Hummingbirds and Pineapples

What are you? Can I eat you?

What are you? Can I eat you?

Hawaii has more endangered species per square mile than any other place on the planet and that does not include the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) referring to me as the “odd duck.”

But some common critters are missing in the islands.

We have no robins, magpies or chickadees. No seagulls and no pelicans. We don’t have raccoons or skunks and you’ll never see Possum One. You cannot buy a hamster here.

Forget about gerbils and snakes as they, too, are prohibited.

Hawaii centipede. The bite is agonizing.

Hawaii centipede. The bite is agonizing.

On the other hand, we have mynah birds and mongooses, geckos and pseudo cardinals with red topknots and gray bodies.

The mongoose was brought in to control rats. Big mistake. The rat is nocturnal; the mongoose is diurnal.

The mongoose was brought to Hawaii to control rats. Big mistake. The rat is nocturnal; the mongoose is diurnal.

 

 

The pseudo cardinal, technically a Brazilian Cardinal.

The pseudo cardinal, technically a Brazilian Cardinal.

 

 

We have centipedes and flying cockroaches the size of small pets.

We call them B-52s. They can fly.

The Hawaii cockroach. We call them B-52s. They fly.

We also have, believe it or not, wallabies although few ever see them. Take that, Rowena and Diana and put it your Australia blogs.

Because we have such an isolated environment and a plethora of unique species our State is very concerned about the potential for invasive species.

 

Currently there is a growing threat from the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle – a battle tank of an insect, a bad dream for bug haters, the ’69 Cadillac of bugs. And they fly, too.

This guiy really gets around. He is endangering palms all over Oahu. Public enemy #1.

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle. This guy really gets around. He is endangering palms all over Oahu. Public enemy #1.

This guy burrows into palm trees and eats the heart from them and given his size and appetite, this is a real threat.

But I digress.

One other thing missing in Hawaii are hummingbirds.

Nope, despite popular opinion and romanticized visions of tropical islands, there are no hummers here. In fact, they are banned by State law.

“Why?” you ask. Well that’s why you come to this silly dog blog. I can answer your question.

It all has to do with pineapples. And pollination.

You see one of these babies, you buy it! This variety, introduced in 2005 is super sweet, super low acid. So ono!

You see one of these babies, you buy it! The Maui Gold variety, introduced in 2005 is super sweet, super low acid. So ono (delicious)!

See, pollination is a bad word in the world of pineapples.

If the pineapple flower pollinates then seeds will develop and that is not desirable in fruit for the market.

Picture a pineapple with all those little geo-domes on its hide, the funny little medallions that make up its outer skin. Were the plant to pollinate, each of those discs would grow a hard seed making the pineapple tougher than Chuck Norris.

How tough is Chuck Norris? Well, let’s just say he can text from a pay phone, he can cut through a hot knife with butter, he can…oh never mind…

Pineapples are native to South America having been grown first by the Guarani Indians in Brazil and Paraguay. Since pineapples are unable to self-fertilize, they will only develop seeds if they are cross-pollinated with another pineapple plant. Their primary pollinators are…wait for it… hummingbirds.

Where's the pineapple? Somebody shoe me the pineapple.

Where’s the pineapple? Somebody show me the pineapple.

Yes there is a certain irony in banning non-native hummingbirds while encouraging non-native fruit plants but, hey, there’s a whole lot more money in pines than hummers. Deal with it.

So forget pollination of the flowers by tiny winged creatures. While pineapples can reproduce sexually through seeds, they are most often propagated by planting the crowns or the little tuft-like growths that occur on the bottom of the fruit.

Side note: as a young man I worked in the Kauai pineapple fields, walking behind a moving conveyor truck picking up the pine crowns after the fruit had been plucked.

It's called "picking seed" and it is job that "builds character" meaning it is a miserable job.

It’s called “picking seed” and it is job that “builds character” meaning it is a miserable job.

Hardest, hottest, most miserable job I ever had. The pineapple leaves are sharp spines that constantly spear you and draw blood despite being bundled and the cane spiders were big enough to bark. A story for another day and proof my parents hated me.

Here’s a unique pineapple fact that can win you a few bar bets, payable in mai tais, pina coladas, hurricanes, zombies or other tropical drinks with a pineapple juice base: a pineapple does not continue to ripen after it has been picked. Nope, that’s because the fruit does not have a starch reserve that would allow it to ripen any further.

