July 24, 2011

Just Smile And Waves

Good morning and greetings, big wave fans. During the summer in Santa Cruz, the surf crowd doesn’t have all that much to get excited about, as the swells are smaller than the chances the Warriors will be playing opening night against the Lakers in November. At this point in my life, I would prefer to “luck out” rather than have a “lockout” of my favorite sport, but as the Dali Lama once told me, “Basketball is life and the rest is just karma.”

But let’s get back to the subject and predicate at hand. In a story written by Suzanne Bohan in the Contra Costa Times, the winter of 2009-10 was more brutal on the coastal erosion front than the Taliban’s continuing campaign against women and education. These super storms, which were faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall seawalls in a single bound, eroded huge chunks of shoreline and my faith in sand bags.

To see this displacement of Mother Earth in action, just stroll
along West Cliff Drive and you get a birds-eye view of the process.
According to a new study by scientists and Al Gore’s pilates
instructor, the coastline may be disappearing faster than Rupert Murdoch’s justification for Fox News, as climate change will be bringing encores of these powerful storm seasons.

During the 2009-10 winter season, waves in the Pacific and my urge to dance were 20 % stronger on average than any other year since 1997, when the whole ballroom obsession thing just took over me. The higher-than-usual sea levels, like my desire to rumba, foxtrot and tango, eroded away California state beaches at “unprecedented levels,” according to coastal geologists and lifeguards who saw their towers washed away. It’s the kind of winters we may continue to experience as global temperatures and out-of-control tuition
hikes for UC schools continue to rise.

In the erosion department, it is natural for the coastlines to be
stripped of sand by the powerful winter waves. In the summertime, it is replenishment city as the sand makes a return engagement on the backs of smaller waves. Unfortunately, after the stormy winter of 2009-10, King Neptune taketh more than he giveth, leaving the beaches more vulnerable to worsening erosion problems from than my thoughts and feelings after watching an episode of “Parenthood.”

Now normally you would blame these big-time storms on our old friend, El Nino, but instead, the finger gets pointed a his second cousin, El Nino Modoki, with Modoki being Japanese for “similar, but different,” or “does that come with teriyaki sauce?” This involves the raising of central Pacific water temperatures along with the salt and dried kelp content of miso soup.

What we’re really talking about is warm sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific flanked on the east and west by cooler waters, a sort of tempura condition. It’s akin to putting your right foot in, then taking your right foot out before putting your right foot back in and shaking it all about. It sounds like a lot of hocus pocus to me but that’s what it’s all about.

So to give you a look at what some of those waves blasting against the coast looked like, let’s journey back to a glorious day along
West Cliff. As you can see, the swell was pumping, bringing with it a high energy feeling and big spray. Photo number four is my favorite, as it’s the new wave hitting the backwash of the previous one and cresting up to form this furious entanglement of white foam. I really wanted to give this spectacular shot of fluid dynamics a clever title and thought long and hard before coming up with, “The Wave.”

We end this photo faire with a couple of landscape shots from
Its Beach during the golden hour from the same day. If anyone out there is cyber space knows how they came up with the name ‘Its’,
please clue me in. I could take a guess, but this blog is rated strictly PG-13.

On to the late night. “While testifying in Parliament, Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a man who threw a pie and yelled insulting names. Murdoch immediately gave the man a show on Fox News. NASA is considering replacing the space shuttle with a space taxi. It can do everything the shuttle can do, except pick you up if you’re black. A panel of medical experts has recommended that health insurance
companies provide free birth control to their customers. The recommendation has been hailed as ‘historic’ by women’s’ groups, and as ’10 years too late’ by Maria Shriver.” –Conan O’Brien

“Rupert Murdoch was testifying in his phone hacking case today, and a man attacked him with a pie. Fortunately, Murdoch knew to move out of the way, because he heard about the plan on the guy’s voicemail.” –Jimmy Fallon “Borders bookstores announced that it will liquidate its stock and close all of its stores nationwide. I don’t think this is what the Republicans meant by ‘closing our borders.’ The United States’ soccer team lost to Japan, which means we’re now losing to Japan in math, science, and penalty kicks.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“It’s rumored that Arnold Schwarzenegger is working on a memoir. Yeah, it’s apparently over 500 pages long — and that’s just the dedication to his kids.” –Jimmy Fallon “Rupert Murdoch said yesterday at the House of Commons that he was shocked, appalled, and ashamed. So apparently he watches Fox News, too.” –Jay Leno
“Sarah Palin’s son Track and his wife are having a baby. They haven’t picked a name yet, but they do know it will be a verb.” –Conan O’Brien

