January 31, 2008

Shoes An Easy Lover

Welcome to February of 2008 here at Sunrise Santa Cruz. We always like to start off the month with something that kicks ash and today will be no exception. This is the sunset from last Wednesday at Natural Bridges State Beach. It was cloudy day but around 4 pm I noticed an opening in the sky and I thought we might be in for some early evening exotica and I was not disappointed. The clouds were lined up in favorable position along the horizon to give us something special and nature came thru with a close to perfect score. The Russian judge gave it a 9.5. Shot #2 has the sun creating some unusual patterns in the sand while shot #4 gives you a pretty good idea of the colors that were on display this evening. All in all a pretty good night for us westsiders.

So much for the opening act, now here’s a feel good story for the week. IUPUI (Indiana) men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter coached a game last Thursday night against Oakland University dressed in a black shirt, cream-colored vest and slacks with no shoes, flip flops or Ugg boots. It was the most visible sign of his campaign to collect athletic shoes for children in need in Africa.

Coach Hunter started the drive a month ago after meeting Samaritan’s Feet Founder Emmanuel Ohonme. His original goal was to collect 30,000 pairs. After news of his endeavor started to spread and shoes starting coming in, he mentioned he might increase his goal to 40,000, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. He also had a dream.

By tip-off last Thursday night, he had 110,000 pairs. A crowd of more than 1,000 people attended the game at the IUPUI Gymnasium-and some of the students showed up barefoot in support of Hunter. The school announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had donated 10,000 pairs, Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity, donated 40,000 pairs, Wal-Mart gave 25,000, Nine West, a women’s shoe company offered another 5,200 and FEMA threw in a pair of slippers. Converse threw in 15,000 more pairs after Hunter appeared on ESPN radio.

“When we started this I thought 40,000 was going to be tough,” says Hunter. “When they told me before the game we already had 100,000, I almost broke down in tears.” I was going to go with a “96 Tears, Tears of a Clown, or Tears for Fears” joke but it didn’t seem appropriate.

Most of the shoes are being shipped to directly to Samaritan’s Feet, the non-profit group started four years ago by Ohonme, a Nigerian whose own goal is to get shoes to 10 million people in 10 years. “Imagine if every coach would pick a game to coach barefoot and use their influence. We’d exceed our goals pretty quickly, ” says Ohnonme. Spoken by a man whose sole runs deep.

Ron Hunter coached the Jaguars that night to a 82-69 victory. He doesn’t normally sit down during the games while wearing shoes and said afterwards, “My feet hurt so bad. But imagine a child or human going their whole lives without shoes.” Hunter and some of his players will be flying to Africa this summer to help distribute the shoes and says he would like to go specifically to Cameroon, which I believe is right next to Macaroon, the homeland of Jaguars freshman guard Christian Slakam.

This is a great story about someone who is using his influence to make a difference. Now all they need is 110,000 pairs of socks.

So that’s our kickoff for the month of February. Sit back and take in the grandeur and hype of Super Bowl Sunday. I just hope this contest is closer than the South Carolina Democratic Primary. Either way this game will be interesting as Bill Belichick’s Brady Bunch is trying make history by going undefeated (19-0) before being anointed as the greatest team of all time. All that stands in their way is Eli Manning and the New York Giants and 3,000 television commercials. So enjoy this hopefully great sports weekend and we’ll catch you for sunrise Monday. Aloha and we’re going to miss you, John Edwards. It just wasn’t your time.

January 29, 2008

Fly Do You Always Question Me?

I’ve always loved birds. Ever since I saw Ann Margaret in “Bye, Bye, Birdie” I’ve appreciated their grace, beauty and the fact that they have the ability to fly. What a trip that must be. If you’ve spent any time along the central coast you see birds in the travel mode 24 hours a day. These are mostly gulls, cormorants and pelicans although you can occasionally spot an eagle with a full head of hair.

Today we will check out some birds in flight. The first shot features some pelicans who had just been cleared for takeoff from a very crowded runway at Natural Bridges. Next we move on to Four Mile Beach-when these mud hens saw me they took off faster than Colin Powell leaving Bush’s cabinet. We then venture on to the westside of Santa Cruz where this group of red-winged black birds were flying in the strawberry fields forever. Then there’s a couple of snowy egrets heading to a driving range and an elegant great egret in flight. I took the final shot last Tuesday during at a very low tide day down at Its Beach. It was so low that I was able to walk around the arch and caught this white wonder settling in to watch the sunset.

