2008/03/26

Conan the Chihauhau

by Momo the Wonder Dog

This dog has found a pretty good gig (though I still think mine is better). He is Conan, a Chihauhau who lives in Naha City down in the Ryukyu Islands (aka Okinawa Prefecture). Conan lives in a Buddhist temple and has figured out that sitting up and putting his paws in "gassho" (like human hands together in prayer) pleases people no end.

As a result, the Zen Temple, Shuri-Kannondo, now gets 30% more visitors (and hopefully donations).


Conan "in gassho" with Priest Joei Yoshikuni.


Yoshikuni Sensei would like to teach Conan to meditate, but will settle for him just sitting still while he does so. "After all, it's not like I can teach him to cross his legs".

Pandabonium thinks it is funny that newspapers refer to Okinawa as "southern Japan". He says that's like calling Puerto Rico "southern USA".

Good job, Conan. Now just don't blow it by raising your leg on the statue of Kannon Bodhisattva!

2008/03/21

Riding The Waves From Hawaii To Japan

Kenichi Horie "waved" a fond Aloha to Hawaii at 11:00 AM Sunday (local time) and is now riding the waves to Japan on a new aluminum catamaran that is powered by wave action.



The 3 ton boat, Suntory Mermaid II, is crafted of recycled aluminum and is 9.5 meters long (31 feet). Propulsion is provided by two fins mounted at the bow of the boat which flap as wave action acts upon them through a set of levers and springs. It doesn't matter what direction the wave comes from. The max speed is 5 knots and average cruise speed just 3 knots (about 3.5 mph), so it will take until late May for Mr. Horie to reach Japan. Electricity to run cabin and navigation lights, a shortwave radio, and laptop computer, comes from deck mounted solar panels.

Horie, who is 69 years old, is no stranger to ocean crossings. Since 1962 he has made solo ocean crossings every few years and two solo round the world trips. In 1962 he sailed his 19 foot boat Mermaid from Nishinomiya, Japan to San Francisco in 94 days, becoming the first Japanese to solo across the Pacific. He arrived in San Francisco with no passport or money and was arrested. However, after learning of his voyage the mayor, George Christopher, arranged to have him released and given a 30 day visa. Kenichi was even awarded the key to the city. His book "Kodoku" ("Alone on the Pacific") about this experience, was made into a movie, "My Enemy, The Sea". The Mermaid is on display at the San Francisco Maritime Museum.

His boats have all been unique in that they were made from recycled materials - aluminum, beer kegs, recycled plywood whiskey barrels, and so on. Even his sails have been made of recycled plastics. He has always relied on renewable energy for propulsion - his own muscle, wind, solar, and now waves. He sailed the "Malt's Mermaid" - made of recycled cans and powered solely by solar voltaic panels - non-stop from Ecuador to Tokyo in 1996. Ecuador honored the voyage by naming two islets in the Gulapagos - one after him, the the other after the boat.

(picture from Pop Sci)

The propulsion system was designed by Hiroshi Terao of Tokai University’s oceanography department, as an experiment in alternative propulsion in response to fossil fuel depletion (peak oil). He hopes that this invention will make it possible to significantly cut the fuel required by ships, perhaps as much as half. The boat itself was designed by famed racing yacht designer Ichiro Yokoyama and built by Tsuneishi Shipbuilding Company.

Horie does have a sail and an outboard motor on the Suntory Mermaid II, but those are only for use to provide power when entering port at the end of the voyage.

You can keep track of Kenichi Horie's progress with his diary and map here: SUNTORY-MERMAID.COM

2008/03/20

Awareness Test

When I was in the eighth grade, I took a health class which was taught by one of my gym instructors. One day, while he was talking in front of the class, another gym teacher entered the back of the back of the room, walked around the class to the front, shouted at our teacher, raised a gun, and fired it!

The gun was a starter pistol, so no one was hurt. The event had been staged as way to demonstrate how different people will experience the same event differently. (It may seem an extreme demonstration these days, but it occurred just a year after John Kennedy was assassinated and many Americans had witnessed Jack Ruby's shooting of Lee Oswald on television).

