November 27, 2011

Turkeys Fly Over The Rainbow, Why Then Why Can’t Thighs?

Good morning and greetings, post holiday fans. Last week was different from others throughout the year, as many of us were able to deviate from our normal midweek routines and shift our focus to the festival of thanks, giving and gravy. It was a huge week for stuffing, as I personally made enough to feed a small Caribbean nation. After then roasting a 23 pound self-basting turkey along with some extra thighs to satisfy the dark meat side in all of us, it was on to leftover city as we all waited for the bell to sound for round two.

Ah, Thanksgiving. The holiday congers up many a pleasant thought in the hearts and minds of so many people. We’re talking a virtual plethora of food, family and football. I hadn’t been left with that warm a feeling since our thermostat got stuck on 85 degrees a couple of years ago.

We started our Thursday extravaganza with a variety of appetizers, continuing a tradition that would have made Trader Joe’s proud. Personally, I try to avoid much of the pregame meal, as in my role of George Washington Carver, after I’m done surgically performing my magic on the carcass crammed with moist, flavor-packed stuffing, I’m already half full. Or would that be half empty?

But this is not a great day for the turkeys or their relatives. And what do we really know about this main component of the Thanksgiving meal? Well, thanks to Sarah Ganly of Yahoo’s Associated Content, here are some fun facts about our recently exhumed holiday bird.

Turkeys have Jim roamed the planet for almost ten million years. Wild turkeys sleep in the low branches of trees at night, which means they can fly. They spend their days like Washington lobbyists, foraging for foods like acorns, seeds, berries, small insects, Congressional aides and gluten-free stuffing. A turkey can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour, sprint like Usain Bolt at 25 miles per hour, and do the hokey pokey, because that’s what it’s all about. Turkeys can glide without flapping their wings or gums for about a mile, which really impressed the Wright Brothers. Unfortunately, domestic turkeys can’t fly, except off the shelf at holiday time.

According to research by the Drumstick Institute, more than 45 million turkey are cooked and eaten in the U.S. and Puerto Rico at Thanksgiving. We’re talking enough gravy to fill Lake Michigan. Wild turkeys have a very different taste from farm-raised turkeys. Almost all of the meat is “dark,”, which drives Tea party members crazy. However, there is no documented evidence of any difference between wild and domesticated stuffing.

Turkeys have no external ears, but are experts at reading lips. These big birds can have heart attacks just like humans, and was proven when turkeys died from the shock of jet planes flying overheard and Herman Cain leading the Republican field of candidates. And sadly, if a turkey looks up when it’s raining, it can drown, which can also happen when smothering gravy on the white meat.

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey, instead of the bald eagle, to be the national bird of the United States. He said the balding eagle had “bad moral character” and that in comparison, the turkey was “a much more respectable bird, a true original native of America and a bird of courage.” And all this time I thought Larry was the national bird.

So have you ever wondered why we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November? Or why the eagle flies on Friday? Well, we can thank Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer who penned the nursery rhyme “Mary had little lamb with mint jelly.” She wrote to President Abraham Lincoln, encouraging him to set aside the last Thursday in November “as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer.” She said “we have too few holidays and that Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival and observed by all our people, especially those who like dark meat.”

Hale was a writer and a visionary, whose fleece was white as snow. She thought this holiday would be therapeutic for our country and a catalyst in preventing the outbreak of civil war. Unfortunately, insanity reigned, and as civil war waged throughout the nation, President Lincoln issued the proclamation creating this national holiday of green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin lies. I give Ms. Hale much credit for detesting war and bringing about this holiday that joins families and the nation together in watching the NFL Network. Like I told my draft board, I’m a pacifist and not even comfortable when the the North plays the South in college football’s Senior Bowl.

Since there’s no late night humor this week I’ll substitute my annual Thanksgiving joke. A turkey farmer was always experimenting with breeding to perfect a better turkey. His family was fond of the leg portion for dinner and there were never enough legs for everyone. After many frustrating attempts, the farmer was relating the results of his efforts to his friends at the general store. “Well I finally did it! I bred a turkey that has 6 legs!” They all asked the farmer how it tasted. “I don’t know” said the farmer. “I never could catch the darn thing!”

