July 26, 2012

Hey, Can You Do Me A Flavor?

Good morning and greetings, summer Olympic fans. As you know, here at Sunrise Santa Cruz, I like to tackle the hot pockets of news topics of the day. Weather it is an unprecedented heat wave, presidential politics, the war in Congress or just why folks twitter about things that none of us give a rat’s asset about, I feel an obligation to distort, er report on these important issues of the day.

I view it as cyber privilege, and take this task as seriously as an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Or as Albert Einstein once told me, “It is every man’s obligation to put into the world at least the equivalent of what he take out of it.” It’s the old, you get what you give, and that’s why I have the dreamer’s disease.

So today I am reporting on a Yahoo News story written by Stacy Curtin that will focus on our partriotic duty and the high sodium content in all of us.

Lay’s potato chips is calling out the American people to search deep into their souls to help create the flavor of the next great American chip. Yes, we will be harmonically converging as a nation and taking the PepsiCo challenge, courtesy of the the Frito-Lay division, the company that brings you Ruffles, Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos, Cracker Jacks, Maui Style chips and kosher style fried pork skins. The sound you hear, once again, is my rabbi screaming.

But here’s the best part. The lucky person who comes up with the winning concoction will be awarded one million bucks, or 1% of the chips’s net sales for 2013, whichever is higher. The two runners up will win $50,000 in prize money, a case of Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper and a box of decorative party straws.

At the opening kickoff of the, “Do Us A Flavor Contest,” Anindita Mukherjee, the chief marketing officer of Frito-Lay North America and herself a great scrabble score, was asked about the $13 billion brand’s largest marketing campaign to date since the hunt for the nefarious Frito Bandido.

“Today consumers want to have their voices heard,” she said. “They want to have their hands, blood, sweat and tears in where a brand goes, what a flavor is for a brand, what direction it goes.” Or as they say in the marketing department,”What goes up, must come down. Spinning wheel, got to go round.

Fortunately for strict vegans like myself, the “Do Us a Flavor” contest is a first in the United States. But God bless the child that got his own, the contest already been a hit across the globe in more than 14 countries, resulting in a number of wild and crazy flavors including: Chilli & Chocolate, Late Night Kebob and my personal favorite, Cajun Squirrel. These contests have generated more than 8 million chip flavor ideas globally. Another example of why the high school dropout rates continue to fall.

To generate excitement for the U.S. contest, Lay’s has hired actress and restauranteur Eva Longoria and Iron Chef Michael Symon. Along with other food experts, the pair will help narrow down the submissions to three finalists, while Eva explains why her marraige to Tony Parker imploded.

In the words of my favorite Desperate Housewife, “To me, the best part about the contest is that you don’t have to be a foodie, chef or flavor expert to enter. You just have to trust your taste buds. If you’re passionate about a flavor, likely there are others who agree.” In other words, any lunatic can win.

So all you need to enter on Lay’s Facebook page is the flavor name, up to three possible ingredients and a 140-character description or inspiration for their flavor. I believe our love and devotion of potato chips can be summed up by the following words. “You’ve made me so very happy. I’m so glad you came into my life.”

The reaction to the Yahoo article about the contest came fast and furious on Facebook. “How about a chip called, Hope and Change chip. It would consist of an empty bag full af hot air! How about one called bull chip? It could be beef flavor. With the price of steak this could be the only way our children learn what steak taste like. OK, here is something really radical: How about making a potato chip that tastes like…potato!”

Here’s the bottom line. Lays, which years ago came up with the brilliant marketing slogan, “Betcha can’t eat just one,” has the world hooked on these salty snacks. No one, including Oprah and the Dali Lama can eat just one. Internationally, there are many truly bizarre flavors of chips already circulating around the planet. For example, Canada offers Ketchup, Fries & Gravy and Roast Chicken flavored chips. Thus the need for free national health insurance.

Personally, I enjoy most any flavored chip. But I’m not looking for chicken parmesan, beef stroganoff or meat loaf when I’m feeling chippy. Just give me a chip that a potato would recognize and I’ll be happy. As long a Ruffles have ridges, I’ll be able to sleep at night.

