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Friday, June 30, 2023

Today’s Prime Rate is 8.25%

Aloha Everyone,

Our motto since retirement is we do our transactions in cash or with debit card which we will pay off the balance at the end of each month. In other words, if it’s beyond our affordability, we don’t purchase. 

Today’s prime rate as published by Bank of America is 8.25%. For borrowers accustomed to paying low rates of 3.5 to 5.5 %, this is a sharp jump. For first time homebuyers making the down payment is becoming more challenging.

So here is an old story we heard as retold by Jeff.

About twenty years ago, there was a couple who had pitched tents side by side at the Ala Moana Beach Park. The couple used the public showers every morning, got dressed in business attire, and walked to a bus stop. Curious, a passerby approached the couple and asked them where they go every day. They revealed that they are both attorney's and decided to live in a tent until they could save enough money for a down payment on a house.

With prime interest rates so high, it is quite possible that people will need to resort to such extreme measures once again.

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Symphony of the Seas, World’s Biggest Cruise Ship

Aloha Everyone,

Exciting news for us cruisers: Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas has a long list of boasting points compared to other cruise liners.  

The have 7 distinct neighborhoods on board headed by tree-lined Central Park. For families with children there will be a 10-story water slide, splash away Bay Kids water pool and a Solarium.  These sounds like winners.

European and Caribbean itinerary Maiden Voyage which is pre-sold is scheduled for next spring.  

While our Oceania Regatta was docked in Juneau, Alaska, J.J. and I saw Harmony of the Seas, the smaller sister ship of Symphony of the Seas. Depending on our cruising schedules, the two of us would love to sail on the world’s biggest ocean liner.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Rendezvous With My Sister

Aloha Everyone,

Our meeting place was Carlsbad Premium Outlet mall. She drove down from the South Bay area to meet us. With ongoing horse races and California State Fair, traffic was heavy in the vicinity of Del Mar while driving on I-5.  

It was past 11:30 am when the 3 of us arrived at the designated meeting restaurant, Motto Japanese Grill. Post COVID challenges are repeated everywhere. Many establishments were closed and only a few sit-down restaurants are open for lunch.

Cafeteria style, you place and pay for your order and your service number is on the receipt. J.J. had Miso Ramen with a side of gyoza while my sister and I chose the healthier platter of shrimp and vegetables tempura combination with salmon, rice, miso soup and linguine salad Asian-style :-). The quality of food was ordinary and for the 3 of us, it was $70 inclusive of mandatory tip and tax. Jeff said that for similar food, we will pay 30% more in Hawaii.

My sister and I speak with each other at least twice a day, but we still had so much to share. As for shopping, J.J. decided he prefers to shop online and so did my sister. I was in a market to shop for a couple of items but unfortunately, they had no PXS size for me.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Miracle Flight

Aloha Everyone,

People are enterprising. The two of us have witnessed many times where able-bodied people use wheelchairs to get ahead of cues. We often see them at airports but also in restaurants offering buffet.

Southwest Airlines is one of the US budget airlines. Their prices are cheap with no frills offered. Southwest Airlines has no seat reservations.

A flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida had 20 people in wheelchairs at the gate. However, upon landing, only 3 people needed wheelchair assistance. 17 others walked off the airplane unaided. Someone sarcastically calls it a miracle flight.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Revolt in Russia and Titan Submersible

Aloha Everyone,

During the past 12 hours, many of us were captivated by the bizarre event unfolding in Russia. Chaotic and fast moving, is it a real revolt by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of Russian mercenaries, the Wagner Group?

Head of states, diplomats and ordinary people like us lost sleep, although everyone was helpless as to what can be done.

Was a complicated deal struck between Vladimir Putin and Prigozhin? Who really brokered the deal, if any? Where are the key players? Are they in hiding? Would there be retribution which could draw neighboring countries into war?  

Discussing different scenarios and consequences for individual Americans is a fascinating topic. As of this writing, there is a feeling of anticlimax. Even the experts are guessing as to what happened.

While the news was mostly about Russia, the US Coast Guard kept searching for the Titan Submersible with 5 people on board. Sadly, it suffered an implosion and everyone on board were killed.

