December 21, 2007

I Know It’s Sun Setting To Say Goodbye

Filed under: sunset clouds waves stockton avenue birds — geoff @ 1:14 am

Well, here we are together for the last photo blog of 2007. And in honor of today’s winter solstice, which means it will be the shortest day of the year, this will also be the shortest blog of the year. Short and California Suite as I prepare to head out to Palm Desert for ten days of peace, love and movies.

Winter solstice officially begins in the northern hemisphere at 1:08 am on Saturday the 22nd, which is 10:08 pm on the west coast. Following the winter solstice, the days grow longer and the nights shorter. On December 21st there will be 24 hours of daylight south of the Antarctic Circle, 24 hours of darkness north of the Arctic Circle, and 24 hours of reruns on the networks because of the holidays and the writer’s strike.

A birthday greeting goes out to my old pal Steve Margolin who turns 55 on Saturday. He has been a tremendous friend as we go way back-basketball in our childhood, midnight runs for beef lo mein and sweet and sour chicken in Chinatown, New York and sweet pastries in the bakeries of Amsterdam-he is my oldest friend who I knew before there was history.

Here’s a winter solstice joke courtesy of my no-look passing son Jason. The doctor told his patient, “I want you to take one of these orange pills with a glass of water first thing in the morning; then I want you to take one of these yellow pills with a glass of water immediately after lunch; and I want you to take one of these green pills with a glass of water last thing at night.” “What exactly is the matter with me?” asked the patient. The doctor said, “You’re not drinking enough water.”

I hope these blogs have filled you with California’s magnificent beauty, inspiring, thought-provoking information and most importantly, lots of laughter. So enjoy this lovely Stockton Avenue sunset from November 29th and have a happy and healthy holiday season. Sunrise Santa Cruz will return on January 7th with a blog I guarantee you will enjoy. 2008 is going to be wild and I’m glad all of you will be along for the ride. Mahalo, aloha and I’ll catch you in the new year.

December 20, 2007

Hawaii The Long Face?

Good morning and welcome to Aloha Thursday at Sunrise Santa Cruz. For today’s laua of love I was going to blast out of beautiful sunrise from last Sunday but since we’re talking our 50th state I thought we’d go with some free throws from the south Pacific. Or maybe it’s because I keep hearing the voice of Jack Lord saying over and over, “Book em, Dano.” That’s a little “Hawaii Five-O” talk for your mainlanders.

These pictures are from lovely Sunset Beach which is located on the north shore of Oahu. Sunset Beach is one of the locations for the Triple Crown of Surfing along with Pipeline and Waimea Bay where the waves are monster huge in wintertime. These shots were taken during the summertime when the swell is as gentle as a lamb shank. The first shot of Sunset gives you a good idea of the what this gorgeous beach is all about. Then it’s my daughter Aimee in a tidepool, some rainbow action, sunrise at Sunset, another rainbow and sunset at Sunset. The only things that’s missing are the trade winds and some teriyaki sauce.

Last week I wrote about my home state of New Jersey. Today I’m going to toss out a few facts about the state I wish I could call my homey. Hawaii consists of eight main islands that were formed when under-sea volcanoes erupted thousands of years ago. The islands are the most isolated population center on the face of the earth. Hawaii is 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China, 5,260 from the Philippines and light years away from Omaha, Nebraska. From east to west Hawaii is the widest state in the U.S., not including Charles Barkley.

Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee but one of 50 that serves ice tea. More than one-third of the world’s commercial supply of pineapples come from Hawaii. Hawaii was the 50th state admitted to the union on August 20th, 1959. Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time.) There is no daylight savings and time runs two hours behind us here in California. But really, if you live in this tropical paradise and you are cruising around everyday in a bathing suit and flips flops then you are light years away from any mainland inner city urban experience.

Hawaii is a warm water paradise. The wind blows east to west and the warmest temperature ever recorded on the islands was 96 degrees at a coconut stand in downtown Honolulu. Temperatures are usually 72 to 82 degrees with trade winds that blow late in the afternoon to let you know you are in paradise. Even when it rains it’s a warm shower. Sometimes it rains and there’s not a cloud in sight. They call it liquid rain, which is not to be confused with a liquid lunch.

