2006/02/28

Hump Day

A friend on Maui sent me the following. It is one of those things that gets forwarded by email around the web. I usually don't pay any attention to such things, but this one struck me as pretty cute and has a message that some people I know may need right now.



When life is hard and
Friday is still so far away
there is only one thing
to do


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I hope your week is going well so far, and if not, try to relax. - Pandabonium

2006/02/27

Verdict In - Shark "Not Guilty"

For once, one of my hunches was right. The medical examiner has determined that the shark bitten remains found Friday on Maui indicate that the man was dead before the shark bit his body.

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It was further revealed that the 45 year old free-diver was new to the sport, was doing it alone and had told his wife that he wanted to reach a personal free-diving depth goal of 100 feet (30.5 meters). Drowning or heart attack are given as likely causes of death.

Such news is no solace to his widow who is living through the worst time of her life at this moment. The lesson is: never go in, on, or near the water alone. And I would add, follow the old addage "never turn your back on the sea".

2006/02/25

Kayaking Makena Maui

Here are some pics from a couple of years ago. Makena was my favorite place on Maui for kayaking, snorkeling, or just playing with the dog on the beach. The beach was quiet and an made a great spot to launch from. Late in the morning, snorkel cruise boats and kayak tours would show up, but if we got there by 7 am, the sea would be calm and we'd have the place to ourselves for a few hours. Makena is a very appropriate name for this area, as it means "abundance".

I had to scan these pictures from prints and my scanner is not in good shape, so I apologize for the quality. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). The pictures here were not all taken on the same day.

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Pandabonium on the water


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K on the water with our launching beach behind her


The kayak K is using is a very small sit on top. I had an equally small sit-inside kayak (one that looks just like the blue 2-seat model you see on FH2O's blog, but shorter). I liked the small kayaks as they only weighed about 16 kgs so I could carry one without help, and at 2.6 meters they fit in the bed of my Toyota pickup with the gate down.

Makena is called "turtle town" as there are lots of the graceful creatures about. Green sea turtles are protected species. Sometimes you see them on the surface when they come up for air. Oftentimes they are to be found laying on the bottom under the edge of a rock or coral outcrop.

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Green Sea Turtle on the bottom keeping an eye on me


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This fellow is coming up for air


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Near the surface, its reflection can be seen above.


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Turtle on the surface with the volcanic cinder cone "Puu o'lai" in the distance. There is a famous 'clothing optional' beach around there.


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My daughter Laura on the water with Ulupalakua Ranch on the slopes of Haleakala in the background.


Some of the fish below....

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Other times, when the ocean is calm, I go over by Puu O'lai and snorkel around the coves there which are more shallow and filled with brightly colored corals and fish. The turtles can be fickel, and sometimes it is necessary to paddle a couple of miles (3 kilometers or so) to discover where they are hanging out.

The air/water temp is usually around 28C/26C (82F/79F) so it's always comfortable. The sea is not always calm of course, and if there has been a rain storm, the run off can make the visibility in the water poor, but otherwise it is excellent. It is also a good idea to get off the water by late morning, as the trade winds start to pick up and blow fairly strong. If you are late (I learned the hard way) it can be a long hard paddle up wind in choppy water to get back.

I hope you enjoyed this taste of kayaking Makena.

Shark Attack on Maui?

This morning, human remains with wounds consistent with shark bites were found on a Maui, Hawaii beach. It is probably those of a tourist who went free diving in the area yesterday afternoon and was reported missing last night.

The beach is near Makena Landing along the south west coast of Maui, which has been my favorite spot for kayaking and snorkelling. The area has a lot of beautiful corals, fish, caves, and green sea turtles. In fact it is often referred to as "turtle town".

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Makena Landing, Maui


That landing also has an interesting history. In the 19th century, before the American transcontinental railroad was built, cattle raised on Maui's slopes were driven down to Makena landing by the "paniolos" (cowboys), herded into the surf, lashed to boats and taken out to ships, which hoisted them aboard and took them to San Fransisco. I once found a horse shoe while snorkeling in that bay.

It is quite possible that the diver's death was not caused by a shark. This person may have been caught in a cave and attacked by a shark later. Purely speculation at this point. I've never seen a shark at that location, but because of the presence of turtles, they are known to come into the area.