Top Five Surprising Facts About the Moon Landing
10. Was filmed on the same soundstage where they shot ‘Green Acres’ 8. They returned to the moon a week later because one of the astronauts dropped his car keys 6. Buzz Aldrin stuffed his space suit to make himself look bigger 4. Astronauts were charged extra for not returning the capsule with a full tank of gas 1. Neil Armstrong was also the first man on Mrs. Armstrong

So that’s my last blast for July. I’m going to take a couple of weeks off and head to the islands, so look for some aloha action on my return. In the meantime, be grateful for the food on your table as the current famine in Somolia is more horrible than words. It’s worse
than last week’s record-breaking heat and humidity in New York and the truly senseless massacre in Norway. We’ll catch you at home plate. Aloha, mahalo and later, Don Rickles fans.

July 17, 2011

Nobody Knows How Dry We Are

Good morning and greetings, summer breeze fans. Santa Cruz is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, which consists of warm
to dry summers and mild to cool, moist winters. This climate is found in
only a few areas of the world, which includes southwestern Australia,
central Chile, the western cape of South Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, coastal California and a strip mall in Hoboken, New Jersey.

So we’re talking no freezing temps in the winter and little
rain in the summer. Although we don’t see much precipitation at this time of year, Santa Cruz seems like a pretty moist place, from the fog that hugs the coast to the Pacific Ocean that looms as an ever-present force of moving moisture. After the rainy winter and spring, we are in no danger of any drought action, but unfortunately, a good part of our nation cannot say the same. You’ve heard of dry counties, we’re talking dry country.

What they’re calling the Great Drought of 2011 has spread across 14 states, from Florida to Arizona. 14% of the country has suffered through the driest six months since 1895. Hardest hit is Texas, where no part of the state has been left untouched by the virtual lack of rain. Taking the biggest shot is cotton, which accounts for half the U.S. crop, as the plants are too weak to break through the soil that is drier than my sense of humor.

Life has been miserable for Texans due to excessively high heat, scorching dry winds and the retirement of Yao Ming. More than 30% of the state’s wheat crop may be lost. It’s law of the jungle, the wheat shall perish.

Back in June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 213 counties in Texas and the Oakland A’s batting order as natural disaster areas. Even if the weather changes, the rains come and the A’s start hitting, agricultural losses in the state will surge beyond $3 billion due to the blistering heat and lack of precipitation.

Oklahoma has only had 28% of it’s normal summer rainfall. It has been
triple-digit scorching hot for days on end and last week Governor Mary Fallin asked Oklahomans to pray for rain and Russell Westbrook to
pass more. And this comes after Texas Governor Rick Perry earlier in the year asked Texans to pray for rain and to try and forget his serious social networking faux pas when he singled out members of the media and blocked them from following his Twitter account.

So after a spring that was dominated by floods, tornadoes and the Dallas Mavericks, why is the earth being scorched like this? Four out of five meteorologists who recommend sugarless gum blame the high-pressure system that won’t leave the country’s midsection, making it impossible for cooler air from the north to break through. Many in the parched regions are now hoping for heavy tropical storms, drenching monsoons and the end of the NFL and NBA lockouts for relief.

The outlook through late September shows some possible improvement, but the chances of this natural disaster continuing are stronger than my weakside help defense. Further blame goes to La Niña, which is cooling our Pacific Ocean but bringing less moisture to the atmosphere, which prevents the storm systems from getting anywhere near these parched regions. We’re talking dead landscape, which much like the recent actions of the Republican Party, will take years to recover from. At this point, hope is flying solo.

And as an added bonus, a massive heat wave hit the upper midwest states and east coast last Friday, which topped off a week of record-breaking temperatures from Minneapolis to JFK airport In New York. Which brings us to the words of George Carlin as hippy dippy weatherman Al Sleet, “Temperature at the airport is 88 degrees, which is stupid because I don’t know anyone who lives at the airport.”

As of late last week, 900 high temperature records in the United
States had been tied or broken. And the bad news is, for July heat and humidity fans, as Karen Carpenter once whispered in my ear, “We’ve only just begun.”

Speaking of airports, last Wednesday night, 40 planes at Denver International Airport were damaged as hail stones larger than Carmelo Anthony’s ego fell for 15 minutes during a severe thunderstorm. Winds reached 70 MPH as a new single day record for rainfall was set. And
remember, Colorado borders Oklahoma and is a stone’s
throw from Texas, where the rain gauges have been emptier than my invoices paid box.