By the way, the Absolut vodka website lists over 205 cocktails for which pineapple juice is an ingredient. That alone should give everyone a reason to live.

Maltese, however, are not fond of pineapples. From Max’s perspective, pineapples are good only for establishing the size of a certain small pushy dog.

Arooooo! This is not a dog treat. I demand a dog treat. Stat!

Arooooo! This is not a dog treat. I demand a dog treat. Attica! Attica!

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Crossed Paws

With every report things are looking more positive as Tropical Storm Ana fails, so far,  to grow into a hurricane and starts to veer west of the islands. Can’t be too comfy yet as these are unpredictable beasts. For now, we’ll keep our paws crossed.

Here’s an interesting graphic that was published in today’s Civil Beat that shows the tracks of the major storms since 1949 in the Hawaii area. The last really big one was Hurricane Iniki in 1992 that hit Kauai hard. I remember it well because it put a major hurt on my Dad’s house on the Garden Island.

They can come at you from any direction. Fortunately, most miss.

They can come at you from any direction. Fortunately, most miss.

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Here We Go Again, Maybe

Once again there is a storm bearing down on the Malt. It’s too soon to assess whether Tropical Storm Ana, soon to be a hurricane, will be a problem or not. The local lore is that late season hurricanes are the dangerous ones. Our hurricane season ends October 31st.

Well, I better run out and replenish my supply of beer and Akadama Plum Wine in the typhoon fifth.

The projected storm track does not look promising but these things change frequently and the storms wander all over the place.

The projected storm track does not look promising but these things change frequently and the storms wander all over the place.

Big red blobs on the ocean are worth watching closely. You don't want to get caught low on beer.

Big red blobs on the ocean are worth watching closely. You don’t want to get caught low on adult libations.

 

 

 

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Max Visits Kualoa Ranch

Our destination: Kualoa Ranch.

Our destination: Kualoa Ranch.

“Let’s go for a drive today,” said the Alpha Japanese Female, “It’s such a pretty day.”

We talked for a bit and decided to go up the windward side, make a stop at Kualoa Ranch, and then maybe continue around the island.

So we crossed the Koolau, the mountain range that runs down the center of Oahu. Through the tunnel, a quick left and soon we were passing by the Byodo-In Temple which was established in 1968, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

Surrounded by verdant forest and koi ponds, the Byodo-In Temple is easy on the eyes and easy on the mind.

Surrounded by verdant forest and koi ponds, the Byodo-In Temple is easy on the eyes and easy on the mind.

The Byodo-In Temple on O’ahu is a small-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site, in Uji, Japan.

Heading north on Kahekili Highway. The trinagle mountain in the back is Ohulehule which is on a boundary of Kualoa Ranch.

Heading north on Kahekili Highway. The triangle mountain in the back is Ohulehule which is a boundary of Kualoa Ranch. It’s the mountain seen in the top photo of this post.

After leaving the Temple we continued north enroute to the Ranch. It’s a nice two lane road, just right for a slow cruise.

Beer, basics and bugs the size of a small cat. That's the Hygienic Store

Beer, basics and bugs the size of a small cat. That’s the Hygienic Store

Traffic was light and we had the Hawaiian music station playing as we cruised past the historic Hygienic Store, a local landmark, that is famous for being the antithesis of its name. The Hygienic Store got its strange name because it was the “company store” of the Hygienic Dairy which was founded in 1907 and was once the largest dairy in the state.

A place of exceptional beauty. It is what people come here to see.

A place of exceptional beauty. It is what people come here to see.

Kualoa Ranch is one of Oahu’s crown jewels, a place of extraordinary beauty and deep cultural significance. It’s an important part of Hawaii’s paniolo tradition; that’s what we call our cowboys.

Ancient Hawaiians considered Kualoa one of the most sacred places on the island of Oʻahu. It was the residence of kings, a place of refuge and sanctuary – a puʻuhonua – and a training ground for royalty who were instructed at Kualoa in the arts of war, history and social traditions.

The small island is Mokoli'i, often called "Chinaman's Hat."

The small island is Mokoli’i, often called “Chinaman’s Hat.”