If it was a shark that caused the death, it would be only the 15th death from shark attack in Hawaii in the last 100 years, and the 99th attack. Considering the millions of people who enjoy the oceans around Hawaii each year, it's a very rare tragedy. This bay is visited by hundreds of people every day. So don't let stories such as this keep you from enjoying the water.

If you want something to worry about on a tropical vacation, how about this:

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The potentially lethal coconut palm!


Coconuts are 15 times deadlier than sharks. It's true. A coconut can weigh up to four kilograms (8.8 pounds). Falling from a 25 meter tree it would reach a speed of about 80 kilometers per hour, hitting the ground (or perhaps your head) with a force of one metric ton. Around the world, 150 people a year are killed by falling coconuts - 15 times the number of deaths caused by sharks.

Well, now that I've had this gruesome to story remind me of a very beautiful bay which holds many happy memories for me, I'll post some of my pics of kayaking, snorkeling, and turtle watching there. Next post.

2006/02/22

Fiji Embraces Renewables

In my August 2005 post, Coconut Crude I wrote about how coconut oil can be turned into an excellent fuel for diesel motors and is being put to that use now in the tropics.

The combined effects of peaking world oil production and increased demand from developing countries is causing international tensions to rise along with the price of oil. For economies in small countries such as Fiji, the tripling of price of oil in this decade has had a very damaging impact.

The Fiji Electric Authority (FEA) has announced that it plans to eliminate the use of fossil fuels for power generation by the year 2011 and become a "100% renewable energy power utility". They are already working on two new hydroelectric systems, a wind energy farm, and coconut oil diesel fuel for the island of Rotuma. A 3.3 MW generator that runs of coconut oil is being tested. Geothermal energy is being looked into as well.

As some people have pointed out, there is much more that needs to be done in Fji, and perhaps there are better ways to go about it. There needs to be a coordinated approach which involves not only the electrical utility, but also building codes (to require new buildings to utilize solar energy), the planning of new businesses which require energy, and new fuels for the transportation sector, such as coconut diesel and perhaps sugar cane ethanol.

The double edged sword of world peak oil production and global warming is hanging over our heads, and the only way out in my view is to shift away from fossil fuels to renewables as quickly as possible. This will entail some challenging changes to our lifestyle that will be much better handled if faced early on rather than after the conditions reach a point where they are forced upon us.

I for one am happy to see the FEA set this goal and hope other parts of the Fiji government, businesses, and community will also contribute to weaning Fiji off of fossil fuel.

Thanks to laminar_flow whose mention of this story on his blog drew my attention to it.

2006/02/21

From Macau - Belated CNY Pictures

A shy 'Pacific Islander' reader in Macau sent me these two pictures by email and I thought maybe some of my other readers who celebrate Chinese New Year around the world would like to see them, so asked and was given permission to post them.

Macau was the first European settlement in the Far East, the land having been rented by Portugal in 1553. It is located just down the Chinese coast from Hong Kong on the South China Sea. Since 1999, it has been a "special administrative region" (SAR)of China, with an autonomous economic system. It has a population of about 449,000 people, 95% of whom are Chinese. There are about 11,000 locally born Portuguese known as Macanese. Macau is a popular gaming destination and the local government gets 70% of its revenues from gambling.

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This is the Macau Central Post Office building which is over 100 years old and was built in a European architectural style.


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These Chinese New Year decorations are covering the fountain in the center of Senado Square in the historic center of town. The post office is on this square. Note the wavy pattern of the Portuguese tiles.


I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of Macau. I've never visited there and would be interested in learning more about it. I am encouraging this person to start a blog and share more pictures, experiences and thoughts from there. I'm sure it would find an receptive readership.

UPDATE: Macau has much to offer visitors besides gambling. It was added to the World Heritage List in July of 2005. For more details please refer to Macau Heritage .

2006/02/19

World Outrigger Sprint Championships

Kai-Wai or Kaiwai is the name of an outrigger canoe paddling team which will represent Fiji in the world championships in Hamilton New Zealand next month. So far three Fiji teams have qualified, Kaiwai women and men's teams, and the Takia II women. Fiji is hoping to send a total of seven teams.

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Kai-Wai paddlers during the Fiji Outrigger Canoe Raccing Association sprints competition at Suva harbour February 11th. -Fiji Times photo.


Kai is Fijian for "inhabitant of" and Wai means "water", just as it does in Hawaiian, so Kaiwai is an appropriate name for these paddlers. The team name 'Takia II' is from a type of Fijian outrigger with sail.

