May 10, 2015

There’s No Drought About That

Good morning and greetings, rainfall fans.  As we know, when dealing with important issues of the day, there are always differing opinions, two sides to every coin.  Someone is right, someone is wrong.  And in these pages, I sometimes poke fun at the conservative point of view, because to paraphrase the late Art Linkletter, “Conservatives say the funniest things.”

But one thing we can agree on these days is that the state of California has been going through a severe drought.  People are now showering in the sinks while folks are watching as their lawns go from green to red.   The state is in a crisis.

And, of course, this does not apply to the people of Beverly Hills, but that’s because they have immunity to floods, hurricanes and price increases of whitefish at Nate ‘n Al’s Deli on North Beverly Drive, where they honor one simple commitment.  To serve the finest deli favorites prepared with the best ingredients, featuring the finest corned beef, brisket, stuffed cabbage and short ribs.

Now a long time reader of this blog, who tends to lead to his right and drive to his left, wanted me to bring up the facts concerning this important issue.  In a story written by Malia Zimmerman for Fox News, the long-running California drought, which began back in 2102, could have been avoided if proper measures had been set in place.Now according to the critics ,the Golden State’s misguided environmental policies allowed much-needed rainwater to flow straight into the Pacific. In an average year, California gets enough snow and rain to put 200 million acres under a foot of water, but environmental opposition to dams over the last several decades has allowed the majority of the freshwater to flow into the ocean.

The current drought has left farmlands scorched and residents under strict water consumption orders.  According to Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. “This is a man-made disaster.  Southern California is an arid part of the world where droughts are commonplace, and knowing this, you’d think the government of California would have included this mathematical certainty in its disaster preparedness planning, but the government has done nothing, not even store rain, as the population has continued to grow.”

It seems that Mr. Cohen is pointing the fickled finger of fate at the administration of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who back in April mandated the state’s residents cut water usage by as much as 35 percent, saying, “As Californians, we have to pull together and save water in every way we can.”  One drop at a time.  Three coins in a fountain.

To hear it from the Republican side, “Droughts are nothing new in California, but right now, 70 percent of California’s rainfall washes out to sea because liberals have prevented the construction of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades, during a period in which California’s population has doubled,” says Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and a 2016 GOP presidential candidate. “This is the classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology.”

Let’s forget she laid off 30,000 people at Hewlett-Packard.  Fiorina places the blame for the loss of agriculture on the  manuvering of those dreaded liberal environmentalists, as 400,000 acres of farmland went unplanted last year.

Face it, the farmers are having a tough go of it.  Critics point the fingers at wanting to divert the water to boost fish populations rather than it going to farmers.  Forget about the cashews, save the endangered Delta Smelt.

California produces more than 250 different crops, with $44 billion in sales.  It is the only state to produce 12 key crops such as almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, raisins, kiwi, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, walnuts and a host of great TV shows,like “Secrets and Lies” on ABC.

But my big concern is, what will be the fate of our friend, the avocado?   I ran across an interesting story written by Adam Sternbergh in the April 20, 2105 issue of New York Magazine, titled “Guacanomics, Have You Eaten Your Last Avocado.”  In it, he discusses our lust for this precious fruit, and it’s future on this planet.

Charley Wolk is 78 years old and an avocado farmer, living a half-hour drive north of San Diego in Fallbrook, CA.   Fallbrook is unofficially known as “the Avocado Capital of the World,” and Charley serves as the chairman of the California Avocado Commission, while writing a blog called Growing Avocados, on which he’s billed as “California’s foremost avocado expert.”

Charley says the global demand for avocados has never been higher. People are going crazy for this creamy, fat filled fruit. But there’s only thing that’s troubling Charley and the avocado farmers.  You guessed it.  WATER.  What to do about the drought?

This ongoing dry spell has lasted three years and will extend to a fourth.  California farmers pay dearly for the delivery of water, and it is getting very, very expensive.   “The avocado’s native environment is tropical, and we’re growing them in a desert,” Charley says. It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados, compared to, for instance, nine gallons to grow a pound of tomatoes. “The issue with water used to be cost. Now it’s availability.”

Now this is slightly off track, but here’s a scary scenario from Jan Eliassson, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, on the world wide scarcity of clean water. “We have a dramatically dangerous situation right now, a new dimension which is creeping into the water equation.  The fact that you have a finite situation, there’s competition about these resources.  There is a risk that water scarcity could be a threat to peace and security.”

“History if full of stories where you fight about resources.  Fighting about water is fighting about our survival.  If we don’t deal with the problem of responsibility in this stage, the problem will grow into a disastrous situation.  I think it’s time for us to wake up.”

Now back to the story.  Technically, the avocado is a berry. But it’s not like any other berry, because it’s not sweet to eat off the tree. The name avocado comes from the Aztec word ahuacatl, which means “testicle,” so named because avocados typically grow in pairs and hang heavy on the tree.

The avocado didn’t land in California until the 1850s, when a tree was imported from Nicaragua by a private citizen as a botanical curiosity.  I’m guessing she was a female admirer.

