If you read my post from last year, Prank Envy, you will have met our friend Terry and his highly-developed sense of humor.  He decided to give it another try this year to see what kind of results he would get this time around.

It’s kind of a social experiment, isn’t it?

Once again, Terry posted his “Cat Found” papers strategically around the neighborhood.  On my way into the office this morning, I stopped in our neighborhood coffee shop for some much-needed caffeine for my early-morning drive.  I saw several other early-morning punters clustered around the bulletin board and laughing.  After ordering, I wandered over to see what was so funny.

Here’s what I found.

“doesn’t this guy know that’s not a cat?”

One lady was about to call and wake up Terry because she thought he was mentally challenged and needed to know that this was a wild creature, not a pet, before he was bitten.  She was very concerned.   I didn’t say anything, preferring to see how this played out.    I also figured if Terry was awakened at 6:45am, it was his fault.

The next guy figured out it was a prank and thought it was the funniest thing he’s seen in a long time.   He also played along, telling the concerned lady that he hoped the possum wasn’t in the guys house.  The other two guys standing around picked up their coffees, took a picture of the board to post to their facebooks, and left.

By this time the workers at the coffee shop were interested, and all came out to read it.    I was putting sugar in my coffee and stirring it nonchalantly, when I heard “hey – that’s a possum!” and “gee, should we call and tell this poor guy?”.   I nonchalantly  walked up, took a picture with my phone, and said that I’ve seen that possum before, and wanted to double-check to see if it’s the one who lives in my back yard.

That got me a few stares.  I then walked out and enjoyed a good laugh in the car.

By the way, the concerned lady had her cell phone out as I left.

I wonder if Terry got his wake up call after all?

That’s the mantra my 9 year-0ld nephew Harald (he chose his blog-name after the famous Nordic hero) travels by.  We’re not talking about a small plastic shovel, either.  This is a metal spade of medium size and good quality.  Perfect for a born digger.

Bro and Alexei enjoy Harald's Sand Bar while Harald works on the water diversion.

Give Harald a shovel and a vast expanse of beach, and he’s as happy as a clam.   Literally.   He will dig and build all day, and be completely exhausted by 6pm.   He’s the perfect kid.

He builds cool stuff too.  The other day he decided that what our beach needed was a Sand Bar.  So he built one – with excellent engineering.  It had cool benches and a table in the middle where we could put up our feet and place our beverages in comfort.

Both Harald’s dad and Alexei were the envy of the beach as they sat and enjoyed a cool drink, the waves, and one very busy kid.

Harald putting the Army Corps of Engineers to shame.

Next, Harald decided the Sand Bar needed to have a moat around it so when the tide came in it would flood around the structure, and not get the people sitting inside wet.

Did I mention he’s 9 years old?

I wondered what happened to the E gene (engineering gene – don’t tell me it doesn’t exist!) in our family.  It’s pretty obvious Harald has it.  He proceeded to dig a moat around his Sand Bar that could have been used around a levee.

If the Army Corps of Engineers have a talent scout, they really need to check out Harald.  The kid started building with blocks as a baby, and hasn’t stopped since.

Harald's pyramids, paddle, shovel and boogie board. Just what every engineer-in-training will have on holiday!

The next big event was Harald reproducing the Pyramids at Giza.   Seriously.  With the aid of a paddle, he not only built the three main pyramids, he also did an irrigation moat around them and a levee wall to keep them protected from the high tide.  He learned his lesson from the sand bar.

Yep.  9 years old.

Building is not all Harald does.   He also likes to bury things.  Shells, rocks, people – you know, just the stuff all normal genius-kids like to do.

I’ll leave you with a pic of Harald and his good buddy  who was also on Maui with his parents.  If this is what Harald does to his best friends, it would be interesting to see what he does with people who tick him off.

I really do need to keep up favorite auntie status.

This kid is going places!

Watch out - Harald wields a mean shovel!