It’s also comforting to know that studies have shown that fats in foods like chips and french fries make the body produce a chemical called endocannabinoids, with qualities similar to marijuana that give people a case of what’s technically known as “the munchies.” Just something to think about next time you rip open a bag of chips or pop open a cannister of Pringles.

And for those inquring minds, potato chips were invented back in 1853, by a chef named named George Crum who got tired of dealing with a customer who kept sending his fried potatoes back to the kitchen because they were too “thick” and “soggy”. To teach this phony bologna fellow a lesson, Crum sliced the potatoes so thin that the they couldn’t be eaten with a fork. However, much to his surprise, the plan backfired as the customer was so pleased with this new potato creation that “potato chips” quickly became a regular item on the menu where he worked, along with tofu burgers and taco salads with fakin’ bacon.

For today’s photo sanctuary, we are showcasing a rare July sunset. Summer clouds like this are rarer than the way Iike my skirt steak, so it was a treat to see the sky overloaded with this puffy white and pink invasion. This conglomeration of clouds covered such a large area of the sky that I had to shoot it in segments rather than the full frame shots I normally go for. Just an unexpected summer treat in the skies above Monterey Bay.

On to some late night. “It’s now being reported than Mitt Romney’s campaign brought in 200 African American supporters to help cheer him on when he spoke at the NAACP meeting. And it cost him a lot of money because he had to fly them in from the Cayman Islands.” –Jay Leno “The poverty rate is now at its highest since the 1960s. It’s gotten so bad that Mitt Romney’s butler let his butler go.” –Conan O’Brien

“The apartment President Obama used to live in when he was a college student is now up for rent. It’s $2,400 a month, which is a bargain when you consider how much money Mitt Romney is spending to try and move into where Obama is living now. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann wants an investigation as to whether Islamists have infiltrated the highest levels of the federal government. You know what’s really frightening? After listening to Michele Bachmann, you realize idiots have infiltrated the highest levels of the federal government.” –Jay Leno

“Even though the Olympics take place during Ramadan, some Muslim athletes said they will not fast during games. Then, after sampling the British food, they said, on second thought, fasting sounds good.” –Conan O’Brien “At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, they handed out 100,000 condoms. This year it’s 150,000. That’s 100,000 for the U.S. basketball team and 50,000 for everyone else.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional committee the economic recovery is weakening. But the good news is most Americans will not be affected because they had no idea there was a recovery.” –Jay Leno “We’re learning more and more about this guy Kim Jong-Un. New vicious, evil dictator of North Korea. Quite a . . . Apparently quite a ladies’ man. For a long time he was known as Kim Jong Clooney.” –David Letterman

So that’s the last blast for July 2012. Because of a clause in my contract, I’ll be heading over to warm waters and golden sands of the Garden Isle of Kauai to do a little research on the trade winds and plumeria population. As the natives always say to me when I tell them how happy I am to be in the islands, “Ho’omaikai ana helo aku.” Congratulations, now go away.

Enjoy the Olympic coverage and we’ll rendevous down the road in August. We’ll catch you being the youngest position player ever to selected for the all-star game. Aloha, mahalo and later, Bryce Harper fans.

July 22, 2012

Well, It’s A Drought Time

Good morning and greetings, decathalon fans. According to John Calipari and my WikiLeak sources in the U.K., London has spent billions in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics. We’re talking about the construction of state of the art stadiums, installation of ultra tight security and drug tests for the Rolling Stones. But there is one thing besides Keith Richards that the organizers of this summer extravaganza can’t control, and that is the wacky British weather.

Julie Andrews once said that this is a country where you can have four seasons in an afternoon. Much like myself, many Londoners never leave the house without an umbrella and sunglasses. During the recent Wimbledon Tennis tournament, England was hit by violent rainstorms with enough precipitation to flood Abbey Road and a yellow submarine. In the words of John Lennon, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.”