According to my sources, 44 percent of California is classified as being in “exceptional drought.”  California has missed out on a full year’s worth of precipitation over each of the last three years. Last year was also the warmest year in the state’s recorded history.   When Charley started farming avocados four decades ago, water cost about $72 per acre-foot of water.  Now in some areas it costs about $1,500 per acre-foot.  Holy guacamole.

So the avocado farmers in California are searching for new, more efficient ways to grow avocados, and looking to develop new, heartier, more drought-resistant strains of avocado to grow. So it all comes back to the drought, and the policy and politics involving the state of California.   The critics have pointed the fingers of blame.  Time has been wasted.  Now it’s time for action.  I just hope it’s not too late.

Moving from agriculture to photos, I thought I’d take a break from the landscapes and feature some animal, bird  and marine life I have photographed in the past months of May.

We start out with the an elegant pelican cruising the skies over Monterey Bay, and then onto a great blue heron in the tide pools off West Cliff Drive.  Then we head up the coast to Four Mile Beach, where three harbor seals are keeping a watchful eye on me.  Then we run across a bobcat I found making sand castles up at Four Mile, before returning to town to check out this baby elephant seal and this fully grown sea lion.

We then look in on my sleeping daughter, a monkey and Summer, our golden retriever who celebrated her 10th birthday on Saturday.  And for the grand finale, we check in on Aimee’s pet rabbits, Marvin and Scarlett, who will chew through anything she can get her teeth on.

On to some late night humor.  “Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from the show “19 Kids and Counting” say they are supporting Mike Huckabee for president because he has “common sense.” If there’s anyone who knows about common sense, it’s a family with 19 kids.” – Jimmy Fallon  “A woman held hostage by her boyfriend in Florida managed to escape this week after she convinced him to let her order a pizza using Pizza Hut’s app and wrote “911 hostage help” in the comment section. But really aren’t all Pizza Hut orders a cry for help?” – Seth Meyers

“Remember “deflate-gate”? After the Patriots beat the Colts, 11 of the 12 footballs were found to be deflated. I hope deflate-gate is a good lesson for kids. If you cheat and don’t play fair you will be the MVP of the Super Bowl and marry one of the most beautiful women on earth. Remember that.” – Jimmy Kimmel   “Happy Cinco de Mayo. Today is the day Americans celebrate Mexicans beating the French in the Battle of Puebla by getting blind drunk, listening to mariachi music, and then vomiting in a cab. Or as we call it in Britain — Tuesday.” – James Corden

“Welcome to the program. My name is Dave Letterman, and tonight I’m giving my two-week notice.  Don’t worry about me. I plan to continue to be in show business. I have already been booked to be in a production of “The Sunshine Boys” with Jay Leno.” – David Letterman

“You know what’s going to be big this summer is the new “Indiana Jones” movie. Now Indiana Jones is a little older. In this film he goes in search of a tomb for himself.  Now instead of outrunning a giant boulder, Indiana Jones has to pass an enormous kidney stone.” – David Letterman

“Happy Cinco de Mayo. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, mayor Bill de Blasio is filling all New York City potholes with guacamole.  Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby.  The thing about the Kentucky Derby is that it’s usually won by the horse from Kenya.” – David Letterman

 So we’ll catch you lighting it up for 16 third quarter points and riding your team to a game three victory over the Rockets.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Austin Rivers fans.

February 15, 2015

The Golden State Of Mind

Good morning and greetings, February fans.  Well, it warmed up around the central coast last week, with sunny skies and delightful warm breezes, as the daytime highs got up into the mid 70′s.  The mornings are still cool and crisp, but nothing like the relentless battering weather conditions in Boston, where this month, the snowfall has been absolutely insane, with one blizzard after another.

If you like Super Bowl of snow, then Massachusetts is the place to be in February, as over six feet had fallen in 17 days.  We’re talking about 77.3 inches of the white stuff coming down in a little over two weeks, making it the snowiest February in city history.  It’s like the Mexican drug cartels had taken over the Weather Channel.  It just keeps coming down.

Now on the local front, let’s take a look the conditions we had back in January, where our fair city of Santa Cruz recorded no rainfall for the first time since 1893.  Holy smokes!  According to local meteorologists and my urologist, this has never happened before.  We were rolling on the winter front, with 43 straight days of peace, love, music and UV rays.