This will be the first time Fiji has been represented at the world level. Tahiti hold the championship at present, with Hawaii and New Zealand hot competetitors. Officially called the "Waka Ama IVF Va’a World Sprint Champs 2006", it will run for five full days from March 21-26. Some three thousand paddlers are expected at the meet.

Go Fiji!

Other Fiji Blogs

I have added a link section for Fiji Blogs. You'll find expats who are living and working in Suva or Nadi, a Fijian expat living in the US who comments on Fiji politics and social issues, a consultant promoting the city of Suva, thoughts on Pacific Island topics from a Fijian perspective, and a blog devoted entirely to the (poor) condition of the roads. A variety of photos awaits too. I find it interesting to go back to the first posts of the expat blogs and read their early impressions.

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Peceli and Wendy's Blog, Babasiga comes from their two homes - one in Labasa in the far north of Fiji, the other in Geelong, Australia. Very nice posts about life in each country.

There is also a blog about the experiences of Peace Corp volunteeers in Fiji with great pictures of village life.

So take a few minutes and check these links out and say, "Bula!" (hello) from your part of the world. I'm sure they will all appreciate it and you will learn a great deal about Fiji in the process.

Here's the bunch of them: Babasiga, BulaFiji, Kara, My Life as Paleni, Promoting Suva, Set, Rotten State of Fiji Roads, Peace Corp Fiji, Stuck in Fiji Mud, Taveuni

Vinaka! (Thank you.)

2006/02/15

The Forgotten Islands

I have long been a fan of books about the South Pacific (no surprise there, I'm sure), sparked by my parents' own interest in the subject. Two of my favorite authors, who collaborated on many popular books of their time about the history and life of Pacific islands were American novelists Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, usually referred to simply as "Nordoff and Hall". Their most famous work is a trilogy of novels, based on the true story of the mutiny which took place on the HMS Bounty in 1789. Published in 1932, "Mutiny on the Bounty" has sold millions of copies and was made into a major motion picture at least four times over the years. They wrote many others together, some of which also became films.

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Manga Reva


I may tell more of their story in a future post, but in the late 1920s and early 1930s they were living out their lives in Tahiti as famous and successful writers.

On Maui, Hawaii, there was an organization called "The Friends of the Library" to which people would donate used books that would then be sold for 25 cents by the 'friends'" to raise money for the local libraries. My parents told me about and soon I was looking forward to every 'friends' sale to scour the books for out of print treasures. It was great fun, for I could come home with a pile of books, and the ones I decided not to keep, give back to the friends again having only spent 25 cents to try it out. One such treasure that my father uncovered was written by an artist, Robert Lee Eskridge.

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On this CIA Sourcebook map of French Polynesia, Manga Reva can be located by its main town - Rikitea


Eskridge, born in Pennsylvania in 1891, studied at the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles Academy of Fine Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Academy of the Fine Arts. In the 1930s, he painted murals for the WPA* and spent the years during World War II teaching in Florida and Los Angeles. Later he lived in Hawaii and taught at the University of Hawaii.

*WPA - (for my many non-American friends) In the USA during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt started a program to put unemployed people, including artists, to work on public projects. It was called Works Progess Administration or "WPA" for short.

In the mid-1920s Eskridge traveled to Tahiti to explore the setting for paintings he had seen by Gauguin. He came to know Nordoff and Hall, and became a friend of Marau, Queen of Tahiti. She told him that what he was seeking would be found in "the forgotten isles" on Manga Reva, the major island in the Gambier Archipelago which was approximately 1,025 miles south east from Tahiti - not an easy trip to arrange or accomplish, especially in those days. Eskridge traveled there in 1928 and stayed eight months, during which time he did paintings, drawings, and watercolors of the island and its people.

When he returned to the US, he wrote of his experiences and his discoveries about the people and their history in a book titled "Manga Reva, The Forgotten Islands". On this remote island he learned about the pearl trade, ghost stories, and the true tale of a Jesuit priest, Honore Leval, who came to 'save' the people but instead became their dictator and came to be known as "the Mad Priest". Laval was there for 37 years. First, he converted them to Catholicism (though they thought the God of the French was just another aspect of their own God) and toppled their idols. He forced them to live by a strict code of rules, wear overly modest clothing unsuitable for the tropics, and put them to work building a huge 1200 seat coral cathedral with a mother of pearl altar, a school, nunery, and also a prison that saw far too much use. The population declined from an estimated 9,000 on his arrival in 1834 to a fraction of that number when he was removed in 1871. When asked by the Commandant from Papeete what kind of governing results in 5,000 deaths in one span of 10 years, Laval reportedly replied "Ah, Monsieur le Compte, they have but gone more quickly to heaven."