Maybe it’s because my BFF is a well-known stylist, and over the years some of her good fashion taste has rubbed off on me, but I now see fashion trends walking around on the beach, and while there are some really great looks out there, there were some where I wonder just what these people see when they look in the mirror.   Here are a few that really stood out:

  • The biggest laugh this trip has come from seeing guys pull their boardshorts as far down on their hips as possible without getting arrested.   It actually looks great if they’re doing it to show the pattered boxers or compression-shorts that they’re wearing underneath.  However, on those who are doing it without anything on underneath, it brings all new meaning to the term ‘shortage’.   Dudes – unless you’ve really got something to show, all this does is show what you don’t have, if you get my drift.  We are not impressed.  In fact, the smiles you see are us trying very hard not to laugh.   So put on some boxers or pull up your shorts – please.
  • There are less mother-daughter matching bikinis roaming around this time, which is a nice trend.  I guess they read my last blogpost “Bikini tops don’t tie at the waist”, and realized just how sad that looks.  Nice going, ladies!
  • Banana-hammocks are in short supply this year, even from the Europeans staying at our condo complex.  A very nice trend that has earned applause from everyone.  My nephew Harald saw one yesterday on an older gentleman, and even at 9 he knew it was So Wrong.  His comment was “didn’t he know how funny he looked?”.  Pearls of wisdom there, gentlemen.  You do look funny to the rest of us.
  • Hats are in!  Guys, gals and kids are all wearing head-protection, and that’s just great to see after all the years when I’ve been the only one at the beach with a brimmed hat.  Hat shops and kiosks have sprung up all over the island.   I was even able to find a sun-visor at Cruise in Whaler’s Village that’s made of bathing-suit material that I now wear while swimming.   Just rinse it out at night, and it’s ready to go the next day.   Several ladies at the pool asked me where I got it  and the next day there were a whole bunch of them in the pool.  Nice to start a skin-saving trend.
  •  Awesome beach cover-ups.   I’ve seen beautiful pareos, lovely tunics, and even a few pairs of sheer palazzo pants with matching tunics that were very fetching.
  • Full body-suits for kids is a great trend that must have dermatologists applauding everywhere.   This protects their skin and reduces the risk of skin cancer later on.  We’ve seen it on a lot of babies and small children, and I think it’s awesome.  Good work there, Moms!

I’ll leave you with this parting comment – – His and Her muumuus and Hawaiian shirts went out of fashion 50 years ago, folks.  If you want to advertise that you’re from Hickville, go to Bubba Gump’s for fried fish, not to Hilo Hattie’s.   Hawaiian shirts with orange parrots really need to be confined to the poker table, and when it’s combined with a plus-size muumuu on your honeybunny, it makes our eyes bleed and wish we had a camera to catch the sight and record it for posterity.  You get bonus points if you wear socks with your sandals.

May the Fashion Gods be with you.  Please.

I’m a huge fan of farmer’s markets, and if I HAVE to go shopping, I much prefer to patronize local growers and traders than huge megasuperwhatevers.  Here on Maui there are a few small farmer’s markets that pop up in parking lots, at beach parks, or just off the side of the main highway.  In most cases, they’re just one or two small growers that have their produce on tables behind their truck.   Those guys tend to move around a lot, so if you see one, stopping is a good idea.  It’s a bit harder to find one that is stationary and regularly timed since they rarely advertise.

Alexei choosing the perfect tapenade and mugging for the camera.

The one thing they all have in common is delicious produce picked at the peak of ripeness, and you can’t beat it for flavor.  I’m also a bit of a nut for organic produce, and that’s very hard to find at supermarkets.

Just be sure to bring your own reusable bags – Maui County does not allow plastic bags to be sold at any foodstore.  I never travel without a couple of lightweight grocery bags, and a large selection of mesh fruit and veggie bags.  Two years without store bags is my running record, and one of the ways I’m trying to be green.  Every little bit helps.

There’s one particular market near our condo that runs three times a week.  It’s run by a local organic market in Honokowai, and they’ve converted their parking lot to hold tables and awnings.  The market is from 7:30 to 10:00am Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – get there early because the good stuff goes fast.   The tables are full of boxes of local fruits, vegetables, breads (including gluten free), salsas, guac, spreads, dips, local honey and whatever you can think of.  They also give free samples of some of their more luscious fruits to entice the punters to buy more.

And before I get inundated with email, no, I don’t cook  while on vacation.  This stuff is for breakfast and lunch only.  That I do fix, while Vlad and Alexei enjoy their kona coffee and guava juice on the lanai.  They take ME out to dinner, so it’s all good.

Our usual haul includes:

  • Maui Gold pineapple – it has a lower acid-content than the usual kind that you can find on other islands, or on the mainland.  The fruit is a deep gold and is incredibly sweet.  Don’t cut out the core – that’s the sweetest part of the fruit and is edible.  Eaten with the tarter portion, it creates a nice flavor mix.