The island of Kauai is home to Waialeale Mountain, which averages 488 inches of rain per year and is considered the wettest spot on earth. The Big Island of Hawaii at 800,000 years old is the youngest of the island chain. It was the first island discovered by voyaging Polynesians and is home to Kilauea, the world largest and most active volcano besides Texas Tech basketball Coach Bobby Knight. Two of the tallest mountains in the Pacific-Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa-dominate the center of this island. Most of the world’s macadamia nuts are grown here and the island is the worldwide leader in harvesting macadamia nuts, orchids and Big Island t-shirts. Orchids grow wild on this island. The Big Island is also home to more scientific observatories in one place than anywhere else in the world and houses the world’s biggest telescope. All I can say is if I lived in that neighborhood I would definitely keep my window shades down at night.

That’s our hula dancer’s show for today. I hope you enjoyed our look at Magnum P.I.’s old stomping grounds and my daughter’s favorite vacation spot. So enjoy the final day of Fall 2007 and check back tomorrow for our last blast of the year. It will have all the colors of a Sunset Beach rainbow and more.

December 18, 2007

The Few, The Proud, The Marine Sanctuary

Good morning and welcome to our midweek version of what my brother Brad describes as the hybrid of photo blogs. Originally I thought he said rye bread and I was slightly confused. Anyway, we’re going to break up the streak of sunrise/sunset experiences and go with something different today. Kind of a Kellogg’s snack-pak of shots that I never blasted out.

The first photo is of a great blue heron I took last week over here on the westside. Number two is a baby blue jay that found itself stuck in my backyard and was about as happy as Scooter Libby was on “Bring A Scapegoat To Work Day.” The third shot is a butterfly who dropped in for some lemonade and a scone. The next shot is straight out of my backyard as these wild-looking flowers belong to a tiger passion vine. Next we go back up to Rodoni’s farm on the north coast for the multi-colored pumpkin pic. We end this variety pack with a jump shot from the shoreline of Natural Bridges. I call this photo “Four Japanese Girls Jumping In The Air At Sunset.” I guess variety is the spice of life. Or is it nutmeg?

So what do all these photos have in common? Well, they were all shot within a mile of Monterey Bay. Which leads us to today’s timely topic. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a federally protected marine area offshore of the central California coast. Stretching from Rocky Point in Marin County to the town of Cambria in San Luis Obispo County, the MBNMS encompasses a shoreline of 276 miles and 5,322 square miles of ocean. Supporting of one the world’s most diverse ecosystems, it is home to numerous mammals, seabirds, fishes, invertebrates, plants, and a sunrise photographer in a remarkably productive coastal environment.

The NBNMS was established in 1992 for the purpose of resource protection, research, education and public use of this national treasure. Monterey Bay is part of the nation’s largest marine environment. The Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary is larger than Yosemite or Yellowstone National Park. The Monterey Canyon itself is similar to the size of the Grand Canyon (wow!), but offers fewer mule trips to the floor of the canyon. The sanctuary features a rich array of habitats including rugged rocky shorelines and captivating kelp forests. Because of the amazing biodiversity, the region has the highest concentration of marine institutes and varieties of clam chowder in the world.

These cold, nutrient-rich waters provide perfect habitat for the towering undersea kelp forests. They rival rain forests and tropical coral reefs for their biological richness. Brown pelicans, cormorants, loons, loony tunes and sea lions feast on the small fish and other sea life living in the kelp forests. The Sanctuary encompasses some of the world’s most spectacular submarine canyons and complex geology.

Scientists estimate that 90% of deep-sea species are bioluminescent, so we’re talking about a deep sea light show extravaganza. Unlike most communities on earth that rely on sunlight as their primary energy source, cold-deep communities derive chemical energy from fluids that seep from the sea floor. And speaking of the sea floor where I do most of my underwater banking, sand dollars form dense beds that can cover an area of greater than 1,000 square meters. The smaller sand quarters, nickels and dimes are there just to make change.

The major kelp forests along the central California coast are there partly because of sea otters. Sea urchins eat giant kelp and otters eat sea urchins. Where urchins abound, it’s hard for the new giant kelp plants to survive and grow. But by controlling sea urchins, sea otters help kelp forests thrive. The beauty and high biodiversity of kelp forests make them among the most scenic dive sites in the world. Giant kelp is commercially harvested for algin, a natural emulsifier used in cosmetics and ice cream, which are then used in the flavors, Double Algae Nut Fudge, Cookies n’ Algae, and my personal favorite, Chunky Monkey Algae.