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I have only scratched the surface of the story, and have saved the best aspect of this book for last. Robert Lee Eskridge was first and formost and artist and illustrator. He adorned the pages of his book with his own art. The are some 13 full page black and white illustrations. You can see some of them on this blog - on the header and on the side bar. Those are from the book "Manga Reva the Forgotten Islands", but of course seeing them in the book is far better. I hope you enjoy them.

Long out of print - it was published in 1931 - it is well worth tracking down a used copy of this gem. I've seen them for sale on abebooks.com and alibris.com. Occassionaly you might find one offered on eBay.

Eskridge's paintings, murals, and drawings can be found in Tahiti, Hawaii (Honolulu Academy of Arts), many US mainland cities, the Smithsonian, and Paris.

2006/02/13

Is It Spring Yet?

I've been grumbling all winter about this year's record cold temperatures and snows in Japan (even though I live in a relatively mild part of the country). Yesterday, when I walked Momo in the afternoon, her fur was being blown back so much she looked like a streamlined version of herself, as if she were flying (well, she is Momo the Wonder Dog after all). The wind chill factor made it freezing cold. In fact, even with her winter coat, we didn't get ten minutes from the house before she stopped, sat down, and looked up at me as if to ask "do we really have to do this today?" then turned around to head home. I let her lead the way. I wasn't having any fun either.

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Today it appears that the cold spell has broken. Last night was below freezing, but there was no wind this morning, and the air felt different. Soon after leaving for a teaching workshop in Omiya on the other side of Tokyo, K called me to let me know there were several large hawks down by the lake and a bevy of swans. We don't often see swans on this side of the lake, so after taking care of chores, I got on my bicycle and went to see for myself. It was just a few degrees above freezing, but the road was dry and the sun was trying to peek through. Instead of taking the paved road down to the lake, I decided to go by back roads, past the old Rinzai temple and down through what I call my hidden valley. The Temple and the valley were the subjects of my first Pacific Islander post, "The Time Capsule In My Backyard".

The apricot trees at the temple had buds on them and in the next few weeks will be convered with blossoms. I went passed it into the valley. At first blush, it looked drab and uninviting. The vibrant greens of the rice fields in summer are long gone, replaced by the dark mud and dry, brown stubble of rice stalks left after harvest. The paddies were covered by a thin sheet of ice.

I rode across the narrow valley and looked down into a rice paddy. In one corner, a stream of water coming from the paddy above was pouring from a pipe into the frozen water below. As I stopped and looked around, I gradually awakened to the beauty around me. Yes, it was very different from the other seasons, but had lots to offer in its own way.

[All of the pictures that follow are best viewed in larger format - just click them.]


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A little further down the valley, I stopped again to admire the sun's light on the ice and water and the contrasts and shadows it caused. I noticed how the dull golden brown of the rice stocks and surrounding grasses had many different suttle hues.

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Continuing, I rounded a curve and was greeted by a tall, gray, baren tree that was in stark contrast to the cedars and bamboos that line the valley.

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When I reached the mouth of the valley, where it meets Highway 18, I stopped and turned around to take in the view. I was seeing the same kinds of trees and rice fields as when I first entered the valley, but my mind had made some adjustments I appreciated them all much more. The clouds were flowing slowly north, leaving more blue sky. Someone in the distance was walking their dog across the fields and the backdrop of the trees going up the sides of the bluffs was a patchwork of muted tones, like a neo-impressionist landscape painting by Henri-Edmond Cross.

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I rode south along the highway which drew closer to the lake. I spotted four large hawks resting on the power lines above. There was no wind to create an updraft against the levy and the bluffs behind, so it took more effort for them to stay aloft. One was eating something, a mouse perhaps. But they would not let me approach close enough to get a picture, either at rest or while flying. Across the road, in a flooded thinly frozen paddy were the bevy of swans I had set out to see in the first place - I counted eighteen. They were wary as I approached them on the dirt road, but did not move far. The swans were feeding an area where they had broken the ice. Usually these birds would be on the other side of the lake. Perhaps the wind pattern today made this side a better shelter.