    Doesn't this look yummy?

  • Papayas –  There are two types of papayas sold locally.  Regular Hawaiian papayas have a deep orange-gold color inside and are yellow-green mottled on the skin when ripe.   Sunrise (or strawberry) papayas have a similar skin, but the inside is a peachey-red color – just the color of the sun as it rises over the ocean.   Both are best eaten with a wedge of lime squirted over the top.  Scoop out the seeds, squeeze the lime in the cavity, and devour.  Ambrosia!
  • Apple-bananas.  These little bananas are 4-5 inches long and have a slightly apple flavor.  They’re very different from the ones you get on the mainland, and once you try one, no other banana will satisfy you.  They’re high in potassium and absolutely delicious.
  • Lilikoi (passionfruit).  These little fruits are best when perfectly ripe.   Don’t let them over-ripen – the taste is just not the same.  It can be tricky to find the ones that are ready to eat.  Have one of the experts show you the best ones to buy.
  • Dragonfruit – the yellow-skinned ones with the white flesh are my favorite.   I got hooked on these pretty fruits in SE Asia, and the local Hawaiian variety is just as good as the ones I used to devour in Thailand and Malaysia.  Peeled and sliced, the white flesh with black seeds are slightly tangy and very refreshing on a hot day – they have a kiwi-like flavor that is lighter and a bit sweeter.  Careful of the red dragonfruits – they’re a bit sweeter than the white, and are great in salads, but the juice stains and WILL NOT COME OUT of clothes.   Yes, I did learn that the hard way.  I go with the whites since I’m basically a klutz, and tend to wear what I eat.
  • Kula greens – these baby lettuces are grown on the cool slopes of Haleakala and are full of flavor.
  • Heirloom tomatoes – the volcanic soil in Hawaii produce some of the best tomatoes in the world.   Try one and you’re spoiled.  Wow.
  • Local cheeses, dips and spreads.  We usually indulge in the garlic-olive cream cheese for morning bagles, as well as the tapenade, and spicy and pineapple salsas.  The tapenade this market sells is superb.  Just the right amount of garlic, and a great mix of olive types – all locally grown.   Add some crackers and lunch and evening appetizers are thereby taken care of for the duration of the trip.
  • Local honey – there are a whole lot of very happy bees on the Islands, and the beekeepers make some of the best honey in the world from the tropical flower nectar they produce.   One of my favorites is the honey made from macadamia nut flowers.  Try it.  Trust me, you’ll take home a few jars.
  • Local breads – home-baked sweetbreads and locally baked breads abound at these markets.  Our favorite is a sweet pineapple bread made by a very nice lady who lives in Napili and sells her wares at the market.   She also has a series of gluten-free breads that look pretty good.  Haven’t tried them, but they seem to sell well.

When you visit a farmers market, just don’t be surprised when you go up to the checkout table if the guy tells you that you need to bag your own stuff because he’s “just not feeling it today”.   This is Hawaii, where Hang Loose is not just a term, it’s a lifestyle.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.  Time to make a really good breakfast for the boys.

Hang loose.

It’s August.  Budget is done, pet sitter arranged, out-of-office set on email and voicemail, and bags are packed.   I should be thrilled to be heading out to Maui for the Annual Family Trip.  So why am I not feeling it this year?

Perhaps it’s because things were so rushed in the weeks leading up to the trip.  Being crazy-busy to the point where my family was ready to stage an intervention is not a good place to be right before a holiday.   Or the fact that Vlad wasn’t arriving to join us until Friday.   Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t able to find a swimsuit once again this year – the designers obviously didn’t read my blog post last year of I swim therefore I stress.   Whatever the reason, I just wasn’t in the proper mood.

It must have been the Travel Gods playing one of their games.

That funky mood stayed with me all through the long airport security line (sigh!), the line to get sandwiches for the flight, and the pre-flight hoo-hah where we were delayed waiting for some dude who checked his bags and then didn’t show up.   After 30 minutes, they hauled his bags off the plane and we were ready to go.  Wait – what’s that loud voice I hear?  The clueless dude who spaced in the terminal and had the gall to argue loudly with the flight attendant why his bags were removed from the flight and wouldn’t arrive for another day.

Dude – you’re lucky you weren’t lynched as you made the long walk to your seat in the back of the plane, muttering under your breath.  Trust me, we all thought about it.

