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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A moment about states and their flags

A co-worker of mine has a t-shirt on today. The banner on it says Hawaii (no apostrophe).

Below is this image:


Um, no. Na-uh. Nope.

T-shirt people, you're going to need to try harder. My co-worker, to her credit, seemed sanguine about the state mix-up on her shirt, when I pointed it out. (She was, no doubt, thrilled to have me, her boss, point out the error on her shirt. Thrilled all day long.)

Had I not just gotten back from Hawai'i, I wouldn't have known what the Hawai'i state flag looks like. I still would have known that the image was all kinds of wrong. Last time I checked tweren't any palmetto trees to be found in our fiftieth state.


How colonial of you, Hawai'i.

The palmetto one is South Carolina. There are palmettos there. It's a thing.

It all reminded me of the moment on Miss America: Reality Check where Miss Pennsylvania couldn't find her state flag.


Look! I found it for her. (To be fair, she did have the good grace to be chagrined afterward).

The Hawai'i/South Carolina t-shirt is what we get for outsourcing. How is someone in a third world country to know that the palm looking tree is a palmetto and has nothing to do with Hawai'i? Maybe it's because of how my mind works, but I like knowing random stuff. Not all the random stuff. Just enough that the world makes a little sense sometimes.

Knowing my state flag and noting the ones of states I visit seems the least I can do.

My honey, as a child, participated in a school performance in which a piece called "Fifty Nifty United States" was featured.

A lyrical interlude...

50 Nifty United States
from the 13 original colonies
50 nifty stars on the flag
that billow so beautifully in the breeze

Each individual state
contributes a quality that is great!
Each individual state
deserves a bow
Let's salute them now!

In alphabetical order, the kids were to shout the name of the state whose flag they were holding and raise the flag in the air. She was to be holding New Jersey. She left the flag in the cloakroom. Quoting Honey directly, "...[W]hen New Jersey's turn came, I remained quiet rather than drawing attention to the fact that I had no flag, hoping no one would notice the omission." In other words, they just went straight from New Hampshire to New Mexico. Here's my compensatory raising of the New Jersey flag:


In case you're interested, and even if you're not, here are the states I have not yet visited. My criteria for a visit? I must have at least stopped to see something somewhere in the state other than the airport. I'm on a roll, having gotten to Colorado in '07 and Hawai'i in 08.

The missing ones are: Idaho (scheduled for '09--Gem State, here I come!), Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington. I should note about that last one, that in addition to my strong support of this year's Miss Washington, I regularly have dreams (like while asleep, not figurative "I-wish-I-had-been-an-astronaut" kind of aspirations) about going to the top of the Space Needle. I have NO idea why. Feel free to share out in comments how many missing states you have and/or your interpretation of my Space Needle dream.


I'll be learning the flags as I go.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Geese of Hawai'i

I went to Hawai'i to look for geese. Truth be told, I did not know when I departed that this would be a goal. Goals sometimes come when you don't expect them to.

Many people go to Hawai'i for many reasons. Scuba. Snuba. Pineapples. Macadamia Nuts. Volcanoes. Coffee.

I experienced several of these activities. I bet you didn't know pineapple could be an activity. It sure can. Details to follow.

But, oh, the geese.

They were MY thing. I am not a birder in the classic sense. I have bird books and binoculars. I own mutliple bird feeders. But, I can't recognize bird songs from the tree, have to look twice at small brown birds to determine if they're house finches or house sparrows. Bottom line, I guess, I like birds and like looking at them.

Upon our arrival to Hawai'i--I know it's confusing, but I'm talking about the island (as in "the big") not the state (as in all of the islands)--I discovered that we would be near to an area where we might see Nene. Nene are Hawai'ian geese.

Ok, let's get a something straightened out before I continue. Despite, my initial inclination, as a native speaker of English from the southeastern part of these here United States, the name of the bird is pronounced "neh neh" not "neen." I still kind of want to call them neens, but I am being all Hawai'ian and shit (notice my use of the apostrophe!) and know it's "neh neh."


There were lots of signs about Nenes. Don't feed them, don't hit them with your rental car, don't let your dog chase them. Nenes themselves are rare. At one point there were there were tens of thousands of Nene and then humans did lots of stupid things and they died out to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, there has been an concerted effort to bring them back and there are now between five hundred and three thousand Nene on three of the Hawai'ian islands (Maui, Hawai'i, and Kaua'i). Most are there as a result of captive breeding programs, though the ones on Hawai'i are often the offspring of wild pairs.