At Lighthouse Point the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary waters are dramatically different depending on the season. The waves blast the bluffs and the beaches, eroding large chunks of cliff that break up to become sand. Waves and currents transport the sand onto beaches or sandbars just offshore. During the summer the waters are calmer as the gentle waves push the sand back onto the shore, recreating the beautiful beaches. Of course, summer time means foggy mornings and clear skies at sunset. That’s why I love the fall and wintertime on Monterey Bay. It is prime time for me and my Canon Digital Rebel. Nothing like a middle-aged boy and his camera

So that’s all she wrote for today. Enjoy the variety and the colors and we’ll catch you tomorrow.

December 17, 2007

Katmandu Got Your Tongue?

Filed under: boardwalk lighthouse clouds arch sea anenome sunset — geoff @ 4:40 pm

Good morning and welcome to day two of the sunrise/sunset siege that will finish off December. Today we will go back to the afternoon of November 12th, with some outstanding cloud action on the cliff. We followed these clouds from Cowell’s Beach to Lighthouse Point and then on to my favorite arch at Its Beach. If you look closely in the third shot you can see my favorite four-legged companion Summer taking a dip in the kiddie pool under the arch. The fourth shot features a gaggle of sea anemones getting ready for the holidays and the rest is just arch madness. As I said before, when this arch collapses, all that will be left is a sea stack and a lot of memories. And these photos.

Do you ever feel like you’ve been fired unfairly from a job? Well, I haven’t but I’m pretty sure there’s something reading this who has. Well, let’s look at the life of Sajani Shakaya, age 10, who until recently, was a living goddess, one of a dozen such goddesses in Nepal who are considered earthly manifestations of the Hindu deity Kali. A few months ago, Sajani visited Washington to help promote a documentary about the living goddesses of the Katmandu Valley. Often dressed in a red and gold gown, she visited an elementary school, went on a private tour of the White House, was feted by the Nepalese embassy and pitched an inning of relief for the Baltimore Orioles.

All that, however, was apparently too much for a group of Hindu and Buddhist priests in her hometown of Baktapur, which I believe is right next to Backtofirst. They stripped Sanaji of her title, saying that leaving Nepal to visit the United States had rendered her impure, according to Ishbel Whitaker, the director of the documentary, “Living Goddess.”

“Everyone was shocked and saddened,” says Whitaker, who spoke to Sajani on her iPhone. “The whole purpose of the trip to America was to share Nepal and its traditions with the world.” That and to visit Dollywood, take in a few Broadway shows and see what had become of the Olsen twins.

The goddesses of the Katmandu Valley are chosen when they are between 4-7 years old from a Buddhist caste, though they represent a Hindu deity. This is an example of the harmony that exists between the two religions in Nepal. Devotees believe the goddess Kali inhabits the girls, though they do not exhibit any unusual behavior besides a craving for dark chocolate Milky Ways.

This custom of worshiping a pre-pubescent girl, who is not born a goddess is much like a reoccurring dream I had back in nursery school. According to Fodor’s “Guide to Goddesses,” these girls are screened on their 32 attributes of perfection. Her body has to be as sturdy as a Banyan tree, she must have thighs like a deer, a neck like a conch-shell and a small and moist tongue. Her skin must be blemish free, her hair and eyes very black, she must have dainty hands and feet and her sexual organs must be small and recessed. She must also have a set of 40 teeth, have never been hurt or shed blood and have a crystal clear voice so as to be able to belt out show tunes like “Oklahoma” or “Annie Get Your Gun” on command.

To reach this goddess status, the young contestants are taken to meet the deities in a dark room where they try to scare the crap out of them through terrifying tantrik rituals, much like my junior high graduation party. The real goddess is the one who stays calm, cool and collected throughout the trials. After the ceremony, the spirit of the goddess is said to enter her body. She takes on the clothing and jewelry of her predecessor and is given the title Kumari Devi, who is worshiped on all occasions, much like New England Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady.

The Kumari godhood comes to an end at the first menstruation, because it is believed on reaching puberty that Kumari turns human. However, if she turns out to be unlucky, even a minor cut or bleeding can render her invalid for worship and a search for a new goddess begins. That’s why her best friend is a Band-Aid.

One final note on these royal youngsters. There is a belief that a man who marries an ex-goddess may die within six months. If that’s the case, gentlemen, here’s a word of advice. Enjoy the honeymoon.

So that’s our look at some traditions from high up in the Himalayas. And here’s a blog update for those of you who haven’t scaled Mount Everest. If you want to leave a comment I’ve made it a lot simpler. You don’t have to belong to any group like Google, the Elks or the Raccoons. Just leave your comment and then go on with the rest of your day. It’s very easy, like Sunday morning. So enjoy the cloud action, the arch and go to the glass hard. We’ll catch you on the rebound.