For today’s photo playbook we are returning to last weekend, as I shot back-to-back sunsets from Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive. I didn’t get those outstanding fall colors I was hoping for, but the clouds definitely caught my attention, and when I put the zoom lens on, that’s when things really got interesting. It reminded me of the bachelor party I never had.

So another Thanksgiving is in the books. Now it’s on to high school basketball and some Christmas Day NBA tripleheader madness. We’ll catch you breaking the school record for most career touchdown passes. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andrew Luck fans.

November 20, 2011

We’ve Got To Stop Dark Meating Like This

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — geoff @ 6:28 pm

Good morning and greetings, gravy and stuffing fans. Like storm clouds on the horizon, the holiday season is rapidly approaching, and there’s a certain magical feeling in the air as families get ready to gather together for the Thanksgiving Day feast of food and football. For me, this means hitting the stores every six hours in preparation for the most enjoyably dysfunctional day of turkey and family. But unlike the first Pilgrims who ventured into white and dark meat valley of tryptophan, our meal will include the ingredient of sugar, which was not available to these early bird diners, who instead had to learn from the native Americans how to hunt for little packets of Sweet N’ Low and Diet Snapple.

I’m excited about the holiday, as my parents, both my brothers, their families and my in-laws will be making an appearance around the table. These kinds of events, with so many key participants, are too few and far between, like uplifting stories on the news or in the newspaper. For those of you under 18, the latter is printed material that the early pioneers used to hold in their hands and read while eating or watching sports.

I would love to be joined on this most blessed occasion of cranberry
sauce by friends from all around the country, including Kentucky, but since that’s about as likely to happen as Sarah Palin receiving the Republican nomination for President, I’ll savor whoever is around or under the table.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge what a difficult day this is for so many people. Death, divorce, depression, disease, worry and loneliness take no holiday, and my heart goes out to any family with a son or daughter in the military. This is not a day you want to be away from home, so if there’s ever going to be time to feel grateful for what you have, you might want to put a circle around Thursday. And if you’re an NBA owner or player, you really might want to take a step back and think about what this what stoppage means to the loyal and dedicated fans who were looking forward to the increased ticket prices and cheerleader’s new dance routines.

So according to Google Analytics and my Chinese lunar calendar, today’s blog post is my 300th. Yes, the big 300. And the critics said I’d never get I’d past 299. What this means is that 300 times I have sat down in front of this computer screen and wondered, what thoughts can I gently pluck from my swiftly flowing stream of unconsciousness that will interest and amuse the endless dozens of readers to this site. Unlike examining my life and trying to understand why I am the way I am, writing and rewriting this blog has proved to be an unexpected joy, like putting on a pair of shorts and finding a $10 bill in the pocket. I never saw myself being a jogger or a blogger, but somehow, through evolution I’ve evolved over the years, and I was able to rise out of the sea of non-cyber world participation and like Louie, er, Neil Armstrong, have my words walk in space. It was one small step for my website, and one giant leap for my Google traffic.

I started this blog back in 2007, to create a place where people could go to view images of incredible beauty of the central coast. And along the way they might learn a little something that they weren’t aware of. But most importantly, what I really wanted people to experience with these pages was the joy of laughter. Much the same way Robert Plant, in Stairway to Heaven, asks the famous question, “Does anybody remember laughter?” Well, I do, and although I’m not laughing nearly as much as I should these days, I do remember it, and that is why I sit in front of this computer and transpose these words onto the screen. Well, that and I’m very lonely.

I was going to do my annual list of things I’m thankful for, but I’m going take a pass on that and just mention a few. I’m incredibly thankful for my sight and relative good health and that I’m here to write this 300th post because as we all know too well, not everyone can say this. I’m thankful the networks haven’t locked out the TV writers, because then my wife and I would never be able to experience the time we spend together hiking, kayaking and camping in the land of TiVo. And I am very grateful that my son is still a senior in high school, as I get to keep his stats and live through him totally vicariously for a couple of more sports seasons before he sets off for college. Then I guess I’ll teach my basketball-playing daughter that killer crossover move. I know she can break hearts, I want to see her break ankles.