I have a soft spot for geese. I tend to prefer water birds to other kinds of birds and geese are, to me at least, the Goldilocks kind of bird. Not too big, not too small. Just right. I have complicated animal aesthetics, which often involve statements like "a good amount of white" (which accurately describes our cat Halo and none of our other pets). Geese are right in the animal aesthetic wheelhouse. So, when you tell me there's a kind of goose that almost died out, has specially adapted feet for walking on lava, and has a name as good as Nene, I'm going to be goose seeking. With abandon. Aplomb even.

We asked the helpful people at our B&B where Nene might be seen. They suggested the golf course. I then asked the ranger at Volcanoes National Park where to see some and she suggested the Hilo zoo. Um, no, I don't think so. I want "wild" Nene, thanks very much. So, off to the golf course we went.


There were four pairs of them hanging out on the 18th hole. Honey and I laughed at first, thinking this was a sign of how easy it was to see them. They were nibbling on grass and having a Nene good time. One even showed off his lava foot for me. Yes, it was for me. I was the only Nene picture taker there. Other people were using sticks to hit little white balls around. I know who had the true Nene love; the person who got shown the Nene foot.


Nenes mate for life, by the way.

I was in Nene bliss. I figured we go back to the golf course a few (dozen) more times and I commune with these eight Nene and all their friends. We did go back to the golf course several times. No more Nenes.

I was feeling a little Nene bereft as we headed off to go coffee tasting. Honey had promised that one of the coffee places had geese, which she and I both assumed were Nenes. What other geese are there in Hawai'i? Nenes are the Hawai'i state bird, by the way. Do you know what your state bird is? I'll wait while you go look it up. See, you're learning LOTS of bird facts today. (In case you're wondering, my state birds have been: Brown Thrasher, Baltimore Oriole, and California Quail). At any rate, we get to the coffee place in question, Mountain Thunder, to discover that they have two kinds of geese on the farm, neither of which Nene. Still, geese are geese and I'm ready for my close up. One kind of goose hangs out down in the coffee tree area and the other wanders more. The nice folks inform me that they may come by to be fed. We're enjoying our coffee sample and watching Mountain Thunder on Dirty Jobs when the wandering goose family presented itself (minus one, who is incubating eggs).


The owner told me that a visitor had told her they were Toulouse geese, but I'm pretty sure they're Greylag geese. At any rate, they were really fun. They honked some and threatened me when I stood near them for a picture. The threat was the large male sticking his neck out and opening his beak a little. They also got into a goose fight. How many times have you seen a goose fight while sipping really good Kona coffee? I didn't think so.


We interacted with the geese for a while, bought coffee and descended thunder mountain with the rental car shuddering from the strain of the descent and Honey and I jittering a little from all the coffee and goose goodness. It was probably more coffee than goose.


I had read in my Hawai'i (the state) bird book, that there were no Nene to be found on O'ahu, our next destination. I wanted another Nene fix. The next day, we were headed out for turtle viewing and I saw a sign that said "Nene 750 yards." I immediately began mumbling about all the bullshit Nene signs that promise more Nene than they can deliver. Then, I saw...


Nene on the side of the road. I pulled over quickly (not dangerously). Honey and I circled the Nene so I could get more pictures. This caused the Nene to moan. Really. They don't honk so much as moan. Watch this video for the sound. The effect was, "leave me alone, you stupid mainlander."


I persisted in taking pictures, though. Finally (from their perspective, not mine), we left them alone.

I tried a few more times to see Nene. None were in evidence. Still, if there really are only 500 Nene, my ten Nene worth was 1/50 of the total. This seems like a pretty high proportion, given that I certainly didn't make up 1/50 of the visitors to Hawai'i (either the island or the state) last week.

My advice when traveling? Get your goose on.

Nene up.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How to pronounce mirounga angustirostris

Honey and I sometimes amuse ourselves with the better Google hits we get on our blogs. She gets better hits than I do, given her propensity to talk about her boobs. I get more, shall we say, esoteric, hits. Are there Celtic origins for "They Call the Wind Maria?" Someone thought that, typed it into Google and got to me. I'm the third hit on that, if you quote the song title. Short answer: I have no idea and neither does the person looking for the information if my site was their source.