December 16, 2007

You’re Letting These Clouds Your Judgement

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 5:05 pm

Birthday week continues here at Sunrise Santa Cruz as today we are featuring the sunrise from last Wednesday, the day 55 years ago that I left the warm comfort of the amniotic spa to enter the world of “The Honeymooners,” “The Phil Silvers (Sergeant Bilko) Show” and baby formula. It is a transition that I am just starting to get comfortable with as I know longer wonder happened to my umbilical cord.

This sunrise sonata started out on a chilly morning at Lighthouse Point. I then ventured up the steps to West Cliff Drive and Steamer Lane before getting in my car and heading up to Four Mile Beach. The fifth shot is of my favorite railroad tracks before I made it down to the beach. There was lots of gull action-even more birds than Democratic and Republican candidates for president.

Read a fascinatingly disturbing article written by Justin Berton in the San Francisco Chronicle a couple a months back that I thought I’d bring to the table. There’s a Great Plastic Garbage Patch, a body of plastic and marine debris that floats an estimated 1,000 miles west of San Francisco. It is a shape-shifting mass far too large, delicate and remote ever to be cleaned up or turned into a tourist attraction, according to a researcher who recently returned from the area.

Charles Moore, a marine researcher from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach has been studying and publicizing the patch for the past ten years. He says the debris, which he estimates weighs 3 million tons and covers an area twice the size of Texas is made up of mostly of fine plastic chips and is impossible to skim out of the ocean. Now doesn’t that paint of fine picture of what we’re doing to the liquid portion of our planet. And all this time, I thought the future was in plastic.

“Any attempt to remove that much plastic from the ocean-it boggles the mind,” says Moore. “There’s just too much, and the ocean is just too big.” The trash collects in one area, know as the North Pacific Gyre, due to a clockwise trade wind that circulates along the Pacific rim. This is not to be confused with the Pacific net. It accumulates the same way bubbles gather at the center of a hot tub. A two-liter plastic bottle of Coke, Pepsi or Squirt that begins it’s voyage from a storm drain in San Francisco will get pulled into the gyre and take weeks to reach its place among the other debris in the Garbage Patch.

While the bottle floats along, instead of biodegrading, it will photodegrade as the sun’s UV rays will turn the bottle brittle, much like they would crack the vinyl on a car roof. They will break down the bottle into small pieces and in some cases, into particles as fine as dust. And as the group Kansas has told us, “All we are is dust in the wind.”

The Garbage Patch is not a solid island. It resembles a soupy (Sales) mass, interspersed with large pieces of junk such as fishing nets, waterlogged tires and Liza Minelli CD’s. It’s also undetectable by overhead satellite photos because it’s 80 percent plastic and therefore translucent. The plastic moves just beneath the surface, from one inch to depths of 300 feet.

According to Moore, the “floating landfill is simply to far from land to conduct any meaningful cleanup operation. It’s about 1,000 miles west of California, 1,000 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands and 4,000 miles west of Hoboken, New Jersey, a week’s journey by boat from the nearest port.

As the production and the use of plastic continues to grow, so will the garbage patch. The only way to reduce marine debris is to cut of off at its source-on land. The dramatic growth in plastics over the past two decades is what distresses activists like Moore. The annual production of plastic resin in the U.S. has roughly doubled in the past 20 years. A spokesman for the plastic industry says they are aware of its connection to marine debris and is working with federal and state agencies to put more recycling bins on California beaches in an attempt to stop plastic bottles and bags from making their way to sea. Now if we could just get those morons to stop using our beaches as giant ashtrays by dropping their cigarette butts in the sand.

Charles Moore sums the situation up by saying “The ocean is downhill from everything. It’s just like a toilet that never flushes. You can’t take these particles out of the ocean. You can just stop putting them in.” I think it all comes down to the words of the environmentally conscious Steve Martin who once said, “Always carry a litter bag in your car. And if it ever gets filled up you can always throw it out the window.”