Maintain your equilibrium, rejoice our daily blessings and hug your family and friends today!

Aloha -- Cathi

Friday, June 23, 2023

Public Schools Are Closing

Aloha Everyone,

Is there a single individual who is responsible to make decision on which campuses and classrooms should be closed? Why are some schools under-performing? Is it due to funding shortages or are there inherent challenges with parents and students due to the neighborhood they reside which impacts their economic and social backgrounds?

For example, New York City Public Schools has nominated 19 schools for closure by Mayor Bloomberg. Reason given is poor academic performance. Since 2002, New York City has closed or in the process of closing 91 schools. (Source: New York Times)

What happen to students, parents and teachers who fall victims to budget shortfalls that conflict with eagerness of administration to boost student performance, improve scores on standardized tests and graduation rates?

Such crisis could potentially usher new opportunities. Enterprising real estate firms, architectural companies and individuals are converting former schools and classroom by promoting as one-of-a-kind residences.

With 76 million Baby boomers in retirement and many needing Assisted Living Facilities, creative ways of using closed schools and classrooms into living, teaching and learning centers are interesting and promising.

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, June 22, 2023

San Diego, Place for Fitness Enthusiasts

Aloha Everyone,

Early morning hours, just when the dawn is breaking is the prettiest time to walk at the Nobel Park. By 7:00 am, the main field is occupied by a school aged soccer team, adults of all ages and physical abilities engaged in various sports, and tiny tots with parents and grandparents cheering on from the sidelines.

Pickup basketball, frisbee, dog trainers, dog walkers, Taichi group were all busy enjoying the sunny weather and camaraderie. For those of us who enjoy solo walking, it’s a period to contemplate and relish life! 

One group sitting in a pavilion were not involved in any sporting activities. Perhaps they were assembled not for physical fitness but as a social activity.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Sustainable Program by the San Diego Public Library

Aloha Everyone,

District wide, San Diego Public Library’s mission is to bring awareness to climate change. For the month of June, the San Diego Public Library system has several programs aimed at all ages.

At the Nobel Athletic Fields and Recreation Center, I participated in Story Stroll. This is one of my daily walking paths while we are in La Jolla.

There were 17 panels posted in the ground for walkers to follow. Exposed to elements for nearly a month, colors have faded leaving predominantly magenta hues.

I am happy to note that some parents I saw with baby strollers took time not just to stop and look but used the displays as a means to become aware about the climate change. Colors of the sky, trees, leaves, flowers and any live animals such as birds and cottontail rabbits can open up a world of wonders for infants.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Packing Day

Aloha Everyone,

Packing Day is a good chance to get rid of things we will not be using. My three woolen caps are serviceable, but nothing special. I decided to donate them.

Jason works at the pharmacy in the Walmart Neighborhood Store. We are grateful of his ability to reorder our prescriptions from our doctors and have them ready to meet our travel schedules.

J.J. made several trips to Honu while I finished packing our 3 suitcases including two for our travels and the last one for extra items. Last one will stay in Honu.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, June 19, 2023

National Geographic Investigate

Aloha Everyone,

We watched 3 segments of National Geographic Investigate program.

At Christ Church Airport in New Zealand, there were clear signages that bringing any fresh fruits into the country is illegal. Bio security inspectors and their canine team are prepared to catch any passenger who will break the law.  Their aim is to prevent any fruit fly from entering into the country that can destroy the country’s fruits.

Ignoring clearly posted signs of US$400 fines, a passenger from UK on his way to Sydney, Australia was caught smuggling an orange in his jacket pocket. His excuse of being diabetic and require orange to boost his low sugar level didn’t work. His fruit was confiscated and he was required to pay the fine before being allowed to board his flight.

San Yisidro is a check Point located in San Diego, California. This is an entry port to and from Mexico. J.J. and I have driven through this area numerous times. 70,000 vehicles per day within a 24 hours period pass here. Amazing undertaking of how the border patrols could zoom into suspects and hopefully apprehend them before illegal drugs and contrabands enter the USA.