This was the first time we took the nonstop Alaska Airlines flight from San Jose to Kahului.  It’s a tiny little 737 plane, chock full of screaming babies, wiggly toddlers and harassed, stressed-out parents.   We had a surprisingly pleasant flight, once the angry dude was strapped in and we could take off.

The flight attendants on our plane were the nicest I’ve been exposed to on domestic travel in a long time.  They didn’t overload on the ‘Mahalos’ (a major pet peeve of mine) and didn’t make the plane say “Alooooooohhhaaaa” back to them, which increases the [GAG] factor.  (Are you listening, United?)  They joked with the passengers and were attentive to those parents who wouldn’t control their kids.   One of these awesome attendants actually took a parent to task, to the delight of all of us around him.

Alaska, unlike other airlines who shall remain nameless unless I get really ticked off at them, does not believe in dehydrating their passengers.  There are 3 beverage services on this flight, the last of which serves mai tais to all those over 21.  When I looked a bit skeptical, the flight attendant leaned down and said “it’s good – it’s from Trader Joe’s”.   Gotta love that.

We did a bit of a turn around Maui to come in to the airport, and looking out the window, I could see Kahoolawe on the left and we did a nice turn (with only a bit of rollercoastering – this pilot was good!) and came in over the sugar cane fields to the runway.   Ahhh – seeing the red volcanic soil interspersed with green from all the yummy things growing in the fields, I felt the stress start to melt away.

By the time we meandered down to baggage claim, our bags were there waiting for us.  That has NEVER happened at Kahului, and we even got out without having anyone fall onto our suitcases. (see blog entry Aloha, Travel Gods)

There it is – that Aloha feeling.  I have it, and I’m happy.  I’m also going to take Alaska Airlines to Hawaii from now on.  A great flight and awesome service always starts a trip off right.

Mahalo, Travel Gods.   I really needed a break, and I’m grateful you decided to go easy on me.  I will pour a libation in the sand to you tonight in thanks.

The UBM office. Note the newsroom setup.

As the first full-time teleworker for the company I work for, I haven’t had a true office desk in the past 14 years.  Early this year, I started the long commute to our San Francisco office once a week to help out our new staff – as a favor to my boss.

I discovered how different it  was to have something called co-workers that didn’t have to be interacted with virtually.

 

  • It was strange at first to have someone near me speaking in something other than Cat.  I had to re-learn English – although I still growl when annoyed.
  • I  hate the commute.
  • Humans tell jokes and are fun to have around.
  • They also appreciate the fruits of your baking efforts.  My husband and son regard them as a right, and complain when I experiment and something is not perfect.  The office is just happy to have anything sweet.  The grand marnier brownies I made a few weeks ago underwhelmed my family, but the office loved it.  I could get used to this.
  • You indeed get less done, but the thrill of helping others around you more than compensates for getting a bit behind.
  • Did I mention how I hate the commute?

The view from the office sundeck

  • It’s fun to get dressed up in something other than shorts and t-shirts and to put on shoes for a change.  My BFF is a talented stylist and she’s set me up with a wardrobe most people would kill for.  It’s nice to be able to use it when not on a business trip.
  • Our office in San Francisco has an awesome view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco Bay.
  • The office also  has a gorgeous sun deck for the days when the sun comes out.  It’s nice to be in California and have an office with a sundeck, complete with cushioned chaises, tables for lunch, and of course, this view.
  • I really do hate the commute, but it’s nice once I’m there.
  • The office is fully sustainable, with advanced recycling, energy efficient everything, and it’s open, airy, and full of really fun people.  I’ve been in most of my company’s offices around the world, and I have to say this is the nicest as far as space planning.

To make things stranger, I have an actual desk in this snazzy office.  Frankly, it’s the first time ever that I’ve been working in an office setting and haven’t had a private office, but I’ve adjusted pretty well.   I have the requisite kid picture of my son in his graduation tux, and I also have a picture of Alexei swinging a golf club that was taken by my Uncle Bob.  I can tell when people are golfers – they stop by my desk and comment on how much money they’ve paid to get a swing that will never be as good as his.

I’m not going to mention how much money I paid to get him that swing.  Nope.  Won’t even mention it.