That’s our show for today. Remember, we’re blasting out every day this week so we’re on orange alert. And a final note. Since this is the last week before Sunrise Santa Cruz goes on a two week hiatus to reenergize, rejuvenate and watch every movie I missed in the last 12 months, I would love to hear from everyone out there. Kind of an end of the year check in. Is the blog working for you, are there enough colors and why is Isiah Thomas still the coach of the Knicks? Or you can just send me the best joke you’ve heard this year. You don’t have to put it as a comment on the blog-just email me back. Alright, enough Menachim Begin, I’ll catch you tomorrow, same time, same space. Mahalo.

December 14, 2007

I Think You’ve Got That Jersey On Backwards

Filed under: sunset clouds waves birds natural bridges sand — geoff @ 1:37 am

When I poured out the Gilbert Family Saga on Wednesday I failed mention that I was from the Garden State of New Jersey. That’s right, Tony Soprano, the Bada Bing boys and I all hail from the same Great Neck of the woods. I grew up and matured into the fine young, er middle-aged man I am in the lovely town of Fort Lee, New Jersey. When you leave New York City and cross the George Washington Bridge into the Garden State the first town you hit is Fort Lee (where Vito got whacked in the Sopranos.) It sits on the cliffs of the Palisades and is considered by many to be the sixth borough of New York. What this means is if I had to be in midtown Manhattan for an important choir rehearsal I could be there in twenty minutes.

Anyway, the Garden State is not what the media portrays it as, just one long stretch of the New Jersey turnpike. There’s a beautiful shoreline, plenty of farmland and tremendous pizza and chicken parmigiana sandwiches. So today, I thought we would take a look at some of the interesting, amazing and yes, terrifying facts about my home state.

New Jersey has the highest population density in the U.S. with an average of 1,030 people per square mile, which is 13 times the national average. Which is interesting because from 1989 thru 1999 I lived in Hermosa Beach, CA., which has the highest population density (18,000 people in one square mile) of any city in the country. Fortunately, most of those people are either waiters with screenplays, waitresses who were actresses or lifeguards.

New Jersey is the car theft capital of the world, with more cars stolen in Newark (the birthplace of my wife) than in any other city and more than New York City and Los Angeles combined. Jersey is also the leading industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation. It has 108 toxic waste dumps, which is more than any one state in the nation. Am I swelling up like Hootie and a blowfish with hometown pride now or what?

On a more positive note, picturesque Cape May holds the distinction of being the oldest seashore resort in the U.S. Atlantic City has the largest boardwalk in the world and is where the street names in the game Monopoly are from. The first drive-in movie theatre was opened in Camden, New Jersey. I believe the first movie shown was one of my kid’s favorites, “Basic Instinct.”

The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland. The light bulb, phonograph (record player) and motion picture projector were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park laboratory. The first tin-foil phonograph was crude, but it proved his point that sound could be recorded and played back. I believe the first song ever played back was Arrowsmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady.” Modern paleontology, the science of studying dinosaur fossils, began in 1858 with the discovery of the first nearly complete skeleton of in dinosaur in Haddonfield. It looked strikingly similar to a young Phyllis Diller.

Back in 1848, in order to meet the increasing demand for his wire rope, John Roebling opened a factory in Trenton. Along with his two sons he built a suspension bridge across the gorge at Viagra, er Niagra Falls. They then built the Brooklyn Bridge and many other suspension bridges in the US. When asked about his next challenge, John Reobling was overheard to say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

New Jersey has the most diners in the world. If you’ve never been to one, then you’ve never seen a menu the size of the late, great Jackie Gleason. My home state has the most shopping malls in one area of the world with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius. I’m tingling. The first Indian made reservations, er Indian reservation was in Jersey, the first baseball game was played in Hoboken and the first intercollegiate football game was played in New Brunswick in 1869. Rutgers College (my mother’s alma mata) beat Princeton. I think the spread was 3 points and this was the first time that cheerleaders chirped “Push them back, push them back, waaaay back.”

Let’s get to the good stuff. New Jersey has a spoon museum featuring 5,400 spoons from every state and almost every country. And who doesn’t love spooning. To get there you take the Garden State Parkway, get off at exit 13 and look for the fork in the road. It’s right next to the Slauson Cutoff. And speaking of heavy hitters, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Frank Sinatra, Queen Latifa, Shaq, Nancy Mager and my golden retrievers Bonnie and Friday are all New Jersey natives.

Coming from New Jersey to a place like Santa Cruz puts a solid perspective on life. You don’t take the Pacific Ocean, the incredible beauty in nature or Ugg boots for granted.