After writing down what we thought we had seen, the information was read aloud. There were several different interpretations of what we had all just seen happen. Some of the "testimony" was totally "off the wall" to me. There were differences of opinion on the sequence of events, things that were said, how many shots were fired, and even who fired the gun! It would have been interesting to have had it on video tape to play back, but in those days the "audio visual aids" were limited to 16mmmamamammillimeterrrrrr mmmmovieee projjectttorsss which often didn't function too well anyway.

I will never forget that lesson, for it taught me that "eye witness" testimony - often touted as "bullet proof" by prosecutors - is pretty damned worthless unless you have several people who do not talk to each other beforehand (or are influenced by a biased party like the police or prosecutor) all testify to the same thing. Accident investigators know this fact well and focus on the physical evidence instead. A good police officer at an accident scene will also separate witnesses for this reason.

By the way, you should take my own version of events as related in the first paragraph with a grain of salt as well. ;^)

So, here's another awareness test. This one is on video, so you can play it back. Pay close attention and see how good your observational skills are! Ready?

2008/03/17

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Japan! Here are K and me sitting on the bench this morning with K's new ume tree (Japanese plum). The blossoms smell nice.

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Pandabonium told me that if I could catch a leprechaun, I would be rewarded with a pot of gold, but they are very clever and hard to catch. I could probably buy a lot of doggy treats with a pot of gold, but I haven't had any luck yet. In fact, I haven't even seen one. Maybe there aren't any in Japan. If you see any leprechauns around, let me know.


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2008/03/15

The Aviator

No, not the movie about Howard Hughes, I'm talking about my nephew Lewis who is a flight instructor at American Flyers at Santa Monica Airport, California. Lewis has flying in his blood since his dad is a retired Air Force and United Airlines pilot and his maternal grandfather was also a pilot and aeronautical engineer.

He is featured in this fun video on Mahalo Daily with Veronica Belmont who went flying with Lewis on an introductory flight. Makes me want to go fly! The clip is 5 minutes. Enjoy.

2008/03/12

Ume Blossoms and Signs of Spring

The ume blossoms are filling the air with their sweet scent, the flowers showing off their lovely colors - we have pink and white ones. There is a definite warming trend to the weather that one can feel getting stronger every day. Pandabonium has started trimming my coat whenever he can get me to sit still for a few minutes, and I make him pay in doggy treats for the privilege (he's a soft touch).

Ume is translated as "Japanese plum" in English, but the fruit look like apricots, so somebody (human of course) goofed in my canine opinion. Oh well, I've never eaten either fruit. I'm enjoying the blossoming trees, the birds, and the seasonal change all the same. Here's a picture of me in front of a "weeping" ume tree in our yard...

Pandabonium and K went somewhere to look at more ume trees last Saturday - at least that's the excuse they gave for leaving me alone all day. I don't know why, when we have four ume trees in the yard already and there are many others in the neighborhood. Humans. Go figure. Ah well, as long they come home, give me "scritchies", my walk, treat, and dinner, I'm OK with it.


2008/03/06

The Adventures of Speedy Dog

There are several routes I take when I go for my walks with K or Pandabonium. One of my favorite ones leads out into open fields and along dirt roads where there is no car traffic. There, Pandabonium lets me off the leash and as long as I stay out of the fields, he lets me wander ahead of him and sniff around and chew on grass to my heart's content.

Then, when it's time to go, he gives a whistle or calls my name and that's when I turn into

Speedy Dog!
the fastest Shih Tzu in the Universe
(well, my universe anyway)



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It's fun to run fast. Besides, I always know that breakfast or dinner is waiting for me at home.

the Wonder Dog

2008/03/03

"Notorious" Seven

That rascal, the Moody Minstrel tagged me - his way of thanking me for referrals to his blog. ;^)

I don't usually do tags (I say that every time I do one), but I'll do this one because I found it interesting.