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I rode up onto the levy which surrounds the lake. Kitaura (which means North Lagoon) was a smooth as glass without a breath of wind as yet disturbing the surface. Here and there, Eurasian Coots paddled about, ducking under the surface or paddling away at the approach of a human. A colony of gulls drifted quitely off shore and the whole scene was reflected in the calm waters.

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I rode south on the levy and watched a large shovel was scooping lake bottom silt which had been dredged from another part of Kitaura out of a barge and into waiting dump trucks. A tug was tied to the barge and a man with a headset was watching the process to help the guide the shovel operator.

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Across the lake, part of Kitaura bridge can be seen which spans the lake in its middle and leads to the Moody Mintrel's realm - Namegata City on the opposite shore.

The sun was making good headway against the cold by now, as it was almost noon and the temperature had risen to over 10C (50F). I was actually feeling a bit too warm in the layers of clothing and down jacket I was wearing. On the way back, I stopped and took some pics of some of coots and gulls before taking the short cut up the bluffs to home.

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Gulls on Kitaura


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Eurasian Coots


It may not be spring quite yet, but after a very cold winter I felt reassured that it is just around the corner. At the same time, although I don't like the cold of winter, I found a new appreciation for its subtle beauty.

2006/02/12

Lost World

"Lost World" is the title of a science fiction novel written in 1912 by the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Over following decades it has been made into several movies and in recent years a popular television series. In that story a scientific expedition finds a mountain plateau which has been so isolated from the rest of the world that even the evolution of the plants and animals was arrested or took a different tack.

As you may have heard, a group of scientists has reported actually finding such a place in the Foja Mountains, a remote part of Indoesian New Guinea. No dinosaurs roaming about, but there are many unique plants, frogs, butterflies, birds and other animals which have either never been seen before,are endangered elsewhere, or were thought to be extinct.

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Dr Bruce Beehler of Conservation International, co-leader of the group, said, "It's beautiful, untouched, unpopulated forest; there's no evidence of human impact or presence up in these mountains." The scientists came by helicopter as there are no roads nor even trails to this wilderness, and stayed for a month.

In case you didn't read about it yet, here are a few pictures from a BBC News article. For the full story and more pictures, just click on the title above.


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The team repeatedly encountered an epiphytic rhododendron that grew high in the treetops. It produced large white scented flowers that fell to the ground after several days of blooming.


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The team gathered the first photographic record of the Berlepsch's six-wired "lost" bird of paradise.


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Surprisingly unafraid of humans (wait until they get to know us), long-beaked echidnas, primitive egg-laying mammals, were happy to be picked up.


I hope this exciting news gets the kind of attention it diserves in the media - over the daily din of stories about war, political scandals, disasters, and the latest fads. Maybe it will get us all to reflect on the state of our planet which sustains our very lives. It is a rare chance to see the world as it was before our time; take a look around at what we have done to it in the brief span of mankind's existence, and adjust our actions accordingly.

2006/02/11

Word Play - Lemons and Boobus

Most Americans hearing the word "boo-boo" think of child talk for a mistake or minor injury like a skinned knee.

The word "lemon" can mean the fruit of course, but also is the common term for a car which came off the assembly line with chronic mechanical problems. The Federal Law outlining the rights of those unfortunate enough to buy such a car is called "the Lemon Law".

In Japan, "Lemon" is a fruit and "bubu" pronounced like boo-boo, is baby talk for car or vehicle.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Japanese businesses often use English words in their names and advertising. Some make sense, others not much.

Car models are given English names that are often humorous to the native English speaker. There is Daihatsu with model names like "Naked", Charade, and Applause, for instance. Those three seem to belong together. The Nissan "Cube" lives up to its name with its boxy shape. Then there's the Honda "Life Dunk" which maybe should not be driven across bridges. Mitusbishi has the "New Aero Queen", for rockers maybe. Nissan the "March" (what you do when you run out of gas I suppose). For coffee lovers there is the Suzuki "Cappuccino", and beach goers might opt for the Toyota "Hilux Surf". A favorite of mine is an older model Toyota sedan called "Clef". I wonder what the "bass" price was and if it gave the owner any "treble". Sorry about that.

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Used Car Dealer "Lemon"


There are two businesses on the main highway near Kashima Jingu shrine. They are on opposite sides of the street, just a block apart. One is a used car dealer called "LEMON". The other is an auto mechanic shop called "BooBu".