So here’s news from the bird front. A disease introduced into the wild in the 1940′s from U.S. domestic poultry has killed 15,000 birds around Utah’s Great Salt Lake over the past month, some literally falling dead from the sky. The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center said the birds were killed by the avain cholera, which caused some birds to try and land a foot or higher above the water, fly upside down or swim in circles when they eventually hit the lake. Just like Curley would do when he hit the floor in an episode of the Three Stooges.

The disease is caused by bacterium Pasteurella multocida, currently the most prevalent infectious disease among North American waterfowl. While it doesn’t affect humans, wildlife officials warn that people shouldn’t pick up the birds or let their pets chew on them. The disease flourishes in the cold weather, and this past November was the coldest on record. Even colder than Ted Kennedy bypassing his longtime Clinton buddies and endorsing Barack Obama.

And good new for you Bob Crane and whooping crane fans. The United States Fish and Wildlife service announced that a record 262 cranes just arrived at the Aranas reserve on Texas’ Gulf of Mexico coast. Four more birds are said to be still on route as they caught a later flight. The critically endangered birds will winter there before returning to their summer nesting sites in Canada’s Northwest Territory. Their immune systems are vulnerable to disease and you know what comes along after a whooping crane develops a cold-yup, it’s the whooping cough.

So that’s it for our last photo blog for January 2008. I hope you enjoyed this month more than quarterbacks Tony Romo or Peyton Manning did. Coming up on Friday is a sunset I think you’ll find visually appealing. I know my camera did. Shot a beautiful sunrise this morning that we’ll take a look at next Monday. So enjoy the birds and we’ll catch you in February.

January 27, 2008

If Nature Calls, Put It On Speaker Phone

Good morning and welcome to another week of the Santa Cruz photo experience. I always like to start off with a superlative sunrise so today we’re going to take a look at two from the month of January. That’s right, two for the Mark price of one. The first is from the morning of January 11th as some beautiful color filled the skies of Monterey Bay. The third shot captures the reflection of the clouds in the pools of water by Bird Rock along West Cliff Drive.

Shots #4, 5 and 6 are from this past Saturday morning. The waves were pumping and the wind was crying Mary and really blowing hard into my delicate face. How windy was it? It was so windy that I saw sea gulls walking up the coast. You can get a feel for the power and fury of the wind in the final shot as the high surf crashes against the cliff and Lighthouse Point. I wondered what caused these radical weather conditions until I realized that the answer my friend, was blowing in the wind.

I always like to stay atop the animal news from around the planet. A new study suggests that the expansion of human development that began five centuries ago with European colonization has resulted in a sharp fall in the number of large mammals around the world. Scientists from Princeton University and the conservation group World Wildlife Fund examined records dating back to the year 1500 and found that at least 35 percent of all mammals over 44 pounds in weight have seen their range cut by more than half. The species that suffered the greatest loss included tigers, leopards, lions, American bison, elk, wolves and beavers. According to John Morrison of the WWF, “They have been pushed out by exploding human settlement and hunting.” Only one-fifth of Earth’s surface is today home to the same diversity of large animals as five centuries ago. Those areas, which include Siberia, the Canadian Arctic and the Amazon basin, have largely escaped human encroachment, WalMart and the disappearance of pro hockey from national TV. The other WWF, the World Wrestling Federation, had no comment on this story.

Moving along, the United Kingdom’s Wildlife Trust warned that animals such as bats, balls, lizards and dormice will need human assistance in moving to new territory as global warming shifts their habitable ranges north and west. “Wildlife has done it before, after the last ice age, but this time there are unexpected barriers; the cities, motorways, expanses of hostile countryside and the proliferation of Arby’s restaurants,” says John Everett of the Wildlife Trust. He says his organization is trying to link up woodland, shrub land and pasture to enable these creatures to extend their habitat as the climate warms. I would definitely go to bat for this cause.