How dry was it?  A halibut knocked on my door asking for a drink of water.
Now January is usually the rainiest month on the central coast, where we expect to receive around 6.3 inches.  And looking north to San Francisco Bay area, the conditions were just as bleak, as there was no measurable moistness, which the National Weather Service declared it as the driest month on record, tape or CD.
It was the first time in 165 years that the Bay Area recorded no January precipitation.  If you want to do the math, that’s going back to 1850, long before women started lining up accusing Bill Cosby of any sexual shenanigans.
The only signs of precipitation in the Bay Area was at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the Golden State Warriors were raining down three pointers against their opponents.  At the all-star break, Golden State have compiled the best record in the NBA, with an outstanding 42-9 mark.  The dream season continues to roll along, and the only question Warrior fans want answered is, “Is this going to be our championship season?”  Stay tuned.
Now why am I bringing up February’s fabulous weather conditions?  Because back in 1974, before there was history, the internet, and Bruce Jenner was all man, I made my first visit to the Golden State.  Back in February 1974, the central coast was experiencing the same type of delightful weather patterns, with sunny, clear days and highs in the lows 70′s.It seems I had landed in a cold water paradise, where the redwoods got along with the sea.  Who knew?
Now why Santa Cruz?   I know some of you know the story, but it’s worth repeating.  I had first heard the name, Santa Cruz, in the summer of 1972, while attending the summer session of the University of Colorado.  I met a lovely young lady from San Francisco on my first night in Boulder, and I explained to her that I was a refugee from Syracuse University, fleeing the winters in upstate New York.
I told her I was in search of the “kind” weather, which coincidentally was how Boulder was advertised. “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.”  After she heard my story, she smiled brightly and uttered the magic words, “You should go to school in Santa Cruz.”
Was it kismet?  Was it fate that I had run into this blonde, tall glass of water who went on to become Wilhelmina model?  Well, sitting here in Santa Cruz forty three years later, I guess it was.  Because at that point, I didn’t know Santa Cruz from Jose Cruz.
So after a quick jaunt over to the European continent and the tip of Africa, I returned to the continent, where I then boarded a plane in New York and was deposited in the Golden State, specifically onto West Cliff Drive. My manifest destiny was complete.
I slept like a baby that night along the edge of the continent, and liked it so much that I extended my stay along the cliff to 14 years.  And the rest, they say, is history,  just like Stephen Curry winning the three point shootout in fine fashion on NBA All-Star Saturday night.
For today’s photo replay, we are returning to the evening of December 30.  There wasn’t too much cloud action in the sky, but as the sun started to dip between the clouds and heading for the horizon, I took out my zoom lens to capture the drama up close and personal on this night.  It’s just a kiss away.

On to some late night humor.  “Despite the Brian Williams lying scandal, NBC News led in the ratings last week. Although I should note the figures were reported by Brian Williams.  There’s a rumor that NBC is going to have Tom Brokaw fill in temporarily as the NBC News anchor. When asked why, a network spokesperson said, “Because the only other NBC person we have is Bill Cosby.” – Conan O’Brien

“It’s been reported that Beyoncé wore $10 million worth of jewels to the Grammys. When asked why, Beyoncé said, “I didn’t want to bring the good stuff.”  An old pair of shoes once owned by Justin Bieber has sold on eBay for $50,000. To be honest, they’re a little tight on me.  A Saudi Arabian prince has said that oil may never again rise above $100 a barrel. He said it’s gotten so bad he can’t afford to buy his wife her own car that she’s not allowed to drive.” -Conan O’Brien

“Once again it’s Fashion Week here in New York City. The top models of the day are very, very skinny. I did the math on this — it takes about a dozen models to actually create a shadow.  A woman in Manhattan went into a seafood restaurant, bit into a hunk of fish and got a fish hook in her mouth. I hate when you go into a restaurant and you’re the catch of the day.” -David Letterman

“Pot growers in the state of Washington have a problem. Supply there has outstripped demand and they have a lot more marijuana than they can sell.  Washington has more pot than they can smoke, which might help to explain why Pete Carroll called for a passing play on the 1 yard line.  The pot surplus is so bad in Washington right now that the governor is saying they may have to deploy Willie Nelson to the area.” -Jimmy Kimmel

So birthday wishes go out to my brother Paul, who turns the big 60 on Sunday.  He says he’s not concerned about turning sixty, and by early June, he’ll actually be able to say the number out loud.  Here’s joy to you, my brother.

So we’ll catch you tearing it up in the backcourt, but once again, not being named as a replacement on the all-star team.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Monta Ellis fans.

September 26, 2010

A Night To September

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — geoff @ 5:39 pm

Good morning and greetings, autumn fans. The fall season is upon us as the summer of 2010, much like my aspirations of sitting on the Supreme Court or dunking on a basketball court, are now history. But the last night of summer left behind a tasty little digital imprint, as yours truly sensed there would be color in the western sky and seized the moment like a fresh pan of eggplant parmesan just out of the oven, which comes with a side of penne pasta and toasted gluten-free garlic nuggets.

So let’s go back in the Chinese calendar to last Tuesday night, before the fall equinox hit me like a blackjack dealer at Harrah’s. Coming into this evening, I had not photographed a sunset the entire summer, and as you know, I’m a big fan of dusk. And there had been nothing on the sunrise front either, so an entire season went by in the sky without me even doffing with my lens cap.

But then the final evening of summer rolled in and clouds covered the sky like Darrelle Revis on Randy Moss running a fly pattern. Before you could say “Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson,” I grabbed my camera and headed over to a little park by my house that overlooks an arroyo and the mountains above UC Santa Cruz.

Now, as many of you and my rabbi know, I’m looking for the reflection action on the water and sand when I shoot sunsets, but because of the positioning of the sun and my daughter, this was not possible on this evening. Or in the words of Mick Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need.” I think I got it but you be the bailiff.

The first shot sets up the location and then we move into zoom mode, or as they say in Israel, “zoom gali gali gali, zoom gali gali.” As our forefathers and mothers penned in the Bill of Rights, we’re guaranteed the best sunrise and sunsets occur in late fall and winter. But every once in a while some early clouds sneak in to remind me why I’m captivated by color in the sky and pilot episodes during the new fall TV season.