Moving onto today’s photo lunch special, we’re are going totally lunar. Last Thursday, as I was returning from my son’s summer league basketball game and on the way to my daughter’s softball game, I noticed the full moon rising as I cruised by COSTCO. I really would have preferred to see my favorite natural satellite rising up over Monterey Bay, but my timing and jump shot just aren’t what they used to be.

So instead, let’s head back to January of 2009 and take a look at the
biggest and brightest full moon of that year. I took in this lunar experience from West Cliff Drive on the cliffs above Cowell’s Beach. As you can see, this night was spectacular, and with the stars up above in my eyes, this evening goes down as my favorite among lunar loveliness. Or as my friend Van Morrison commented later, “What a marvelous night for a moon dance. And a fantabulous night for your blog.”

On to the late night. “A report says that a growing number of Americans are worth $1 million. The bad news: last year they were worth $5 million. Hitler’s birthplace in Austria has revoked his honorary citizenship. Talk about a rush to judgment. Michele Bachmann and her husband run this institution where they try to ‘pray away the gay.’ They want gay guys to think outside the bun.” –Jay Leno

“In Arizona they had a dust storm that was two miles high and 15 miles wide. It looked like something out of a movie. Visibility in Arizona they said was so bad that police were hassling white people.” –Bill Maher “A lawmaker in California is pushing for 13 counties to break away and form a new state called South California. Meanwhile, residents are pushing for a more fitting name: ‘North Mexico.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today he’s going back to the thing he does best. No, not that thing; the other thing. He’s going to star in a new Western. I think it’s called ‘Butch Cassiday and the Illegitimate Kid.’” –Craig Ferguson

David Letterman’s “Top Six Signs the United States Is Running Out of Money” 10. For $10,000, you get your face on the dollar
9. The White House now has a two-drink minimum 8. There’s a listing on eBay for North Dakota 6. Americans now attempting to sneak into Mexico 4. Costs $25 for each bag the president wants to check on Air Force One 1. Applied for a $40 billion loan from Oprah

So despite a tough finish, congratulations go out Abby Wambach and the U.S. Women’s soccer team for their inspiring play during World Cup action. And the same goes for the writers, actors and
crew from the epic series “Friday Night Lights,” which just
finished an wonderful five-year run on NBC. No program, with the possible exception of “Sons of Anarchy,” has ever moved me emotionally like this show did about families and high school football. The series finale was exceptional. As they say, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Texas forever.” We’ll catch you down the right field line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tim Riggins fans.

July 10, 2011

Hope Doesn’t Float

Good morning and greetings, summer weather fans. It’s the time of year that folks jam Highway 17 to flock to the beaches here on the central coast. As for myself, due to the fact that the sun is no longer my friend and the water temperature (57 degrees) is a tad cool, you won’t find me frolicking in the waves or burying myself in the sand. And besides, with the chilliness of the water, in the words of George Constanza, we are looking at “significant shrinkage.”

So when I ran across a story written by Paul Rogers in the San Jose Mercury News that may affect beachgoers here on Monterey Bay, I
wanted to get the word out to the people.

Back in March, Japan was hit by an devastating earthquake and tsunami that decimated the landscape north of Tokyo. It was truly March Madness. Millions of tons of debris, including everything from couches to convertibles to chop sticks, were swept into the ocean. This conglomeration is now floating in the Pacific and heading towards the west coast. More than 200,000 buildings were washed out to sea by waves the size of Godzilla. This has created a floating concoction of rubbish never before seen on the open seas, the History Channel or at a Tea Party convention.

Like a floating flea market of assorted junk, this giant mass is moving
across hundreds of miles of the open Pacific. We’re talking cars,
boats and even fully furnished homes that are bobbing along in the Pacific, which could create real problems for ships, marine life and Somali pirates. By the way Russell Crowe flies, it is expected to say aloha to the Hawaiian Islands by next spring and hit the beaches in California, Oregon and Washington in 2013 or early 2014. It will give new meaning to the term “the coast is clear.”

This body of awful Japanese memories is moving at a rate of about 10 miles a day, or the same distance I run twice daily in preparation for the Ultra Ironman Triathlon. It is spread out over an area about 350 miles wide and 1,300 miles long, which is basically the size of California without Starbucks or In-N-Out Burgers. What makes it even trickier is that neither scientists or skim boarders know the exact density of this mess, as to what is still floating and what, like my hopes of my future being ahead of me, have sunk.