A group of scientists warned that the largest mass extinction since the end of the dinosaur period is sweeping thru the world’s populations of frogs, newts, gingrichs, salamanders and caecilians. The chytrid fungus has caused mass deaths in six countries, including Britain, where the effects are the subject of an urgent research project. The disease has so far proved unstoppable in the wild and can kill 80 percent of native amphibians within months once it has taken hold. “Widespread extinction of amphibians would be catastrophic,” says Jeffrey Bonner, the President of the St. Louis Zoo. He is leading an ambitious plan to move the most vulnerable species into protected areas in zoos, aquariums and other institutions to guarantee their survival. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, it’s not easy being a young salamander growing up in today’s world.

A new study reveals that some California ground squirrels have learned to wear the scent of one of nature’s more terrifying creatures to scare off their natural enemies. Barbara Clucas, a graduate student in animal behavior at UC Davis, says she observed the squirrels chewing up rattlesnake skins and smearing it on their fur to mask their scent from predators. And here I thought they spent all their time gathering nuts and acorns for the upcoming winter. Scientists at the university also say they have discovered that the squirrels have evolved to become resistant to snake venom and the urge to purchase anything over the internet.

And finally, an extremely rare plant that can eat small rats was found in an isolated area of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula. Botanists found the species in an undisclosed swamp location and are keeping the exact location secret to protect what they have dubbed “Tenax” from collectors. The carnivorous plant grows like a vine to about 10 inches in height and mainly eats small insects, ants, lizards and an occasional pepperoni “Hot Pockets.”

So that’s it for sunrise Monday. Coming up on Wednesday we’ll look at some flight action before we weigh in on Friday with something on the spectacular scale. So thanks for tuning in and we’ll catch you for the midweek Larry Bird experience.

January 24, 2008

You’re A Chimp Off The Old Block

Good morning, good afternoon and for Beach Boys fans, “good vibrations.” I don’t know if you locals here on the central coast have been watching the sky this past week, but we’ve had two sunsets that would be rated outstanding. If you like fantastic finishes over the Pacific, then Tuesday and Wednesday were definite keepers. It was a good and plenty time to be in possession of a camera.

Today’s photo expose is from the first day of December 2007. There was a dark cloud hovering across the western sky but it allowed the sun to shine thru like the Giant’s Plexico Burris against the Packer’s secondary. The first three shots were taken from Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive before I moseyed on up to Natural Bridges for final three. Actually, the last shot of the gull flying in front of the sun is from an evening back in November but I thought it worked as the grand finale for this day. And who says cheaters never prosper. Just ask Karl Rove.

I don’t know about you, but I love stories about monkeys, gorillas, orangutans and furry little bunnies. There’s just something about animals that swirls in my mind and gets the Wild Kingdom going inside me. Here’s a story I ran across that renews my faith in Marlin Perkins and the human mind. Perhaps we did evolve from fish.

Japanese researchers recently pitted young chimps against human adults in a test of short-term memory, and as Gomer Pyle would say
“surprise, surprise, surprise,” the chimps won. That challenges the belief of man, including scientists, that “humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions,” says researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kytoto University. I say try this simple test. Put a double bacon cheeseburger in front of a chimp and a American teenager and see who grabs for it first.

Matasuzawa, a pioneer in studying the mental abilitity of chimps, said even he was surprised. He thinks two factors gave his chimps the edge. For one thing, he believes human ancestors gave up much of their skill over evolutionary time to make room in the brain for gaining language abilities. The other factor is the youth of the chimpanzees. The memory for images that’s needed for the memory tests resemble a skill found in children, but which dissipates with age. In fact, young chimps performed better than older chimps in this study. So the next logical step is to give the young chimps some real competition: little kids. Or the former head of FEMA Michael Brown or anyone who still believes a word that came out of Donny Rumsfeld’s mouth.

So that will do it for a cold, chilly week here on the central coast. But have no fear as there are some great photo series on the horizon. Since we were talking chimps today I thought we’d end the week with a little humor. A patient in a mental institution walked into the doctor’s office and complained about his roommate, saying, “Herbie keeps elephants in the room. It smells awful.” The doctor said, “Why not open the windows?” The patient replied, “And let me eagles out?” So fly like an sea gull and have a great weekend and we’ll catch for some Monday magnificence.

January 22, 2008

Are You Coffin or Choking?