As you can see, it helps to have a zoom to capture the colors along the horizon. The next night the autumn harvest moon rose, and without my zoom lens I’d be shooting like the Cleveland Cavaliers without LeBron James. Dead or on life support.

Now not to get too sentimental, but since there are only three days of September left on the calendar before October blows in, I thought, what do we really know about this month? So let’s take a nostalgic look back at some classic events from our ninth month. Or in the words of the Happenings, “see you in September, see you when the summer’s through.” And for those of you keeping a scorecard, that hit rose to #3 on the Billboard charts back in 1966.

The first permanent white settlement in what is now America was founded in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565. The next day they discovered that the men couldn’t jump. California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850, which later inspired the songs, “California Girls, California Dreamin’” and for sushi lovers, the California roll.

Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa sighted the Pacific Ocean on September 25, 1513 and claimed it for Spain and Penelope Cruz. Chile declared its independence from Spain on September 18, 1810 and then announced the creation of the chile relleno.

Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the 25 hour bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814, which had little effect on its defenders. This so impressed the lawyer, Francis Scott Key, that he wrote the poem and later penned the first draft of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida along with Iron Butterfly. Revolutionary War patriot Nathan Hale was put to death as a spy by British on September 22, 1776. He said “I regret that I have only but one life to lose for my country, and that I will never vacation in Hawaii.”

Congress passed the Selective Service Act, providing for the first peacetime draft in U.S. history on September 14, 1940. Canada’s population doubled the next day. And finally, on September 14, 1963, much to her surprise, Mary Ann Fischer of Aberdeen, South Dakota gave birth to four girls and a boy, the first surviving quintuplets in the United States. The next day she ordered two breast pumps and signed a deal with Fox TV.

The late night boys are back in full force. “You know this Tea Party candidate, Christine O’Donnell is causing a lot of controversy with her kind of unorthodox views. She’s come out against masturbation. You know what that means? She’s out of touch with those voters who are in touch with themselves.” –Jay Leno “She hates masturbation, which is ironic, because she owes her nominations to a bunch of jackoffs. Her detractors say she’s homeless, jobless, and can’t pay her taxes. And her supporters say, ‘Finally, someone who represents the average American.” –Bill Maher

“In Delaware, Christine O’Donnell won a huge upset in the primaries, but she has some problems. Karl Rove has accused her of lying. When the guy that told 300 million Americans there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq says you’re lying, he knows what he’s talking about. I don’t know a lot about Christine O’Donnell, but she has some interesting views. She has come out against masturbation. And you thought the war on drugs was unwinnable. This Christine O’Donnell is a very conservative woman. Not only is she against premarital sex, she is against masturbation. She even wants to outlaw beef jerky.” –Jay Leno

“Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is taking criticism because she once said she dabbled in witchcraft. Yeah, everyone is talking about this. O’Donnell was like, ‘If one more person claims I’m a witch, I will take legal action against them and their little dog, too! Sarah Palin made a high profile appearance at a Republican fundraising dinner in Iowa. She didn’t actually say she’s running for president. She just winked it in Morse code.
Carl Paladino, New York’s Republican candidate for governor, said that Manhattan is home to smug, self-important, pampered, liberal elitists. He sounds just like my butler.” –Jimmy Fallon

“The premiere of ‘Hawaii Five-0′ was a great episode. The cops were looking around and they accidentally stumbled upon Obama’s birth certificate.” –David Letterman Everybody is talking about Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Obama’s War.’ In the book, he says Joe Biden called Middle East advisor Richard Holbrooke, ‘the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever.’ Then Rahm Emanuel’s like, ‘What am I, invisible?’ Bristol Palin made her debut on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and after a lot of speculation, Sarah Palin was not there to see it in person. However, she could see it from her house.” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our last blast for September. On the entertainment front, my eyes are bleeding from the first week of the new fall TV season so here’s a quick review. My favorite new sitcom is, “Raising Hope,” on Fox, which I found quite amusing. On the drama front, the winner was “Boardwalk Empire” on HBO. Love that Atlantic City locale. Remember, it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

So enjoy the late September heat wave and we’ll catch you at midfield. Aloha, mahalo and later, Denard Robinson fans.

February 28, 2010

Pedal To The Medals

Good morning and greetings, ice dancing fans. Yes, February 2010, much like my keen eyesight, razor-sharp hearing and six pack abs, is now history. Our second month of the year is unique, as much like my status in my high school hoops days, it is the shortest month on the calendar and flies by faster than my son in the open court with his new driving permit.

February also brought us the Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada. For those of you who may have missed out any news from north of the border, today we are featuring complete gold medal coverage from our award-winning correspondent from north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now here, in his own words, is the guy who followed me out our mother’s birth canal, Paul Gilbert.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been a visitor in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Well, it’s been more of a virtual vacation, as I’ve been riveted to my TV set watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I didn’t think I’d be anywhere as interested in them as the Summer Games, but once the curling competition started, I was hooked. C’mon, name another sport where your team includes people sweeping brooms like they’ve just had 50 triple espressos? I wish they would come over and clean our house.