I was going to end the week with a gorgeous sunset from late November but the sunset on Wednesday night put an end to those plans. The first two shot are from Stockton Avenue before I headed up to Natural Bridges, where I ran into my pal Larry Selman, who’s got a beautiful web site full of amazing bird shots. You can check him out at Anyway, the sky turned blood red and was the icing on the cake for my birthday. Well, that and all the warm feedback I received from friends, family and army recruiters on my special day.

So get ready for lots of action from Sunrise Santa Cruz as we will be blasting out blogs every day next week before we go on a two week hiatus as I try to get in touch with my inner self through massage, meditation and movies. As usual, have a great sports weekend and yes, my son Jason did hit the winning shot with no time left in overtime to secure a big win over Holy Cross last night. The place went crazy as those kids in those wheelchairs played their hearts out. Just kidding. The place didn’t go that crazy.

December 12, 2007

It’s Not Polite To Lighthouse Point At People

Welcome to part deux of my favorite dawn buster of 2006. I love the cloud color and textured reflection of these sunrise shots. The fifth photo is pretty unusual as we are looking west at sunrise. As we know, the sun rises in the east and that where the color usually hangs out but this morning was something very special, much like my bris.

Speaking of special, today is December 13th and birthday wishes today go out to my good friend Carol Conta. Carol roller skated by my house on West Cliff Drive thirty years ago and has been on my radar even since, phoning in cloud reports, helping me frame my Sunrise Santa Cruz photos and encouraging me to pursue my career as a hand model.

Last week we featured two blogs that highlighted the giant swell that battered the central coast. It also produced the biggest day ever for waves at Mavericks, a big surf break forty-five miles up the coast in Half Moon Bay. In an article written by Bruce Jenkins in the San Francisco Chronicle, surfers are now referring to last Tuesday as “The Big Ugly.” According to big wave surfer Grant Washburn, the faces of the waves were 50 to 80 feet and “Guys were turning, carving, snapping off the top, getting barreled like never before.” And also wiping out like never before, which is basically looking death in the face.

Here’s how big wave surfer Peter Mel of Santa Cruz described last Tuesday. “That was the thickest, meanest swell we’ve ever had, really an extreme direction from the west. Most of the good ones are sort of inviting, like it’s our destiny to go out and catch a few. This was a crazy angry swell, it did not feel welcome. After a while it reached the point where I knew it was too dangerous, that I had to get out of there.” All in all, last Tuesday was a day that will go down in history, much like my bar mitzvah but with more white water and less matzoh.

So that’s it for bonus Thursday. Tune in tomorrow when we’ll finish off the week with a sunset that will knock at least one of your socks off.

December 11, 2007

Welcome To The Middle Aged

Today is my 55th birthday. That’s right, we’re talking enough candles to light up half of Rhode Island. Fortunately, I’m really enjoying getting older. Yeah, I love forgetting things, not being able to see as well and telling people my age is the same as the speed limit. It is also the birthday of my longtime friend and former radio broadcast partner, Jerry Hoffman. Back in the 80′s we ruled the airwaves here on the central coast bringing Sportstalk to the masses. I loved talking sports on the radio. It brought out my humor, passion and taught me how to dress for success.

So what thoughts come to mind on the day that I ventured out into the world of black and white TV? I’m so thankful for my good health. Without it, I would have nothing, like Raider and 49er fans this year. I never take it for granted and for anyone who is in pain and or knows someone who is ill or is suffering, my thoughts are with you today. May your pain of any kind go away. That would be the best birthday gift of all. Well, either that or a new big screen HDTV.

I feel so blessed on my 55th birthday. I have a wife, Allison, who I have been married to for 19 years. We’ve been together for 29 years, although I still feel like we rushed into our marriage. I didn’t know it at the time but the greatest thing that has ever happened to me was when I opened my door almost three decades ago and there she was. Well, either that or when the Giants upset the Vikings in the opening round of the playoffs a few years back. When people say to her, “How do you put up with him?” she always smiles and answers politely. “What?”

Our marriage has produced two children and a golden retriever. My son Jason is a 13 year old scholar/athlete and is about an inch away from literally and figuratively looking down at me. He is a tremendous kid, a Steve Nash like distributor at the point who finishes very strong with his left hand. I am so proud of him and the man that he is one day going to be. And most importantly, he has never beaten me one on one although he is getting damn close.

My daughter, Aimee is a jewel and a gift from God. Blonde hair, blue eyes and a heart of silver. She is a beautiful artist, a creative writer and loves to go to the beach with her father. She knows how to make me laugh and loves going to Hawaii as much as I do. A teacher once remarked to me that “there is nothing purer in this world than your daughter.” I shot back, “What about African diamonds?”