Filed under: arch tis beach sky water reflection birds cliffs — geoff @ 7:51 pm

Good morning and welcome to another chilly day on the central coast. I’m not talking big sky Montana cold, but snow fell in the Santa Cruz mountains two nights ago which forced me to put on some warmer shorts. The winter storms have been wild and the one that blew in January 4th from the Gulf of Alaska was as powerful as anything we’ve experienced in the last five years. The battering of the coast by the winds and surging waves is reshaping West Cliff Drive as the most recent storm knocked a huge chunk of cliff onto Its Beach. The funny thing is the boulders that landed in the sand were as soft as butter-you could literally break the sandstone with your fingers. A week later I was still thinking, “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”

Something else came down besides rain during the Friday frenzy of wind and pounding surf. There was a sea stack standing on Its Beach that is now history. You can see in photo #1 a shot of the stack on a beautiful morning followed by a shot of the pool under the arch during our recent red tide. #3 is your arch sunset shot followed the sea stack at low tide. Said the Baltimore Raven, “Never more” and that’s what happened to the stack. Shots #5 and 6 are what this outcropping of rock looks like now. Oh, what a difference a day makes.

Life is very much about change. Death is a somewhat different story. Cynthia Beal wants to be an Oregon cherry tree after she dies. Myself, I’m leaning more towards an avocado, persimmon or dutch apple. She has everything to make it happen-a body, a burial site and a biodegradable coffin. Beal, the owner of The Natural Burial Company in Portland, says “it is composing at its best.” The company, which opened this month, is selling a variety of eco-friendly burial products, including the Ecopod, a kayak-shaped coffin made of recycled newspapers. This could actually work. I’d be wrapped up like a tuna melt in the New York Post and have something to read while I’m on my way to sports heaven.

Biodegradable coffins are part of a larger trend toward “natural” burials, which require no formaldehyde embalming, cement vaults, chemical lawn treatments, laminated tiskets or caskets . Advocates say such burials are less damaging to the environment. Cremation was long considered more environmentally friendly than burials in graveyards, but its use of fossil fuels has raised concerns. It’s like they say about cemeteries, people are just dying to get in.

Eco-friendly burials have almost been as popular as fish n’ chips in Britain for years, but industry experts say it’s starting to catch on in the U.S., where “green” cemeteries hosting natural burials have sprouted up in California, Florida, New York, South Carolina and Texas. You knew if there was “green” there might be sprouts involved.

The market is potentially huge. U.S. funeral homes generate an estimated $11 billion in revenue annually and that figure is sure to grow as baby boomers age. There are already specialty funerals, featuring caskets with custom paint jobs and urns with the insignia of a favorite team. Industry experts say eco-friendly funerals are just an extension of such personalized end-of-life planning. What could be more comforting than to spend eternity comfortably residing in a New York Yankee urn.

Biodegradable containers cost from around $100 for a basic cardboard box to more than $3,000 for a handcrafted, hand-painted model. It could be a beautiful sunrise coming up over the Pacific Ocean or the cast of the Bob Newhart Show. “It’s hard to say if it’s a fad or if it’s here to stay,” says Bob Fells of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association. “We are certainly positioning ourselves that if this is what the community wants, we are ready to serve them.” One body at a time.

As usual, I like to stay on top of the important issues of the day and I say, mission accomplished. So join us again on Friday as we serve up some of nature’s finest from the central coast. And not to let the bobcat out of the bag, but I see some guest bloggers making an appearance in the future. As Cuba Gooding Jr. shouted over the phone to Tom Cruise in ‘Jerry McGuire,’ “Show me the beauty.” That’s what we’re here for. And a few laughs. Enjoy the Robert ‘Sea’ Stack. Loved him as Eliot Ness on “The Untouchables.” I guess what happened to that rock will always be an unsolved mystery.

January 20, 2008

I Have A Dream That One Day This Sun Will Rise Up

Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S. Many of us are rewarded with a three day weekend as we celebrate the holiday in different ways. Some of us are retrospective and spend the day in quiet thought, others go about our daily lives not thinking about the contributions of this Nobel Peace Prize winner and some of us salute this giant of a man by taking their son to see a rare afternoon Golden State Warrior game up in Oakland. I think that’s one of the things Dr. King would have wanted. So no matter what you do with your day, I thought you’d like to read some of Dr. King’s greatest thoughts, so I’ve put together a list of his top ten quotations. Here we go.