Madrid Barabas Airport border is manned by the Spanish National Police to watch for cocaine trafficking and illegal immigrants. Flights from Bogota, Columbia are carefully scrutinized. Colombia’s cocaine production is estimated at 1,000 tons per year. Smugglers, also known as Mules, are so desperate for money that they swallow rubber packets of cocaine. The two of us have used this airport. Interesting to see what goes on behind the airport scene.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Happy Father’s Day!

Aloha Everyone,

Great food, great company and lots of laughter, our Father’s Day combined with Aidan’s graduation party was a huge success.

I think we all ate more than usual including me. I indulged myself with extra servings of fruits and chocolate :-/

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, June 17, 2023


Aloha Everyone,

Aidan just graduated from Millikan High School in Long Beach. He is the 2nd born of my niece Jennifer’s 4 sons.

Aidan at 17 is good natured, sociable, outgoing and a wonderful conversationalist, which means he is a good listener.

Aidan is athletic. He earned a black belt in Taekwando and teaches small children martial arts. He also played volleyball as a setter for Millikan’s JV team.

Aidan excels in music, playing several instruments. I love to listen to him play the cello. During the 2023 Spring Concert of the Millikan Symphony Orchestra concert, Aidan played an 8 1/2 minutes long piece from memory.

Aidan will be attending Cal State Long Beach in Honors Program on Academic Scholarship majoring in computer science with a possible music minor. Whatever Aidan decides to pursue, his path is bright as a promising, multi-faceted, multi-talented young man.

Congratulations to Aidan, to his parents, grandparent and his 3 brothers!

Aloha -- Cathi

Friday, June 16, 2023

Honu Gets Wash & Wax

Aloha Everyone,

Madrona Chevron Car Wash is located at the corner of Madrona and Sepulveda. Driving time from our hotel took only 5 minutes.

There were lines of smaller vehicles having interiors vacuumed before going to the automatic car wash.

Honu’s size meant that washing and waxing had to be done manually.  

The two of us walked over to Target located at the adjacent property and decided to wait. We spent the next two hours walking around the store with a shopping list. After repeatedly walking one lane after the next, J.J. commented that we must be on their security cameras :-). It was not all just killing time.  I was able to find pairs of socks for my daily walk.

Madrona Chevron Car Wash did a great job. Honu is shiny and clean. This was a well-worth the $300 we paid. J.J. tipped the two men assigned to Honu leaving them with big smiles.

Back at our hotel, Honu is parked away from our usual preferred stall. For now, we rather be away from overhanging branches with birds, squirrels dropping unwelcome presents.

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Satellite AutoGlass Unsatisfactory Result

Aloha Everyone,

Honu’s windshield chip was small, less than a size of dime. It occurred about 4 years ago driving on an interstate highway as a truck carrying gravels sped by us and several pebbles bounced and slammed into Honu.

Since that time we had a stop gap sticker that was given to us by another windshield repair company.

Instead of repairing the original chipped section, two technicians at Satellite AutoGlass enlarged the crack. It now has two thin threads spreading to right and left. Weak excuse of “more than likely the repair we did should hold” is not acceptable.

We try to learn good lessons from each misfortunes we face. Clearly the two of us could have done better communicating with the technicians. If the replacement of the entire windshield becomes necessary, the estimated cost is $1,500 - $2,000.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Busy Schedule

Aloha Everyone,

Yesterday, J.J. and I dropped off our laundry. For washing, drying, folding, it is well worth the amount we paid. Cost has increased approximately 15%. When I mentioned to my friend Vita, she said, “Cathi you are spoiled. You could do your own laundry at your hotel.” True, but I rather reserve my time for more “fun” activities!

Our hotel room was professionally cleaned today. In the meantime, J.J. and I went in searching for a service to repair Honu’s chipped windshield, as well as an RV wash and wax. We have 11:30 am appointment tomorrow at Safelite Auto Glass.  RV wash and wax is on Friday at 8:00 am. It will take 3 to 4 hours.