Both Jason and Aimee worship our third child, Summer. She’s a beautiful redhead with a blonde mane and is a total ocean loving dog. She brings so much joy and love into our lives and amazingly cleans up after herself in the yard. I am also very proud of the golden oldie that she is one day going to be.

My parents are both alive and living one mile away from me in Santa Cruz. My father, Daniel, is 90 years young. Throughout the years he always told me how proud he was of me and that is something I will always keep in my heart. My mother, Lee, is 81 and is a three-time winner of the Worrier of the Year award. Years ago by using one of my CIA interrogation training methods, I got her to admit on tape that I was her favorite son. Because of that admission I no longer hold it against her that I wasn’t breast fed. At the time she said she liked me as a friend.

I’ve got two younger siblings that are like brothers to me. My prolific writing brother Paul and his family live in Marin. Paul and I go way back and share memories and experiences that only brothers could. He is an expert on the Honeymooners and the creator of catch phrase, “NBA action is Fantastic.” My brother Brad and his family live in Boulder, Colorado where he basically lives to snowboard. When there’s no snow he heads into his office in the early afternoon to run his booming video production company. If I’m watching a game on the satellite and something exotic happens the phone will invariably ring and it will be Bradio. Either him or a damn telemarketer.

I’ve got sister-in-laws, in-laws, outlaws, cousins, bank tellers, fortune tellers, Penn and Tellers and many good friends to be thankful for. I would mention them all by name but they refused to pay me. I didn’t mean to get too introspective or mushy today but if you can’t talk about this stuff on the day you popped out of the womb backwards (that’s right, a breach birth,) when can you?

So today’s shots are from my favorite sunrise of 2006. This December beauty features a lake created by a big swell at Its Beach. It gave the photos the extra boost as without them there would be no reflection action, just dry sand. This is the kind of sunrise that gets me jacked up about being an early morning riser. Now if only I could TiVo the sunrises and play them again later. Wait a New Jersey minute, I think I’m doing that. I actually like this sunrise so much I’m sending out part II tomorrow (Thursday) as a birthday week bonus. This Veronica lake also appeared at Its Beach on Thanksgiving morning of 2007 but there were no clouds in the sky to give it that magical look.

So that’s the Sunrise Santa Cruz birthday show. December 12th will go down as the day I turned the double nickel. It was also Frank Sinatra’s birthday. So enjoy colors, enjoy the day and I promise not to tell my life story again for at least another year. Well, at least six months. And stay tuned for round two tomorrow. Aloha.

December 9, 2007

You Go Ahead, I’ll Ketchup

Welcome to our Monday morning magic. Last week we showcased two days of big wave action along the coast. Well, today we’re going for the threepeat so let’s go back to last Friday morning on West Cliff Drive. The first shot hails from Steamer Lane followed by clouds reflecting in a pool of water right across from Bird Rock. If you look closely in the fourth shot you can see a rainbow in the sky to the north. For the last shot I ventured up to Natural Bridges. The swell was still pumping but what was really interesting was the way the cormorants and pelicans were huddled together on top of the Natural Bridge. Pelicans were swooping in for a landing but there was no room on the runway so they had to head up the coast. Just an amazing morning on the cliff.

The huge waves of last week gave me an appetite so I took my father out for lunch to the Hindquarter where they serve the best burger in town. And when my cheeseburger and fries arrived, I annointed them with ketchup. Now besides the fact that this condiment comes from tomatoes, what do we really know about this red delight? Well, that question is about to be answered.

The HJ Heinz is a $2.5 billion global company that sells 650 million bottles of ketchup annually. For 50 years their advertising mantra has been “thick and rich.” Come to think of it, that’s how I’d describe billionaire Paul Allen. Anyway, that mantra is not going to change. But change is coming to some of the California tomatoes that produce the ketchup.

A 25 percent increase in the price Heinz pays for corn syrup, a key ingredient in ketchup, has pushed the company’s researchers to produce tomatoes that are 5 to 10 percent sweeter than any of the varieties it typically produces. If all goes well, the new tomatoes will produce thicker and richer paste, which refers to the texture, the experience and the mouth feel of the ketchup. You know, that zen moment when you enter hamburger heaven and the ketchup is along for the ride.