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Bring your lemon to BooBu Total Car Pit


So if you need a used car, you might make a boo-boo and buy a lemon from "Lemon". If so, you can take it to "Boobu Total Car Pit" for repairs!

Happy motoring?

Taveuni Estates Wins Bentley Award


Taveuni Estates has won the prestigious 2005 Bentley International Property Award for Best Development in Fiji (5 stars), known as the ‘Oscar’ of the property world. The annual competition, held in the United Kingdom, was open to all companies involved with international residential properties around the world through ‘invitation only’. Chairman of Taveuni Estates Peter Stinson said it was not only an award for his development, but for Fiji and Taveuni as well. Taveuni Estate executive Judge Brain accepted the award in London on behalf of the company.






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TAVEUNI ESTATES



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Purchase Your Own South Seas Paradise In Taveuni Estates

2006/02/10

Celebrity Alert!

I grew up in area near Los Angeles where many television actors and some movie stars lived. Some childhood actors went to the same schools I did. While living on Maui, it was not uncommon to see people like George Harrison, Oprah, Clint Eastwood, or Alice Cooper. So it isn't surprising that I pay almost no attention to movie stars or any other celebrities. Not that I don't respect the talents of many of them, but rather that for the most part they are just regular people like you and me. The rest of my family feels much the same.

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My nephew teaching a new student to fly.


So it was very funny recently to hear that my nephew, Lewis, has found himself in the tabloid newspapers and on some internet celebrity fan sites recently. Lewis is a flight instructor for American Flyers at Santa Monica Airport near Los Angeles. Due to the location, it is a popular school for Hollywood stars and other celebs. Lewis was Harrison Ford's instructor when Ford earned his instrument pilot rating. He also taught Cleo Shelby, the wife of Caroll Shelby (a name you may not recognize, but famous to car buffs for creating the Shelby Mustang and Cobra sports cars). There was never any public attention drawn to the airport over his students in the past.

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But now, things have changed. Lewis is teaching Brad Pitt to fly. Paparazzi are coming down to the airport to snap photos of Pitt and sometimes Angelina Jolie as well. Lewis is taking a lot of ribbing from the family now over his second hand fame, but is is unfazed by it all. He has a serious job to do making sure every landing is one that they can walk away from, and stays in focus.

I've only seen two movies with Brad Pitt: Oliver Stone's "Troy", and Terry Gilliam's sci-fi film called "Twelve Monkeys". I thought he did a good job in both. I've also seen two movies with Jolie, but they were really lousy movies in my opinion so I couldn't judge her acting ability. I don't know anyting else about the two except they have child together and that Jolie already has a pilot's license. I also don't know how Pitt is shaping up as a pilot. 'Don't really care. He's got a great flight instructor though.

Oh, in the photos above, in case you aren't sure, Lewis is on the left. ;^)

2006/02/07

Coretta Scott King

In Honor of Coretta Scott King - April 27, 1927 to January 31, 2006.

I will never forget, as a child of 13 years of age, going through my neighborhood with a friend collecting signatures on a petition which the two of us had written ourselves asking that the Congress of the United States pass a civil rights bill to guarantee the equal protection of the rights of all Americans, black or white - to vote, to use the same public facilities, to go about their lives in peace. Nor will I forget the faces and reactions of the people in the predominantly white, upper middle class neighborhood in which I was raised. Some smiling and welcoming, others frowning and shocked that two young men would be so politically active or perhaps at the very issue.

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My parents had taught me well of the principles on which the United States of America was founded. Freedom, individualism, equality. Yet, I think they too were a bit surprised (putting it mildly) that I had taken their lessons literally and taken action, especially with regard to black people. Well, that was life in America in the early 60's. The legislation we requested in the petition was in fact passed a couple of years later.

Coretta Scott King may have been a person in the background while her husband, Martin, was still alive. But immediately after his assassination, she picked up his torch and carried on. Sadly, their vision has never been realized in America. I wonder if it ever can be. The flaw in the founding of America, as predicted by Thomas Paine, the legacy of slavery - racism and violence - will take a long time to resolve.