Reports from Michael Caine and the UK’s national weather forecaster said this past June was the wettest since they began keeping records in 1910. We’re talking double the average rainfall. July has brought more rain, flash floods and the British invasion. The Olympic organizers would like conditions to be as dry an sunny as possible for the athletes, but that’s about as likely as the Beatles reuniting on Ed Sullivan. I think good day, sunshine just went out the bathroom window.

So the forecast for the games, which run from July 27 to August 12, is for below average sunshine and temperatures. Let’s call it cloudy, with a chance of chaos. Myself, I prefer cloudy with a chance of paradise.

But we would kill for that rain over here, as according to the Huffington Post, not to be confused with the New York Post or my son Jason’s post-up game, we’re in the midst of the worst drought in decades. Conditions are getting worse by the day and might not improve until after Halloween. Only the droughts in the 1930s and the 1950s covered more land, and farmers in the epicenter in the midwest are taking a beating. We’re not talking in terms of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe yet, but every day more corn is wilting in the fields. It’s been a brutal summertime, and the livin’ hasn’t been easy because although the fish may be jumpin’, the cotton is definitely not high.

Bloomberg.com reports that because of the drought, over a 1,000 counties in 29 states are being named natural-disaster areas, the biggest such declaration ever by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The declaration makes farmers and ranchers eligible for low-interest loans to help them weather the drought, wildfires and other disasters, like another season of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” It’s been helter skelter here and back in the U.S.S.R.

Climatologists and medicine men, not to be confused with Don Draper and ‘Mad Men,” have labeled this year’s dry spell a “flash drought,” because it developed in a matter of months, not over multiple seasons or years. Despite this very difficult time, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that “Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy, along with a Starbucks on every corner in America.”

Corn has been hit the hardest, as this year’s crop of 96 million acres was the largest ever planted. Optimism has been replaced severe pessimism, as the fields are burning and no signficant rain or movement by Congress is in the forecast. Farmers will have to survive with a little help from their friends.

Corn is perhaps the second most important thing on the planet next to water and beer, as it is used for feed for livestock and poultry and in the making of things like crayons, car tires, corn dogs, shampoo, makeup and unmanned drones.

The drought continues to be an ongoing disaster, much like when Roseanne Barr tried singing the national anthem. Last Tuesday she was asked by David Letterman Tuesday night about macadamia nuts. “They are so good for you. They’ve got a lot of the right fats that keep your brain working the correct way, so you don’t vote Republican and stuff like that.”

So while we’re on the subject, have you ever wondered where’s the driest place on earth? Well, I’m glad you asked, as according to nationalgeographic.com, the Atacama Desert is the winner. This lovely stretch of land covers 600 miles from Peru’s southern border into northern Chile. At its chocolately, creme-filled center, a place climatologists call absolute desert, the Atacama is known as the driest place on Earth.

This is a place where rain has never been recorded. In this extremely dry, stretch of teenage wasteland, you won’t see a leaf, cactus flower, snake or television agent, much like Palm Springs was before being discovered by Dinah Shore.

Interestingly enough, the United States, Canada, Europe, East Asia and Chile have partnered together, at a cost of more than a billion dollars, to construct the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array. It’s a group of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert in northern Chile where astronomers go to have their minds blown. From this high desert outpost, ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe, detail imaging of local stars and planet formation and keep an eye on the comings and goings of Venezuela’s top nut, Hugo Chavez.

So sticking with our desert theme, today’s photo lounge features colorful shots from my favorite oasis, Palm Desert. These sunrise and sunset shots were taken during many of my strenuous hikes around the Palm Valley Country Club, where things can get pretty treacherous, especially around the putting greens and 15th fairway.