So in honor of my 300th post, I thought I would return to my blonde roots and feature six classic, fantastic sunrise moments from the month of November. Much like hitting a game-winning jumper, each of these spectacular mornings was a joy to shoot. The first photo is my second favorite sunrise of all-time, and no matter how many times I look at it I am always amazed at its extreme beauty. It was a modeling shoot of the sky, and I never had to say smile as the clouds did it for me. For me, these sunrises are what it’s all about. And as I hope they say about me some day, to quote Emerson, Lake and especially Palmer, “Ooooh, what a lucky man he was.”

On to the late night humor. “They had a midnight raid and they cleaned out Zucotti Park where the Occupy Wall Streeters were camped out for about two months. So if you’re keeping score, here’s what the score is now: Eighty down in Zucotti Park; Wall Street executives arrested: Zero.” –David Letterman “Over the weekend in New York, two Occupy Wall Street protesters got married at the protest. They are registered at Bed, Bath, and Seriously, You Need to Take a Bath.” –Conan O’Brien “Some have criticized pepper spraying a pregnant woman, but don’t forget, the cops were spraying for two.” –Stephen Colbert

“Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman accused his Republican opponents of coming up with easy sound bites just to get applause. In response, Mitt Romney was like, ‘That is ridiculous. Clap if you like bacon!’” –Jimmy Fallon “Herman Cain flubbed a question on Libya yesterday and then tried to cover by saying, ‘Oh, I thought you meant Libya Newton-John.’” –Jimmy Kimmel “I am addicted to all the Republican Presidential candidates. They are all like crack, in that they will devastate black communities.” –Stephen Colbert

“Most analysts agree the big debate winner last night was Mitt Romney, who stuck closely to his strategy of not being any of the other candidates.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Someone told Rick Perry today that Obama, as he did, laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And Rick Perry said ‘See, he blanks on names too.’” –Bill Maher “Someone shot a bullet at the White House. The Secret Service ruled out Jon Huntsman because that guy has no shot at the White House.” –Conan O’Brien

“As if Herman Cain’s troubles couldn’t get worse, today, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused Herman Cain of skimping on the pepperoni.” –David Letterman “Herman Cain said he would beat Obama by ‘beating him with a Cain.’ Obama said, ‘I’m just glad I’m not running against Anthony Weiner.’” –Jimmy Fallon “President Obama attended the first college basketball game ever played on an aircraft carrier. Don’t confuse that with the NBA. That’s a bunch of guys not playing basketball on a sinking ship.” –Jay Leno

“As you know by now, a fourth woman has come forward and accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment. This woman gave the details, pretty graphic. She said that Herman Cain tried to put his hand up her. So now when Cain says he is reaching out to the American people, you know what he’s reaching for.” –Jay Leno “Earlier today Herman Cain rejected calls that he should withdraw from the race. He said, ‘It ain’t gonna happen!’ That’s what he said. Ironically, that’s what women say to him when he’d put his hand up their skirt.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our pre Thanksgiving report. Enjoy the holiday week and remember to give thanks for something besides first downs and sweet potatoes. We’ll catch you in playing at the top of your game. Aloha, mahalo and later, Aaron Rogers fans.

November 13, 2011

Those Sea Lion Eyes

Good morning and greetings, fall color fans. The wide variety of morning light was in full effect along the coast this past week, as I shot my first sunrise of the fall in true living color. The following day I awoke to dark clouds on the horizon, but an hour later the sun briefly broke through to cast out a glow that was simply brilliant. What makes it so special is that this light will shine for just a few magic moments, and then vanish faster than Herman Cain can say, “It simply did not happen.”