The Pacific Ocean is a rather large glass of water, as there is about 3,800 miles of wide open ocean between the land of the Rising Sun and Waimea Bay. If the debris doesn’t make it to our shores by 2014,
it will end up in the “North Pacific Garbage Patch,” a lovely little spot
1,000 miles west of California where plastic goes to die. Reports
say it is three times the size of Texas and that several dozen abandoned yachts have been spotting in this floating continent of litter. I believe it all comes down to the the scene in “The Graduate” when a Los Angeles businessman takes Dustin Hoffman aside and declares, “I just want to say one word to you — just one word — plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”

So coming to our shores sometime in the near future, the newest
Japanese import, a gigantic floating mass of tragedy never before seen, courtesy one of the great natural disasters of our lifetime. No one knows for sure how much of an environmental mess this will result in, but either way, it will certainly be an unfortunate and inconvenient truth.

So while we’re on the subject of beaches, I thought for our photographic test flight that we would journey up to one of the hidden jewels of the north coast, Panther Beach or as others prefer, Hole-In-The-Wall Beach. The color of the sandstone cliffs here is beyond amazing, as are the number of sea stars and sea anemomes that
cling to the jagged rocks. This wind-swept spot is just south of Davenport, less than ten minutes from the westside and well-worth the trip. And here’s a little tip-the beach is only accessible at low tide, so check your charts before you head north.

Now for a little late night. “North Korea has shut down all of its
universities for 10 months so students can work in factories. Or, as they call it in North Korea, ‘spring break.’” –Conan O’Brien “We’re celebrating our independence from the British. I hope that in a
couple years, we’ll be able to celebrate our independence from the
Chinese.” –David Letterman “The Senate canceled their vacation to work on the budget. Either they really can’t agree or they’re looking for an excuse to not go on vacation with their families.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“The government is warning that terrorists may try to blow up airplanes by implanting bombs under their skin. The airlines responded by saying they’ll charge any terrorists that do this a $50 carry-on fee. “According to the New York Times, a cell phone found in Osama bin Laden’s compound had phone numbers belonging to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. But authorities say it’s unlikely they ever spoke because apparently bin laden had AT&T. “A new study shows that home births are up 20% in the united states. More and more moms are giving birth at home. Or as in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s case, giving birth in the home they’re cleaning.” –Jay Leno

So another week is in the books. For Yankee fans, history was made on Saturday when Mariah Carey’s favorite Bronx Bomber, Derek Jeter, became the first pinstriper in history to collect 3,000 hits in a career. The Yankee shortstop embodies what is great and classy about sports, and that fact that he reached this epic mark with a home run on a 3-2 pitch, went 5-5 on the day and had the game-winning RBI made it even better.

So enjoy the warm days of “Friday Night Lights” and we’ll catch you around the batting cage. Aloha, mahalo and later, Minka Kelly fans.

July 3, 2011

You Could Have Knocked Me Over With A Weather

Good morning and greetings, Independence Day fans. Now, I know the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains, but I had no idea that the rain in
Santa Cruz fell merrily in June. This being the case, much like during the math section of the SAT’s, I was somewhat surprised and bewildered when torrents of moisture dropped down from the sky last Tuesday.

According to the National Weather Service in Monterey, where I go to get my international news and latest cricket scores, two inches of rain fell in the month in June. Now, I know this doesn’t seem like much compared to the world’s record rainfall, when 12 inches came down in just 42 minutes back in Missouri in 1947. That, my raindrop-loving friends, was precipitation gone wild.

Tuesday’s surprise rainfall amounted to about .03 inches, which is the
same amount I shrink height-wise each year. When the skies opened up that morning, shocking locals, tourists and sunblock salesman, it went on the books as the wettest June on record in Santa Cruz history, breaking the previous mark set back in 1929, before there was skype, twitter and the newest Republican nut on the block, Michele Bachman.

This storm came spinning down from the Gulf of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, as a result of a strong low pressure system. Or in the words of the great George Carlin, as hippy-dippy weatherman Al Sleet, “the weather was dominated by a large Canadian low, which is not to be confused
with a Mexican high.” The storm also brought snow to the Sierras, which meant smiles on the face of skiers, snowboarders and saint bernards as both the slopes and my sinuses are open today on the Fourth of July.

Although this weather didn’t stick around much longer than my plans of going to medical school, it got me thinking about wild weather around this geographically diverse nation of ours. So thanks to Dan Baker at
http://web2.airmail.net, here are some fun and amazing facts that you may not have known or cared about from the weather front.

On February 12, 2010, which I believe was a Thursday, 49 of our 50 states had snow on the ground, with the exception of Hawaii, where snow was banned by the State Board of Tourism and signed into law by Commander Steve McGarrett of the new Hawaii Five-O. This is not really true, as snow recently fell on the Big Island on the slopes of either Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea or some kind of macadamia nut.