“Take the first step, even if you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him for lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity, while one wise man forgets himself into immortality.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

In a letter from a Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 1963. “Now, I say to you today my friends, I still have a dream. It is deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

“I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

Speech in Detroit, June 23, 1963…”And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”

Unfortunately, like many of our great leaders, Dr. King was cut down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee on August 4th, 1968. Dr. King had a powerful dream and I don’t believe it has quite come to fruition. But hopefully things are slowly getting better and we can believe there is some light at the end of this tunnel. I believe, that someday, we’ll have a new president and administration and that will be a huge step in the right direction. And I’m not talking about that rock and roller Mike Huckabee.

Speaking of something new, I thought it might be time for some drama from daybreak . This is the sunrise from January 2nd from down at Lighthouse Point. But let’s get on to a more important topic that Dr. King would have loved. THE NEW YORK GIANTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL. UNBELIEVABLE! In a game played in weather that only an eskimo would love, the Giants beat the Green Bay Packers in overtime to advance to the superest of all bowls. Personally, I never had any doubt. I always knew they would win. The killer penalties, gut wrenching turnovers and missed field goal opportunities didn’t faze me it all. I remained calm, cool and semi-collected. All I can say now is that we want the New England Patriots in two weeks.
It’s our destiny.

Thank God we have people like Dr. King. His words are powerful and inspiring and he was a man of incredible courage and conviction. Just like George Bush. So enjoy the sky, enjoy the day and how about this for a Democratic ticket? Barack Obama and Eli Manning. Giants for a change.

January 17, 2008

I Just Want Orchids To Be Happy

Filed under: orchids colors — geoff @ 3:05 pm

Good morning and welcome to Orchid Friday here at Sunrise Santa Cruz. This is not to be confused with Orca Thursday, which was just a killer day. I thought in honor of the big NFL conference championships this Sunday we’d end the week with a little play by play and a lot of color. Shots #2, 3, 5 and 6 were taken out at Maplethorpe Orchids in Soquel. If you like warm, humid greenhouses full of exquisitely colored plants then this is must see TV. Shots #1 and 4 resided in my living room for months until they seemed like family, although I had to use tough love when both started demanding extra fertilizer.

Orchids make up one of the largest families of flowering plants. According to current estimations, there over 25,000 species in existence and three in hiding. Extremely diversified, they are found in virtually all regions of the world, except for deserts and probably ice flows . It is not uncommon for orchids to bloom for months. The beauty is that with all the cross breeding of the species, new forms and wildly rich colors of this incredibly beautiful flower on always on the horizon. And as a bonus, some even smell like heaven. You can go to the Farmer’s Market at Cabrillo College any Saturday morning and score and fantastically beautiful orchid for the price of a super burrito and a diet Squirt.

Here’s something I read recently in the LA Times that I found rather interesting. Last year’s fires in Southern California were a terrible tragedy, as the flames swept thru hillsides destroying people’s homes and life-long possessions. But back in 2003 when similar fires ravaged the area, as people began to recover from that blaze, the landscape started to provide some inspiration. Just three months after the wildfires, signs of life began poking thru from the blackened earth. Wildflowers unlike any that had been seen for years began shooting up thru the charred ground. Among them were whispering bells, yellow-throated phacelia, fire poppies and mariposa lillies. It guess it all comes down to Earth, Wind and Fire.

Researchers cataloged more than 150 species of flowers. The high heat of the fire and the nitrous oxide in the smoke helped germinate many of the long-dormant native flower seeds. Soil enriched by the ash made the show even more stunning in Year 2. It became a lesson for many people involved in these fires-the discovery of beauty in the ashes helped them move past the tragedy. Some people don’t look at it this way-personally, I’ve think they’ve got it ash backwards.

So that’s our show for the week. I’ve got hundred of luscious orchid shots that have never seen the blog of day which we’ll deal out over the year. So tune in on Monday when we’ll take a look at why Congress is so hot to trot about whether pitcher Roger Clemens took steroids yet not nearly as peeved about Halliburton over billing the Pentagon and the American taxpayer by untold millions in the ongoing Iraq debacle. I guess maybe that’s because Dick Cheney never took home a Cy Young Award.

So another big sports Sunday coming up. The late, great Milton Berle found one thing confusing about football. He noticed that each pro team was blessed with dozens of gorgeous cheerleaders. Yet when they players scored, they would hug one another. Thank you for your insight, Uncle Miltie. Enjoy the patterns and the colors and and we’ll catch you next week on the 50 yard line of life.