There was such a potpourri of athletic competition to choose from, it was like sifting through the menu at a Cheesecake Factory. To get things off on the right ski, I was curious to see if Lindsay Vonn would look as good in high def as she did in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Actually, I was hoping that Brooklyn Decker would qualify in the Super G-string and wear her cover outfit, which was the size of a large snowflake.

As it turns out, Vonn ended up riding a roller coaster on the slopes. Gold medal, crashes, disqualifications, and the media doing everything it could to provoke a cat fight with her teammate, Julie Mancuso, who clearly did not enjoy playing second fiddle, especially after getting the unintentional shaft in the slalom, when Vonn did a pinky swear with the snow fence. The fact is both are great athletes and male or female, it takes a lot of balls to compete in a sport where you’re hurdling down an ice-covered mountain at 90 MPH.

Loved those crazy, high-flying snowboarders working the half-pipe (which they used to smoke after each competition, until the Olympic drug-testers ruined the party). Shaun White was truly amazing, as evidenced by replays that compared his run with the second place finisher and White was about 20 feet higher (OK, insert joke here). We all know he created his best tricks on the private half-pipe his sponsor, Red Bull, built him in Colorado and the question is, does his famous Double McTwist 1260 come with fries?

I enjoyed some of the speed skating events, especially the short tracks where competitors jockeyed for position like New York City cab drivers. The South Koreans were amazing, I wonder when they became a speed skating superpower, id the North Koreans threatened a nuclear response? I think the Dutch coach might want to take a long vacation before heading home for his public execution and I’m now considering wearing a red headband, growing a little soul patch and changing my name to Apolo. Oh-yes.

In deference to my lovely wife, I also watched some of the ice dancing. There are moments of grace and artistry, but whoever designs those costumes must be the rejects from the first round of Project Runway. It’s hard to take a sport seriously where the athletes dress like Halloween on Acid on Ice.

The figure skating competition felt a little drawn out, but since I can barely stand on a pair of skates, I have to admire the skill of these athletes and their ability to perform under pressure. I was glad to see Evan Lysacek beat that sourpuss, sore loser Russian. That’s what you get for dressing like Lenin doing Liberace and having a bad shag haircut.

On the women’s side, Yu Na Kim of South Korea breathtaking and seemingly effortless performance was mesmerizing. And whose heart didn’t go out to Joannie Rochette, the Canadian skater whose mother died on her way to watch her compete? This reminded me of the many side stories that make up a whole other side of the Olympics, which is how an athlete’s parents sacrifice their time, energy and money to support their children and then, have to live vicariously through the both victories and the defeats. Truly, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

As usual, NBC decided to tape delay the most popular events and play them back in prime time. That meant I had to avoid reading the news online or watching SportsCenter before I tuned in for my nightly Olympics fix. And since the New York Times is my browser homepage, it’s hard not to notice when you see a headline like USA UPSETS CANADA!! Then again, haven’t the Canadians been upset with us for the last forty or fifty years?

The USA hockey team beating Canada in the first round was immensely satisfying. I don’t watch a lot of hockey, except for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are incredibly intense, but this was just as riveting. My adrenaline was pumping so hard that I was throwing crosschecks into my son and got called for high-sticking the dog.

The gold medal game was equally intense, a fitting end to the Olympic competition. Just when it looked like Canada had it in the bag, Team USA scores with twenty-four seconds left to send it into overtime, which put the entire population of Canada on suicide watch and sent our puppy into a frenzied “who let the dogs out, eh?” But in the end, hockey’s best player, Sidney Crosby, did what the great ones do. Will his way to victory. So as for as a repeat of “do you believe in miracles?” let’s see if the Knicks sign LeBron.

As for the TV coverage, there were so many commercial breaks that Bob Costas might as well have said “we’ll be right back after this brief glimpse of actual sports action to bring you more commercials from Vancouver.” I don’t quite understand how NBC can claim to have lost $200 million on these Games, when they ran 200 million commercials.

Got to give Costas his due, he’s the consummate pro. He switches seamlessly from sport to sport and brings out the best in his guests. NBC pulled out all the stops on the various commentators and expert analysts in each sport, but one person who received mixed scores in my book was Mary Carillo. Some of her up close and personal pieces were good, but when it comes to late night comedy, she ain’t exactly Wanda Sykes.

All kidding aside, the reason I enjoyed watching the Winter Games so much was to see great athletes competing at the highest level of their sports. They have put in thousands of hours of practice, endured injuries and hardship, and basically dedicated their entire lives to perfecting their performances. While some are multi-millionaire professionals, the majority are not making the big bucks. They’re doing it for the love of their sport, the honor of representing their country and the ultimate challenge of being the best in the entire world at what they do. No matter how bureaucratic and corporate the Olympics have become, in many ways, it’s still the purest and deepest experience in the sports universe.

So it was a great ride while it lasted and now, looking ahead to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, my daughter is immersed in her training for Olympic Gold in Downhill Texting. And knowing her, she’s already planning the photo shoot for Sports Illustrated.

Do me a favor, cancel your subscriptions, now.

