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Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Holidays are Here, YIPPY SKIPPY!

My heater is on the fritz. So I woke this morning in my ice cave - the thermostat showed it was forty-seven degrees. EEEP. But, no worries - a repair person will show up bright and early tomorrow morning. I just threw a nice phoney log on the fire - the crackling sort - and when I start feeling the ice cycles forming on my nose I stand in front the fireplace and bask in the lovely flames (and like set my rump on fire). In a bit I will be baking two pumpkin pies to take over to Rick & Nancy's house. One is going to have a bottom layer of cheese cake - YUMMMM. We'll be a small group this year, but Mark & Fran will be down from Grass Valley and Diego is home from college so we're going to be all snug, happy and loved.

Generate Your Own Glitter Graphics @ GlitterYourWay.com - Image hosted by ImageShack.us
Generate Your Own Glitter Graphics @ GlitterYourWay.com - Image hosted by ImageShack.us

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Aloha Hawaii Post

Ron and Jeannie at Pu'uhonau o Honaunau - Place of Refuge - National Park

My last Hawaii Post! Praise Pele & pass the poi. I could post photos of our island touring, up and down the Kona and Hilo coasts, but we all know, my biggest thrill were the birds, animals so let's just get right to 'em. What? Shut up and get this dog & pony show over with? Yes, my titas and mokes (tought gals n' guys) & Mahalo (thank you) to you too!

The photo up top was taken with a cheapie underwater snap camera - and as you can plainly see, there was a lovely tropical storm on while we swam at a spot popular with the locals at Pu'uhonau o Honaunau National Park. I must say, in general all of my underwater photos stink - in part because the water was all stirred up from the storm, and in part because... well, because they stank. Check out this photo of the pair of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles that scared the crap out of myself and Jeannie. My photography means that Jacques Cousteau is not rolling in his watery grave - actually, I guess he's feeling pret-ty damned smug.

Pair of Sea Turtles - darn it, use your imagination!

Moorish Idol

We didn't only snorkel under stormy skies - we had a great time snorkeling under blue skies at Makuhona Beach Park; the site of ruins of a mill and the current home of a enormous schools of Yellow Tang and many other beautiful fish besides.

Mahukona Beach Park

Yellow Tang - not just for breakfast anymore

And speaking of breakfast, every morning in Kona, Jeannie & I had a nice quiet breakfast outside on the patio, overlooking a fountain by the entrance to Mona Loa Resort. I breakfasted with my camera at the ready. Each morning a little gray Wandering Tattler - a shore bird - flew into the fountain strewn pond below the balcony to forage.

Wandering Tattler on the Rocks

There were loads of other birds for my breakfast entertainment. One morning a beautiful 'Great Frigate bird' floated by slowly overhead - I was so stunned, so flabbergasted that I couldn't manage to get my camera up to photograph the bird before it floated away. I was heartbroken that I missed such an easy shot, but damn it - what a sight! Oh well - I was happy to settle on photographing some of the more common birds, such as the Java Sparrows & Nutmeg Mannikins, and Yellow-billed Cardinals - all non-native.

Java Sparrow - a showy little exotic

Nutmeg Mannikins

Also Part of the Scenery - Yellow-billed Cardinal

One morning an Indian Mongoose ran by below on a foot path. No surprised really as a day never passed without spotting at least one of the little guys - very cute but also very deadly to native Hawaiian birds.

Small Indian Mongoose

One of the great treats of being in Hawaii is having access to exotic tropical fruits you can't get on the mainland. The red knarly fruit below pops open to expose white transparent flesh that tastes like fresh lychee nuts. The Strawberry guava is mango-like. The apple-bananas manage to taste far more fresh and flavorful than mainland bananas which are all bulk and little flavor. And the star fruit is - gak! Um... like Chinese pears - crispy and juicy and a super mild flavor.

Rambutan, Strawberry-guava, Apple-banana and Star Fruit

Freeloading Saffron Finches showed up for Breakfast

I really enjoyed the little Saffron Finches. So tame I bet they could be taught to take food from my hand. And what is more sweet & tame than Saffron Finches? Yes, chubby little Zebra Doves.