Santa Cruz once again made the national news last week, as NBC’s Brian Williams talked about the continuing whale activity in our area, although he led into the story with, “In the waters off of the Southern California coast…” We’ll given Brian a pass on that as he makes mistakes about as often as I leave my feet on defense. The story was in reference to paddlers, kayakers and Penn State alumni getting too close to the gigantic creatures. Much like myself at the Burning Man, they need their space for self-espression.

I had spent some time the previous week out on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, checking out the humpback whales that were feeding offshore. I had hoped to score a few photos for the blog, but unfortunately they were too far out for me to capture the true essence of the moment, as they were breaching while lunge feeding in the midst of a frenzy of anchovies activity. Despite being a product of a breeched birth, my breaching photos weren’t quite what I was hoping for, or to paraphrase the words of Mandy Pepperidge from “Animal House, “Otter, don’t flatter yourself. They weren’t that great.”

But you can see in today’s first photo a couple of humpbacks spouting off through their blowholes, while the gulls were screaming and the onlookers so close that they could could scrape the barnacles off the whale’s ipads. Compared to what’s been featured in the local and national press, this photo wasn’t quite worthy of Whales Illustrated or Humpback Monthly.

However, there was some good news as when you venture out onto the wharf you never know what you’ll see besides the daily specials at Gilda’s. Had the freshly caught tri tip and scalloped potatoes on Tuesday and they were spectacular. This deal also includes white clam chowder, which always reminds me of the way my mother never made it back in the old country.

Anyway, as I approached the end of the wharf in search of photographic greatness, I could see from the humpback’s location that there were not going to be any Moby Dick moments. But instead, to my delight and amazement, appearing right below me in the chilly Pacific waters were a colony of sea lions, just relaxing and floating on top of the water. There were at least 100 of these beautiful marine mammals, so I took advantage the moment and shot away like Ansel Adams at a bar mitzvah, because as I’ve mentioned before, this is another one of those events that happens only at the edge of the continent. It’s the magic at the edge, like when Darryl Hannah came ashore in “Splash.”

One of the more amazing things about the sea lions is that no matter where I am on the west side, I can hear them barking. Being that my hearing is not quite that of a mature fruit bat, I spend a good part of the day asking the question “What?” Yet, the sea lions will be barking from over two miles away, and I can hear them as clearly as the doctor telling my parents, “it’s a boy and he’s a spitting image of Clark Gable.”

Finally, for Ano Nuevo fans, I included a shot (#2) of the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas. Much like the sea lions that hang out under the wharf, any intrepid photographer can just drive up, park the car and snap away at these sleeping pinnipeds. You would think that you’d have to motor up to some exotic locale out of National Geographic or the Animal Planet, but these elephant seals are lounging and texting right off the Pacific Coast Highway.

No one is quite sure why back in 1990 these lovable marine mammals took up residence in this central coast location, but it certainly a great way for visitors to top off a drive through Big Sur. Well, either that or playing hide-and-go-seek at Hearst Castle. I’ve always felt a certain kinship with the elephant seals, as I too, was nearly hunted to extinction for my oil-rich blubber.

On to the late night. “One of the Herman Cain women was paid $35,000 and another was paid $45,000, so he’s saying it just proves he can create high-paying jobs for women. I’d like to see the women and find out what the $10,000 difference was. Turns out 999 was just his rating system: she’s a 9, she’s a 9, she’s a 9. Of course, Cain still doesn’t get it. Like he said he will address all these charges at a press conference tomorrow at Hooters.” –Jay Leno

“There’s a fifth woman that claims to have had a problem with Herman Cain. If this keeps up, it seems very unlikely he will be president, although it seems more and more likely he will become governor of California.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Herman Cain held a press conference to address the sexual harassment accusations coming out of the woodwork. Incidentally, his woodwork coming out is one of the things he’s accused of.” –Stephen Colbert