Established in 1850, Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000-acre privately held working cattle ranch that is also one of the top visitor destinations in Hawaii. Kualoa has been the site of many Hollywood films and television shows. You’ve seen them: Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Windtalkers, 50 First Dates, LOST, Hawaii 5-0 and many more. It is also a world class wedding destination.

The best way to get around the Ranch - on horseback! Or, as Max calls them, really big long legged dogs.

The best way to get around the Ranch – on horseback! Or, as Max calls them, really big long legged dogs.

I know the ranch well because for about two years I was a consultant to the ranch owners and then later, a ranch employee. I was the Director of Business Development which sounds high falutin’ but was not. Basically I was tasked with the development of the Visitor Center, restaurant, retail and other non-agriculture / non-livestock stuff.

We inscribed these ten years ago in a secret location of the Visitor Center.

We inscribed our initials ten years ago in a secret location of the Visitor Center. They were still there. The “MC” are the AJF’s initials for her Japanese name and the “TM” is moi.

The Ranch offers a lot to do for visitors. There are horseback rides, ATV rides, movie set tours, history tours, trips to a “secret beach” and an ancient Hawaiian fish pond where oysters are now grown.

Max gets his military on with one of the Ranch's deuce-and-a-half trucks.

Max gets his military on with one of the Ranch’s deuce-and-a-half trucks.

For folks like Kerbey, wandering out in the wilds of Texas, a 4,000 acre property is a modest back yard but on a tiny Hawaiian island 4,000 acres is a big chunk of real estate and, in fact, the Ranch is the largest private estate property on Oahu.

Hakipu'u Valley on the south side of Kualoa Ranch

Hakipu’u Valley on the south side of Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch offers many diversions but somehow these activities do not sully the Ranch. It is a tourist attraction but not a tourist trap and most visitors come away from a visit impressed by the ineffable spirituality that seems to imbue the property.

Max and the AJF relax on the lanai of the Kualoa Ranch Visitor Center.

Max and the AJF relax on the lanai of the Kualoa Ranch Visitor Center.

As I mentioned, there is a restaurant and gift shop on the ranch. That is where the AJF, Max and I took a break to gobble some french fries and  enjoy a cold drink. Then it was off to walk some favorite spots on the Ranch.

The llama is named PIkachu. It was not love at first sight for the Malt.

The llama is named PIkachu. It was not love at first sight for the Malt. Look at his face.

Wandering the property we met a number of the friendly animals that live there. Max was not at all thrilled to be sniffing strange scents, dodging horse apples and then being introduced to unusual animals up close and personal. The llama, in particular, was scary for the Malt although Pikachu is as gentle as can be and just wanted to make friends.

Sweet Pea. She's a doll. And a donkey.

Sweet Pea. She’s a doll. And a donkey.

I asked the AJF to take a photo of Max and Sweet Pea the donkey. It did not go well. I heard her say, “Max, get closer to the jackass. No, not the nice donkey, I meant the two legged one.”

It took some time before I realized I was the target of that barb. That, of course , led to a series of giggles and really bad “ass” jokes as though we were a pair of 11 year-olds.

Welcome to my world. My juvenile world. I’ll spare you the recital of jokes.

Okay, just one. What do you take when your butt hurts? Assprin. I told you they were bad. Snorf, snorf. But I digress.

More terror for the Maltese. The feral chickens and the egrets could kick his fluffy little tail.

More terror for the Maltese. These feral chickens and the egrets could kick his fluffy little tail.

We wandered across the pasture areas enjoying the views of the ocean and mountains. Unlike the old days when we actually lived on the ranch we stayed close to the visitor center. Lots of memories returned of the AJF and I (pre-Malt) hiking the surrounding mountains and exploring the jungle of this special place.

The AJF hiking KUaloa Ranch in the pre-Malt days.

The AJF hiking Kualoa Ranch in the pre-Malt days.

It was rewarding,too, to see that many of the things I put in place at the Ranch during my short tenure  remain today. Good times. Someday I’ll write a series of blogs about our days at Kualoa Ranch – the ghost stories, the animal stories, the tourist stories and all the other tales of our adventure there including the AJF’s favorite story of how to rebuff aggressive cows with an empty Walmart bag. But that’s for later…

As for the little white guy, he was happy to leave Kualoa Ranch. I’m pretty sure what really bugged him was having his butt sniffed by a llama.

