Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The Honolulu Community Concert Band 2007 Fall Festival was a musical fright feast. The free concert was titled, Chillers & Thrillers: A Halloween Spooktacular. It was a melodious yet chilling treat performed in the Marion McCarrell Scott Auditorium of President William H. McKinley High School.

The musicians were invited to dress in costume. Most of them dressed as undertakers -- tasteful nondescript black suits and ties, however there were some brave and imaginative souls in the group. The conductor, Thomas Hesch, came as Darth Vader, much to the delight of the audience. He swept onto the stage, cape flaring, as the band played the very familiar, Emperor's Death March, from Star Wars.

Several other costumes brightened the stage. One was a young lady dressed as a single slice of watermelon. Another was a bright yellow fish. There were two pirates and a couple of witches. The percussion section all wore hockey masks ala Jason and/or Michael Meyers from Friday the Thirteenth (et al). There was a witch in purple satin, a fellow wearing pigtails and a short skirt, and another dressed as Willy Wonka. OC went as Wiz, from the Shoe cartoon by Chris Cassatt.

HCCB was founded in 1973. It is a non-profit organization with 60 volunteer musicians from all walks of life. They have presented live performances in Hawaii and throughout the world, including a 2006 performance in the Sydney, Australia Opera House.

Visit the HCCB website for a list of the band members, future concert dates, video and audio clips of their latest performances, their history and other features.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Exotic Fruit

Scientists call it Carambola. To the rest of us it is known as Star Fruit, and it is easy to see why. Star Fruit is sweet, yet tart and very crisp in texture. It ripens from green to yellow, but can be eaten in either state.

Star Fruit came to Hawaii by way of Asia. People grow the fruit trees in their yards for both food and ornamental purposes. If you would like a star fruit tree, they also grow well in containers. Buy yourself a star fruit, plant the seeds and there you are.

Star fruit trees do not like being too wet, but they also don't like being too dry. They are a subtropical plant and they don't mind cool nights, but even a light frost will kill them.

Because they are members of the family Oxalidaceae, and therefore a source of oxalic acid, Star Fruit should be eaten in moderation. Persons with kidney disorders should not eat them at all.

They do make a lovely garnish, however. And if you're in good health, a star fruit every now and then will do you no harm.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Imposter Tree

Tonight I am sitting on the couch with my partner -- the two of us side-by-side, each with a laptop computer in our laps -- and I showed him a photo I took today. I said, "Honey (he's a botanist/oceanographer), what is this flower?" And he casually says, "Gopher wood."

Koa Haole

I can't tell you how many times some one in church has muttered to me, or me to them, "Just what the heck is gopher bark?" And the answer is, "Who knows?" I looked at my love and sang, "God said to Noah to build me an arky, arky ... That kind of gopher wood?"

He answers, "It's Acacia and some scholars think it might be golpher wood. Others claim that gopher wood is really cypress."

Acacia trees come in many types and there are a startling number of varieties here on the island. The Acacia Koa is one of my favorites. In the photo above the white fuzz ball is the flower of the plant, the green knobby ball is the flower bud and the brown behind it is a withered flower. (Another of my Acacia favorites is the Rainbow Shower Tree, which you can see here.)

The leaves first drew my attention to the plant. They look like the Sensitive Plant, so I touched them expecting them to curl. They didn't. The scent of the flower came to my nose -- very lite and sweet. I snapped the photo, returned to our condo, uploaded my memory card, opened the photo and queried, "Honey. what's this?" And received a lesson in Biblical history.

Update: With just a little online research my partner discovered this tree is an imposter! It is the Koa Haole*. It is a cousin of the Acacia and the Rainbow Shower tree, but is is NOT gopher wood. The natives gave this tree the name, haole, because it is an import and an impostor of the real thing. OC started his research when I mentioned that the leaves of the plant are what caught my attention. The leaves I described were very different from the leaves he knew grew on the Acacia Koa. He started looking online. Then I got a lesson in scientific integrity. The photo now bears the correct name and the information given is now accurate.

*Haole is the Hawaiian word for foreigner.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Island Flora

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ma'ili Beach: Sand & Surf

Ma'ili Beach is favored by both families and body surfers. It provides a safe place for little ones to learn to swim and a strong current with excellent waves. Although the two seem mutually exclusive, at Ma'ili Beach they are not.

Ma'ili beach has a sandstone shelf -- actually a smooth-topped limestone and coral reef -- that is perfect for teaching the little ones to swim because there is no shifting sand beneath their feet. Children can be taught the ways of water and waves on the reef before being introduced to the sandy section of the beach.

The sandstone and coral reef runs 100 yards along the shore line and extends 25 yards into the sea. The locals call this area, Tumbleland, because in many places the rocks are covered with slippery seaweed. Tumbleland is only exposed from April to November. The remainder of the year ocean currents keep the reef covered in sand.