As to her life, I will let Mrs. King's words speak to us of its meaning:

"When I say I was married to the cause, I was married to my husband whom I loved -- I learned to love, it wasn't love at first sight -- but I also became married to the cause. It was my cause, and that's the way I felt about it. So when my husband was no longer there, then I could continue in that cause, and I prayed that God would give me the direction for my life....But then I finally determined that it was the King Center, because Martin's message and his meaning were so powerful....So I felt that my role, then, was to develop an institution, to institutionalize his philosophy, his principles of nonviolence and his methodology of social change, and that's what I have spent my years doing."

2006/02/05

Setsubun - or "Soybean Madness"

February 3rd was "Setsubun" in Japan to celebrate the end of winter, and the following day is said to be the 1st day of Spring in Japan. Whether this is a sign of Japanese optimism or just denial I am not yet sure. After all, on the first day of "spring" here I went out to feed Momo and found the top centimeter of water in her dish was frozen solid.

In Japan, there are traditionally 24 divisions of season. The literal meaning of Setsubun is "division of seasons" and marks the end of the coldest season "Daikan" (mentioned in the post "Water Purification"). So, Setsubun is to welcome Risshun which means "spring begins".

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At Kashima Jingu, crowds gather in the afternoon. A large stage is erected next to the "Heiden" - the main building for worship. Mascots of the local soccer team, the "Antlers" were on hand to entertain the people until the main event. Kashima means "deer island" and deer are also an important symbol in Shinto, thus the team name and their connection to the shrine. City officials and Shinto priests, along with the mascots, filled the large stage and after prayers and the usual political yak-yak, they all began trowing small packets of roasted soybeans to the crowd. Unfortunately, my digital camera's batteries gave out just before that. A repeat performance of this took place in the evening at which actual team members of the Antlers came on stage to throw the packets. That always draws an even bigger crowd as the soccer players are very popular.

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What is so special about roasted soybeans? Well, there is a fable that goes with this celebration. In it, a demon or ogre, "oni" in Japanese, disguises himself as a human and goes to a widow's house. He uses a magic mallet to fashion a beautiful kimono and the woman decides to try and trick him getting him drunk and take both the kimono and the mallet from him. But the demon sees through this and reveals his true self to her. She is so frightened, she starts throwning soybeans at him and he runs away, taking his mallet and the kimono with him. On the packet of "fukumame" pictured here, you can see depictions of the woman throwing beans and the demon running away.

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So, after getting soybeans at the shrine (or store) people go home and throw them in a mock battle with demons. You take some beans in hand, open the front door and throw them shouting "Oni wa Soto"! - Demons Out!, then you turn around and throw some beans into the house shouting "Fuku wa Uchi" - Happiness in the house! You then repeat this in each room of the house (soybeans everywhere). I asked K if we should do the bathroom, and she said her family usually didn't. However, I remembered a story a friend had recently told me. He had made up a story for his 9 year old daughter who wanted to know why their bathroom door was always kept closed. He told her it was because the "demon of drowned poop" lived there. (The girl's reply was "bushwah"!) I told K about it and laughing, she opened the door and I threw beans in there as well.

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fukumame (happiness beans)





At dinner we ate one soybean for every year of our age plus one. It is said to keep you from catching cold. In fact this bean throwing tradition has its origins in China where it was done to ward off disease (represented by the demons) and welcome the spring.

Because it is done to bring happiness, the soybeans are called "fukumame" - happiness beans.

A house near the shrine had a holly twig attached to the front door. As I looked more closely I saw that there was a large sardine head stuck on the twig! It is also to ward off demons. It sure kept me away.

Another custom at Setsubun is called "ehomaki"- or lucky direction sushi roll. On Setsubun, one is supposed to sit facing the direction south-south-east (it changes each year) while eating an entire sushi roll and no talking is allowed as you are supposed to be concetrating on your wish. This will supposedly give you good luck in business, health, and making your wish come true. This is actually a custom of western Japan, but 7-11 stores are advertising it across the country.

K, who grew up here refers to it as "sushi roll" while I, coming from the US, but a community with a large population of people of Japanese heritage, learned to call it "maki-zushi". Same thing, but it seems odd that a Japanese would use the English name and an American would use the Japanese.


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Sushi is very popular world wide now, but if you are not familiar, Maki-zushi is made with sushi rice, rolled around various foods, in this case seasoned kampyo (gourd strips), denbu (sweet powder), sweet omelet, cucumber, and immitation crab, wrapped in nori - a thin sheet made from dried seaweed. I got the hang of making it from helping in the temple kitchens on Maui, as this food is commonly sold as a fund raiser.