Another Breakfast Mate - Zebra Dove

While on the topic of mornings, I didn’t see many Gold Spot Geckos this trip, but I did see a Morning Mourning Gecko. I spotted a stowaway on the windshield as we drove through Kona one night. I thought made it my ten-minute pet before I caught and released him in some shrubbery. Cute little bugger - very little fuss to care for if you release after five minutes.

Stowaway - Mourning Gecko

On my last two days on the island I went back to the Woh Ranch because I'd heard what I was certain were Sky Larks singing. I couldn't locate any on the ground because they were too busy doing what Sky Larks do - 'Sky Larking' around in the sky - singing as they flew high overhead.

European Sky Lark

This Pacific Golden Plover was the best birdie shot of the trip. He marched up and down, then posed on a bit of lava rock for me.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grey Skies, Blue Waters. What's Not To Love?

Blue Hawaii
My favorite Hawaiian pastime – uh… after eating Hawaiian food – is snorkeling. All that turquoise water and all those confetti colored fish I don't know the names of. Actually, this trip I found great little book, 'Reef Fish of Hawaii'. It has the names of 150 of the most common fish and it's waterproof. I didn't find it early enough to give it a watery test drive, but it did help me identify fish I’d had to make up names for this trip and when I visited Hawaii back in 2005. Back then I had an idea to make up names for fishies so I could look them up later. Guess what? It's 'later'! Back in 2005 I named a fish the “Harlequin Duck Fish”. Why? Well, here's a Harlequin Duck.

Here is the fish that I was able to find in the book because its looks matched my made up name: the Achilles Tang.

See? Both drake and fishy are dark blue with orange/rust patches. I swear, they're like twins.
OK, and there were what I named ‘Thread tailed Unicorn Fish'. There aren't any Thread-tailed Unicorn Ducks to compare it to but I was tickled to find my made wasn't too far from the mark. Here is a genuine, Bluespine Unicornfish.
Bluespine Unicornfish

Tee hee! I nearly got it right! Isn't it a beaut? I swear, if I lived in Hawaii I would be a fish watcher. 

I saw loads of great fish when we went snorkeling this trip. I saw dozens of Buttercups... Well, actually they're called Yellow Tangs. I think my name, 'Buttercups' is better though.
Yellow Tang

There were loads of other fishes too, with real names like Moorish Idols, Goatfish, White Wrasse.
Moorish Idol

Our first day snorkeling, we arrived at a spot, popular with the locals at the Place of Refuge,  outside of the park. It had begun to rain and we were wet, as well as undecided whether to swim or not.

We crossed over the shelf of sharp black lava rock to where divers with snorkels or in some cases, scuba gear were leaping into the water. Probably due to the rain, the waves & water were rough. Jeannie’s hand was cut from her brief venture into a likely looking tide pool. I was almost ready to go in – no fins, just snorkel and mask – but an annoying little voice was growling, ‘Are you effing Crazy! You haven’t even got fins on, you’ll drown out there’. No, no, oddly enough, the annoying little voice wasn’t Jeannie. It was my inner guardian angel, trying to keep me from learning how to inhale salt water.

We decided it was too rough for us - not one of the three of us being a strong swimmer, especially as we hadn't any fins, so we backed out. But we noticed another spot a short distance away, by the boat launch. It didn't have any of the treacherous lava rocks. What that spot did have was little kids unabashedly splashing and leaping about. Buoyant three-year-olds! That was our kind of beach! So ignoring the rain Ron, Jeannie and I dove in and had a marvelous time snorkeling.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

At one point I felt something grab my foot and visions of JAWS swam in my inner mind for a half second. It was Ron grabbing my foot. I sputtered, assuring him I hadn't been startled at all. I Actually I may have wet myself but heck, fish pee in the ocean so why can't I? Yes, the K.H.W.S.D (Kona Health & Water Safety Department) begs to differ. At one point Jeannie popped up at the surface, shouting, ‘Turtle! BIG turtle!’ I drove under, looking around and spotted turtles eating chunks from a dead sea anemone. I surfaced, and calling over to Ron, ‘Oh, it's just a tiny turtle; probably still in diapers!’ 