The surfers can be found at the edge of the reef, where there is a steep drop into the ocean. They paddle their boards from there out into the water and wait for a wave to ride back in. Surfing toward a huge rock doesn't make good sense to me, but the lifeguards assure me that the edge of the reef is very well padded in seaweed and there is rarely a serious injury, so for the most part their jobs are pretty boring (except for the sun, sand, and other scenery.)

This shot shows surfers standing at the edge of the reef. I am not adept with the camera. It is very slow to respond to button commands and I cannot anticipate when to press the dang button to get a shot of anybody riding a wave. Plus, I did not get any closer to the action because I was taking pictures of strangers and that just isn't a friendly or wise thing to do without first seeking permissions, so I wanted to make certain no one could be recognized.

I took these beach shots very early on a Wednesday morning while most of the beach goers were at work or school. The group of kids you see [above] are very young teens. The boys all wore matching t-shirts and arrived in a school bus with two coaches and a driver. Looks like a fun class to take.

More info about Ma'ili Beach Park can be found here: Little Pebbles; and Ma'ili Beach Park.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ma'ili Beach Park

Farrington Highway is the main road on the leeward side of Oahu. From Ko'Olina west, the Farrington follows the coast. Along the paved portion of the Farrington there are 10 official (government maintained) public parks. Ma'ili Beach Park is one of the local favorites.

Ma'ili (ma-E-lee) Beach Park is often crowded on weekends. During the summer tents start popping up on Thursday afternoons and many remain until late Sunday or early Monday (permits are required, but they are free). Extended families often camp together. A big pavilion type tent will be surrounded by smaller personal tents. Assorted furniture is brought from home, often tables and folding chairs, but I've even seen easy chairs and recliners outside these temporary weekend villas.

Ma'ili Park boasts picnic areas with tables, barbecue pits, public restrooms, and public showers. The showers are open air and their primary purpose is not for cleanliness, but for rinsing away sand and salt from skin and clothing. Some people get quite intimate with themselves while doing this and I was understandably startled by the number of people fondling themselves in public. The reason for such behavior was slow in making itself apparent.

My first encounter with the sand in Hawaii left me completely unprepared for its tenacity. Once the sand sticks to you it is there until forcibly removed. Unlike the sand of my childhood acquaintance, this stuff doesn't just fall off once it dries. OC says that is because it's coral and basaltic sand, not quartz sand. Some of the sand grains are bigger, they retain moisture longer (looks dry; isn't) and may have rougher edges then quartz sand. The showers help remove the sand (sort of).

The first time I went to the beach I wore a swim maillot -- one piece, form fitting -- and a t-shirt to protect me from the sun. After swimming I quickly rinsed in the outdoor shower, then went home to discover a good three-quarters of the beach had secreted itself away inside my swimsuit. The suit was a mess. I was a mess. The house was a mess.

The second time I went to the beach I wore very loose shorts and a t-shirt. When it came time to shower I reached right inside my clothes -- yes, in public -- and made certain the sand was dislodged from my skin. I had a much happier, sand-free homecoming and it was well worth the loss of a little dignity in the park.

Maili Beach Park also has manned life guard stations. The beach is a popular place for family outings and body surfing. The life guards are quick to tell newcomers that the rocks are very slippery and the undertow is surprisingly strong. They also warn that one should never turn his back on the sea because the waves are unpredictable. Even so, Ma'ili is a favored beach for novice swimmers. I will explain why in my next post and supply you with beautiful photos of sand, surf and sea.

More info about Maili Beach Park can be found here: Little Pebbles.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Little Pebbles

Ma'ili Beach got its name from the abundant, ma, little pebbles, ili'ili, in the area. The stones are naturally polished and smooth from rolling through the sand and surf. Many of the stones are polished bits of shell and coral. This is the beach you want to visit if you like finding trinkets from nature.

The "shell" stones are easily found. I gathered all of these within an arm's reach. If you look closely you can still see the swirls in the polished snail shells.

My favorite shells are the ones worn smooth by the sea. This summer when I was in Friday Harbor, Washington and in Canada on Vancouver Island, I had to hunt for them. At Ma’ili the beach seems to be made of them. I filled my pockets.

I didn't keep all of the shells I gathered, but choosing was hard! Each one has its own shape, texture and personality. The big red snail shell is tinted by red clay. The Ma’ili Park grounds that aren’t reef, shell or sand are red clay.

The big, white, porous rocks are coral. A reef hides beneath the shifting sands of Ma’ili Beach. Much of it is sand stone and it was exposed when OC and I visited. We found many fossils embedded in the rock. It was like walking on history.

Here's a closer look at my treasures ... (click picture for larger view)

Ma'ili Beach, Waianae, Ohau, Hawaii

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Celebrating 70 Years of Aloha

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Spam,
Happy birthday to you!

Yep, you heard me correctly. Today is the 70th Birthday of Spam canned luncheon meat. OC called me from work to tell me he'd read about it on the front page of the paper during his morning commute. I teased him a bit and promised him I would go to the store and get him some Spam for dinner. He demurred, but encouraged me to read his post.

Me being me -- upon being told the tribute to Spam never made it online -- I of course had to check. I did not find the birthday tribute, but I did discover that Hawaii leads the nation in per capita Spam consumption! Well, that did it. I had to go to the store and buy a can of Spam. I haven't had the stuff since I was a teen, maybe in the last several (okay, several dozen) years or so, it has gotten tastier.

Once in the store I was shocked to discover that Spam is no longer a single entity, but has grown into a whole family of products! The second shock was the number of people crammed into the canned lunch-meat isle. They were all buying Spam. One woman told me she was making Spam Chili. Another woman -- this one in line with me at the check-out counter -- told me that the 25% less sodium Spam, which I was purchasing, had 75% less taste. She said that once she took a can of it home and neither her husband nor the dog would eat it.

Since I have neither husband nor dog, I haven't quite decided what I am doing with the can of Spam sitting on my kitchen counter. Perhaps I will do what another shopper in the cash register line said she was going to do and put the Spam in my cupboard to save it for the 100 year anniversary. "By then," she said, "I might be senile enough to actually eat it."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Moving to Hawaii? Read This!

Matson did NOT solicit this testimonial and it is NOT a paid advertisement.

Moving is stressful. Pack it. Lift it. Carry it. Haul it. Remember which box it is in. Don't lose it. Don't break it. Savoring a new adventure is difficult when one is encumbered with stuff. That's why for my move to Hawaii I only kept my very best and more precious, or priceless possessions. Much of my stuff (clothing, books, photographs) I entrusted to the U.S. Postal Service and they did a fine job, however, they couldn't move my car.

I did an online search. The search engine presented me with several companies offering vehicle shipping. Only a handful would ship to Hawaii. I researched each of them and ended up choosing, West Point Relocation. They charged me $1295.00 to ship my car from the port in Seattle, WA to the Sand Island Terminal on Oahu. I was told it would take 25 days. It took 18.

The folks at West Point Relocation happily took my money over the phone (debit card) and gave me a delivery window for getting my car to the port in Seattle. They said they would send me an email with driving instructions. I never received it. I called them and told them it hadn't arrived. They apologized but did not resend. Nor did they give me several bits of crucial information -- like the fact that they weren't actually the ones shipping my car.

They did give me a street address for delivering my car, but the Seattle port businesses have dock numbers on their gates rather then street numbers, so I called West Point Relocation for more precise directions. They aren't actually in Seattle. The fellow on the phone had no idea what the dock number was. It took three phone calls (they hung up on me twice after keeping me on hold for over 15 minutes both times), semi-hysteria and tears before I was finally given the information that WPR doesn't actually move stuff, they just broker the moves. Finally they suggested I look for a Matson sign. That was the last time we spoke. WPR never even bothered to check to see if the move went well.

When I arrived at Matson -- near the end of my delivery window time -- the guard at the gate took one look at my tear stained face and greeted me with concern and care. The receptionist inside was just as wonderful -- even after she learned that I didn't have the invoice WPR should have emailed me, nor had I followed the preparation directions which I'd never received. Though it required more work on her part, she cheerfully looked up and printed the necessary papers, then helped me fill them out. The gate guard helped me gather my things from my car. (Nothing may be left inside. I had to empty the glove box and remove the cross hanging from my rear-view mirror.)

By the time I found the Matson office, I had lost all confidence in WPR, but the folks at Matson made me feel as though my car was safe. They even called a taxi for me and told me what directions to give the driver to ensure the shortest route to the airport.

The Matson staff in Hawaii was just as efficient and friendly when I collected my car. Not only that, I learned that had I dealt directly through them, and not used WPR, it would have only cost $975.00 to ship my car. Plus, about three days after I collected my car, someone from Matson called and asked if I was satisfied with their service.

Yes, as a matter of fact I was! The next time I have to move anything across the Pacific, I am calling Matson, first!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Oahu Civic Orchestra

The Oahu Civic Orchestra is a volunteer orchestra comprised of both professional and amateur musicians from all parts of the island and all walks of life. To join the OCO a musician must play an instrument with advanced techniques, agree to attend rehearsals regularly, and perform in the scheduled concerts. Rehearsals are Monday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Chaminade University in the Eiben Hall multipurpose room.

The most recent OCO concert was this past Friday evening at a Honolulu retirement home*.

The next performance is this coming Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at 4 p.m. at Center Stage in the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

The concert selections include Pop, Classical, Broadway and Jazz selections. My two favorites were the theme song from, Pirates of the Caribbean: Deadman's Chest, and the Duke Ellington Medley.

OCO concerts are open to the public and they do not charge admission. All members of the orchestra are volunteers who practice and perform to express their love of music and perfect their art.


John Barry ................................... Somewhere in Time
Duke Ellington ............................. Duke Ellington Medley
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ............... Magic Flute Overture
Richard Rodgers......................A Salute to Richard Rodgers
Johann Strauss ......................... Die Fledermaus Overture
Hans Zimmer .....Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

*Name and weblink omitted at the express request of the retirement home's management.


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