If you'd like to make your own maki-zushi, here's how: Making Sushi Roll.

In the morning there are lots of beans on the floor of the house. In old days people use to eat them. I prefer the vacuum cleaner approach. There are so many customs and beliefs in Japan revolving about coaxing the gods to bestow luck, money, health and so on, and myths and legends to go with them, that I decided I would add one of my own. Seeing all the fukumame on the floor, I decided we must have been visited by the "Setsubunny" who left them there - a Shinto version of the Easter Bunny. Why not? It just might catch on.

2006/02/04

Is It Yesterday, Today, or Tomorrow?

The Moody Minstrel made an interesting comment to the previous post regarding the international dateline. He said, "Why do they say one side is "today" and the other "tomorrow"? Why don't they say the "tomorrow" side is "today" and the "today" side "yesterday"? That's discrimination!"

Quite right! I think that Laurel and Hardy, or perhaps Abbott and Costello could have made a good comedy routine out of that.

Interestingly, that great American novelist and adventurer, Jack London (Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf, etc.), wrote a very amusing article titled "The Amateur Navigator" about this very subject. Leaving San Fransisco in April of 1907, he and his wife, Charmian, cruised the Pacific for over two years, sailing to Hawaii and then throughout the South Pacific Ocean aboard their custom built ketch-rig sailboat "Snark" .

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On board the Snark
Roscoe Eames (Captain),
Herbert Stolz (Engineer),
Martin Johnson (Cook),
Jack and Charmian London (owners)


While in Fijian waters, he was taking a sunsight (for navigation purposes) and needed to know which day it was so he could look up the sun's position in the Nautical Almanac. Ah, now the issue becomes critical. Without knowing what day it is, he could not know where he was. A wrong position could run them aground, or worse. He wrote an article about it which appeared in the May 1910 issue of (ahem) "The Pacific Islander" magazine.

Here is an excerpt:

...was that 8:25 of the chronometer A. M. or P. M.? I looked at the Snark's clock. It marked 8 :9, and it was certainly A. M., for I had just finished breakfast. Therefore, if it was eight in the morning on board the Snark, the eight o'clock of the chronometer (which was the time of the day at Greenwich), must be a different eight o'clock from the Snark's eight o'clock. But what eight o'clock was it? It cant be the eight o'clock of this morning, I reasoned; therefore it must be either eight o'clock this evening or eight o'clock last night.
It was at this juncture that I fell into the bottomless pit of intellectual chaos. We are in east longitude, I reasoned, therefore we are ahead of Greenwich. If we are behind Greenwich, then today is yesterday; if we are ahead of Greenwich then yesterday is today - but if yesterday is today, what under the sun is today! - tomorrow? Absurd! Yet it must be correct. When I took the sun this morning at 8:25, the sun's custodians at Greenwich were just arising from dinner last night.
"Then correct the Equation of Time for yesterday," says my logical mind.
"But today is today," my literal mind insists. "I must correct the sun for today and not for yesterday."
"Yet today is yesterday," urges my logical mind.
"That 's all very well," my literal mind continues. "If I were in Greenwich I might be in yesterday. Strange things happen in Greenwich. But I know as sure as I am living that I am here, now, in today, June 7, and that I took the sun here, now, today, June 7. Therefore I must correct the sun here, now, today, June 7."
"Bosh!" snaps my logical mind. "Lecky says - "
"Never mind what Lecky says," interrupts my literal mind. "Let me tell you what the Nautical Almanac says. The Nautical Almanac says that today, June 7, the sun was 1 minute and 26 seconds behind time and catching up at the rate of 14.67 seconds per hour. It says that yesterday, June 6, the sun was 1 minute and 36 seconds behind time and catching up at the rate of 15.66 seconds per hour. You see, it is preposterous to think of correcting today's sun by yesterday's time-table."
"Fool!"
"Idiot!"
Back and forth they wrangle until my head is whiling around and I am ready to believe that I am in the day after the last week before next.

To read the entire article, "The Amateur Navigator", (and see some great old photos of Fiji as well) click here: "The Pacific Islander"

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The Snark


To read Jack London's account of the entire cruise of the Snark, click here: "Snark"

So you see, this question has been a puzzling issue for some time. Jack London's experience was nearly 100 years ago, and I'd bet he was not the first. Of course, it doesn't matter if you call crossing the line going from yesterday to today, or from today to tomorrow, as long as you know what day it is!