I dove again, watching the turtle, the paddling, I turned around. Headed straight at me was a HUMONGOUS turtle - the size of a cruise ship. You know, it's amazing how a creature you are not normally afraid of, when seen in the half light of a submarine environment, looks like Godzilla. The turtle scared the beejeebers out of me. I screeched – underwater no less – and began desperately back paddling, my legs whirling like pinwheels. My face was still under water and the turtle didn’t slow down, he just bowled through me, and in my panic, for a moment, I had one foot firmly planted on its back as I tried to regain my balance. Oops.

Honestly, it scared me that much. Yet, the four turtles we saw a day or so later, sucking up some Hawaiian sun on a north Kona shore didn't scare me in the least.

A Reptilian Beach Party
By the way, if any of you are contacted by a Federal Fish & Game Marshall from Kona Hawaii – and he asks something about a large woman who allegedly tap danced on the back of an endangered marine animal, tell him you have no clue what he’s asking about and tell him – if he asks that is – that I’m out of town. Yeah, right. I’m out of town this week. That’s the ticket.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Aloha Buggahs!

Waipio Valley - where the very first Polynesians settled Hawaii

I've been in Hawaii on the ‘Big Island’ this past week and I had a ball. Was invited by Ron and Jeannie to stay with them at Ron's time share. I guess they didn’t learn anything the last time they invited me. Ron is dah nice, akamai (smart) buggah on the right, in the blue t-shirt, and the pretty wahine on the left is Jeannie (out of respect I will refrain from making any silly comments, such as, Jeannie isn't the one with long ears. Wait a sec... Bugger! )
Wagon Ride at the bottom of the Waipio Valley - Jeannie said if I put her picture on the web she'll MURDER me, so shuuuuusssh.

Anyway, you may as well open up your papaya shaped eyes and face the Hula, you’ know bro? This bolohead wahine doesn’t mean to be cranky but my flights home Friday were an all day screw-up-a-thon.

You see, Ron Jeannie and I were hanging loose on Friday morning because Ron was picking up his parents at the airport in the late afternoon and Jeannie and I did not have to be at the airport until noon. But I got all 'worry wart' and checked our flight itinerary. Our two part flight put us in Orange County airport at 9:45 pm. No worries, but the thing is that our connecting flight was departing at 9:25, which meant unless we time traveled we were going to miss our connecting flight.
I called Aloha Airlines and asked if I'd made a time-change error of judgement. Nope. Orbitz effed up the flight connection. Aloha rescheduled us, giving Jeannie and I about 50 minutes to get to the Kona airport so we could make our connecting flights, via Maui and Oahu, to Sacramento. *eep*
We raced to the airport. I dropped off Jeannie & our baggage, then raced off to return my rental car. Did not spare the shuttle driver – Giddyup & don't spare the hamsters! I got to back to Jeannie with only seconds to go the final boarding call.

Jeannie (she one tough tita no one messes wid): Damn, did you return the car to Guam?

Me: Oh,wassamattayou? I got here in a nick of time, didn't I?

Jeannie: Shut your pineapple hole, get on the damned plane...

Me: F**K! (ß-naughty word there) My backpack n' camera and zoom lens - my LIFE'S MOST PRECIOUS POSSESSIONS – I left ‘em in the rental car!

Jeannie (gave me deh big stink eye): NORMA....! (she calls me Norma when tee'd off)

Imagine a sound, me, breaking the light/sound barrier in race back into traffic to stop the shuttle bus driver.

We missed that flight and got rescheduled through Oahu to Orange County and got back in Sacto at 10:50.
The day is a buggah if you spend it in jet seats designed for size S bottoms when your bottom is 3XL. But things are good now. The Wizard of Oz is on in the background and my fireplace – the only source of heat just now, is roaring like the lion before they all find out what a cowardly pussy he is. Which reminds me of Rum who is currently yowling as to punish me for going away and leaving him alone all week.

Don’t think you’re off the hook from me showing photos from my vacation. There will me more. BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA!