Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Kainoa Aqui

It's all in the name.

My grandson, Kainoa, emphatically punctuates the first sentence of today's post.

His name, after all, is just that:  THE NAME.

That's what his Hawaiian name means:  THE NAME.

On Sunday, December 26, 2011, the day after Christmas, on his 8th birthday, Kainoa was a name boldly announced and not easily forgotten.

As the golden-armed quarterback of the Raiders, Kainoa led his team to victories in both the semi-final and championship Play Sports Hawaii youth flag football games at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

Not bad, considering his only practice the previous week was playing catch with my brother-in-law, Wayne, and--yours truly--Kainoa's proud grandpa.  During that time, I was amazed at how well Kainoa threw the pigskin.  His short and wiry 7-year-old build belied an incredibly strong and accurate arm.  Like a Gatling gun, he tossed perfectly spiraled bullets that led me to believe there was a bull's eye painted on my chest.

More than once during our game of catch, I thought:  If he's this good now, what's he going to be like in high school?

I'll just have to return to Hawaii a decade from now and find out for myself.

For now, thanks to the efforts of his dad (and my son), Richie, I get to watch some spectacular previews of Kainoa's athletic prowess on YouTube.

I swear, you'd think I was watching the Super Bowl.

#11 Kainoa leads his team to the Play Sports Hawaii 


Rain Over Hanalei
(Photo courtesy of my son)

The incessant rain on Kauai underscores the need for improvisation and flexibility.

Last night, I made plans with my family to attend a Monday morning session in the Fifth Circuit courtroom of Judge Kathleen Watanabe in Lihue, the county seat of Kauai.  Judge Watanabe, the first female to hold that position on Kauai since Hawaii became a state, was appointed to the judiciary by Governor Linda Lingle and confirmed by a Senate vote five years ago.

Judge Watanabe also happens to be my sister.

Understandably, her appointment was a huge event for all of our family members.  I looked forward to someday sitting in her courtroom gallery and witnessing her preside over legal procedures.

Today, I realized my goal and thoroughly enjoyed watching my sister in action.

Because I've followed several of the cases in The Garden Island's online version, some of the courtroom players' names were familiar to me.  It was interesting to witness the interplay between judge, attorneys, defendants, and deputy sheriffs.  Although it was only a short morning session, maybe an hour and a half in length, I found the proceedings intellectually challenging and socially rewarding.

Judge Watanabe demonstrated fairness, firmness, compassion, and respect with all parties in the courtroom.

Behind the scenes, I witnessed how well she treats her staff.  I met the three principals who provide her with tremendous support-- her court clerk, law clerk, and judicial assistant.  Their warm greetings and friendly banter with my sister were evidence of their aloha and appreciation for her.  I am very grateful for the significant help and moral support they've given Kathleen.

I was privileged and awestruck to be invited to join my sister in her chambers.  Family photos adorned   a good portion of the magnificent judicial office.  In addition, I noticed a large and beautifully framed photograph of a sea turtle that one of our brothers had given her.  Another brother's floral picture was mounted on another sectiot of the wall.  Almost every square inch of her chambers was a tribute to loved ones.

A spirit of aloha fills Judge Watanabe's chambers.  Aloha for family.  Aloha for community.  Aloha for Kauai.  Aloha for the State of Hawaii.  Aloha for a Sovereign Deity who has blessed her with the opportunity to serve in a high ranking judicial position.

It was perhaps fitting that a magazine insert in The Garden Island on this very date carried a feature article on Judge Kathleen Watanabe.  Cosmic alignment never ceases to amaze me.

The experience of observing firsthand my sister at work was truly an honor for me.  The dual perspective of watching a prominent judicial official carrying out her professional responsibilities while reminiscing about our early years of growing up under humble and often challenging circumstances created huge emotional and spiritual waves within me.

I managed to surf each wave to a shore of prayerful thanksgiving.

John Grisham Courtroom Collection (The Pelican Brief / The Client / A Time to Kill / Runaway Jury)

Judges on Judging: Views from the BenchJudges on Judging: Views from the Bench

Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement, And Political Manipulation at America's Largest Charitable Trust (A Latitude 20 Book)

Hawaii State Court Judges: James Aiona, Nelson Doi, Steven H. Levinson, John Lanham, Walter Meheula Heen, Samuel Pailthorpe King, Ronald Moon

Thursday, December 23, 2010


The spiny lobster ('ula in Hawaiian) was given its name because of the spines pointing forward on its carapace (thick, hard shell) and antennae.  Readers of this blog who are more familiar with the huge-clawed Maine lobster will note that the spiny lobster lacks this formidable appendage.

Because of disregard for local laws and heavy fishing pressure, large spiny lobsters are no longer common.  To protect the species, harvesting is prohibited during the months of May to August.  Bruddah Charlie, my go-to guy for fishing Hawaiiana, shared with me that the local way to remember when one can legally catch lobsters is to fish for them only in the months that have the letter R.

Photo courtesy of Silas Kaumakahia Aqui
Spawning is an interesting process.  The male spiny lobster--stimulated by the female's pheromones--attaches a packet of sperm to the area near her reproductive opening.  A female spiny lobster produces up to a half million orange or reddish-colored eggs.  As the eggs leave her body, they become fertilized.  The resulting egg mass is held under her abdomen by unique appendages called swimmerets.  These swimmerets are also used to fan and aerate the growing embryos.

Female lobsters carrying eggs are called berried females.  It is against the law in Hawaii to capture egg-carrying female lobsters. 

Although the eggs will hatch in only a month's time, it will be almost a year before the widely scattered larvae begin to look like lobsters.

There are two main methods of catching lobsters in Hawaii.  One way is to dive for and grab them by hand.  Lobsters live on the reef or in protected shelves exposed to surge.

One can also set lobster nets.  As a young boy, I remember with great fondness my father taking my brothers and me down to the beach.  His targeted spots were areas that were shallow and only a few yards away from shore.  He would find an open channel--a sandy area with minimal wave action--and secure each end of the net to the rocks bordering each side of the channel.  As I recall (and this is going back fifty years, dear readers), the length of each net was approximately 60 feet.  I remember this because this is the distance between each base in Little League baseball.

Lobster nets were set in the late afternoon.  My father used both heavy rocks and metal hooks to anchor the nets.

Early the next morning, we would pull the nets in.  In the late '50's and '60's, we would average a harvest of forty to fifty pounds using three  to five nets.  Enough to feed our family for a few days and sell to others for some side money.

Photo courtesy of Silas Kaumakahia Aqui
The net itself was usually only 4 feet tall.  Lead weights at the bottom; wood floats on top.  To save money, my father smelted his own lead, using scrap metal he had found on the island.  Case in point:  the remnants of a movie theater that had been demolished in a hurricane.  He cut down hau bush* saplings and cut them to four-inch lengths and drilled holes down their core to construct floats.  (I have personally observed my father using an electric drill, approaching the core from both ends of the float, but Bruddah Charlie told me recently that he witnessed our father using a red hot metal rod to create the hole for the rope to pass through each float.)  Both lead and floats were spaced equidistantly about a yard apart along the length of the net.  The eye of a lobster net was larger than the eye of a fishnet.  Each eye, diagonally measured, was approximately four inches.

*     copyright 1994 - 2005 by Lynton Dove White

My father sewed his own nets.  With string, thin rope, and bamboo sewing needles purchased from a local fishing supply store, and using a measuring rectangular device made from either wood or metal, he would diligently work on each net following a long day at his regular job as a sugar plantation laborer (and, later, as a police officer).

As a young boy, I marveled to see how my father patiently crafted the net from a skein of string to the finished product--a strong and well-crafted lobster net--in just a few days.  My best recollection is that he had approximately a dozen of these nets.  He would rotate the usage of these nets depending on how many needed to be patched because of holes created by normal wear and tear, sharp reefs, crabs, and--I dared wonder--maybe even sharks?

On a recent evening when the Kauai sky was brilliantly illuminated by a full moon, Bruddah Charlie added to my admittedly limited knowledge about lobsters.  He said that lobsters are reluctant to crawl when it is too light outside.  They prefer foraging for food in the darkness.  So the best time to set lobster nets is when the moon is small.

Photo courtesy of Silas Kaumakahia Aqui
And what do lobsters eat?  Like many people, I thought lobsters were scavengers, eating only dead fish or scraps from another predator's dining.  In my research, I learned otherwise.  Lobsters actually enjoy the fresh seafood that coexist in close proximity to them.  They enjoy fish, mussels, clams, oysters, crabs, and--yes!--other lobsters!  Lobsters just love other lobsters...apparently, in more ways than one.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The heavy rainfall stubbornly accompanies my wife, young adult son and daughter, and me on this, our third of a dozen days in Hawaii. The irony doesn't escape us--we left an unusually mild and sunny Seattle only to enter an extremely wet and somewhat flooded Kauai.

Still, it has been a wonderful complement to the inclement island weather to spend indoor time visiting with loved ones, some of whom I have not seen for twelve years.

In the case of my beautiful grandsons, yesterday was the first time I had ever met them.

Eleven-year-old Keawe (kay-AH-vay), tall and slender with handsome features leaning more towards his mother's Japanese heritage, has a gentle and settled disposition. His lively soon-to-be-8-year-old sibling, Kainoa, darker-complexioned and equally becoming, reveals the rest of the ethnic mix on his rascal facial canvas--Hawaiian, Portugese, Filipino, and Okinawan...each ancestral link evident to the careful observer depending on Kainoa's current emotion.

From left to right:  Kainoa, Dylan, Amber, and Keawe
(Photo courtesy of Ryan)
For several years, my son, Richie, a Hawaii resident, has faithfully sent me photos of my grandsons. I have cherished each and every photo, simultaneously marveling at how these beautiful children are growing up while pining over missed opportunities to see them in person.

Yesterday, then, while the rain diligently fell over the emerald Garden Island, I finally got to meet the grandsons I had fallen in love with over a decade ago.

Honoring the pre-pubescent shyness of Keawe, I occasionally asked him questions about school, favorite activities, interests, and if he had a girlfriend. His answers were short as he concentrated on finding the shy housecat that had been eluding his brother, cousin, and him.  His broad shoulders and long feet were evidence of the growth spurt he is currently experiencing. When next I see him, he may very well be taller than me.

There was one moment when I caught Keawe by surprise, picked him up, put him over my shoulders, and swung him around for a few seconds. It was at once a meager attempt on my part to make up for a million grandpa moments and the culmination of a million I love you, firstborn grandchild! sentiments.

Outside, while the incessant drizzle continued, Kainoa and I tossed the football to each other.  I had seen Kainoa in action as a youth league quarterback on some YouTube videos Richie had sent me, but now I was able to experience firsthand the exhilaration of catching his surprisingly tight spirals.  He has an amazingly strong arm for his diminutive frame.  And his accuracy is immaculate.  He moves with a quickness, fluidity, and grace that is evident on athletes much older than him.  I shudder to think what results will emerge in just a few years.

"Who taught you to throw like this?"  I asked him in awe.  Without hesitation, he replied,  "Dad."  I was touched by and impressed with Kainoa's response. 

I was happy to observe my son and daughter engaging in conversation and fun activities with both grandsons.   It delighted me to see this interplay.  There was healing.  There was forgiveness.  There was joy!

From left to right:  Dylan, Keawe, Ryan, and Kainoa
(Photo courtesy of Amber)
The rain has momentarily stopped as I come to the end of this post.  Overhead, the sky is opaquely gray and promises to weep again at any moment.  I am familiar with this grayness.  It has indelibly marked my heart over the last five-plus decades. 

Finally, however, I sense a patch of blue that is both promising and hopeful. 

It is my earnest prayer that the azure will soon overwhelm the gray.

Hidden Kauai: Including Hanalei, Princeville, and Poipu (Hidden Travel)

my Grandson Photo Frame

The Keawe Name in History

YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day

Friday, December 17, 2010


Hanalei River
(Photo courtesy of Ryan)
In Greek mythology, the epic tale of Odysseus involved, in the aftermath of the ten-year war depicted in Homer's The Iliad, a return trip home to the protagnist's castle and queen that was fraught with tremendous adversity, challenges, and temptation-laden distractions.

This blog is a humble and light-hearted (albeit bittersweet) attempt to chronicle a similar trek home following decades of errant choices and behaviors.  The war Hawaiian Odysseus wages has more to do with inner conflicts.  It is not directly spoken of or even alluded to in his writings.  Nevertheless, the intuitive reader may at times sense the tone of sadness and loss that are interwoven within the thematic fabric of each post.

Not unlike the manner in which an oyster produces pearlescent beauty  as a result of struggling against an internal irritant, Hawaiian Odysseus discovers that there is redemption and grace in the cathartic  experience of writing one's truth.

Perhaps the best that can be expected and--yes--even hoped for is that there is triumph in the journey itself...that the mere ability to pick oneself up just one more time than one has fallen is evidence enough of the undeniable spirit of man.

Travels with Odysseus: Uncommon Wisdom from Homer's Odyssey

Three Simple Truths and Six Essential Traits for Powerful Writing: Book One - Novice

ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

Create Your Own Blog: 6 Easy Projects to Start Blogging Like a Pro

Thursday, December 16, 2010


You just knew it was going to be a good day whenever he sang in the shower.

As he was growing up, from the time he was old enough to take a shower on his own, he was singing. 

Contemporary ballads, light rock, classic Christian hymns, contemporary Christian, top 10.

If he heard a song he liked, he learned how to sing it almost immediately. 

That crystal talent extended itself to his attempts at playing instruments--alto sax, piano, guitar.  He would hear a song he liked, memorize the exact key, find a single resonating chord, and then painstakingly search for accompanying chords until, amazingly, he could recreate the song at will.

He was our son, and so we took much of that observable behavior for granted. 

In retrospect, his efforts bordered on musical genius.

But he never flaunted his talent.  On the contrary, he would often thank God for the special gift.  Mother would frequently tell him to not put a bushel over his talents.  She encouraged him, instead, to find a way to give back.

In high school and later at the university, he formed Christian groups that witnessed by way of music to hundreds, maybe thousands, of students, faculty and administration, families, and friends.  He and his group may very well have been instrumental in restoring wayward hearts to Christ.

We won't know this side of heaven what impact our actions may have had on others.  The chronicling nevertheless goes on...

There were times he admittedly didn't understand why he had such a passion for music.  There were even times when he honestly felt burnt out on the whole scene.

Still, he had this compulsion.  Like there was a personal guardian angel playing on his harp and puppeteering my son to make music.

I've not always been a good example to him.  In fact, there were many times when I loused the whole fatherly example-setting responsibility up.

Still, I've had my moments.  And like a son who refuses to give up until he masters the song, this stubborn fool refuses to give up until he masters the fathering. 

Because, the truth be told, my heart has been touched and mended and shown the way home via Ryan's ministry of music.

Like I said, I've had my moments.  The writing of this post is one of them.

God bless you, Ryan.  May you have thousands of days on this earth and thousands of years in eternity of singing in the shower.

(Clicking on the above link will provide you with access to eleven Five on Fire live contemporary Christian music video performances at Walla Walla University.)

(Clicking on the above link will provide you with access to four live secular music video performances at Walla Walla University.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Our guest blogger today is my brother, Charlie, all the way from the island of Kauai.  This is his very first attempt at blogging, and I think he did a standup job.  Way to go, Charlie!

(Photo courtesy of Charlie A.)

Joe, the picture says 40+.  Actual weight  is 41.5 lb. white ulua caught at Kahalani Beach, Wailua, Kauai.

The next picture with Ryan and Kai is of a 8.25# bluefin trevally.  Hawaiians call it omilu (papio, under 10#).  Aliomanu Beach, Anahola, Kauai.  Both fish were caught with tako (octopus) arm.

(Photo courtesy of Charlie A.) 
That's my nephew, Kai (brother Gerald's son), on the left, and my son, Ryan, on the right.)

I have a story about this fishing trip.  It started out being a picture perfect day.  My sister-in-law and my niece and nephew were visiting from the state of Washington.  Brother Gerald planned an outing down at the beach.  Mom and I, along with Gerald's family, chose Aliomanu as our destination. 

I can remember this day like it was yesterday. 

I rigged up my brand new Kelstar blank ulua pole with an extended 4/0 Penn reel.  Only a month of training on how to cast a conventional reel added some pressure when casting in front of the whole family.  If you're familiar with conventional reels, if you don't cast it correctly, you can mess up the line badly in the spool (it's called a bird's nest).  What happens is that the line comes out of the spool too fast and it bunches up, making all kinds of knots in the spool (a headache to untangle), and instead of getting a cast of 20 yards or more,  you end up with  5 feet or less. 

As I made my cast, I looked back, and everyone was watching as I made one of the biggest bird's nests of my life.  The lead and tako arm landed less than 10 feet in front of me.  It was one of the most embarrassing moments of fishing I have ever experienced. 

So, there I was, standing on the rocks trying so desperately to untangle my huge bird's nest so I can make up for that horrible cast. 

When I untangled the last knot,  the line was so bad it broke. 

As I was looking into the water where the bait landed, I saw this fluorescent blue.  I looked again and I couldn't believe my eyes--the omilu papio was eating the tako arm! 

Quickly, I made a blood knot.  As soon as I had completed the knot, the fish took off!  I was in disbelief, screaming for Gerald to get the gaff. 

As the fish made a run towards the shore, Gerald gaffed it and the rest was history.

Wow!  And the fascinating thing about this fish tale is that it's true.  The bird's nest catch was Charlie's first success at fishing for papio.  The top photo is a reflection of how much progress he eventually made, and continues to make, fishing for giant trevally, or ULUA (ooh-LOO-ah).  Thanks, Charlie!  Looking forward to future posts from you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


When my 18-year-old daughter was a little girl, she would occasionally announce to her mother, brother, and me that she and the neighbor girl were soon to be performing their latest dance routine.  We were encouraged to be on time and comfortably seated on our lawn chairs as soon as possible. 

The stage?  Our family trampoline in the backyard.

We would arrive just minutes ahead of Alicia's grandparents, our landlord neighbors.  Sometimes, a neighborhood kid or two would also be part of the sitting on the grass only audience.

For the next fifteen minutes or so, we were mesmerized by the surprisingly gifted choreography that both little girls had prepared for us.  Part exercise protocol, part cheerleading, part acrobatics, and part dance, their well-practiced, very creative, and wonderfully in sync routine provided us with engaging entertainment that would not soon be forgotten. 

A rousing ovation sprinkled with cheers of delight would follow their wonderful performance.

It wasn't So You Think You Can Dance. 

It was definitely better!

This proud daddy marveled at the miracle God had packaged up, pretty in pink, beautiful like her mom but also unique in her own right.  Like having so much familiarity and so much otherworldly stranger all mixed into one. 

And I was blessed and spoiled to be my little girl's biggest hero!

Those days don't last forever.  I wish a future me could have lovingly warned me that little girls grow up all too quickly...and that in the rock and roll upheaval known as adolescence, the staunchest of heros can sometimes be zeros.

Until a moment arrives when all the gifts of those little girl memories come rushing back in full fruition...

Case in point:  This wonderful video of her ministry at her high school.  She is the choreographer as well as the principal performer.

What you see is the recently emerged young adult.

What I see, indelibly inscribed in my heart, is a little girl dancing on a trampoline.


(Photo courtesy of Silas Kaumakahia Aqui)

Once again, I am beholding to my brother, Charlie, for sending me a couple of pictures that feature his favorite sea catch--octopus--but also piqued my curiosity about the UHU (pronounced OOH-hoo), or parrotfish, the top fish in the  photo above.  (By the way, the octopi and fish were photographed in the kitchen sink.)

The one thing I've always known about the uhu is that it is a delicious fish.  My mom made a wonderful soup with it.  We also ate it raw, chopped up and marinated with chili peppers, salt, and seaweed, a concoction known as poki to the locals.

But what's fascinating are the things I learned about it just today after doing some casual research.

The uhu I remember seeing in my youth were approximately 10 to 12 inches in length.  But a lot of these reef fish can grow to three feet in length.  Amazingly, there is a South Pacific species of parrotfish that measure up to six feet.

The uhu in the photo is most likely an adolescent.  As it matures, it metamorphosizes into a beautiful aquamarine-hued fish.  Adorned in magnificent greens and blues, the uhu is easily one of the more striking inhabitants of the coral reef.

While primarily a herbivore, the uhu's parrot-like fused teeth are used like a rasp to scrape and ingest morsels of living coral.  A collection of plates in its throat--pharyngeal teeth--grind the coral into microscopic pieces, later eliminated as a fine powder by the uhu.  True to the natural order of balance in an ecosystem, the uhu is thus an important reef eroder as well as a significant producer of sand.  In fact, it is estimated that a large uhu can, in its lifetime, create a ton of sand.

My father, brothers, and I employed a form of fishing known as torching.  Equipped with a Coleman lantern seated on a wooden platform which we wore on our chests, and armed with trident spears, we would walk the reefs at night and spear several species of fish from above. 

The uhu is a diurnal (active during the daytime) creature and sleeps at night.  It secretes a mucousy substance that envelops it like a coccoon.  Some scientists believe that this chemical masks its scent and thus protects it from night predators.  Other researchers posit that this mucous serves as an anti-parasitic agent, thus protecting the uhu in a different kind of way. 

As brilliantly colored as this fish is, the mucous could not protect it from us diligent reef fishermen.