I love the feel of the warm desert breezes, the spectacular colors in the sky and the ice scuptures at the all-you-can-eat Sunday brunches up at the clubhouse. And let’s not forget the corned beef at Sherman’s Deli and Bakery, with two convenient locations In Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

On to the late night. “I was just the guy with the smoke screenish, yet still legal title of CEO and Managing Director who was paid at least $100,000 a year to do what, according to me, Mitt Romney, was nothing. That’s the kind of common sense business experience I hope to bring to the White House. Nobody cares that Mitt Romney is rich. It’s Romney’s inability to understand the institutional advantage that he gains from the government’s tax code largesse, that’s a little offensive to people, especially considering Romney’s view on anyone else who looks to the government for things like, I don’t know, food and medicine.” –Jon Stewart

“On Friday Oprah Winfrey interviewed Mitt Romney. They talked about politics, foreign policy, and what it’s like to lose a million dollars in the couch cushions.” –Conan O’Brien “A new poll found that 54 percent of Florida voters think the country is on the wrong track under President Obama. While the rest of Florida’s voters still think Teddy Roosevelt is president.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Sarah Palin is saying she still hasn’t been invited to the Republican National Convention next month. The RNC says it’s all a misunderstanding — as in, Palin misunderstands the meaning of the phrase, ‘You’re not invited.’” –Jimmy Fallon “The big news in Washington now is the disappearance of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Nobody can find him. He’s completely disappeared.People think he’s either in rehab or he might have been given his own show on CNN.

“I guess you heard about this; the U.S. Olympic Committee is coming under fire after it was revealed that the uniforms for Team USA to be worn in the opening ceremony were made in China. Turns out they were made by some of the same kids who could beat us in gymnastics. We have American athletes in uniforms made in China, wearing French berets. I don’t know if we’re supposed to compete, ask for a loan or surrender.” –Jay Leno

On a more somber note, let’s hope that someday in our lifetime, lunatics won’t be able to buy an assault rifles and mow down innocent people, destroying lives and families forever. How many tragedies is it going to take?

We’ll catch you being the most exciting thing in Pittsburgh since a young Ben Roethlisberger came on to the scene. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andrew McCuthchen fans.

July 15, 2012

Don’t Walk In There, The Floor’s Silhouette

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — geoff @ 8:39 pm

Good morning and greetings, air conditioning fans. Over the river and through the woods, it’s been one of the hottest summers on record at grandmother’s house. Record-high temperature marks have been smashed like Yukon Gold potatoes in a warm skillet. In many of the hot, dry pockets around the country, folks could not exist without air conditioning or early bird special pricing.

According to bigsiteofamazingfacts.com and under the heading, “I did not know that,” the idea for an air conditioner came to a Mr. Willis Carrier back in 1902. He was standing in the fog at a railroad station reading Page Six of the New York Post, when he realized that fog is water condensed out of the air. Thus, when the air is cooled, he knew that water could be condensed out of air by cooling it, a system we know today as Kool and the Gang.

Mr. Carrier then designed a machine for cooling air as it entered his picture printing plant, so that moisture would collect in the machine and not affect the color of his printers. So the world’s first air conditioning system was invented not to cool air, but to dry it. And if we journey a few years back, the ancient Egyptians hung wet mats and candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood at their tent doors to cool the air blowing in, which was the earliest unofficial air conditioning and the precursor to the recent presidential elections in Egypt.

But the final word on this subject comes from Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, who put it so eloquently when he said, “I just dropped in to see what condition my air conditioning was in.”

But let’s get back to LeBron James and the blistering heat. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the scorching temperatures in the second half of June helped the continental United States break its record for the hottest first six months in a calendar year. And as you know, your continental U.S. comes with a choice of coffee, tea or juice and croissants, pastries, muffins and jelly donuts.

And for those of you keeping score at home, the last 12 months have also been the warmest since modern record-keeping began in 1895. Every state except Washington in the contiguous United States had warmer-than-average temperatures for the June 2011-June 2012 period. But you know what they say about Seattle. It only rains twice a year, August through April and May through July. Sorry, Sonic’s fans.

Four out of five scientists who chew gum say that climate change spurred by carbon dioxide emissions may not be the primary cause of this extreme heat, but they wouldn’t bet their sugarless gum against it. There’s a high level of agreement that global warming and the Tea Party have made it more likely that heat waves of this Thomas magnitude will occur.

Personally, I like to follow the thinking of Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Infofe, who claims that human influenced climate change is a hoax. In the good senator’s words. “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” Thank you, Senator, and hopefully we can get together soon and talk about evolution.

And as a bonus to Pat Riley and the heat, wildfires burned 1.3 million acres in June, the second-largest area to be charred during any June on record. Colorado and the west were a regular disco inferno while in Florida, Tropical Storm Debby dumped so much rain that it became the Sunshine State’s wettest June on record. Since I don’t have a joke for how wet it was, we’ll go with Rodney Dangerfield. “I went to see my doctor…I told him, “Doctor, every morning when I get up and look in the mirror I feel like throwing up. What’s wrong with me? He said, “I don’t know, but your eyesight is perfect.”

For today’s photosynthesis, we are going with the silhouette look. I rarely photograph humans or gibbons in my landscape work, but every once in a while I get the urge to showcase the human condition. Photo number three showcases my lovely daughter Aimee, back in the days when she still thought I was a Stanford professor on sabbatical. And lo and behold, there’s a rare shot of yours truly at Natural Bridges State Beach. I call it, “Alone, together.”

On to some late night. “Mitt Romney’s campaign raised $35 million more than President Obama for the month of June. Out of force of habit, Mitt stashed it all in the Cayman Islands. “According to Mitt Romney’s wife Ann, Mitt may be looking at a woman for Vice President. The bad news? They have John McCain doing the background check. That could be dicey. Mitt Romney told the crowd at an NAACP conference that if he were elected president he would fight for all millionaires, black or white.” – Jay Leno

“In a new interview, Mitt Romney said he doesn’t know where his financial records are because he doesn’t manage them. Yeah, he would have said more, but he had to give a speech on why he’s the perfect guy to fix the economy.” – Jimmy Fallon “In Mexico, the loser of their presidential election is accusing the winner of election fraud. He says the winner bought millions of votes. To which Mitt Romney said, “You can do that?” An awkward moment for Mitt Romney today in Colorado. A homeless guy asked him for a dollar, but all he had was Swiss Francs.” – Jay Leno

“Mitt Romney gave a speech at the annual NAACP conference in Houston. The event got off to a bad start when Romney pulled up in front of the convention center and he instinctively locked the doors to his limo.” – Jimmy Kimmel “A high school in Indiana is requiring every student to buy an iPad instead of using textbooks. That’s nothing. In China they require every student to MAKE an iPad instead of using textbooks.” – Jimmy Fallon Anybody watch the baseball All-Star Game last night? “The American League got busted up pretty bad and the National League actually got so cocky toward the end of the game they let the wives play.” – David Letterman

So that’s another week in the e-books. Enjoy the summer daze and we’ll catch you being the most impressive rookie in the American League and a MVP candidate. Aloha, mahalo and later, Mike Trout fans.

July 8, 2012

I Haven’t Got Time For The Chains

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 1:03 pm

Good morning and greetings, Wimbledon fans. The early summer weather has been NBA fantastic here on the central coast. Meanwhile, across the midwest last week, record-setting heat in Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and St. Louis made folks feel like they were roasting in a Dutch oven. Throw in the fact that low temperatures were setting record highs and there was no relief pitcher in sight.

The eastern seaboard was also feeling a little toasty. How hot was it? According to Jimmy Fallon, it was so hot in New York that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was seen drinking a Big Gulp. Lance Armstrong tested postitive for Snapple. And Letterman said it was so hot in Washington that Dick Cheney waterboarded himself.

So with our central coast weather being lovelier than my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Riccabono, I was a little surprised when I woke up on July 4th to see the fog had settled in along the coast. But despite the gray anatomy, I sprang out of bed and headed down to West Cliff, only to be greeted by some early morning air that was straight out of “Play Misty for Me.”