Whew. Thank you, brother. Now, being a big fan of the lunar year, I’m always jacked up for the start of the new month and flipping to a fresh page of the calendar. It’s the same feeling I get when popping off the top of a Tropicana Orange Juice or ripping open a package of Pepperidge Farm Orange Milano cookies, a semi-religious experience without the jolt of sugar. I was going to blast out some fabulous winter color to welcome the Ides of March, but then Friday evening came so we shifted Disraeli gears.

Ominous-looking storm clouds and herbal tea had been brewing all morning, as the heavy rain started to fall in the early afternoon. Throughout the day, the sky was as gray as Richard Gere’s hair at a Free Tibet fundraiser. Towards early evening, I gazed into the western sky and spotted an opening in the horizon (photo #1.) At the same time, clouds were coming forward from the east and a small rainbow made an appearance (photo #2.) It paled in comparison to the rainbows I viewed on Saturday in San Jose, which were as fabulous as the dialogue in “The Hangover.”

The wind was whipping off the coast as the sun slowly dropped thru the cloud cover and cast a gorgeous shining light on the churning waves (photos #3-4-5) before disappearing and heading to China. Adding to my dusk delight, hundreds of gulls were cruising south as a full moon appeared from behind the clouds (photo #6). Bingo! A fantastic end to a day that had shown no potential for greatness just minutes earlier. Kind of like Conan O’Brien’s final “Tonight Show” appearance.

On to some late night humor. “The Winter Olympics is apparently a big thing for a lot of people, and America has won the most medals. The only sport I really get into is snowboarding because that’s the only sport where they perform a half pipe just after smoking a full pipe.” –Bill Maher Dick Cheney loves snowboarding. He thinks it’s waterboarding, but colder.” –David Letterman “Tiger Woods was adamant that his wife Elin never hit him with a golf club. I guess his Escalade fell down the stairs.” –Jimmy Kimmel

It’s a great day for former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was released from the hospital today. He’s doing well. Doctors say he’ll be up and shooting lawyers in no time.” –Craig Ferguson “Something weird happened in the hospital. When they were putting the electrodes on him for the EKG, he suddenly started screaming, ‘Stop! I’ll tell you everything you want to know! It was a fun day for the head of Toyota U.S.A. today. He had to appear in front of Congress. “I have to say, it was actually refreshing to see a car company C.E.O. appear before Congress and not ask for $10 billion.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our first blast for the month of March. Coming up next week, we’re going to continue the guest mode as we’ll feature nature photographer Judy Bingham on these cyber pages. This will be a pick six pack of photos you will not want to miss. So I hope you enjoyed our Olympic coverage as we can now return our full attention to the NBA and SCCAL varsity volleyball. We’ll catch you in the paint. Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

February 14, 2010

The Few, The Clouds, The Marines

Good morning and greetings, winter weather fans. Last week, the Atlantic seaboard was bombarded with two blizzards that led to record snowfall, so much so that it completely shut down Washington D.C. for three days, but not the lips of Sarah Palin. Her criticism of President Obama was somewhat puzzling for a woman who admits to not reading a newspaper. But give the former Lens Crafter model and governor of Alaska credit, she was able to read the crib notes written in her palm so that she wouldn’t forget what planet she was on.

Now perhaps I’m being a bit harsh towards the former Vice-Presidential candidate, and if that’s the case, I don’t apologize. How she is being touted as a presidential candidate for 2012 is more mind-blowing than the Warrior’s Monta Ellis not being selected to the western conference’s all-star team. But for now, let’s leave her politics back east and get back to the weather, which was as wild on the central coast this past Tuesday as the snow drifts around the George Jefferson Memorial.

Storm clouds were lined up across the sky and the air was chilly as I headed out onto West Cliff, but fortunately I had come prepared and put on a warmer pair of shorts. The sun was darting in and out from behind the clouds as the light was changing quicker than Peyton Manning’s status from Super Bowl hero to goat. A flock of 35 pelicans (yes, I counted them) flew by in a v-formation, and then all of a sudden turned around in mid-flight faster than you could say “Happy Valentine’s Day” and started heading north. Now, I’ve seen hundreds of squadrons of these prehistoric birds in action, but I had never seen this about-face manuever. There was some strange magic in the air as I really wanted to be pelican briefed.

As I continued my sentimental journey down the cliff, I was joined by an artist friend of mine, who brought up the poet Mary Oliver. Her work focuses on her intense observations of nature from her walks through the wetlands near her home in Massachusetts. She has been called a visionary as “her poetry combines dark interpretation with joyous release.” That would be in contrast to yours truly, who combines dark meat chicken with jellied cranberry sauce.
As the skies starten to darken, I told my friend that I knew where Ms. Oliver was coming from, as when patrolling the coastline, I am always looking for images to capture for my digital sonnets. Mary Oliver says that the self is only strengthened through an immersion with nature. Well, that and NBA basketball.

We continued skipping down the cliff when a rain squall hit while the sun peeked thru the clouds. This meant it was rainbow time. And sure enough, before I could click my feet, grab little Toto and head back to Kansas, a spectrum of light with beautiful colors appeared in the sky. Now, I should mention I wasn’t carrying my camera on this expedition, so I just had to take in the moment for what it was. And in the words of Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr, “you know it don’t come easy”

It reminded me of a rainbow I saw early in the morning on the cliff some thirty years ago. I lived on West Cliff Drive from 1975-89 and it was the only rainbow I remember appearing in the western sky. All the others made appearances from the east or the south. And in case NASA, the weather channel or classmates.com is monitoring this report, yes, I do have photos of that multicolored beauty. Oh, and I also have pictures of the rainbow.

