Star Dates, Food, and Political Folly (September 2016)

And here we are again, my percipient readers. The end of the seventh month (of the old Greco-Roman calendar) and just a jot-and-tittle past the Autumnal equinox (in case you lost your way among the Druidic holy days). We find ourselves well into our third year on island and in our unique status as homeless homesteaders. The days roll by with ever increasing rapidity, it seems, a phenomenon with which you aged ones can relate. (Who says that bending or traveling through time requires holes of the worm or black variety?)

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Our One Mountain Continues to Boil and Bubble…

Lest I begin to wax nostalgic in full, and risk further deviating from the pressing life documentary task at hand, let us pause to summarily and herewith recognize a waypoint in the evolution of Western culture, another critical anniversary that falls just now, this fine month. No…no… I’m not referencing the fifteenth anniversary of 9-11, which changed life for us all (even those of you who have yet to realize it). I’m not either talking about Eid, which this year–interestingly and ironically–began on September 11.

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…While Our Other Hill Quakes.

I am, my good readers, talking about something more foundational, a formative, seminal event. You see? It was this month in 1966, exactly fifty years ago, that Star Trek was first beamed down into the television sets of eager nerds across our once great nation. Presently, whether you fall in the denominational camp of the ultra orthodox, if stodgy, original show, or you lean more towards the enlightened Next Generation, or you count yourself among the cultic deviants who followed the spin offs (Voyager, and whatnot), you appreciate the fact that it is nigh impossible to navigate current American society without tripping across the occasional reference to this sociocultural touchstone. And whether you revel in this phenomenon’s exploration of anthropology, diplomacy and politics, moral and ethical conundrums, theoretical physics, or other issues, it offers mental sustenance for all. Gene Rodenberry, we salute you!

(Meanwhile, on the bridge…)

“Captain, I recommend that we commence with the blog post proper.”
“Make it so, Number One.”

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(Like India, Hawaii Island cannot feed itself, but plans to have a space port… (“I honestly wish I was making this stuff up,” he says tearfully.))

The Starfleet Crew

I would not say that we are “boldly going where no one has gone before,” but to fancy our current chapter of life as a grand exploratory expedition does not take much imagination. Mayhaps we’ll dub the completed home, our vessel, the “Enterprise.” Then again, given the backwater nature of our dwelling, “Deep Space 9” may be more fitting.  All truth be told, living in the Puna district is often much like attending in a Trekkie Convention, as far as the “colorful” nature of the attendees (“freak show” is a more apropos, if unkind characterization). I am quite certain that I have spotted Ferengi here in the Walmart parking lot in East Hawaii.

Wesley Crusher. What young man would shun the opportunity

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Tear-free Onion Dicing

to be homeschooled aboard a galactic research vessel (or a remote Pacific island)? The good Ensign this month embarked on a full course of physics work–along with another homeschool compatriot who attends our church–under the tutelage of a science-minded, and well educated, member of our congregation. The young lad, having become a connoisseur of fine yard work tools through his part-time employment by other ranchers and farmers, also convinced dear ole ma’ and pa’ to invest in some heavier grade, gas-powered trimming tools to help tame our paltry ten acres, and he attacked said land with a vengeance. Nursery work (for mom and dad), computer modeling, endlessly voiced enthusiasms about employing the new D&D 5.0 system within our geek family coven in the new year, and discussions of Rooster Teeth filled out his, otherwise noble, days.

Q. Mercurial, unpredictable, intelligent, and sometimes (like clowns) scary. This one, imageotherwise known as “The Jester,” began immersing herself in full geekdom. As if a double major in computer science and math was not enough, she joined a collegiate gaming club to further explore the realms of D&D and the Yugio-like card game known as Vanguard. (Is this some kind of theme in our family? Where, on earth, do they get this from?) Rounded out by a college-nerd-filled birthday party for a classmate that was straight out of the t.v. hit “Big Bang Theory” (complete with anime and RPGs) and invitations to join the competitive computer programming team, as well as being recommended for a work-study opportunity in the University’s Computer Science Department, this one’s life is sounding more and more like a Jobs or Wozniak or Dr. Cooper redux (or the life story of Kumar, the guy who runs our local 7-11). Time will tell.

