up on the competition. For good measure, I should probably borrow beloved wife’s lipstick and write on the vanity mirror: GOT PANTS? – maybe tape a note on the dashboard too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SPAM – It’s What’s for Breakfast!

It is truly unfortunate that whoever coined the term for unwanted email decided on the word “spam”. Why couldn’t he have chosen a more unsavory food name for the usage, perhaps “liver and onions” or “Brussels sprouts,” a.k.a. “little green balls of death,” as described by one fellow blogger? SPAM should connote something deserving of respect.

SPAM, the food-stuff, as produced by Hormel, is the combined product of shoulder pork and ham. It was introduced into the Hawaiian Islands as a military food supply for troops stationed here during the Second World War and was rapidly accepted into the local cuisine. It enjoys an esteemed reputation here in the Hawaiian Islands. Some national, fast-food chain franchises here sell it from their breakfast menus. Rice, of course, accompanies nearly everything, at every meal, locally.

In recognition of the prized position SPAM has earned in Hawaii, and in emulation of various food blogs, today, I’ll be revealing, with commentary, the recipe for my…


STEP 1. Push aside enough countertop clutter for prep space (Non-bachelors skip to next step).

STEP 2. Figure out how many people are likely to be out of bed in time for breakfast and select appropriate size of rice cooker. Today, based on an estimated head count of four, I decided to go with the pee-wee.

STEP 3. Measure out rice and wash out dirt and anything else that may have managed to penetrate rice container defenses. Set pan of drained rice, with clean water, in cooker.

STEP 4. Start rice cooker first – important, since the rice will take longer than other items to cook.

STEP 5. Take a big swallow of coffee, because your hands are soon going to get messy.

STEP 6. Check date on bottom of SPAM can. If expired, deposit contents into dog’s bowl. If okay, pull tab on easy-opening top and remove. Turn carton upside down and shake out contents, which we will henceforth accurately refer to as SPAM. Personal observation and rhetorical question: Could you even ask for food to come out leaving its container more clean? And look! Hormel figured out how to get rid of that unappetizing, gloppy, gelatinized residue that used to always be there.

STEP 7. Cut SPAM into ¼” thick slices. Use slicing thickness guide on back of can if necessary. Expect shrinkage to occur during frying.

STEP 8. Brown both sides of SPAM slices in non-stick pan on medium heat. I start the first batch on a very light film of olive oil spray to prevent burning. Look for golden brown color on underside, then flip. It is the caramelization that gives SPAM its full flavor.

STEP 9. Trim off edges of slices and cut into perfect ¾” square tiles (within 1/8” tolerance). You may not care about being this precise, but, as an architect, I like to perform at a certain level of geometric exactitude in my food component preparation whenever possible. The trimmings, seen on the upper right, go into a bag for later use on critical occasions as an incentive in bribing obedience from the dog.

DISCLOSURE: I forgot to make the rice first so, while waiting for the cooker to do its job, I killed time by building a SPAM tower. Collapse appeared imminent and, indeed, structural failure quickly followed with eccentric loading as the probable cause.

Hindsight is easy, of course, but it’s less necessary to play with your food if you start the rice first.

STEP 10. Pour raw, scrambled eggs into pan, cook until safely dry. Add SPAM squares and melt in some shredded Mexican cheese. Those attempting to gain weight may prefer to use 100% Wisconsin cheddar. This main course also can be easily supplemented with ready-to-bake cinnamon rolls.

STEP 11. Remove SPAMbled eggs from heat, serve with customary two scoops rice on compartmentalized paper plate in local eatery fashion. Chopsticks are traditionally used, but I frequently employ the use of a fork, since it produces a higher success/attempt ratio of moving food to mouth. You can experiment to find out which works better for you, particularly when no one is watching.

This high protein, high fat, morning meal would be perfect for providing the energy required for a day’s expedition out on the ice in Antarctica. I, however, use it as fortification for a day of lying in the sun on the beach.

SPAM – not unlike sugar-laden, grain-based, commercially-boxed cereals - it’s part of a healthy breakfast.