"Smells like dog butt to me." --Pikachu

“Smells like dog butt to me.” –Pikachu

After our Ranch visit we did continue on around the island and even made a stop at Maxie’s Park before returning home. It was a very full and delightful day.

 

 

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Not Max

This how Malts should behave at bath time.

This is how Malts should behave at bath time.

It’s not Max but it’s how I wish Max would handle bath time.

This photo has been circulating the ‘net. I can’t find the original source for attribution.

A more realistic version of Malt-in-the-Tub was posted earlier. Check here.

 

 

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Max Visits the Cuauhtémoc

She's a "Barque," 220 feet at the waterline, 1800 tons and with a crew of 186.

You know what the chances are of me standing on a yard arm like that? Zero. Absolute zero.

ARM Cuauhtémoc is a sail training vessel of the Mexican Navy, named for the last Aztec Emperor who was captured and executed in 1525.

I think Cuauhtémoc means “Descending Eagle” but don’t hold me to that as my conversational Aztec is a little weak.

It could also mean “only crazy people climb up those high masts.” But I digress.

The figurehead from the tall ship.

The figurehead from the tall ship.

Wikipedia says Señor Cuauhtémoc ascended to the throne when he was 25 years of age, as his city was being besieged by the Spanish and devastated by an epidemic of smallpox brought to the New World by Spanish invaders.

Wiki goes on to snark, “Probably, after the killings in the main temple, there were few Aztec captains available to take the position.” Yuh think?

Not much gold was found and ultimately Cuauhtémoc was executed and ascended to indigenous folk hero status as the badazz Aztec emperor who resisted the conquest by the Spanish.

He is revered as an indigenous hero and was a master of bad timing.

He is revered as an indigenous hero and was a master of bad timing.

His face has appeared on Mexican banknotes, and he is celebrated in paintings, music, and popular culture.

Interestingly, the name Cuauhtémoc is one of the few non-Spanish given names for Mexican boys that is perennially popular.

In addition to the ship, there are many things named after him from subway stops to government buildings. It especially pleases me to know that the sassy Emperor’s legacy lives on at a brewery.

The Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma Brewery, a subsidiary of Heineken, was founded in 1890 and is based in Monterrey,  México.

Beautiful day; beautiful ship.

Beautiful day; beautiful ship.

The company produces the Dos Equis, Sol, Bohemia, Superior, Carta Blanca, Noche Buena, Indio, Casta and Tecate brands among others.

I don't always drink beer whilst hanging my ass out 130 feet above the ocean, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

“I don’t always drink beer whilst hanging my ass out on a yard arm, 130 feet above the ocean in the middle of a roaring gale, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

This gorgeous “Tall Ship” is the last of four sister ships built by the Naval Shipyards of Bilbao, Spain, in 1982.

Like her sister ships, Cuauhtémoc is both a naval training ship and a ambassador for her home country having sailed almost a half million miles over nearly 32 years.

This year, the proud vessel has been on a goodwill voyage that includes port stops in 12 countries and she has been berthed at Aloha Tower for three or four days.

I never miss a chance to look at tall ships and since Gordon Biersch brewery is next to the dock Max and I were unable to resist paying a visit.

Snazzy kicks on these cadets. Photo credit: Seattle Times

Snazzy kicks on these cadets. Photo credit: Seattle Times

The Cuauhtémoc is a Barque measuring 220 feet at the water line and displaces 1,800 tons.

She carries 2,400 sq. meters of sails with a 1,125 horsepower back up power plant.

The ship is staffed with 186 officers and crew plus 90 cadets who train to receives sailing certifications in international waters. By the way, all of the cadets wear Converse sneakers while on board.

These are ships that train future fisherman, most about 15-17 years old. They go on 45 day missions with a stopover in Hawaii.

These are Japanese government ships that train future fisherman. They go on 45 day trips with a stopover in Hawaii.

The Mexican Navy ship wasn’t the only vessel at the tower today. There were also two Japanese fishing ships.

These government-sponsored ships take young men from 15-17 years old and train them to be large scale commercial fisherman.

One ship was from Sendai, not too far from the site of the terrible tsunami of 2011 and one was from Kyushu, Japan’s southern island.

Not yet, Max. Wait for "OK".

Not yet, Max. Wait for “OK”.