Guinan. If you are a loyal reader, you may recall that Wee One

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Another Apple Banana Harvest

has expressed interest in tending bar, and I could swear that at some point she has noted at least a passing curiosity in space exploration. (Then again, her temperament and martial arts training certainly align her with the likes of Security Officer Warf, no? And…her early morning ramblings sometimes, and strongly, resemble one of the more common Klingon dialects.) Again, like some halfling driven by Vulcan convictions, like Spock himself, this one was all about getting ahead in her studies, advancing in Aikido, and working at the soup kitchen. Oddly, she also decided (no coercion, I swear) to take on the bulk of the laundry, dishes, and cleaning as her older sisters were found engaged in University issues. (Where can you buy, I mean “adopt,” more of these types of kids?) Parents out there…have you ever found yourself struggling with ways to reduce your kid’s chores? The bride’s protestations notwithstanding, I’m pushing for a DNA test…not a paternity test…a full human genome work up for this one.

Borg. She has a mind of her own, often has wires protruding from her skull about the

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Her Very Own Cheek Cells

auditory canal, and embraces a “resistance is futile” mentality when pressing her case, from laundry to food preferences. This month, Slim was focused on her new course work (now in the third of four semesters for her Associates Degree, to be followed by transfer to University) as she continued to search for a job and play chauffeur for her siblings. A few sleepovers with college friends, course-required movies shared with family, and chaperoning her siblings at a popular annual carnival fleshed out the month for this one.  She also has taken an interest in photomicroscopy.

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First Passionfruit Harvest.

Counselor Troi. Truth be told, I have long and frequently referred to the Bride as “Counselor Troi,” even outside of a Trek-inspired mood. Why? She is, undeniably, a dark-haired beauty and a half Empath who is frequently sought out for her exceptional deep listening skills and sound guidance and, if you train your ear carefully upon her Siren-like voice, in the occasional rare moments, a touch of non-native accent punches through her English veneer. Homeschool, translations, and finalizing the necessities of a new consulting business were her taskmasters this lunar cycle. Some casual outings with church friends and work on an upcoming lady’s retreat rounded out her month.

Data. Somewhat challenged, if not fully disabled, in the area of Emotional Intelligence, and chock full of fascinating–albeit sometimes useless–information, the family has voted yours truly as most like this fascinating and much beloved character, complexion notwithstanding. It was an uneventful month, for me, really. Mostly work under my various blue-collar and non-profit labor hats, and community functions, punctuated with a bit of bushwhacking, harvesting, and planting on the patch of soil over which God has granted us stewardship for now. Catching up on some long overdue reading (Dickens and Bonfiglioli) and a little penning (from ungracious, yet paid, copy work to the literary to the blog). Enjoying family life, including a little cooking here and there, and the cooling Fall weather. Looking forward to occupying our land, which will allow for the engaging of the ole warp drive, and regaining some lost footholds.  (We are going on three years without a drop of our own honey and two years without our own eggs!)

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Wild Guava From our Property

Life’s Bric-a-brac

Commemoration.  Since time immemorial, what better way than story–and in this generation, what better story-telling than film–to inculcate (or “socially engage”) younglings when it comes to dated, yet still relevant, cultural touchstones?  In honor of the 50th, we gathered the brood around a flickering laptop to enjoy the rough edges of the very first Star Trek movie (1979), featuring the original cast. Arguably the worst of the ten films, it at least put them in a relevant mindset. Now…at least one New Generation Hollywood production before exploring more t.v.-based content… These kids will not miss another Star Trek reference as they navigate the intricacies of American popular culture, begorrah!  (After all, one cannot be “salt and light” if one cannot culturally engage. I have seen this time and again…)

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Why Does the Quality of Education in Hawaiian Schools Consistently Fall at the Very Bottom in National Rankings?

Silence is Bliss. During this month, the Bride and I again lit upon our charming, historic, artsy local theater for a little live organ music accompanying a slurry of classic silent films (an annual treat). From “Fatty” Arbunkle and Buster Keaton to Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin, the black-and-whites resurrected the spirit of days gone by and prompted some hearty, if not healthful, chuckles. A belly-filling meal at a suspiciously affordable local sushi shop paved our way to the theater. (Why do the words “money laundering” flash across my brain pan with each maki-laden chopstick mouthful at this eatery?)

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One of My Okinawan Sweet Potato Slips for Sale

Exotics-R-Us. This month we began experimenting with the little, all natural miracles known as soap nuts to clean our clothes. (If you are unfamiliar with these Indian-origin delights, you simply must Google it.) We also began working to propagate the tree that produces these beauties, along with a number of otherworldly useful perennials from Africa, South Asia, and South America–neem and moringa trees, sacha and oyster nuts, cardomom and black pepper. As with all of our other nursery endeavors, many of these will land on our property to serve us for years to come (with any surplus bound for the farmers market, of course). I rather think of my nursery sales as “fee-based adoption”…these are my babies, after all.