The new varieties are expected to join the 2,750 genetic varieties of this noble fruit. Yet, you would not put a tomato in a fruit salad. The varieties being developed are among the more than 700 new tomato varieties that Heinz evaluates annually. All tomatoes grown for Heinz in the United States come from the San Joaquin Valley in California. In recent years 10 million tons have been grown for tomato processing in the Golden State. This compares to the comparatively smaller market of 400,000 tons of fresh tomatoes.

Let’s catch up on a little ketchup history. The word ketchup (or catsup for you animal lovers) is derived from Chinese ketsiap, a pickled fish sauce. In the 1600′s English sailors visiting Malaysia and Singapore were so impressed with the sauce that they took samples home in little packets. In the 1700′s, New Englanders created the definitive tomato ketchup when Maine seamen returned from Mexico and the Spanish West Indies with seeds of an exotic New World fruit called tomato. This tangy tomato ketchup become a popular sauce for codfish cakes and meats, particularly Big Macs, Whoppers and double bacon mushroom cheeseburgers.

Ketchup is America’s favorite condiment, being found in 97% of kitchens, although to quote Ed Norton of The Honeymooners, “I think the average may be higher than that.” Studies have shown that tomato ketchup can also be a powerful tool in the fight against cancer and heart disease. Kids eat and spill 50 percent more ketchup than adults. And finally, the world’s largest ketchup bottle is proudly displayed in Collinsville, Illinois. Built atop a water tower, it stands 170 feet tall. Why, I have no idea. Maybe it’s because of the giant 240 foot french fry standing right next to it.

So that’s it for a chilly Monday here on the central coast. Coming up on Wednesday we’re going to show you my favorite sunrise from 2006. It’s one you won’t want to miss. So enjoy your condiments, enjoy the day and we’ll catch you for an epic sunrise on Wednesday.

December 6, 2007

All’s Swell That Ends Swell

Good morning and welcome to Part II of the pounding and the fury along the central coast. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s lunch special, storms from the Gulf of Alaska created ferociously high surf that excited surfers, exhausted rescuers and thrilled anyone with a camera. This is the same storm that hammered the Pacific Northwest with hurricane-force winds on Tuesday that caused major flooding and hit the coast so hard that it closed every road along Coast Range. In our last blog we featured surf action from Monday when the waves started to pump and explode along the coast. Today we’ll take a look at an epic Tuesday here in Santa Cruz. It was an exceptional day to be anywhere along the raging Pacific.

As you can see from the second shot, the size of the swell and the high tide created conditions where the coastline was just being battered all day. The combination of mist, fog and tornado clouds created an interesting shot (#3) down at Lighthouse Point. As I was taking the this photo I was looking up at the clouds and not really concentrating on the waves. All of a sudden a rogue wave rushed towards me and hit me waist high so quickly and with such force that it almost knocked me over with camera in hand. That would have been tragic, particularly since I had already gotten my allowance this week. It was just God’s or Michael Jordan’s way of showing me how powerful the ocean and nature can be.

The storm action drew large groups of spectators (shot #4) to everywhere along West Cliff Drive. That’s the crowd at Steamer’s Lane checking out the surfers in action. The waves were breaking really far off the coast and it just was surreal that this action continued non-stop for for three days and Otis Knights. At the same time forty-five miles to the north at Maverick’s in Half Moon Bay they were surfing monster waves with faces from 50 to 80 feet high. That is a truly mind-blowing proposition. For me, anything over five feet and I’m out of the shower.

Throughout the day there was the constant roar of the surf and the sound of the water smashing and crashing up against the cliffs. These explosions created a never-ending series of white water symphonies. As Tuesday drew to a close the sky was cloudy and misty and there didn’t look like there would be any sunset action and then out of nowhere, vavoom, the sky started to light up and this amazing orange-red hue appeared in the western sky. It was just incredible that a day of intense weather and surf conditions could be topped off with this spectacular ending. It was an eerie beauty, something that could only have been created by God or Martha Stewart.

So that’s your west coast surf report. Next week we’ll get back into some classic sunrise action. And for anyone who is not in the Santa Cruz area and is interested in purchasing very affordable greeting cards and photos for the holidays, please contact me and we’ll send them out to you ASAP. And remember, tomorrow (Saturday) from 1-4 pm is our Sunrise Santa Cruz Holiday Sale where you can purchase 4 beautiful greeting cards for $10 or matted 8″ x 12″ prints for just $25. The address is 128 Echo Street on the westside. Hope to see you there. Have a great weekend and enjoy high surf action.

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