The AJF conversed with the seamen and found out they were on 45 day journeys with a Honolulu stopover that was the highlight of their adventure.

Meanwhile, our favorite Malt was thrilled to be back port side. He really likes to sit on his own chair, observe the goings on, eat some burger and sausages (it was Octoberfest!) and accept tribute and adulation from other diners.

Speaking of tribute, I couldn’t resist making the Malt into an Aztec sacrifice to celebrate the visit of such a fine naval vessel. I used the “Simba” format to make my offering.

The Malt was not amused.

That's me making Max into an Aztec offering. Perhaps that second beer was having an effect.

That’s me making Max into an Aztec offering. Perhaps that second beer was having an effect.

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The Cheapskate Springs for Lunch

Orchids at the Halekulani Hotel. Site of the massive eating experience.

Orchids at the Halekulani Hotel. Site of the massive eating experience.

The Alpha Japanese Female’s (AJF) birthday is in early September. We have a long standing tradition that we celebrate her jour de naissance by going out for a fancy dinner.

She selects the venue for her celebration. Sky’s the limit in terms of price; the wallet is laid bare, supremely vulnerable and allowed to scream like a chimp on fire.

Usually, the AJF chooses a sushi place. That girl can really tear through a lot of fish. According to Japanese lore, people have an extra stomach just for sushi. Eat all you want of something else, but you will still have room for copious quantities of raw fish on vinegary rice.

It's nice to sit on the lanai and feel the soft ocean breezes while knocking back Kir Royale.

It’s nice to sit on the lanai and feel the soft ocean breezes while knocking back Kir Royale.

Sometimes she chooses a fancy steakhouse. We have quite a few here, all delightful, and all will set you back big bucks, especially if you get crazy on the wine list.

I don’t really mind because she loves to watch the table side drama of freshly made Caesar Salads and, later, Cherries Jubilee, Crepes Suzette or Bananas Foster for dessert.

This year, she was talking about a visit to the latest, oh so trendy, fusion restaurant – a term that means “I will bankrupt you” in French. That was just fine with me. But then, one day before our precious, reserved slot at “Chez Faillite,” she went rogue.

The buffet area at Orchids.

The buffet area at Orchids.

She asked me to cancel our date at The Restaurant Too Hip for Tom and said that, instead, she wanted to go to the top Sunday Brunch on the island.

Well, without much argument, the top spot for Sunday Brunch on Oahu is at Orchids restaurant in the Halekulani Hotel, whose name means House of Heaven, a legendary resort with more culinary rating stars than the Pleiades and a reputation for service beyond compare.

Rooms at this hotel start at $600/night and go to $7,000/night. “What does that portend for a plate of pancakes?” sez I, silently of course.

Just between you and me, my wallet was hoping she’d opt for the local equivalent of a Waffle House. I would have happily sprung for Bert’s Chili or Walt’s Soup on the side. But nooooo…

Art depicting how full we were after the buffet.

Hotel art depicting how full we were after the buffet.

I called the Halekulani to get reservations for the following Sunday, still three days away, and was regaled with laughter from the otherwise sweet-voiced lady who took my call.

Between snorts and giggles she managed to let me know that even fools know to reserve their tables at least a month in advance and often up to 3-6 months in advance.

Ouch, the burn. Were it just me I’d have hung up and gotten my eggs and toast elsewhere but I was on the hook with the AJF, so I meekly submitted to the tyranny and reserved a table for two a month after the AJF’s birthday. At high noon, because the earlier times were sold out already.

Machi at Halekulani

The AJF post-lunch and pre-nap.

Well, today was the day and it was a delightful time. Starting with two Kir Royale, we paced ourselves through many trips to the buffet savoring unique and tasty offerings: sashimi, Eggs Benedict with king crab, all sorts of savories, prime meats including whole roasted suckling pig, baked goods and an embarrassing amount of desserts including a special slice of birthday cake, personalized for her, which I ate.

I earned my fair share of good hubby points and did not peep a sound about costs, an achievement which, for a cheapskate like me is significant. If my eyes were full they were tears of joy for the happiness of the day and not because I caught a glimpse of the wine prices.

The only downside was that Max had to stay at home and sulk. We didn’t even sneak him any treats. Consequently, he is still not acknowledging our existence. Malts have long memories and, sometimes, bad attitudes.

Max

“You are both dead to me.” –Max

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