I also have the required office trinkets.  A small elephant statuette that I brought back from South Africa.  A pair of wind-up shoes given to me by a long-time client.  Other stuff friends have given me over the years.  The required company awards that were cluttering up my office closet at home.  That kind of thing.    Apparently it’s not enough.

Todd Was Here

We have a lot of other colleagues from offices around the country visiting San Francisco.  I’m convinced it’s  because they really want to get away from the weather wherever they live.   As a result, my desk is used mostly for visiting executives.  Apparently, they got together and decided my desk looked a bit to severe, and needed some more decoration.

A few weeks ago, my colleague Todd was here from his home office in Atlanta.  Todd started the tradition of leaving me a gift to let me know he WAS THERE.  I was touched.  He took a picture of himself and printed it out.   I came into the office a few days later and saw his mug tacked to the divider-wall.

Dang.  It really needed a “Best Wishes from Todd”  or a “Loved Using Your Desk” on it for me to keep it up there as a permanent fixture.  So, I put it on one of the shelves below my desk and told Todd the next time he came out here he needed to sign it or he couldn’t sit at my desk again.

The race was on.   The next visitor to use my desk was my boss, Bob.   He flew in to escape the heat in Chicago, see the view, and soak up a bit of fog and blessed coolness in San Francisco.  Oh yeah – he also needed to work with the team, but they all say that.

 

Bob's few cents worth.

Bob has a delightfully dry sense of humor, and one never knows just how it will manifest itself.  I received an IM from him that day that said the picture of Todd on the shelf below was creeping him out.  A few jokes went back and forth, and when I came to the office a couple of days later, I found Todd’s picture back up on my wall, and a little present from Bob arranged in a nice zen pattern on my desk.

I kind of like this trend.  First a picture, then cash.  Things are looking up.

I still hate the commute, but I do like the presents.

I won’t be going to the SF office now for a couple of weeks, and there will be quite a few people visiting our office to escape the heat/rain/humidity/smells in their own cities.  Oh, yes, and to do a little work too.  I’m expecting to have several more presents left on my desk.

I’m particularly fond of orchids, folks…  Just saying.

Have you ever wanted to mess with people just for the sheer fun of it?  Or wondered just how many stupid people there are out there?  C’mon – admit it.  We all have, but few actually figure out a clever way to do it.   Our friend Terry came up with one of the cleverest schemes I’ve seen in a long time and it’s too good not to share.

I have to set the scene – Terry has a highly developed and deliciously warped sense of humor.  He’s a legend in our circle of friends for his practical jokes and off-beat comments, and his wife is a saint.  At Halloween he’s famous for making kids answer history questions, and then gives them not only really good candy  no matter whether their answer is right or wrong, but also a glow-necklace to help keep them safe as they go door-to-door.  That’s the great kind of guy he is.

Here’s what he came up with a few weeks ago.

Did you lose this cat?

Terry posted these flyers on on the neighborhood power poles and community bulletin board at our local family market.  Gleefully he waited to see who and what would call his mobile phone in response.   He was not disappointed.  He got two really great calls.

The first call was someone pretending that it was his cat.  Terry said ‘That cat is vicious, man!  We had him in the house, but he’s not housebroken.  He started tearing up the place, so we had to put him outside.  I’m not sure if he’s still in the backyard, but I can go check”.   He then said with his head turned from the phone “Honey, is that cat still out there?  You can’t find it?   Maybe you should look outside”  The guy on the phone told him “Duuuuude, that’s not a cat, that’s a possum”, obviously not realizing HE was the one being pranked.    Terry responded  ” Hey – did you lose a cat or didn’t you?   Why did you call me then?”  Click….  Hmmm – maybe the guy finally caught on…

Next call was from some giggly girls, and he played the voicemail they left for me – it was priceless.  I can’t replicate the California High School Girl accent in print, but here is what she said “We lost our cat in the Rosegarden.   It might be our cat.  (giggle, giggle) Can you see if it responds to his name?   Please?   It definitely has rabies, so don’t put your fingers in his mouth. (hee hee)  Bye – I hope it’s not an inconvenience (giggle, giggle)”  click.

Awesome.

The flyer was up for 2 days before someone took it down.  Terry now knows who puts these things up, but wonders who actually takes them down?

He’s already planning his next prank.   I can’t wait to see what it is.  Knowing Terry, it will be REALLY good, and if he gives me permission, I’ll share it with you too.

Yep.  I have Prank-envy.  I admit it.

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