On January 11th of this year, snow was on the ground in every state except Florida, which received an exemption due to voting fraud and
the impending free agency of Orlando center Dwight Howard. The reason I bring these snow stats up is that it is very unusual for many of the southern states to have the white-powered ground cover, as it would be if the Republicans supported any legislation by Michelle Obama.

If you like dry spells, but how about the the goings on in Bagdad, California, a ghost town located in the eastern Mojave Desert? They
did not see any rain for 767 days during a two-year period between 1912 and 1914. The only drier period of time in history was the Golden State Warriors just sniffing the playoffs once in the last two hundred years.

When one hears Seattle, we think of Gus Williams, Kurt Cobain and rain.
Well, believe it or not, umbrella fans, although the Emerald City is cloudy 227 days a year, it receives less rain than New York, Miami or Fort Lee, New Jersey. So there goes the joke that it rains only twice a year in Seattle: August through April and May through July.

We think of Chicago as the “Windy City” or the city that Michael
Jordan built with the help of Scottie Pippen. However, when it comes to wind speed, it’s not close to being wind central, as New York’s average wind speed is higher, but that could be from all the hot air that Rush Limbaugh is blowing out over the radio.

And finally, Cherrapunji in northeastern India is considered the wettest place on earth. I always thought it was a mountaintop in Kauai, but obviously I’m no Al Roker. Anyway, in the iron of ironies, these poor folks experience severe water shortages due to pollution and deforestation. As a result, they must walk miles to obtain drinkable water. Thus, they are walking in the rain, but I have a feeling
they’re not singing and don’t have that “glorious feelin’, I’m happy again.”

For today’s photo symphony, we start out with a late afternoon sky full of clouds at Stockton Avenue before heading up to Natural Bridges to take in the sunset. Photo #3 is my salute to Fourth of July as I caught this gull in full regalia. I call this shot “Flying Free,” which is my personal Declaration of independence from British rule and rock.

We then finish up with an image from the same night of the final arch at the Bridges and then the dancing clouds reflecting on the sand. These
peach-like colors were unusual to view at sunset, and their reflection
decorated the beach in just the right way on this enchanting evening.

And now a little late night. “Anthony Weiner is reportedly involved in
choosing his successor. The first question he asked his potential replacements is, ‘What’s the difference between ‘reply’ and ‘reply all?” –Conan O’Brien “Anthony Weiner is back in the private sector now.
When he was a congressman from New York, I think it was his private sector that got him in trouble.” –David Letterman “President Obama was in New York today. There was an awkward moment in Times
Square when he saw the Naked Cowboy and said, ‘Please tell me you’re not a Democratic Congressman.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Michele Bachmann is kind of like Sarah Palin but without the charisma — or marksmanship. “You know, maybe we should stop telling kids that anyone can grow up to be president of the United States.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Michele Bachmann said her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, is the birthplace of John Wayne, when it is actually the birthplace of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. She then said her favorite sitcom from the 80s is ‘Charles Manson in Charge.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of trying to sell President Obama’s Senate seat. As the verdict was read, Blagojevich’s face remained expressionless while his hair remained ridiculous.” –Conan O’Brien “Rod Blagojevich was charged with corruption — and unlawful imprisonment of a badger. Have you seen his hair?” –David Letterman “Rod Blagojevich was convicted of extortion, wire fraud, bribery, and
criminal abuse of styling mousse.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Speaking of Sarah Palin, this week, Palin tweeted that her daughter
Bristol’s new memoir is quote ‘shocking, refreshing, honest, inspiring, and perfect.’ Of course, she said the same thing about the movie ‘Cars
2.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Yesterday Sarah Palin said that she read Bristol
Palin’s new book and she found it ‘shocking.’ When asked what was shocking, Palin said ‘the fact I read a book.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Newt Gingrich says he does not support gay marriage. He says marriage is a sacred sacrament that should only be between a man and his first, second, and third wives.” –Conan O’Brien “Newt Gingrich said Republicans shouldn’t be afraid to go into black neighborhoods and tell them Obama failed them. To which every Republican replied ‘You first.’” –Bill Maher

So that’s my Independence Day blast. Birthday wishes go out today to my favorite high school Homecoming Queen, the fabulous Vicki Grimsland. So enjoy the NFL and the NBA lockouts and we’ll catch you at the negotiating table. Aloha, mahalo and later, Novak Djokovic fans.

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