“Last night the Occupy Oakland protest got out of hand. Demonstrators broke windows, hurled Molotov cocktails and chunks of concrete. Police said it was the worst riot in Oakland since every Raiders home game. “There was some trouble last night in Oakland after the Occupy Oakland protests. They had trouble breaking the crowd up because every time they fired bean bags at them, they started playing hackey sack with them.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“According to a new poll, 42 percent of Americans say they are uncomfortable with the idea of having a Mormon president. When asked why, the people said, ‘We’re still getting used to having a Muslim president.’” –Conan O’Brien “Herman Cain is also taking some flack for saying that China was developing nuclear weapons, but they’ve had them since the 60′s. I don’t think he’s that well versed on foreign affairs. Today a reporter asked him how he would handle Greece and he said he would put an extra layer of wax paper under the pizza before you put it in the box.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our mid-November report. The NBA lockout is still in effect, so I’m able to focus my attention on more important things like college hoops. And if you’re a waterfowl fan, 5 million ducks, geese, shorebirds and Philadelphia eagles have just arrived in the greater Bay Area and Sacramento Valley for their annual convention. It should be quite the visual treat in wetland marshes at Thanksgiving time, especially if you don’t mind seeing 500,000 snow geese lift off at once. We’ll catch you running the quarterback draw. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tim Tebow fans.

November 6, 2011

Waiter, There’s A Butterfly In My Blog

Good morning and greetings, west coast fans. Last week, the magnificence of humpback whales took center stage on Monterey Bay . This unannounced show was due to an abundance of anchovies and fried calamari that brought these giant creatures close enough to Dinah shore where they could be seen breaching, exhaling through their blowholes and making dinner plans at the Crow’s Nest. They were engaging in lunge-feeding, which involves moving quickly with their mouths open and engulfing their prey, a technique that I also find to be very effective at all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets.

This feeding frenzy became a national story and was featured
twice last week on NBC News with Brian Williams. I drove out on the wharf in an attempt to capture a slice of nature gone wild,
but from my vantage point my lens was just not big enough to make the magic happen, and as we know, size does matter.

We’ll take a look down the road at what my camera did capture, but today we are heading up to the monarch butterflies that gather at Natural Bridges State Park. I wanted to take advantage of the warm weather to get more than just an overall tan, and these orange and black beauties don’t drive or fly if it’s not over 55 degrees. And since the clock on my calendar said November, I knew the cold weather
would be coming, so I drove the half mile from my highly desirable upper
west side abode in search of monarch madness.

Now fifteen years ago, back when milkweed plants were as plentiful as gossip websites, there were 150,000 monarchs making an appearance in this neck of the woods. Five years ago it as 10,000, and now the total has fallen off drastically, where we our now looking at 2,000 to 3,000. My newest best friend Chris, an Interpretive Naturalist at Natural Bridges, put last week’s total at 2,700, which is a far cry from the glory days but still, well worth the trip to this little fluttering Garden of Eden.

So why are there so few monarchs where there once where so many? Last year, violent winter storms and the drug cartels did a number on them in Mexico. But the bigger problem is herbicides, pesticides, habitat loss, the Tea Party and bioengineered corn and soy, because the last three contain pesticides. The pollen will blow to adjacent milkweed and the insecticides will kill the caterpillar. And the only thing these caterpillars, who turn into the butterflies, will eat is milkweed. Well, that and a little baked brie and breaded pork chops. No milkweed, no monarchs. It’s as simple as that, or Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan.

But let’s not focus on the numbers. When you walk down the newly rebuilt wooden path that was badly damaged by a winter storm last year, you enter a place that dazzles your vision and takes your breath away. With the deep blue sky above, the warm sun kissed my face without leaving any lipstick marks, and as I looked up and around, the monarchs were all over the place, flying, floating and fluttering, which I found very flattering. It gave me a certain feeling of peace and tranquility, like when I get a good parking space.

It’s moments like this (and they are few and far between) when I feel things are still right with the world. Moments like this make me forget the senseless wars, health problems, economic crisis and most importantly, the NBA lockout.