It was actually the second rainbow I had seen that morning, so I was already feeling my lucky charms. And as we all know, they’re magically delicious. My son had a basketball game in Monterey in the afternoon, so we headed south down Highway 1. The clouds were performing a matinee show and you could see the rain falling over the mountains in the distance. I then glanced into the rear view mirror and saw a rainbow as big as bus and brighter than Albert Einstein. My son asked me if he should make a wish and I replied, “No, just hit a few three-pointers and I’ll be happy.”

When we arrived at the gymnasium, all the talk from the parents was, “Did you see that rainbow? And did anyone bring water?” It was one of the all-time brightest, shining bows. Jason and I had seen one like that a few weeks earlier as we exited the Oracle Arena after an afternoon contest on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. It was beaming so intently into the Oakland hills that at the time I thought, these colors are just unbelievable. Actually, what was even more unbelievable was that fact the Warriors won that day.

So, you’re probably wondering, where are those rainbow shots and how the hell did they Warriors win? Due to election coverage, there were no photos that day. But to make up for the lack of images from Tuesday’s refracted, reflected and neglected light show, we’re going to dig into the 2010 archives and unearth another recent winter olympic classic.

The date was January 22, and it was late afternoon as I perused the thundercloud-filled sky. I started off by shooting the clouds over the wharf and Boardwalk, before heading down West Cliff and stopping at Woodrow Avenue to take in the sun hiding below the clouds. I then took in the clouds streaming from the north as the sets rolled in at Stockton Avenue. The last shot is from Natural Bridges, looking south back towards Lighthouse Point. All in all, a lot of drama in the sky on this rainbow-less night. Oh, and in case you missed the box score, Jason’s team won going away and clinched it’s first league title.

On to the Conan O’Brien-less late night humor. “Well, tomorrow in Nashville, Sarah Palin will speak at the Tea Party Convention. Tickets are $550 apiece. But Sarah Palin said she will not benefit from the speech. See, that way she’ll have something in common with the people in the audience.” –Jay Leno “I’ll tell you, you woke up this morning, and New York, a tremendous sight. I mean, it was whiter than a Tea Party rally. People are still talking about the Super Bowl. It was the most watched TV program of all time. The second most-watched event was the episode of ‘Dallas’ where J.R. gets shot in the face by Dick Cheney. This President Obama, I mean, give the guy credit. He keeps working and working and working. He’s going to invite a bunch of Republicans to have a televised debate on healthcare. It’s going to be a big, big event. As a matter of fact, at halftime The Who will be there doing a special song about Lipitor.” –David Letterman

“Sarah Palin’s also getting criticized because last week she demanded that Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, step down because he used the word retarded. But then, Rush Limbaugh did the same thing on his radio show and that, she said, was O.K. Unfortunately, she’s been unable to respond to the criticism because she’s wearing mittens. The federal government was shut down today, and they estimate it cost about $100 million in lost productivity. The House is literally stuck in the House, and they can’t do anything. I have to admit, it is nice to see lawmakers shoveling something else for a change, isn’t it?” –Jimmy Kimmel “Hey, be glad you’re not back East. Huge snowstorms. I don’t think Washington has seen a snow job like this since that last stimulus package.” –Jay Leno

“And with all this snow, President Obama told all nonessential White House employees they didn’t have to come in. Well, actually, just Joe Biden. It was so cold, Nancy Pelosi had to sit in her driveway for 10 minutes defrosting her eyeballs.
It was so cold, Sarah Palin had to cancel a speech because she didn’t want to take her gloves off to read.” –Jay Leno “Did everybody watch the Super Bowl? Everybody’s happy for New Orleans. In fact, FEMA announced plans to congratulate them in about two weeks.” –Jimmy Fallon “Osama bin Laden is very ecologically minded. Like, last year, it was documented by the C.I.A. that he switched to a hybrid camel.” –David Letterman

That’s our update from the winter games. Someone asked me last week if I learned anything from shooting clouds. In the words of Joni Mitchell, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow, it’s cloud illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all.” Coming up next week will be our first guest blog of the year. This is one you’ll need your snow shoes for. Hope you caught some footage of the epic waves from Saturday’s Mavericks surf contest in Half Moon Bay which was described “as the best day ever.” So enjoy the skies and keep your eye on the NBA trading deadline. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kelly Slater fans.

February 7, 2010

It’s Texture, Not Conjecture

Good morning and greetings, Super Bowl fans. That’s right, Super Sunday has come and gone, much like American families’ dreams of realistic health care costs. And congratulations to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. They pulled off a impressive comeback in beating the Peyton Manning and the Colts, 31-17. Games like this make me harken back to those incredible Super Bowl moments, like when the ring around Janet Jackson was revealed during that infamous “wardrobe malfunction.”

But let’s get down to those vital game statistics. No, I’m not referring to total passing yards, time of possession or who had the most talked about tv commercial, I’m referring to what makes this day a sacred holiday-Super Bowl snacking.