January 15, 2008

I’ll Cross That Natural Bridge When I Come To It

Good morning, photo fans and welcome to our Wednesday montage of nature’s wonders. Today we are venturing out to my favorite sunset spot on the west side, Natural Bridges State Beach. Where there is now just a single arch there used to be three. Back in November there was an extremely low tide that allowed me to do some exploring in the remaining arch. There were loads of sea stars and anemones (photo #5) all along the sea walls but there was one shocker. I came upon a crab being slowly devoured by a sea anemone (photo #6). It was amazing to see nature taking its course but as we know the meek shall perish, especially in the NFC East.

Speaking of nature, I don’t know about you, but I am always seeing plastic bags littering the sides of our highways. Well, one of the super powers is trying to do something about this not so fantastic plastic. China is banning free plastic bags found at shops, supermarkets and take out joints and ordering customers to be charged for any they use. The rules take effect on June 1, which is barely two months before Beijing hosts the Summer Olympic Games. The bags are also banned from all public transportation, including planes, buses, trains and rikshaws and from airports and scenic locations. Companies caught breaking the new rules face fines, forfeiture of goods and no moo goo gui pan at office parties.

Environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, praised China, stating that “China is ahead of the U.S. with this policy”, although they still trail the United States in developing prospects for major league baseball, NBA basketball, pro football and NHL hockey. Ping pong is whole other story. The Chinese use up to 3 billion plastic bags a day, more than any other country in the world. China also uses more than 37 million barrels of crude oil in the production of these bags.

The flimsy bags are often used once and discarded. According to a statement from the government website gov.ca, “Our country consumes a large amount of plastic bags. While convenient for consumers the bags lead to a severe waste of resources and environmental pollution because of their excessive use and low rate of recycling. The ultra-thin bags are the main source of the ‘white’ pollution that are choking our cities, farms and waterways. We should encourage people to return to carrying cloth bags, using baskets for their vegetables.” They had no recommendations for fruits but I’m thinking styrofoam boxes would be a no-no.

When the ban goes into effect China will join such countries as Ireland, Uganda, South Africa and North Dakota. Bangladesh banned plastic bags four years ago when officials realized they blocked drains and led to flooding. Last year San Francisco became the first U.S. city to outlaw plastic bags in supermarkets because of the poor play of the 49ers. Look for Raider fans to demand Oakland city officials follow suit in the very near future.

That’s our natural plastics show for today. Birthday wishes go out to the my old friend Natalie Serber, a former Santa Cruzer now residing and writing in Portland. Look for Natalie’s name soon on the New York Times best seller list. So enjoy the agony and the ecstacy and the snowy egret that was text messaging (photo #4) in a pond at the Bridges. And try not to be so crabby. Later.

January 13, 2008

Hawaii Are You Leaving, Things Are Just Getting Good

Greetings and welcome to our Monday morning photo experience. For today’s aviary adventure we are heading up to one of my favorite spots on the central coast, Four Mile Beach. In the first shot, you can see a lone pelican talking politics (a mini caucas) amongst a gathering of interested gulls. Then after hearing that Bill Richardson had withdrawn from the presidential race he took off faster than John Edwards leaving a John Kerry retirement dinner. I always love the action at Four Mile, because as we all know, gulls just want to have fun.

According to the U.S. census bureau, they’re not having nearly as much fun in the South Pacific, as close to 10,000 Hawaii residents moved from the islands to the mainland in the year ending in July 1, the largest exodus in at least 8 years. Economists say inflation, steep housing prices, afternoon trade winds and the growing gap between the cost of living in Hawaii and the mainland are driving (actually flying) residents away.

The overall population grew by 4,753 residents to a total of 1,283,388 since July 2006. There were 19,265 births, 9,269 deaths, 4,112 new residents from other countries and two bar mitzvahs on the Big Island. But 9,673 moved away.