As I stood there posing like a runway model, these colorful creatures were flying all around me, landing just a few feet away to feed and chat. I was surrounded by joy. It was the most relaxed I’ve been since my last colonoscopy, and being able to photograph them up close and personal was, along with viewing the whales, the highlight of the
week. Well, that and waking up and getting dial tone.

So here’s a few more fun facts. Monarch butterflies spend the winter along the Pacific coast in places like Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove because the weather here is cold enough that they can go into
reproductive diapause (similar to hibernation and what I do each January) but not cold enough to freeze, something that would kill a butterfly and put a crimp in my active social life.

The monarchs come to this particular eucalyptus grove at Natural Bridges because it is located in a canyon with shelter from the wind and filters sunlight to keep their bodies from freezing. They park also waives the $10 entrance free which is important as monarchs have been hit hard by the economic crisis and never carry cash.

Monarchs like to cluster in the trees (photo #1). They do this to protect themselves from the wind, rain and crazed moths. Clustering also makes it easier to find a mate and is a lot better than having to go to dating service websites like singleinsects.com.

To get to Natural Bridges, these monarchs fly 60 to 100 miles a day against the wind. They live six to nine months, so very few make long term plans. They follow the milkweed patches north from Mexico as the weather grows warmer. Each generation flies a little further north to lay their eggs and then establishes a family trust before dying.

If you get a chance on a warm day, head over to the Monarch Grove and check them out. You never know if they’ll be back next year, as life, much like my psyche, is a fragile as a butterfly.

On to the late night. “Remember Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida who
burned the Koran? That’s right; he is now a presidential candidate. You know what his platform is? Deporting every undocumented worker in America and imprisoning women who have abortions. Finally, the Republican Party has a moderate in the race.” –Bill Maher “Herman Cain told a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters to go home, get a
job, and get a life. That’s the Republican version of hope and change,
ladies and gentlemen. Michele Bachmann told reporters that she will lead the nation in prayer if she is elected president. You know if she is elected president, we all better be praying. She doesn’t have to lead us.” –Jay Leno

“A Libyan rebel has admitted to killing Moammar Gadhafi. He said he shot Gadhafi twice in the temple, to which Michele Bachmann said, ‘I didn’t even know the guy was Jewish.’ It seemed that after he was killed, Gadhafi’s body was stored at a commercial freezer at a shopping mall. It’s one thing to hunt a guy down and shoot him twice in the head, but then to drag him to the mall? Come on, guys hate that.” –Jay Leno

“Rick Perry has now accused Mitt Romney of hiring illegal aliens to work on his hair.” –David Letterman “President Obama is in Vegas for a fundraiser He spent the visit working on his new economic recovery plan, ‘Come on, seven!” –Jimmy Fallon “President Obama had his annual physical. Doctors say he is in excellent health, except his blood pressure. It’s 70 over 14 trillion.” –Jay Leno

“The United States government says it’s okay for British Petroleum to resume offshore drilling. Yeah! What could possibly go wrong? Just when I’m getting used to eating chowder without tar balls. I love the protests. And if you think about it, what better way to send a
message to Wall Street than by sitting in a pup tent banging on a
drum.” –David Letterman

“The New York Mets are planning to move the walls of Citi Field in order to increase the number of homeruns they hit. Call me old fashioned but isn’t that what steroids are for?” –Conan O’Brien “A lot of kids across the country got the day off from school because of Halloween. I’m pretty sure this is why we’re falling behind China. Not only did their kids not get the day off from school, they made all of our kids’ costumes.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So those are the first shock waves from November. I thought I had photographed my first sunrise of the fall last Saturday, but when I returned home, I discovered to my dismay and disbelief that my card wasn’t in my camera, thus no photos. In the words of Ralph Kramden, “You can’t put your arm around a memory.” And don’t even ask me about the unbelievably, all-time greatest double rainbow I thought I shot back in October. Trust me, it’s not pretty seeing a grown man cry.

So be glad we didn’t see any snow on the trees in October as last week the east coast was one big power outage. We’ll catch you throwing a deep crossing pattern. Aloha, mahalo and later, Eli Manning fans.


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