Lots of hits lately on Miss Washington, her gay dads, and other related things and lots of hits on Sleep Number beds. I call things I don't like the taste of "wangy" and I've used it in a post and thusly I get hits on it.

By far the thing people seek me out most for from Google is the title of this post. I've had dozens of hits on variations of how to pronounce mirounga angustirostris (which is the Latin name of elephant seals). It hits my blog because I referenced elephant seals (and their Latin name, as I like a semi-formal blog) in a post last winter and in a separate post said something about Brett Favre not pronouncing his name right. Both of those posts are in my "trips" category. The average time on my blog for people searching for this guidance is over eight minutes. These folks WANT to know. For all I know, it's one person who really wants to know and keeps trying to find out.

So, in the spirit of Mardi Gras, rather than showing my boobs or throwing beads, I thought why not give something away of value? I took Latin in high school. I DO know the answer. Can I get a little help?


It's pronounced:

meer•onga ahn•goo•steer•oh•stris

or, you could just go with

ell•ee•fant seel

They're ok either way. I'd say that I hope things go well for your candidate today, but since everyone can't win, I'll simply say that now you know something new and that way everyone wins.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A bit more on Miss Washington

I'm not going to write just now about having had a really nice lunch today with The Misanthrope and Bitch, PhD, which was very cool on lots of levels.

I'm not going to do that because I have little zingy feelings right now. Why? Glad you asked.

My previous post got a comment while I was at the aformentioned lunch from one of Miss Washington's gay dads. I didn't write much about her in my post, mostly because I don't know enough about pageants to work up the right level of outrage over her not winning. But I'm going to go for it now.

One week on, I have to say I haven't gotten less irritated about the outcome. Let's start with some objective facts...

Miss Washington, Elyse Umemoto, and Miss Indiana, Nicole Rash, made the top three on both Miss America Reality Check and Miss America proper. (I should not that I just went to the Miss Indiana pageant site and had a hard time finding Ms. Rash's last name. She's not just "Nicole," folks). At any rate, this suggests to me that if TLC and the Miss America people were really interested in a new kind of Miss America, that those two women should have been numbers one and two.

I don't see much point in bashing the other contestants. Rather, I want to focus on why Ms. Umemoto should have won. Let's go positive on this, shall we? Ok, I may have a negative moment or two. We'll see. Stay tuned.

The notion that Miss America should be the new "it" girl seems perfect for Ms. Umemoto.

Why do I say that?

Well let's start with her ethnic heritage. She's Japanese, oh, and German, also she's Latino and Yakama Native American. Got that? I like to think of America as an interesting place where people come together and influence one another in all sort of ways. Someone with a complex and rich heritage seems ideal for our new "it girl" don't you think? We've done blond before. We've done Midwest before. How about Pacific Rim? Word to Seattle. Thanks for the coffee thing. Also, thanks for two Miss America posts.

Ok, next criteria--what does she stand for? Two things. Embracing diversity. Seems right. (Would someone tell Bill Clinton to shut about about race, by the way?) The other thing? Empowering women. The it girl gets it.

I thought she was funny and charming throughout the reality show. Then came the red carpet moment. She spoke out about her gay dads and called herself liberal. Word to your mom, dad, dad, and dad. You're stunning.

As I said, I'm no pageant expert, so I can only say that she seemed fine in the various walks (swimsuit, evening wear). Her rendition of the Robbie Williams tune seemed way more, oh I don't know, connected to the aughts than tap dancing or Judy Garland songs. She stayed in tune too, which I more than my ear said about the winner. (Yes, my ear can talk and yes that was a little negativity).

I have no doubt that Ms. Umemoto will succeed in whatever she decides to take on. (I gather from reading around that she won Miss Seattle in her first attempt at the pageant thing. Pretty impressive, if you think about it. A lot of the women she was up against have been competing in pageants their whole lives. Trust me, there are women in the South who have entire worlds revolving around the pageant circuit). I wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on her post-Miss America chapter. Still, I can't help thinking that a Miss America with gay dads, a feminist bent, a rich and diverse heritage, and liberal politics would have been awfully nice. I know I would have paid attention beyond last Saturday.

Thanks, Gary, for prompting me to write this. All the best to you, your partner, and your daughter.

To quote Elyse (I hope it's ok to call her that once), "how do you like them apples?" Quite a lot from what I can tell.