The "rules":

* Link to the person who tagged you.
* Leave a comment on their blog so that their readers can visit yours.
* Post the rules on your blog.
* Share the seven (7) most famous or infamous people you have met. Or go with the original 7 weird things about yourself. Or with Sandra's change and list your 7 favorite writing websites. Lots of choices!
* Tag 7 random people at the end of your post.
* Include links to their blogs.
* Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven weird things about myself? No way. I wouldn't know where to begin. 7 favorite writing websites? I don't have a single one. Nope, got to be the 7 most famous or infamous people I've met. Even this was a bit of a challenge because I've actually met quite a few famous people over the years who worked in politics, economics, music, history, aviation, or acting. So, I've selected seven based on fame, but also on their influence in their field, and I've also tried to include people from a variety of fields. I decided to write about only one person in the truly "infamous" category, and he is included only because of his historical importance.

1) Gabe Baltazar - In the 1990s I played in big bands on Maui a few times backing up Gabe as the featured soloist on his alto saxophone and have spent a little time talking with him back stage before the performances. He was nice enough to shrug off the time he hired me to play 1st trombone and I totally laid a brick on a solo! Oh man, I felt about one inch tall, but he was gracious about it. He is a very warm person and awesome jazz performer (when it was hip to be hep, he was hep) who became famous as featured soloist and arranger for the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the 1950s. He is not only in total control of the horn and demonstrates his mastery of it, he keeps it lyrical and pleasing to the ear. He has spent most of his career in Hawaii, touring the islands and performing with his combos and bands and visiting California to record with other artists. He is very supportive of other musicians and in the late 90's he donated the dozens of the big band arrangements he had done for Kenton to the MSO (Maui Symphony Orchestra) Big Band. Like, wow, man. We dig you the most!



2. Hugh Beaumont - American baby boomers know him as "Ward Cleaver", the father figure on the TV sitcom "Leave it to Beaver" (cast photo shown here). He also had a very successful film acting career going back to 1941. Hugh Beaumont lived in the neighborhood where I grew up and for a time directed the choir at the church I attended. When I was in my early teens, he once gave me a ride to church when my mother couldn't do so. People make a cynical jokes about the "perfect families" shown in 50's TV shows, perhaps especially Leave it to Beaver, but ironically Hugh Beaumont fit the part. He was a father in real life, soft spoken, and seemed kind and sincere to me. Not at all like your contemporary stereotypical movie or television star, he was a graduate of the University of Southern California, and had a Master of Theology degree.



3. Fredrich August von Hayek - Nobel prize winning economist of the Austrian school of economics (proponents of free market capitalism). He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991. While at the University of Redlands studying, uh, would you believe, economics?, I went to listen to him lecture at UCLA. At that time he was visiting from his job as professor of economics at the University of Freiburg in Germany. I was interested in the works of Ludwig von Mises at the time and Hayek had done similar work to his, in fact had studied with him. After the lecture I went up on stage, met him and had him autograph my copy of his book "The Road To Serfdom", which I still have in my library. Disclaimer: I no longer support the ideas presented by von Hayek.



4. Murray Rothbard - Egad, another economist! Rothbard was a contemporary of Hayek and also an economist of the Austrian school and himself had studied under von Mises, but he had an anarchist political bent as well. He was famous for his critiques of author/philosopher Ayn Rand, his fellow Austrian economists, and politicians.

He was a prolific writer and very active in the libertarian political movement, which is how it came about that I met him. In 1980 I was running for a seat on the Maui county council as a Libertarian Party candidate. The party held a state caucus in Honolulu and we were joined by the presidential candidate, Ed Clark, and Murray Rothbard. So, I had the opportunity to spend some time with him discussing politics and economics. Although I no longer hold the same views, Rothbard was brilliant, not afraid to tear apart his fellow economists in his essays, and as a person I found him to be quite a character. Disclaimer: I no longer support the ideas of Mr. Rothbard.

5. Don Ho

Don Ho was a world famous Hawaiian entertainer who, as noted on this blog, passed away on April 14th, 2007.

He was perhaps most famous for the song "Tiny Bubbles" and known locally as "Hawaii's greatest ambassador".