I started on my five mile, er three mile, er mile and half walk but before I could say, “Aretha Franklin”, I encountered chain after chain of pelicans flying by in classic V formations. The first few groups numbered between 20 and 25. I stopped to marvel at their prehistoric beauty, as this sight harkened me back to my childhood and a poster of Raquel Welch in “One Million Years B.C.,” which I had hung up up due to my early interest in paleontology.

Then, thru the fog and mist came the longest chain yet. This group
numbered more than 60 pelicans flying in a long V formation. It was pure magic, and I knew at that moment what I would be featuring as a photo entree for this week’s post, which just happens to be my 333rd in my semi-illustrious, non-Pultitzer Prize winning career.

This amazing display of aerial pageantry brought me back to the year 2006, when I was down at Its Beach during some research on my thesis, “When Am I Ever Going To Use Algebra?” It was an extreme low tide day, and I was standing under the arch when I noticed chains of pelicans flying in from the south. I proceeded to shoot away like paparazzi at a Kardashian family luau, as the formations were among the most exotic I had even seen. And much like episodes of “The Closer” on a TNT marathon, they just kept on coming.

I’ve included a few other memorable in flight moments in today’s photo six pack. I took the final shot of this young pelican a month ago up at Four Mile Beach. It was temporarily grounded, and was hanging out in the marsh just off the beach. It was sad to see this sea bird in distress, and hopefully it later flew off to wash and wax its wings in the creek up at Waddell State Beach.

So here are a few fun facts about my favorite coastal bird, the brown
pelican. There are approximately eight species of pelicans, not
including disgraced investigator to the stars, Anthony Pellicano.
Alll of them have the famous throat pouch for which the birds use to
catch fish and carry ID’s and iPods.

Pelicans have been roaming the skies for about 30 to 40 million years. But unlike my transformation from love child of the 60′s to the silver-haired baby boomer I am today, their look has not changed much over the years, as they have same anatomical similarities they had back in the Flintstone days. To that I can only say, “Yabba dabba

Brown pelicans like to dine on seafood, and accomplish this culinary
task by dive bombing and then scooping the fish into their pouches. The brown pelicans are the only species to plunge into the water from above to capture prey, which makes viewing a full blown pelican feeding frenzy (photo #5 ) a visual treat. Much like Christina Hendricks character on “Mad Men,” they are a quite a sight to see in action. And speaking of Joanie, I’m not even going to get into how her character became a full voting partner in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Jaguar, don’t dream it, drive it.

On to a taste of the late night. “In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled President Obama’s healthcare mandate is constitutional. This is a major victory for President Obama, who spent three years promoting it, and a major setback for Mitt Romney, who spent three years creating it.” –Jay Leno “It was reported that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wore her lucky purple shoes for the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling – while House Speaker John Boehner wore his lucky orange face.” –Jimmy Fallon

Since we’re a little light on the late night, I’m throwing in a couple of jokes. Three friends die in a car accident and they go to an orientation in heaven. They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say
about you? The first guy says,”I would like to hear them say that I
was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say … Look, he’s moving!

A guy joins a monastery and takes a vow of silence. He’s allowed say two words every seven years. After the first seven years, the elders bring him in and ask for his two words. “Cold floors,” he says. They nod and send him away. Seven more years pass. They bring him back and ask for his two words. He clears his throat and says, “Bad food.” They nod and send him away. Seven more years pass. They bring him in for his two words. ‘I quit,” he says. “That’s not surprising,” the elders say. “You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here.”

So that’s our post Independence Day report. Stay cool and we’ll catch you winning your fifth Wimbledon singles title at age 32. Or perhaps taking home your record-tying seventh Wimbledon trophy. Aloha, mahalo and later, Serena Williams and Roger Federer fans.

July 1, 2012

Who Knows What Julys Ahead?

Good morning and greetings, Supreme Court fans. Last week was a disastrous one for many Americans, as wildfires and flooding ravaged parts of the nation. The worst wildfire in Colorado state history raged away, with 60 mile per hour winds doubling the size of this “firestorm of epic proportions,” forcing frantic residents to evacuate their homes at a moment’s notice. This blazing inferno wiped out entire neighborhoods, taking with it precious memories and photographs that are irreplaceable.