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Now that’s a sink!

imageThe Abode.  In between the heavy Fall rains, our builders continue to push forward. We now have a tongue-and-groove wood floor in place, and sanded and sealed, for the yurt proper. We have begun to piece together appliances and, this month, settled on a hand-carved stone sink for the half-bathroom that will sit within the yurt portion of the residence.

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Just Needs a Few Persian Carpets (and walls)…

Provender and Palaver

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Gifted Heart of Palm

If you, longtime voyeurs of our saga, have not yet caught on–or you are a more recent initiate to our tale–this grand life adventure (like every pocket and recess of our being) is a food journey as much as anything. Worthy of special note this month, we were gifted a rare treat of fresh heart-of-palm by none other than….our butcher. (With more than four decades of eating under our belts now, and many a charcuterie board in our bellies, this was the first time we had noshed on this wonderment in fresh form, having previously only enjoyed it in its canned visage.)

This month, also gracing our table, and facilitating many a fine hour of leisurely discourse, were genuine, old-fashioned European rashers (a rare find here), smelts (both crispy fried and baked), an abundance of fresh rambutan (a freebie heaped on us by our CSA), curried bread fruit, and many other epicurean delights. God is good.

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Free Rambutan

And speaking of tuck and jawing, after many moons of conflicting schedules, we managed to break away one afternoon for a bit of a cookout at the home of church friends, relatively recent arrivals to the island (like us), who have four homeschooled kids (three girls and a boy, like us) matching in age, roughly, each of ours. (The three oldest among them are on campus together, the boys are paired up for physics class, and there is even some intersection on the paddling team.) The pleasant affair was capped off with a round of song and verse, celebrating the Faith.

And…find of all finds (for this very provincial community)…on a much-too-rare date night…we traipsed into an eatery of Indian design that scratched a long-standing itch for some high quality, ethnically diverse viand. Considering where we live, who would have guessed? From papadum to gulab jamon, and all the classic goodies in between, this place is stocked. They even have Bollywood classics rolling on screen. We left in a lhasi-induced euphoria and slept soundly under visions of mixed pickles, palak paneer, dal, gobi aloo, raita, paratha, and more. Is a cosmopolitan Hilo in our future?…

imageimageOh! Then there was our annual, in-house, family Oktoberfest (yes, the world-renowned tapping of the keg actually is in September). German potato salad crafted with the boy’s homemade vinegar was definitely a highlight this year, though the handcrafted apfelschmaltz on pumpernickel (“Goblin Farts,” for those who do not “sprecken ze deutsch”) was a crowd pleaser as well. Wee One again banged out some of the best soft, whole wheat (read “olde worlde”) bretzels known to man as the umpahpah music played on (thanks to Amazon Prime). (Frankly, for those of us who live in…polite cough…”less developed” environs today, Amazon Prime is like the British East India Company of olde…it brings accoutrements of “civilization” to expats in the far reaches of the planet, and without the associated oppression (“contrary to the objections of some economists, communists, and hippies,” the penman quips, tongue in cheek.)

Given our bifurcated Anglo-Sino heritage, we this month also marked the passing of the Mid-Autumn’s Festival. Although our schedules precluded an evening of repast complete with admiration of the full moon and lighting of lanterns, we heartily enjoyed moon cakes from Hong Kong, gifted by a Chinese church friend, and strong tea.

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A Parting Shot

I typically shy from political commentary. Just don’t have the time and energy and I’m likely to get myself in trouble. But let me be a little adventuresome here, eh? As an election official, voting citizen, landowner, and occasional thinker, at this juncture, I cannot but share in the general concern over our nation’s current state of political affairs.

“Anyone can become president,” is what they taught in grade school. Well…looking at the current candidates…I’d say that is true, with a caveat. Seems that just anyone, as long as they have money or connections (or both), can become president (or at least run for president). If there was ever a case for adopting plurality voting to dispel the myth of “wasting” votes on third-party candidates in a so-called “two-party system”…but I digress.

Grant me the liberty of asking, “Does any countryman out there believe that this year we will see on our ballots the very best minds, the truest moral compasses, the most adept leaders from within the borders of our nation?” Sigh… Then again, it was only back in 1811 that Joseph de Maistre quipped, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

Live long and prosper.

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