As for my diet, I try to achieve different looks using a rather limited number of ingredients.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Cruise Ships Not Welcome

Aloha Everyone,

During our recent cruise to Alaska, we experienced anti-cruise ship sentiments from local groups including ingenious First People. They would like tourists' business but also want to preserve their own culture, natural beauty for future generations. There is no doubt a conflict of interest for visitor industry vs community. One cannot define who is right or wrong. 

Norway’s fjords have changed their character since the time J.J. and I visited. So have the canals of Venice and the grand piazza in Florence, Italy. Politicians and citizens of Barcelona has been outspoken about their anti-tourist sentiments. Yet, tourist money is what sustain monumental projects like the Sagrada de La Familia, and other Gaudi’s genius showcases.

When Jeff, our son, asked me how I feel about the difficulty to go back to see the fjords in Norway, my answer is that I am grateful that we were able to enjoy it when we were younger. One cannot turn back the clock. There are still more places to discover, especially with smaller cruise ships and river cruises. So, our travels shall continue.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, June 12, 2023

Ryanair, The Ultra Low-cost Airline

 Aloha Everyone,

Ryanair DAC is headquartered in Swords, Dublin, Ireland. Founded in 1984, it is the top of the list when searching for cheap airfares.

If you are a budget traveler it may be worth looking into Ryanair. Really cheap prices have a downside. Everything one expects to be included from airlines are charged extra. You pay for baggage, more leg room, and for having a laptop and mobile devices. No food or beverage services unless you are willing to pay for it.

Ryanair is a relatively reliable airline. Once you are uncomfortably seated in your tiny seat, the chances are you will eventually get to your destination. Forget about receiving any compensation for delays, being bumped due to overbooking, their customer service phone lines are not easy to reach. J.J. was relaying a situation which he saw posted on a social media. For a small bottle of water, the passenger was charged about US$3.75. This price is what we pay inside airport shops. To be able to get sips of water for the remainder of her flight, she purchased a can of soda but asked for a glass of ice and transferred melted water into her empty water bottle. Ingenuity out of necessity.

The two of us have flown Southwest Airlines from Phoenix to Los Angeles. That was one no-frill budget plane ride we can recall. Four years ago, I remember it wasn’t too bad. Cramp but it was a short flight.

Today we have gotten accustomed to Business Class seats. J.J. needs reclining seats for his bad back and a flatbed for long overseas flight. Some flights we take are more than 10 hours nonstop.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, June 11, 2023

California Jaywalking Law

Aloha Everyone,

Since January 1 of this year, jaywalking is legal in California. Signed by Governor Newsom last September, the reasoning behind the law makes sense. For example, pedestrians crossing against the light or outside of a designated crosswalk, one can cross the road provided that there is no immediate chance of a collision with a moving vehicle.

If I leave our hotel before 7 am on my daily walk, chances of encountering vehicular traffic are very slim. On my 2nd time around, usually between 7:30 - 8:00 am, commuters are on the roads. By my 3rd, after 8:00 am, students, bikers, scooters all compete for sidewalks. I must be extra cautious when crossing sidewalks even with stop signs. The new jaywalking laws do not provide any protection.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Lunch with J.J.’s Cousins

Aloha Everyone,

Asia Buffet is a large restaurant located in downtown Knotts’ Berry Farm. Led by iPhone map app, it took us a little over hour and a half to find the place. Asia Buffet’s large choices of prepared and made-to-order food is extensive.  Regular diners knew exactly what they would choose on their first go around — most popular were crabs, shrimps, sushi, salmon, pampano, pork, and chicken. I had to go around twice noting the vast choices as I took photos.

The two of us always have a great time seeing J.J.’s cousins. They gave us updates on the family, such as who have gotten married and who are expecting children in the coming months. J.J. and I also shared with them stories from our most recent cruises.

Here are my two servings from the Asia Buffet lunch. First one I completed with grilled salmon, shrimp, string beans and kangkong (Chinese cabbage). My second plate was more difficult to prepare as there was so many great choices of fruits, jello, Filipino sweets and mouth-watering ice creams. For such an excellent quality meal, $25 per person charge is very reasonable.

The four of us made a tentative plan for our next lunch date after we return from our stay in La Jolla.

Aloha -- Cathi