Which leads to the question, if you only had a few minutes to grab what’s important, what would you take? For me it would be simple. My golden retriever, as much Johnny cash as I could stuff into my pockets and a certificate which states “In recognition for superior scholarship, the name of Geoffrey Dean Gilbert has been entered on the Deans List for the fall semester, 1971, for the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Forty-one years later and my parents still think it’s a forgery.

If wildfires burning out of control weren’t enough, Tropical Storm Debby lashed into Florida like me swinging a whiffle ball bat, drenching parts of the Sunshine State with over 20 inches of rain and causing more flooding than a reunion show on Oprah. Debby’s rainfall also shut down Interstate 10 for a few days, which caused major havoc with traffic and fans of Stevie Winwood.

But the good news is that the drought is temporarily over in Florida, the bad news is that this was just the first tropical storm in 2012 to form in the Gulf of Mexico, and the NBA news is that LeBron James and the Miami Heat are not going to be satisfied with just one championship.

And speaking of Dwyane Wade, last week over 1,600 heat records fell across the country in a seven day period, with triple digit temperatures scorching the midwest and Great Plains. For me, when the heat index tops 115, I tend to get a little cranky, even when I’m chanting in a sweat lodge. I don’t want to say it was hot, but even Mitt Romney seemed cool.

And then to top it all off, last Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of almost all of Obamacare, which was President Obama’s greatest signature legislative achievement besides picking the Final Four teams in last year’s NCAA basketball tournament.

This was the Supreme Court’s most important decision since Bush versus Gore in 2000, which they screwed up worse than John Edwards’ decision to speed date while he was married. I would have paid good money to have seen Karl Rove’s face contorting in anger and disbelief when his handpicked Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the liberal bloc and upheld Obamacare, which is not to be confused with the Tea Party’s platform of Idontknow and Idontcare.

In a related story, Donald Trump is now demanding to see Justice Robert’s birth certificate.

These events give closure to the month of June, which like my hopes for another season of “The Firm” on NBC, are now history. Which brings us to July, and the thoughts of fireworks and color flow into my mind like sockeye salmon returning to the rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

So to honor Independence Day and the freedom I feel when shooting the breeze and the skyline, I thought we would start off the second half of 2012 with a blast from the recent past, and feature the top six moments of spectacular color and pageantry from the 2011-2012 sunrise and sunset season.

In my salute to “Fiddler on the Roof,” we’re going to line it up sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset. All the rises were shot on location at Its Beach and Lighthouse Point, while the sets took a bow at Natural Bridges State Beach. As a photographer and a spirit channeler, these were my favorite moments of the digital year, along with picturing myself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

On to some late night. “Yesterday in New Hampshire, President Obama said Americans need someone who will wake up every single day and fight for their jobs. Then he said, ‘But until we find that guy, I’m still your best choice.’” –Jimmy Fallon “The latest rumor is that Mitt Romney’s running mate will be a white male from Ohio. Or as Romney refers to him, ‘a person of color.’” –Conan O’Brien

“A new survey found that only 31 percent of Americans would want to sit next to Mitt Romney on a flight. Romney was so upset, he was like, ‘I don’t understand. How would they get on my private jet?’” –Jimmy Fallon “Obama called Romney a pioneer of outsourcing jobs. A spokesperson for Romney said, ‘I dare him to come to India and say that to my face.’” –Conan O’Brien

“This week a woman in Florida got into trouble for groping a TSA agent while she was getting a pat-down. Or as the TSA put it, ‘The student has become the master.’” –Jimmy Fallon “The Supreme Court has decided not to fine broadcast networks for fleeting expletives or momentary nudity. It looks like ‘Wheel of Fortune’ is about to get a lot more interesting.” –Conan O’Brien

So that’s our first blast for July. Enjoy Independence Day and we’ll catch you watching the third season of ‘Louie” on FX. Aloha, mahalo and later, Louis C.K. fans.

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