I remember my mother listening to Don Ho albums back in the 60's (I listened too) and I got to see him perform live a couple of times back then. His style was not "traditional" Hawaiian, but more a mix of Hawaii with 50's and 60's style crooning. Many of the songs Don made famous were written by Kui Lee, including Tiny Bubbles, I'll Remember You, and The Days of My Youth. When I met Don, I was chairing the Buddhist Education Committee for the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, and he was one of a handful of people that year to receive the Hongwanji's "Hawaii's Living Treasures Award" for his life-long service to the community. At the time, he seemed to be rather perplexed by all the attention and the award, as if he didn't feel he had done anything special. As I shook his hand to congratulate him, my memories of his performances that I had seen or heard over the previous thirty plus years flashed through my mind. To me, and I am sure very many other people, he will always be very special.



6. Art Scholl
- the greatest aerobatic pilot I ever saw, period. Shown here with his dog, Aileron, Art put on absolutely stunning performances and introduced the US to a maneuver called the "Lomchevak" (the Czech word for headache) during which the airplane literally tumbles - out of control - through the air. (Talk show host Johnny Carson once rode with Art and was asked what he thought when he did the Lumchevak. Carson reportedly answered, "I wanted to throw up, but I didn't know which way 'up' was.") Art Scholl may not be a household name, but in aviation and film making circles he was certainly very famous - the top of his profession.

At the time I met him - early 70's - a friend and I had put a deposit on a new Bede BD-5 airplane (a tiny single seat "pocket rocket", a jet version of which was later featured in the James Bond film Octopussy), for which Art was a dealer. He was building one in his hanger at an airport about ten miles from where I lived at the time, and we went over to see it. His version was a "home built" kit, but we were buying an FAA-certified factory version. He was a very busy guy but took time to introduce us to his dog (it was a big dog, before he had Aileron) and showed us around the plane. Later, the Bede Aircraft Company went bankrupt, so we never got our plane (or our deposit back) - obviously nothing that Art had any control over.

Art Scholl's aerial camera work appeared in hundreds of television shows and films, including The Right Stuff, The Great Waldo Pepper, Blue Thunder, The A-Team, CHiPS and Top Gun. During the filming of Top Gun, on September 16 of 1985, he put his Pitts S-2 biplane into an inverted flat spin for the second time that day to film background for the movie, but this time he could not recover and radioed "I have a problem - I have a real problem" before he crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Art had over 14,000 hours of experience. His body and the wreckage were never recovered, so the accident remains unsolved. Top Gun is dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl.


7. Richard Milhous Nixon - yep, "Tricky Dick" himself, shown here giving his resignation address.

My then SO (significant other) and I had been out sailing with a friend on his yacht out of Dana Point, California. Nixon had his "Western White House" in neighboring San Clemente. This took place after he had resigned his office (which he did in August of 1974)- and I think it was sometime in 1975 that we bumped into him.

After sailing, we went to a Mexican style restaurant for dinner. As we waited for a table, two Secret Service agents ushered the President into the the small entry and there we were, less than a meter from the man. We smiled, said, "Good evening, Mr. President" , he smiled back and said hello, evidently pleased to not be cursed at. My SO shook his hand saying something like "pleased to meet you" - I declined.

As we were walking away to be seated, the door open again and more Nixons, and Secret Security people, came in. At the time we thought it might have been Julie Nixon Eisenhower and husband David, but we didn't really recognize them, so I'm not sure. Nixon was said to be 5' 11" tall, but to me, that night, he looked small. Maybe it was his posture. Maybe it was the effect of humiliation over Watergate. If so, he deserved it. For that, and much, much more. It was interesting to meet such a historical figure up close though, even if his memory is one to be despised.

Well, let's not end on that cheery note! (D minor 7th chord)

Here's the 7 random people I tag - ha ha ha!

Well, I'd list them, but none have blogs, so what's the point? If you feel left out, consider yourself tagged!

(Rules are made to be broken) Don't you feel relieved?

Trivia: Notorious (1946) is the title of a great Alfred Hitchcock movie which starred Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains. Bergman plays the daughter of a Nazi and is used by FBI agent Grant to track down Nazis, like Claude Rains, in South America. But Grant and Bergman fall in love. Great stuff! Damn, they knew how to make movies then. The story is ironic, because in reality, the FBI and the rest of the US government bent over backward to bring Nazis to the USA and protect them as part of Operation Paper Clip.