Now we know that Super Sunday is the number three day in terms of food consumption after Thanksgiving and Yom Kippur. $55 million was spent on snacks for this Woodstock of caloric consumption, along with ten million man (and women) hours of Super Bowl food preparation. And according to the Institute of Insane Food Intake, the IIFI, Americans devoured 15,000 tons of chips, 4,000 tons of popcorn and 200,000,000 hours of tv commercials. So if we lined up every chip, it would produce a trail of 293,000 miles, or what for me is a good week’s cardiac workout. A string consisting of all that popcorn would circle the earth almost 5 1/2 times, which would be equivilent to the same amount of time it will take the Republicans to pass anything proposed by the Obama administration.

But the winner of the big enchilada on Super food day in terms of sales is our friend the avocado. The California Avocado Commission, (or the CAC, not to confused with the ACC,) which is more believable than the Warren Commission, says that 12 million pounds of avocado were sold in preparation for the game. What this means is this nation’s party-loving, football-watching, gambling fanatics gorged themselves on an estimated 8 million pounds of gaucamole. Holy chips and salsa, Batman. And last but not least, according to Hallmark Cards Inc., the Super Bowl represents the number one at home party event of the year, bigger than New Year’s Eve, a Mary Kay event or the other Olsen twin.

For today’s starting photo lineup, we journey to the most Natural of Bridges State Beach, where I had gone to shoot the sunset. It had rained all day and the sun decided to make a late afternoon appearance. The action on the horizon was nothing special, but the color radiating from the cliffs was off the charts. We’re talking gleaming, golden chocolate, a color of which I’ve only seen once before at this location, and that was during an out of body experience. In the words of Stevie Wonder, “Golden lady, golden lady, I’d like to go there. Take me right away.” I was there.

We then move on to the sand, and while the iceplant-lined cliffs were bursting with color, the billions of granules of tiny rocks were experiencing the same visual gold rush, as the beach was lit up like Rockefeller Center at Christmas time. We then move on to another interesting sand pattern that caught my eye, much like the first time I glanced at an NBA stat sheet.

We then travel cross-town over to the eastside, where I shot the sunset from the cliff above the Rivermouth. This is where the San Lorenzo River meets the Pacific Ocean. I sent this shot to a dedicated blog reader from southern California whose comment was “it is hard to believe that is water. It almost looks like sand with plastic wrap on top.” And it also clings tight, is microwave-soft and helps keep food fresh.

We end our texture experience with my favorite shot from this genre. This photo was taken on January 23, 2008, on the night of one of the most fabulous sunsets I’ve ever experienced in men’s clothes. The image is the sunlight shining on the streams of water on the sand at Natural Bridges. I call this shot “Another Planet,” the place I wish I had been rather than watching the New York Giants play the second half of this past season.

Let’s move on to the late night experience. “The president won’t be at the Super Bowl either. In fact, in a show of some sort of spirit of cooperation, he’s invited a group of top Republicans to watch the game with him at the White House on Sunday. That should be a lot of fun. Going to need a two-thirds vote before they pass him the Doritos.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama is very shrewd about bringing the Republicans into the White House for the Super Bowl party, because he feels like if he can get them to pass the dip, maybe they’ll pass health care.” –David Letterman At the town hall event, President Obama also said jobs will be our No. 1 focus in 2010. He then added, ‘Specifically, mine and Biden’s jobs.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“You folks excited about the Super Bowl coming up Sunday? And the New Orleans Saints’ fans, I’m telling you, they have waited a long, long time for their team to get into the Super Bowl. Not as long as they waited for FEMA, but still, it’s been a very long, long time. “I think it was Bill Clinton who popularized the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. But don’t confuse that with another Clinton policy — ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Hillary.’ That was a whole different policy.” –David Letterman This is unfortunate. I heard that John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth have legally separated. Under the reasons for separation, Elizabeth Edwards just wrote ‘see news.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“They’re now coming out with the new, 75th edition of Monopoly, this time with a round board. And actually, they’ve updated the whole game. In the new version, the banker is a Wall Street CEO He overextends mortgages, he loses the bank, and when things go under, he uses his get-out-of-jail-for-free card. So it’s all very realistic. Here is a historical fact. It was on this day in 1690, the first paper money was printed up in the colony of Massachusetts. The pilgrims realized that when they ran out of money, they could just print more. Thus, the federal government was born. Toyota is recalling 2.3 million cars because of two problems — unintended acceleration and possible brake problems. Things are not looking good for Toyota. In fact, today, two crash test dummies refused to get in the car.” – Jay Leno

That’s our Super Bowl report. Now that NFL season is officially over, I can focus my attention on what’s really important in life, NBA baskeball. If you had a chance to pick up Saturday’s Santa Cruz Sentinel, you might have seen a shot of my son on the front page, playing the role of point guard for the PCS Pumas. His team is undefeated in league play and heading for it’s first league title. And all this without cheerleaders at the nation’s number one academically-rated charter school. So enjoy the record snow in Washington, D.C., the NBA all-star game and be ready for the onside kick. Aloha, mahalo and later, Sean Payton fans.


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