The population trend could make it harder for local employers to find workers. According to Eugene Tain, who works for the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, “We need people, and people are moving out due to the cost of living and housing prices. Everywhere else on the mainland there has been a decline in housing prices, but we don’t see that in Hawaii.” I understand where he is coming from because in the words of Barbra Streisand, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Inflation is pushing the state’s housing, food, gasoline, papaya and energy costs further from the national average, making the mainland more attractive. According to Paul Brewbaker, the chief economist for the Bank of Hawaii, “When we entered the 2000′s, Hawaii wasn’t that much more expensive than the mainland on the average, and it was even cheaper than other places such as Orange County and San Francisco. That’s changed. The gap is widening.” It is true. I have shopped at the Gap and in many cases the stores are much larger.

The Census Bureau data shows Hawaii trailing all other western states in population growth, behind even Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Vermont. Well, some locals may be fleeing this tropical paradise but I can’t wait till August when I hit Sunset Beach on the north shore of Oahu as part of third stop of the Van’s Triple Crown of Relaxation.

So that’s our Monday Four Mile, 50th state update. I would be remiss not to mention what a fantastic NFL playoff weekend it was, capped off by the Giants beating the Cowboys to advance to next week’s game against Green Bay, who knocked off the Seahawks on Saturday during an blinding snowstorm. But as good as that game was, yesterday’s stunning upset of the Peyton Manning and the Colts by the Chargers was even better- a contest for the ages and definitely the best game I’ve seen this year. It was a super Sunday-I’m almost ready to take back half the terrible things I’ve said about Giant’s quarterback Eli Manning. Remember, I said almost. We’ll talk again next week.

This may not come as a complete surprise but I love sports, especially when my team wins and they don’t torture me in the process. So yesterday was a good day-make that a tremendous day. Throw in two basketball games last night that went down to the buzzer and I’m a happy camper. So enjoy the birds and enjoy the day and bring on the Packers and the Patriots. Aloha, sports fans.

January 11, 2008

Rat, Foiled Again

Filed under: sunrise clouds waves reflection arch trees — geoff @ 3:17 am

Greetings and welcome to our Friday edition of “what important news topic is he going to light up my life with today?” We’ll get to that momentarily, but we really couldn’t let a week blow by without some Santa Cruz sunrise action, so let’s harken back to the morning of December 16th along West Cliff Drive. I shot this series from right in front of Bird Rock. There was a beautiful glow to the morning and then before you could say Barack Obama the sun disappeared up into the clouds, much like Fred Thompson’s bid for the presidency. It’s really a shame because you know he would have established “Law and Order” in this country.

Now let’s move on to our rodent report. According to scientists, researchers in a remote Indonesian jungle have discovered a giant rat that is about five times the size of a typical city rat along with a tiny oppussum. I don’t even know this was opossible. Unearthing species of mammals in the 21st century is considered very rare, and happens about as often as the New England Patriots get outcoached. The discoveries by a team of American and Indonesian scientists are being studied further to confirm their status and to check and see if opossible is really a word.

The animals were found in the Foja mountains rain forest in eastern Papua province in a June expedition. According to Krisofer Helgen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, “The giant rat had no fear of humans and apparently came into the camp several times during the trip.” It was later discovered that he did have a fear of spiders, heights and the “Jerry Springer” show. The opossum is described as “one of the world’s smallest marsupials.” Anyone for clam chowder?

A 2006 expedition to the same stretch of jungle, dubbed by Conservation International as a “Lost World” because until then humans had rarely visited it, unearthed scores of exotic species of butterflies, palms and Backstreet Boy’s CD’s. Papau has some of the world’s largest tracts of rain forest, but like elsewhere in Indonesia they are being ravaged by illegal logging and Starbucks. Scientists said last year that the Foja area was not under immediate threat, largely because it was so remote and no one could spell it correctly.

“It’s comforting to know that there is still a place on Earth so isolated that it remains the absolute realm of wild nature, ” said expedition leader Bruce Beehler. “We were pleased to see that this little piece of Eden remains as pristine and enchanting as it was when we first visited.” I agree. These discoveries reminds me of an old Three Stooges question when Larry asks Moe. “Are you a man or a mouse? I don’t know, put a piece of cheese in front of me and you’ll find out.”

So that’s it for today. Tune in next time as we’ll take a look at the ABC series “The Rat Patrol”, the Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Grapes of Rats.” Gotta run, I think my ratatouille may be boiling over. Have a fabulous NFL playoff viewing weekend and pray that Eli Manning and the New York Giants come to play against the Dallas Cowboys. Till then, enjoy the sky and aloha.

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